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First Cow

Director – Kelly Reichardt – 2019 – US – Cert. N/C 15+ – 122m

***1/2

Western (set in Oregon!) in which a drifter and an immigrant join forces to surreptitiously milk a rich man’s first cow and better their lot – in UK cinemas from Friday, May 28th

A woman with a dog (Alia Shawcat) discovers two human corpses in the present day Oregon woods. Flashback to the nineteenth century. Cookie (John Magaro), a drifter, is the cook attached to a party of trappers travelling through the woodlands. He’s a poor scavenger for food and as a result, they are starving – with much acrimony directed towards him. As soon as they find a small settlement, he departs company and lets the trappers go on their way without him. He watches a rich local take delivery of his first cow with plans for buying a mate and breeding a herd later on.

Cookie falls in with Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee) who has a hut nearby. They bond over a bottle of wine at King-Lu’s shack in the woods and become friends. Finding the cow wandering near their dwelling, they hatch a plan to milk it secretly at night (cookie milks while King-Lu keeps watch from a nearby tree) and use the milk as an ingredient in oily cakes, which they start selling at the settlement and which become a huge success overnight.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Shorts Television

Greenaway By Numbers

How Peter Greenaway’s obsession with various numeric and other cataloguing systems has led to the creation of highly complex, multi-layered film pieces that joyfully play with audiences

If ever anyone were to make a film about the Dewey Decimal System, it would be Peter Greenaway. He is obsessed with ways and means to classify the world in which he finds himself, systems to organise and make sense of that peculiar world, people’s relationship networks with one another and their movement and actions within that world and those networks.

I first came across him on the theatrical release in Hammersmith of his three hours plus epic The Falls (1980), made in between his early, self-financed short films of the 1960s and 1970s and his first, more conventional in length feature The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982). The Falls takes its name from entries in the section of a directory beginning with the letters F A L L e.g. Orchard Falla, Constance Ortuist Fallaburr, Melorder Fallaburr. The directory chronicles survivors of a Violent Unknown Event, VUE for short… [read more]

Full article at DMovies.org in association with Doesn’t Exist Magazine – purchase your copy now.

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Memories To Choke On, Drinks To Wash Them Down (Ye heung, yuen yeung, Sham Shui Po)

Directors – Leung Ming Kai, Kate Reilly – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 77m

**1/2

Four stories from contemporary Hong Kong comprise three dramas and a closing documentary segment – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

An anthology of four stories from contemporary Hong Kong – three fiction and one documentary – showing the city’s diversity: Forbidden City, Toy Stories, Yuen Yeung and It’s Not Going To Be Fun.

Forbidden City features an old lady (Leong Cheok-mei) and her immigrant carer (Mia Mungil). The first time ‘grandma’ mentions that her son is now a big shot but used – as the not quite right subs put it –to scratch his wee-wee when he was young, it’s funny. The second and third times, it becomes obvious she has dementia and keeps repeating the same phrases over and over. Mia initially refuses to accompany her charge to a reunion in town, but after taking a video of the old lady swearing that she won’t take her carer to her son’s office (“if I do that he’ll fire me,” the carer says), she agrees to accompany her on the bus into town.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Sweet Bean (An)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2015 – Japan – Cert. PG – 113m

****

Out on Eureka! Video. Also currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) and from Monday, September 12th on MUBI UK. This review originally appeared in All The Anime.

A chef (Masatoshi Nagase) carefully pours just the right amounts of pancake mixture onto a hotplate to make dorayaki – two small, burger bun sized pancakes with a filling of sweet bean paste in the middle. An old lady (Kirin Kiki) asks if his part-time post is still vacant. To get rid of her he offers an outrageously low hourly rate. She proposes to work for half that. He makes excuses as to why it won’t work. “Thanks,” she says, “I’ll come again,” and disappears. Thus begins director Naomi Kawase’s Sweet Bean, a bittersweet tale of suburban life across the generations… [Read the rest]

This review originally appeared in All The Anime when Eureka! Video released the film on BD/DVD. Sweet Bean is also currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) and from Monday, September 12th part of a Kawase triple bill on MUBI.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

301/302

Director – Park Chul-soo – 1995 – South Korea – 98m

*****

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Apartment New Hope Bio. A residential block of flats for the well off. Nice if you can afford it. Two rooms on each floor. The two rooms on the third floor are numbers 301 and 302.

301 has a designer-built kitchen. Perfect for newly moved-in Songhui (Pang Eun-jin) who lives for food preparation and cooking. She spends a lot of time in food markets sourcing the best ingredients. She has a collection of attractive and distinctive coloured plates because, after all, the way you serve food is important and can make all the difference.

Songhui is curious about her neighbour in 302, but Yunhui (Hwang Sin-hye) wants to keep herself to herself. Songhui will watch through her door’s spyhole and when Yunhui appears will dash out to say “hi”. If Yunhui possibly can, she will get in to 302 and close the door before Songhui can catch her.

Actually, Yunhui is curious too. At least enough so to spy through her own front door on prospective residents being shown around 301 by the estate agent in a flashback.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

True North

Director – Eiji Han Shimizu – 2020 – Japan, Indonesia – 93m

****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

The life of an ordinary family living in Pyongyang is interrupted when their father disappears and their mother is unable to tell their infant son Yo-han and his younger sister Mi-hee exactly what has happened to him, although she reassures them that everything will be fine. A few days later, in the middle of the night, there’s a knock at the door of their apartment. Officials come in and search the place, make the family pack a few belongings then put them into a truck.

On the ensuing journey, there are no stops for the lavatory. The truck takes them to a political camp where they will be imprisoned although it’s never quite clear what offence they have committed. Father is apparently an enemy of the state, even though he appears to have an exemplary record. Despite promises that the family will see him soon, he’s not in the camp to which they’ve been taken. They are going to have to fend for themselves there.

Mother does her best to keep her kids’ spirits up – no mean task when you’re living on meagre rations and forced to do backbreaking work shifts harvesting crops in the fields (woman and girls) or working in the mines (men and boys).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Perfect Sense

Director – David Mackenzie – 2011 – UK – Cert. 15 – 92m

*****

Currently available to stream in the UK on Amazon Prime.

This love story from 2011 is set in a pandemic and captures something of the emotions we’re now feeling in the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

Glasgow, Scotland. Michael (Ewan McGregor) is a chef. He likes to sleep alone, so if he takes a woman to bed, he’ll turf her out afterwards so he can get his space. That changes when he meets Susan (Eva Green), who then does the same thing to him. And yet, there’s something between them. They’re drawn to one another. A relationship ensues.

Which might sound like just another boy meets girl movie, but Perfect Sense is different. Behind the foreground of walking along river banks and sleeping together lies a very different backdrop. Susan is an epidemiologist at a local hospital. A man has lost his sense of smell and is kept in isolation. There are other cases all over the country. Suddenly, people are being overwhelmed with grief and losing their sense of smell. Some time later, they eat ravenously then lose their sense of taste. Later still, they go berserk then lose their sense of sight.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Little Forest (Liteul Poreseuteu)

Director – Yim Soon-Rye – 2018 – South Korea – 103m

*****

This review originally appeared in DMovies.org.

The passing of the seasons. A young woman finds her true self in the Korean countryside in this adaptation of a Japanese manga; the outcome will make you drool, for more reasons than one – from the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) and the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

Raised in the countryside by her mother (Moon So-ri) but dissatisfied with life there, Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) moves to Seoul and acquires a boyfriend. But after both of them have taken their exams, she returns to the village in which she grew up to get some space and think about her life.

The boyfriend has passed his exams and is hoping she has done the same, leaving messages on her voicemail to this effect, but she’s still waiting for her own result to come through. She doesn’t respond to his messages.

For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, but which surface to a degree in the course of the narrative, her mother has left, presumably to start a new life now that the job of raising a well adjusted daughter is complete.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Tampopo

Director – Juzo Itami – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 114m

*****

This review was first published on All The Anime.

This so-called ‘Noodle Western’ always sounded somewhat off-the-wall. It impressed when it first appeared in 1985 and viewing it again on Criterion’s new Blu-ray, Tampopo has stood the test of time well. “This’ll be famous in the history of cinema” says cast member Fukumi Kuroda in director Juzo Itami’s 90-minute edited diary of making the film, one of many excellent extras on the new disc. 

tampopo box

Kuroda plays the girlfriend of an unnamed, white-suited gangster (a pre-Shall We Dance Koji Yakusho) and the couple share a number of scenes involving sex and food. One involves him putting an egg yolk in his mouth which the couple then pass back and forth between them from mouth to mouth until it finally breaks and spills out onto her dress. You can find out the finer points of how they filmed this by watching the diary. Yakusho also gets a memorable death scene, bloodily gunned down by unseen assailants in a rain-swept. He then proceeds to tell his lady love about wild boar being hunted and turned into yam sausage on account of their diet, before he passes away in her arms.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Babette’s Feast (Babettes gæstebud)

Director – Gabriel Axel – 1987 – Denmark – Cert. U – 103m

****

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1987 (60th) Oscars

Pelle The Conqueror (Pelle erobreren)

***1/2

Director – Billie August – 1987 – Denmark – Cert. 15 – 157m

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1988 (61st) Oscars

This double review originally appeared in the Church Times.

JEREMY CLARKE ON VIDEO

Comments on Social and Religious Austerity.

Social hardship and religious severity have long been an artistic staple in Scandinavian films; two current video releases illustrate the point admirably. Pelle, the young lad of Pelle The Conqueror, is told he can conquer the whole world by his father (Max Von Sydow).

The turn of the century reality is less attractive, since the Swedish father and son are forced by economic necessity to migrate to neighbouring Denmark in search of farm labouring work. In Denmark, the boy boy struggles to keep his dreams alive despite local anti-Swede prejudice.

The tale and its setting strike a curious parallel with Babette’s Feast, in which Parisian refugee of the 1871 Communard uprising Babette (Stephan Audran) arrives in the Jutland Danish coastal region to seek refuge.… Read the rest