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A Fugitive From The Past (Kiga Kaikyo, 飢餓海峡)

Director – Tomu Uchida – 1965 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 183m

*****

Voted third in Kinema Junpo magazine’s 1999 list of the greatest Japanese film of all time, Tomu Uchida’s A Fugitive From The Past (1965) is the pinnacle of a directorial career that also includes Bloody Spear At Mount Fuji (1955) and The Mad Fox (1962). In the poll, it was beaten by Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) at number one and Mikio Naruse’s Floating Clouds (1955) at number two, For the record, the fourth title was Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) while the fifth was Yuzo Kawashima’s Bakumatsu Taiyoden / The Legend Of The Sun-Tribe From The Bakumatsu Era (1957). While four of those titles were made in the mid-fifties, often considered the golden age of classical Japanese cinema, Fugitive dates from the mid-sixties, allowing it to look at Japan’s post-war period from a greater distance.

Uchida’s film, which spans the decade 1947-57, covers a colossal amount of subjects in its first 50 minutes…

[Read the full review at All The Anime.]

A Fugitive From The Past is released on Arrow Blu-ray.

Trailer:

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Return To Dust (Yin Ru Chen Yan, 隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossomsout in UK cinemas Friday, November 4th following its screening in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years In Afghanistan

Director – Phil Grabsky, Shoaib Sharifi – 2022 – UK – Cert. tbc – 90m

**1/2

The story of a boy from his harsh childhood in a mountain cave through to his life as a husband and father of three in present day Kabul under the Taliban – out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, September 20th

Mir Hussain has already been the subject of two previous Grabsky documentaries The Boy Who Played On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan (2004) and The Boy Mir (2011). The first covers his time as an eight-year-old living in the caves of Bamiyan, beside the remains of the famous monuments which had been destroyed by the Taliban. The second documents his life from eight- to eighteen-year-old. This third film takes a longer view, following Mir’s life from that early period through to the present day.

Afghanistan has undergone huge changes in the last twenty years, from Taliban rule through occupation post 9/11 by NATO forces led by the US to the withdrawal of Western forces, the collapse of the Afghan government and the return to power of the Taliban. That story is related here via clips of various news reports from TV channels all around the globe.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time

Directors – Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 127m

*****

A warm and compelling look at the life of writer Kurt Vonnegut, the influence upon him of the bombing of Dresden, and his decades-long friendship with director Weide – out in cinemas and on digital platforms from Friday, July 22nd, BFI Player Rental from Monday, August 22nd

Read my shorter review for Reform magazine.

The documentary Weide eventually made about Vonnegut took him the best part of four decades to complete. Weide opens with a statement about Vonnegut walking in the woods, feeling a tree and seeing the bombing of Dresden before it occurred. There seems no reason to doubt Vonnegut. He was unstuck in time, jumping around the years and decades. Weide first contacted him in 1982, never imagining that it would take him anything like as long to complete the film as it did. He starts looking at interviews of himself (“who wants to see a documentary in which a filmmaker appears as himself?”, he asks) – defined by where they were shot or what shirt Weide was wearing at the time.

Whatever else Vonnegut and his writing are, they are not conventional.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time

Transformed by an atrocity

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time
Directed by Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott
Certificate 15
Released 22 July (cinemas and digital platforms)

Full review published in Reform magazine.

The late Kurt Vonnegut claims that after touching a tree trunk he saw the bombing of Dresden before it actually happened, and it’s easy to believe him. His whole life, he says, has been unstuck in time. Born in Indianapolis in 1922, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was shipped off as a POW to Dresden, a bustling metropolis unlike anything he’d previously seen. He survived the Allied bombing of that city inside an underground meat locker and emerged to see it razed to the ground. The Germans had him and fellow prisoners search for bodies amongst the ruins.

Back in the States… [Read the rest at Reform magazine]

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time is out in cinemas and on Altitude Film digital platform in the UK from Friday, July 22nd.

Read my longer review.

Adaptation of Vonnegut’s Mother Night (writer-producer Robert B. Weide, 1996) – review.

Never Look Away (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2018) also covers the bombing of Dresden – review.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Ladies Of The Forest (San-na-mul Cheo-nyeo, 산나물처녀)

Director – Kim Cho-hee – 2016 – South Korea – 29m

*****

A woman descends from the heavens in search of a mate, but lands in a forest where the pickings are slim – part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The source of this plot is a folk tale known as The Fairy And The Woodcutter or The Heavenly Maiden And The Woodcutter. There seem to be a number of variants of the story – a good, much longer summation can be found here – but, broadly speaking, it concerns a woodcutter so poor that no woman will marry him. He lives alone with his mother. One day, he hides a deer from a hunter and in return, the deer offers to grant him a wish. He wishes to be married. The deer tells him of a pool to which beautiful maidens descend from the heavens to bathe. If he steals the clothes of one, she’ll be unable to return and he’ll be able to make her his wife. He must not, however, return her clothes until she has birthed three children, otherwise she will use her clothes to fly back to the heavens.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ròm

Director – Tran Thanh Huy – 2019 – Vietnam – Cert. 12a – 79m

*****

An urban street kid works as a lottery runner to survive while a slightly older boy attempts to steal his turf – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

Spending his nights alone in his slum rooftop shack under the stars shooting tin cans with a catapult, young teenager Ròm (Tran Ahn Khoa) must live by his wits. The tenants of his block, like all the city’s residents, are obsessed with the lottery, the only chance any of them have of getting out of poverty. He spends his days going around collecting bets, racing to place them with the bookies on time then racing back equally fast to deliver the results as soon as they’re announced.

If the numbers win, people collect their money and he’s a local hero. If they don’t his customers may beat him up. It’s a challenging and desperate lifestyle, right down at the bottom of the social pile, yet a part of him seems to thrive on it, almost like some indescribable, youthful affirmation of life.

In the course of trying to impress the local, pool playing gangster, older homeless teeenager Phúc (Nguyen Phuc Anh Tu) – who took his name from a Westerner he worked for some time back who used a simiar sounding word a lot – attempts to muscle in on Ròm’s customers and turf.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

La Haine

Director – Mathieu Kassovitz – 1995 – France – Cert. 15 – 98m

***1/2

Three disenchanted, immigrant youths from a banlieu estate take themselves to Central Paris for 24 hours – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th, on Blu-ray from Monday, November 16th and on BFI Player from Friday, December 18th

There’s a verbal story opening and underscoring La Haine. A man falls off a building. Each storey he passes in his descent, he says, “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land. Cue an image of planet Earth with a flaming Mototov Cocktail descending towards it.

Shot in stylish black and white and set in the aftermath of a riot in a Parisian banlieu, the film follows three young friends who beneath their tough guy street banter are concerned for their friend Abdel who has been hospitalized and may well die. While ‘banlieu’ translates literally as ‘suburb’, the French banlieu is at the rough, opposite end of the social scale from cosy, English ‘suburbia’. The banlieu is more like an English sink estate, full of people at the bottom of the social order, powerless, excluded.

This particular banlieu is home to immigrants of various different ethnic backgrounds: Sayid (Saïd Taghmaoui) is Arabic, Vinz (Vincent Cassell) Jewish and Hubert (Hubert Koundé) Black.… Read the rest

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Les Misérables

Director – Ladj Ly – 2019 – France – Cert. 15 – 104m

****

Exclusively in cinemas from Friday, September 4th

Although this takes its title from Victor Hugo’s eponymous novel, it’s not really an adaptation except in the loosest possible sense. It ends on a quote from the book:

“There are no bad plants, nor bad people – only bad cultivators.”

What it DOES have is a poor underclass and a bunch of cops whose job it is to keep them in order and keep the peace. An optimistic prologue shows the whole of France watching a world cup match and celebrating as France wins – a joyous, transcendent occasion and an example of how things could or ought to be.

Then it quickly shifts gear: three cops in their car patrol a poor housing estate. Chris (Alexis Manenti) is white with an in your face, tough guy approach that commands the residents ‘respect’. The equally tough and no-nonsense Gwada (Djebril Zonga) is black, generally more conciliatory and better at negotiating with local people on the ground. Newcomer Ruiz (Damien Bonnard), in his first day on the job, hails from the countryside and finds himself at odds with the approach of the other two, particularly Chris.… Read the rest

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Sócrates

Director – Alexandre Moratto – 2018 – Brazil – Cert. 15 – 71m

*****

In selected UK cinemas and digital rental platforms including Barbican Cinema on Demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and Peccadillo Player from Friday, September 4th

It’s morning in coastal São Paulo. Sócrates (Christian Malheiros), 15, goes in to see his mum in her room. But she doesn’t wake up. He is consumed with grief. The lady social worker talks to him, but his emotions are so consuming he can’t hear her. She tells him, if a guardian can’t be found, he’ll be put in a home.

He doesn’t want that, but if he’s to stay where he is, the rent has to be paid. He works his mum’s literally crappy job cleaning lavatories with a co-worker, but the boss won’t give Sócrates his mum’s money, she must collect it in person. He prints out fliers of his resume, negotiating a three payments of 50 cents deal with the shop manageress, and hands them out. He gets a lead on a shop that’s hiring and lies about his age on the form, an untruth that will disqualify him for the job when they fact-check.

A thick, red comb in the bathroom holds some of his mother’s hair.… Read the rest