Categories
Animation Features Movies

Belle (Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime)

Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. tbc – 121m

*****

A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – in cinemas in the BFI London Film Festival 2021 with its UK Premiere on Thursday, October 7th and its Scottish Premiere in Scotland Loves Anime on Saturday, October 16th

‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.

Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Beyond The Mask

Directors – Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds – 2021 – UK – 60m

****

People talk about their experiences of bereavement in the light of the COVID-19 lockdown – playing in a free webinar on Zoom (donation suggested) Thursday, September 30th, 6.30 to 9pm GMT

In March 2020, the unthinkable happened as the world entered a global pandemic. In the ensuing year or so many people lost their lives while many more felt and indeed still feel a sense of loss for the ’normal’ life that existed beforehand. Directors Harris and Edmonds are no strangers to bereavement having lost their son unexpectedly at age 22 while he was travelling abroad in 2013 and part of their process of dealing with it was to make the excellent documentary A Love That Never Dies (Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds, 2018) in which bereaved parents talk about their different experiences of losing children.

Not everyone has suffered the misfortune of losing a child, but if you’re reading this you will invariably have lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, at least thus far. This latter condition is universal. So, what does the experience of bereavement have to say to our current situation of the pandemic – or, for that matter, what does our current situation of the pandemic have to say to our experience of bereavement?… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Rose: A Love Story

Director – Jennifer Sheridan – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 86m

*****

A couple isolate themselves from the outside world by living off grid in the woods for reasons not immediately apparent – out in the UK on digital including Amazon Prime from Monday, April 5th

The LFF put this in their Cult strand and the label fitted perfectly. Impressionistic images show cutlery, cups, CDs hanging from trees. A man leaves a hunting cabin. A woman sleeps in a bed. An eye of a beast in close up. A rabbit. The woman wakes, startled by a man’s voice. She puts paper in a typewriter. The rabbit is killed in a trap.

“I’m trying to give the doctor a reason to be in Prague so Susie can meet him,” Rose (Sophie Rundle) tells Sam (Matt Stokoe, also the film’s screenwriter). She is writing a book and they are living in isolation in the woods. This seems to suit them although something odd is definitely going on. They have supplies of leeches in jars, and he sits reading of an evening after applying a few of these to the upper part of his legs. Then he mashes up the results into a red pulp which comprises her diet.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

76 Days

Directors – Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous – 2020 – China, US – Cert. 12– 93m

***1/2

A US documentary edited out of footage shot on the Wuhan Covid-19 hospital frontline by two Chinese reporters allowed access – on VoD from Friday, January 22nd

Documentary film making is a curious medium – one might even say genre – and this is a curious piece of work. On the level subject matter, it hits paydirt. The city of Wuhan, China has a population of 11 million. When it went into lockdown on January 23rd, 2020 as the authorities attempted to curtail the spread of Covid-19, who knew a global pandemic was coming? Few if any in the West and perhaps no-one in China either.

Be that as it may, two journalists, Chen and one who has kept his / her name off from the film, started shooting what was happening in four hospitals in that city, a lockdown which continued for the eponymous 76 days until the local outbreak was considered safely under control. Given what happened later, interest in the footage they shot and the film subsequently made is now far greater than they may have initially imagined.

Documentary film maker Wu was appalled by China’s initial cover-up of what was happening in Wuhan and sought out journalists who’d had access to events and documented them on camera with a view to exchanging information and making a film himself about the pandemic situation in the US, a project eventually cancelled.… Read the rest

Categories
Live Action Movies Shorts

Hello

Director – Chan Lok-yi – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 23m

*****

A schoolgirl looking for her first alcoholic drink falls in with a poor, unemployed man who likes to drink – online and Free To View in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

A schoolgirl (Chan Wing Sum) eyes up the canned alcoholic beverage section of the local 7-Eleven. She’s aware of the man (Ng Kam-chuen) at the counter asking, pleading, almost pathetically, “can I pay you next time, please?” Both are losers. After class, her teacher takes her aside and tells her, “unless you do something, you will fail.” 

The man, meanwhile, gets short shrift when he enters a local warehouse looking for work. The extremely busy and smartly dressed manager doesn’t seem to like the look of him but is quite happy to tell someone else, “you’ve come just in time.” 

Our man hangs around the streets near the school.  He’s grateful when a group of self-proclaimed Christians turn up to hand out food to the needy and enjoys a quiet meal out of fast food cartons on a bench in a deserted urban area as a result.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Away

Director – Gints Zilbalodis – 2019 – Latvia – Cert. U – 75m
****1/2
Exclusively in these cinemas from Friday, August 28th

A boy hangs from a tree by a parachute in a wilderness. He wakes. A strange, towering black / grey figure approaches, shining as if metallic or viscous like a solidified, smooth, crude oil or tar. It picks him up. He is in a dark tunnel, light at one end. He goes the other way, is out of the giant’s clutches, runs. It slowly turns and lumbers after him. There are occasional, giant, semicircular hoops in his path. He goes through them, eventually entering a grotto which fully circular hoop the giant can’t follow. Welcome to the strange, dreamlike world of Away.

Beyond an abandoned motorbike, in the middle of the grotto, is a lake bordered with orange trees and the ocean. The boy feeds, bathes and makes the acquaintance of a shy, little yellow bird. Finding a key and a map in a rucksack, the boy learns that the semicircular hoops mark a route to a harbour. His bike will furnish him the means to get there. A flock of white birds is flying in the same direction, however the yellow bird can’t join them because it can’t fly.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sputnik

Director – Egor Abramenko – 2020 – Russia – Cert. 15 – 113m

***** some of the underlying concepts and the special effects

** everything else

Available on VoD from Friday, August 14th. Now on Netflix

In the early 1980s a two-man Russian spacecraft undergoes a mysterious incident during its return to Earth leaving one of the crew dead. He has had half his helmet and half his head ripped off.

Survivor Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) is confined to a research base in the middle of nowhere for observation. Supervisor Kirill Averchenko (Aleksey Demidov) recruits psychiatrist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) who is in trouble for taking ethically questionable decisions concerning the life of a patient, believing that she did the right thing and saved a life. Averchenko needs someone who will do whatever it takes and damn the consequences and he would appear to have judged her correctly. Once there, however, she finds herself in conflict with chief scientist Yan Rigel (Anton Vasilev).

She quickly learns that the surviving, isolated cosmonaut is the host to an alien parasite which leaves his body at specific times of night then returns. And Konstantin, who suffered memory blackout during the return to Earth, doesn’t seem to know about the parasite.… Read the rest

Categories
Dance Features Live Action Movies

Climax

Director – Gaspar Noé – 2018 – France – Cert. 18 – 97m

*****

Uppers and downers – either way blood flows. Arthouse enfant terrible Noé combines technical skill and singular focus with some of the most spectacular dancing ever put on film to produce a dark and challenging vision of hell on earth – now available on VoD

Cinema at its purest. Bright white on a screen. A woman starts crawling from the top of the screen. Extreme audience disorientation. We realise she’s crawling through snow. She appears to be in a bad way. Traces of blood. The camera follows her forward movement down the screen. Slowly a tree comes into shot from the bottom. We are watching the same overhead camera movement.

A series of vox pops on a television screen with shelves of books on one side and piles of DVDs on the other. Dancers answer questions on why dance is important to them. Would they do anything in order to make it big? What would they do if they weren’t able to dance?

Then the narrative proper begins. It’s 1996. We’re inside a building with a dance floor watching the most amazing dance routines we’ve ever seen.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge)

Director – Michaël Dudok De Wit – 2016 – France / Belgium / Japan – Cert. PG – 82m

*****

From the get-go, this is not your usual 2D animated film. The Red Turtle is slow-paced, has no dialogue and is certainly not aimed at children. Yet there’s nothing here you wouldn’t want kids to see, as its PG certificate testifies. Whether young minds would be spellbound or bored I wouldn’t like to say. Nor is it Studio Ghibli’s usual home-grown, Japanese fare being a French-Belgian production by a Dutch director based in London. Nor does it start off where you might expect.

A man adrift in a powerful, stormy grey sea is separated by some distance from his overturned, small boat. There is no indication of how he got there, and no flashbacks explain later on. Rather, the character reaches dry land and must survive there alone.

The story functions as an effective fable about adulthood and life. Michaël Dudok De Wit and his team brilliantly develop the character of the man through the various challenges he must face… [Read the rest]

Review originally published in DMovies.org, May 2017, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.