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Sleep
(Jam, 잠)

Director – Jason Yu – 2023 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 95m

***1/2

A pregnant woman becomes convinced that her husband is possessed when he starts sleepwalking and otherwise behaving oddly in his sleep at night – out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 12th

One night, a wife wakes up and looks at her husband. He’s sitting on the end of the bed and says, calmly, “someone’s inside”. She hears banging. She gets up, and we see she is pregnant. Fearing an intruder, she goes into the next room, household drill in hand. It’s the door to the verandah banging, wedged open with his flip-flop. She finds their dog, Pepper, a Pomeranian, hiding behind the box container with the laundry liquid. Returning to the bedroom, she sees him wearing one flip-flop.

Sleep is a horror thriller about both a sleep disorder and intermittent possession by a ghost. The wife Soo-jin (Jung Yu-mi) is a former film executive, the husband Hyun-Su (Lee Sun-kyun) a struggling actor in whose career she believes. On their wall, a wooden plaque proclaims, “Together, we can overcome anything”. Their new downstairs neighbour Min-jung (Kim Guk-hee), who moved in after the difficult old man who used to complain to the couple about the noise moved out, pops round to say hello and complain about the banging that’s been going on for the last week.… Read the rest

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Kinds of Kindness

Director – Yorgos Lanthimos – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 144m

***

A triptych of stories from rising star cult director Lanthimos performed by the same intimate, ensemble cast – baffling auteur exercise is out in UK and Ireland cinemas on Friday, June 28th

Beyond a description of its structure – three separate stories performed by the same ensemble cast directed by one of today’s more idiosyncratic directors – Kinds of Kindness is not an easy film to synopsize. If the term ‘kindness’ in the title is meant to relate to the stories, it’s not immediately obvious as to how that should be (unless kindness is being used in the sense of “type of category” as the stories seem to function, on one level at least, as exploration of categories of transgressive behaviour). In terms of actors giving performances, the film is a masterclass; in terms of technical achievement – camera, editing, sand so on – it’s top of the line stuff; yet, in terms of what the film is about, the point of it, why anyone would want to make this film, you may find yourself completely baffled.

The main cast comprises Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley with support from Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie and Hunter Schafer.… Read the rest

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Killers
Of The Flower Moon

Director – Martin Scorsese – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 206m

*****

A returning WW1 veteran marries into Oklahoma’s Osage Indian tribe at the time of the Osage Indian Murders – plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 20th

At slightly over 80 years of age, Martin Scorsese has now been making movies for over 60 years. Like his last, fictional, narrative feature The Irishman (2019), this one is pushing three and a half hours. I always have issues with films that long: the vast majority are that way due to director’s ego and / or inability to tell a story concisely. Some of them might have been better suited to a TV mini-series ( a medium in which, incidentally, Scorsese also works). Yet if you try and imagine Killers Of The Flower Moon cut down in length, it’s difficult. Maybe you could take out the frame story – the performance of a crime drama on the radio on the subject of the Osage Indian Murders – but that sets the scene nicely at the start and takes you back out of the movie equally nicely at the end, so it would be a shame to do so.… Read the rest

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A Chinese
Ghost Story
(Sien Lui Yau Wan,
倩女幽魂)

Director – Ching Siu Tung – 1987 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 95m

*****

Some of the most seminal offerings of the commercial Hong Kong cinema are the product of creative wizard Tsui Hark. The producer who first gave John Woo his niche as bullet strewn action director on A Better Tomorrow (1986) also ensured director Ching Sui Tung’s place in fantasy film’s Hall of Fame with this stunning little offering.

The Hong Kong supernatural, fantasy genre is itself defined almost single-handedly by Tsui’s groundbreaking epic Zu: Warriors From the Magic Mountain (1983). CGS both typifies the genre and proves one of its finest examples. CGS spawned two sequels for what Tsui describes as “sentimental reasons – when the ghost died at the end, we want her to come back pretty badly.” He admits the sequels weren’t as good, though.

CGS opens in a downpour as a rain sodden Leslie Cheung (known to Western audiences from such diverse fare as A Better Tomorrow and art house hit Farewell My Concubine, Chen Kaige, 1993) watches a grim, head lopping argument between two bandits as he does his cowardly best to look inconspicuous. His work as a debt gatherer suffers something of a setback as he discovers the ink in his books has run with the damp, so once he arrives in the nearby town he’s unable to collect the payments he’d expected.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Chicken
For Linda!
(Linda Veut
Du Poulet !)

Directors – Sébastien Laudenbach, Chiara Malta – 2022 – France, Italy – 75m

*** 1/2

A mother’s relationship with her young daughter lurches into farce as a domestic misunderstanding spirals out of control – from the Annecy International Animation Festival 2023 in the Official Competition section

This starts off with a poem in French – which, alas, has lost its rhyming in the translation to English subtitles – about the blackness of night and the empire of memory, illustrated by images within a little circle, including a ring. Then it moves to another series of floating circles, one of which is little, yellow-coloured, toddler Linda sitting in a high chair being fed spicy chicken – her favourite – by her muted-red-coloured father (voice: Pietro Sermonti) and her orange-coloured mum (voice: Clothilde Hesme), while amidst a popping of champagne corks – the muted red lines of dad’s colour against the black background – mother calls out papa’s name Giulio in horror and little Linda is upset…

The present, years later; an image not now in small circles but filling the whole movie picture frame. Schoolgirl Linda (voice: Mélinée Leclerc) badgers her mum into letting her borrow mum’s special ring, plays with it for a day then takes it to school the next day where she hangs out with her purple-coloured friend Annette (voice: Scarlett Cholleton), whose mum had bought her a beret in the exact same colour as Linda’s yellow, which Annette lends her.… Read the rest

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The Boogeyman

Director – Rob Savage – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 98m

*** 1/2

Two sisters recently bereaved of their mother start to imagine something nasty waiting for them in the darkness of night – Stephen King adaptation is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd

An uninvited man Lester Billings (David Dalmachian) turns up at the home-based office of therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) wanting to talk. His family died, and he is suspected of murdering them… but, he claims, it wasn’t him who did it. Harper has recently lost his wife, so it’s inevitable that Billings’ story will resonate with him. While Harper excuses himself to covertly call the police, Billings starts wandering round the home in which Harper lives with his two daughters – the teenage Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and the much younger Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair).

The scene in the office is the Stephen King short story (published in his Night Shift collection) and only a small part of the movie. It is, however, a highly significant part – the incident that sparks everything else off. Billings claims his family was slain by a hideous monster, and the impressionable Sawyer is at the age of childhood where she imagines monsters lurking in the closet or hiding beneath the bed.… Read the rest

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Three Colours: Red
(Trois Couleurs: Rouge)

Director – Krzysztof Kieślowski – 1994 – France – Cert. 15 – 99m

*****

An up-and-coming model strikes up a friendship with a retired judge after her car accidentally runs over his dog one night – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 14th

This represents the third part of a trilogy based on the three colours of the French national flag, with each film representing one of that nation’s three values of liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, brotherhood). I interviewed Kieślowski for this back in 1994, the second time I’d interviewed him. The first was in 1993 for Three Colours: Blue.

Like Three Colours: Blue and Three Colours: White before it, Three Colours: Red is about human connection or lack of it. As if to underscore the point, it starts off with an international phone call which fails to connect. In a nod to Dial M For Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1953) where a phone call is shown via images of telephony, little mechanisms springing into brief action to make a phone call happen, Kieślowski has his camera race along telephone cables on the ground, at one point following them down a beach into the sea and out again onto land on the other side of a lake or ocean.… Read the rest

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Run

Tramps like us

Run
Directed by Scott Graham
Certificate 15, 77 minutes
Released 13 March
2020

Now on BBC iPlayer until early November 2022, also on BFI Player subscription and iTunes. Review first published in Reform, March 2020.

Finnie (Mark Stanley) hates his job in a fish factory in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. He and his wife Katie (Amy Manson) have Springsteen’s legend ‘Born to Run’ tattooed on his chest and her ankle, but as he says to her: ‘We never did run very far, did we?’ This is a story about regret and longing, about not getting out, family and relationships.

Finnie’s older son Kid (Anders Hayward) has just got his girlfriend Kelly (Marli Siu) pregnant, isn’t talking to and has been dumped by her. Kid throws a wobbly at work, in the same plant as Finnie, and loses his job. When Katie gives Finnie the come on, he just wants to shower because he stinks of fish. Out of nowhere, he borrows Kid’s car keys and takes his son’s car out for a spot of illegal night time street racing, something he used to do when younger… Read the rest

Now on BBC iPlayer until early November 2022, also on BFI Player subscription and iTunes.… Read the rest

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Il Buco

Director – Michelangelo Frammartino – 2021 – Italy – Cert. U – 93m

**1/2

A Calabrian cowherd nears the end of his life while a group of explorers journey down a deep hole to find out how deep into the ground it descends – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

Literally, ‘The Hole’. Frammartino again brings to the cinema the style that made his earlier Le Quattro Volte (2010) so special. He sets up the camera, often at a great distance from the action, then leaves it there to record whatever happens. The narrative of Il Buco is actually pretty simple, a recreation of an expedition by a group of young, amateur speleologists into a hole in the ground in Calabria. (Speleology is the branch of science involved in mapping and measuring the interiors of caves, natural underground systems, and the like.)

It’s 1961. We’re first introduced to the place in a shot looking out of the ground at the edge of the hole as, eventually, the heads of two bulls come into view over the ridge. An elderly cowherd watches over the grazing cattle from a position halfway up a forty degree incline hillside. As the bus leaves the rich, urban developments of Northern Italy for the still unspoiled Southern region of Calabria, we watch it slowly make its way along rounds, through a small rural town where the party stops for the night to bed down in sleeping bags in the local, Catholic Church alongside statues of monks and the crucified Christ lying on his back, across open country until it arrives at the vast plain where the explorers will set up camp.… Read the rest

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Detention
(Fanxiao,
返校)

Director – John Hsu – 2019 – Taiwan – 12A – 103m

****

Two Taiwanese students find themselves trapped in their school overnight under that country’s White Terror regime in 1962 – on Shudder (US, Canada) from Monday, February 21st

This is a real oddity: an adaptation of a video game set in a specific historic period of political turmoil. That period is Taiwan’s White Terror (1949-87) under which, among other things, numerous books were banned by the ruling Kuomintang party on the grounds of promoting left-wing or Communist ideas. Merely reading some of these books could provide grounds for execution.

Like the video game, the film is set in the Greenwood High School. It’s 1962 and boy and girl students Fang Ray-shin (Gingle Wang) and Wei Chong-ting (Tseng Jing-Hua) find themselves trapped overnight in the school building after flood waters destroy the access road to the school. What follows isn’t particularly linear in terms of its narrative as school corridors, walkways, rooms and halls are visited by various supernatural beings and become scenes of terror, torture and execution.

The elliptical and sometimes repetitive nature of the storytelling and its component images mean that the film isn’t always that easy to follow, at least not to Western audiences familiar with mainstream Hollywood narrative.… Read the rest