The Club (Netflix)
The first season of this Turkish dizi is set in 1950s Istanbul. It's a cosmopolitan city but nationalism is also on the rise. Matilda Aseo (Gokce Bahadir), a Sephardic Jew, is released from prison after 17 years and reunites with her daughter. She starts working in a hip club run by Orhan Sahin (Metin Akdulger). He is up for an entrepreneur award, and tells his club manager Çelebi (Ismet Tanis) to start easing out non-Muslim employees (to put things in perspective, a wealth tax in 1942 impacted non-Muslim businesses badly and the Istanbul riots of 1955 targeted Turkish minorities, especially Greeks). There is much intrigue and attention to detail—Jewish rituals, songs in Ladino (a Judeo-Spanish dialect), recreation of Istiklal Street. –Nipa Charagi
Ambitious, overstuffed, intermittently brilliant and frustrating—Annette is certainly a Leos Carax film. Adam Driver plays a moody diva who has a child with Marion Cotillard’s opera performer (the child, for reasons metaphorical, is a creepy puppet). However, his jealousy at her success consumes him, contributing to her death at sea during a storm. The film is an all-out musical— every line is sung—and The Sparks’ songs are inventive and rendered with full force by Driver and the others. Not every idea is a winner but Carax’s darkly romantic vision is his own.
I'm Taking the Day Off (Netflix)
In this Japanese series, Aoishi Hanae is Ugly Betty. She lives with her parents, has never had sex or a boyfriend. She works in a trading company, is always the first one to arrive and takes care of all clerical work. On her 30th birthday, Aoishi ends up drinking with the office apprentice and university student Tanokura Yuto, nine years her junior. Soon they are dating and planning to move in together. It is a slow-moving series but scores in its portrayal of Aosihi's parents. But the surprise cast member is Aoishi's pet, Mamoura, a bulldog: he's grumpy, anti all activity, and flops down during walks. –NC
Asako I & II (MUBI)
Asako I & II is a good introduction to the work of a director on the rise. As we wrote: “Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s reputation on the world scene has been growing for a while, starting with Happy Hour, which played at Locorno in 2015, followed by Asako I & II, which was in competition at Cannes in 2018. It kicked into overdrive this year: his Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at Berlin, and Drive My Car won three prizes, including best screenplay, at Cannes. I have not watched Happy Hour but the three that came after point to a specific and unique sensibility: orderly, understated, concerned with the interstices of love and desire.”
Haroun is provocative, lethal, thought-provoking, even offensive at times. In this French stand-up comedy directed by Seralf Flares, and filmed at Théâtre Édouard VII in Paris, Haroun takes on and down a range of issues and personalities. From the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, migrant issue to Qatar as World Cup 2022 host, and dogs, Haroun has you both laughing and squirming in your seat through the 75-minute set. Too bad that most of his videos online are without English subtitles. –NC