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Features Live Action Movies

Mother Night

Director – Keith Gordon – 1996 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

In this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, a former Nazi propagandist awaits trial in Israel for war crimes – retail VHS review from Home Entertainment, 1997

From his Israeli prison cell where he must compose his memoirs while awaiting trial for his war crimes in black and white, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (Nick Nolte in a career-defining performance) recalls in colour flashback his rise to fame in wartime Berlin as a radio propaganda writer/broadcaster for the Third Reich, surviving that regime’s madness by devoting himself to actress wife Helga (Sheryl Lee) and their self-contained Nation Of Two.

Recruited from a park as an undercover American spy by raincoat‑wearing American top brass John Goodman (a small part, but likewise impressive), Campbell has to incorporate coded messages to the Allies in his broadcasts. In 1944, Helga dies. After the War, Campbell winds up alone in a seedy New York apartment where neighbours include fellow widower Alan Arkin and Auschwitz survivor‑turned‑doctor Ayre Gross.

When admiring right wing activists arrive at Campbell’s door, the tale (based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel) lurches even further into surrealism. Gordon’s direction is flawless throughout.

SOUND Ironically bookended by White Christmas, the sparse but subtle surround mix manages two highly effective moments (the very start, the very end) that work as emotional punctuation marks.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Music

The Island

Director – Anca Damian – 2021 – Romania, France, Belgium – 84m

*****

A reimagining of the Robinson Crusoe story with Robinson as a doctor on an island where Friday is the only survivor of a refugee ship – from the Annecy 2022 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

The story of Robinson Crusoe, the man shipwrecked on a desert island befriended by a native he calls Friday, is here turned on its head by director Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, 2019) bringing to life a clever script using an inventive mixture of 2D and CG animation techniques. Robinson (voiced by musician Alexander Bălănescu, who composed the music and songs with Ada Milea) is a Westerner, a well-off doctor who spends most of his time lounging around on an island with an i-Pad. He might be a shipwreck survivor, at least metaphorically. He sings about dreaming of shopping when hungry and after a while we wonder if he’s simply disillusioned with the Western materialist way of life.

He finds himself in the company of Friday (Lucian Ionescu), sole survivor of a refugee boat who treats the doctor as his saviour. Robinson admonishes Friday to drink only bottled water, because the alternative is unsafe.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Il Buco

Director – Michelangelo Frammartino – 2021 – Italy – Cert. U – 93m

**1/2

A Calabrian cowherd nears the end of his life while a group of explorers journey down a deep hole to find out how deep into the ground it descends – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

Literally, ‘The Hole’. Frammartino again brings to the cinema the style that made his earlier Le Quattro Volte (2010) so special. He sets up the camera, often at a great distance from the action, then leaves it there to record whatever happens. The narrative of Il Buco is actually pretty simple, a recreation of an expedition by a group of young, amateur speleologists into a hole in the ground in Calabria. (Speleology is the branch of science involved in mapping and measuring the interiors of caves, natural underground systems, and the like.)

It’s 1961. We’re first introduced to the place in a shot looking out of the ground at the edge of the hole as, eventually, the heads of two bulls come into view over the ridge. An elderly cowherd watches over the grazing cattle from a position halfway up a forty degree incline hillside. As the bus leaves the rich, urban developments of Northern Italy for the still unspoiled Southern region of Calabria, we watch it slowly make its way along rounds, through a small rural town where the party stops for the night to bed down in sleeping bags in the local, Catholic Church alongside statues of monks and the crucified Christ lying on his back, across open country until it arrives at the vast plain where the explorers will set up camp.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Herself

Director – Phyllida Lloyd – 2020 – UK/Ireland – Cert. 15 – 97m

****

A woman leaves her abusive and violent husband and builds a new home for herself and her two young daughters – in UK cinemas from Friday, September 10th

Things come to a head in the marriage of Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and Sandra (Clare Dunne, also co-screenwriter) when he violently assaults her and stamps on her hand, an incident witnessed by their younger daughter Molly (Molly McCann). Sandra has trained her kids well for such a situation and the eldest Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara) knows what to do, rushing to the local shopkeeper with a lunch box inside the lid of which is the family address to give to the Garda.

Like her mother before her, Sandra works as a cleaner to retired and physically disabled local doctor Peggy O’Toole (Harriet Walter). To make ends meet, Sandra also works in a local pub as a barmaid alongside Amy (Ericka Roe) who lives in a nearby squat. After separating from Gary, she and he have joint custody of the kids while the council put her and her kids up in temporary accommodation in a hotel room.

As it’s four years on the housing list to get a home, Sandra investigates other alternatives and, surreptitiously using Peggy’s internet, discovers that she could build a house for only slightly more than a year’s rent to the council.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Herself

A house of her own

Herself
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Certificate 15, 97 minutes
Released 10 September

Herself has a brutal opening in which Sandra (Clare Dunne), a mother of two girls in Dublin, is physically assaulted by her husband Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson), an incident witnessed by her youngest daughter, Molly (Molly McCann), while her eldest, Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara), races across the estate to the local shop to deliver a pre-written emergency message.

From here, it becomes a tale about a single mum’s struggle to find a decent home for her and her kids in the face of a social welfare system that can’t cope with either the level of need or any innovation through which people try to legitimately help themselves… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform.

See my alternative review of the film here.

Trailer:

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Weekends (Wi-ken-jeu, 위켄즈)

Director – Lee Dong-ha – 2016 – South Korea – 95m

**1/2

A group of South Korean men are involved in an openly gay, male voice choir – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by the LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

Seoul. Fast-forward from a theatrical stage. Clubbing. Shopping. A medical check up. Buying medicines from the chemist. Serving drinks at the bar. Getting a cab. Looking at a musical score on the train. Welcome to the lives of a group of gay man, the members of South Korea’s first gay, male voice choir G-voice whose songs articulate issues of gay life and identity. Most of them readily admit to being mediocre singers and one confesses he’s only doing it because his lover is.

College student Sander finds himself thrust into the limelight when he volunteers to take over as the group’s leader. Musical director Jaewoo is a doctor while bass singer Cheolho is a pharmacist. “It’s hard to find songs dealing with gay love affairs”, says Jaewoo. When a friend asked him for some advice, he thought the words would make a great song and turned them in to one. He clearly has a gift for this – this documentary is awash with many such songs he’s written.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Old

Director – M. Night Shyamalan – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

A family is trapped on an idyllic beach where people age rapidly – out in cinemas on Friday, July 21st

This was adapted from the graphic novel Sandcastle written by Pierre Oscar Lévy and illustrated by Frederik Peeters which clearly has caught the imagination of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, 1999; Unbreakable, 2000; Glass, 2019).

Guy and Prisca Capa (Gael García Bernal from Rosewater, Jon Stewart, 2017; No, Pablo Larrain, 2012 and Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017) and their kids Maddox, 11 (Alexa Swinton) and Trent, 6 (Nolan River) are driven to their tropical holiday resort which Prisca can’t believe she found on the internet. Not that they are so lucky in their personal lives: she has been diagnosed with cancer and the couple have yet to tell their children of their impending divorce.

As they ponder what to do on their first day, the hotel offers them a chance to spend it at an exclusive beach alongside other select guests. These turn out to include surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell from The Father, Florian Zeller, 2020) and his family – mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), trophy wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and Kara, 6 (Kylie Begley) – as well as married couple Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Black Medicine

Director – Colum Eastwood – 2021 – Ireland – Cert. 15 – 90m

*****

A black market Belfast anaesthetist finds herself crossing people it would be unwise to cross – this edge-of-the-seat thriller is out on digital platforms on Monday, July 12th

Jo (Antonia Campbell-Hughes from Bright Star, Jane Campion, 2009; Albert Nobbs, Roderigo Garcia, 2011; Kelly + Victor, Kieran Evans, 2012; Storage 24, Johannes Roberts, 2012; The Canal, Ivan Cavanagh, 2014;) drives her car up the levels of a Belfast multi-storey car park. At the top, she gets out and contemplates the drop to the street below. She smokes to calm her nerves. She drops the cigarette, watching it fall the several storeys. She contemplates climbing the railings. A woman and child come out of a door and walk along a wall. Jo backs off.

By this point, I’m completely hooked. Who is this woman? What is going on? The genius of this movie is that having gripped the viewer from the get-go, it never relaxes for the rest of its entire 90 minute running length. (Also, a minor carp: why is the car number plate PIA 1? That’s a wee bit too showy.)

Then Stevie (Lalor Roddy from Robot Overlords, Jon Wright, 2014) phones.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies Music

Mogul Mowgli

Director – Bassam Tariq – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

****

A UK British Pakistani rap artist is stopped in his career tracks by an auto-immune system suppression illness – in cinemas from Friday, October 30th and on BFI Player Subscription Exclusive from Friday, February 5th

This opens with British Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed, who also co-wrote the film) waiting in the wings then going on stage to perform before a massively enthusiastic New York crowd. I had fairly high expectations and my heart sank. Ahmed’s performance as the singer was leaving me absolutely cold. (To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of rap music.) Happily I was much more impressed with almost everything that followed.

This opening performance turns out to be the final leg of a tour. Zed has a major European Tour planned imminently. Back in Britain, he gets into a street fight with a fan/stalker and in the course of the resultant fight starts to experience severe stomach pains. He wakes up in the local hospital to learn that he’s suffering from an auto-immune system suppression illness and consequently will be unable to tour. He’s horrified by the the suggestion from his trusted manager Vaseem (Anjana Vasam) that his admirer and rival performer RPG (Nabhaan Rizwan), whom Zed despises, can cover for him on the European Tour.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Bluebeard (Haebing, 해빙)

Director – Lee Soo-youn – 2017 – South Korea – 115m

****

A Korean Twin Peaks clone. A doctor becomes increasingly suspicious of his downstairs butchers’ shop neighbours: are they chopping people up and dumping their remains in the Han River?London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 2017 teaser screening

Dr. Byun Seung-hoon (Cho Jin-woong) is working at a colonoscopy clinic where the owner puts in the occasional appearance. The drugs they use have the unfortunate side effect of making their patients talk freely just like people do in their sleep. One day he’s treating the demented father (Goo Shin) of his landlord Sung-geun ( Kim Dae-myung) who runs a butcher shop on the ground floor below his cramped apartment when the old man starts talking about where to put body parts such as the legs and the torso. When the TV news reports on a woman’s body found in pieces in the Han River, Byun puts two and two together.

When Dr. Byun is accosted by Sung-geun the same evening, the two go to the former’s flat and consume drink and food. Medical textbooks are stacked in piles. That’s all he reads. Oh, and mystery novels. He likes the latter because, he says, they provide him with answers… Another evening, his ex-wife comes over and tries to mend their relationship but it doesn’t work and she storms out after a furious row.… Read the rest