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Features Live Action Movies Music

Respect

Director – Liesl Tommy – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 145m

***

Biopic of legendary singer Aretha Franklin’s career up to and including her live gospel recording Amazing Grace – out in cinemas on Friday, September 10th

There is much to admire in this sprawling biopic of America’s legendary Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. Let’s start with the opening scene in which 10-year-old Aretha (Skye Dakota Turner), known to friends and family as Ree, wanders wide-eyed through a grown-up party with its mysterious intrigues at the house of her pastor father C.L. Franklin (Forest Whitaker) to sing for the assembled guests, one of whom describes the child’s voice as “going on 30”. There’s a wondrous quality to this, a child walking through an adult world she barely comprehends where her stock is already rising on account of her incredible voice. We too are intrigued by the promise of this world then blown away by her voice.

However, there is darkness in this Detroit house too: her mother Barbara (Audra McDonald) who will leave her for the last time then be announced dead in a phone call, the boy who will shut the door behind him entering her room uninvited and the resultant shame she can’t articulate, her authoritarian father who will tour her round numerous churches from age 12 and micromanage her singing career.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

76 Days

Directors – Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous – 2020 – China, US – Cert. 12– 93m

***1/2

A US documentary edited out of footage shot on the Wuhan Covid-19 hospital frontline by two Chinese reporters allowed access – on VoD from Friday, January 22nd

Documentary film making is a curious medium – one might even say genre – and this is a curious piece of work. On the level subject matter, it hits paydirt. The city of Wuhan, China has a population of 11 million. When it went into lockdown on January 23rd, 2020 as the authorities attempted to curtail the spread of Covid-19, who knew a global pandemic was coming? Few if any in the West and perhaps no-one in China either.

Be that as it may, two journalists, Chen and one who has kept his / her name off from the film, started shooting what was happening in four hospitals in that city, a lockdown which continued for the eponymous 76 days until the local outbreak was considered safely under control. Given what happened later, interest in the footage they shot and the film subsequently made is now far greater than they may have initially imagined.

Documentary film maker Wu was appalled by China’s initial cover-up of what was happening in Wuhan and sought out journalists who’d had access to events and documented them on camera with a view to exchanging information and making a film himself about the pandemic situation in the US, a project eventually cancelled.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Moving On (Nam-mae-wui Yeo-reum-bam, 남매의 여름밤)

Director – Yoon Dan-bi – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 105m

***1/2

A father takes his teenage daughter and her younger brother to stay with their ageing grandfather for the Summer – online from 2pm Monday, November 2nd to 2pm Wednesday, November 4th, book here, from the Special Focus: Friends and Family strand of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) taking place right now

It’s the Summer, so dad (Yang Heung-joo) takes his two kids, teenage daughter Okju (Choi Jun-un) and smaller son Dongju (Park Seung-jun) off to stay with Grandpa (Kim Sang-dong). Moving location is no problem work-wise since he makes a living selling tennis shoes out of his small van on the street. It’s a precarious existence – at one point, he asks a man who runs a fabric shop whether he makes good money in that trade. And when Okju tries to sell some herself, she comes up against a buyer who has realised that the shoes are knock-offs.

There’s quite a bit of sibling rivalry – immediately on moving in, Okju refguses to let Dongju sleep in the room she has nabbed for herself after setting up her mosquito net.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Perfectly Normal Family (En Helt Almindelig Familie)

Director – Malou Reymann – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. PG – 97m

****

A girl struggles to deal with her dad’s new female gender identityin cinemas and on Modern Films Virtual Screening Room and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, October 2nd

This opens, closes and is punctuated at regular intervals with 4:3 aspect ratio home movie footage of a family, two sisters growing up and precious moments with their mum and, particularly, their dad (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). The first excerpt sees dad carrying baby Emma, showing her to the camera and herself in a mirror, showing her her mum Helle (Neel Rønholt) in bed and her elder sister Caroline / Caro in her cot, then taking her downstairs to watch the football match on TV with dad. “Are you a little football girl?”, he asks her.

The rest of the film is in 16:9 widescreen, starting off with teenage Emma (Kaya Toft Loholt) and the rest of her football team being told off by their coach. On the sidelines, dad dribbles the ball. She comes over and tackles him effortlessly. Later, when the family go to look at a dog because both girls want the family to have one, it becomes clear that something is up with their parents.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mad World (Yat Nim Mou Ming, 一念无名)

Director – Wong Chun – 2016 Hong Kong – 101m

*****

Mental health is no child’s play: all the odds seem to be stacked against a father’s struggles to care for his bipolar adult son, in a film that’s a sharp comment on Hong Kong’s failure to care for the most vulnerable – played in Creative Visions: Hong Kong Cinema 1997 – 2017, which took place in London between November 17th and 19th 2017

Lorry driver Wong (Eric Tsang) lives in a cramped apartment block in Hong Kong. He collects his estranged adult son Tung (Shawn Yue) from the hospital. Tung is bipolar and the doctors say there is nothing more they can do in order to help him. He must return home.

But “home” is less simple than it sounds. His mum (Elaine Jin) was bipolar, too. Dad walked out on the family years earlier. Tung resents him for it just as he resents his brother, his mother’s favorite, who impressed her by doing well in school and getting himself a lucrative job in the US where he now lives.

As he pointed out to his mother while she was still alive, it was Tung – and not his idolised brother – who stayed behind to look after her.… Read the rest