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Deep Water (2022)

Director – Adrian Lyne – 2022 – US – Cert. US-R – 115m

****

A man is jealous of the lovers of his beautiful but promiscuous wife who start mysteriously dying one by one – out on Prime Video in the UK on Friday, March 18th

Vic (Ben Affleck) is devoted to his wife Melinda (Ana de Armas from No Time To Die, 2021, Cary Joji Fukunaga) for whom he would do anything, including give her her freedom. Since she doesn’t like being tied down to just one man, this means the freedom to sleep with any man she wants. She drinks a lot too and often stays out all night, refusing to tell Vic where she’s been in the morning. The trouble is, some time ago she slept with a man named MacRae and he vanished. Disappeared. No-one knows what happened to him.

Then one night, at a party he’s hosting, Vic scares Melinda’s current lover Joel (Brendan C. Miller) by confessing to the crime, by way of a joke. Or is it? Joel is inclined to think Vic the murderer. After a job offer causes Joel to leave the area, Melinda starts meeting a piano teacher Charles (Jacob Elordi).… Read the rest

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Petrov’s Flu (Petrovy v Grippe)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov – 2021 – Russia – Cert. 18 – 145m

*****

The stream of consciousness existence of an urban, Russian comic book artist who has the ‘flu – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

Despite being under the weather with the ‘flu, city dweller Petrov (Semyon Serzin) is trying his best to carry on as normal. Not so easy when you’re out of it. His nightmare starts with a bus journey. A nine-year-old girl kindly offers him her seat, but before he’s sat down, someone else seems to have taken it. A misogynist old man talks to the girl, telling her that often girls her age are married off and possibly already cheating on their husbands.

in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday December 15, 2019. (Photo Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Before the old misogynist knows it, someone has had the bus stopped so the he can be thrown off, losing his false teeth in the process which Petrov picks up and which subsequently function like an intermittent Greek chorus, albeit one that doesn’t make any particular sense, throughout the remainder of the narrative. Then Petrov’s mate Igor (Yuri Kolokolnikov), who’s been pursuing the bus in a hearse, complete with coffined corpse, stops it to commandeer Petrov off the bus and into shooting an automatic rifle at victims as part of an impromptu firing squad.… Read the rest

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Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Taste Of Tomato (蕃茄田)

Director – Li Ho – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

***1/2

A human finger fragment turns up inside a tomato in an out of town vegetable plot – FREE TO VIEW in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Four characters in a vegetable garden out of town, three men and one woman. No names are exchanged. Some pretty basic living conditions. It’s not exactly clear what they do for a living, but snatches of conversations give hints. One talks about removing two kidneys from a man who, when they opened him up, turned out to have four. So he took out two as a favour, because the guy would probably have died had he left them in. There’s a pre-title sequence in which a man drives through a long underpass, parks at a garden in the dark then starts digging. Intimations of cloak and dagger lifestyles.

Events start to leave a strange taste in the mouth when one of them bits into a tomato and summons the others to show them it contains about an inch’s worth of dead human finger (the bit with the fingernail).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Dissident

Spiritual wickedness

The Dissident
Directed by Bryan Fogel
Certificate 12 (Amazon advisory), 119 minutes
Released on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Ireland from April 1st 2021

On 2 October 2018, the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a marriage licence. He never came out. It later transpired that Khashoggi had been murdered on the premises by Saudi officials and his body dismembered, taken away and disposed of.

This fast-paced and frankly mind-boggling documentary examines a good deal more than the murder…[read more]

Full review in Reform magazine.

See my alternate, longer review on this site.

Trailer:

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Dissident

Director – Bryan Fogel – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

An investigation into the state-sanctioned killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in 2018 – on Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st

If you had to use a single phrase to describe this documentary, it would be “jaw-dropping”. The central subject here is the disappearance of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi who on October 2nd 2018 entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a document and was never seen again.

There are a number of narrative strands: the career of a Saudi exile Omar Abdulaziz Alzahrani in Montreal, Canada who Khashoggi befriended, a brief history of the Saudi regime focusing in particular on the last decade, Khashoggi’s ongoing romance with young Turkish political researcher Hadice Cengiz who he planned to marry and the story of what actually went on inside the consulate recounted by the Turkish prosecutor Irfan Fidan.

Jamal Khashoggi and Hatice Cengiz

It’s jaw-dropping because it delivers one devastating revelation after another. The idea of entering your country’s consulate to collect a document and not leaving alive is horrific enough, but there are numerous other, equally chilling disclosures here.… Read the rest

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Mr. Vampire (Geung see sin sang)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

If your knowledge of vampire lore comes from Western movies about Dracula you’re in for some real surprises with the 1985 Hong Kong movie Mr. Vampire. This is the movie that put the Chinese hopping vampire on the map.

It’s evening, as mortuary assistant Man-choi (Ricky Hui) checks a number of upright standing corpses with talismans affixed to their foreheads. All present and correct. Behind him a corpse without a talisman advances towards him. By the time he’s realised this is fellow mortuary assistant Chau-sang (Chin Siu-ho) playing a prank, the resultant air flow has blown the talismans off the other foreheads and eight vampires are hopping towards them, Man Choi runs to fetch his employer, Master Gau (Lam Ching-ying)…

I review Mr. Vampire for All The Anime to coincide with the film’s UK Blu-ray release from Eureka! See also my Manga Mania review published back in the nineties to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong.

Clip from Eureka! version:

Trailer (Cantonese, no subs) here:

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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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Mr. Vampire (Geung see sin sang)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 94m

*****

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong. Running time as on VHS sleeve. See also my All The Anime review coinciding with the 2020 Eureka! Blu-ray.

SCREEN GEMS

MR. VAMPIRE

The Far East views vampires through completely different cultural baggage, the extraordinary result of which can be seen in seminal Hong Kong period horror outing Mr. Vampire (1985) – which spawned several sequels and influenced countless genre outings both in Hong Kong live action and Japanese animation.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Encounters Of The Spooky Kind (1980) sees director Sammo Hung spend the night in a haunted house where he encounters various undead manifestations. It’s no surprise that Hung acted as producer on the later Mr. Vampire, where director Ricky Lau distilled Chinese cadaver / vampire mythology into a subsequent industry staple. As Lam Ching-ying so clearly explains in Mr. Vampire: “There are good men and bad men…corpses and vampires…this corpse is turning into a vampire.” Producer and director went on to make Mr. Vampire 2, 3 and 4, all with corpse‑busting star Lam Ching-ying who returned a fifth time under a different director for the present day Magic Cop / Mr.Read the rest