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Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Director – Don Siegel – 1956 – US – Cert. PG – 80m

*****

The classic, paranoid SF outing about the residents of a small, American town being replaced by conformist, emotionless duplicates – on BFI Blu-ray from Monday, October 25th

This is an incomplete review, currently in progress…

Made in the middle of Hollywood’s 1950s B-movie Sci-Fi boom, this movie was made by Don Siegel who previously made hard-boiled crime thrillers after cutting his teeth as an editor of montage sequences in, among other things, Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) with a striking script and a strong cast headed by Kevin McCarthy and, in her first starring role, Dana Wynter, which also includes Carolyn Jones who would later achieve fame playing Morticia Addams in The Addams Family TV series (creator David Levy, 1964).

Based on a Colliers Magazine serial by Jack Finney, it’s built around the highly potent idea of human beings being replaced by emotionless duplicates who operate as a communal whole rather than individual people. It’s often been read as a metaphor for the anti-Communist McCarthy witch hunts of the period, but as noted in the fascinating documentary Sleep No More, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Revisited (2006), the left thought it was a satire on the right while the right thought it was a satire on the left.… Read the rest

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Censor

Director – Prano Bailey-Bond – 2021 – UK – Cert. – 84m

****

In the 1980s so-called ‘video nasties’ era, a BBFC examiner increasingly confuses horror films with reality – on MUBI from Sunday, October 31st

A peculiarly British film in that it pertains to the way so-called ‘video nasties’ were dealt with by the UK censor in the 1980s. With the rise of video technology, a legal loophole meant that while cinema films were given a certificate by the UK censor, films released straight to video were not. A number of horror films far more violent and bloody than the censor would allow for cinema exhibition thus found their way onto VHS videotape, into video stores and onto the nation’s home TV screens via the video player.

Sections of the UK press ran stories of ‘video nasties’ suggesting that seeing such videos would corrupt children and impressionable members of society. One or two Tory MPs campaigned for changes to the law, resulting in the 1984 Video Recordings Act. Now videos came under the BBFC’s remit (it changed its name from the British Board Of Film Censors to the British Board Of Film Classification) and video titles were examined then passed, passed with cuts or banned.… Read the rest

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Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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Throne Of Blood (Kumonosu-jo)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1957 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 110m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays. In 1957, Kurosawa reworked it against the backdrop of feudal, 16th Century Japan. Ascendant samurai Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) hear from an old crone at a spinning wheel in the forest that Washizu will become Lord of Cobweb Castle, later to be succeeded by Miki’s son. Washizu’s wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada, her face rigidly fixed in Noh mask poses) preys on his insecurities to convince Washizu to murder his way to the top. Slayings, ghost sightings, hand washing and his demise duly ensue.

Not only does Kurosawa jettison all Shakespeare’s dialogue, he also makes the material thoroughly his own even while remaining true to its essence. For instance, when Washizu, eating in public, sees Miki’s ghost, Mifune with the camera following him starts running around like a man possessed, slashing wildly at an unseen apparition.… Read the rest

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Dark Water (Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara, 仄暗い水の底から)

Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player and Shudder.

Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.

Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.

At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.

This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live.… Read the rest

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Ring (Collection)

Ring

Director – Hideo Nakata – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

Spiral (Rasen)

Director – Joji Iida – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

** 1/2

Ring 2

Director – Hideo Nakata – 1999 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 95m

*****

Ring 0

Director – Norio Tsuruta – 2000 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 99m

***1/2

Ring plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank, also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Ring and Ring 2 are on Shudder.

You watch a short, scary video on the VCR. Then your phone rings… you have a week to show it to someone else – or die! Ring (1998) took the world by storm.

A single parent, TV journalist investigates a cursed videotape…

I review Arrow’s Ring Collection for All The Anime.

Ring plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank, also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Ring and Ring 2 are on Shudder.

Trailer:

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Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

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Drive (Pulsión)

Director – Pedro Casavecchia – 2019 – Argentina – 7m

*****

A series of disturbing vignettes brings to mind work by Lars Von Trier, the Brothers Quay, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch – available to watch on YouTube (see below) from Wednesday, September 1st 2021

This Argentinan short, although computer generated, has the feel of stop-motion. It brings to mind work by Lars Von Trier, the Brothers Quay, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. A narrative conveyed by a series of disturbing vignettes (think: the opening minutes of Melancholia (Lars Von Trier, 2011) is put together with the same kind of fastidious technical attention to detail you find in the Quay Brothers’ films. A couple of scenes borrow directly from one of the murders in Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), but in a clever way that shocks you much as those scenes in Psycho originally did. There’s a Lynchian feel about the whole thing – not just in the strange, quasi-industrial sounds recalling Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977) or the weird lighting and heavily controlled mise-en-scène, but also in the overall feel of strange and terrible things happening within families and local communities, people adrift within the darkness of human existence.

One single viewing is not enough for this film which really only reveals itself on repeated viewings.… Read the rest

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A Quiet Place Part II

Director – John Krasinski – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

****

A family move out from their isolated farm on an Earth where alien predators hunt by sound – out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray & DVD from Monday, August 30th 2021

There are obvious differences between this film and its predecessor, the near flawless A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018) about a family surviving alien predators who hunt by sound, put together pretty much by the same director, writers, cast and crew. The first film was – well, a first film with nothing to live up to. When it became a colossal success and Hollywood clamoured for the inevitable sequel, the second film had to somehow be as potent and effective as the first but inevitably doesn’t have the opportunity to introduce the world and the characters because that’s been done.

That much is obvious without seeing the new film. There are other differences though. Firstly, the sequel leaves the safety of the farm where AQP mostly took place as Evelyn Abbot (Emily Blunt) and her two kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) venture out to find out what’s happening beyond their farm. They don’t really have any other option since their farm was overrun by aliens at the end of AQP.… Read the rest