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Features Live Action Movies

Red Angel (Akai Tenshi, 赤い天使)

Director – Yasuzo Masumura – 1966 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 95m

An army nurse is sent to China – as a slogan in one of the film’s trailers puts it, “on the battlefield where life and death is decided.”

Full Blu-ray review published at All The Anime.

In 1939, for her first posting, Nurse Sakura Nishi (Ayako Wakao) is sent to Tianjin Army Hospital. A number of the male patients appear to be faking medical conditions so as to escape the front line, where Japanese casualties are heavy. When she first does her rounds, Private Sakamoto (Jotaro Senba) and a number of the other men are very forward and ask her a lot of personal questions.

Much worse is to come, however, because when she does her night rounds, she finds herself trapped in the men’s dorm and raped by Sakamoto while the others hold her down. Reporting this incident to the head nurse (Ranko Akagi), Nishi learns she’s this soldier’s third victim. The head nurse resolves to have Sakamoto sent back to the front.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Nishi is then posted to a front-line hospital where medics go through the incoming wounded, pronouncing them dead or designating them for surgery, for which read amputation.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Where The Crawdads Sing

Director – Olivia Newman – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 125m

***1/2

A young woman who grew up alone in the North Carolina Marshlands is the prime suspect for a murder she may or may not have committed – out in cinemas on Friday, July 22nd

The body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is discovered having fallen to his death from an old, 63’ high viewing platform. But did he fall or was he pushed? The reclusive, local outcast and so-called ‘Marsh Girl’ Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones) swiftly becomes the prime suspect after sheriffs find a red, woolly hat at her house, a fibre from which matches one found on Chase’s corpse.

As the investigation proceeds in the generic form of a whodunit by way of a courtroom drama, with the kindly Tom Milton (David Strathairn) as her self-appointed defence attorney against the state prosecutor in her jury trial, the narrative spilts into two separate strands, with the story of Kya’s personal history from childhood to the then present day of 1969 running in parallel until… well, refusing to divulge spoilers forbids me from saying, except that the final reel and the ending are arguably the most satisfying part of this engrossing movie.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with a novice – exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 1st

Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.

As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.

On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Flee (Flugt)

Director – Jonas Poher Rasmussen – 2021 – Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden – Cert. 15 – 83m

****

In a series of interviews, a gay man now living in Denmark tries to explain his experience of fleeing Afghanistan – in cinemas from Friday, February 11th

Like The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey, 2017) and The Swallows Of Kabul (Zabou Breitman, Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, 2019) before it, this is an animated film about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban. At the same time, it’s very different from those films for three reasons.

One, it details not so much the experience of life under the Taliban but the refugee experience of getting out of the country and its psychological aftermath on those who manage to get out.

Two, its central character is not fictional but real, the film being to all intents and purposes a documentary.

Three, although the film incorporates live action archive footage at various points, it’s essentially structured around an interview, visually represented in animation, in which the refugee subject recounts his experiences which are brought to life in a highly effective 2D animation as he speaks.

The style of the animation is almost perfunctory, a far cry from The Breadwinner’s colourful, detailed and rounded rendering which enable meshing with mythological storytelling and an equal distance from The Swallows Of Kabul’s pastel shades which so brilliantly convey a romance doomed by the circumstance of the regime.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Flee (Flugt)

On being a refugee

Flee
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Certificate 15, 83 minutes
Released 11 February

Review for Reform magazine, February 2022.

There have been animated films about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan before, including The Breadwinner (reviewed in Reform, June 2018), but Flee is different. It covers not only the experience of fleeing your home country, but also the psychological aftermath once you successfully settle in another country. And although animated, it’s a documentary based on a real person. Amin (not his real name), a gay Danish citizen due shortly to marry his long-time partner Kasper, is persuaded by a radio journalist to give a series of interviews about his history as a refugee. His experiences have taken their toll and now threaten to undermine his relationship with Kasper.

Amin’s fond memories of childhood are very different from the way we now think of Afghanistan. As a young boy… [Read more…]

Full review in Reform magazine, February 2022.

Read my alternative review here.

Trailer:

Categories
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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Features Live Action Movies

Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Promising Young Woman

Director – Emerald Fennell – 2020 – US – Cert. US R – 113m

*****

A med school dropout seeks revenge on the students and others complicit in her best friend’s rape years before – on Sky Cinema and Now from Friday, April 16th

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) goes to bars, gets wasted and is picked up by men whose intentions are less than honourable. However, all is not what it seems – before you can shout spoiler alert (and we’re not going to because this is the start of the film, given away in the trailer and effectively part of the narrative set up) she’s not wasted at all, only pretending. Depending on exactly how dishonourable these men’s intentions are, she exacts her revenge accordingly.

These acts are premeditated in the sense that she goes out, entraps men and does what she does, but not in the sense that she knows any of the men beforehand. Indeed, they choose her, so you could argue their fate is self-inflicted. And were any of them to behave chivalrously – take her home, put her to bed, not try to take sexual advantage, perhaps phone the next day to check she was okay – she’d probably look favourably on them for doing the decent thing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ava

Director – Sadaf Foroughi – 2017 – Iran – 102m

** 1/2

Available on VoD from Friday, August 21st

Ava (Mahour Jabbari) is a schoolgirl studying music – against the wishes of her parents, particularly her straight-laced and conservative mother Bahar (Bahar Noohian) who thinks music isn’t a real job and her daughter should consider a career that pays. Bahar is a hospital doctor and her husband Vahid (Vahid Aghapoor) is a freelance architect.

By way of a prank, Ava makes a bet with her friends and classmates Melody (Shayesteh Sajadi) and Shirin (Sarah Alimoradi) that she can get a date with Nima (Houman Hoursan) who is currently dating another classmate Yasi (Mona Ghiasi). Her mother hates the fact that Ava and Melody are best friends and spend a lot of time together, not least because Melody’s mum is a single parent.

Meanwhile, Bahar recounts a difficult hospital shift where a girl was found screaming wandering at night although she can’t bring herself to use words as explicit as “pregnancy” or “abortion”. This recent experience is in the back of her mind when she discovers one Saturday that Ava is not round at Melody’s but somewhere else. (Ava is spending time with Nima and misses the bus to get back.)… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Zero Impunity

Directors – Nicolas Blies, Stéphane Hueber-Blies – 2019 – France, Luxembourg – 95m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Framed by live action sequences of serial expert, journalist and activist talking heads projected on the sides of urban buildings or rural landmarks, this skilfully uses minimal 2D animation to tell the stories of victims of sexual violence in contemporary war zones. It’s intended as part of a wider, ongoing media project designed to bring accountability to the perpetrators of such acts who at the present time face zero impunity.

Stories include, from Syria, the 11 year old daughter of an alleged terrorist who was imprisoned for 45 days towards the end of which she was unexpectedly injected with hormones before being raped by (at least) one man before passing out.

A Ukranian woman is held captive in a house and coerced into sleeping with her captor. In bed, she feels something cold and metal in her crotch. It’s a bullet. Much is made of her captor’s pistol. He puts it on a table in front of her, knowing she won’t take it because, if she were to shot him, where would she go?

The US doesn’t come off well. Dick Cheney and the Bush administration know the difference between right and wrong but facilitated sexual humiliation techniques on male prisoners held in prisons such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay at home.… Read the rest