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The Goldfinger
(Jin Shouzhi,
金手指)

Director – Felix Chong – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 126m

*****

Director Felix Chong reunites his two Infernal Affairs stars for a lavish, if frequently incomprehensible, 1980s tale of cops and robbers, corruption and fraud – out on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital in the UK on Monday, May 20th

The experience of watching The Goldfinger is a lot like watching the classic Hollywood private eye movie The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946). There, you know that the hero is investigating a string of murders, and the narrative is completely engrossing, even for the viewer watching the film for the umpteenth time, yet it’s also impenetrable and incomprehensible. And so it is with The Goldfinger, which is based not on a novel but on a real life financial scandal.

Real life Hong Kong conglomerate The Carrian Group, founded in 1977 by one George Tan, expanded rapidly and made huge profits until it was declared bankrupt in 1983. The whole operation turned out to be mired in fraud. In the film, set in the late 1970s / early 1980s, the central character Ching (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is modelled on Tan, starting off penniless but wearing suits that look like a million dollars and blessed with an understanding of what’s required to gain people’s confidence, secure deals and make money.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Hoard

Director – Luna Carmoon – 2023 – UK – Cert. – 126m

****

A young girl’s strange relationship with her rubbish-hoarding mother, cut short in childhood, leads to an equally bizarre bond in adult life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th, with previews from Friday, May 3rd

When I first stumbled across the title of this film, and the image used to promote it of a young couple staring into what I took to be a circular hole, which, I realised after seeing the film, was in fact the outline of a communal bin of the type commonly found on an English housing estate, I guessed it was a thriller – two people stumble upon a hoard: a bag of money or otherwise valuable contents. A noun. However, after viewing, I now realise the title could equally well suggest an activity, a verb. To hoard. The act of hoarding. The state of being which is hoarding. The film isn’t really a thriller. To describe it as a drama might be closer to the mark, but that doesn’t prepare the viewer for how utterly strange and alien the experience of watching this is.

Because the narrative starts off with the relationship between Cynthia (Hayley Squires) and her pre-teenage daughter Maria (Lily-Beau Leach).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Catching Fire:
The Story of
Anita Pallenberg

Directors – Alexis Bloom, Svetlana Zill – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 113m

***1/2

The chaotic life of the archetypal rock chick, told through her own words and those of her children – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th

After her death in 2017, Anita Pallenberg’s two surviving children Marlon and Angela discovered a manuscript; she had written an autobiography. Marlon worked his way through it as part of his bereavement process and was so taken with the articulate text that he sought out producers to turn it into a film. (He is one of the film’s executive producers himself, while both directors are credited as among the producers). Numerous clips from an interview with him are used in this resultant documentary, along with excerpts from Anita’s manuscript voiced by an actress, along with interview footage with Angela and verbal audio from Rolling Stones band member Keith Richards, Anita’s partner for a decade and the father of her children.

Like many of the young generation who rose meteorically to cultural prominence in the swinging sixties, Anita Pallenberg was a war baby. Her first years were accompanied by the sound of falling bombs; as she puts it, she didn’t learn to walk, but to run.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nightwatch
(Nattevagten)

Director – Ole Bornedal – 1994 – Denmark – Cert. 18 – 107m

*****

Strange goings-on take place in a morgue after a law student takes on the nightwatchman’s job – out on Shudder UK from Friday, May 17th

Two male students Jens (Kim Bodnia) and Martin (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) make a pact: they are to challenge one another to a series of outrageous acts, and the first one who fails to follow though must marry his girlfriend. One evening, they and respective girlfriends Kalinka (Sofie Gråbøl) and Lotte (Lotte Andersen) are in a bar when two louts appear and hassle the two women as they return from the ladies room. Martin challenges Jens to stand up to them, which he does and gets assaulted for his pains. Jens later challenges Martin to go with 17-year-old prostitute Joyce (Rikke Louise Andersson), an encounter Jens facilitates in a restaurant, pinning his own name on Martin as a cover. Their swapping of names will later prove highly significant.

To save some money for his and Kalinka’s future, Martin takes on a job as a nightwatchman in a morgue, an easy enough job provided you don’t mind being the only living person on the premises along with a batch of corpses, which often includes murder victims since a murderer is currently at large in the area.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nightwatch:
Demons Are Forever
(Nattevagten –
Dæmoner Går i Arv)

Director – Ole Bornedal – 2023 – Denmark – 110m

****1/2

A law student’s daughter takes on his old morgue nightwatchman’s job to find out about the killer who traumatised her parents – out on Shudder UK from Friday, May 17th

WARNING: don’t watch this sequel until you’ve seen the original Nightwatch (1994). That’s easy enough to do, since both films are currently on Shudder.

SPOILER ALERT: if you’ve not (yet) seen the original, watch that before reading this review.

Almost thirty years on, Bornedal’s sequel is almost a retread of his original film. Almost, but not quite. Martin (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) has never totally got over his wife Kalinka’s suicide, caused by the fear of arrested killer Peter Wörmer. Several times a week, in scenes described but never shown, Martin visits the summerhouse where she hanged herself and talks to her. Martin’s friend Jens has long since disappeared to Thailand, while his girlfriend Lotte (played by a different actress, Vibeke Hastrup) still works as a vicar. Martin hasn’t heard from either of them in years.

Mental patient Bent (Casper Kjær Jensen) is a likewise incarcerated killer, a copycat. Later on, both he and Wörmer will escape their hospitals.

Martin lives with his med student daughter Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal, the director’s daughter who is terrific here) who wants to find out exactly what happened to her parents.… Read the rest

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All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out on digital from Tuesday, March 12th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… Read the rest

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Winny
(Winny)

Director – Yusaku Matsumoto – 2023 – Japan – Cert. tbc – 127m

*****

Based on a true story; the state attempts to prosecute the software developer of the file sharing programme Winny for copyright violation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

2003. After programmer Isamu Kaneko (Masahiro Takashide) creates a file-sharing programme Winny, the media reports that people are using it to illegally download movies. Across Japan in late November, a series of police raids on flats leads to the arrests of several Winny users, along with its creator. In custody and being questioned, Kaneko is very bad at paying attention. Believing the cops have his and society’s best interests at heart, he cooperates by copying into his own handwriting a confession they have written and signing it, on the verbal understanding that he can change or tweak the document before it is used in court. The interrogating cop, however, has deceived him into making a statement that will stand as evidence in court.

Defence attorney Toshimitsu Dan (Takahiro Miura) agrees to take on Kaneko’s case and is horrified by the computer programmer’s naivety about all things legal.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

SCALA!!!
Or, the incredibly strange rise and fall of the world’s wildest cinema and how it influenced a mixed-up generation of weirdos and misfits

Directors – Ali Catterall, Jane Giles – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 96m

*****

From 1978 to 1993, London’s Scala Cinema programmed everything from art house to sexploitation, ushering in the upcoming generation of anti-establishment musicians, filmmakers, and others – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 5th

Whatever the strengths of this film – and they are legion – it may be impossible for me to write an objective review of it. From my first visit to Tottenham Street to watch an afternoon programme of back-to-back Tex Avery animation shorts on Saturday, 25th October 1980, I could often be found at London’s Scala cinema in the 1980s, broadening my mind as I lapped up welcome servings of movies long or short, old or new, highbrow or trashy. So there are a few additional titbits in what follows which come from my own personal, mental Scala archive of memory rather than from the documentary itself.

As for the date, my memory’s not actually that good. Such information can, however, be discerned from the wondrous if unfeasibly large-sized book SCALA CINEMA 1978-1993, which amongst other things contains all the monthly Scala programmes. It was written by co-director and former Scala employee / programmer Jane Giles’ and edited by fellow co-director Ali Catterall.… Read the rest

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Fez Summer ’55
(” 55″ خمسة وخمسين)

Director – Abdelhai Laraki – 2023 – Morocco – Cert. none – 114m

****

An 11-year-old boy navigates the rooftops of a Moroccan city while insurgents plot the overthrow of French colonialists in private courtyards and sometimes confront the occupying police in the streets – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The old medina of Moroccan city Fez, a lattice of narrow streets where there is room for no more than pedestrian traffic. Or, to 11-year-old boy Kamal (Ayman Driwi), a network of rooftops and walkways allowing him to go anywhere. His freedom on the top of the city stands in sharp contrast to the country’s political reality: occupied by France, with their police patrolling the streets. The locals either keep their heads down or agitate for the return of their exiled ruler, Sultan Mohammed V.

The story is very much told from Kamal’s point of view. He is at once possessed of a child’s enthusiasm for life and from his rooftop vantage point able to see things unseen by most of the narrative’s adults most of the time. Yet, he is hampered by his immaturity and lack of understanding of what’s really going on.… Read the rest

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#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