Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Strawberry Mansion

Directors – Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney – 2020 – US – Cert. 12a – 91m

*****

A strange and compelling tale, at once whimsical and terrifying, of a tax inspector sent to audit an artist’s dreams – out in UK cinemas and on demand Friday, September 16th

Nothing can prepare you for the experience of watching this extraordinary film. A man sits in his strawberry-coloured kitchen. In his strawberry-coloured fridge are strawberry-coloured boxes of food and strawberry-coloured cartons of drink. A knock at his door opens to reveal billowing clouds floating into the room like fog. It’s his friend who has arrived with a golden bucket container of fried chicken pieces and a bottle of cola. They eat and enjoy.

If you think this is weird, the scene turns up on the man’s video alarm clock. And the film has barely got started. Our hero’s work today involves a long drive to a lone house in the middle of a field. At the door, James Preble (Kentucker Audley) announces to the elderly occupant Arabella “Bella” Isadora (Penny Fuller) that he’s here to audit her dreams. As government legislation of seven year requires. She has over 2 000 VHS tapes, but it seems she hasn’t yet got around to fulfilling the legal requirement of the latest software.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Belle (Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime, 竜とそばかすの姫)

Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. PG tbc – 121m

*****

A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – out on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, June 27th and 4K UHD Blu-ray including the soundtrack from Thursday, July 7th

‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.

Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Shape Of Water

Loving the alien

The Shape Of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Certificate 15, 123 minutes
Released 14 February 2018

There’s a tradition in horror films and fairytales that the monster is bad. The Shape Of Water is a fairytale that features a monster (Doug Jones) who is viewed very differently by different characters. To the military security man, Strickland (Michael Shannon), it’s an affront to the image of God, in which man is created, which must be brutally subdued. To the scientist and Russian agent, Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), he’s an intelligent being from whom our species has much to learn and who should be kept alive at all costs and treated with respect – rather than killed and dissected as the authorities suggest. And to the mute cleaning lady, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who subsequently falls in love with him, he’s someone who responds to hard-boiled eggs and Benny Goodman records, and sees her for herself rather than for her so-called disability… [read more]

Read the full review in Reform, February 2018.

Trailer:

Categories
Live Action Movies Shorts

Ladies Of The Forest (San-na-mul Cheo-nyeo, 산나물처녀)

Director – Kim Cho-hee – 2016 – South Korea – 29m

*****

A woman descends from the heavens in search of a mate, but lands in a forest where the pickings are slim – part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The source of this plot is a folk tale known as The Fairy And The Woodcutter or The Heavenly Maiden And The Woodcutter. There seem to be a number of variants of the story – a good, much longer summation can be found here – but, broadly speaking, it concerns a woodcutter so poor that no woman will marry him. He lives alone with his mother. One day, he hides a deer from a hunter and in return, the deer offers to grant him a wish. He wishes to be married. The deer tells him of a pool to which beautiful maidens descend from the heavens to bathe. If he steals the clothes of one, she’ll be unable to return and he’ll be able to make her his wife. He must not, however, return her clothes until she has birthed three children, otherwise she will use her clothes to fly back to the heavens.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Crossing (La Traversée)

Director – Florence Miailhe – 2021 – France, Germany, Czechia – 84m

*****

Two children undergo a series of adventures as they flee an ethnic cleansing pogrom in this animated feature made with oil paint on glass – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Kyona and Adriel live with their mother, father and younger siblings in their village. One day, soldiers and dark, hooded shadow men arrive to massacre the locals Yelzid people. Somehow the family escape and board a train, but it’s stopped by soldiers for Control and their parents and younger siblings are detained on the platform. Kyona and Adriel must continue on alone and cross the border to safety.

This stakes its place in cinema history as the first feature to be realised using the time-worn animation technique of oil paint of glass. This technique makes the film analogous to watching a moving oil painting, but director Miailhe marshalls her serial images with a strong sense of narrative and additional filmic technique which hold the whole together.

Kyona loves to draw. Her sketchbook, which accompanies her everywhere, opens and closes the film, providing a perfect jumping off point to enter the oil on glass produced narrative.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

GoGo Club (梁韻怡)

Director – Rei Leung Wan-yi – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ –25m

*****

The progress of a former nightclub employee following his fortuitous encounter with a girl in a panda suit – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

At age six, Yin (Matt Jiu Kai Laam) was brought by his mother (Gaga Tse Ka Wai) to the Golden Rose nightclub where she worked as a live-in cleaner and odd job person as the grown up Yin describes in voiceover narration. He doesn’t mention her suavely suited manager (Tony Ho Wah Chiu – Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui, 2017; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002; Dead Or Alive: Final, Takashi Miike, 2002) is a permanent fixture propping up the enquiries desk window counter. At age 26, Yin (Shaopin Tsui) is told by the manager that today is his last day. In fact it’s also the manager’s last day because the Golden Rose is closing down. Enquiring about his missing back pay, Yin is given the company’s very expensive car to sell for profit which turns out to be an old van covered in dust. … Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Fishing Child (Yu Tong, 渔童)

Director – Wan Guchan – 1959 – China – Cert. N/C U – 23m
*****
A Catholic priest attempts with the help of a local official to steal a magic, wealth-producing bowl from a poor fisherman – available to rent online from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021

Animation has long proved effective as a vehicle for mythology, fairy stories, folk tales and suchlike. This little film proves it again. Made using traditional 2D Disney style backgrounds and camerawork augmented with 2D cut-out characters, it’s also a visual marvel in which can also be seen the influences as diverse as Chinese art and UPA cartoons. 

A poor, coastal village is blockaded by foreign (i.e. European) ships preventing the local fishermen from pursuing their livelihood. That doesn’t however stop a local official from tormenting an old fisherman by demanding he pay Fish Tax. The man is flabbergasted since the blockade prevents him from working and therefore earning money, but the official insists, threatening to chop up the man’s boat with his axe if payment is not forthcoming the next day. 

Thinking as the rain pelts down, the understandably worried man decides to go out in the storm as the ships won’t be looking for fishermen and catch fish to pay the tax.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Pinocchio

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2019 – Italy – Cert. PG – 125m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 14th, on BFI Player rental from Monday, December 14th

Impoverished woodcarver Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) decides to make the greatest puppet the world has ever seen, tour the world with it and make his fortune. A wood merchant lets him have a log because it seems to have a life of its own. Unaware of its animate properties, Geppetto begins carving his puppet, a life-sized representation of the son he’s never had.

After he starts talking to it as its “Babba”, he is surprised when the puppet (nine year old Frederico Ielapi) talks back. Geppetto names him Pinocchio. No sooner has he carved the feet than Pinocchio runs out of Geppetto’s workshop to discover the world. In many ways, that defines the character and the story to come. The innocent Pinocchio is forever in pursuit of his own gratification, prey to the perils of the world around him and initially devoid of any sense of morality, something he struggles to learn throughout the course of the story in his quest to become a real boy.

There have been numerous versions of Pinocchio in film, television and theatre since it first appeared as a written serial in an Italian newspaper in 1881.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Features Movies

Kubo And The Two Strings

Director – Travis Knight – 2016 – US – Cert. PG – 101m

*****

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Jeremy Clarke on a Hollywood film inspired by the Far East.

Western cinema in general and animation in particular has long held an interest in all things Oriental. Every so often, a film made in the West pays homage to one aspect or another of Eastern culture. The animated fantasy Kubo And The Two Strings is the latest entry in this curious Western sub-genre. It’s a dark fairytale about the quest of a boy named Kubo for his late father’s long-lost suit of armour to protect himself from the evil spirits of his grandfather and two aunts.

The company behind the production are US stop-frame outfit Laika who previously made Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. All three like Kubo are dark visions far removed from the upbeat fare that constitutes much contemporary Hollywood animation. The thought of the creative force behind such productions making a film inspired by Oriental traditions is therefore an exciting one.

Kubo is set in an unspecified period, ancient Japan populated with samurai warriors, malevolent spirits and gargantuan monsters. Street urchin Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) and other performers gather at the village marketplace to display their wares and earn a crust.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Mani, 思い出のマーニー)

Director – Hiromasa Yonebayashi – 2014 – Japan – Cert. U – 103m

****

This second animated work by Ghibli / Arrietty director Yonebayashi is another adaptation of an English children’s author – now showing on Netflix (subtitled / dubbed) and can also be seen in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank (dubbed)

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Jeremy Clarke on Studio Ghibli’s latest and possibly last theatrical movie. Now showing on Netflix

Studio Ghibli’s star director Hayao Miyazaki has suggested When Marnie Was There may be its final production. That would be a great shame since the film confirms its director Hiromasa Yonebayashi as a rising talent.

Twelve year old Anna has low self-esteem, rarely interacts with others and is prone to asthma attacks. So Anna’s foster mother sends her to stay with Aunt and Uncle Oiwa in the country. Her uncle warns her to stay away from the supposedly haunted grain storage silo on the hill. The Oiwas put her up in their daughter’s long vacated bedroom.

When she opens the window an improvement is immediately visible in Anna as if the view of trees and a lake which greets her is making her aware she is breathing pure, fresh country air for the first time.… Read the rest