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Features Live Action Movies

Come Come Come Upward (Aje Aje Bara Aje, 아제 아제 바라 아제)

Director – Im Kwon-taek – 1989 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 121m

***1/2

As a young woman attempts to live as a Buddhist monk, she embarks on a series of increasingly physical sexual relationshipspart of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

Soon Nyeo (Kang Soo-yeon) enters a monastery as a novice. She reflects on her earlier life. Alienated from her mother, who she accuses of living off the interest of money made exploiting poor people, she develops a habit of following men on their travels. First up is a monk who knew her father who suggests that the latter failed as a monk. After she’s walked with him a while, he deliberately puts her back on a train.

As a student, she becomes fascinated by her class’ teacher Hyeon Jong, 29, (Chon Yoo-in) who, she learns later, lost his wife when she was killed in the Gwangju uprising while eight months pregnant. Uninvited, Soon accompanies Hyeon in his train travels around the country investigating sites of historical interest relating to a peasant uprising having promised his late wife he would one day write about this for her.… Read the rest

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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

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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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad: Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Man Standing Next (Namsanui Bujangdeul, 남산의 부장들)

Director – Woo Min-ho – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 113m

****

The head of the Korean CIA becomes increasingly sidelined by President Park and decides to assassinate him – in Virtual Cinemas including Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, 25th June and on Digital Download from Monday, July 5th

Adapted from a novel, part historical truth, part guesswork and invented fiction, this is the story of Kim Gyu-Peong (Lee Byung-hun from The Fortress, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2017; The Age Of Shadows, 2016; I Saw The Devil, 2010; The Good, The Bad And The Weird, 2008; A Bittersweet Life, 2005, all by Kim Jee-woon, and Joint Security Area, Park Chan-wook, 2000), the last director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) under President Park Chung-hee ( Lee Sung-min from The Good, The Bad And The Weird, 2008) who was in power in South Korea between leading a coup and winning the subsequent elections in 1963 and his assassination by Kim in 1979. Confusingly, a second character bears the same surname as the President, Kim’s predecessor at the KCIA Park Yong-gak (Kwak Do-won from The Wailing, Na Hng-jin, 2016).

It starts off in 1979 with Kim entering the presidential safe house and vowing to the gate security detail that the president “dies tonight”.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Judas And The Black Messiah

Director – Shaka King – 2021 – US – Cert. 12 – 126m

****1/2

The FBI recruit a small-time thief to infiltrate the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers and report on rising political leader and activist Fred Hampton – two-time Oscar winner is on digital from Monday, April 26th

This cleverly and skilfully plays out both as a terrific thriller about a smart, small time crook recruited by the FBI as an undercover agent and as a chance to take a fresh look at a piece of US social history that has been presented in an unfavourable light by its largely state-sympathetic chroniclers. That piece of history is the Black Panther Party (BPP), long presented as violent insurgents intention upsetting the US status quo. However in the #BlackLivesMatter era when the police in the US have all too often shown themselves in sync with ideas of white entitlement, maybe it’s time to look at the BPP again.

I’m not sure you can totally exonerate the BPP – they did, after all, take up arms against the police although you might argue much of that’s in self-defence – but at the same time there seems to have been a lot in the organisation that’s good: social programmes and trying to help blacks and the social underclass stand on their own two feet in a system rigged against them.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Fukushima 50 (フクシマ50)

Director – Setsuro Wakamatsu – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 122m

****

Historically-based, disaster movie cum drama in which workers struggle to limit the considerable damage to a nuclear power plant hit by an earthquake then a tsunami – on VoD from Monday, March 8th

March 11th, 2011. A powerful earthquake followed by a tsunami hit Japan. Situated near the epicentre of the earthquake on the coast where the tsunami hits is a nuclear power plant. The resultant nuclear disaster threatens to decimate Japan. Coming in at slightly over 9.0, it remains the most powerful earthquake the country has ever experienced.

The above is history. The title Fukushima 50 is the name given to from the crew of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant who at considerable cost to their own health stayed at the plant to limit the damage as much as they could and prevent an undoubtedly appalling situation becoming far worse.

To anyone not well-versed in the specific technical minutiae of how a nuclear power plant works (i.e. most of us) much of what happens in the film is bewildering. Not that it really matters, frankly, because if someone looks at a gauge, reads off a number in units of which you’ve never heard and exclaims that they’ve got to get the number down, you have a pretty good idea what’s going on.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Monsoon

Director – Hong Khaou – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m

****1/2

A man who has lived in England for 30 years returns to Saigon and Hanoi to discover the Vietnam his late parents left behindin cinemas and on Vimeo, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon and elsewhere from Friday, September 25th

Saigon, present-day Vietnam, when bicycles and motorbikes swarm along the roads like purposeful, scurrying ants. Kit (Henry Golding) returns there in an attempt to discover the Saigon and Hanoi of his childhood before his now deceased parents left for England 30 years ago. He checks into the posh area of town, putting the wooden box containing his mother’s ashes on a bare shelf in his sparsely furnished, luxury apartment.

High tech housing blocks give way to the less affluent and more traditional blocks where most urban Vietnamese live. Kit meets with Lee (David Tran), with whom he remembers playing as a child and to whose family Kit’s mother loaned a considerable sum of money to help them start a small business, now a small mobile phone shop. Lee wants to repay the loan to Kit.

Kit goes on an English language tour in an attempt to track down some of the places from his childhood, but so many locations have changed or disappeared.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Coup 53

Director – Taghi Amirani – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 120m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 21st

Virtual premiere Wednesday August 19th, Q&A Thursday August 20th. Film available to view at https://coup53.com/

A documentary begun in 2009 interviewing many people who died before the film’s completion some ten years later, this covers the 1953 coup in Iran backed by President Eisenhower in the US and Prime Minister Churchill in the UK which replaced Iran’s democratically elected, left-wing Prime Minister Mossadegh with the Shah. The UK has never officially acknowledged its role in this coup.

Amirani’s researches lead him to a basement of documents held by Mossadech’s grandson in Paris comprising archive material from the Granada TV 1985 End Of Empire documentary series, for which he is gets access to the rushes from the BFI. Iran was included because it had been controlled by British interests for so long (because of its oil reserves). Amirani’s editor, helping pull all this together, is the legendary Walter Murch (Gimme Shelter / 1970, The Conversation / 1974, Apocalypse Now / 1979, The English Patient / 1996).

The name which keeps coming up in Amirani’s research is that of Norman Darbyshire who reportedly asked for his interview footage to be removed from the film following a pre-transmission screening at the BBC.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Default (Gukgabudo-ui Nal, 국가부도의 날)

Director – Choi Kook-Hee – 2018 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 114m

****

Drama fictionalises the economic crisis of mid to late 1990s South Korea and the role played by banking, government and speculators – teaser screening from the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 2019

The year is 1996. The news media are championing South Korea’s economy as it seemingly goes from strength to strength, never questioning whether financial institutions might in fact be pursuing practices which are sooner or later going to have disastrous economic results. Ms. Han Si-hyun (Kim Hye-su) who runs a fiscal policy unit at the Bank of Korea submits a devastating report to the Bank’s governor, explaining that she and her small department have procedures set in place to save the economy and protect ordinary Koreans from disaster.

The politicians have a very different agenda, however, specifically the smarmy Vice-Minister of Finance (Jo Woo-jin) who views financial collapse as a way to weaken the rights of the working class and restructure the economy in favour of large business interests. Although it’s not name checked, there are echoes here of Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine and the film based upon it.… Read the rest