Categories
Features Live Action Movies

#Manhole
(#マンホール)

Director – Kazuyoshi Kumakiri – 2023 – Japan – LEAFF Cert.15 – 99m

***

A man falls down a manhole following his stag night and turns to social media to get help and, hopefully, escapeplays in the Official Selection at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th.

The opening minutes of #Manhole resemble any number of Japanese movies you can think of as Shunsuke Kawamura (Yuto Nakajima) attends a surprise party put on by work colleagues at his local watering hole. It’s a good night, suggesting he’s well loved (albeit on a fairly superficial level) and he leaves extremely drunk, briefly saying goodbye to best mate Etsuro Kase (Kento Nagayama from Love Life Koji Fukada, 2022; Villain, Lee Sang-il, 2010) whose well-intentioned present – a lighter – may not be so much use to Kawamura now that he’s given up smoking. Or so it would seem at that point in the proceedings.

Kawamura must have drunk a good deal more than he realised because as he staggers home, he falls down a manhole off of which someone, by accident or design, has left the cover. His upper leg is badly cut.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Killers
Of The Flower Moon

Director – Martin Scorsese – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 206m

*****

A returning WW1 veteran marries into Oklahoma’s Osage Indian tribe at the time of the Osage Indian Murders – plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 20th

At slightly over 80 years of age, Martin Scorsese has now been making movies for over 60 years. Like his last, fictional, narrative feature The Irishman (2019), this one is pushing three and a half hours. I always have issues with films that long: the vast majority are that way due to director’s ego and / or inability to tell a story concisely. Some of them might have been better suited to a TV mini-series ( a medium in which, incidentally, Scorsese also works). Yet if you try and imagine Killers Of The Flower Moon cut down in length, it’s difficult. Maybe you could take out the frame story – the performance of a crime drama on the radio on the subject of the Osage Indian Murders – but that sets the scene nicely at the start and takes you back out of the movie equally nicely at the end, so it would be a shame to do so.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Ex-Files 4:
Marriage Plan
(Qian Ren 4,
前任4:英年早婚)

Director – Yusheng Tian – 2023 – China – Cert. PG – 129m

****

A man in a trial marriage attempts to help his best friend, on the rebound from a failed relationship, navigate the process of finding a new partner – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 6th

Chinese writer-director Tian’s romantic franchise, now on its fourth entry, has built its previous instalments around characters whose former partners interfere one way or another with their current, ongoing, attempts at relationships. Meng Yun (Han Geng), a character from the original The Ex-Files (2014) is single again following events in The Ex-Files 3: Return Of The Exes (2017), while the relationship of regular character Yu Fei (Zheng Kai) with girlfriend Ding Dian (Zeng Mengxue) has settled down into some sort of stability.

The latter couple are eating out when she suggests, more on a whim than from any basis in fact, that she might be pregnant. His offer to marry her were that to be the case is met with a degree of disbelief in her arguments about being an independent woman, so they agree to a trial marriage. Yu Fei juggles this with trying to help the single Meng find love, enrolling him in a dating site and offering advice as things develop.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s
Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Red Angel
(Akai Tenshi,
赤い天使)

Director – Yasuzo Masumura – 1966 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 95m

An army nurse is sent to China – as a slogan in one of the film’s trailers puts it, “on the battlefield where life and death is decided.”

*****

Full Blu-ray review published at All The Anime.

In 1939, for her first posting, Nurse Sakura Nishi (Ayako Wakao) is sent to Tianjin Army Hospital. A number of the male patients appear to be faking medical conditions so as to escape the front line, where Japanese casualties are heavy. When she first does her rounds, Private Sakamoto (Jotaro Senba) and a number of the other men are very forward and ask her a lot of personal questions.

Much worse is to come, however, because when she does her night rounds, she finds herself trapped in the men’s dorm and raped by Sakamoto while the others hold her down. Reporting this incident to the head nurse (Ranko Akagi), Nishi learns she’s this soldier’s third victim. The head nurse resolves to have Sakamoto sent back to the front.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Nishi is then posted to a front-line hospital where medics go through the incoming wounded, pronouncing them dead or designating them for surgery, for which read amputation.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Compartment
No. 6
(Hytti Nro 6)

Director – Juho Kuosmanen – 2021 – Finland – Cert. 15 – 107m

*****

A student taking a long, sleeper train from Moscow to the Arctic finds herself sharing a compartment with a drunken male slob – out in cinemas on Friday, April 8th

Finnish archaeology student Laura (Seidi Haarla) lives in Moscow with her life of the party, professor lover Irina (Dinara Druckerova) in the latter’s Moscow flat where life is a constant round of social gatherings and parties. Irina’s busy schedule causes her to drop out of a proposed visit to Murmansk to see the petroglyphs, so Laura takes the Artika train (Artic train) alone and finds herself sharing her first class, two person sleeper cabin with Lhoja (Yuriy Borisov from Petrov’s Flu, Kirill Serebrennikov, 2021) who knocks back the vodka and leaves half-eaten packets of food all over the shared table. She takes an immediate dislike to him.

And that’s the setup of the film: not so much a road movie as a rail movie, the bulk of what follows taking place on the train (a fascinating location in itself) with off-train episodes at various stops en route including St. Petersburg (which places the year at 1991 or after when the city was renamed from Leningrad) and a finale in Murmansk.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

KIBA:
The Fangs Of Fiction
(Damashie
No Kiba,
騙し絵の牙)

Director – Daihachi Yoshida – 2020 – Japan – 112m

*****

Forward thinkers take on the conservative old guard within a Japanese publishing corporation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

Megumi Takano (Mayu Matsuoka from One Night, Kazuya Shirashi, 2019; Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada, 2016; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012; Love Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), daughter of local bookstore owner Takano (Shinya Tsukamoto), is as dedicated an editor as you’ll find anywhere in publishing. Alas, she lacks the political savvy needed to survive in its ruthless, corporate, dog-eat-dog world. When the owner of the publishing company Kunpu which employs her dies unexpectedly, she finds herself caught up in the machinations of a large organisation where some employees resist change while others plan to completely reinvent the business model to ensure the company’s survival, possibly at the expense of some of its employees.

Thus it is that new CEO Tamatsu (Koichi Sato from Fukushima 50, Setsuro Wakamatsu, 2020; Sukiaki Western Django, Takashi Miike, 2007; Where The Last Sword Is Drawn, Yojiro Takita, 2002) comes in with plans to restructure the company.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Flag Day

Director – Sean Penn – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

A woman struggles to come to terms with her father who is a criminal and a pathological liar – out in cinemas on Friday, January 28th

This at once follows a linear narrative trajectory and doesn’t. On the one level, Jennifer grows into a woman, argues with her parents (with good reason) and attempts to find herself and make her way in the world. On the other level, images and sequences move effortlessly between Jennifer aged six (Addison Tymec), Jennifer as a young teenager (Jadyn Rylee) and the adult Jennifer (Dylan Penn). Sometimes it feels like the adult Jennifer having a flashback, sometimes it seems like we’re one of her younger selves, all very vivid and real. Sometimes it’s memory, sometimes it’s experience.

It’s based on the real life memoir of Jennifer Vogel, who apparently wrote the book trying to sort out her feelings about her unorthodox upbringing.

It starts and (more or less) ends with a line of cop cars pursuing suspect John Vogel (Sean Penn) wanted for counterfeiting. As the images roll over us, there’s a lot of adult Jennifer voice over in the first ten or so minutes (and elsewhere at odd moments in the film).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

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