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Features Live Action Movies

Light Falls

Director – Phedon Papamichael – 2023 – Georgia, Greece, Albania, Germany – Cert. none – 90m
*****

A Greek island, a lesbian couple from L.A., migrant Albanian workers, a racist cop, and an abandoned brutalist hotel… What could possibly go wrong? – terrific thriller premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Photographer Ella (Nini Nebieridze) and her girlfriend Clara (Elensio aka Elene Makharashvili), Georgians resident in L.A., are holidaying on a Greek island. On the same island, three Albanian youths – two brothers, the older Altin (Jurgen Marku) and the younger Eddy (Juxhin Plovishti), and their cocksure friend Veton (Silvio Goskova) – hang around in the hope of running into rich Western tourists they can fleece. Certainly, when a rich English couple drive up in a nice car and ask the where the nearest pharmacy is (the three don’t speak English), it looks like the three are going to do something awful to them. But then, the man sensibly drives off. The audience is left with a sense of dread.

The three Albanian men have just been turned away from a restaurant when the two L.A. girls enter, hang out, and learn from friendly locals where they can rent a 50cc Vesper (no licence needed).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

La Syndicaliste
(lit. The Union Rep,
US: The Sitting Duck)

Director – Jean-Paul Salomé – 2022 – France – Cert. 15 – 121m

***1/2

After a smart and tough-talking woman union rep in the nuclear power industry is attacked, tied up and raped in her own home, the police suggest she may have staged the attack herself – out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 30th

Or, as its opening title states in the English subtitled print shown to press, La Syndicaliste Based On A True Story. That title comes after an opening in 2012 in which police are called to the home of Maureen Kearney (Isabelle Huppert) where her cleaning lady has freed her from a chair to which she was tied before being raped by an intruder. The forensic team are all over the premises, taking away evidence. At the police station, she requests a pad and pencil to write down the details of what happened. The police will later accuse Kearney of fabricating the whole incident herself.

The next half an hour or so is a flashback leading up to the incident. Immediately after the titles, it sets about establishing its heroine as a tireless campaigner for employee rights at French state-owner nuclear power company Areva, standing up for ruthlessly exploited workers in an Hungarian subsidiary and well in with Anne Lauvergeon (Marina Fois), the one female executive in an otherwise male boardroom who despite her reliability and excellent track record is being forced out, with as she later tells Maureen lots of dirty tricks used against her.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Women Talking

Director – Sarah Polley – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 104m

*****

Should we stay or should we go? Following an incident of mass sexual abuse in an isolated religious community, its women debate the question, stay and fight – or leave? – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 10th

Here’s a film that defies the rule that, by rights, a bunch of people talking to one another in one location ought to make for tedious cinema. (Such outings usually work very well on the stage, a medium about a bunch of people talking in one location.) Yet Sarah Polley’s adaptation of the novel Women Talking proves electrifying. It’s based on a novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews which is in turn based on horrifying real life events (although the book is “an imagined response to real events”, rather than an attempt to actually conjure or describe those events).

Between 2005 and 2009, in an isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia, over a hundred girls and women were raped in their sleep. Their discoveries were initially dismissed by the community’s menfolk until it came to light that a small group of men had sprayed the interiors of the victims’ houses with animal anaesthetic to render them and their families unconscious.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Road
To The Race Track
(Gyeongmajang
Ganeun Kil,
경마장 가는 길)

Director – Jang Sun-woo – 1991 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 138m

*****

An academic returns to Korea expecting to hook up with the woman student with whom he lived in Paris, and they meet up, but she now repulses his physical advances part of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

As soon as R (Moon Sung-keun) arrives at the airport in Korea, he makes contact with J (Kang Soo-Yeon) and they get a room together, but she confounds his expectations by fending off his attempts at physical sex with her. This wasn’t what he was expecting, since she seemed willing enough when they lived together in Paris. He is desperate to have sex with her, but instead she offers to drive him first to the bus station and then to his home town, where he is reunited with his wife (Kim Bo-yeon), kids and extended family.

Whatever affection he once had for his wife has long since evaporated, and he callously repulses her attempts at intimacy in the bedroom. Brief scenes between the husband and wife punctuate the remaining narrative, the wife becoming increasingly hostile.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Come Come Come
Upward
(Aje Aje Bara Aje,
아제 아제 바라 아제)

Director – Im Kwon-taek – 1989 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 121m

***1/2

As a young woman attempts to live as a Buddhist monk, she embarks on a series of increasingly physical sexual relationshipspart of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

Soon Nyeo (Kang Soo-yeon) enters a monastery as a novice. She reflects on her earlier life. Alienated from her mother, who she accuses of living off the interest of money made exploiting poor people, she develops a habit of following men on their travels. First up is a monk who knew her father who suggests that the latter failed as a monk. After she’s walked with him a while, he deliberately puts her back on a train.

As a student, she becomes fascinated by her class’ teacher Hyeon Jong, 29, (Chon Yoo-in) who, she learns later, lost his wife when she was killed in the Gwangju uprising while eight months pregnant. Uninvited, Soon accompanies Hyeon in his train travels around the country investigating sites of historical interest relating to a peasant uprising having promised his late wife he would one day write about this for her.… Read the rest

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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

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
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: