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Features Live Action Movies

In Front Of Your Face (Dangsin-Eolgul-Apeseo, 당신얼굴 앞에서)

Director – Hong Sang Soo – 2021 – South Korea – Cert. 12a – 85m

*****

A Korean-born actress returns from the US to spend time with those close to her and attend a meeting with a director for a possible acting job – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 23rd

A woman on a sofa. She gets up but can’t wake the woman sleeping in the bedroom. Later Sangok (Lee Hyeyoung, the sofa one) and Jeongok (Cho Yunhee, the bedroom one) talk – Jeongok had been having a really vivid dream – and go out for coffee and breakfast to a pleasant lakeside café, followed by a visit to the local café run by Jeongok’s son and his girlfriend. Sangok has a meeting with a director later at a restaurant to discuss a possible film project. Going there in the taxi, she gets a message from director Jaewon (Kwon Haehyo) on her phone that the venue changed, so changes the destination. Her admiring host makes her feel at home enough to explain her situation – and why she feels unable to do the film, which leaves him in a state of shock.

In the latter part of his career, director Hong has honed his personal filmmaking style and vocabulary into a distinctive form uniquely his own.… Read the rest

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Bodies Bodies Bodies

Director – Halina Reijn – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 94m

*

A make-believe party game of murder turns into horrifying reality when pretend dead bodies turn out to be really dead and the genuine body count continues to mount – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Five women, three couples, two exes, one single. Seven people. Six twentysomethings. They gather in the house of one of their number David (Peter Davidson), whose absent parents are rich and the house and grounds reflect that. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) have been together maybe six weeks. David and Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) longer. Alice (Rachel Sennott) and fortysomething Greg (Lee Pace) a mere two weeks. Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) is not coupled.

This is a hurricane party – a party held following a hurricane warning where power outages are likely, so people gather together to pool their perishable resources e.g. food from switched off fridges and avoid the need to travel over several days. The script assumes the audience knows all this, but to people living outside the US this may be a completely new concept; the script here makes much use of power outages but completely fails to exploit the shared resources and lack of travel aspects of the phenomenon.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Men

Director – Alex Garland – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 100m

***

An urban woman dealing with separation and bereavement encounters several men with the same face in an English village – out in cinemas on Wednesday, June 1st

A face passes before the eyes of Harper (Jessie Buckley) as her husband James (Paapa Essiedu) falls to his death from the balcony above their London flat. It’s the Spring. She drives to a house in the country – strictly speaking, in a small rural village – which she’s rented for two weeks to get away from it all.

There, she meets well-to-do landlord Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear) who shows her round the property and hands over the keys. He’s an affable and chivalrous sort of chap who insists of bringing her bags in from the car and can’t stop talking; he might have walked straight in from the previous century or even the one before. He mentions that the TV reception can be a bit iffy, especially when it’s raining, and also recommends a visit to the village pub.

She’s glad when he’s left and promptly calls her partner Riley (Gayle Rankin), who she will be in touch with this way on and off throughout the narrative and who will eventually drive over to see her, the only time we ever see Riley in the flesh.… Read the rest

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Onoda: 10, 000 Nights In The Jungle (Onoda, 10 000 Nuits Dans La Jungle)

Director – Arthur Harari – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. 15 – 166m

*****

A Japanese soldier who believes his country has not yet surrendered stays on a Filipino island to fight on alone until 1973 – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday 16th May.

16th September 1973. A backpacking Japanese student (Ryu Morioka) on Lubang Island in the Philippines sets up his tent on the beach beside the jungle and switches on the cassette player playing a song from the 1940s. The sound drifts through the trees and can be faintly heard where an old soldier, his uniform patched by years of repair, is leaving a flower as an act of remembrance. He hears the music and moves towards it…

This frame story opens this tale and sets the stage for what is to follow. Back in Wakayama, Japan in December 1944, it’s all over for drunken youth Hiroo Onoda (Yuya Endo) whose hopes of becoming a pilot have been dashed by his fear of heights. To his aid comes Major Yoshimi Taniguchi (Issei Ogata), who explains the youth can serve his country in other ways and enrols him in the Nakano School Annex in Futumata, where the major teaches guerilla warfare.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Till We Meet Again (Yue Lau, 月老)

Director – Giddens Ko – 2021 – Taiwan – Cert. 15 – 128m

***1/2

A man ripped from his true love by a fatal lightning strike partners with another dead person as gods of love linking romantic souls together – out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th

A young man is struck by lightning in a thunderstorm and dies. When you die, it seems, you have the choice of reincarnating and going through another life (in whatever form that might take for you) or of staying behind as a god to help people during their lifetimes. For instance, you could be a god of love who helps people to find their soul mate.

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At least this is what happens to lightning-struck Alan Shi (Kai Ko from The Road To Mandalay, Midi Z, 2016) who discovers parts of his face burned off and allocated a bureaucratic caseworker in echoes of movies as diverse as Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988) and After Life (Horokazu Kore-eda, 1998). After some indecision and an encounter with the none too happy girl Pinky (Gingle Wang from Detention, John Hsu, 2019) in the next compartment, he opts to become a god of love and starts training as such.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Dark Water (Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara, 仄暗い水の底から)

Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player and Shudder.

Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.

Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.

At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.

This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live.… Read the rest

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The Reckoning

Director – Neil Marshall – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 111m

***

A woman accused of witchcraft finds herself pitted in a battle of wills against her witchfinder torturer at the time of the Great Plague – on digital from Friday, April 16th and Shudder UK from Thursday, 13th May

On the one hand, this explores the historical time period of the Great Plague and links that directly with women being burned at the stake for witchcraft by way of a widespread, social scapegoating process. On the other, it depicts a horribly misogynistic society where, for the most part women are regarded as inferior and treated really badly. Two sides of the same coin.

The film itself is mixed. Parts feel hackneyed, parts will have you on the edge of your seat. The cliché-ridden opening, for instance, cross-cuts chocolate box-y photography of a cottage-dwelling couple’s idyllic, married existence in the constantly sunlit countryside with the wife digging a grave in torrential rain after finding her husband has hanged himself from a tree at night.

It transpires that farmer Joseph Haverstock (Joe Anderson) stopped off for a pint at the local tavern and accidentally drank the beer of a plague victim, contracting the disease.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

Fishing Child (Yu Tong, 渔童)

Director – Wan Guchan – 1959 – China – Cert. N/C U – 23m
*****
A Catholic priest attempts with the help of a local official to steal a magic, wealth-producing bowl from a poor fisherman – 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

Animation has long proved effective as a vehicle for mythology, fairy stories, folk tales and suchlike. This little film proves it again. Made using traditional 2D Disney style backgrounds and camerawork augmented with 2D cut-out characters, it’s also a visual marvel in which can also be seen the influences as diverse as Chinese art and UPA cartoons. 

A poor, coastal village is blockaded by foreign (i.e. European) ships preventing the local fishermen from pursuing their livelihood. That doesn’t however stop a local official from tormenting an old fisherman by demanding he pay Fish Tax. The man is flabbergasted since the blockade prevents him from working and therefore earning money, but the official insists, threatening to chop up the man’s boat with his axe if payment is not forthcoming the next day. 

Thinking as the rain pelts down, the understandably worried man decides to go out in the storm as the ships won’t be looking for fishermen and catch fish to pay the tax.… Read the rest

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Wet Season (热带雨)

Director – Anthony Chen – 2019 – Singapore – 103m

****1/2

A Singaporean schoolboy becomes obsessed with his Mandarin language teacher – from the BFI London Film Festival and the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2019.

It seems to be constantly raining in urban Singapore. Ling (Yeo Yann Yann) is forever sitting in her parked car injecting insulin. She has a job teaching Mandarin to a class in a local boys secondary school. Half a dozen of them are such poor students that she sets up a remedial class after hours to get them up to speed, but while they’re made to attend, they really aren’t interested. With one exception.

Wei-lun (Koh Jia Ler) will be in trouble with his parents if he doesn’t do well in Mandarin. As the other boys bunk off the remedial class with the slightest excuse, it pretty quickly develops into Ling teaching Wei-lun on a one-on-one basis. He doesn’t live that far from her home, so she often gives him a ride home in the car afterwards, unaware that behind her back he has for a long time been taking pictures of her with his mobile phone in class.

Ling has been trying to have a baby with her husband Andrew (Christopher Lee Ming-Shun) for some eight years.… Read the rest