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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Claydream

Director – Marq Evans – 2021 – US – 96m

****

The rise and fall of stop-frame Claymation pioneer Will Vinton and the Portland, Oregon animation studio that bore his name – out on digital from Monday, November 21st

Will Vinton, founder of Will Vinton Studios and the man who made Claymation a US household name, is in the middle of legal proceedings between himself and Phil Knight, founder of multimillion shoe company Nike. How could these two very different individuals have come into contact with one another? Well, they had a number of things in common. Both were residents of Portland, Oregon who had built up businesses there based on a successful brand name.

In the sixties, while studying architecture at Berkeley, Vinton discovered Gaudi’s organic sculptured shapes which were to influence his animation work. Borrowing his dad’s 16mm camera, he started shooting anything and everything going on around campus. At an experimental film community he set up tabletop clay animation sessions, which would often turn out pornographic footage. He became fascinated by the magical process which imbued this material with life.

Closed Mondays

He built a studio in his house where in collaboration with artist and sculptor Bob Gardiner he made the short film Closed Mondays (1974) as an excuse to show off the techniques developed by the pair.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

After Yang

Director – Kogonada – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 96m

****1/2

In the distant future, a couple must come to terms with the loss of the eldest child, actually an A.I. purchased as an ethnically programmed companion for their adopted South East Asian daughter – SF mystery drama is on Sky Cinema from Thursday, September 22nd

Memory is one of the great themes of cinema because when you point a moving image camera at someone, you capture and preserve their moving image for posterity. (Something similar happens when you record the sound of someone’s voice. Or even if you write down their words on paper, a simpler, more primitive form of recording.) Memory is also one of the elements which defines us as human beings.

Full marks, then, to director (actually writer, director, editor) Kogonada for taking the short story Saying Goodbye To Yang by Alexander Weinstein and expanding it into a feature. As described in the parlance of the distant future world in which this is set, Yang is a technosapien (i.e. a robot), a purchased elder sibling of a family comprising father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja).

Mika is adopted, and her ever so Hollywood liberal parents – he a white man who has built a business around his passion for tea, she a black woman who is a hard-working, highly motivated high-flier in a demanding corporate business that’s never really defined – are concerned that she connect with her South East Asian heritage.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Chilli Laugh Story (闔家辣)

Director – Coba Cheng – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 94m

****

A young man successfully markets his mother’s chilli sauce in the pandemic lockdown until the lucrative business it unexpectedly generates is taken off him– out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 15th and in the US and Canada on Friday, July 22nd

This starts off with a very sweet – no, make that spicy – memory of 2002 when Coba Cheng (Edan Lui Cheuk-On) was a small boy of five and visited his mum’s village where he tried her chilli sauce for the first time. It burned his mouth, but was always a part of his life from then on.

Jump to mid-2020. Hong Kong, like everywhere else, is in the middle of the pandemic. Coba is now working his job from home, and he and his parents are struggling to live with each other in the same enforced space. His dad Alan (Ronald Cheng) is engaged in a no-way forward argument with a delivery man in a surgical mask who won’t tell him what the unknown package is until dad has paid the delivery fee, which dad won’t do until he knows what it is, which Mr.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Good Boss (El Buen Patrón)

Director – Fernando León de Aranoa – 2021 – Spain – Cert. 15 – 116m

***1/2

With a prestigious business competition coming up, a factory boss must keep the judges from stumbling upon his personal and corporate dirty laundry – out in cinemas on Curzon Home Cinema on Friday, July 15th

Any day now, the local committee will descend upon the Blanco Scales factory to see if the business should receive the prize money for an upcoming good business award. No-one knows exactly when they are likely to turn up, though, least of all Blanco (Javier Bardem) himself. So, clearly everything needs to be in good order to impress the judges when they turn up. Which should be fine, because Blanco prides himself in looking out for his work force and the company is one big, benevolent, happy family.

Except that it isn’t, because although Blanco sees it that way, the reality is that he only cares for his workforce insofar as doing so will enhance their productivity. He fires dissatisfied employee Jose (Óscar de la Fuente) who promptly sets up camp outside the factory gates – on land Blanco doesn’t own so he can’t evict him – and proceeds to chant anti-Blanco slogans on a daily basis.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Swan Song

Director – Todd Stephens – 2021 – US – Cert. – 105m

***1/2

Tasked with creating an open casket hairdo for his deceased, former best client, a hairdresser worn down by care home institutionalism escapes to reinvent himself – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

A glamourous star on a stage playing to an audience of empty chairs, Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) wakes up to the boring reality that he’s living on social security checks and wearing an old T-shirt and sweat pants in a care home in his small town of Sandusky, Ohio.

Still, he takes his pleasures where he can find them: stealing napkins from the dining room and obsessively folding them into squares a quarter of their original size, smoking ladies’ More brand cigars. The latter he lights two at once after turning the wheelchair of Gertie (Annie Kitral) – left out in the corridor – to face the window before giving her the second cigar, something in which she clearly takes pleasure despite near total paralysis.

Otherwise, though, he battles with his nurse Shaundell (Roshon Thomas) over adjusting his armchair cushion and, worse, smoking, a pleasure she forbids. He swallows a cigar to conceal the activity; she finds out and confiscates his stash.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Flag Day

Director – Sean Penn – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

A woman struggles to come to terms with her father who is a criminal and a pathological liar – out in cinemas on Friday, January 28th

This at once follows a linear narrative trajectory and doesn’t. On the one level, Jennifer grows into a woman, argues with her parents (with good reason) and attempts to find herself and make her way in the world. On the other level, images and sequences move effortlessly between Jennifer aged six (Addison Tymec), Jennifer as a young teenager (Jadyn Rylee) and the adult Jennifer (Dylan Penn). Sometimes it feels like the adult Jennifer having a flashback, sometimes it seems like we’re one of her younger selves, all very vivid and real. Sometimes it’s memory, sometimes it’s experience.

It’s based on the real life memoir of Jennifer Vogel, who apparently wrote the book trying to sort out her feelings about her unorthodox upbringing.

It starts and (more or less) ends with a line of cop cars pursuing suspect John Vogel (Sean Penn) wanted for counterfeiting. As the images roll over us, there’s a lot of adult Jennifer voice over in the first ten or so minutes (and elsewhere at odd moments in the film).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wife Of A Spy (Supai no Tsuma, スパイの妻)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2020 – Japan – 115m

****1/2

A Japanese businessman’s wife decides to help her husband after discovering he is passing inflammatory state secrets to the Americans – out on MUBI in the UK and Ireland on Wednesday, September 8th

1940, Kobe, Japan. British silk trader John Fitzgerald Drummond is arrested by the Kenpetai then released thanks in part to his friend and business associate Yusaku Fukuhara (Issey Takahashi from Shin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, 2014; Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2, Quentin Tarantino, 2003 & 4; Whisper Of The Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995), who defends him against Officer Taiji Tsumori (Masahiro Higashide from Foreboding, 2017; Before We Vanish, 2017; Creepy, 2016 – all Kiyoshi Kurosawa), a childhood friend of Yusaku’s wife Satoko (Yu Aoi from Killing, Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018; Journey To The Shore, Kurosawa, 2015 and much else). (Europeans are systematically being arrested, with the exception of Axis power nationals Germans and Italians.)

As Fukuhara and his nephew Fumio Takeshita (Ryota Bando) travel abroad to Manchuria, Satako invites Taiji to her house for a whisky, but once there he berates her for the drink being Western- not Japanese-made and suggests she should wear traditional Japanese clothes rather than Western dresses.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Truffle Hunters

Directors – Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw – 2020 – US, Italy – Cert. 12a – 84m

*****

Italians carry out a trade their families have pursued for generations with their beloved, faithful and trained dogs – in cinemas from Friday, July 9th

Cinema is about many things. Among them, it’s about the camera, the eye, the ability to observe, to watch. This facet of the medium is immediately apparent as The Truffle Hunters opens with a long shot of a picturesque section of hillside forest, its foliage a cacophony of greens and yellows. We become aware of movement in the vegetation. Two dogs are moving around separately, purposefully, under the watchful eye of their human master, an old man. He – and his animal entourage – are truffle hunters, seekers after the delicacy that is the white truffle which has refused all attempts at systematic cultivation and grows only in Langhe, Piedmont, Northern Italy. For mysterious reasons on which no-one agrees.

These men (they’re all men) are now in their seventies and eighties. They all have their own, jealously guarded territories for hunting the truffles. We watch as a younger man tries to prize the whereabouts of likely truffle finds out of an older man, but he won’t have it.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

GoGo Club (梁韻怡)

Director – Rei Leung Wan-yi – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ –25m

*****

The progress of a former nightclub employee following his fortuitous encounter with a girl in a panda suit – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

At age six, Yin (Matt Jiu Kai Laam) was brought by his mother (Gaga Tse Ka Wai) to the Golden Rose nightclub where she worked as a live-in cleaner and odd job person as the grown up Yin describes in voiceover narration. He doesn’t mention her suavely suited manager (Tony Ho Wah Chiu – Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui, 2017; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002; Dead Or Alive: Final, Takashi Miike, 2002) is a permanent fixture propping up the enquiries desk window counter. At age 26, Yin (Shaopin Tsui) is told by the manager that today is his last day. In fact it’s also the manager’s last day because the Golden Rose is closing down. Enquiring about his missing back pay, Yin is given the company’s very expensive car to sell for profit which turns out to be an old van covered in dust. … Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

One Night (Hitoyo, ひとよ)

Director – Kazuya Shiraishi – 2019 – Japan – Cert. N/C 15+ – 123m

****1/2

A woman murders her violent husband after years of his beating up the kids, goes to prison then returns 15 years later to find the siblings in turmoil – played online in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2021 in the UK

A night of torrential rain proves a defining moment in the lives of the Inamura family which owns and runs a taxi business. Koharu (Yuko Tanaka – Princess Mononoke, 1997) enters, dressed in her usual suit she wears to drive customers around, to announce to her three teenager children, “I’ve just killed your father. Nobody will ever beat you again. You can live however you want. You’re totally free.” Expressing no remorse and convinced she’s done the right thing, she promises to return in fifteen years then disappears to hand herself in to the cops.

Koharu’s designs of freeing her kids from their father’s years of violent abuse don’t quite play out the way she had hoped. Their father would beat them for any suggestion that they’d want to do anything other than work in the family taxi business. The eldest Daiki (Ryohei Suzuki – Our Little Sister, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015; Tokyo Tribe, Sion Sono, 2014) is a stutterer whose relationship with wife Fumiko (Megumi) is mired in divorce proceedings as he struggles to hold down a regular job.… Read the rest