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Pulse (Kairo)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

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

Pulse aka Kairo (2001) has long been considered one of the key J-Horror films of the late 1990s and early 2000s alongside Ring (1998) and The Grudge (2002). It remains one of the two films for which director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is most highly regarded, the other being his earlier Cure (1997).

In a fascinating forty minute-odd interview on Arrow’s new, extras-stuffed release Kurosawa describes Pulse as a rehash of Ring. That observation doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Ring is about a VHS videotape, a death threat by phone and a deadly ghost named Sadako who crawls creepily out of a TV set. Pulse is about internet and mobile phone images before present day smartphones with their image-sending capabilities became commonplace. People seeing these images slowly lose their grip on reality and vanish into thin air by for example turning into a stain which then falls off the wall as little particles to be blown away on an air current.… Read the rest

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Sweat

Director – Magnus von Horn – 2020 – Poland, Sweden – Cert. 15 – 106m

****

An Instagram fitness celebrity struggles with the tension between constant self-promotion and everyday existence – on MUBI from Friday, September 17th

This opens with Sylwia Zajac (Magdalena Kolesnik) leading a demanding workout with a crowd of dozens of her fitness fans in a shopping mall. It closes during her appearance on the ‘Good Morning TVN’ TV chat show with her doing a wake up workout for the camera. Somewhere in the middle, when she visits her mum Basia (Aleksandra Konieczna) for a birthday gathering where she meets Basia’s new boyfriend Fryderyk (Zbigniew Zamachowski), she plays her latest fitness DVD on the big plasma TV she’s just given her mum – who thinks it’s too big for her living room.

Hitchcock once described movies as “life with the dull bits left out” but this Polish movie takes a completely opposite approach, with writer-director Van Horne interested in the dull bits in between the star’s high profile presence. Sylwia is as much an Instagram personality as a fitness trainer and has “around 600 000” followers on the platform.

During the opening workout, she addresses her fans as “my loves”, the mode of address she consistently uses in her posts and, it turns out, in life, and after the workout she publicly takes a selfie.… Read the rest

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Mrs. Noisy (ミセス・ノイズィ)

Director – Chihiro Amano – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

****

A writer and young mother struggling with an elusive second novel finds herself dealing with a noisy, futon-beating neighbour in a rapidly escalating row exacerbated by viral internet videos – plays online in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2021 in the UK

Two women neighbours get involved in a petty feud which escalates out of all proportion, fuelled by videos on the internet. While parts of the feud are riotously funny to watch, this is less a comedy and more a warning as to how badly things can go wrong between ordinary people isolated in their separate domestic units in our ever-evolving technological age of phone cameras and social media. The housing block in urban Japan could just as easily be in any city in the UK. It looks all too horribly familiar.

Having published one hugely successful novel, Maki (Yukiko Shinohara) gives birth to a daughter and resolves to use the experience to feed into the next novel. She keeps writing, but her publishers tell her that nothing she’s written is up to par. Six years on Maki, her husband Yuichi (Takuma Nagao) and their small daughter Nako (Chise Niitsu) move into a new flat in a new block hoping that the change of scene will be just what Maki needs to get the writing back up to standard.… Read the rest

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Hurt By Paradise

Director – Greta Bellamacina – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m

***1/2

A single parent mum poet and her upstairs lodger actress pursue their dreams in London’s Fitzrovia and Margate – in cinemas from Friday, September 18th

A strangely likeable, meandering little movie, this concerns single mum Celeste Blackwood (director and co-writer Greta Bellamacina) who writes poetry from her flat in London’s Fitzroy Square, in the immediate shadow of the BT Tower. Her out of work actress upstairs lodger Stella Mansell (co-writer Sadie Brown) helps out with the childcare.

Celeste’s father left when she was five and she hasn’t seen him since. However, she has a plan to go through al Blackwoods in the telephone directory until she finds him. Stella, meanwhile, is approaching a year of chatting nightly over the internet to a man she’s never met. But, as Stella says, you can tell so much about someone from their writing.

Throughout the film, which feels heavily improvised and consists mostly of scenes with both of one of other of the women in situations with Celeste’s little boy and / or other people, like a short series of sketches. Early on, Celeste visits a publisher (Nicholas Rowe) with her poetry manuscript only to be told that poets never make any money unless they meet death in a particularly nasty way, at which point their sales go through the roof.… Read the rest

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Find This Dumb Little #Bitch And Throw Her Into A River (Vind Die Dome #Trut En Gooi Haar In De Rivier)

Director – Ben Brand – 2017 – Holland – 87m

****

Privacy in the age of internet exposure. An act of animal cruelty on a video goes viral with terrible, unforeseen consequences – from the Schlingel International Film Festival 2018

One sunny afternoon, in a forest, Lizzy (Senna Fokke) picks up several puppies one by one and throws each into a nearby river. Her brother Remco (Nino den Brave) films the act on his mobile and, in an attempt to impress his peers, posts the video online. It goes viral.

Although the scene and the video we see here were recreated for the film, with special effects and editing making it appear that this actually took place when it didn’t, this Dutch film is based on a genuine video which went viral, with Hollywood director Michael Bay, no less, briefly offering a $50 000 reward for finding the girl. Director Brand has constructed a narrative around the recreated video, which he uses as his starting point. He elicits extraordinary performances from his cast of (mostly) young actors.

The children’s father Wim (Wim Opbrouck) runs an illegal business chipping puppies for sale on the internet. Since some of these arrive from his suppliers ill or injured and therefore not fit for sale, they need to be disposed of.… Read the rest