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Rodeo (Rodéo)

Director – Lola Quivoron – 2022 – France – Cert. tbc – 105m

***

Le Fast et la Furieuse. A young woman bike thief makes her mark on a group of bikers living in a bike repair shop run from a prison by its incarcerated owner – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Julia (Julie Ledru) loves motorbikes. She loves riding them. And she loves stealing them. At various points in the narrative, she follows up ‘bike for sale’ ads, goes to see the seller, impresses them with her considerable knowledge, persuades them to let her test drive the bike by riding it alone for a certain distance then rides off with it. She’s also poor and living on a rundown housing estate, an environment beloved of a certain strata of French cinema (e.g. Two Of Three Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995; District 13, Pierre Morel, 2004). Not that you see much of this environment after the opening reel. She represents a very French form of anti-hero, and if you don’t have any problem with her sense of entitlement and the fact that she sees nothing wrong with stealing, this is a rollicking good yarn.… Read the rest

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Crazy Thunder Road (Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo, 狂い咲きサンダーロード)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1980 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

Following on from Arrow’s superb BD of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (1982) comes Third Window’s equally impressive BD release of its predecessor in the Ishii canon Crazy Thunder Road (1980) – on Blu-ray from Monday, February 21st

This was Ishii’s Nihon University student graduation project, his first to be shot on 16mm rather than Super 8, which somehow got picked up for distribution by major Japanese Studio Toei which led to their giving him a budget for Burst City. Tom Mes, who as with Burst City supplies a commentary for the film, describes Crazy Thunder Road as “one of the Holy Grails of Japanese film releases if not the Holy Grail.”

When Toei presented Ishii with what seemed like astronomical funding for Burst City, it led him to overreach himself. In retrospect, he considers Burst City unfinished… [Read the full review at All The Anime]

Crazy Thunder Road was out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, February 21st.

Opening scene:

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Burst City (Bakuretsu Toshi Burst City, 爆裂都市 BURST CITY)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1982 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

Film ****

Cultural significance *****

Arguably the lynchpin film that brought Japanese cinema back from the brink of extinction in the early 1980s and paved the way for much of what was to follow – on Blu-ray from Monday, November 20th 2020

Looked at today through Western eyes, the opening with its breakneck, speeded up race through (presumably) Tokyo cutting between nighttime and daytime POV shots, with motorbike noises, anticipates the more demented pixillated chase scenes of Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989), shots of bikers recall the anti-establishment feel of Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) and patterns caused by moving lights burning into film emulsion recall Norman McClaren and Len Lye’s early animation experiments drawing and painting direct onto film. Then it seems to turn into Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) by way of a gangster film elements (two men in a car wearing a suit and a leather jacket respectively) who avoid a near collision with two punks on a motorcycle and sidecar.

How many of these precedents Ishii had in mind (or even had seen) when he made this is impossible to say.… Read the rest

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Father Stu

Director – Rosalind Ross – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 124m

***

A boxer turned actor who fancies a Catholic girl is drawn into first the church and then the priesthood – out in cinemas Friday, May 13th

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) is stuck. His career as a boxer has been going nowhere for three years, then comes the news from his doctor that he needs to pack it in. That’s okay, though – he always wanted to be an actor, so he moves to LA and lands himself a job serving on a supermarket meat counter. This seems to him as good a place as any to get discovered. That doesn’t go anywhere, but what DOES happen is that he sees a girl he likes, Carmen (Teresa Ruiz).

However, Carmen is a Catholic and won’t date anyone who isn’t. So, to make something happen, he first of all finds her church and attends services there just to see her, then pretty soon he’s signing up to classes to get baptised into the faith. This seems to have the desired effect and they become a couple with marriage on the horizon sometime in the future. It has a further effect on Stuart that he didn’t bargain for: being around religious people and studying what Catholics believe, he starts to become one himself and develop a genuine faith.… Read the rest

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The Lost City

Directors – Aaron Nee, Adam Nee – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 112m

***

A jaded woman’s romantic adventure novelist and her cover model find themselves in a real life jungle straight out of one of her books – out in cinemas on Wednesday, April 13th

Ever since her archaeologist husband died five years ago, novelist of trashy, erotic women’s adventure fiction Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has had writer’s block. Her publishers love her books because they sell in huge volume, but she’s really an archaeology nerd who hates the novels she’s written. A friendly nudge from her editor Beth (Da’vine Joy Randolph), however, helps her complete another one, so it’s on to the promotional tour, something else Loretta hates.

She’s told exactly what to do by Beth and new social media manager Allison (Patti Harrison) This time round Loretta is required to wear a one-piece, cleavage-revealing, purple sequinned outfit that she (understandably) really doesn’t like as she is interviewed once again before fan audiences by male model Alan (Channing Tatum), whose appearance alongside her on the front cover of her books has helped propel her (and him) to stardom, effectively casting them as her heroine Angela and sidekick Dash.… Read the rest

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Annette

Director – Leos Carax – 2021 – France, US – Cert. 15 – 141m

****1/2

Musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – on MUBI from Friday, November 26th

Although billed as a musical, this may actually be closer to opera given that even though it starts as a story about two people deeply in love, it veers into very dark territory.

And yet framing all that, and underscoring it throughout, is the sheer pleasure of writing / composing songs… and, for that matter, performing them. The opening song is So May We Start while the closer, as the credits roll, is It’s The End. (For added enjoyment, watch 90% of the audience leave before the last song starts. Or in my case, 10% of my fellow critics.)

The former starts with the band, the brothers Mael (singer Russell and keyboard player / composer Ron, profiled in recent documentary The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021) and a backing band in a recording studio in an invitation for the proceedings to get going, swiftly joined by the film’s two leads, while the latter ends with seemingly the entire movie cast and crew walking through the countryside hoping we’ve enjoyed the show and asking us to tell our friends if we did so.… 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