Two very different films, but both deeply satisfying, enjoyable and not quite as predictable as one might expect. “A Yak in the Classroom” (Amazon,Apple)(well-deserved Oscar nomination for best foreign film) is the story of a Bhutan city boy sent, unwillingly, as a teacher to the remotest area in Bhutan. Yes, the narrative is fairly predictable–his resentment and despair morphing into love and appreciation for his students, but there are a few twists that move it from cliche to universal depth. It’s simple but very moving. The scenery is, of course, breathtaking. And how seductive is the idea of living in a country where development is measured in “gross national happiness”.This includes access to education for all, even this tiny outpost pop.56) on the slopes of the Himalayas If we can’t live there, at least we can do so vicariously. . Bhutanese director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s choice to use only local villagers as supporting cast adds to the authenticity of this lovely, quiet, but powerful story.
“Parallel Mothers”(Amazon, Apple) is quite the contrast in style, theme, and– well, just about everything. Fast paced, melodramatic, and on occasion, darkly funny, Almodovar creates tension with unpredictable turns. The importance of Truth– both the personal and the political– is a major theme of the film. The predominant metaphor is the legacy of Franco and the Spanish Civil War, the repression of truth, and the imperative to reveal the memory of injustice. (Cruz’s lover works for Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory–which actually exists) The Almodovar oeuvre has been criticized as misogynistic. I absolutely disagree (as do many others). It’s difficult to find a director whose films include such an extensive pantheon of unforgettable women protagonists. Like Douglas Sirk (also a gay filmmaker) in the 50’s and 60’s Almodovar’s women are likewise: powerful , melodramatic, calculating, masochistic, driven, crazed, and so much more, defying social norms and challenging gender roles. “Parallel Mothers” is a terrific film.