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The Road To The Race Track (Gyeongmajang Ganeun Kil, 경마장 가는 길)

Director – Jang Sun-woo – 1991 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 138m

*****

An academic returns to Korea expecting to hook up with the woman student with whom he lived in Paris, and they meet up, but she now repulses his physical advances part of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

As soon as R (Moon Sung-keun) arrives at the airport in Korea, he makes contact with J (Kang Soo-Yeon) and they get a room together, but she confounds his expectations by fending off his attempts at physical sex with her. This wasn’t what he was expecting, since she seemed willing enough when they lived together in Paris. He is desperate to have sex with her, but instead she offers to drive him first to the bus station and then to his home town, where he is reunited with his wife (Kim Bo-yeon), kids and extended family.

Whatever affection he once had for his wife has long since evaporated, and he callously repulses her attempts at intimacy in the bedroom. Brief scenes between the husband and wife punctuate the remaining narrative, the wife becoming increasingly hostile.… Read the rest

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The Son

Director – Florian Zeller – 2022 – UK – Cert. tbc – 123m

****1/2

A man and his wife must deal with the mental illness of his son by a previous marriage when he moves in with them – from the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a successful New York lawyer with a wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and a small child Theo. One day, his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) turns up at his apartment door to inform him that, as she’s just found out, their teenage son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) has not been to school for one month. She has tried to talk to the boy but got no sense out of him. When Peter goes to visit them, the boy insists he’d like to come and live with his dad.

New mum Beth is understandably hesitant, but nevertheless the couple agree to have Nicholas stay. It quickly becomes apparent that he has grievances against his father and step-mother for leaving his mother and becoming involved with his married father respectively. While Nicholas has never got over his parents’ break-up, Peter has continued in a career which leaves him increasingly less time for family.… Read the rest

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Everything Everywhere All At Once

Director – Daniels (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 139m

*****

Do you know kung fu? A launderette owner in trouble with the IRS is sucked into serial, parallel worlds to defeat the being who threatens to annihilate the multiverse – available on demand in the UK from Monday, June 13th

You could describe it as a Cubist take on The Matrix. Or a mother-daughter relationship drama. Or a multiverse movie. Or a film about filing taxes with the IRS. Or a (multiple set of) romance(s). Or a Michelle Yeoh action movie. Or a Chinese American movie. Or a film put together unlike any other you’ve ever seen. All these descriptions would be accurate.

Chinese American Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) runs her own business. A launderette (or laundromat in American parlance). She sits at the table in her apartment which is covered with piles of receipts. She is sorting through them in preparation for an upcoming interview with the IRS. She isn’t sure she’s ready.

This pressing issue aside, her life is not without its challenges. Her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, formerly the kid from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Steven Spielberg, 1983; The Goonies, Richard Donner, 1985) is attempting to file for divorce and wants her to sign the papers.… Read the rest

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Moving On (Nam-mae-wui Yeo-reum-bam, 남매의 여름밤)

Director – Yoon Dan-bi – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 105m

***1/2

A father takes his teenage daughter and her younger brother to stay with their ageing grandfather for the Summer – plays on MUBI as part of their New South Korean Cinema season

It’s the Summer, so dad (Yang Heung-joo) takes his two kids, teenage daughter Okju (Choi Jun-un) and smaller son Dongju (Park Seung-jun) off to stay with Grandpa (Kim Sang-dong). Moving location is no problem work-wise since he makes a living selling tennis shoes out of his small van on the street. It’s a precarious existence – at one point, he asks a man who runs a fabric shop whether he makes good money in that trade. And when Okju tries to sell some herself, she comes up against a buyer who has realised that the shoes are knock-offs.

There’s quite a bit of sibling rivalry – immediately on moving in, Okju refguses to let Dongju sleep in the room she has nabbed for herself after setting up her mosquito net. But as their aunt Mijung (Park Hyun-young) is later heard to remark, although the pair argue they actually get on with each other quite well.… Read the rest

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My Prince Edward (Gam Dou, 金都)

Director – Norris Wong Yee-Lam – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 91m

****1/2

A Prince Edward resident starts to question whether marrying her boyfriend as the couple have long planned is really such a good idea – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Whatever your nationality, one of the great thrills of world cinema is when a film informs you about all sorts of aspects of a culture other than your own. That’s the case here. To call this a romantic drama is misleading because what it’s actually about is a woman on a culturally approved trajectory starting to question whether it really is something for her or whether she’d be better off finding a different life journey entirely by another route. That approved trajectory is: girl meets boy, girl moves in with boy, girl marries boy.

Perhaps there’s a second trajectory here too, suggesting that Hong Kong is a sealed, navel-gazing world caught up with looking at itself and that perhaps Hong Kongers need to get out of their homeland more, be that to mainland China to which the heroine travels for reasons of her complicated personal situation and later visits of her own volition or be it to America, described by the film’s mainland Chinese lead as a place of freedom.… Read the rest

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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

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The Roads Not Taken

Director – Sally Potter – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 85m

*****

A man drifts through separate existences and times while his daughter struggles to look after him in present day New York City – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th

This is something of a disorienting experience because it slips and shifts effortlessly between separate realities. Molly (Elle Fanning) is taking the day off work in New York to spend time with her dad Leo (Javier Bardem) who lives in a crummy apartment the front access door of which opens onto a busy main street. Her plan is to get him to appointments at the dentists and the opticians in the morning, then be in work for an important meeting in the afternoon. However, it doesn’t work out like that.

At the start, the phone rings and the buzzer goes repeatedly. Molly is in a taxi and his Leo’s maid Xenia (Branca Katic) is outside his front door. Eventually they’re inside, Molly having presumably forced their way in. “Everything is open”, he says to her as he lies, in a daze, in bed. “It’s not, actually, dad,” she replies. “The front door is closed.” She brings him the photo of his late and beloved dog Nestor from the mirror across the room.… Read the rest