Categories
Animation Features Movies

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazaro, さよならの朝に約束の花をかざろう)

Director – Mari Okada – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 115m

***

Like a virgin. A refugee girl from an immortal race adopts an orphaned human baby to raise as her own until he leaves her as an adult – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

The Iolph are the Clan Of The Separate: they live for hundreds of years but remain in their isolated enclave cut off from the rest of humanity. They weave fabric called the Hibiol on looms; the Hibiol contains within it the storylines of their lives which the Iolph can feel and read.

Maquia and Leilia are friends. Leilia is the tomboy, getting into trouble. One day, Mezarte riders on dragons called the Renato attack and decimate the Iolph colony. Leilia is taken prisoner to be married off to the invading Mezarte prince while Maquia escapes on a Renato which goes beserk infected with the disease Red Eye, literally crashing and burning in a forest miles from home. She takes refuge in a village which has similarly been attacked and finds a baby which she prises free from the rigor mortis grip of its mother’s corpse and names the boy Erial.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Features Movies

Son Of The White Mare (Fehérlófia)

Director – Marcell Jankovics – 1981 – Hungary – 86m

*****

Based on Hungarian folk legends, tells the story of three sons of the white mare who must free three princesses from their dragon husbands and restore the kingdom from chaos – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Special Screenings – Annecy Classics section

This has a script sourced from Hungarian folk tales. While it’s very cinematic, the writing is similar to religious texts like the Bible or mythological stories like the Iliad where events are related in a paired down, straightforward way no matter how far removed from everyday experience they might be. Thus, there’s a prologue about three princes begging their father for their inheritance so they can marry, only for their foolish new brides to disobey the patriarch and explore all the castle’s locked doors until they unwittingly unleash a dragon and are sucked into its domain.

In the ensuing chaos, the only hope comes when the white mare births two sons then escapes into the woods pregnant with a third. She weans him for eight years until her milk makes him strong enough to uproot a tree. Drained of milk, she dies. Treeshaker sets out to find his brothers Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer, of whom it turns out Treeshaker is the strongest.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Nezha Conquers The Dragon King (Nezha Nao Hai, 哪吒闹海)

Directors – Wang Shuchen, Yan Dingxian, Xu Jingda – 1979 – China – Cert. N/C PG – 61m

*****

A boy born out of a lotus flower must defeat the dragon king who enjoys eating live human children – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

The four dragons rise out of the sea to wreak havoc with fire and tornado over China. In his palace, General Li awaits news of his wife’s delivery. Is it a boy or a girl? His servant is unsure: after three years, the General’s wife has birthed… a lotus flower. The petals open to reveal a boy, already walking, of diminutive size. The General’s servants and his wife’s ladies in waiting are immediately entranced and an old sage Taiyi Zhenren flies in on a crane to name the boy Ne Zha and take him under his wing as a student.

After the local people anger the Dragon King Ao Guang in his undersea crystal palace by sending him food offerings when he’d rather eat live human children, the boy happens to saunter down to the beach for a swim just as Ao Guang’s Sea Warrior has arrived to abduct some tasty boys and girls and steals one of Ne Zha’s playmates.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 201m (263m)

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, August 10th 2020, 263m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 252m version released on DVD 2004.)

This review of the 201m theatrical version was originally published in Third Way.

A much shorter review appeared in What’s On In London.

A pre-screening article on The Lord Of The Rings appeared in Sussed in 2001.

Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings is a labour of love by a brilliant academic obsessed by myth and language better at creating an alternate world than at story construction. Nowhere in the trilogy is this more evident than in The Return Of The King. Frodo’s trip to Mount Doom to unmake Sauron’s One Ring builds up incredibly to a climactic pivotal event running little more than a paragraph. This is followed by another hundred pages or so tying up loose ends, including a sequence in which evil wizard Saruman turns the Shire into a post-industrial dictatorship that’s trivial compared with the geographic enormity of what has gone before.

Jackson and co-writers wisely omit that sequence; indeed, in its last weeks of post-production his The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King has chopped its scenes of Saruman (Christopher Lee) at Isengard – on the grounds that it slowed down the start.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 201m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas July 2020, 252m version released on DVD 2004)

This review was originally published in What’s On In London.

A much longer review appeared in Third Way.

A pre-screening article on The Lord Of The Rings appeared in Sussed in 2001.

Peter Jackson and co-screenwriters Boyens and Walsh rise admirably to the considerable challenges posed by The Lord of the Rings’ third and last volume. Gandalf comments early on that Saruman no longer has any real power, jettisoning that evil wizard (and Christopher Lee) plus related Scouring Of The Shire plot strand to make Tolkien’s lengthy section following the Mount Doom climax more manageable

However all the book’s requisite material is here, brilliantly condensed. The Mount Doom scene itself – far too quick in Tolkien after the incredible build up preceding it – is expanded and so given the necessary dramatic weight. Liberties taken with The Paths Of The Dead likewise serve the narrative well. Jackson’s opening is as unexpected and stunning as that of The Two Towers, while his finale effectively pictures Tolkien’s closing metaphor for life after death.… Read the rest