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All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 26th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… 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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Lessons of Tolerance
(Uroky Tolerantnosti)

Director – Arkadii Nepytaliuk – 2023 – Ukraine – Cert. none – 95m

*****

To help pay off her family’s debt with the accompanying grant, an exasperated teacher enlists her sceptical family in a state LGBT+ awareness training course – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition in the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

NSFW. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

A typical older family with debt problems in Ukraine. The mother Nadia (Olena Uzlyuk) is the one member of the family keeping everything together, holding down a job as a teacher. From what we see of her at home, we would imagine she’s very good at it, too. Alas, the same can’t be said for the rest of the family. Husband Zenyk (Oleksandr Yarema) has always wanted his own garage, but has no head for running a business. He spends his evenings sitting around drinking beer and being waited on hand and foot by his wife and daughter, because that’s what women are supposed to do. Then he complains in bed because his wife is not interested in sex these days.

They have two grown-up kids. Daughter Diana (Karolina Mruha) is an aspiring actress who is applying for drama school despite warnings that she may lack the necessary talent.… Read the rest

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Over My Dead Body
(Seisi Seisi Seisapsei,
死屍死時四十四)

Director – Ho Cheuk Tin – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 119m

**

Confronted with a naked corpse, the residents of three separate flats in a tower block try to get shot of it before its discovery can reduce their apartments’ selling prices – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 21st

One of two films about living in a high rise released this week.

Hong Kong movies have a long tradition of knockabout and very silly comedy which are something of an acquired taste. Many of them are enjoyable enough. This particular entry, however, doesn’t travel outside the Hong Kong Chinese culture very well. To an English, non-Cantonese speaker, it doesn’t really work, coming over largely as irritating. (I suspect that, for Cantonese speakers, it may well play far more successfully.)

Half watching a TV show on his dashboard phone about the problems Hong Kongers face around ever-escalating real estate prices, Ming To (Wong You Nam from Ip Man, Wilson Yip, 2008) makes the journey in his VW van through gridlocked traffic, past the building’s SG (security guard) Lee (Sheung-ching Lee) of the tower block Seaside Heights to Flat 14A and the bedroom of sexy air stewardess Yana Chung (Jennifer Yu Heung-Ying from Shadows, Glenn Chan, Bure Li, 2020; Tracey, Jun Li, 2018) for some horizontal refreshment under the sheets.… Read the rest

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Three Colours: Red
(Trois Couleurs: Rouge)

Director – Krzysztof Kieślowski – 1994 – France – Cert. 15 – 99m

*****

An up-and-coming model strikes up a friendship with a retired judge after her car accidentally runs over his dog one night – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 14th

This represents the third part of a trilogy based on the three colours of the French national flag, with each film representing one of that nation’s three values of liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, brotherhood). I interviewed Kieślowski for this back in 1994, the second time I’d interviewed him. The first was in 1993 for Three Colours: Blue.

Like Three Colours: Blue and Three Colours: White before it, Three Colours: Red is about human connection or lack of it. As if to underscore the point, it starts off with an international phone call which fails to connect. In a nod to Dial M For Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1953) where a phone call is shown via images of telephony, little mechanisms springing into brief action to make a phone call happen, Kieślowski has his camera race along telephone cables on the ground, at one point following them down a beach into the sea and out again onto land on the other side of a lake or ocean.… Read the rest

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Three Colours: Blue
(Trois Couleurs: Bleu)

Director – Krzysztof Kieślowski – 1993 – France – Cert. 15 – 94m

*****

A woman who survives the car crash which kills both her composer husband and their young daughter finds herself financially secure and free to do…nothing – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 31st

This represents the first part of a trilogy based on the three colours of the French national flag, with each film representing one of that nation’s three values of liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, brotherhood). I first saw the film on its UK release back in 1993, for which I interviewed Kieślowski. It’s possible I’ve seen it again in the interim. These days, the trilogy is elevated to the status of a cinematic masterwork. As a young thirtysomething, I remember feeling quite mixed about it. But your perception of these things can change with time, and watching the film again in 2023, in full, restored 4k glory prior to reissue on Blu-ray, I was far more impressed with it than when I first saw it.

For one thing, on this occasion I’m not seeing it for the first time, so the brief appearance (in the courtroom sequence) of Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) and Dominique (Julie Delpy) immediately conjures the second film Three Colours: White (1994) in which those characters are the two main protagonists, which wasn’t the case on first viewing when no-one knew what was coming in the second and third films, the third being Three Colours: Red (1994).… Read the rest

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Krzysztof Kieślowski
talks about
Three Colours: Blue

Transcript of interview from 1993 when Kieślowski was promoting Three Colours: Blue. At the time, the other two films in the trilogy had yet to be screened to press.

How far do you consider Three Colours: Blue a separate entity in its own right, and how far the first part of a planned trilogy? “I think it’s a film in its own right.”

Did the initial inspiration come as this film, or rather as the three films? “Well, we started from ideas, from scripts – and since the original idea was such as it was, that included three films. So then we had to answer three questions because there were obviously three problems. We decided fairly early on in our working to make the three separate films, which of course have certain common elements to them. But these are quite carefully camouflaged links, representing my playing around with games for the viewer who also indulges in such games. If the viewer doesn’t like such games, then he’ll just see three entirely different stories. If the viewer likes these, then the films become something more.”

These’ll be something to look forward to later on. “Yes, a few of those feature in Blue, but there aren’t all that many of them.… Read the rest

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It Comes
(Kuru,
来る)

Director – Tetsuya Nakashima – 2018 – Japan – 133m

****

A monster relentlessly pursues its victims until one day it comes to take them away forever – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 between Friday, 3rd February and Friday, 31st March

This is basically a monster film in which the monster is a bogeyman or evil spirit who after taunting potential victims – usually children – for a long time, then turns up and abducts them from this world into its own. You never see the monster: it’s all conveyed by preparation, suggestion and effect, and the characters’ actions and reactions.

And although the monster is apparently intent on abducting the child, various adult characters who appear to be significant protagonists suddenly get abducted by it. While it’s nowhere near the same league, in this respect, the film resembles Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) i.e. a significant character is despatched part-way through leaving another character to step into their shoes for the remainder.

The monster as such never physically appears (or, at least, we in the audience never actually see it) – its appearance is often presaged by following peculiar occult instructions, e.g. laying out multiple bowls of water on a corridor floor, or breaking all the mirrors in the house, accompanied by frenzied editing of quasi-abstract footage including camera-less animation (the sort of thing Len Lye and Norman McLaren used to make in the 1930s at the UK’s GPO Film Unit).… Read the rest

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The Whale

Director – Darren Aronofsky – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 117m

***

An obese man nearing his death must confront people from his past as well as incidental visits from the present– out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 3rd

A dysfunctional body, a dysfunctional family, a dysfunctional world. Charlie (Brendan Fraser) has so abused his body that his obesity is on the verge of killing him. He is bereaved of his gay partner for whom he left his wife and eight-year old daughter and earns his living as an online English language tutor for high school students. His nurse friend and unpaid carer Liz (Hong Chau) visits him at regular intervals, but can’t get him to go to hospital since he doesn’t have a healthcare plan and anyway resents pouring money into the healthcare system.

The healthcare element will look a little weird to anyone living in the UK with its “free at the point of need” National Health Service.

His other visitors in the course of the film are his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), his wife Mary (Samantha Morton), a suited missionary (Ty Simpkins) and fast food delivery boy (Sathya Sridharan), the latter mostly heard at the door and only finally glimpsed towards the end.… Read the rest

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Return To Dust
(Yin Ru Chen Yan,
隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossomsout in UK cinemas Friday, November 4th following its screening in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest