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Sting

Director – Kiah Roache-Turner – 2024 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 91m

***1/2

A girl traps a venomous spider and cares for it as a pet, but as she feeds it, it grows… and grows… and gets out… – into UK cinemas on Friday, May 31st

Helga (Noni Hazlehurst) is hearing strange noises in her Brooklyn apartment. She doesn’t remember so good, however, helpfully pinned to the wall by the phone is her name and address. So when she phones Frank the pest exterminator (Jermaine Fowler), she can read those details to him. It’s probably a rat, he tells her. Soon he is at the door of the block, asking her to buzz him in. But inside the apartment, he realises this particular bug may be more than he bargained for.

Flash back to four days earlier. A hand-sized meteor plunges to Earth to crash through a window into a doll’s house in the same apartment block. It is a tiny pod not unlike the ones in Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). It opens, hatching a small spider, which looks huge until we realise it’s in a small scale doll’s house, not outside in the apartment proper. The spider is found by Charlotte (Alyla Brown from Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, George Miller, 2024) who empties out her money jar, the one with the screw lid, to make a home for it, feeding it with the roaches that infest the apartment.… Read the rest

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Concrete Utopia
(Konkeuriteu Yutopia,
콘크리트 유토피아)

Director – Eom Tae-hwa – 2023 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 130m

****1/2

A massive earthquake makes the residents of the sole Seoul apartment block still standing close their doors to survivors outside – out on UK digital platforms on Monday, April 1st

Concrete: a structural material made of aggregate, cement, and water. (Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.) Harsh. Unyielding. Impenetrable. Opaque. Not alive. Commonly used in today’s world in the manufacture of buildings, and associated with Brutalist architecture.

Utopia: an ideal community whose inhabitants exist under seemingly perfect conditions. (Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.) The English word derives from two Greek words, the compound meaning of which is nowhere. Hence, “seemingly”. Utopias tend to have some fatal flaw. If they didn’t, any story about them would lack dramatic conflict. Thus, the word carries within it a degree of irony.

The eponymous montage of these two words pits them against each other: an unyielding, dead physicality confronts the optimism of a better world. The title evokes JG Ballard’s novels Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975), the former about a stranded motorist struggling to survive on a spaghetti junction after a car accident, the latter about a newly built block of flats in which the residents descend through social breakdown towards a new order.… Read the rest

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Observing
(Opazovanje)

Director – Janez Burger – 2023 – Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, North Macedonia – Cert. none – 83m

*****

A paramedic must deal with the aftermath of a man being kicked unconscious after people watch the incident on social media livestreaming – plays in the spirit of the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The sounds of a man (Vito Weiss) being beaten up by others. No images. Mercifully.

If you lived in Slovenia, you’d be familiar with a news story about a man who was beaten up by others who livestreamed the event over social media, picking up an audience of 20 000, out of whom only a negligible number, maybe a handful, thought to call the police. That incident was the starting point for this film, which is an attempt to come to term with such events.

It’s a drama based around the three-person ambulance detail who find themselves picking up the victim of the livestreamed attack. He’s in a bad way and winds up in intensive care. Most of the ambulance pickups either die on the way to or in hospital, or they make a full recovery; this man, however, remains stable but unconscious in the ICU with no sign of either recovery or lapse.… Read the rest

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Made In Hong Kong
(Heung Gong Jai Jo,
香港製造)

Director – Fruit Chan – 1997 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

A teenager struggles to survive in Hong Kong around 1997 – plays Focus Hong Kong 2023 on Saturday, June 24th at 6pm

This picked up prizes at film festivals in the Far East and elsewhere. Director Fruit Chan assembled an excellent cast of young unknowns, shot his film on short ends, and ultimately obtained completion funding from impressed Oriental megastar Andy Lau.

The plot, worthy of Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee or Ken Loach, concerns teenager Autumn Moon Cake (Sam Lee), living in the Hong Kong equivalent of a council high rise block with his abandoned mother, looking out for his educationally subnormal best mate Sylvester (Wenders Li), dodging the local street gangsters and constantly struggling with the ever present open invitation to start a career with the more powerful and all pervasive triads.

Obsessed with a suicide called Susan (Amy Tam Ka-chuen), who threw herself off a tall building, Moon becomes involved with another girl, the terminally ill Ping (Neiky Yim Hui-chi) who is in need of expensive medical treatment, after she pays him a fraction of the money he’s attempting to extort from her mother (Carol Lam Kit-fong).… Read the rest