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The Shop Around The Corner

Director – Ernst Lubitsch – 1940 – US – Cert. PG – 99m

*****

Two store employees argue constantly, unaware they are perfect for one another – out in cinemas on Friday, December 3rd

It’s quite a shock to see an old Hollywood classic for the first time and realise that you’re seeing one of the greats of which you’ve somehow never heard, but that’s exactly what happened to me watching this extraordinarily charming film which is likely to appeal to anyone who loves the much more familiar It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946). Both have stories that culminate at Christmas, both star American everyman James Stewart, and both give off what you might call a generosity of spirit. But in other ways, they’re two very different films.

For a start, this is not set anywhere in the US but rather in Europe, specifically the Hungarian capital Budapest. And then, its subject is not so much a town and the people who live there as a department store and the people who work there. There are no rich people dubiously making money by exploiting the poor: certainly there are bosses and workers, but the former treats the latter well and might reasonably be described as benevolent.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Silent Night

Director – Camille Griffin – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

**

Families of old school friends gather for Christmas at a country house knowing they will die as a deadly mist envelops the planet – out in cinemas on Friday, December 3rd

Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) prepare to have her old school friends over for Christmas at her mother’s isolated house in the country. Their son Art (Roman Griffin Davies from Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi, 2019) helps mum prepare the dinner while his two twin brothers Thomas and Hardy (his real life brothers Gilby and Hardy Griffin Davies) play on the PlayStation rather than get in the bath as they’ve been told. Simon tells the boys they are allowed to swear, but not to be rude to Kitty (Davida McKenzie), daughter of Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) and Tony (Rufus Jones from The Ghoul, Gareth Tunley, 2016), even though she’s known to be difficult. Art fails this injunction spectacularly, swearing at her when she decides to watch his brothers get out of the bath, and is forced to apologise.

Additional guests include lesbian couple Bella (Lucy Punch, writer of Judy And Punch, 2019, Mirrah Foulkes) and Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste from Killing Eve, TV series, creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 2018-22) plus school heartthrob James (Sope Dirisu from His House, Remi Weekes, 2020) with his young American girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp) in tow.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn (Babardeală cu Bucluc sau Porno Balamuc)

Director – Radu Jude – 2021 – Romania – Cert. 18 – 106m

*****

A teacher becomes the subject of controversy after her husband’s private sex tape is posted online – in cinemas from Friday, November 26th

Park your prejudices at the door! The opening three or so minutes of this will surprise or possibly even shock you – basically, hard core, live action genital sex images of a man and a woman, no holds barred. Real, not simulated. And real in other senses too – banging… knocking… (oh God, double entendres, can’t see how to avoid them here) on the door as our couple go at it… Her mother, one imagines, heard through the wall… “Emi, are you asleep” – Emi’s reply, “please leave us alone” – her mother again, “the little one hasn’t sanitised”…

Yes, it’s the world of immediate, post-lockdown pandemic, with people wearing masks and social distancing (or not, if they don’t get it). That wasn’t in the script but when director Jude was shooting in Bucharest: Romania was coming out of lockdown, and he decided to incorporate that into his film. Most contemporary films pretend we’re in a world where Covid-19 never happened or isn’t happening, so we just carry on as normal.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Finding Angel (Cheonsaneun Baileoseu, 천사는 바이러스)

Director – Kim Seong-jun – 2021 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 114m

****

Who is the mysterious so-called ‘Angel’ who every Christmas delivers a box containing a large sum of money to a needy local resident of a small, rural town? – out in cinemas on Friday, November 26th

For the last seventeen years at Christmas, the ‘Faceless Angel’ has visited the town of Rohsong in Jeonju City, South Korea to leave a box containing money for a local person in need. Last year, an old woman received the money she needed for a knee operation. Who this person might actually be has remained a mystery, but the locals are glad the Angel is there doing what he or she is doing.

Wishing to solve the mystery and with the journalist’s scent of a good story, newspaperman Kim Ji-hoon (Park Sung-il from Samjin Company English Class, Lee Jong-pil, 2020) arrives in the town in December as the temperature plummets. He makes enquiries at the town office but the girl on the front desk (Lee Ga-kyung) stonewalls him. His attempts at talking to the townspeople don’t get him very far until he talks to old Miss Ok-bun (Moon Sook) about renting a room and she promptly puts him up in her freezing upstairs bedroom.… Read the rest

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The Battle At Lake Changjin (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖)

Directors – Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 176m

*****

Chinese war movie which has barnstormed the global box office does exactly what it says on the tin – out in cinemas on Friday, November 19th

There is a history of war films with a cast of thousands being directed by several (usually three) directors in an attempt to portray campaigns with huge military logistics on the screen. Probably the best known are The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernard Wicki, 1962) about the World War Two Allied invasion of Normandy and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Toshio Matsuda, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970) about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Both of those Western (and, as it happens, Twentieth Century Fox) movies presented both sides of the conflict by hiring directors from the different countries concerned.

The big difference between them and Chinese global box office phenomenon The Battle At Lake Changjin is that although the latter film deals with a conflict in which the Chinese are pitted against the Americans, all three directors are Chinese. Tsui (Zu Warriors, 1983; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991) at least has some working knowledge of America, having studied film in Texas.… Read the rest

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Mouthpiece

Director – Patricia Rozema – 2018 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 91m

****1/2

Tall Cassie and short Cassie struggle to find the words for the eulogy for their mother’s funeral after she dies suddenly and unexpectedly – in virtual cinemas and on VoD from Friday, March 12th

Christmas. Tall Cassie (Amy Nostbakken) and short Cassie (Norah Sadova) get drunk in a bar with friends, make their way home on their (one) bicycle and collapse into bed, ignoring the flood of mobile messages which they don’t pick up ‘til the next, sunny morning. They answer. It’s bad news. Their mum has died. Could she pick the flowers? Danny is going to do the speech.

But Cassie is the writer in the family and she won’t have it. She’ll do the speech herself. Danny isn’t capable of doing it. Although she doesn’t yet know what to say. And the funeral is in 48 hours.

Welcome to the world of sudden parental bereavement where things you know to be solid and true fold and crumple before your eyes. Where you are flooded with random memories as you try to make sense of it all. There are social rituals and structures supposedly to help you deal with this – ordering the flowers, choosing suitable clothes to wear, picking out the coffin, writing a eulogy for the deceased, attending a funeral service.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Love & Peace (ラブ&ピース)

Director – Sion Sono – 2015 – Japan – Cert. PG – 117m

*****

Blu-ray available at Arrow Video’s Third Window Films Shop.

Sion Sono’s wonderfully insane, four-hour art-house epic Love Exposure (2008) made great waves on its UK release and for this writer, the extraordinary Love & Peace (2015) is a welcome return to form.

The wishy-washy title is perfect for this particular film. Tokyoite Ryoichi Suzuki, 33 (Hiroki Hasegawa) quit being a rock star at 21 after no-one showed up to his first three concerts, then took a job as a corporate clerk. A national disgrace, bullied by fellow office workers. Then he buys a turtle from a street vendor before being kidnapped by a younger rock band while his turtle, after he flushed it down the toilet, begins to grow to gargantuan size…

I reviewed Love And Peace for All The Anime at the time of its Blu-ray and DVD release. Trailer here:

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles

Director – Salvador Simo – 2018 – Netherlands – 80m

***1/2

Streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) from Thursday, July 16th – with more Buñuel movies here.

Following the success of his surrealist film L’Age D’Or / The Age Of Gold (1930), film director Luis Buñuel finds his main source of funding cut off when the strongly Catholic mother of his primary investor puts pressure in the latter. At the same time, a stranger named Eli Lotar strikes up a post-premiere conversation with the director saying he saw no influence of Dali in the film and presses a book Las Hurdes into Buñuel’s hands.

Frustrated at the lack of funding for his films, Luis decides to film the book which details the appalling living conditions of poor people in a remote village in rural Spain.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles for DMovies.org.