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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

37 Seconds

Director – Hikari – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 115m

*****

A wheelchair-bound, young woman manga artist struggles to become independent of her over-protective mother – on Netflix from Friday, January 31st, 2020

Yuma (Mei Kayama), wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy from birth, lives with her mother Kyoko (Misuzo Kanno) who looks after her in a small Tokyo apartment. However Yuma is far from helpless with a day job as an uncredited manga artist who draws and writes the comics allegedly penned by fast rising YouTube star Sayaka (Minori Hagiwara). The uncomplaining Yuma secretly yearns for Sayaka’s celebrity, if not to actually be her at least to know what it feels like, but Sayaka bans her from attending any public events such as book signings.

Yuma starts exploring ways of going independent of Sayaka. She shows some work to Iketani (Shohei Uno) from Sayaka’s publishers who tells her that what she’s produced is good but alas too close to Sayaka’s work. Finding a bunch of porn manga magazines in a park, she phones around to see it the magazines are taking submissions and embarks on an erotic space opera series, lovingly rendered in a sequence which is not so much full animation but more like an animated peruse through pages of manga, only to be told when she goes to see a friendly editor Ms.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Luzhin Defence

Director – Marleen Gorris – 2000 – UK – Cert. 12 – 109m

****

An unscrupulous teacher tracks a grown-up, former child Chess prodigy to Italy and attempts to exploit him for further gain – in cinemas from Friday, September 8th 2000

Adapted from the novel by Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita), this is ostensibly set for the most part in and around a Chess tournament in Northern Italy in 1929. Ostensibly because parallel plot strands flash back in time to the childhood of one of the contestants, Russian Master Alexander Luzhin (an unkempt, shambling and top form John Turturro).

The boy Alexander (Alexander Hunting) fares badly at school and suffers terribly as an all-round failure until it’s realised that he’s good at Chess. And not just good – his world-class genius is soon being exploited for financial gain by unscrupulous schoolteacher Valentinov (Stuart Wilson) only to be dumped the moment he stops winning. Valentinov has tracked Luzhin down to the 1929 tournament, determine to trample upon his former charge’s independently achieved fame and success.

However, he’s reckoned without the is young and marriageable aristocrat Natalia (Emily Watson, also on top form) who, instead of being wooed as intended for eligible bachelor Stassard (Christopher Thompson), is swept off her feet by the socially clumsy and clearly unsuitable Luzhin.… Read the rest