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Features Live Action Movies

Master Cheng (Mestari Cheng)

Director – Mika Kaurismäki – 2019 – Finland – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

A Chinese chef turns up at a restaurant in a remote Finnish village and impresses the locals with his cooking – charming romantic drama is out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th

A restaurant in a remote part of the Finnish countryside. Cheng (Chu Pak Hong from My Prince Edward, Norris Wang, 2019) and small boy Niu Niu (Lucas Hsuan) walk into the local restaurant where the former asks for Fongtron. The owner Sirkka (Anna-Maija Tuokko) hasn’t heard of Fongtron and can’t help. He asks customers the same question, but they don’t know either. Cheng barely speaks Finnish, which scarcely helps. He doesn’t look like he’s going away, and when he asks if there’s a hotel, Sirkka points him towards a room that’s available. She attempts to feed the pair before closing up, but the mobile phone-obsessed Niu Niu won’t touch her Finnish sausage and mash.

And he’s not the only one: When a day or so later, a coachload of Chinese tourists turn up, they’re not very interested either. Cheng, sitting at a table, immediately springs to Sirkka’s aid and parleys with the Chinese.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

An Autumn’s Tale (Chau Tin Dik Tung Wa, 秋天的童話)

Director – Mabel Cheung – 1987 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 98m

****

A girl leaves her home in Hong Kong and flies to New York where her boyfriend has dumped her, so her cousin looks after her there instead – screening as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 8:15 pm, NFT2, info here

Young and innocent 23-year-old hopeful Jennifer (Cherie Chung from The Story Of Wu-Viet, Ann Hui, 1981; Wild Search, Ringo Lam, 1989; Once A Thief, John Woo, 1991, all co-starring as here with Chow Yun Fat) takes a one-way, 20 hour flight from Hong Kong to New York where she’s enrolled in acting school, something for which she plans to get whatever work she can in order to pay her way. Her other – perhaps her main – reason for the journey is to be reunited with her boyfriend, but when she goes to meet Vincent (Danny Chan Bak-yeung) off the train, she sees he’s with the more sophisticated Peggy (Cindy Ou / Wu Fu-sheng) and no longer interested in her, Jennifer.

Meanwhile, looking out for her is her Big Apple streetwise cousin ‘Figurehead’ a.k.a.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Hostile

Director – Sonita Gale – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

**1/2

A documentary about the UK’s anti-immigrant Hostile Environment policy includes a brief history plus stories of both those it affected and a charity set up to help them – out in cinemas on Friday, January 21st, local screening details constantly being added here

The eponymous adjective refers to the UK’s attitude to immigrants since 2012: the so-called Hostile Environment. Make Britain an unpleasant enough place for immigrants, and they’ll leave.

Gale’s film has three main plot strands. The first follows the Sair family, from Pakistan, resident in the UK since 2003. The second follows the fortunes of the Community Response Kitchen, a non-profit organisation set up to feed low paid workers in the London Borough of Brent. The third is a brief history of anti-immigration rhetoric and policy in the UK. Further material includes interviews with Windrush generation Brit Anthony Bryan and MP Stephen Timms, among others.

The story of the Sairs makes for depressing viewing. In 2003, Farrukh Sair married Saba in Pakistan. Four months later, the couple moved to the UK on a student visa to do a course. Today, they have a family, kids who have spent their entire lives in the UK.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Limbo

Director – Ben Sharrock – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 15+ – 103m

****1/2

Immigrants are holed up in a rundown house on a bleak Scottish island as they await letters granting their requests for asylum in the UK on MUBI from Thursday, September 23rd

A smiley chalked on a blackboard. A woman’s austere face suggesting exactly the opposite. Instructors Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard) are demonstrating how a man should behave towards a woman dancing to pop music. Helga’s top looks far too proper and her skirt both far too formal and long for a good night out, as if she were dressed for work in an office. Boris is admonished for first resting his head on Helga’s clothed breast then putting his hands on her bottom. “Now, can anyone tell me what Boris did wrong,” she asks the group of stunned men watching, seated.

Behind her on the blackboard are the words, “Cultural Awareness 101. Sex. Is a smile an invitation?”

Welcome (or maybe not) to the world of an asylum seeker from Syria placed on a remote Scots island. Welcome (or maybe not) to the UK’s Hostile Environment.

A rudimentary training centre.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Shorta (US title: Enforcement)

Directors – Anders Ølholm, Frederik Louis Hviid – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

As racial tensions simmer, two white cops become trapped on a vast, no-go housing estate – out in cinemas and on digital from Friday, September 3rd

‘Shorta’ is Arabic slang for ‘police’. An Arab suspect is interrogated and beaten in a Danish police cell, resulting in his hospitalisation. The story is all over the TV news. With tensions running high, and set to run even higher should the questioned man die as seems highly likely, the police are instructed not to enter the area of Svalegarden, a vast housing estate where many Arabs live.

With two officers under investigation for the treatment of the suspect, Jens Høyer (Simon Sears) is partnered with their trigger-happy buddy Mike Andersen (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann) with instructions from the captain to keep Mike on a leash during these difficult circumstances. In the course of their eight-hour shift, they pursue a car with Arab occupants which leads them into the forbidden Svalegarden estate, where after hassling the car’s occupants and getting nowhere, Mike pulls over a teenage boy Amos (Tarak Zayat) for no reason other than the colour of his skin and the way he looks at them.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Beasts Clawing At Straws (Jipuragirado Japgo Sipeun Jimseungdeul, 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들)

Director – Kim Yong-hoon – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

A number of individuals in dire financial straits do whatever they can to get hold of a bag of money – on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 6th and Digital from Monday, August 23rd

Seemingly disparate plot strands suggest a group of separate stories about to be narrated in parallel, but in fact they’re all part of the same story and eventually converge in this compelling thriller involving an ensemble of characters and a bag of money. A number of the characters are in dire and indeed impossible financial circumstances with no obvious way out. The bag of money, when it turns up in each of their lives, represents a possible escape route for each of them.

Lowly bathhouse attendant Jung-man (Bae Seong-woo) finds the abandoned carryall stuffed full with wads of banknotes in a locker on the premises. Of course, the right thing to do would be to hand it in to his boss, but his boss is a nasty piece of work who fires any employee who’s late twice. Besides, Jung-man’s incontinent mother (Youn Yuh-jung) who lives in his home has dementia, refuses to wear incontinence pads and makes life hell for his wife who works a menial cleaner’s job at the airport.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Settlers

Director – Wyatt Rockefeller – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 103m

****1/2

The lives of a one-child family living on a farm on Mars are changed forever by the arrival of a hostile outsider – out on digital platforms from Friday, July 30th

Reza (Jonny Lee Miller from Regeneration, Gillies Mackinnon, 1997; Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 1996) and his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella from Climax, Gaspar Noé, 2018) have emigrated to Mars to take over a farm which they now run with the help of their nine-year-old daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince from The Florida Project, Sean Baker, 2017). Growing vegetables and rearing pigs, they seem very happy with their lot, not least because that the Earth the couple left behind was not in a good way… We hear very little about it beyond a conversation where Remmy learns her parents never encountered whales or elephants, only dogs, even as that planet hangs in the sky as a constant reminder of where they came from.

The light has a reddish glow. Everything around the compound is dirt, rocky outcrops and occasional areas of bush and scrub. There is no-one else around apart from the three of them.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

My Prince Edward (Gam Dou, 金都)

Director – Norris Wong Yee-Lam – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 91m

****1/2

A Prince Edward resident starts to question whether marrying her boyfriend as the couple have long planned is really such a good idea – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Whatever your nationality, one of the great thrills of world cinema is when a film informs you about all sorts of aspects of a culture other than your own. That’s the case here. To call this a romantic drama is misleading because what it’s actually about is a woman on a culturally approved trajectory starting to question whether it really is something for her or whether she’d be better off finding a different life journey entirely by another route. That approved trajectory is: girl meets boy, girl moves in with boy, girl marries boy.

Perhaps there’s a second trajectory here too, suggesting that Hong Kong is a sealed, navel-gazing world caught up with looking at itself and that perhaps Hong Kongers need to get out of their homeland more, be that to mainland China to which the heroine travels for reasons of her complicated personal situation and later visits of her own volition or be it to America, described by the film’s mainland Chinese lead as a place of freedom.… 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