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Crazy Thunder Road (Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo, 狂い咲きサンダーロード)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1980 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

Following on from Arrow’s superb BD of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (1982) comes Third Window’s equally impressive BD release of its predecessor in the Ishii canon Crazy Thunder Road (1980) – on Blu-ray from Monday, February 21st

This was Ishii’s Nihon University student graduation project, his first to be shot on 16mm rather than Super 8, which somehow got picked up for distribution by major Japanese Studio Toei which led to their giving him a budget for Burst City. Tom Mes, who as with Burst City supplies a commentary for the film, describes Crazy Thunder Road as “one of the Holy Grails of Japanese film releases if not the Holy Grail.”

When Toei presented Ishii with what seemed like astronomical funding for Burst City, it led him to overreach himself. In retrospect, he considers Burst City unfinished… [Read the full review at All The Anime]

Crazy Thunder Road was out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, February 21st.

Opening scene:

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Burst City (Bakuretsu Toshi Burst City, 爆裂都市 BURST CITY)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1982 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

Film ****

Cultural significance *****

Arguably the lynchpin film that brought Japanese cinema back from the brink of extinction in the early 1980s and paved the way for much of what was to follow – on Blu-ray from Monday, November 20th 2020

Looked at today through Western eyes, the opening with its breakneck, speeded up race through (presumably) Tokyo cutting between nighttime and daytime POV shots, with motorbike noises, anticipates the more demented pixillated chase scenes of Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989), shots of bikers recall the anti-establishment feel of Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) and patterns caused by moving lights burning into film emulsion recall Norman McClaren and Len Lye’s early animation experiments drawing and painting direct onto film. Then it seems to turn into Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) by way of a gangster film elements (two men in a car wearing a suit and a leather jacket respectively) who avoid a near collision with two punks on a motorcycle and sidecar.

How many of these precedents Ishii had in mind (or even had seen) when he made this is impossible to say.… Read the rest

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Souad

Director – Ayten Amin – 2021 – Egypt, Tunisia, Germany – Cert. 12a – 96m

***

Home truths are revealed about a 19-year-old, social media-obsessed, Egyptian girl in this small independent film – out in cinemas on Friday, August 27th

Starting and ending with a (different) young woman riding a bus, this slice of life drama takes a look at the lives of teenage girls in Egypt. The older generation live according to traditional, Islamic values, including the subjugation of women to men, while their younger counterparts like many Generation Z-ers around the world have more contemporary Western concerns.

For Souad (Bassant Ahmed), 19, it’s all about fashion, boys and looking cool on and off social media. Riding on the bus, she regales fellow travellers with tales of her boyfriend whose identity changes as she talks to the next woman sitting next to her. She visits a clothes shop and successfully shoplifts an item of headgear.

Having established her as either a teller of tall tales or a pathological liar, we see her giving her younger sister Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh), 16 going on 17, a pretty unreasonable grilling when the later complains, understandably, that Souad is late picking her up.

When Souad unexpectedly vanishes from the story, her shaken sister travels to Alexandria to meet and get to know better her sister’s former boyfriend Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem) in an attempt to find out more about sides of Souad’s life she didn’t really know.… Read the rest

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The Killing Of Two Lovers

Director – Robert Machoain – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 84m

****1/2

A family man separated from his wife who has agreed they can each see other people is consumed with hate for the other man she is now seeing – in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, June 4th

Morning. She sleeps soundly, a man beside her in bed. A second man stands at the the foot of the bed pointing a revolver at her. The first two are unaware of this. Someone can be heard using the bathroom. The second man leaves through the bedroom window.

Small town America. Welcome to David’s world. He (Clayne Crawford) and wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) are experiencing marital problems. They have four kids, a teenage girl and three younger boys. As agreed, David has moved out to live with his infirm, widower dad a hundred yards down the road. The couple have agreed that, while they try and work things out between them, it’s okay for either of them to see other people.

However while David assents to this on an intellectual level, he doesn’t accept it at all on an emotional one. He has discovered his wife is seeing a man named Derek (Chris Coy) and is furious about it.… Read the rest

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The New Girlfriend (Une Nouvelle Amie)

Director – François Ozon – 2014 – France – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

On BFI Player subscription from Monday, May 17th 2021

UK release date 22/05/2015

Spring

Spring

Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2014 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

UK release date 22/05/2015

Both these films can easily be ruined by spoilers, so be wary of reading reviews or cinema blurb or even watching trailers before you see them. That said, the following is spoiler free. Now read on.

Spring

The married, female protagonist of French maverick Ozon’s The New Girlfriend – based on a book by Ruth Rendell who passed away last month – suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a man who is not all that he seems. The single, male protagonist of US indie Spring suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a woman who is not all that she seems. In both films, the question is: can their relationship survive?

The New Girlfriend‘s Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) is distraught when friend since childhood Laura (Isild Le Besco) dies leaving behind a husband David (Romain Duris) and child. Having promised to look after David should Laura die, she sets about doing so…and makes an unexpected discovery.… Read the rest

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The Vast Of Night

Director – Andrew Patterson – 2019 – US – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

A radio DJ and a young switchboard operator discover strange noises in the ether which may possibly be of great significance to the small US town where they live in the fifties – on Amazon Prime since Friday, May 29th 2020

Bookended with a curious and somewhat redundant framing device which sets up an episode of black & white, fifties TV show Paradox Theater called The Vast Of Night, to which the otherwise colour film periodically and pointless returns from time to time, this is an enigmatic little tale set in the small rural US town of Cayuga where the local high school is set to host a basketball team for a match.

Older teenager Everett (Jake Horowitz) is trying to sort out technical problems before the game gets under way: Sam reminds him that last time this happened, it was a squirrel that had chewed through a wire and the wire was still in its mouth. This story seems to crop up every few minutes as yet another character relates their own abridged telling of it. And 16 year old Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) wants him to show her how the tape recorder she’s just bought works.… Read the rest

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Stardust

Director – Gabriel Range – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

In 1971, an unknown David Bowie tours America to promote his new album The Man Who Sold The World – on VoD from Friday, January 15th

The late David Bowie remains one of the most significant and iconic musicians, artists or stars of the last century. Aside from numerous clips of him performing music or being interviewed of radio or TV, he has a presence in a number of films, among them science fiction adventure The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicholas Roeg, 1976) and Japanese POW outing Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima, 1983). So if you’re going to try and recreate Bowie on film, you’d better be sure of what you’re doing.

On paper, Stardust seems to be doing everything right. Director Range is first and foremost a Bowie admirer familiar with the music, the albums, the wider body of work, the man. You’d have to be in order to make a film like this. And he’s honed in on a particular episode of Bowie’s life – a very interesting one too, the period in the early seventies when he was known for little more than two seeming novelty records, The Laughing Gnome and Space Oddity, the latter now widely regarded as one of his finest songs.… Read the rest

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Bone Tomahawk

Director – S.Craig Zahler – 2015 – US – 18 – 132m

*****

Western with cannibals substituted for Red Indians proves hugely entertaining – on BFI Player from Monday, December 14th

Watching Bone Tomahawk is to watch a series of Wild West vignettes with a small number of characters in different locations – a primitive burial ground, a living room, a sheriff’s office, a crime scene in a stable, camp fires on a cross-country trail, a cave occupied by cannibals. It is also to follow a series of characters – a sheriff (Kurt Russell) given to shooting suspicious people in the legs, a foreman (Patrick Wilson) with an injured leg, his wife (Lili Simmons) a medical practitioner, a ladies man (Matthew Fox) with a reputation for killing Indians and an enthusiastic, second deputy sheriff (Richard Jenkins) eager to do the job. With a masterful understanding of characterisation, the script outwits its audience at every turn while the cast do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life on the screen. Made on a shoestring budget, it’s a real pleasure to watch, a reminder of just how great the best movies can be.

Original UK theatrical release date 19/02/2016.

Reviewed for Third Way, which ceased publication in April 2016.… Read the rest

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Yes, God, YES

A plea for honesty

Yes, God, YES
Directed by Karen Maine
Certificate 15, 77 minutes
Released digitally on 17 August

Despite its provocative title suggesting a racy sex comedy about religion, this is actually a gentle independent film exploring the everyday inadequacies of American teenagers growing up within a conservative Catholic tradition. Essential life issues, including sex, truth telling, lying and religion, come up.

There’s a rumour going round Alice’s Catholic high school that she (Natalie Dyer) has been “salad tossing”. Having no idea what this means, she spends much of the film trying to find out. Impressed that Nina (Alisha Boe) has been on a four-day camp and seems to have her life together, Alice signs up.

The camp takes place at a Catholic retreat centre staffed by a nun and Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). Alice is immediately attracted to Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz), the camp leader and school football team captain. When Nina asks Alice to surrender her watch and mobile phone “because you’re on Jesus’ time”, Alice keeps her phone hidden to play games on it… [Read the rest]

I review Yes, God, YES for Reform.

Available to view on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Trailer:

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The Endless

Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2017 – US – Cert. 15 – 111m

*****

Second time lucky? Two brothers who escaped from a strange desert cult decide to go back for a second look, which may prove to be their undoing – in cinemas & digital HD on Friday, June 29th and on Blu-ray & DVD from Monday, 2nd July

The third film from independent US directors Benson & Moorhead following Resolution (2012) and Spring (2014) sees them cast themselves as characters with their own first names. Here, Justin and Aaron are brothers whose lives seem to have lost direction since they escaped to L.A. from an isolated cult out in the desert some years ago. Specifically, Justin pulled the pair out of there when he became convinced that the cult members were about to enact a mass suicide. However, Aaron is not convinced that Justin’s suspicions were correct.

These tensions surface with the arrival through the post of an old videotape from the cult which suggests its members are still very much alive. Aaron has fond memories of great cooking and a family of sorts so wants to go back and visit; Justin hesitantly agrees provided they stay one night only and then leave.… Read the rest