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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War

Director – Margy Kinmonth – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 87m

***1/2

The career of the British watercolour artist tragically killed while serving as an official war artist in World War Two – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

The first official war artist to be commissioned in World War Two, Eric Ravilious was on an aircraft which set out from Iceland in 1942 and never came back. There is no exact record of what took place, covered by the phrase “missing in action”, but in all likelihood the plane went down in the sea. Kinmonth finds simple images to convey the incident, which appears in both her opening introduction to Ravilious’ life and her closing reel representing his passing – a warplane descending, our viewpoint falling towards the surface of the sea, an indistinct body moving in water filled with bubbles. At the end, the cold blue of the water contrasts with the gentler, rural green of the family house and surroundings back home.

After his death, Ravilious’ art was largely ignored. Alan Bennett, an admirer of the artist’s work, puts this down to the work’s cheerful and unthreatening nature and a prevailing view that art should grapple with dark and foreboding subject matter.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi, 아가씨)

Director – Park Chan-wook – 2016 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 155m

****1/2

Available on BFI Player from Friday, March 18th

Weighing in at a lengthy two and a half hours, this lavish, sexually-explicit, South Korean pot-boiler is based on Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, but moves the location from Victorian England to Japanese colonial-era Korea.

Waters’ tale concerns a conman’s plot to marry and then defraud a wealthy English heiress by confining her to an asylum. He bribes a young London pickpocket (the titular ‘fingersmith’) to take on a job as the wealthy lady’s maid, hoping to get her to persuade the woman to marry him. However, his plan falls apart when the two women fall for each other.

When director Park Chan-wook discovered the BBC had already made a 2005 miniseries, he transposed the plot to 1930s Korea (a Japanese colony at the time), co-writing his script with regular female collaborator Jeong Seo-kyeong. Broadly speaking, it substitutes well-off Japanese for well-off English, and Koreans for everyone else. The print being released in UK cinemas helpfully subtitles Japanese dialogue in yellow and Korean dialogue in white… [Read the rest]

Reviewed for All The Anime.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad: Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Banishing

Director – Christopher Smith – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

***1/2

A vicar, his wife and their daughter move into a haunted rectory which seems to be out to get them – on digital platforms from Friday, March 26th and Shudder from Thursday, April 15th

The Rev Stanley Hall (Matthew Clarke) is found hanged from the top of four-poster bed in his bedroom in the old rectory near the village. This follows a session with his hefty bible, annotated in placed with scrawled pentagrams and pages burned through with holes, his reading out loud Pauline admonitions against ‘sexual immorality’ and a bizarre vision of himself either having sex with or inflicting extreme bloody violence upon his wife (or possibly both at once – it’s not entirely clear). Bishop Malachi (John Lynch) is summoned to the house.

Three years later, Malachi installs a new vicar Linus (John Heffernan) in the property which has remained vacant in the interim. Linus is joined by wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her illegitimate daughter Adelaide (Anya Mckenna-Bruce) as well as the house’s incumbent deaf maid Betsy (Jean St. Clair). Like his predecessor, Linus is obsessed with abstaining from sexual immorality, despite his wife’s pointing out to him that they are married.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles

Director – Salvador Simo – 2018 – Netherlands – 80m

***1/2

Streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) from Thursday, July 16th – with more Buñuel movies here.

Following the success of his surrealist film L’Age D’Or / The Age Of Gold (1930), film director Luis Buñuel finds his main source of funding cut off when the strongly Catholic mother of his primary investor puts pressure in the latter. At the same time, a stranger named Eli Lotar strikes up a post-premiere conversation with the director saying he saw no influence of Dali in the film and presses a book Las Hurdes into Buñuel’s hands.

Frustrated at the lack of funding for his films, Luis decides to film the book which details the appalling living conditions of poor people in a remote village in rural Spain.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles for DMovies.org.

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Animation Movies Shorts

Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad The Sailor

Director – Dave Fleischer – 1936 – US – 16m – colour – Oscar nominated

*****

Currently streaming on MUBI.

A rare, two reeler, colour outing for the Fleischer brothers’ Popeye, this removes him from his usual urban environment to an island populated with fabulous monsters – the opening features snakes, lions, a dragon and a vulture before we meet self-proclaimed “The Most Remarkable Fellow”, credited in the cast as Sindbad The Sailor although anyone familiar with other Flesicher Popeye cartoons will recognise him as regular villain Bluto. Sindbad sings a song asking the rhetorical question who this extraordinary fellow is, culminating in Popeye’s voice unexpectedly singing “Popeye The Sailor Man”, from which springs the film’s subsequent dramatic conflict. Talking about a shackled two headed giant Sindbad also references King Kong, released three years earlier and an obvious influence on the remote island with caves and incredible beasts seen here.

(MUBI’s source print print is missing a little bit of the opening credits, so you might want to hit pause on the single credits page detailing the cast before it vanishes after a few seconds. Otherwise, the print is in pretty decent condition.)

When Sindbad sends a giant bird to scuttle Popeye’s ship and kidnap the woman (Olive Oyl), the bird’s take off is animated less like a bird and more like a nineteen thirties aircraft that struggles to leave the ground.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wings Of Eagles

Serving the true God

Wings Of Eagles
Directed by Stephen Shin, Michael Parker
Certificate 12, 108 minutes
Released 12 March 2018

A sequel of sorts to Chariots of Fire, Wings Of Eagles tells the story of Eric Liddell’s missionary years in China. He’s played here by Joseph Fiennes, an actor who has grappled with one aspect or another of Christianity in several stories (Risen, The Handmaid’s Tale, Luther) and seems to thrive on roles like this. The film’s focus on British missionary work in China evokes The Inn of the Sixth Happiness about Gladys Aylward.

Liddell famously refused to run an Olympic race on Sunday, believing that no work should be done on the Lord’s Day. Later, he went to China with the London Missionary Society, taking his family with him, then sending them home after the Japanese invaded… [Read the rest]

Trailer:

Review originally published in Reform, March 2018.

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Features Live Action Movies

The Human Condition Trilogy (Ningen no joken, 人間の條件)

The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (Ningen no joken: Dai 1 hen)

Director – Masaki Kobayashi – 1959 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 208m

The Human Condition II: Road To Eternity (Ningen no joken: Dai 2 hen)

Director – Masaki Kobayashi – 1959 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 181m

The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer (Ningen no jôken: Kanketsu hen)

Director – Masaki Kobayashi – 1961 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 190m

*****

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Jeremy Clarke on a live action Japanese classic.

The main reason Masaki Kobayashi’s extraordinary trilogy The Human Condition has been scarcely seen in the West is its daunting nine hours plus length. That’s no longer the case thanks to its UK release on DVD and Blu-ray.

The trilogy’s three constituent films released two in 1959 and one in 1961 clock in at over three hours apiece which makes it long by any standard. Ostensibly three films spread over three discs in the new release it is to all intents and purposes one very long movie helpfully broken into six numbered parts of roughly equal length. This big screen cinema release viewed on a home cinema platform today stands up well alongside many contemporary TV mini-series.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto Del Fauno)

Director – Guillermo del Toro – 2006 – Mexico – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl must complete three tasks for a mysterious faun in an underground kingdom – in UK cinemas from Friday, November 11th 2006.

Mexican director del Toro is best known as a director of big budget Hollywood horror-ish effects fests like Mimic (1998), Blade II (2004) and Hellboy (2004). More impressive however – and less easily generically defined – are the two movies he’s made in Spain set in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The Devil’s Backbone (2001) is a ghost story with an alien ambience reminiscent of visionary SF writer J.G.Ballard. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is arguably even more ambitious: at once a no holds barred fantasy / horror outing and a brutal and violent war drama. And much, much more besides.

Following a fairytale prologue concerning a subterranean princess’ departure from her underground kingdom for the surface world where her former identity is unknown, young girl Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) travels cross-country with her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to live with Carmen’s new husband Vidal (Sergi López), a ruthless Captain in Franco’s army obsessed with stamping out the remaining rebel forces.… Read the rest