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Funny Pages

Director – Owen Kline – 2022 – US – Cert. US-R – 86m

***

A young, New Jersey comic book artist wannabe’s life becomes increasingly surreal when he leaves school and home to realise his desired career – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 16th

Guided by his art teacher Mr. Katano (Stephen Adly Guirgis), New Jersey high school student Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) is developing his voice as a comic artist, constantly comparing notes with fellow student / aspiring comic artist Miles (Miles Emanuel). Following Mr. Katano’s tragic and untimely death, Robert finds himself in court following his breaking and entering Katano’s classroom in an attempt to rescue as much of the man’s artwork as he can salvage before its otherwise inevitable, imminent destruction.

He alienates his middle class father Lewis (Josh Pais) by rejecting the offer of a lawyer friend to be his counsel, instead getting a state defendant Cheryl (Marcia DeBonis) who successfully gets the case dismissed. He gets on well with Cheryl and after the case is over, goes to work for her as an assistant.

Responding to an accommodation advert, Robert rents half a bedroom from Barry (Michael Townsend Wright), who lives in the sleazy basement of a well-to-do house in Trenton, sharing the room with established occupant Steven (Cleveland Thomas Jr.).… Read the rest

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Never Look Away (Werk Ohne Autor)

Director – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – 2018 – Germany – Cert. 15 – 189m

*****

A German boy wishes to become an artist, but his desire is affected by the events of WW2 and its aftermath, in possibly the best narrative piece you will see this year – twice Oscar-nominated film is now available on VoD

What is art? Why do artists make art? These questions lie behind Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s latest film, like his earlier The Lives Of Others (2006) a German story exploring that country’s history and identity. It clocks in at over three hours, but don’t let that put you off because it needs that time to cover the considerable ground it does. Never Look Away spans the bombing of Dresden by the Allies in WW2, the liquidation of people considered by the Nazis inferior and therefore unfit to live and the very different worlds of post-war art schools in first East and later West Germany. This means it also spans two generations: those who were adults during the war, and those who were children at that time and became adults in post-war Germany… [Read the rest at DMovies.org…]

Never Look Away is out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 5th 2019.… Read the rest

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Where The Crawdads Sing

Director – Olivia Newman – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 125m

***1/2

A young woman who grew up alone in the North Carolina Marshlands is the prime suspect for a murder she may or may not have committed – out in cinemas on Friday, July 22nd

The body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is discovered having fallen to his death from an old, 63’ high viewing platform. But did he fall or was he pushed? The reclusive, local outcast and so-called ‘Marsh Girl’ Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones) swiftly becomes the prime suspect after sheriffs find a red, woolly hat at her house, a fibre from which matches one found on Chase’s corpse.

As the investigation proceeds in the generic form of a whodunit by way of a courtroom drama, with the kindly Tom Milton (David Strathairn) as her self-appointed defence attorney against the state prosecutor in her jury trial, the narrative spilts into two separate strands, with the story of Kya’s personal history from childhood to the then present day of 1969 running in parallel until… well, refusing to divulge spoilers forbids me from saying, except that the final reel and the ending are arguably the most satisfying part of this engrossing movie.… Read the rest

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The Railway Children (1970)

Director – Lionel Jeffries –1970 – UK – Cert. U – 109m

****1/2

After their father is arrested and the family plunged into poverty, three siblings and their mother leave London for the Yorkshire countryside – now on BBC iPlayer until around mid-August, also recently back out in cinemas for one day only on Sunday, July 3rd

E. Nesbit’s book The Railway Children, set in 1905, has been filmed several times, most notably as the BBC TV series of 1968 and Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 cinema film, both of which starred Jenny Agutter as the eldest of three children sent from the city to Oakworth in Yorkshire. What is arguably the 1968 and 1970 version’s most memorable sequence has the children stand on train tracks waving red flags to stop an oncoming train and prevent an accident after a tree falls on the line ahead.

My parents used to sit me and my younger brother down and make us watch Sunday teatime BBC classic serials, something which has engendered a deep seated dislike within me for both filmed costume drama and literature considered worthy enough to film. I found the former stodgy and suspect the latter may be more to do with BBC cultural filters than anything else.… Read the rest

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The Worst Person In The World (Verdens Verste Menneske)

Director – Joachim Trier – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 128m

*****

A young woman learns about both herself and life through two personal relationships – twice Oscar-nominated film is on MUBI from Friday, May 13th

Trying to reinvent herself, Julie (Renate Reinsve) spends her student days moving from medicine into psychology (believing she’s more interested in what’s inside than skin and bones) then photography as she decides she’s a visual person. Suddenly the world opens up to her, she’s meeting new people and before long she’s moved in with popular comic book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie from 22 July, Paul Greengrass, 2018; Personal Shopper, Oliver Assayas, 2016). He is 15 years older than her and wants to have kids (he’s the only one in his family who hasn’t yet done so). She isn’t currently ready for that.

One night, after being pictured standing on an Oslo balcony in a repeat of the shot that opens the film, she leaves early from Aksel’s latest book launch and walking home gatecrashes a wedding party where she meets Elvind (Herbert Nodrum), their conversation gets very deep very quickly and they agree that neither of them will cheat on their respective partners, but then, as Julie says, where do you draw the line?… Read the rest

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Three Floors (Tre Piani)

Director – Nanni Moretti – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 18 – 117m

***1/2

Various personal crises beset three families occupying the separate floors of a three storeyapartment block – out in cinemas on Friday, March 18th

This drama is based around the lives of three families, the occupants of three floors of a three storey residential block in Rome. On the ground floor is a couple with a young daughter, on the first is a woman whose husband is frequently away on business, on the top are are married couple who are also judges.

In the course of its narrative it runs through in greater or lesser detail the subjects of birth, drink-driving, dementia, child sex abuse, seduction, jealousy, financial fraud, and flight from the law. It divides neatly into three sections, each five years apart, by means of two ‘Five Years Later’ titles. Most of the story’s surprises occur in the first section, with the two later sections providing time for the consequences of these events to be explored in the long run.

It adapts a novel that was originally set in Tel Aviv, here moving the action to Rome.

Frames from “Tre Piani” . Director Nanni Moretti DOP Michele D’Attanasio

It is (to say the least) a challenging film to review – or for that matter to sell – without ruining it in advance for audiences, containing, as it does, a number of major plot twists which completely redefine what happens afterwards, one of them occurring in the opening minutes.… Read the rest

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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 – plays on MUBI as part of their New South Korean Cinema season

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. But as their aunt Mijung (Park Hyun-young) is later heard to remark, although the pair argue they actually get on with each other quite well.… Read the rest

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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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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