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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

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

Director – Gio Arlotta – 2019 – Italy, Czech Republic – Cert. 12 – 98m – English Language

***1/2

Winsome if shallow documentary follows survivors from Zambia’s seventies music Zamrock phenomenon as they reform and tour Europe – in cinemas and on VoD from Friday, July 2nd

On the verge of a pan-African trip that will take the narrator through Zambia alongside bassist / vocalist Jacco Gardner and drummer Nic Mauskoviç, intensive research reveals the Zamrock phenomenon of the 1970s which mixed traditional African rhythms with psychedelic rock music of which the band WITCH was the leading proponent. The name later turned in to an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc at the suggestion of the band’s then graphic designer. Sadly, many of the original band members are now dead following the AIDS crisis which hit the African continent pretty hard.

At Zanis, the state-owned television company, we enter a 16mm archive that hasn’t been opened for 17 years because the room key had been lost. The music section reveals footage of James Brown performing in Africa but nothing of WITCH even though apparently they were all over broadcast TV at the time – much of what was taped of them may well have been recorded over by footage of President Kaunda on his latest walkabout.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Minari

Director – Lee Isaac Chung – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 120m

***1/2

The Korean immigrant experience in the US as a nuclear family set up a farm in Arkansas – on VoD from Friday, April 2nd, in drive-in cinemas from Monday, April 12th and cinemas from Monday, May 17th

Jacob (Steven YeunBurning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two kids Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David, 7 (Alan S. Kim), drive out to their new home in Arkansas. She is a little horrified that the home is a trailer on wheels supported by a basic frame, but he is thrilled that they have land with the best dirt (i.e. for growing things) America has to offer. They are surrounded by a vast area of countryside and woodlands. They speak mostly Korean, but are fluent in English and occasionally use it.

Eschewing the advice of a local water diviner, Jacob builds a well in some low ground where trees are nearby, reasoning that there must be water there. “Never pay for anything you can get for free,” he tells the attentive David, reminding him that in California, where they’ve moved from, they had nothing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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

Categories
Documentary Features Movies Music

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché

Punk biopic

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché
Directed by Celeste Bell and Paul Sng
Certificate 12a, 96 minutes
Released 5 March at www.modernfilms.com
Viewers can select a participating local cinema to share the revenue of the virtual box office

This documentary about the late Poly Styrene (real name Marion Elliot), the iconic front woman of the 1970s punk band X-Ray Spex, paints a compelling picture of a creative and innovative young woman going against the grain to break new ground in pop music. The band was very much her baby which she put together by advertising for musicians in the music press. She wrote all their material.

Her literal baby is the film’s co-director and co-writer Celeste Bell, who as a young child escaped from her well-intentioned but unfit mother during their time living on the Hare Krishna estate in Hertfordshire. On her mum’s death, Celeste found herself the guardian of Poly’s vast archive. It was five years before she could bring herself to look inside and see what was there… Read more

Full review in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Real

Director – Aki Omoshaybi – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 78m

***

Boy meets girl but both are embarrassed by their economic circumstances so pretend to be much better off than they arein cinemas and on BFI Player and Sky Store from Friday, September 11th

Kyle (director Aki Omoshaybi) and Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner) first meet in a newsagents in the city centre. Her credit card is stopped. He helps her out and pays the bill. She works in a local community centre, he in a solicitor’s. Actually, both of them are lying, desperate to make a good first impression and reluctant to reveal their true circumstances for fear of judgement.

They start dating. Jamie is the first to crack. She admits she has a child Felix (Taye Matthew). And works in a convenience store. However,  Kyle can’t bring himself to come clean. Unfortunately for him, Jamie’s best mate Tash (Amy Manson from Run, Scott Graham / 2019) has had dealings with him and knows he’s an ex-offender. So it’s only a matter of time before Jamie finds out.

Kyle has become homeless, so begs his alienated mum (Karen Bryson) to let him stay at hers for a while.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)

Abuse in church

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)
Directed by François Ozon
Certificate 15, 137 minutes
London Film Festival, 5 and 6 October
Released 25 October

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Over two hours long, this gripping and hugely topical affair dramatises the scandal of child abuse at Catholic summer camps over 20 years ago in the diocese of Lyon, France. The case has shaken the Church there since it became public in recent years. Despite Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley) admitting his guilt, his superior, Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret) failed to curtail Preynat’s access to children thereby enabling his abuse of more victims in the ensuing years.

At a press conference, the cardinal uses the phrase ‘by the grace of God’ about the statute of limitations on many of the abuse cases. He is immediately criticised for the comment but it reveals how Barbarin is concerned more with protecting the institution of the Catholic Church than in caring for his flock.

Writer-director François Ozon constructs his narrative around three survivors… Read the rest

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Shaman Sorceress

Director – Ahn Jae-huun – 2020 – South Korea – 85m

***1/2

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Rural woman Mohwa has had two children, first a boy Wook-yi then a girl Nang-yi, by two different fathers. She is a woman of contradictions: free spirited in love, more traditional in her everyday beliefs. She is revered locally as a healer, the person to whom people go when they have a sick relative. Mohwa is a shamaness who practises exorcisms on the sick to rid them of whatever evil spirits plague them. And she has an impressive track record. She’s also an alcoholic.

Since she is a long way down the economic food chain, she fears for Wook-yi’s future and packs him off to a Buddhist temple. His hitherto healthy younger sister falls ill and when she recovers three years later she has lost her hearing. Nang-yi also possesses considerable skill as a painter.

Wook-yi, meanwhile, hates the temple and leaves it to go to the more forward looking Seoul where he wanders into a Christian church and is converted. When he returns home, he talks to the largely silent Nang-yi about “who made human?” and “The One And Only God”, even getting her to say the words “One And Only God”.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Keeper (Trautmann)

Director – Marcus H. Rosenmüller – 2018 – Germany / Austria – Cert. 15 – 120m

*****

The (not-so-) beautiful game. A WW2 PoW who becomes Manchester City’s goalkeeper is faced with anti-German prejudice both on and off the pitch – in cinemas from Friday, April 5th 2019

Set in WW2 and its aftermath in Britain, this looks at first sight like a football movie. However, it becomes something else altogether by taking a long hard look at the plight of a person living in another country that’s heavily prejudiced against his own. Sadly one doesn’t have to look very far in present day, hostile environment Britain to see that such attitudes are currently very real and out in the open.

German infantryman Bert Trautmann (David Kross) is captured by the British and sent to a PoW camp just outside Manchester. Despite the presence of a few hardcore Nazis among the prisoners, most including Bert are ordinary Germans caught up in the conflict. Nevertheless, the English sergeant who runs the camp would have all of them shot were the decision his and makes their lives as difficult as possible.

However Bert has something specific in his favour: for as long as he can remember, he’s loved playing football… [read more]

Full review published in DMovies.orgRead the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Wings Of Eagles

Serving the true God

Wings Of Eagles
Directed by Stephen Shin, Michael Parker
Certificate 12, 108 minutes
Released 12 March 2018

A sequel of sorts to Chariots of Fire, Wings Of Eagles tells the story of Eric Liddell’s missionary years in China. He’s played here by Joseph Fiennes, an actor who has grappled with one aspect or another of Christianity in several stories (Risen, The Handmaid’s Tale, Luther) and seems to thrive on roles like this. The film’s focus on British missionary work in China evokes The Inn of the Sixth Happiness about Gladys Aylward.

Liddell famously refused to run an Olympic race on Sunday, believing that no work should be done on the Lord’s Day. Later, he went to China with the London Missionary Society, taking his family with him, then sending them home after the Japanese invaded… [Read the rest]

Trailer:

Review originally published in Reform, March 2018.