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Features Live Action Movies Music

Annette

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

****1/2

This musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – out in cinemas on Friday, September 3rd

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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Features Live Action Movies

Deerskin (Le Daim)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2019 – France – Cert. 15 – 77m

****

A man buys a deerskin jacket then decides he should be the only person who can wear a jacket which leads to disastrous consequences – out in cinemas on Friday, July 16th

Georges (Jean Dujardin from The Wolf Of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese, 2013; The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, 2011; OSS 117: Cairo Nest Of Spies, Michel Hazanavicius, 2006) is driving. Some considerable distance across France. And very full of himself, too. After a couple of days, he arrives at the seller’s house. 100% deerskin! The Jacket is everything he dreamed, and he willingly pays the asking price in cash. The seller is stunned at his good fortune; he’s never seen so much money. He throws in a digital video camera.

Georges’ credit card is blocked, so on checking in to the local hotel he leaves his gold wedding ring with the receptionist as a deposit. Drinking at a local bar, he explains to the barmaid Denise (Adèle Haenel from Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019; 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute), Robin Campillo, 2017) that he’s a filmmaker and currently shooting.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Beyond The Mask

Directors – Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds – 2021 – UK – 60m

****

People talk about their experiences of bereavement in the light of the COVID-19 lockdown – in cinemas and online at the Stroud Film Festival Sunday, July 4th, 7.00 to 9.30pm

In March 2020, the unthinkable happened as the world entered a global pandemic. In the ensuing year or so many people lost their lives while many more felt and indeed still feel a sense of loss for the ’normal’ life that existed beforehand. Directors Harris and Edmonds are no strangers to bereavement having lost their son unexpectedly at age 22 while he was travelling abroad in 2013 and part of their process of dealing with it was to make the excellent documentary A Love That Never Dies (Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds, 2018) in which bereaved parents talk about their different experiences of losing children.

Not everyone has suffered the misfortune of losing a child, but if you’re reading this you will invariably have lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, at least thus far. This latter condition is universal. So, what does the experience of bereavement have to say to our current situation of the pandemic – or, for that matter, what does our current situation of the pandemic have to say to our experience of bereavement?… Read the rest

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Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

A Love That Never Dies

Losing children

A Love That Never Dies
Directed by Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds
Certificate 12A, 75 Minutes
Released 18 May

Parenting is not the easiest job in the world at the best of times. But what if the unthinkable happens? What do you do if one of your children dies? How do you cope?

Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds found themselves in that position when their 22-year-old son Joshua died travelling around Vietnam in 2013. Someone stepped out in front of his motorbike and that was it. Struggling to come to terms with his death, they travelled not only to the site of the accident but also across the US in search of other bereaved parents, a journey in memory of their son. En route, they made a documentary film out of the experience.

In the footage and voice-over, the couple describe the different ways they struggled or coped. [Read more…]

To find screenings or organise a one-off local screening, please contact the filmmakers through their website alovethatneverdiesfilm.com.

Review originally published in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

Visit The Good Grief Project website. To set up a screening of the film near you, please contact the film-makers.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Reckoning

Director – Neil Marshall – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 111m

***

A woman accused of witchcraft finds herself pitted in a battle of wills against her witchfinder torturer at the time of the Great Plague – on digital from Friday, April 16th and Shudder UK from Thursday, 13th May

On the one hand, this explores the historical time period of the Great Plague and links that directly with women being burned at the stake for witchcraft by way of a widespread, social scapegoating process. On the other, it depicts a horribly misogynistic society where, for the most part women are regarded as inferior and treated really badly. Two sides of the same coin.

The film itself is mixed. Parts feel hackneyed, parts will have you on the edge of your seat. The cliché-ridden opening, for instance, cross-cuts chocolate box-y photography of a cottage-dwelling couple’s idyllic, married existence in the constantly sunlit countryside with the wife digging a grave in torrential rain after finding her husband has hanged himself from a tree at night.

It transpires that farmer Joseph Haverstock (Joe Anderson) stopped off for a pint at the local tavern and accidentally drank the beer of a plague victim, contracting the disease.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Relic

Director – Natalie Erica James – 2019 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 89m

****1/2

A daughter and her mother must look after their ageing grandmother in her house which seems to possess a dark character – in cinemas and platforms including BFI Player from Friday, October 30th and now Shudder UK from Tuesday, 11th May 2021

Driving from Melbourne to visit her grandmother Edna in her house in the country, grown-up daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) and her mother Kay (Emily Mortimer) get a phone call from the local policeman informing them the old lady has gone missing. When they get to the house and enter via the large cat flap, sure enough grandma is nowhere to be found. It feels lived in though, even though there are rooms filled with boxes of junk she’s never managed to sort out or get rid of. They try and tidy up, but it’s a huge task and they barely make a dent in what needs to be done.

They go out with police combing the local woods, to no avail. Sam runs into friendly next door neighbour with learning difficulties Jamie (Chris Bunton), 18, who lives at home with his father. James has no idea where Edna is either.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Banishing

Director – Christopher Smith – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

***1/2

A vicar, his wife and their daughter move into a haunted rectory which seems out to get them – on digital platforms from Friday, March 26th and Shudder from Thursday, April 15th

The Rev Stanley Hall (Matthew Clarke) is found hanged from the top of four-poster bed in his bedroom in the old rectory near the village. This follows a session with his hefty bible, annotated in placed with scrawled pentagrams and pages burned through with holes, his reading out loud Pauline admonitions against ‘sexual immorality’ and a bizarre vision of himself either having sex with or inflicting extreme bloody violence upon his wife (or possibly both at once – it’s not entirely clear). Bishop Malachi (John Lynch) is summoned to the house.

Three years later, Malachi installs a new vicar Linus (John Heffernan) in the property which has remained vacant in the interim. Linus is joined by wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her illegitimate daughter Adelaide (Anya Mckenna-Bruce) as well as the house’s incumbent deaf maid Betsy (Jean St. Clair). Like his predecessor, Linus is obsessed with abstaining from sexual immorality, despite his wife’s pointing out to him that they are married.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Old Man And A Dog (老人與狗)

Director – Ryan Chan Hon-yan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

*****

A security guard nearing the end of his life is given an ageing, dying dog by his grandson – 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

When they’re in the hospital waiting for grandpa while he sees the doctor, Ka Chun (Karson Chan Ka Hei) asks his mum (Ivy PangTracey, Li Jun, 2018), “how come grandpa doesn’t have a dog?” There follows a huge row between Ms. Chan and the medical staff when she learns they’re not operating on her father because he’s signed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ papers. The boy, meanwhile, stands beside his grandpa’s bedside. His grandpa (Paul Carr) is on a ventilator.

The elder Mr. Chan visits the hospital on his own. The clock that’s fallen off the wall in the doctor’s office seems to presage his own demise. His boss (Toby Cheng) at the security firm tells him not to come in, he’s too ill. The firm will compensate him, so there are no financial issues.

Ka Chun visits grandpa at home – bringing with him a dog called (somewhat hilariously to English ears) Ah-fuk.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Still The Water (Futatsume no Mado, 2つ目の窓)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2014 – Japan / France – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Two childhood sweethearts living on an island beset by storms must come to terms with the mortality and fallibility of their mothers – on BFI Player (rental) and MUBI.

The ocean roars and then, just as suddenly, is quiet. The wind howls through the trees, then sunlight is glimpsed through tranquil branches. Welcome to the sleepy yet storm-battered island of Amami Oshima, part of the Southern Japanese Archipelago, a place of paradox and contradiction seen through the eyes of two teenaged friends and their families.

Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga aka Junko AbeSamurai Marathon, Bernard Rose, 2019) loves swimming in the sea. Her friend Kaito (Nijiro MurakamiIsle Of Dogs, Wes Anderson, 2018, Destruction Babies, Tetsuya Mariko, 2016) is less keen – he’d rather be in the safety of a swimming pool. She uses him and his bicycle to get around the island if and when he’s nearby. She is rather keen on him and would happily have sex. He can’t explain why, but is less enthusiastic about the idea.

Once we move on to their parents, there are fascinating observations regarding motherhood – especially in the light of adoption / unwanted pregnancy outing True Mothers (Naomi Kawase, 2020) – and, to a lesser extent, fatherhood.… Read the rest