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A Good Lawyer’s Wife (Baramnan Gajok, 바람난 가족)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2003 – South Korea – Cert. – 105m

***

Unsatisfactory family life in which fathers and mothers cheat on their wives and partners in search of a more fulfilling existence – screened with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Joo Ho-jeong (Moon So-ri) bemoans the fact that once you’re married, you get less sex than you did as a single woman. Judging by the opening sex scene, in which her husband comes prematurely leaving her to satisfy herself, she would probably be better off single. Still, she has a small son Soo-in (Jang Joon-yeong) to mother and a local dance classes to teach.

The relationship is not working for her husband Yeong-jak (Hwang Jung-min) either, given his full workload and the fact that he’s sleeping with his P.A. Kim Yeon (Baek Jong-rim). His mother Byung-han (Youn Yoh-jung), meanwhile, is watching her alcoholic husband die and enjoying a new lease of life with a new lover following a decade and a half with no sex.… Read the rest

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Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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After Love

A girl in both ports

After Love
Directed by Aleem Khan
Certificate 12a, 89 minutes
Released in cinemas 4 June, on Blu-ray and BFI Player 23 August

*****

The South Coast. Mary (Joanna Scanlan) is married to Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia), a ferry captain who regularly travels to France and back in the course of work. They fell in love as teenagers. She is white British, he is south Asian. She has converted to Islam, his religion, and integrated into his Urdu-speaking family, a language she has herself learned.

One day he comes home from work, and dies while she’s making him a cup of tea. Going through his effects, she checks his mobile phone, and discovers messages from another woman. She goes over to France to confront Geneviève (Natalie Richard)… [read more]

Full theatrical review in Reform magazine.

NB Blu-ray contains the director’s earlier short Three Brothers (2014) plus an informative 46-minute zoom Q&A, trailer and teaser trailer, a stills gallery, and (first pressing only) a booklet containing writing on the film.

Trailer:

2021

Cinemas

Friday, June 4th

Blu-ray, BFI Player (subscription exclusive)

Monday, August 23rd.

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Now, Voyager

Director – Irving Rapper – 1942 – US – Cert. PG – 117m

*****

A woman must overcome mental illness caused by her overbearing mother – out in cinemas on Friday, August 6th

The wealthy Vale family from Boston invites Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) to meet their youngest daughter Charlotte (Bette Davis) to see if he can do anything with her. Failing to get matriarch Mrs. Henry Vale (Gladys Cooper) to introduce him without his title, he presses Charlotte to show him round the house, including her room. There, she keeps a library in which are hidden forbidden books, smokes illicitly and makes ornate boxes with ivory decoration. Years of living with her domineering mother have given Charlotte a problem with her own self-image.

Jaquith has Charlotte stay at his rest home, then instead of returning to Boston has her take the place of her sister Lisa (Ilka Chase) on a cruise to Rio de Janeiro on which she meets and falls for married man Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Durrance known to his friends as JD (Paul Heinreid), whose absent wife dominates one of his daughters Tina back home much as Charlotte’s mother dominated her. The pair spend time together in Brazil during which they are involved in a car accident in which no-one is injured. … Read the rest

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The Offering (L’Ofrena)

Director – Ventura Durall – 2020 – Spain – Cert. 18 tbc – 111m

**

When two former lovers run into one another, the fallout theatens to derail both their marriages – out in cinemas, virtual cinemas and VoD from Friday, July 30th

This starts off with webcam porn actress Rita (Verónica Echegui) giving a come on to an unseen viewer in American English, which is pretty odd because everything else is in Spanish. Surely not a cheap shot by the producers to sell the film to the English-speaking world? Anyone who thinks they’re in for an internet exposé along the lines of Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, 2018) is however in for a disappointment. Apart from a line later on where Rita is asked her job and replies, “I used to be a porn actress”, the whole sequence is gratuitous.

More relevant is the scene’s interruption by the arrival of Jan (Alex Brendemühl), sent by a relative to deliver the first of the narrative’s two eponymous offerings, a tall box containing a message or artefact from a deceased loved one. This has echoes of the Violet Evergarden anime series and its spin-off feature (Taichi Ishidate, 2020) in which the heroine works for a company which helps dying or terminally ill clients to write a letter or in some cases a lengthy series of letters to their loved ones to be delivered after the client’s death.… Read the rest

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Shape Of Red (Red)

Director – Yukiko Mishima – 2020 – Japan – Cert. N/C 15+ – 122m

****1/2

A woman trapped in a stultifying marriage experiences freedom and laughter in both returning to work and pursuing an extramarital relationship – played online in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2021 in the UK

Married to Shin (Shotaro Mamiya) with a six-year-old girl Midori, Toko (Kaho – Our Little Sister, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015) is a stay-at-home mum. Shin works with a trading company and judging by the size of the house is not lacking financially. Shin’s mother is a constant fixture in their home and the first time we see Shin come in from work of an evening, he rejects the meal his wife has prepared because he’s “not hungry” only to readily accept a favourite dish his mother has prepared.

That doesn’t bode well for the marriage. In bed she dutifully performs a blow job on him which satisfies him but not her. As she wipes away the results with a tissue, you feel that she’s not so much a wife, more a sort of sexual skivvy.

As his wife, Toko accompanies Shin to various work social events where she similarly appears to be little more than an appendage.… Read the rest

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In The Mood For Love (Fa Yeung Nin Wah, 花樣年華 ) / 2046

In The Mood For Love

Director – Wong Kar-wai – 2000 – Hong Kong – Cert. PG – 94m

*****

2046

Director – Wong Kar-wai – 2004 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 123m

*****

In the Mood For Love is a romantic drama set in 1962 with 2046 a sequel which follows what happened to the man some time after – out now on BFI Player Rental in 4K restorations as part of a wider Wong Kar-wai season. (Originally reviewed for Third Way on both films’ UK DVD release in the mid-2000s when they were available both separately and as a double pack).

On the same day in 1962, two couples move into neighbouring apartments in Hong Kong. The husband of secretary Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) is away on business in Japan, while the wife of journalist Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is often absent for similar reasons. It gradually dawns on Su and Chow that their respective spouses are having an affair. Their shared predicament leads the stranded couple into a romance they dare not consummate.

In The Mood For Love

That’s the plot of Wong Kar-wai’s dazzling ITMFL. Surprisingly, his follow-up alleged Sci-Fi epic 2046 turns out to be a sequel in which Chow, obsessed with the long since departed Su, works his way through a series of relationships carnal and otherwise with women (played by Carina Lau, Zhang Ziyi, Faye Wong and Gong Li) and recycles some of his experiences in the steamy, erotic pulp SF potboiler 2046 he’s writing, some of which is realised as voiceover and imagery on screen.… Read the rest

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The Empty Hands (Hung Sau Dou, 空手道)


Director – Chapman To – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 97m

Film *****

Subtitle legibility *

A Hong Kong Chinese-Japanese must come to peace with her late, estranged karate-obsessed father – online in the UK as part of Hong Kong Focus 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

To get the subtitle issue out of the way first, the subs here are what subs often used to be forty years ago – white with no black edge around the lettering. So as soon as the lettering appears over a white area of the image, it’s rendered invisible and illegible. These days, that system is rarely used so it’s rarely a problem. But there are several scenes here when it’s an issue. Nothing that will fundamentally spoil the film, but it’s a pity that someone cut a corner and didn’t get this quite right. If it ever turns up on home video, I hope someone redoes the subs properly to make them legible. The translation seems fine, which makes the poor legibility far more irritating. Now then, the film…

This follows the time-worn, martial arts movie template of a hero with something to prove so they train for a big competition fight in which they somehow find themselves.… Read the rest

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Every Time I Die

Director – Robi Michael – 2019 – US – 97m

***1/2

Reality disintegrates around a man tormented by the accidental, childhood death of his sister – on VoD from Monday, October 26th

People who’ve apparently died then come back to life have often reported the sensation of going down a dark tunnel towards the light, which they then haven’t reached because they’ve been brought back to life. That motif is realised a repeated, clumsy special effect at various points in Every Time I Die, along with more subtle and arguably more successful variants on the same theme, such as a child waking up in a hospital room where the door is slightly ajar revealing a light source beyond.

Other elements recur too: protagonist Sam (Drew Fonteiro) repeatedly feels a pain in his head and blacks out, only to repeatedly come to or wake up in another scenario. He wakes as a young lad of eight (Kenneth Moronta), a camera on the table in front of him, in the hospital room with the door ajar and the light beyond, Then he wakes up, in that device we’ve seen so many times in movies where it was all a dream. Here he wakes staring at the face of Mia (Melissa Macedo) who has spent the night with him and now must leave early to go back to her husband Tyler (Tyler Dash White), a soldier recently returned from several months away on active duty.… Read the rest