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Animation Features Movies

Inu-Oh (Inu-Oh, 犬王)

Director – Masaaki Yuasa – 2021 – Japan – Cert. – 98m

***1/2

In fourteenth century Japan, a blind musician and a deformed, masked dancer shake up the culturally staid world of Noh theatre by forming a hugely popular rock band – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave,2019; Lu Over the Wall, 2017; Mind Game, 2004) as he has a tendency to break with tradition. Here, he takes on periods of Japanese history but rather than go with power struggles as to who rules Japan, he focuses on two outcasts, an orphaned musician and a deformed dancer, who join together to form a rock band with an emphasis on theatrical showmanship to upend the artistic conventions of the day and become an overnight sensation until the ascendant ruler, determined to control the historical narrative, has the musician killed, and the dancer emasculated, forbidden to perform anything but state-approved material, and that only in the Imperial court.

It’s a triptych, one long story split into three sections. In the first section, after a prologue detailing the decisive Battle of Dan-No-Ura towards the end of the twelfth century, in which the Heiji clan were defeated by the Genji and the formers warriors threw themselves into the sea and perished, two centuries later in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, Northern would be Kyoto-based, shogunate emperor Ashitaka decides that the power to rule demands he acquire three sacred treasures, one of which is a sword buried in the lake at Dan-No-Ura.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Feast (Gwledd)

Director – Lee Haven Jones – 2021 – UK (Wales) – Cert. 18 – 93m

**

The well-heeled wife of a local MP hires a maid to serve a meal for guests, but then things go horribly wrong – shot in the Welsh language and out in cinemas on Friday, August 19th

It’s unusual to see a film executed completely in the Welsh language, and for pulling that off, the makers of The Feast are to be congratulated. Unfortunately, apart from that element and its striking visual palette, this fails to engage.

In rural Wales, well-heeled Glenda (Nia Roberts) is preparing to have guests over for the evening. Unfortunately, the girl she usually hires from the pub is unavailable, so she’s taken a replacement, Cadi (Annes Elwy), another girl who works there and comes highly recommended. However, Cadi is an unknown quantity and the woman doesn’t really trust her – and won’t do so unless Cadi can do something to earn that trust.

The woman and her family don’t feel like the sort of people you’d want to have anything to do with if you could avoid them. From Cadi’s point of view, she is most definitely not trusted by the woman who hired her, and feels most definitely an outsider.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

a-ha The Movie

Directors – Thomas Robsahm, Aslaug Holm – 2021 – Norway, Germany – Cert. 12a – 108m

***

The rise and career of the enduring, three-piece, Norwegian band a-ha – out in cinemas on Friday, May 20th

Norwegian trio a-ha are arguably best known for two songs. They swept to fame on the strength of their first hit Take On Me, which features extensively in this documentary. They were later asked to do the title for Bond movie The Living Daylights (John Glen, 1987), which gets only a few minutes screen time somewhere in the middle here, so I’ll get that out of the way first. The band write their own material and found themselves having to work with legendary Bond composer John Barry as their producer on this gig who, as they saw it, was used to having musical input and getting his own way. They talk about recording the song in such a way as to get round him.

Perhaps what this best illustrates is that musicians (artists, composers, bands) often work and operate within their own sealed worlds and if they have to work with rivals, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this instance, it doesn’t sound a good experience for either party.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Spaghetti Code Love (Supagetikodo rabu, スパゲティコード・ラブ)

Director – Takeshi Maruyama – 2021 – Japan – 96m

***1/2

The intersecting lives of several young Tokyoites suggests they don’t know how to communicate with one another – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

A young woman hangs out in an amusement arcade. Suddenly she’s aware of a young boy. Running, shouting, “why me”. He needs something. She steps into the breach and – for a moment, at least – provides it by holding him tight, a surrogate mother, an understanding human connection.

How far this understanding goes, it’s impossible to say. We never find out the source of the boy’s malaise, we never learn anything more about the woman who holds him in the arcade. However they have connected on some level – physically and emotionally. And that’s what this film seems to be about.

It’s basically a series of character study vignettes in which the characters occasionally cross paths which could well have been written or conceived as a half dozen of so short films. They connect with or become alienated from one another. It’s set in Tokyo with a title suggestive of complex networks and computer language with the catch-all ‘love’ tacked on the end.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Offering (L’Ofrena)

Director – Ventura Durall – 2020 – Spain – Cert. 18 tbc – 111m

**

When two former lovers run into one another, the fallout theatens to derail both their marriages – out in cinemas, virtual cinemas and VoD from Friday, July 30th

This starts off with webcam porn actress Rita (Verónica Echegui) giving a come on to an unseen viewer in American English, which is pretty odd because everything else is in Spanish. Surely not a cheap shot by the producers to sell the film to the English-speaking world? Anyone who thinks they’re in for an internet exposé along the lines of Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, 2018) is however in for a disappointment. Apart from a line later on where Rita is asked her job and replies, “I used to be a porn actress”, the whole sequence is gratuitous.

More relevant is the scene’s interruption by the arrival of Jan (Alex Brendemühl), sent by a relative to deliver the first of the narrative’s two eponymous offerings, a tall box containing a message or artefact from a deceased loved one. This has echoes of the Violet Evergarden anime series and its spin-off feature (Taichi Ishidate, 2020) in which the heroine works for a company which helps dying or terminally ill clients to write a letter or in some cases a lengthy series of letters to their loved ones to be delivered after the client’s death.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Bill Frisell: A Portrait

Director – Emma Franz – 2017 – US – 118m

*****

Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is a unique talent, a shy man and an extraordinary individual about whom fellow musician turned director Franz has made a remarkable film – now on DVD, BD and VoD

This extraordinary character study of one of the most significant jazz guitarists of modern times is remarkable not only for the portrait it paints of Frisell himself but also for the noteworthy list of names it interviews in passing. The newcomer with little knowledge of who’s who in jazz could take a notebook and and acquaint themselves with a remarkable number of incredible musicians of one sort or another, from the late drummer Paul Motian through more familiar, popular stars like singer Paul Simon and guitarist Bonnie Raitt to big band orchestra leader and composer Michael Gibbs. Indeed, the latter’s 2009 concert at London’s Barbican Centre featuring Frisell bookends the film allowing Franz to close on ‘Throughout’, the first of Frisell’s self-composed tunes the guitarist ever recorded. And that’s just one reason why you should watch Bill Frisell: A Portrait.

Australian independent director Franz worked for a while as a musician herself, which means that her director’s eyes and ears are attuned to what musicians do in composition and performance as well as how their minds work.… Read the rest