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Perfect Days

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany, Japan – Cert. PG – 123m

*****

A cleaner for The Tokyo Toilet Company takes great pleasure in his everyday routineplays UK cinemas from Friday, February 9th

There is a pecking order in society. Right at the lowest level is anything to do with human waste. Nowhere is this more evident than towards the end of this film when his sister, who drives a large, impressive looking car and is making a rare visit to her sibling, asks, incredulously, “are you really cleaning toilets?”

In this remarkable film, Wenders turns this notion on its head. Welcome to the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), employee of The Tokyo Toilet Company, who has been doing the job for five or six years and takes great pride in it. He is part of a two-person detail, however his young co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) doesn’t share his enthusiasm, often arriving late for his shift and looking at his mobile phone on the job.

Hirayama drives a small van and has invested in various tools to help him carry out the job; Takashi rides a motor scooter. Hirayama takes great pleasure in his audio cassette collection (The Animals, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) which he listens to on his van’s cassette player driving to and from work.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies
(and more)
2023

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2023, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add / sort.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/23 and 31/12/23.

This version includes re-releases, but those aren’t numbered. It’s hard to imagine movies improving on Powell and Pressburger’s i know where i’m going or The Red Shoes, Powell’s Peeping Tom or Von Trier’s Melancholia.

In addition to re-releases, this version also includes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2023.

The star ratings may occasionally differ from the star rating I gave a particular film at the time of review.

Beyond the first 25 numbered titles, there may be numerous errors (missing links to reviews where I wrote one, year of release, country, and maybe more). All this will be fixed in time, but I wanted to get something online in the holidays.

Finally, last year’s list is here.

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2023

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Links yet to be added.)… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Film Festivals

Click the links below for coverage of:

2023

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF)

London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger

BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

Annecy

Focus Hong Kong

Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Film Programme

2022

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF)

London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

Annecy

Focus Hong Kong Making Waves

BFI Anime 2022

Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Film Programme

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF)

Focus Hong Kong Chinese New Year

2021

BFI Japan 2021

MUBI New South Korean Cinema season

London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

Scotland Loves Anime

Annecy

Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Film Programme

Or click any of these tags:

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Snow Leopard
(Xue Bao,
雪豹)

Director – Pema Tseden – 2023 – Tibet – LEAFF Cert. 12 – 109m

*****

A monk invites a filmmaker friend to a remote farm in the Tibetan mountain region where a snow leopard trapped in a sheep pen has killed nine sheep –the late Pema Tseden’s final completed film plays in the Official Selection at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which ran from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th

Film maker Dradul (Genden Phuntsok) has been informed by his friend Nyima the Snow Leopard Monk (Tseten Tashi) of an incident and so sets out for the region of the Tibetan Mountains with a small crew in his car. Following roads in the freezing wilderness, the car arrives at a remote farm which consists basically of a stone farmhouse and a sheep pen where the Snow Leopard Monk awaits them, along with the old farmer and his family.

The sheep pen has been breached by a snow leopard, a rare animal that’s a protected species in Tibet, and the old farmer’s adult son Jinpa (Jinpa) is furious that it has killed nine sheep. Confronted with the camera, he argues vociferously that man must live with the snow leopard, and that a small number of kills would be acceptable, but an amount as large as nine is most definitely not okay.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

#Manhole
(#マンホール)

Director – Kazuyoshi Kumakiri – 2023 – Japan – LEAFF Cert.15 – 99m

***

A man falls down a manhole following his stag night and turns to social media to get help and, hopefully, escapeplays in the Official Selection at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th.

The opening minutes of #Manhole resemble any number of Japanese movies you can think of as Shunsuke Kawamura (Yuto Nakajima) attends a surprise party put on by work colleagues at his local watering hole. It’s a good night, suggesting he’s well loved (albeit on a fairly superficial level) and he leaves extremely drunk, briefly saying goodbye to best mate Etsuro Kase (Kento Nagayama from Love Life Koji Fukada, 2022; Villain, Lee Sang-il, 2010) whose well-intentioned present – a lighter – may not be so much use to Kawamura now that he’s given up smoking. Or so it would seem at that point in the proceedings.

Kawamura must have drunk a good deal more than he realised because as he staggers home, he falls down a manhole off of which someone, by accident or design, has left the cover. His upper leg is badly cut.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

National Security
(Namyeong-dong 1985,
남영동 1985)

Director – Chung Ji-Young – 2012 – South Korea – LEAFF Cert. 15 – 106m

*****

An activist is arrested and tortured into making a confession, although it’s unclear whether his torturers have any interest in getting him to spout truth rather than lies – plays as part of a strand showcasing director Chung Ji-Young at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th

In 1985, South Korea was a right-wing military dictatorship (in contrast to North Korea, which was then and remains today a left-wing military dictatorship). Determined to build a prosperous economy, the authorities would stop at nothing to quell any form of dissent, and this repression included torture. Activists fighting for a more liberal society were considered to be in league with North Korea, and thus any means of suppressing them could be used.

The film is based on the experiences of later Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Geum-tae (here played by Park Won-sang), who as a pro-democracy activist in 1985 complied with a request to visit the local police station only to find himself bundled into a car and driven to a torture facility (later revealed to be the eponymous Namyeong-dong) where he would spend the best part of a month.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nambugun:
North Korean Partisan
In South Korea
(Nambugun,
南部軍 / 남부군)

Director – Chung Ji-Young – 1990 – South Korea – LEAFF Cert. 15 – 157m

*****

Gritty account of the Korean War based on the memoirs of a North Korean soldier – plays as part of a strand showcasing director Chung Ji-Young at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th

Based on the Korean War memoirs of Lee Tae (Ahn Sung-ki), a former North Korean news agency correspondent who fought for the North Korean partisans, this is a long and gruelling account of the Korean War, a South Korean production exploring a North Korean perspective. We rarely see inside the ranks of the South Korean forces. The partisans are all ‘comrades’ and women as well as men number among their ranks.

Inevitably, romantic attachments occur, although these are frowned upon and quickly quashed by superior officers. Which leaves separated parties desperate for news of their transferred objects of affection.

One particularly arresting sequence has Northern partisans shooting at Southern soldiers across an area of farmland until a child, seemingly oblivious to the very concept of warfare, wanders into the crossfire area. Both sides halt their shooting and come to a recognition of the humanity of the other.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Moment
Of Romance
(Tin Joek
Yau Ching,
天若有情)

Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m

***1/2

When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – out on Radiance Blu-ray from Monday, August 21st 2023 following its screening in the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2021

Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.

Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage.… Read the rest

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Hunt
(Heon-teu,
헌트)

Director – Lee Jung-jae – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. – 121m

****1/2

Two top KCIA operatives, each heading up his own department, both come to believe that the North Korean mole they are hunting is the other out in cinemas Friday, November 4th; opened the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) which ran in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

Two Korean intelligence men are sitting in a car. One asks the other riddles.

What’s a war in space? Star Wars.

What’s a war in winter? Cold War.

What’s a neverending war? Korean War.

A little background history will add to your enjoyment of this fictional thriller set against the backdrop of actual historical events.

In 1979, a South Korean coup d’état established the country’s fourth dictatorship since WW2. In 1980, with martial law declared, the Gwangju Uprising saw a battle between the military and ordinary citizens in the town of Gwangju in which at least 200 civilians were killed. In 1987, student protests lead to the overthrow of the Fifth Republic Of South Korea (1981-87) and free elections.… Read the rest

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Deliver Us From Evil
(Daman Akeseo
Guhasoseo,
다만 악에서 구하소서)

Director – Hong Won-chan – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 108m

*****

An assassin trying to rescue his ex-girlfriend’s child from organ thieves discovers a rival is after him for killing his brother – Wednesday, October 26th, 20.30 at The Cinema At Selfridges as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; also available to rent on Sky Go, Sky Store, iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play

In a darkened building somewhere in Japan, former South Korean government agent turned professional assassin In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) surprises and pacifies then kills his terrified, Japanese-Korean mob boss target. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Young-joo (Choi Hee-Seo) is in Thailand in the process of putting down the deposit to buy a golf course when her small daughter Yoo-min (Park So-yi) is kidnapped. Desperate, Young-joo attempts to contact In-nam through his boss over the phone, but In-nam has long since told her she must decide between her child and him and as far as he is concerned, she made her decision. He instructs his boss to inform her he is dead.… Read the rest