Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Old Man
And The Land

Director – Nicholas Parish – 2023 – UK – Cert. none – 100m

*****

As he works on the land, an aging farmer hears his two adult children argue about the future of the family farm – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Movies. You think everything’s been done, then along comes something you’ve never seen before. Or, in this case, seen or heard before.

The Old Man in question is an English farmer (Roger Marten) whose family have worked the land for generations. He’s getting on in years, so won’t be around forever. His wife died a while ago, so he’s now running the farm on his own. He has two children who have long since grown up and left home: a son (voice: Rory Kinnear) and a daughter (voice: Emily Beecham), and the big question is, when he dies, will they take over – or will they get rid of the farm?

In recent years, the UK has produced a number of rural movies that stand in stark contrast to the urban- (Often London-) based films produced. Quite a few of these have been about farms or farmers (e.g.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Snow Leopard
(Xue Bao,
雪豹)

Director – Pema Tseden – 2023 – Tibet – LEAFF Cert. 12 – 109m

*****

A monk invites a filmmaker friend to a remote farm in the Tibetan mountain region where a snow leopard trapped in a sheep pen has killed nine sheep –the late Pema Tseden’s final completed film plays in the Official Selection at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which ran from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th

Film maker Dradul (Genden Phuntsok) has been informed by his friend Nyima the Snow Leopard Monk (Tseten Tashi) of an incident and so sets out for the region of the Tibetan Mountains with a small crew in his car. Following roads in the freezing wilderness, the car arrives at a remote farm which consists basically of a stone farmhouse and a sheep pen where the Snow Leopard Monk awaits them, along with the old farmer and his family.

The sheep pen has been breached by a snow leopard, a rare animal that’s a protected species in Tibet, and the old farmer’s adult son Jinpa (Jinpa) is furious that it has killed nine sheep. Confronted with the camera, he argues vociferously that man must live with the snow leopard, and that a small number of kills would be acceptable, but an amount as large as nine is most definitely not okay.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

And Then Come
The Nightjars

Director – Paul Robinson – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 81m

***1/2

The deep friendship of a Devon farmer and a local vet is tested by the UK government’s culling of herds in the 2001 Foot And Mouth outbreak – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 1st

Michael (David Fielder) is a Devon farmer. Everyone knows everyone else in his local, rural community, and he is often visited by the vet Jeffrey (Nigel Hastings), first glimpsed in an uncharacteristic, bright red cowboy hat he won at a local village do when he turns up to help with the delivery of a calf. He’s previously tested Michael’s cows for Foot and Mouth disease, and all the results have been negative.

Later in 2001, Jeffrey visits Michael again, but this time with three other white-protective-suited colleagues and some bad news. With the Foot and Mouth outbreak reaching epidemic proportions, the government has decided to cull all cattle within a three-mile radius of any infection, regardless of whether they test negative or positive for the disease. Michael, shotgun at the ready, thinks there’s a mistake because, as Jeffrey knows, Michael’s herd has tested negative. But, as Jeffrey attempts to explain, government policy doesn’t work like that…

There are further scenes in December 2001, eight years later in 2009 and four years later still in 2013.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Old Man
Movie
Lactopalypse!
(Vanamehe Film)

Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – Cert. 15 – 88m

***

A farmer and his grandchildren must recapture his unmilked cow before its udders burst into lactopalypse – stop-frame epic is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd and currently screening in previews

Estonia’s answer to Britain’s Shaun The Sheep, this feature spin-off from long-running, popular, puppet animation TV comedy series Vanamehe Multikas (Old Man Cartoon) shows Estonian sensibilities to be very different from those of the British. This is aimed at not as you might expect children but rather the young adult market – it’s stuffed full of sexual innuendo and toilet or other bodily function humour. Since I can imagine it being an uproarious experience with the right audience, it’s a shame to have first seen this online rather than in a packed movie theatre owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bookended by black and white newsreel of Old Milker’s disastrous failure to stop a cow’s unmilked udders exploding into a lactopolypse complete with milk mushroom cloud, the plot has three kids sent to stay with their grandpa on his farm for the summer. Their family car back seat introduction shows us teenage boy Priidik and girl Aino constantly on their mobile phones while their pre-teen boy sibling Mart has built an incredible, fully functioning, miniature robot cow for grandpa.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Women Talking

Director – Sarah Polley – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 104m

*****

Should we stay or should we go? Following an incident of mass sexual abuse in an isolated religious community, its women debate the question, stay and fight – or leave? – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 10th

Here’s a film that defies the rule that, by rights, a bunch of people talking to one another in one location ought to make for tedious cinema. (Such outings usually work very well on the stage, a medium about a bunch of people talking in one location.) Yet Sarah Polley’s adaptation of the novel Women Talking proves electrifying. It’s based on a novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews which is in turn based on horrifying real life events (although the book is “an imagined response to real events”, rather than an attempt to actually conjure or describe those events).

Between 2005 and 2009, in an isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia, over a hundred girls and women were raped in their sleep. Their discoveries were initially dismissed by the community’s menfolk until it came to light that a small group of men had sprayed the interiors of the victims’ houses with animal anaesthetic to render them and their families unconscious.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Return To Dust
(Yin Ru Chen Yan,
隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossomsout in UK cinemas Friday, November 4th following its screening in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Seven Samurai
(Shichinin
No Samurai,
七人の侍)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1954 – Japan – Cert. PG – 207m – Oscar nominated

Seven samurai must defend a poor village of farmers from bandits in one of the greatest action movies ever made – both released in cinemas in a brand-new restoration from Friday, October 29th and currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan 2021 programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Seven Samurai opens with a group of horsemen on a horizon. Notwithstanding the Japanese titles on the screen, you could be watching a Hollywood Western. Although what follows is a tale of samurai, bandits and farmers, it’s so close to ideas in a Western that Hollywood replaced sword with guns and retooled it as the hugely successful The Magnificent Seven (1960).

event_49554_original

The plot concerns a small farming village threatened by bandits, who attack at harvest time and take all the crops. The farmers find a group of samurai prepared to defend them against the bandits in return for food and lodging. From a script co-written with two others Kurosawa delivers a measured epic which explodes into action in its final hour and a bit… [Read more]

I review Seven Samurai for All The Anime.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Hidden Fortress
(Kakushi-Toride
No San-Akunin,
隠し砦の三悪人)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1958 – Japan – Cert. PG – 138m

***

Currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Captured by soldiers, two wandering bumpkin farmers (Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara) are put waist deep in a waterlogged pit with scores of other prisoners and ordered to dig for treasure. Before they can find it, however, they manage to escape. In the middle of nowhere, one of them slings away a useless, sodden branch from their attempted campfire. It goes chink. Inside the wood is concealed gold with a royal seal upon it.

So begins Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 foray into chambara (Japanese popular historical epic genre) which also features a beautiful princess in exile (Misa Uehara) and her heroic general (Toshiro Mifune) intent on restoring her with the clan’s gold. If the story sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s George Lucas’ main source for his Star Wars (1977) (and one or two elements in its sequels), which today lend Kurosawa’s film an added interest. The Hidden Fortress puts hero, heroine and their two unlikely companions through a series of set piece adventures including lance duels, a spectacularly choreographed folk fire festival, horseback pursuits and, indeed, the discovery fairly early on in the proceedings of the eponymous hidden fortress.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Favorite War
(Mans mīļākais karš)

Director – Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen – 2020 – Latvia, Norway – Cert. N/C 12+ – 77m

****

Autobiographical documentary employs cut-out animation to describe a childhood in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet UnionGlasgow Film Festival Thursday, February 25th to Sunday, February 28th

In World War Two. Latvia was caught between the Nazis and the Russians. After the Nazis capitulated, the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Ilze’s grandfather, a small farmer, was declared an Enemy of the State and sent to Siberia because he owned a small piece of land. Her Communist Party member father became a City Manager but he was killed in a car crash leaving her mother to bring up her and her brother alone.

At age three, Ilze’s parents risk everything by taking her to a forbidden beach a few miles from their home just so their young daughter can see the sea. This is the self-proclaimed “happiest country in the world” where party officials can queue jump and take the last pack of butter, where peace is paramount but shooting lessons are mandatory at school. As Ilze grows, she must keep quiet about all sorts of things or her mother will lose her job.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Mosley

Director – Kirby Atkins – 2019 – China, New Zealand – 97m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Mosley (voiced by writer-director Kirby Atkins) is a thoriphant who lives on the small holdings farm of his owner Simon (Curt Cloniger) where he and Bera (Lucy Lawless) have a small boy Rue (voiced by director’s daughter Leah Atkins when little and Scarlett Sills in additional dialogue). The backbreaking work Mosley does for Simon is that of a plough horse. Simon is not a particularly bad man, but sees nothing wrong with pushing Mosley as far as he can with the result that Mosley is often completely exhausted by the end of the day.

He then has to contend with the hyperactive Rue leaping on him and demanding he come out and play. One evening, Rue wants dad to come and see his new hiding place and Bera insists it’s important. Rue talks about what he would do if he had hands, which takes Mosley back somewhat since thoriphants have hooved feet like horses or cows. A trip to Rue’s hideout reveals vast, underground cave paintings of thoriphants walking upright. And they have hands. There’s a long tunnel there too.

Mosley patiently explains that the uprights “are not real.… Read the rest