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Barking Dogs Never Bite (Flandersui gae)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2000 – South Korea – 110m

****1/2

Available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th.

Lecturer Yun-ju (Lee Sun-jae) is looking out the window of his apartment in a block of flats and having been recently passed over for a professorship is on the phone to a colleague, but can’t concentrate because of a persistent dog barking. He resolves to do something about it. Chancing later upon a dog without an owner near his front door, he takes it up to the roof but then, unable to drop it off the balcony, takes it down to a basement corridor and traps it in an old wardrobe.

Maintenance office worker Park Hyun-nam (Doona Bae) is visited by a little girl in a yellow waterproof to get her missing dog posters officially stamped so that they won’t get taken down.

Hen-pecked by his working, pregnant wife Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung), Yun-ju learns from a colleague that the person who got the professorship has died so the position should now be his – for a $10 000 bribe. And the barking hasn’t stopped – he got the wrong dog because the little girl’s posters mention that the missing dog can’t bark following a throat op.… Read the rest

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Hurt By Paradise

Director – Greta Bellamacina – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m

***1/2

A single parent mum poet and her upstairs lodger actress pursue their dreams in London’s Fitzrovia and Margate – in cinemas from Friday, September 18th

A strangely likeable, meandering little movie, this concerns single mum Celeste Blackwood (director and co-writer Greta Bellamacina) who writes poetry from her flat in London’s Fitzroy Square, in the immediate shadow of the BT Tower. Her out of work actress upstairs lodger Stella Mansell (co-writer Sadie Brown) helps out with the childcare.

Celeste’s father left when she was five and she hasn’t seen him since. However, she has a plan to go through al Blackwoods in the telephone directory until she finds him. Stella, meanwhile, is approaching a year of chatting nightly over the internet to a man she’s never met. But, as Stella says, you can tell so much about someone from their writing.

Throughout the film, which feels heavily improvised and consists mostly of scenes with both of one of other of the women in situations with Celeste’s little boy and / or other people, like a short series of sketches. Early on, Celeste visits a publisher (Nicholas Rowe) with her poetry manuscript only to be told that poets never make any money unless they meet death in a particularly nasty way, at which point their sales go through the roof.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

White Riot

Director – Rubika Shah – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 80m

***1/2

Documentary charts the rise of the UK’s Rock Against Racism movement of the late 1970s and features among others The Clash, Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson – in cinemas and on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th

Curiously prescient for our own time, the late nineteen seventies saw the rise of the far right movement in Britain characterised by the National Front and its desire to send all non-white British residents “back where they came from”. One of the other things that happened at that time in the UK was in the seemingly unrelated area of music: punk rock. Something clicked for photographer Red Saunders when the NME dispatched him to shoot Punk Night at London’s ICA venue. He saw an immediacy and an energy to what was going on, with bands the The Clash singing about social issues such as unemployment.

Fuelled by some ill-advised, vaguely Teutonic sentiments from David Bowie and, more specifically, a gig where guitarist Eric Clapton encouraged people to go and vote for racist MP Enoch Powell and everything he represented, Saunders set up the Rock Against Racism (RAR) movement to bring together youth from the UK’s various different ethnic backgrounds.… Read the rest

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Nocturnal

Director – Natalie Biancheri – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 84m

***

A man becomes obsessed with a schoolgirl and starts spending more and more time with her at night – in cinemas and on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September18th

A Yorkshire seaside town. Teenage schoolgirl Laurie (Lauren Coe) is training to be a sprinter and spends much of her time training at the school track. She’s spotted by odd job painter and decorator Pete (Cosmo Jarvis) whose regular girlfriend has just moved out of his apartment. Pete starts to take an interest in Laurie, eventually driving her out to a club then talking with her for hours in his flat.

From Laurie’s life at home with her mother Jean (Sadie Frost), it’s clear that they’ve only recently moved into the area. The girl has a healthy distrust of the older man who starts stalking her. She points out that he might be a serial killer, which he turns into a running joke. His interest seems pretty creepy though, so you do wonder if there’s any truth behind this banter. She’s a teenager playing at being an adult. When he takes her to a bar and they drink shots of whiskey, she is being sick soon after.… Read the rest

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Rocks

Director – Sarah Gavron – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12 – 93m

****

A 15-year-old, East End London schoolgirl must look after her seven-year-old brother when their mother abandons themin cinemas from Friday, September 18th

From its opening, in which a bunch of ethnically diverse, 15-year-old girls from Hackney in London’s East End clown around together, lean on a balcony and film each other on a mobile phone, it’s clear that this is something very different. It’s been made with a young, mostly female cast many of whom have little or no acting experience via intensive workshopping and improvisation. Thrown into this mix somewhere along the process a highly personal script outline has emerged from Theresa Ikoko, one of two writers involved in the lengthy development process, which seems a perfect fit for the young cast.

Although the story source was Ikoko, I’m guessing that the input of co-writer Claire Wilson is just as significant. And while I believe you can never underestimate the importance of a good script which lays the foundations of a production, in this particular instance many other collaborators both behind and in front of the cameras have also contributed a great deal, with director Gavron and her producers holding it all together.… Read the rest

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The Eight Hundred (Ba Bai)

Director – Guan Hu – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 149m – IMAX

****1/2

Hopelessly outnumbered Chinese soldiers take a last stand against the Japanese in a Shanghai warehouse – in cinemas in IMAX from Wednesday, September 16th

1937, the Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese have fallen back to , Shanghai as the Japanese advance. Rounding up Chinese deserters, Colonel Xie (Du Chun) and his men of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) hole up in the Sihang warehouse on the other side of the Souzou Creek from the International Concession from which the horrified civilians compulsively watch the conflict unfold.

A Western movie covering such a subject would likely introduce us to specific soldier characters at some length, possibly derailing the larger narrative to do this. The Chinese here do it rather differently. They take the overall sweep of the story and drop the characters in to it. There are deserters, there are brave and heroic fighters and there are men who move from the former to the latter group. The writers also sketch civilian characters living across the river. Again, the emphasis is on the Concession as a whole made up of lots of constituent individuals rather than the individuals in their own right.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies Music

Bill & Ted Face The Music

Director – Dean Parisot – Writers – Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 91m

****

Party on, dudes! The two friends return having failed over 25 years to write the song to unite all of humanity and prevent the universe unravelling – in cinemas from Wednesday, September 16th

William ‘Bill’ S. Preston esq. and Theodore ‘Ted’ Logan (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) have somehow failed to fulfil their destiny and become losers. 25 years on from their two earlier outings Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (Peter Hewitt, 1991). Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns has been reduced from selling out stadium gigs to playing open mike nights. 

Then they are taken in a time travel pod to 2700 A.D. to discover that because they never did write that song to unify all humanity, the fabric of space and time threatens to unravel by 5.17pm that very day in 2700. 

Their wives Elizabeth and Joanna (the fifteenth century English princesses from the first film here played by Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) have had enough and are going to couples’ counselling… so Bill and Ted travel back to join them, inadvertently making the situation worse.… Read the rest

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Transgression (Pagye)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1974 – South Korea – 111m

*****

Buddhist, monastic drama. Celibacy confronts carnal desire and a new senior monk must be chosen as the incumbent nears death.

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Viewing links at bottom of review

From its opening, a lengthy shot of a mountain hillside slope, this throws anyone unfamiliar with the more complex tenets of Buddhism in at the deep end, peppering voice-over and dialogue with words like ‘yulseong’ (“a monk that learns Buddha’s words”), ‘seonseong’ (“a monk that tries to emulate Buddha’s mind”) and ‘hwadu’ (“a kind of question that leads to seon”). A student disguises himself as a monk to gain admission to a Buddhist temple and see for himself what goes on there.

The temple monks meet to discuss their food problem. There are fifty older monks of more than twenty years’ standing and twenty younger newcomers. One of the old monks Doshim stole and sold some of the temple food. Another old monk tells newcomers that old monks are treated badly at the monastery, suffering deprivation of food, sleep and clothes.… Read the rest

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The Roads Not Taken

Director – Sally Potter – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 85m

*****

A man drifts through separate existences and times while his daughter struggles to look after him in present day New York City – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th

This is something of a disorienting experience because it slips and shifts effortlessly between separate realities. Molly (Elle Fanning) is taking the day off work in New York to spend time with her dad Leo (Javier Bardem) who lives in a crummy apartment the front access door of which opens onto a busy main street. Her plan is to get him to appointments at the dentists and the opticians in the morning, then be in work for an important meeting in the afternoon. However, it doesn’t work out like that.

At the start, the phone rings and the buzzer goes repeatedly. Molly is in a taxi and his Leo’s maid Xenia (Branca Katic) is outside his front door. Eventually they’re inside, Molly having presumably forced their way in. “Everything is open”, he says to her as he lies, in a daze, in bed. “It’s not, actually, dad,” she replies. “The front door is closed.” She brings him the photo of his late and beloved dog Nestor from the mirror across the room.… Read the rest

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Memories Of Murder (Salinui chueok)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2003 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 131m

*****

Three cops attempt to track down a serial sex killer. Based on a real life, unsolved murder case. With Song Kang-ho in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 11th

On one level, there’s nothing remarkable about Memories Of Murder, a crime movie about cops hunting a serial killer. This is a sub-genre done to death in Hollywood and elsewhere. On another level, however, it has the hallmarks of a really rich and strange talent getting hold of a well-worn formula and doing something fresh, new and original with it.

For one thing, it never dwells on the gore or fetishises the detail of the crimes. At the same time, like much Korean cinema, it never shies away from this material either. It’s unafraid to have an autopsy scene in which the pathologist discovers nine pieces of peach inside a corpse’s vagina but feels just as at ease that a testimony from a survivor throws up an important clue like, I didn’t see the killer’s face because if I had looked at him he’d have killed me, but I did notice he had soft hands.… Read the rest