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The Whale

Director – Darren Aronofsky – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 117m

***

An obese man nearing his death must confront people from his past as well as incidental visits from the present– out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 3rd

A dysfunctional body, a dysfunctional family, a dysfunctional world. Charlie (Brendan Fraser) has so abused his body that his obesity is on the verge of killing him. He is bereaved of his gay partner for whom he left his wife and eight-year old daughter and earns his living as an online English language tutor for high school students. His nurse friend and unpaid carer Liz (Hong Chau) visits him at regular intervals, but can’t get him to go to hospital since he doesn’t have a healthcare plan and anyway resents pouring money into the healthcare system.

The healthcare element will look a little weird to anyone living in the UK with its “free at the point of need” National Health Service.

His other visitors in the course of the film are his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), his wife Mary (Samantha Morton), a suited missionary (Ty Simpkins) and fast food delivery boy (Sathya Sridharan), the latter mostly heard at the door and only finally glimpsed towards the end.… Read the rest

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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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Hunt (Heon-teu, 헌트)

Director – Lee Jung-jae – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. – 121m

****1/2

Two top KCIA operatives, each heading up his own department, both come to believe that the North Korean mole they are hunting is the other out in cinemas Friday, November 4th; opened the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) which ran in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

Two Korean intelligence men are sitting in a car. One asks the other riddles.

What’s a war in space? Star Wars.

What’s a war in winter? Cold War.

What’s a neverending war? Korean War.

A little background history will add to your enjoyment of this fictional thriller set against the backdrop of actual historical events.

In 1979, a South Korean coup d’état established the country’s fourth dictatorship since WW2. In 1980, with martial law declared, the Gwangju Uprising saw a battle between the military and ordinary citizens in the town of Gwangju in which at least 200 civilians were killed. In 1987, student protests lead to the overthrow of the Fifth Republic Of South Korea (1981-87) and free elections.… Read the rest

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Never Look Away (Werk Ohne Autor)

Director – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – 2018 – Germany – Cert. 15 – 189m

*****

A German boy wishes to become an artist, but his desire is affected by the events of WW2 and its aftermath, in possibly the best narrative piece you will see this year – twice Oscar-nominated film is now available on VoD

What is art? Why do artists make art? These questions lie behind Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s latest film, like his earlier The Lives Of Others (2006) a German story exploring that country’s history and identity. It clocks in at over three hours, but don’t let that put you off because it needs that time to cover the considerable ground it does. Never Look Away spans the bombing of Dresden by the Allies in WW2, the liquidation of people considered by the Nazis inferior and therefore unfit to live and the very different worlds of post-war art schools in first East and later West Germany. This means it also spans two generations: those who were adults during the war, and those who were children at that time and became adults in post-war Germany… [Read the rest at DMovies.org…]

Never Look Away is out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 5th 2019.… Read the rest

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Onoda: 10, 000 Nights In The Jungle (Onoda, 10 000 Nuits Dans La Jungle)

Director – Arthur Harari – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. 15 – 166m

*****

A Japanese soldier who believes his country has not yet surrendered stays on a Filipino island to fight on alone until 1973 – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday 16th May.

16th September 1973. A backpacking Japanese student (Ryu Morioka) on Lubang Island in the Philippines sets up his tent on the beach beside the jungle and switches on the cassette player playing a song from the 1940s. The sound drifts through the trees and can be faintly heard where an old soldier, his uniform patched by years of repair, is leaving a flower as an act of remembrance. He hears the music and moves towards it…

This frame story opens this tale and sets the stage for what is to follow. Back in Wakayama, Japan in December 1944, it’s all over for drunken youth Hiroo Onoda (Yuya Endo) whose hopes of becoming a pilot have been dashed by his fear of heights. To his aid comes Major Yoshimi Taniguchi (Issei Ogata), who explains the youth can serve his country in other ways and enrols him in the Nakano School Annex in Futumata, where the major teaches guerilla warfare.… Read the rest

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The Worst Person In The World (Verdens Verste Menneske)

Director – Joachim Trier – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 128m

*****

A young woman learns about both herself and life through two personal relationships – twice Oscar-nominated film is on MUBI from Friday, May 13th

Trying to reinvent herself, Julie (Renate Reinsve) spends her student days moving from medicine into psychology (believing she’s more interested in what’s inside than skin and bones) then photography as she decides she’s a visual person. Suddenly the world opens up to her, she’s meeting new people and before long she’s moved in with popular comic book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie from 22 July, Paul Greengrass, 2018; Personal Shopper, Oliver Assayas, 2016). He is 15 years older than her and wants to have kids (he’s the only one in his family who hasn’t yet done so). She isn’t currently ready for that.

One night, after being pictured standing on an Oslo balcony in a repeat of the shot that opens the film, she leaves early from Aksel’s latest book launch and walking home gatecrashes a wedding party where she meets Elvind (Herbert Nodrum), their conversation gets very deep very quickly and they agree that neither of them will cheat on their respective partners, but then, as Julie says, where do you draw the line?… Read the rest

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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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Last Night In Soho

Director – Edgar Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

The dream life of a present day fashion student takes her to the Soho of 1965 where a young woman is trying to make it as a singer – in cinemas from Friday, October 29th

Dreaming of being a fashion designer, 1960s-obsessed Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) leaves the house of her gran (Rita Tushingham) in Redruth, Cornwall after getting accepted as a student at the London College of Fashion. Charlotte Street halls of residence turn out to be an introvert’s nightmare, with parties replacing sleep at night and extrovert roommate Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen) taking an immediate dislike to Eloise. The morning after spending her first night wrapped in her duvet in the corner of a party room, sleep deprivation almost prevents her getting to roll call on time. As it is, she looks foolish when her name is called, and she asks, “what’s the question?”

Eloise chances on a room to rent notice that’s fallen on the floor below a notice board and secures the room at the top of 8 Goodge Place from eccentric, ageing landlady Miss Collins (Diana Rigg) whose rules include “no smoking, no male visitors”.… Read the rest

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Pulse (Kairo)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme

Pulse aka Kairo (2001) has long been considered one of the key J-Horror films of the late 1990s and early 2000s alongside Ring (1998) and The Grudge (2002). It remains one of the two films for which director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is most highly regarded, the other being his earlier Cure (1997).

In a fascinating forty minute-odd interview on Arrow’s new, extras-stuffed release Kurosawa describes Pulse as a rehash of Ring. That observation doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Ring is about a VHS videotape, a death threat by phone and a deadly ghost named Sadako who crawls creepily out of a TV set. Pulse is about internet and mobile phone images before present day smartphones with their image-sending capabilities became commonplace. People seeing these images slowly lose their grip on reality and vanish into thin air by for example turning into a stain which then falls off the wall as little particles to be blown away on an air current.… Read the rest

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Another Round (Druk)

Director – Thomas Vinterberg – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. 12a – 115m

****1/2

Four teachers decide to test the theory that human beings function better with a little alcohol permanently in their blood – out on rental on various platforms including BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema in the UK from Monday, September 27th

Racing round the lake carrying a crate of beer. Drink a bottle at every stop. Penalty points if you puke, less points if you all puke together as a team. 

That’s a typical weekend activity for their students, but four teachers are an older generation, some of them married with kids and dealing with more mature relationship issues. 

One of them has been reading an academic theory that humans have an alcohol deficiency of about 0.5% and convinces the other three to help him conduct an experiment. They will all consume the amount of alcohol required to bring them up to the theory’s optimum level. 

The experiment is initially successful, but then wreaks havoc within each of their lives as they up the quantity of alcohol to the next level. 

Using intertitles to indicate the increasing percentage of alcohol in the blood as the four drink collectively or individually, this drama charts what happens to the four as they pursue their idea to its logical conclusion and beyond.… Read the rest