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Lucky Chan-sil (Chansilineun Bokdo Manhji, 찬실이는 복도 많지)

Director – Kim Cho-hee – 2019 – South Korea – 95m

****

When a film director she’s worked for over several years dies, his film producer has to rethink her life – currently streaming on MUBI as part of their New South Korean Cinema season

Director Ji (Seo Sang-won), his fortysomething producer Lee Chan-sil (Kang Mal-geum) and three or four others are drinking Soju round a table after a hard day’s work on the set. Suddenly, Ji slumps forward. Everyone thinks he’s kidding. He’s not. He’s dead. Unexpectedly dead. Ji makes little independent films in his own highly idiosyncratic style. If he’s no longer there, then the film, too, is dead. And Chan-sil, who has only worked with him, is suddenly out of a job.

With her regular income gone, she downsizes and moves into a cheap flat owned by an ageing live-in landlady (Youn Yuh-jung). It’s near the top of a hill, so other members of the abandoned film production help her carry stuff up there. She sees a lot of her flighty actress friend Sophie (Yeung Soon-ah) for whom she now goes to work as a cleaner. These changes of circumstance give her the both the space and the opportunity to reassess her life.… Read the rest

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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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Daughter Of Shanghai

Directors – Michelle Chen Miao, Hilla Medalia – 2019 – China – Cert. N/C 15+ – 90m

****1/2

A chronicle of the life and on-off career of Chinese-born, RADA-trained actress and screen legend Tsai Chin – available to rent online until Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 as part of the Approaching Reality documentary strand

“I was born in a trunk when my parents were on tour in Tianjin.” The daughter of legendary Peking Opera star Zhou Xinfang, Tsai Chin came to London towards the end of her  seventeenth year when she was the first Chinese person to be accepted at RADA where she found herself alongside the likes of high-born, Welsh socialite Elizabeth Rees-Williams who in footage alongside her now husband Jonathan Aitken is one of the main interview subjects here. As well as a recent interview with Tsai Chin herself, the other main interviewee is the late lawyer Carlo Colombotti, a personal friend and a wealthy lawyer who moved in the same London circles in the sixties.

Her story, although it contains specific international and cross-cultural reference points, is, basically, an actor’s life: early success on stage and screen through the fifties and sixties, followed by a period in the seventies and eighties in relative obscurity and a later period when her rediscovery by Hollywood in the nineties restarted her career.… Read the rest

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The Intruder (El Prófugo)

Director – Natalia Meta – 2020 – Argentina, Mexico – Cert. – 95m

***1/2

A woman moves between dreams and reality as she starts to fear that a foreign entity may be taking her over – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 from 20.30 Monday, October 12th to 20.30 Thursday, October 15th

This opens with a close up of a woman’s body bound in bondage gear. She speaks in Japanese and then somewhat disorientatingly (as if this disturbing imagery hadn’t already thrown you enough) in a different voice in Spanish. Voice actress Inés (Erica Rivas) is working in a dubbing theatre. “More powerful, Inés”, says the man in the booth. After a take or two more, he’s got what he needed and they move on to the next clip.

The film’s a bit like that. The opening is representative of what is to follow: a series of bravura and often disturbing sequences that suck you in and make you wonder exactly where the film will end up. As the sequences build, one on another, I was fully expecting this to be a five star review. Alas, the film didn’t seem to know how to end and the final scene, which needed to somehow pull everything together and make sense of the larger whole, quite simply didn’t.… 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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The Lovers And The Despot

Directors – Ross Adam, Robert Cannan – 2016 – UK – Cert. PG – 98m

Jeremy Clarke on a story too crazy to be anything but true…

This documentary concerns a South Korean film director and his leading actress, kidnapped by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il for the purpose of beefing up that country’s film industry – an incredible story that may be familiar from the earlier book on the subject, A Kim Jong-Il Production.

Actress Choi Eun-hee met director Shin Sang-ok on his 1955 film Dream. They became a celebrity couple working together on numerous films and raising a family until she discovered he had fathered two more children with a younger actress. The couple’s seeming fairy-tale romance disintegrated into divorce. Shin’s production company was in financial trouble and his wife began looking elsewhere for film projects.

In 1978, Choi took a trip from South Korea to Hong Kong to meet a producer and discuss a possible production. She never returned. A few months later, ex-husband Shin followed her trail. He too disappeared…

Read more over at All The Anime.

See also: Camp 14: Total Control Zone.

Trailer: