“Son of Saul” and “Youth”

As the Oscars approach, I’m cramming in those “Indy” films.  This week I saw a couple of note.

The first was Son of Saul. This film is highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes, just won the Golden Globe for best foreign film and is the front-runner for the Oscar. That is about all I knew (along with the fact that it is a holocaust movie) when I bought my ticket. Let me just say this, I have read many books about the holocaust, seen a number of movies about it, have a real interest in this period of time but nothing prepared me for this movie. It takes place in Auschwitz where Saul is part of a group of Jewish prisoners who are responsible for leading Jews to the gas chamber, going through their things for valuables, cleaning up after the gassings and cremating the bodies. Everything is seen from Saul’s perspective and it is difficult even without close-ups. At the beginning of the movie, there is a young boy who doesn’t die in the chamber but is later suffocated by the Nazis.  Saul says he is his son although he really isn’t. The entire movie is Saul’s quest to have this boy prayed for by a Rabbi and buried. The point of the movie is that Saul is insane and dealing with the horrifying existence within the camp by trying to focus on a bit of normalcy from his past but I just wanted to shake him as the movie goes on. I also didn’t really care for the single camera motion and some of the other techniques the Director employed. This movie is not for everyone. Eyes Wide Open on this one. If you would like to see interesting foreign films from this period, I would recommend 2015’s “Phoenix” and “Labyrinth of Lies” as films you might like better. Both are German and deal with different aspects of post-war Germany. Score B

After Son of Saul “Youth”, a movie about the difficulties of aging, seemed pretty upbeat! the movie stars Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz. The story centers on Caine, a retired conductor/composer and his long-time friend played by Keitel who is a famous screenwriter. They are vacationing in the Swiss Alps while dealing with issues of aging, their children’s broken marriage, their respective careers/legacies and a lot of other stuff. When I say stuff, there were many strange subplots going on here including a masseuse doing weird hand motions, lots of nudity, including “Miss World” (much to the joy of the many older men in the audience) and an actor dressed up as Hitler and parading around the complex. The best reason to see this movie is the interaction between Keitel and Caine. Their scenes are beautifully crafted masterpieces. The short scene with Jane Fonda was also amazing and she is well deserving of the accolades and award nominations. Not a great film but you could do worse. Score: B-.

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