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Greenaway By Numbers

How Peter Greenaway’s obsession with various numeric and other cataloguing systems has led to the creation of highly complex, multi-layered film pieces that joyfully play with audiences

If ever anyone were to make a film about the Dewey Decimal System, it would be Peter Greenaway. He is obsessed with ways and means to classify the world in which he finds himself, systems to organise and make sense of that peculiar world, people’s relationship networks with one another and their movement and actions within that world and those networks.

I first came across him on the theatrical release in Hammersmith of his three hours plus epic The Falls (1980), made in between his early, self-financed short films of the 1960s and 1970s and his first, more conventional in length feature The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982). The Falls takes its name from entries in the section of a directory beginning with the letters F A L L e.g. Orchard Falla, Constance Ortuist Fallaburr, Melorder Fallaburr. The directory chronicles survivors of a Violent Unknown Event, VUE for short… [read more]

Full article at DMovies.org in association with Doesn’t Exist Magazine – purchase your copy now.

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Features Live Action Movies

Rose: A Love Story

Director – Jennifer Sheridan – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 86m

*****

A couple isolate themselves from the outside world by living off grid in the woods for reasons not immediately apparent – out in the UK on digital including Amazon Prime from Monday, April 5th

The LFF put this in their Cult strand and the label fitted perfectly. Impressionistic images show cutlery, cups, CDs hanging from trees. A man leaves a hunting cabin. A woman sleeps in a bed. An eye of a beast in close up. A rabbit. The woman wakes, startled by a man’s voice. She puts paper in a typewriter. The rabbit is killed in a trap.

“I’m trying to give the doctor a reason to be in Prague so Susie can meet him,” Rose (Sophie Rundle) tells Sam (Matt Stokoe, also the film’s screenwriter). She is writing a book and they are living in isolation in the woods. This seems to suit them although something odd is definitely going on. They have supplies of leeches in jars, and he sits reading of an evening after applying a few of these to the upper part of his legs. Then he mashes up the results into a red pulp which comprises her diet.… Read the rest

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Synchronic

Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2019 – US – Cert. 15 – 102m

*****

Two New Orleans paramedics stumble upon a designer drug causing weird hallucinations and inexplicable deaths in this mind-bending science fiction yarn – – on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, April 5th

The prior films of creative partners Benson & Moorhead (The Endless, 2017; Spring, 2014; Resolution, 2012) inevitably set the bar high since they’ve consistently astonished audiences with their mind-bending narratives. Normally I watch films once then review them, but on this occasion I’ve had the privilege of wilfully watching Synchronic three times in the last year or so. This in itself tells you something about this film’s narrative pleasures. And given that Marvel recently signed the duo up to direct episodes of Moon Knight for Disney+, it would seem Hollywood is of a similar opinion.

Its extraordinary story involves two New Orleans paramedics whose characters completely engage you and pulls you in. Which is just as well because they stumble on some pretty strange stuff in the course of their work – in particular, calls involving trauma and sometimes death in the aftermath of bad drug trips.

It opens with a couple at home taking some hallucinogenic drugs and seeing / experiencing some extremely weird goings on.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Dunkirk

Director – Christopher Nolan – 2017 – UK – Cert. 12a – 106m

*****

Review originally published in DMovies.org. On Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st.

British filmmaker Christopher Nolan – now one of the highest-grossing film directors in history, with the Dark Knight trilogy under his belt – has created a complex and multilayered film that cleverly interweaves three separate narrative strands: 1) on land over a week a young soldier (Fionn Whitehead) after he arrives alone at Dunkirk beach and falls in with others (including the music superstar and heartthrob Harry Styles); 2) on sea over a day a small, requisitioned, civilian boat (crew: three) go to bring home trapped combatants; and 3) in the air over an hour three Spitfires fly a sortie.

Nolan is fascinated by time and runs these in parallel so that an incident partly revealed in one strand is later retold in another revealing more. There’s a constant sense of the clock ticking differently in the three time frames: mind-bending and exhilarating stuff.

Full review at DMovies.org.

On Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st.

Trailers:

Original UK theatrical release: Friday, July 21st 2017.

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Old Man And A Dog (老人與狗)

Director – Ryan Chan Hon-yan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

*****

A security guard nearing the end of his life is given an ageing, dying dog by his grandson – online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

When they’re in the hospital waiting for grandpa while he sees the doctor, Ka Chun (Karson Chan Ka Hei) asks his mum (Ivy Pang), “how come grandpa doesn’t have a dog?” There follows a huge row between Ms. Chan and the medical staff when she learns they’re not operating on her father because he’s signed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ papers. The boy, meanwhile, stands beside his grandpa’s bedside. His grandpa (Paul Carr) is on a ventilator.

The elder Mr. Chan visits the hospital on his own. The clock that’s fallen off the wall in the doctor’s office seems to presage his own demise. His boss (Toby Cheng) at the security firm tells him not to come in, he’s too ill. The firm will compensate him, so there are no financial issues.

Ka Chun visits grandpa at home – bringing with him a dog called (somewhat hilariously to English ears) Ah-fuk.… Read the rest

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Taste Of Tomato (蕃茄田)

Director – Li Ho – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

***1/2

A human finger fragment turns up inside a tomato in an out of town vegetable plot – FREE TO VIEW in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Four characters in a vegetable garden out of town, three men and one woman. No names are exchanged. Some pretty basic living conditions. It’s not exactly clear what they do for a living, but snatches of conversations give hints. One talks about removing two kidneys from a man who, when they opened him up, turned out to have four. So he took out two as a favour, because the guy would probably have died had he left them in. There’s a pre-title sequence in which a man drives through a long underpass, parks at a garden in the dark then starts digging. Intimations of cloak and dagger lifestyles.

Events start to leave a strange taste in the mouth when one of them bits into a tomato and summons the others to show them it contains about an inch’s worth of dead human finger (the bit with the fingernail).… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

GoGo Club (梁韻怡)

Director – Rei Leung Wan-yi – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ –25m

*****

The progress of a former nightclub employee following his fortuitous encounter with a girl in a panda suit – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

At age six, Yin (Matt Jiu Kai Laam) was brought by his mother (Gaga Tse Ka Wai) to the Golden Rose nightclub where she worked as a live-in cleaner and odd job person as the grown up Yin describes in voiceover narration. He doesn’t mention her suavely suited manager (Tony Ho Wah Chiu – Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui, 2017; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002; Dead Or Alive: Final, Takashi Miike, 2002) is a permanent fixture propping up the enquiries desk window counter. At age 26, Yin (Shaopin Tsui) is told by the manager that today is his last day. In fact it’s also the manager’s last day because the Golden Rose is closing down. Enquiring about his missing back pay, Yin is given the company’s very expensive car to sell for profit which turns out to be an old van covered in dust. … Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Ali And Me (我和阿里的故事)

Director – Lam Ting-hin – 2015 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 25m

****

A cricket-obsessed Chinese-Indian, Muslim boy and a Chinese music student get to know each other after being put on neighbouring desks in class – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Here’s a Hong Kong movie with a difference. It’s about two very different families with one thing in common: both have a boy at school That’s not the difference. The difference is that one of the families – the one with which the film starts – is Indian Muslim, which isn’t something you see represented in that territory’s cinema very often. Sent out by his mum to get Soy Sauce from the shop, he can’t resist taking his beloved cricket bat with him and joining his mates for a game. (I can’t remember the last time I saw cricket in a Hong Kong movie, if ever.)

Instructed by his teacher to introduce himself to his new classmates, he calls himself a Muslim who loves to play cricket. The class wag promptly pipes up, “Wow!… Read the rest

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Beyond The Dream (幻愛)

Director – Kiwi Chow – 2021 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 120m

***

A recovering schizophrenic man falls in love with his psychiatric counsellor, who has relationship issues of her own – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

An opening a sequence throws you off guard: a woman, clearly distressed, starts removing her clothes in a busy street. Soon she is sitting huddling on the pavement naked. One passer-by stops to take pictures (the video will later go viral). A second woman (Cecilia Choi Detention, John Hsu, 2019) and a young man (Lau Chun Him), who both knows the first woman as Ling, come to have aid. Between them they find a dull red blanket and wrap her in it in an attempt to preserve her dignity and soon an ambulance arrives.

Having set up Ling as a character, she never appears again. Instead, the two main characters are the young man and a woman who meet in the lift as it ascends their housing block: she lives on the floor above, and he returns the blanket, which is now inexplicably a dull blue.… Read the rest

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Once Upon A Time In China (Wong Fei Hung, 黃飛鴻)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1991 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 135m

****1/2

Groundbreaking, period martial arts epic features some of the most spectacular stunt sequences ever filmed, spawned five sequels and made Jet Li a star – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

The real life Wong Fei Hung (1847-1925) was a Chinese practitioner of martial arts and medicine who lived in Foshan and has been the subject of over a hundred films. Tsui Hark’s 1991 production is one of the best known and spawned a series of six movies in total, four of them with Jet Li as Wong, arguably his most iconic role.

Militia-laden American and British and French ships anchored in the harbour put Foshan in an uneasy position and Wong is concerned, as well he might be since it turns out in the course of the narrative that the Americans under a man named Jackson (Jonathan Isgar) are not only tricking local men into debt via getting them to pay for their passage to San Francisco but also trafficking Chinese women into prostitution in the New World. The film isn’t particularly interested in these misdemeanours except as providing motivation for its villain.… Read the rest

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Minari

Director – Lee Isaac Chung – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 120m

***1/2

The Korean immigrant experience in the US as a nuclear family set up a farm in Arkansas – on VoD from Friday, April 2nd, in drive-in cinemas from Monday, April 12th and cinemas from Monday, May 17th

Jacob (Steven YeunBurning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two kids Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David, 7 (Alan S. Kim), drive out to their new home in Arkansas. She is a little horrified that the home is a trailer on wheels supported by a basic frame, but he is thrilled that they have land with the best dirt (i.e. for growing things) America has to offer. They are surrounded by a vast area of countryside and woodlands. They speak mostly Korean, but are fluent in English and occasionally use it.

Eschewing the advice of a local water diviner, Jacob builds a well in some low ground where trees are nearby, reasoning that there must be water there. “Never pay for anything you can get for free,” he tells the attentive David, reminding him that in California, where they’ve moved from, they had nothing.… Read the rest