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Civil War

Director – Alex Garland – 2024 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

Four journalists travel across the war-torn US to interview the President before he resigns or flees the country – out in both UK and US cinemas on Friday, April 12th

The US President (Nick Offerman) is rehearsing a speech, But he can’t seem to work out how to deliver the words.

Seasoned photojournalist Lee Miller (Kirsten Dunst) and journalist colleague Joel (Wagner Moura) are on the front line in the war-torn US. She is in the thick of it, taking photographs, when she spots a twentysomething woman Jessie Colin (CaIlee Spaeny from Priscilla, Sofia Coppola, 2023) doing the same thing, and gives the young woman her hi-vis jacket to help her chances of staying alive.

The girl is so preoccupied with taking pictures that she cradles the jacket in an arm while shooting images with her stills camera. Later, she runs into Lee in their hotel where all the journalists are staying, among them the grizzled veteran Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson from Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) who, despite mobility issues which require him to walk with a cane, insists on being in the thick of it as far as possible.… Read the rest

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The Teachers’ Lounge
(Das Lehrerzimmer)

Director – Ilker Çatak – 2023 – Germany – Cert. 12a – 98m

**** 1/2

A new teacher at a school where petty thefts have been taking place for some time makes some bad decisions which put her in a very difficult place – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 12th

Schoolboy Lukas (Okar Mats Zickur) is being questioned about recent thefts in the school. Does he have any suspicions as to which of the pupils might be doing this? A girl sits beside him, a class representative, to make sure everything is being done properly. “You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to”, teacher Carla Nowak (Leonie Bedesh) assures him. Nevertheless, her male colleague pressurises the boy. First, he gives him a printed list of names with checkboxes and asks the child to tick any relevant boxes. When that doesn’t work, he goes down the list with his finger and asks the boy simply to nod at any suspicious name. He gets a nod.

Teaching in class, with a number of the kids stumped by the current algebra problem, star pupil Oskar Kuhn (Leonard Stettnisch) works through a proof on the blackboard, way in advance of the capabilities his age would suggest.… Read the rest

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Opponent
(Motståndaren)

Director – Milad Alami – 2023 – Sweden, Norway – Cert. 15 – 119m

***1/2

Two asylum seekers – an Iranian pro-wrestler and his pianist wife – are confronted with inhospitable Scandiniavian hotel accommodation and state bureaucracy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 12th.

An ominous pulsing, thumping soundtrack. Wearing training kit, an Iranian man runs until stopped in his tracks by the sight of men on the nearby road searching for someone. There is a man hiding from their sight behind a parked car. The first man goes down to the parked car and demands of him, why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut?

Hoping it will help him be seen as contributing positively to the cultural life of Sweden, thus enhancing his and the family’s chances as being accepted into citizenship, Imam joins a local wrestling team. He is clearly glad to be once again participating in the sport that was his life back in Iran, but his wife is less than happy to see him taking it up again, especially since he sometimes comes back to the hotel with a bloodied nose. Imam befriends Thomas (Björn Elgerd) at the club, who invites him out to parties where Imam spends the night rather than going home to his wife.… Read the rest

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Perfect Days

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany, Japan – Cert. PG – 123m

*****

A cleaner for The Tokyo Toilet Company takes great pleasure in his everyday routine – on MUBI from Friday, April 12th

There is a pecking order in society. Right at the lowest level is anything to do with human waste. Nowhere is this more evident than towards the end of this film when his sister, who drives a large, impressive looking car and is making a rare visit to her sibling, asks, incredulously, “are you really cleaning toilets?”

In this remarkable film, Wenders turns this notion on its head. Welcome to the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), employee of The Tokyo Toilet Company, who has been doing the job for five or six years and takes great pride in it. He is part of a two-person detail, however his young co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) doesn’t share his enthusiasm, often arriving late for his shift and looking at his mobile phone on the job.

Hirayama drives a small van and has invested in various tools to help him carry out the job; Takashi rides a motor scooter. Hirayama takes great pleasure in his audio cassette collection (The Animals, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) which he listens to on his van’s cassette player driving to and from work.… Read the rest

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Some recommendations
from
Ireland’s
Japanese Film Festival
2024

Runs from 11-27 April 2024.

Please click links to read reviews.

Blue Giant

Director – Yuzura Tachikawa – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 120m

*****

Three 18-year-olds form a jazz band with the aim of playing at Tokyo’s top jazz club

Evil Does Not Exist

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility.

The First Slam Dunk

Director – Takehiko Inoue – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

A high school basketball team sets out to defeat the seemingly unstoppable league champions

Nominated for Technical Achievement in Sound Design at the London Critics Circle Film Awards 2024.

Lonely Castle In The Mirror

Director – Keiichi Hara – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 116m

*****

Seven children are sucked via mirrors in their homes into a mysterious castle perched high above a sea, presided over by a wolf queen, and prowled by a hungry wolf at night

Mondays: See You ‘This’ Week

Director – Ryo Takebayashi – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 82m

****

A comedy in which a group of office workers must find a way to escape the week-long time loop in which they find themselves trapped

Monster

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2023 – Japan – Cert.… Read the rest

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Io Capitano
(Io Capitano)

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2023 – Italy – Cert. 12a – 121m

*****

Two teenage Senegalese boys set out on a journey to Europe and a better life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

Garrone’s earlier features (Gomorrah, 2008; Tale of Tales, 2015; Dogman, 2018; Pinocchio, 2019) have a particular, muted look, making considerable use of browns and, to a lesser extent, greys or greyish colours. These were all films set in Garrone’s native Italy, featuring characters with an Italian perspective of one sort or another. This new film eschews all that and, while it’s recognisably the work of the same director, exhibits a completely different colour palette in accordance with its different location. It’s brighter and much less dingy.

The different look very much fits with the different intent. Garrone wanted to deal with migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe, but portray the journey from the migrants’ perspective rather than that of their destination countries. So this starts with two teenage, Senegalese boys who want to run away to Europe and is made in various African dialects, with the main one spoken by the two boys being recognisable as French.… Read the rest

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Yannick
(Yannick)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2023 – France – Cert. – 67m

*****

An audience member, unhappy with the play currently being performed, hijacks it with a gun to write something more entertaining himself – on Mubi UK from Friday, April 5th

NSFW. Absolutely worth seeing.

A play, The Cuckold, is being performed at a two-thirds empty Paris theatre. In the play, the husband (Marmaï Pio from Daaaaaali!, Quentin Dupieux, 2023) had learned from his wife (Blanche Gardin from Smoking Causes Coughing, Quentin Dupieux, 2022) that she is seeing another man. Couldn’t she wait until the weekend to tell him?

Worse, the man is ill, having picked up some sort of stomach bug from Kenya. Finally, the man – Bruno (Sébastien Chassagne from Mars Express, Jérémie Périn, 2023; The Truth, Hirokzu Kore’eda, 2019; Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014) – comes back from the lavatory. The wife wants to leave with Bruno. The husband tries to talk him into staying. Perhaps a bite from the fridge? The wife doesn’t want him to open the fridge.

At this point, audience member Yannick (Raphaël Quenard from Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn, 2023; Smoking Causes Coughing) stands up.… Read the rest

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Evil Does Not Exist
(Aku wa Sonzai Shinai,
悪は存在しない)

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

This starts and ends with a journey on foot through a forest with a viewpoint looking up at the branches of trees as quiet, meditative and arresting music by Eiko Ishibashi plays on the soundtrack.

A young girl of about eight (was it her viewpoint?) wanders through the woods.

A man chainsaws chopped tree trunks into small logs, then takes them near to his house to chop them for firewood. He puts several big, plastic cans in his car boot and drives out to a stream to fill them with water. Kazuo drops by to help the man load the filled bottles into his car. They hear gunshots, which the first man remarks he heard they were hunting in Kunihara.

At this point the first man Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) realises he’s forgotten to pick up his daughter from daycare, and drives over there to discover she’s given up waiting and walked home along. He finds her in the forest and gives Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), for that is her name, a piggyback home.… Read the rest

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Typhoon Club
(Taifu Kurabu,
台風クラブ)

Director – Shinji Somai – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

A group of teenagers is trapped inside their school by a typhoon – screenings around the UK and Ireland from Wednesday, April 3rd; also available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films

A film about teenagers which uses tropical weather conditions – in this instance, an approaching and then all-encompassing typhoon – as a catalyst for exploring character. Its bravura visual style engages from the get-go, with a shot looking across a swimming pool between two ropes of a lane with a child swimmer.

Thursday. A bunch of girls in bathing costumes including Yasuko (Tomoko Aizawa) lark about outside in what is obviously hot and humid weather – one runs through a shallow pool and turns on a water spray to catch the others as they follow, but soon their tomfoolery looks like it may have dire consequences as they all but drown the boy pool swimmer Akira (Toshiyuki Matsunaga). Fortunately, Kyoichi Mikami (Yuichi Mikami), who turns up with his friend Ken (Shigeru Benibayashi) in tow, is able to sort the situation out by administering artificial respiration.

Later, Akira and Mikami, with Ken smoking between the pair of them, hang out on a bamboo scaffolding structure discussing girls, including Yasuko’s lesbian activities with another girl.… Read the rest

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Hoarder on the Border
(Danshari Paradise,
断捨離パラダイス)

Director – Takayuki Kayano – 2022 – Japan – 101m

****

A failed pianist takes on a job at a cleaning company which specialises in decluttering houses filling up with rubbish – played UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

Promising young pianist Ritsuke Shirotaka (Ryo Shinoda), whose mantelpiece is adorned with prizes he won in school, can’t carry on due to hand tremors. His girlfriend pushes him towards eking out a living giving piano lessons, but that isn’t enough to stop her abandoning him.

In need of gainful employment, he interviews for and gets a job at cleaning company Danshari Paradise. (Note: Danshari is a Japanese philosophy of decluttering, based on principles that have been around in that culture a long time.)

This is a whole new world to him, and he must learn on the job. The houses or flats that the company deals with are typically places where you can’t see the floor for items of clothing and packaging that have been discarded there.

On his first assignment with such a team, Ritsuke attempts to physically pull blockages from a kitchen sink, only for a female colleague to pull him aside and pour liquid down the plughole to clear it.… Read the rest