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The movie news that caught my attention this week is the announcement that Participant is shutting down. Who? Think of the films the company produced, including Spotlight and Green Book, both Oscar winners, and of special interest to readers of The National Observer, An Inconvenient Truth. Climate change was a big topic for them, as well as a host of other issues across the 135 films they were involved with. Their latest, Food Inc. 2, arrived just last week.

Jeff Skoll, the Montreal native who made his money as an architect of and for a while CEO of Ebay, founded the company 20 years ago to make films that promote positive social change. This week he said he's shutting it down because the business has changed. He was vague on that but the streaming revolution may be at least part of the cause. It's a big loss.

In other news, Monday is Earth Day and I'm looking forward to the annual nature film Disney brings that day. They've all been excellent in past years and this time the subject is majestic, The Tiger. Disney+ will stream it and I'll be able to deal with it next week.

For now, there are these …

Do Not Expect too Much From the End of the World: 4 stars

Irena's Vow: 4

In Flames: 3 ½

The Beast: 2 ½

Chicken for Linda: 3 ½

DO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM THE END OF THE WORLD: Radu Jude should be better known to us. His films are full of wicked satire that's very funny and politically sharp. They resonate far beyond his native Romania where they're set. His latest takes on business avarice, worker exploitation, misogyny, bigotry and hate spewed out on social media. Funny? In his take on the world they are and he doesn't hold back at all. A Tik Tok star spews out vile comments about women, supports Putin and Orban and smears Zelensky as a “two-dime Jew actor.” Charles becoming king gets a comment or two and a corporation's public relations deception is the heart of the story.

Courtesy of Films We Like

A video promoting safety on the job is being produced and Angela, a production assistant, is in a hurry to find just the right injured worker to talk on camera. She's so overworked; she calls it “slavery.”The pressure is coming from “the Austrians” who own the production company and demand “emotion” but no graphic off-putting visuals. In a very funny sequence showing the actual filming they push strict lines on what the video can say. In effect, they're trying to blame the workers for the company's faults.

The film is almost three hours long, so there's much more. Politics now and in the past. The state of Europe and Romania's “poor” status in it. Even filmmaking, which has always been a “business.”

Bobita and Uwe courtesy of FWL

Film buffs will note, maybe delight, that Uwe Boll appears. He's the German director known for very schlocky movies who for a time lived in Canada and owned a restaurant in Vancouver. The only other name I'm familiar with is Nina Hoss, the German star who plays a company executive. Newcomer Ilinca Manolache shines gruffly as Angela and her Tik Tok alter ego, Bobita. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

IRENA'S VOW: It's a Holocaust story that feels almost too impossible to be true. But it did happen and as a film it's a tense thriller. Irena was 19-years-old in Poland when the Germans invaded in 1939. They assigned her to supervise a sewing factory where 12 Jews were forced to make clothes and uniforms. She also caught the attention of a Nazi officer who promoted her to be the housekeeper in the mansion he's taken as his living quarters.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

When she hears that within days the entire region is to be made “Jew-free” she decides to save the 12 and what better place to hide them than in the officer's house. She sneaks them into the basement; they figure out it used to be a Jewish house and therefore must have a secret room and when they find it, retreat into it. Several times they're close to being discovered. They have to keep quiet to avoid being found but one woman can't control her coughing and another is pregnant. They discuss what to do about that. A live birth? An abortion?

A couple of scenes seem unlikely. The major holds parties and while his guests sing O Tannenbaum the downstairs people quietly sing a Hebrew song. The major is attracted to Irena but his come-on to her feels way too sudden. The rest of the film is gripping though. It's a Canada-Poland co-production. Montrealer Louise Archambault directed, Dougray Scott is the major and Sophie Nélisse is Irena. Remember her as a child in Monsieur Lazhar? Or from the current TV series Yellowjackets? She gives a strong, moving performance here. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

IN FLAMES: The patriarchy rears up from everywhere to young Mariam in this film from Pakistan. Her grandfather dies and his brother suddenly shows an interest in her and her widowed mother. He'll cover their debts if they sign over their apartment to him. Legally they, as women, can't inherit it. The mother consults a lawyer but he needs to be paid and she doesn't have the money. Mariam starts seeing a young man she meets in her school library. He proves not totally trustworthy. And worse: a guy smashes a window in her car and calls her a whore and another masturbates in the alley outside her apartment.

Courtesy of Games Theory

It takes a while for all these elements to show up but when they do they're a psychological horror story. Women are controlled in that society by age-old ways that continue on. The film outlines that perfectly well. And it adds a touch we don't often see in these kinds of movies: the belief in ghosts and superstition, so common in Pakistan. Mariam sees them and feels it in her dreams. It's more than a nightmare; it's a denunciation. And a strong film, also a co-production, directed by Zarrar Kahn who is based in Toronto. It draws you in with its revelations and its suspense and a fine performance as Mariam by Ramesha Nawal, showing resilience. (In theaters) 3½ out of 5

THE BEAST: From a novella by Henry James, published way back in 1903, this is more than relevant today. The main character is almost paralyzed with a sense of foreboding, which, for many people, is going around widely these days too. I'm probably stretching that too far but it is the theme of the book and now this film, though with big changes. In the book, the character afflicted with those feelings is a man; here it's a woman. And the story is now set in three time periods, 1910, 2014 and 2044. In the third, people are controlled by artificial intelligence and emotions are not allowed. Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) is offered a chance to explore her past lives to purify her DNA. I don't think Henry James wrote that.

Courtesy of Maison 4:3

French director Bertrand Bonello did, along with two others, as an exploration of attitudes, especially fears, that continue through the generations. The three different times show us three versions of the same characters. In 1910, Gabrielle meets Louis (George MacKay) at a society event and they see each other regularly. At least once in a doll factory where new technology is being used. That's a repeat theme in this film which culminates in 2044 when Gabrielle gets her DNA cleaning which makes her recall the other periods of her life. In all three it's an incomplete love story, but how that illuminates what the film is trying to say escapes me. In the second Gabrielle is a model in Los Angeles and Louis is an incel, spouting hate for the women who he says aren't interested in him. It's watchable but confusing. (In theaters) 2 ½ out of 5

CHICKEN FOR LINDA! Here's a nice break from all the heavy subjects this week. It's a sparkling animated feature from France about a bouncy little girl and her family life. It doesn't try to be photo-realistic; its artwork is basic, with simple watercolors in super-bright colors. Its focus is the story and one difficult dilemma. How to kill a chicken.

Courtesy of G-Kids

Linda is falsely accused of losing her mother's ring. She's offered anything she wants to make up for it and says she wants a meal of chicken and peppers like her late father used to make for her. However, a general strike has shut down the stores and where to find a chicken. The rocker dude at an egg farm won't sell one. Stealing does get one but neither mom nor her sister have ever killed one. Before you know it, the police are involved, there's a chase through a street demonstration and an exercise class and mom is in handcuffs. Linda throws the chicken out a window; it settles in a tree and how do you get it down? It's good frantic and colorful fun, written and directed by Sébastien Laudenbach and Chiara Malta. (In theaters) 3 ½ out of 5