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Woman at War
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Woman at War

Is there anything rarer than an intelligent feel-good film that knows how to tackle urgent global issues with humor as well as a satisfying sense of justice? Look no further than “Woman at War,” Benedikt Erlingsson’s gloriously Icelandic (for lack of a better adjective), near-perfect follow-up to “Of Horses and Men,” featuring an environmental activist modestly taking on the world, one electric pylon at a time. Commentators will be tumbling over themselves trying to define what kind of movie this is: comedy, musical, social drama, politically correct issue film. It’s all those except the last; political correctness implies one-dimensional preaching that narrowly cuts off conversations, whereas, whereas “Woman at War” deftly centralizes a profound humanity from which vital issues are comfortably suspended. Bound to be one of the hot sellers at this year’s Cannes, the film is likely to do bang-up business worldwide.

“Of Horses and Men” deliciously played with narrative conventions even as it astonished with pictorial surprises that continue to induce smiles five years later. Erlingsson’s sophomore feature tells a more straightforward story yet here too he invents unexpected visual pleasures, in the form of three musicians (Davíð Þór Jónsson, Magnús Trygvason Eliasen, Ómar Guðjónsson) and three Ukrainian singers (Iryna Danyleiko, Galyna Goncharenko, Susanna Karpenko) who appear in key moments on screen as melodic commentators, fellow conspirators, and sympathetic bystanders offering accompaniment to some of the action. Their appearances pierce through the fourth wall in ways that respect both the characters and the audience, which is just one of numerous delightful feats in this mature crowd-pleaser.

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