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Annette

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

****1/2

This musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – out in cinemas on Friday, September 3rd

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

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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Animation Features Movies

Nahuel And The Magic Book (Nahuel Y El Libro Mágico)

Director – Germán Acuña – 2019 – Chile, Brazil – 99m

****1/2

Opening Spotlight in the New York Intl Children’s FF 2021 on Saturday, March 6th at 7pm ET followed by a Q&A with the director. Previously in the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Nahuel is afraid of the water. This is a problem since he lives in a coastal town and his single parent father – his mum died before he knew her – is a fisherman who’d like him to help him on the boat. Whatever his dad asks him to do, he can’t seem to get right. For example, he never gets to the boat in time. If sent to the market to buy eggs, they get broken on the way home. To make matters worse, a couple of local bullies pick on him too.

One day he’s exploring an abandoned house an discovers an old book of spells. The old, blind man who lives there and who possesses strange powers – including a walking stick that sports an eye – appears to be some sort of guardian for the tome. That doesn’t stop Nahuel sneaking out of the house with it. Soon, he’s being followed by crows in the service of a sorcerer who wants the book for his own evil purposes.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Prometheus

Director – Ridley Scott – 2012 – US – Cert.15 – 124m

*****

UK release date 02/06/2012.

Western social attitudes to women have come a long way since Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) gratuitously stripped down to her underwear prior to fending off the malevolent creature in the finale of Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi shocker Alien (1979), but would appear still to have a long way to go.

You might think the glass ceiling has been abolished with the expedition on spaceship Prometheus being run by ice-cool blonde Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), but subsequent plot twists (which we won’t reveal) suggest otherwise. Scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), impossibly pregnant with a mysterious and rapidly growing embryo, is unexpectedly forced to improvise when the automated medical operations facility with which she had hoped to perform her own Caesarian turns out programmed for male surgery only. If sisters are now doing it for themselves, plenty of male-designed hurdles are still making sure they don’t do it it that easily.

Elsewhere, as Prometheus pre-empts the Alien franchise’s “which one of the crew is an android?” gambit by introducing us to the non-human David (Michael Fassbender) walking around the ship before he awakens first Vickers then her subordinate crew members from hyper-sleep, the android male still appears to possess more final authority than anyone else on board.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

White Squall

UK PAL Laserdisc review

SURROUND SOUND MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Dir Ridley Scott (1996) Starring Jeff Bridges, Caroline Goodall, John Savage, Scott Wolf, Balthazar Getty, Ryan Phillipe Dur 124min Dist Encore; £26.99 Cert 12 DS Widescreen

1961 and a group of final year High School students sign up for a yacht cruise halfway round the world and back under a disciplinarian Cap’n (Jeff Bridges), the type of leader who’ll scare a boy into climbing the rigging even though he knows the lad’s brother died from falling out of a tree and breaking his neck. They slowly come together as a crew but then tragedy strikes.

Despite visually prettified opening, Scott’s visuals capture minutiae of nautical detail building to a crescendo in the terrifying storm sequence, where amazing sound effects engulf the living room. Great cinematography, unwatchable without widescreen, is well served by the crisp image transfer. Woefully underrated on theatrical release – this is one hell of a disc!

Film 5/5

Picture 5/5

Sound 5/5

Reviewed for Home Entertainment.

Trailer: