Categories
Animation Features Movies

Inu-Oh (Inu-Oh, 犬王)

Director – Masaaki Yuasa – 2021 – Japan – Cert. – 98m

***1/2

In fourteenth century Japan, a blind musician and a deformed, masked dancer shake up the culturally staid world of Noh theatre by forming a hugely popular rock band – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave,2019; Lu Over the Wall, 2017; Mind Game, 2004) as he has a tendency to break with tradition. Here, he takes on periods of Japanese history but rather than go with power struggles as to who rules Japan, he focuses on two outcasts, an orphaned musician and a deformed dancer, who join together to form a rock band with an emphasis on theatrical showmanship to upend the artistic conventions of the day and become an overnight sensation until the ascendant ruler, determined to control the historical narrative, has the musician killed, and the dancer emasculated, forbidden to perform anything but state-approved material, and that only in the Imperial court.

It’s a triptych, one long story split into three sections. In the first section, after a prologue detailing the decisive Battle of Dan-No-Ura towards the end of the twelfth century, in which the Heiji clan were defeated by the Genji and the formers warriors threw themselves into the sea and perished, two centuries later in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, Northern would be Kyoto-based, shogunate emperor Ashitaka decides that the power to rule demands he acquire three sacred treasures, one of which is a sword buried in the lake at Dan-No-Ura.… 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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Northman

Director – Robert Eggers – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 136m

*****

A 10th Century Viking prince vows revenge on his father king’s killer and sees it through to death – out in cinemas on Friday, April 15th

Young Viking Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak from The Batman) is thrilled when his warrior father King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns with a line of prisoners in two to his fortified stronghold and Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Father and son are devoted to each other, participating in a private ritual involving bodily sounds and consumption of an hallucinogenic liquid that causes the boy to experience a vision of his family line: a tree of life where the trunk is a spine and branches are umbilical cords attached to grown kings as the viewpoint pans up reveal the boy attached to the highest cord. He is now prepared to take over the rule of the kingdom when his father dies.

He doesn’t seem to get on quite so well with his mother, who warns him never to enter her room unannounced. At a banquet in honour of Aurvandil, his dour brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang from The Square, Ruben Östlund, 2017) takes exception to court jester Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Lupin III The First (ルパン三世 THE FIRST)

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 93m

****

Master thief Lupin III sets out to steal a diary protected by a lock with a fiendishly complex mechanism and becomes embroiled in an occult, Nazi plot to take over the world – screening in Scotland Loves Anime, Edinburgh on Monday, October 11th at 18.00 and Online (ten titles for only £4!!!) October 1st – November 1st

A character with a long history in Japan in anime, manga artist Monkey Punch’s celebrated gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III is a descendant of Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc‘s Arsène Lupin character. LeBlanc’s bona fide character recently featured in the French live action Netflix series Lupin (creator: George Kay, 2021). 

For this Japanese reboot, Lupin III and his fellow franchise characters are back on the big screen, now lovingly animated in state of the art 3D animation which has never looked quite like this. The nimble movements of Lupin as he typically evades the grasp of Interpol’s Inspector Zenigata by firing a climbing line at a ceiling, outwits an ingénue girl thief on Paris rooftops and finally has his stolen object taken off his hands by the shapely Fujiko Mine as she dangles from a helicopter rope ladder would look good in drawn animation – for similar antics look no further than earlier Lupin III outing The Castle Of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1980) – but they look considerably better rendered in full 3D CG here. … Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sleepy Hollow

Director – Tim Burton – 1999 – US – 15 – 105 mins

***

A nineteenth century policeman must solve a series of gruesome murders allegedly by a headless horseman wielding a sword – in cinemas from Friday, January 7th 2000.

Tim Burton’s last few movies have been a real treat, but this adaptation of Washington Irvine’s classic American tale is a disappointment. Murder scene-hardened, late nineteenth century policeman Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to isolated hamlet Sleepy Hollow to solve a mysterious series of murders. As the locals and his own eyes keep telling him, the murderer is no mystery but a headless horseman riding around decapitating victims with his sword.

Splendidly creepy visual designs from regular collaborator Rick Heinrichs (Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993, Edward Scissorhands, 1990) looks as good as any previous Burton, if not better. The proceedings can commendably be accused of neither gratuitous gore nor shirking the necessary quantity or quality of decapitations. But Sleepy Hollow has major flaws. Namely, that one doesn’t feel for Ichabod Crane the way one felt for Johnny Depp playing prior Burton protagonists Edward Scissorhands or Ed Wood. Crane is supposedly a nineteenth century investigator who uses twentieth century investigative methods, yet Burton never properly gets to grips with this essential background material.… Read the rest