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Features Live Action Movies

Compartment No. 6 (Hytti Nro 6)

Director – Juho Kuosmanen – 2021 – Finland – Cert. 15 – 107m

*****

A student taking a long, sleeper train from Moscow to the Arctic finds herself sharing a compartment with a drunken male slob – out in cinemas on Friday, April 8th

Finnish archaeology student Laura (Seidi Haarla) lives in Moscow with her life of the party, professor lover Irina (Dinara Druckerova) in the latter’s Moscow flat where life is a constant round of social gatherings and parties. Irina’s busy schedule causes her to drop out of a proposed visit to Murmansk to see the petroglyphs, so Laura takes the Artika train (Artic train) alone and finds herself sharing her first class, two person sleeper cabin with Lhoja (Yuriy Borisov from Petrov’s Flu, Kirill Serebrennikov, 2021) who knocks back the vodka and leaves half-eaten packets of food all over the shared table. She takes an immediate dislike to him.

And that’s the setup of the film: not so much a road movie as a rail movie, the bulk of what follows taking place on the train (a fascinating location in itself) with off-train episodes at various stops en route including St. Petersburg (which places the year at 1991 or after when the city was renamed from Leningrad) and a finale in Murmansk.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Petrov’s Flu (Petrovy v Grippe)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov – 2021 – Russia – Cert. 18 – 145m

*****

The stream of consciousness existence of an urban, Russian comic book artist who has the ‘flu – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

Despite being under the weather with the ‘flu, city dweller Petrov (Semyon Serzin) is trying his best to carry on as normal. Not so easy when you’re out of it. His nightmare starts with a bus journey. A nine-year-old girl kindly offers him her seat, but before he’s sat down, someone else seems to have taken it. A misogynist old man talks to the girl, telling her that often girls her age are married off and possibly already cheating on their husbands.

in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday December 15, 2019. (Photo Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Before the old misogynist knows it, someone has had the bus stopped so the he can be thrown off, losing his false teeth in the process which Petrov picks up and which subsequently function like an intermittent Greek chorus, albeit one that doesn’t make any particular sense, throughout the remainder of the narrative. Then Petrov’s mate Igor (Yuri Kolokolnikov), who’s been pursuing the bus in a hearse, complete with coffined corpse, stops it to commandeer Petrov off the bus and into shooting an automatic rifle at victims as part of an impromptu firing squad.… Read the rest

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Animation Dance Movies Shorts

Boxballet (Boxbalet, БоксБалет)

Director – Anton Dyakov – 2020 – Russia – 15m 15s

*****

A pencil-thin ballerina becomes involved with a rough, stocky boxer. Some things seem destined not to be… And yet… – nominated for Best Animated Short in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars

Olya and Evgeny live near each other’s flats. When running to catch the subway train, tall, thin ballerina Olya’s movements are grace personified, the epitome of precision timing. The world of shorter, stocky boxer Evgeny, whose face is a patchwork of scars from his career in the ring, couldn’t be more different. Should she object to the hands of her choreographer on her leg when he’s showing her the position she needs to achieve? Is he being a little overly fresh? She’s unaware of Evgeny buying booze from the local shop and drinking it at home.

Then one day, he sees her in distress and rescues her cat from a tree. She invites him in for a cup of tea, but his embarrassment there causes him to know a cup off the table, breaking it. She takes him to an art gallery, a shooting gallery, roller skating. He retrieves her bag after she’s robbed in broad daylight. He goes to watch her at the ballet, but sees her drive off with her choreographer.… 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

The Student ((M)uchenik)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov – 2016 – Russia – Cert. 15 – 118m

****

An obsession with the Bible drives a Russian secondary school student towards dark designs in a film with both religious and political ramifications – out in cinemas on Friday, March 3rd 2017

Late teenager Venya (Pyotr Skvortsov) needs something to believe in. Both the State and its lackey the Orthodox Church have failed him. He spends much of his time either thumbing through his dog-eared pocket Bible or reading aloud from it to those around him. His lone parent mum (Yuliya Aug) initially thinks it’s a joke but comes to realise that her son’s rebellion is grounded in something she doesn’t really know or understand.

Most of his classmates are more interested in sex and larking about. Venya skips swimming lessons where he objects to the girls’ immodest bikinis. Later in an empty classroom he pushes away Lidia (Aleksandra Revenko) when she removes her top and throws herself at him. He spends time with bullied and disabled fellow student Grigoriy (Aleksandr Gorchilin) whose leg he promises to heal.

For the most part his school’s principal, teachers and even its Orthodox priest (who he dismisses as compromised and Mercedes-driving) can’t handle Venya.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Courier

Director – Dominic Cooke – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 112m

*****

The real life story of businessman Greville Wynne who smuggled secrets out of Moscow and helped avert the Cuban missile crisis – out on premium digital Monday, September 27th

The early 1960s. The cold war. High up Kremlin bureaucrat Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) is convinced Kruschev wants to start a nuclear war. He has information about this he wants to leak to the West, for which the Soviet state is likely to punish him should they find out, possibly with death. However he has no easy route through which to send the information. He accosts American tourists and tells them to take packages straight to their embassy and then leave the country immediately.

Impressed with the calibre of his leaks, MI6 and the CIA, represented respectively by London operatives Dickie Franks (Angus Wright) and Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), set about finding the perfect person to to bring his packages back to the West. They meet businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) under the aliases James Dobbin from the Board of Trade and his associate Helen Talbot.

Greville does business by talking to (and drinking with) clients to find out what their businesses need and putting them in touch with other businesses who might be able to work with them, the classic networker.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad: Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Witches Of The Orient (Les Sorcières De L’Orient)

Director – Julien Faraut – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. U – 100m

*****

A look through a prism of anime and archive footage at the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won the 1964 Olympics – out in cinemas and online in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 16th

You don’t really expect a documentary about a women’s volleyball team to open with a scene from the anime short Danemon’s Monster Hunt At Shojiji (Yoshitaro Kataoka, 1935) in which the hero, trying to save the damsel in distress from the web of the evil spider witch, learns too late that the damsel is the evil spider witch and has lured him to his fate. Even if the team in question has become known as ‘the Witches of the Orient’. “To refer to people as witches is not very kind,” says Katsumi Matsumura, a surviving member of the team. “But then, witches have supernatural powers. So that suited us fine.”

The nickname originated in the Russian newspaper Pravda when the Japanese women’s team faced the Russians in the 1962 volleyball championships… [Read the rest]

Full review at All The Anime.

The Witches Of The Orient is out in cinemas and virtual cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday, July 16th 2021.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Black Widow

Director – Cate Shortland – 2021 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 133m

****

Marvel’s latest is less about mysterious former spy Black Widow than the relationship between her and her younger sister – out in cinemas on Wednesday, July 7th

The nuclear family of a father, mother and two young daughters growing up in Ohio in the mid-1990s turns out not to be a nuclear family at all but a man, a woman and two unsuspecting children planted there to look like one by mysterious Russian organisation the Red Room. Natasha (Ever Anderson) is both highly competitive with and protective of her little sister Yelena (Violet McGraw). When someone gets hurt, their mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) is always there for comfort and support.

“You remember how we said one day we’d have an adventure?” says dad Alexei (David Harbour). “Well, that day has come.” He has the only remaining copy of computer files on a disc. There’s an hour to pack before first police cars then S.H.I.E.L.D. SUVs turn up looking for them. By the time the SUVs find them, the family are busy taking off in a private plane from a hidden airfield. When they reach Cuba, the mother is dying from a bullet wound while the father is revealed as a mercenary, happy to see the two children who aren’t actually their daughters at all sedated and taken away after the older Natasha has pulled a gun on her ‘dad’.… Read the rest