Categories
Animation Features Movies

The House Of The Lost On The Cape (Misaki no Mayoiga, 岬のマヨイガ)

Director – Shinya Kawatsura – 2021 – Japan – 100m

*****

Two children separated from their respective parents are taken in by an old woman in a benevolent, magical house with a malevolent monster nearby – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now in the Official Competition section

A younger girl and an older girl find themselves at Kitsunezaki (Fox Cape) Bus Station that’s been wrecked in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. An old lady appears and takes them under her wing. They walk through forests, then up a hill, until eventually they arrive at a huge bungalow with a thatched roof which is to be the girls’ home. Kiwa, the old lady, claims to be their granny.

There’s something odd about the house, though. The older girl Yui accidentally makes a hole when she puts a finger through a paper wall. Later, the hole has mysteriously vanished. Then there are the drinks which appear out of nowhere when Yui says she’d like such and such a drink. At night, outside, strange turtle spirits (kappa) gather.

The younger girl Hiyori never speaks. This appears to be the result of some sort of trauma.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Chinese Odyssey (Sai Yau Gei, 西遊記)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part One – Pandora’s Box (Sai Yau Gei: Yut Gwong Bou Haap, 西遊記第壹佰零壹回之月光寶盒)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part Two – Cinderella (Sai Yau Gei: Sin Leui Kei Yun, 西遊記大結局之仙履奇緣)

Director – Jeffrey Lau – 1995 – Hong Kong – 87 + 98m

***

The Monkey King is banished to earth with loss of memory for a series of encounters with monsters and romantic interludes – screened as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Saturday January 29th

These two films are the first and second parts of the same story, so it makes sense to screen them together as a double bill. The starting point is the 16th century Chinese novel Journey To The West, which has also spawned such productions as the seminal Chinese animation The Monkey King (Wan Laiming, Cheng Tang; Part One, 1961; Part Two, 1964) and the long-running Japanese TV series Monkey (1978-80). The novel’s plot concerns a monk and his three assistants Pigsy, Sandy and Monkey who journey to the West (i.e. Central Asia and India) to obtain Buddhist texts.

Less an adaptation of the novel than a tangential story that uses the novel’s framework as its starting point, the films are bookended by two sequences, one at the start of Part One, the other at the end of Part Two, which start the tangential story rolling and wrap it up respectively.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Features Movies

Son Of The White Mare (Fehérlófia)

Director – Marcell Jankovics – 1981 – Hungary – 86m

*****

Based on Hungarian folk legends, tells the story of three sons of the white mare who must free three princesses from their dragon husbands and restore the kingdom from chaos – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Special Screenings – Annecy Classics section

This has a script sourced from Hungarian folk tales. While it’s very cinematic, the writing is similar to religious texts like the Bible or mythological stories like the Iliad where events are related in a paired down, straightforward way no matter how far removed from everyday experience they might be. Thus, there’s a prologue about three princes begging their father for their inheritance so they can marry, only for their foolish new brides to disobey the patriarch and explore all the castle’s locked doors until they unwittingly unleash a dragon and are sucked into its domain.

In the ensuing chaos, the only hope comes when the white mare births two sons then escapes into the woods pregnant with a third. She weans him for eight years until her milk makes him strong enough to uproot a tree. Drained of milk, she dies. Treeshaker sets out to find his brothers Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer, of whom it turns out Treeshaker is the strongest.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Nezha Conquers The Dragon King (Nezha Nao Hai, 哪吒闹海)

Directors – Wang Shuchen, Yan Dingxian, Xu Jingda – 1979 – China – Cert. N/C PG – 61m

*****

A boy born out of a lotus flower must defeat the dragon king who enjoys eating live human children – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

The four dragons rise out of the sea to wreak havoc with fire and tornado over China. In his palace, General Li awaits news of his wife’s delivery. Is it a boy or a girl? His servant is unsure: after three years, the General’s wife has birthed… a lotus flower. The petals open to reveal a boy, already walking, of diminutive size. The General’s servants and his wife’s ladies in waiting are immediately entranced and an old sage Taiyi Zhenren flies in on a crane to name the boy Ne Zha and take him under his wing as a student.

After the local people anger the Dragon King Ao Guang in his undersea crystal palace by sending him food offerings when he’d rather eat live human children, the boy happens to saunter down to the beach for a swim just as Ao Guang’s Sea Warrior has arrived to abduct some tasty boys and girls and steals one of Ne Zha’s playmates.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Lotus Lantern (Bao Lian Den,宝莲灯)

Director – Chang Gwang Xi – 1999 – China – Cert. N/C U – 85m

*1/2

A boy must rescue his goddess mother from Heavenly wrath invoked when she fell for his father, a mortal – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Immortal Goddess Sanshengmu (voice: Xu Fan) falls in love with mortal man Liu Yanchang and leaves Heaven to pursue love with him on Earth. This goes down badly with her brother Yang Jian (Jiang Wen) since it’s against the Law of Heaven, so he sends an army of hounds down to earth in pursuit. She is however able to evade capture by keeping a lotus lantern close to her to make sure it’s not accidentally lit as this would give away her location.

Seven years later, while boating on a river with her young son Chenxian (Yu Pengfei), the lantern’s accidental lighting reveals her whereabouts to her brother, who promptly whisks the boy to heaven.  When she arrives to demand her son’s return, her brother instead imprisons her in a mountain. … Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Golden Conch (Jin Se De Hai Luo, 金色的海)

Director – Wan Guchan – 1963 – China – Cert. N/C U – 36m

*****

A mermaid falls for a poor fisherman and moves in with him arousing the wrath of her sea goddess mother available to rent online from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021

A coral island, drifting mists, drifting faerie maidens. Underwater. Every morning, says the female narrator, a fisherman goes out in his boat and sings to these mermaids. But their mother the sea goddess doesn’t like to be disturbed so she hides the girls from him by increasing layers of blue fog. 

The fisherman goes about his work and his net keeps picking up a conch shell which he keeps throwing back in the water. When he returns home, there is food prepared on his table, which is odd because he lives alone. 

Next day when he’s out, the camera closes in on his simple cottage. Inside there’s an urn, inside the urn floats the golden conch (the image distorted by patterned glass) which lap dissolves into a faerie maiden. She walks round the house, magics a fire alight in his stove and opens the window to marvel at his singing. … Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven 3D (Da Nao Tian Gong, 大闹天宫)

Directors – Wan Laiming, Cheng Tang – 3D Restoration, 2012 (originally Part One, 1961; Part Two, 1964) – China – Cert. N/C PG – 92m

****

The Jade Emperor assigns the Monkey King to a series of lowly Heavenly positions to keep him out of trouble and mayhem ensues – available to rent online from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021

In a blink and you’ll miss it moment, the Monkey King Sun Wokong breaks out of the rock in which he’s been imprisoned to realise he needs a decent personal weapon and talk the Dragon King out of his prized, giant Golden Ringed Wishing Staff, shrinking it to manageable size. The latter complains to the Jade Emperor, so to keep him out of further trouble Monkey is named Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven and assigned to a series of lowly Heavenly positions in charge of first the stables then the Queen’s peach orchard.

Upon learning that the Queen and her companions are unaware of his title and have failed to invite him to their upcoming banquet, Monkey turns himself invisible, causes the guests to fall asleep and takes the food back to his Fruit And Flower Mountain home on Earth to distribute it among his boy monkey subjects.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain (Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke, 新蜀山劍俠)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1983 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 98m

*****

One of the greatest special effects action movies ever made, this groundbreaking epic delivers non-stop, near unbelievable, visually entrancing vistas of Chinese mythology – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th and available on Blu-ray

There are films which seem almost single-handedly to define cultures. There are plenty of elements in Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain that can be found elsewhere in Hong Kong cinema – martial arts stunts, flying wire work, period costumes, stock figures, airborne drapery – and yet the precise way this mixes these elements up then adds in others and adds in lots of 2D effects animation makes it a unique work, even by Tsui’s extraordinary standards.

With the ancient world in which he lives in a state of chaos due to constantly warring human factions, a man gets swiftly out of his depth when he sidesteps all that to follow a hero in the hope of becoming his disciple as the hero battles the forces of evil. If this sounds very highbrow… well, perhaps it is. Or perhaps it’s just an excuse to put together a series of truly extraordinary special effects action set-pieces that transport the viewer to mythological otherworlds the exact like of which have never been seen onscreen before or since.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Pinocchio

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2019 – Italy – Cert. PG – 125m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 14th, on BFI Player rental from Monday, December 14th

Impoverished woodcarver Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) decides to make the greatest puppet the world has ever seen, tour the world with it and make his fortune. A wood merchant lets him have a log because it seems to have a life of its own. Unaware of its animate properties, Geppetto begins carving his puppet, a life-sized representation of the son he’s never had.

After he starts talking to it as its “Babba”, he is surprised when the puppet (nine year old Frederico Ielapi) talks back. Geppetto names him Pinocchio. No sooner has he carved the feet than Pinocchio runs out of Geppetto’s workshop to discover the world. In many ways, that defines the character and the story to come. The innocent Pinocchio is forever in pursuit of his own gratification, prey to the perils of the world around him and initially devoid of any sense of morality, something he struggles to learn throughout the course of the story in his quest to become a real boy.

There have been numerous versions of Pinocchio in film, television and theatre since it first appeared as a written serial in an Italian newspaper in 1881.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Subdue the forest

Wolfwalkers
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Certificate PG, 100 minutes
Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December

The tree cutters attempting to clear the forest around the walled town of Kilkenny, Ireland, live in fear of wolves. They also believe in WolfWalkers – human by day, wolf by night – who appear in daylight to call off wolf attacks on humans. Ireland is under English rule, administered by the God-fearing Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) through his northern English officer Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean), charged with clearing the forest of wolves. Bill’s young daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) dreams of slaying wolves with her crossbow. However, children are barred from leaving the city.

This prohibition doesn’t prevent Robyn from sneaking out to the forest, however, where her wolf hunting goes disastrously wrong… Read the rest

Review for Reform magazine.

See also my BFI London Film Festival 2020 review.

Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December.