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Cairo Conspiracy,
(original title:
Boy From Heaven,
Walad Min Al Janna,
صبي من الجنة)

Director – Tarik Saleh – 2022 – Sweden, France, Finland – Cert. 12a – 126m

***

A naive, young, Egyptian student at a top Islamic university is recruited as a spy for the secret police – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 14th

Adam (Tawfeek Barhom), a bookworm born and raised in rural Egypt where he works as a fisherman like his father before him, visits the local mosque where his trusted Imam gives him a letter informing him he’s been accepted into Cairo’s prestigious Al-Azhar University, the top seat of Sunni Muslim learning and thought. He’s worried his widowed father won’t let him go, but his father fatally accepts it as the Will of Allah. In his university dorm, Adam finds his bed taken by fellow student Raed (Ahmed Laissaoui) and winds up in the bunk below. (The university is for men only: no women. At least, we see none here.)

Unexpectedly, the Grand Imam, the head of the university, dies and a successor must be chosen. At the security forces building, the General (Mohammad Bakri) listens to the analysis by Colonel Ibrahim (Fares Fares) of the possible candidates, throwing all files on the floor except one – the one with whom the President’s views align, the candidate who must win.… Read the rest

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True Mothers
(Asa Ga Kuru,
朝が来る)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 140m

*****

An unmarried mum hands her child over to adoptive parents only to later decide that she wants the child back – Japan’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars is screening on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, April 16th

Naomi Kawase’s new film True Mothers deals with the interface between unwanted teen pregnancy and infertility among married couples and was Japan’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Sadly, it didn’t make the Academy’s shortlist. However, UK audiences up and down the land will now be able to see it on Curzon Home Cinema. It had a brief UK big screen outing late last year at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), which, after several months of touch-and-go somewhat incredibly went ahead days before the UK went back into total lockdown.

Former documentarian Kawase has been getting a lot of exposure in the UK in recent years with both Sweet Bean (2015) and The Mourning Forest (2007) released here on Eureka! Video and Still the Water (2014) currently available on MUBI and BFI Player. I like Kawase but I must admit True Mothers sounded like it might be terrible.… Read the rest

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Better Days
(Shaonian De Ni,
少年的你)

Director – Derek Tsang – 2019 – China – 12A – 135m

***1/2

A bullied exam student is protected from her tormentors by and seeks solace in the company of a small time street criminal – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now, and Hong Kong’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars

The combination of impending exams and bullying by her peers causes student Hu to throw herself off the rooftop of a school building. Feeling guilty because she never stood up for the girl, fellow student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) covers the dead girl’s face to protect it from prying eyes and smartphone cameras. The next thing Chen knows, the late girl’s three bullies, led by the well-heeled and vindictive Wei Lai (Zhou Ye) have it in for her.

Not that Chen is having an easy time of it anyway. In the short term she’s being questioned by police about Hu’s death and like everyone else there’s the huge pressure of impending Gaokao university entrance exams, doing well in which is packaged in school rally chants as not failing the country or your parents. Her single parent mum (Wu Yue), beset with parental inadequacy as she tries to scrape a living from selling illegal goods away from home, has successfully convinced Chen that studying hard and getting excellent exam results is a way out of the poverty trap in which the family find themselves.… Read the rest

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Parasite
(Gisaengchung,
기생충)
(Black & White Edition)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 132m

*****

Opens in UK Cinemas (hooray!) exclusively for a week at Curzon Mayfair from Friday, July 24th. Also available on Curzon Home Cinema.

Read my reviews of the colour version of Parasite in All The Anime and Reform too.

It’s a safe bet that as anyone going to see the black & white edition of Parasite has already seen the colour version. Possibly several times, as it seems to be a movie in which you see new things with each viewing. In my case, I’ve already reviewed it twice (for two different publications). This review assumes you’ve already seen the colour version. If you haven’t, start with one of those reviews then see the colour version first.

So the big question is, is the black & white edition a waste of space where you’re watching the film drained of its colour and wondering why you bothered? Or does it add something to viewing the film?

The answer happily is the latter. 

I must admit I struggled with the opening scenes in the Kims’ basement flat. The street seen through the window seemed to emphasise length and distance more, but somehow watching black & white takes you back to an earlier period, say film noir in the fifties, and to see the son Kim Ki-woo hunting around for a hackable wi-fi signal with his mobile held aloft jarred with that.… Read the rest

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Parasite
(Gisaengchung,
기생충)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 132m

*****

With Parasite (Black & White Edition) due out, I review the colour version for All The Anime. Read my Reform review too.

Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) strikes it lucky when he hears of the rich Park family, whose teenage daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso) needs extra tuition. Sensing Mrs Park (Jo Yeo-jeong) will be a push-over, he convinces her he is the man for the job, thanks to credentials forged by his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam). Having successfully nailed down this position, Ki-woo sets about securing similarly lucrative openings for his family, without letting on that they are blood relatives.

He first recommends his sister as the perfect tutor for the tormented and allegedly artistic Park son (Jung Hyun-jun), a job she secures by inventing bogus pop psychology theories to establish her academic credentials. Before long, the cunning Kims have framed the chauffeur and the house-keeper to nab jobs for themselves, unaware of other secrets harboured by the Parks. [Read the rest…]

Above review: All The Anime.

More reviews: Reform, Black & White Edition.

Trailer (colour) here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=135&v=tBfgTZsBeFM&feature=emb_logo
Read the rest
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Parasite
(Gisaengchung,
기생충)

With Parasite (Black & White Edition) due out, I reviewed the colour version for Reform. Read my All The Anime review too.

Poor family, rich family

Parasite
Directed by Bong Joon Ho
Certificate 15, 132 minutes
Released 7 February

With income inequality on the rise in the UK, this Oscar-winning, edge-of-the seat thriller from South Korea couldn’t be more pertinent. A poor family struggling to survive at the bottom of the country’s economic food chain stumbles on an opportunity to work for an obscenely rich family who pay very well. The poor family secure themselves this work through a series of deceits and scams, stealing existing positions from the family’s chauffeur and housekeeper in the process.

The characters are engaging. The poor family fervently want to better their economic lot and leave no stone unturned to do so. Their resourcefulness is impressive, their morality less so – and yet we find ourselves liking them. The rich family are likeable too, with no suggestion whatsoever that their income has derived from dishonest or dubious sources.

With Parasite (Black & White Edition) due out, I reviewed the colour version for Reform. Read my All The Anime review too.

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 (92nd) Oscars.… Read the rest

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Departures
(Okuribito,
おくりびと)

Director – Yojiro Takita – 2008 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

*****

An unemployed cellist finds himself working on the encoffination of corpses prior to their cremation – in cinemas Friday, December 4th 2009

Winner of 2009’s Best Foreign Film Oscar (and numerous other awards besides), this Japanese entry is a rarity in that it deals head on with death not in its horrific or violent aspects (as in numerous horror and action movies) but in a life ritual as significant as birth. Death being the last great contemporary Western taboo, we in the West ought to pay attention.

Daigo (Masahiro Motokii Gemini, Shinya Tsukamoto, 1999) loses his new job as a cellist when the Tokyo orchestra employing him is dissolved, leaving him with a young wife to support and repayments on an expensive cello to find. Selling the instrument, the couple move back to his small home town where Daigo’s late mother has left him a house in her will.

Seeking work, he answers an ad dealing with ‘departures’, believing it a travel agency. The ad should however have read ‘the departed’, because he’s required to deal with the encoffination of corpses prior to their cremation, preparing the bodies for entry into the next life.… Read the rest

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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

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Eat Drink Man Woman
(Yin Shi Nan Nu,
飲食男女)

Director – Ang Lee – 1994 – Taiwan, US – Cert. PG – 124m

*****

Originally published in Home Entertainment.

Ageing restauranteur Chu (Lung Sihung) lives in Taipei with his three daughters – Christian schoolteacher Jia-Jen (Yang Kuei-mei), high-flying businesswoman Jia- Chien (Wu Chien-lieu) and teenage fast food assistant Jia-Ning (Wang Yu-wen). His problem (as with the mother in Lee’s Sense And Sensibility/1996) is that none of his daughters are married – and the clock is ticking.

Opening (scooter) traffic shot boasts encompassing sound, later rivalled by such DS subtleties as hymn singing (on a wonky Walkman) and a playground full of kids. Better yet are the cooking noises – bubbling, frying, pouring, steaming – rendered more mouth-watering still by accompanying oriental cuisine visuals. Should be watched with a lavish meal ready for consumption by the time of (or even before) the final frame.

Film 5/5

Sound 5/5

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1994 (67th) Oscars.

Originally published in Home Entertainment.

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Pelle The Conqueror
(Pelle Erobreren)

Director – Billie August – 1987 – Denmark – Cert. 15 – 157m

***1/2

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1988 (61st) Oscars

Babette’s Feast (Babettes gæstebud)

****

Director – Gabriel Axel – 1987 – Denmark – Cert. U – 103m

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1987 (60th) Oscars.

This double review originally appeared in the Church Times.

JEREMY CLARKE ON VIDEO

Comments on Social and Religious Austerity.

Social hardship and religious severity have long been an artistic staple in Scandinavian films; two current video releases illustrate the point admirably. Pelle, the young lad of Pelle The Conqueror, is told he can conquer the whole world by his father (Max Von Sydow).

The turn of the century reality is less attractive, since the Swedish father and son are forced by economic necessity to migrate to neighbouring Denmark in search of farm labouring work. In Denmark, the boy boy struggles to keep his dreams alive despite local anti-Swede prejudice.

The tale and its setting strike a curious parallel with Babette’s Feast, in which Parisian refugee of the 1871 Communard uprising Babette (Stephan Audran) arrives in the Jutland Danish coastal region to seek refuge.… Read the rest