This so-called ‘Noodle Western’ always sounded somewhat off-the-wall. It impressed when it first appeared in 1985 and viewing it again on Criterion’s new Blu-ray, Tampopo has stood the test of time well. “This’ll be famous in the history of cinema” says cast member Fukumi Kuroda in director Juzo Itami’s 90-minute edited diary of making the film, one of many excellent extras on the new disc.
Kuroda plays the girlfriend of an unnamed, white-suited gangster (a pre-Shall We Dance Koji Yakusho) and the couple share a number of scenes involving sex and food. One involves him putting an egg yolk in his mouth which the couple then pass back and forth between them from mouth to mouth until it finally breaks and spills out onto her dress. You can find out the finer points of how they filmed this by watching the diary. Yakusho also gets a memorable death scene, bloodily gunned down by unseen assailants in a rain-swept. He then proceeds to tell his lady love about wild boar being hunted and turned into yam sausage on account of their diet, before he passes away in her arms.… Read the rest
A chef (Masatoshi Nagase) carefully pours just the right amounts of pancake mixture onto a hotplate to make dorayaki – two small, burger bun sized pancakes with a filling of sweet bean paste in the middle. An old lady (Kirin Kiki) asks if his part-time post is still vacant. To get rid of her he offers an outrageously low hourly rate. She proposes to work for half that. He makes excuses as to why it won’t work. “Thanks,” she says, “I’ll come again,” and disappears. Thus begins director Naomi Kawase’s Sweet Bean, a bittersweet tale of suburban life across the generations… [Read the rest]
Wind. Trees. Tall grass. A road barely discernible but for the occasional top of a hedge. A fluttering, white banner of a funeral procession moves imperceptibly across the landscape, a futile ritual for an unknown person.
A room’s corner between two windows. Beyond them: wind and trees. Against the corner leans the sleeping Mr Shigeki (Shigeki Uda). The boss of this old people’s home Wakako (Makiko Watanabe) is showing new care worker Machiko (Machiko Ono) the ropes. “There are no rules here”, she tells her. Machiko is in emotional free-fall. At home, a candle beside a photograph of a young boy. Berated by her husband for letting go of her child’s hand, Machiko has never got over the incident.
Director – Chino Moya – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 18+ – 91m
Overlapping narratives unfold within a mysterious city which resembles something out of Eastern Europe – in cinemas from Monday, May 17th
In a grey urban environment resembling an unspecified city somewhere in Eastern Europe or possibly Russia, two lorry drivers go about their daily routine of picking up corpses from the street. These two characters form the frame story of what is to follow, although exactly what that is isn’t clear from the narrative’s meandering nature. There are stories within stories wherein the character you think is the main character is suddenly usurped by a different character. Several times over.
That’s a pity because they are potentially very interesting stories, so it’s frustrating to see them consistently half-baked. The anthology film is, after all, a tried and tested format and this film attempts do something radical and new with it. The problem is though, to make that form work you really need to understand its rules before you play around with them, break them, or abandon them altogether. This film seemingly lacks that understanding, or thinks you can throw away the framework and everything will still somehow work.… Read the rest
Director – Sam Quah – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 112m
A family stands together when their daughter kills the local police chief’s son who is both a rapist and blackmailer – available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland.
This opens with a prison break in which the escapee ends up interred in a coffin next to the corpse of the man who was trying to get him out. That turns out to be a story told by Li Wiejie or Jie for short (Xiao Yang), an insatiable watcher of detective and crime thrillers. The film lays its cinematic cards on the table almost immediately by referencing Hitchcock, montage, sound effects, excitement and The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994). Sheep Without A Shepherd is in thrall to the West’s suspense movies and plays out like one while at the same time retaining its distinctive Chinese character with its emphasis on the importance of family ties and loyalty.
Jie and his wife (Tan Zhuo) run a small store in Thailand. Their daughter Ping known in the family as PingPing (Audrey Hui) persuades dad to fund her to go to summer camp where she is drugged and videoed being gang-raped by privileged brat Su Cha (Beety) and his pals.… Read the rest
In cinemas from Friday, August 14th, on BFI Player rental from Monday, December 14th
Impoverished woodcarver Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) decides to make the greatest puppet the world has ever seen, tour the world with it and make his fortune. A wood merchant lets him have a log because it seems to have a life of its own. Unaware of its animate properties, Geppetto begins carving his puppet, a life-sized representation of the son he’s never had.
After he starts talking to it as its “Babba”, he is surprised when the puppet (nine year old Frederico Ielapi) talks back. Geppetto names him Pinocchio. No sooner has he carved the feet than Pinocchio runs out of Geppetto’s workshop to discover the world. In many ways, that defines the character and the story to come. The innocent Pinocchio is forever in pursuit of his own gratification, prey to the perils of the world around him and initially devoid of any sense of morality, something he struggles to learn throughout the course of the story in his quest to become a real boy.
There have been numerous versions of Pinocchio in film, television and theatre since it first appeared as a written serial in an Italian newspaper in 1881.… Read the rest
Director – Shannon Murphy – 2019 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 118m
In cinemas from Friday, August 14th and on BFI Player from Monday, December 7th
Uniformed schoolgirl Milla (Eliza Scanlen) stands on a platform ill at ease with her classmates. The train comes in. Before she can move to get on it, someone has knocked into her rushing past to stand close to the passing train. It’s Moses (Toby Wallace), unkempt in shorts and tee shirt. He asks her for money. He points out she has a nosebleed, cradles her on the ground, puts his tee over her mouth and jaw… to catch the blood.
Milla’s psychiatrist father Henry (Ben Mendelson) has a home session with a patient that turns into sex on a desk. This is his wife Anna (Essie Davis) who is on medication and has mental problems. They have another problem as a family: their daughter has cancer.
When Milla brings Moses into her parents’ comfortable suburban family home, they take an immediate dislike to him. This reaction is compounded by his habit of stealing medications from their home to sell later on the street. Nevertheless, he will be around the home more and more and by the end will be to all intents and purposes living there with Henry and Anna’s consent.… Read the rest
A woman works long hours within a vast Mexico City hotel complex and rarely sees the world outside – now on BFI Player(extended free trial offer here)
Set inside an unnamed Mexico City hotel (actually the real life Hotel Presidente). Scenes with views of the skyline from glass windows mostly on either the 21st or 42nd floors offer a running gag about lowering the blinds to shut out the amorous window cleaner on his platform outside, ultimately paid off when the title character leaves the blind up, sits on the bed and strips off down to her knickers.
This scene is uncharacteristic of the wider film. Chambermaid Eve (Gabriela Cartol) quietly and dutifully goes about her daily workload tidying, cleaning and replenishing items in guest rooms on the 21st floor for which she is fully responsible. To do this, she must leave her home at 4am to get to the hotel by 6am and take showers at work because her home doesn’t have one… [Read the rest]
Yes, God, YES Directed by Karen Maine Certificate 15, 77 minutes Released digitally on 17 August
Despite its provocative title suggesting a racy sex comedy about religion, this is actually a gentle independent film exploring the everyday inadequacies of American teenagers growing up within a conservative Catholic tradition. Essential life issues, including sex, truth telling, lying and religion, come up.
There’s a rumour going round Alice’s Catholic high school that she (Natalie Dyer) has been “salad tossing”. Having no idea what this means, she spends much of the film trying to find out. Impressed that Nina (Alisha Boe) has been on a four-day camp and seems to have her life together, Alice signs up.
The camp takes place at a Catholic retreat centre staffed by a nun and Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). Alice is immediately attracted to Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz), the camp leader and school football team captain. When Nina asks Alice to surrender her watch and mobile phone “because you’re on Jesus’ time”, Alice keeps her phone hidden to play games on it… [Read the rest]