Dutch treats and Croatian gems in December

Local cinematheques are featuring festivals of films from Croatia and The Netherlands.

Dutch and Croatian film 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dutch and Croatian film 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two countries not generally known for their cinema – Croatia and The Netherlands – are both the focus of tributes at cinematheques around Israel this month.
The Dutch Film Week, which runs until December 16 at the cinematheques in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, showcases recent cinema from that country. Perhaps the most famous Dutch filmmaker of all time is Paul Verhoeven, who is known mainly for his Hollywood work, especially his blockbusters such as Basic Instinct, RoboCop and Showgirls. But he went back to his homeland to make the complex Black Book, about conflicts among Resistance fighters during World War II.
If you enjoyed Carice van Houten’s performance in the leading role of that film, you can see her again in this film festival in the movie Happy Housewife. Directed by Antoinette Beumer, it tells the comic story of a wealthy, pampered woman suffering with postpartum depression. Van Houten won a Golden Calf Award – yes, that’s actually what the prizes at the Nederlands Film Festival are called – for her performance.
The timely film Win/Win, directed by Jaap van Heusden, features Oscar van Rompay as a low-level banker who becomes a successful trader overnight but pays a price.
In the past, European films tended to be more intellectual than US movies, but that has shifted somewhat in recent years as independent cinema has taken off in America. Still, it’s hard to imagine the US producing a comedy like The Nobel Prize Winner, a witty film about literary politics. Directed by Timo Velkampt, it tells the story of an unsuccessful writer who sends a publisher his magnum opus and then disappears. His publisher, thinking he is dead, takes it and passes it off as the work of a more successful author who has writer’s block. Things get complicated when it is wildly successful.
Meat is an experimental and controversial black comedy about sexual fantasies played out at a butcher shop. Directed by Maartje Seyferth and Victor Nieuwenhuijs, it stars Nellie Brenner as a butcher shop assistant with a strange destiny. (This film is for audiences 18 and ove..) This year’s Croatian Film Week runs from the 11th through the end of the month at the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Sderot cinematheques (check individual cinematheque schedules for details). The program is a retrospective that presents a brief history of Croatian cinema. It combines classics from the Yugoslavian film era of the 1950s through the 1970s, prominent films of the 1990s, and includes new features from independent Croatia of the 21st century.
Rjaco Grlic, the director of the opening-night film Just Between Us, will be present at the screenings. He won the Best Director Award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic in 2010 for this film, a comedy-drama about relationships set in Zagreb. The well-known Serbian actor Miki Manojlovic, who has appeared in many of Emir Kusturica’s films and, recently, The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner, plays the cheerfully amoral protagonist in Just Between Us.
The other recent offering in the Croatian Film Week is Dalibor Matanic’s Mother of Asphalt, a drama about an abused woman who runs away with her son and has to navigate the ever-changing bureaucracy as she tries to build a new life for them.
Nikola Tanhofer’s 1958 classic H-8, a tense drama about a fatal car crash that brings together several characters, will also be shown.
Zvonimir Berkovic’s 1965 film Rondo is about a triangle that develops among two men who play chess together and the wife of one of them.
Not surprisingly, given Croatia’s turbulent history, several of the films have political themes. The 1970 political drama Handcuffs by Krsto Papic is about a small town that has broken its ties with the Soviet government in 1948. The 2001 film Marshal Tito’s Spirit by Vinko Bresan is about a big-city policeman who returns to his hometown to investigate reports that the town is being haunted by the dictator’s ghost.
Zoran Tadic’s 1997 film The Third Woman is inspired by Carol Reed’s The Third Man and tells the story of a woman who returns to Croatia after the 1991 civil war to find her old friend.
Branko Smidt’s 2001 drama Queen of the Night is a coming-of-age story about a talented athlete more interested in girls than sports.
The many Croatian and Dutch expats here will surely buy up many of the tickets, so if you’re interested in these festivals, make sure you get to the theaters early.