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Features Live Action Movies

Luzzu

Director – Alex Camilleri – 2021 – Malta – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

As he repairs the small boat that’s been in his family for generations, a fisherman grapples with both his role as a new parent and the economic changes threatening his livelihood – on Curzon Home Cinema (CHC) from Monday, June 27th

While out on the sea in his small boat known as a ‘luzzu’, lone fisherman Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) notices water in the bottom of his boat and realises the vessel is in urgent need of repair. His friend David (David Scicluna) both helps him beach the craft in an appropriate location for doing the work and gives him work as crew on David’s more modern boat.

When they catch a swordfish out of season which must be thrown back according to EU regulations, Jes protests that it’s dead and no-one throws these fish back. David, mindful of his liability, phones the authorities to ask if they can keep it, then throws it back. Just as well, because an inspector (Anthony Ellul) checks the vessel on their return to port.

Taking their catch to market, where they are bottom of the pile, they watch the seller fail to interest buyers in their catch and then frantically hawk it around local restaurants in the hope of shifting it while still fresh, to no avail.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Music

The Island

Director – Anca Damian – 2021 – Romania, France, Belgium – 84m

*****

A reimagining of the Robinson Crusoe story with Robinson as a doctor on an island where Friday is the only survivor of a refugee ship – from the Annecy 2022 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

The story of Robinson Crusoe, the man shipwrecked on a desert island befriended by a native he calls Friday, is here turned on its head by director Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, 2019) bringing to life a clever script using an inventive mixture of 2D and CG animation techniques. Robinson (voiced by musician Alexander Bălănescu, who composed the music and songs with Ada Milea) is a Westerner, a well-off doctor who spends most of his time lounging around on an island with an i-Pad. He might be a shipwreck survivor, at least metaphorically. He sings about dreaming of shopping when hungry and after a while we wonder if he’s simply disillusioned with the Western materialist way of life.

He finds himself in the company of Friday (Lucian Ionescu), sole survivor of a refugee boat who treats the doctor as his saviour. Robinson admonishes Friday to drink only bottled water, because the alternative is unsafe.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Burning Sea (Nordsjøen)

Director – John Andreas Andersen – 2022 – Norway – Cert. 12 – 104m

***

An underwater technician attempts to rescue her lover who is trapped and probably dead on an oil rig amidst impending ecological disaster – out on digital on Monday, May 30th

The Norwegian title translates literally as North Sea, so renaming the film The Burning Sea makes it sound more dramatic and ups the ante considerably. That increased selling point comes at a price, though. Instead of an oil rig disaster movie, you’re now expecting a sea on fire movie which doesn’t happen ’til the last reel. Still, director Andersen’s films include the impressive disaster movie The Quake (2018) while the writing team of Harald Rosenløw-Eeg (The Quake, 2018; The Wave, Roar Uthaug, 2015) and Lars Gudmestad (Headhunters, Morten Tyldum, 2011) looks promising enough. Unlike those films, however, this one lapses fairly quickly into cliché.

It spends its first 10 minutes largely on romantic drama with Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp from the wonderful Ninjababy, Yngvild Sve Flikke, 2021) content to be living her life with lover Stian (Henrik Bjelland) and his pre-teen son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen) at a distance rather than living together permanently with them.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Dead Calm

Director – Phillip Noyce – 1989 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

A bereaved couple taking time off on their yacht answer a distress call from another boat and become embroiled in a game of cat and mouse – out in UK cinemas 1989

Royal Australian Naval Officer John Ingram (Sam Neill) arrives home in Oz to discover his beautiful wife Rae (Nicole Kidman) has been involved in a car accident which was fatal for their young child. She’s in the hospital in critical condition; the camera descends into her eye. She remembers with horror her child fatefully undoing his seat belt before being thrown through a windscreen.

Having thus traumatised the audience, this then jumps to the couple on their yacht, the Saracen, where they are getting away from it all for several weeks. The weather is as flat as the title suggests. Rae bathes in the sea like an initiate in some baptismal rite awaiting a fresh start – until another vessel turns up – the Orpheus, with its one survivor Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane) claiming the rest – including several nubile, “open-minded” young women on a “photographic assignment” – have died of botulism from tuna that Hughie didn’t eat because he hates the stuff.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Annette

Director – Leos Carax – 2021 – France, US – Cert. 15 – 141m

****1/2

Musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – on MUBI from Friday, November 26th

Although billed as a musical, this may actually be closer to opera given that even though it starts as a story about two people deeply in love, it veers into very dark territory.

And yet framing all that, and underscoring it throughout, is the sheer pleasure of writing / composing songs… and, for that matter, performing them. The opening song is So May We Start while the closer, as the credits roll, is It’s The End. (For added enjoyment, watch 90% of the audience leave before the last song starts. Or in my case, 10% of my fellow critics.)

The former starts with the band, the brothers Mael (singer Russell and keyboard player / composer Ron, profiled in recent documentary The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021) and a backing band in a recording studio in an invitation for the proceedings to get going, swiftly joined by the film’s two leads, while the latter ends with seemingly the entire movie cast and crew walking through the countryside hoping we’ve enjoyed the show and asking us to tell our friends if we did so.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness (Hebeun: Haengbokeui Nararo, 행복의 나라로)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2021 – South Korea – 101m

*****

A meds thief on the verge of arrest and an escaped convict inadvertently steal money from gangsters closing gala with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which ran in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The sexual frankness of director Im’s earlier A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003) and The Housemaid (2010) is absent from his latest, a producer-suggested project more lightweight than his usual fare which nevertheless achieves a degree of poignancy. Its template is the German film Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Thomas Jahn, 1997) in which two terminally ill men steal a car so that one of them can visit the sea before he dies, the car unfortunately belonging to a gangster and carrying a quantity of cash in the boot.

Writing his own script around this loose premise, Im makes the man who wants to see the sea a convict, inmate 203 (Choi Min-sik from The Tiger, Park Hoon-jung, 2015; Lucy, Luc Besson, 2014; New World, Park Hoon-jung, 2013; Lady Vengeance, Park Chan Wook, 2005), sent to the hospital for an MRI scan where it’s discovered he has a brain tumour and two weeks to live.… 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

Still The Water (Futatsume no Mado, 2つ目の窓)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2014 – Japan / France – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Two childhood sweethearts living on an island beset by storms must come to terms with the mortality and fallibility of their mothers – on BFI Player (rental) and MUBI.

The ocean roars and then, just as suddenly, is quiet. The wind howls through the trees, then sunlight is glimpsed through tranquil branches. Welcome to the sleepy yet storm-battered island of Amami Oshima, part of the Southern Japanese Archipelago, a place of paradox and contradiction seen through the eyes of two teenaged friends and their families.

Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga aka Junko AbeSamurai Marathon, Bernard Rose, 2019) loves swimming in the sea. Her friend Kaito (Nijiro MurakamiIsle Of Dogs, Wes Anderson, 2018, Destruction Babies, Tetsuya Mariko, 2016) is less keen – he’d rather be in the safety of a swimming pool. She uses him and his bicycle to get around the island if and when he’s nearby. She is rather keen on him and would happily have sex. He can’t explain why, but is less enthusiastic about the idea.

Once we move on to their parents, there are fascinating observations regarding motherhood – especially in the light of adoption / unwanted pregnancy outing True Mothers (Naomi Kawase, 2020) – and, to a lesser extent, fatherhood.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wendy

Director – Benh Zeitlin – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 111m

*****

A bold re-imagining of Peter Pan told through the eyes of Wendy which is unlike any other version of the story you’re likely to see – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Her mother runs a fast and furious restaurant. Wendy (Tommie Lynn Milazzo) crawls along the long tables.

Boys play on trains on the nearby tracks outside.

Her brothers James (Gavin Naquin) and Douglas (Gage Naquin) come out to play on the jukebox, but quickly get thrown out for causing disruption. Through the night the goods trains pass. There’s a spark. Wendy, slightly older now (Devin France) sees something atop a train. A boy. She runs outside to chase the train. Her mother’s voice calls her back in.

The fast trains pass. One day she is on one, riding the rails. The boy (Dwight Henry) is in the freight car. He tells them to stand close to the open boxcar door. The train crosses a bridge over water. He pushes them out. They’re in the water.

Then they’re all in the boat, crossing the ocean to the island, Mother. They land. Beach. Forest. Geysers erupt.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Josee, The Tiger And The Fish (Joze to Tora to Sakanatachi, ジョゼと虎と魚たち)

Director – Kotaru Tamura – 2020 – Japan – Cert. PG – 99m

****1/2

A college student obsessed with fish and diving gets a job looking after a girl confined to a wheelchair – out in cinemas from Wednesday, August 11th

A disorienting opening for an anime. Bubbles. Underwater. Fish swimming. Frogmen. A male college student Tsuneo is working at a diving shop over the Summer. He dreams of going to Mexico, having plenty of time to dive and seeing the rare Clarion Angel fish.

Then, out walking late one night, the entire course of his life changes as a girl in an out-of-control wheelchair comes hurtling at him down a narrow street on a hill, flying out of the wheelchair and crashing into his arms in a frozen time special effect moment straight out of The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999). Her horrified grandmother turns up seconds later asking the young man if he saved her.

The girl immediately accuses the boy of being a pervert who’s groping her, then that he’s following them (because his house is in the same direction they’re going). The grandmother invites him in for a meal with her grandaughter Kumiko who immediately objects to the name, preferring to be called Josee.… Read the rest