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Features Live Action Movies

Rodeo (Rodéo)

Director – Lola Quivoron – 2022 – France – Cert. tbc – 105m

***

Le Fast et la Furieuse. A young woman bike thief makes her mark on a group of bikers living in a bike repair shop run from a prison by its incarcerated owner – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Julia (Julie Ledru) loves motorbikes. She loves riding them. And she loves stealing them. At various points in the narrative, she follows up ‘bike for sale’ ads, goes to see the seller, impresses them with her considerable knowledge, persuades them to let her test drive the bike by riding it alone for a certain distance then rides off with it. She’s also poor and living on a rundown housing estate, an environment beloved of a certain strata of French cinema (e.g. Two Of Three Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995; District 13, Pierre Morel, 2004). Not that you see much of this environment after the opening reel. She represents a very French form of anti-hero, and if you don’t have any problem with her sense of entitlement and the fact that she sees nothing wrong with stealing, this is a rollicking good yarn.… Read the rest

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Pickpocket

Director – Robert Bresson – 1959 – France – Cert. PG – 76m

*****

Why is a man compelled to pursue acts of petty thievery – acclaimed, arresting, existential drama is out in cinemas on Friday, June 3rd

I have just rewatched Bresson’s classic and am still not entirely sure I have its measure. Perhaps that’s the thing about great works of art. Oh, to have seen it on its original release, had I been old enough, and watch it without the baggage of it being proclaimed a cinematic masterwork.

Words on the screen proclaim at the outset that this is not the thriller its title might suggest; it’s rather a study of a man who repeatedly commits crimes which is trying to understand why he would do that.

The characters, of whom the main protagonist Michel (Martin LaSalle) is the one who gets most screen time and indeed, is scarcely if ever off the scree, are played deadpan, with Bresson doing his utmost to ensure that his cast perform the roles without acting. He doesn’t want the actors’ craft to come between us and his images of people doing, being, talking. He seeks to avoid the artificiality of acting thereby allowing his performers to realise his images without any acting technique mediating them.… Read the rest

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Vortex

Director – Gaspar Noé – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 – 142m

*****

An elderly man struggles to care for his ailing wife who has dementia – out in cinemas on Friday, May 13th

Discounting the lengthy titles detailing among other things the various film clips and images used, this throws us a series of images in a pillarboxed 4:3 format with curved corners at the edges (suggesting a projected slide show or physical, analogue photographs mounted in an album) then the young Françoise Hardy singing “Mon Amie La Rose” loads irony into the proceedings: the rose is fresh and speaks to us of love, the singer young and yet to be ravaged by the passage of time. (It’s not mentioned here, but last year, Hardy announced she could no longer sing as a result of cancer treatments, which lends the video a certain poignancy today – even more so in the context of this film.)

Then the man we’ll call the father (Dario Argento, director of such Italian gialli as Suspiria, 1977; Tenebrae, 1982) waves through windows across a courtyard at the woman we’ll call the mother (Françoise Lebrun from The Mother And The Whore, Jean Eustache, 1973) and they meet up for a glass of wine on their balcony.… Read the rest

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Free Guy

Director – Shawn Levy – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

***1/2

A non-player character in a mayhem-riddled video game decides to take matters into his own hands after meeting the girl of his dreams – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Guy (sic) (Ryan Reynolds) works in Free City. In a bank. Every day he selects the same shirt from his wardrobe, gets a coffee from the same barista, goes to work. Where, at specific times like clockwork, there are robberies. He and his buddy, a security guard named Buddy (sic) (Lil Rel Howery) drop to the floor where they then chat about life, love and other issues.

Then, one day, he meets Molotov (Jodie Comer), a gun-carrying girl with a British accent. He feels as if he’s known her forever, like she’s the missing piece in his life. But she’s a Specs. She wears specs. People who wear specs do things people who don’t don’t. Guy decides he’s going to steal specs from the first bank robber who comes along.

What Guy doesn’t know is that he’s an NPC (non-player character) in a video game called Free City. The game is made by a company called Soonami run by Antwan (Taika Waititi).… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Lamya’s Poem

Director – Alex Kronemer – 2021 – US, Canada – 88m

****1/2

A young Syrian girl becomes a refugee at the same time as she explores the writings of 13th century poet Rumi in her dreams – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

Lamya (Millie Davis) is a young girl living with her mum (Aya Bryn) in a city in Syria, her dad having been killed when he went out on a protest. Her tutor Mr. Habadani (Raoul Bhaneja) lends her a thick book of selected poetry by Rumi knowing her to be a voracious reader who will both get much out of the book and take good care of it.

Distant bombing raids seem to come closer every day until one day everyone needs to evacuate the locality. The day in question, Lamya has begged her mum to let her go to the shops with friends. Buying treats, she puts her backpack containing the poetry book on the floor only to find it gone seconds later.

The thief, a young boy named Bassam (Nissae Isen), is reprimanded by his mother and told to return the bag. A bomb raid turns the locality upside down. Unaware of Bassam and what’s been happening with him, Lamya finds the returned bag in the wreckage.… Read the rest

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First Cow

Director – Kelly Reichardt – 2019 – US – Cert. N/C 15+ – 122m

***1/2

Western (set in Oregon!) in which a drifter and an immigrant join forces to surreptitiously milk a rich man’s first cow and better their lot – in UK cinemas from Friday, May 28th

A woman with a dog (Alia Shawcat) discovers two human corpses in the present day Oregon woods. Flashback to the nineteenth century. Cookie (John Magaro), a drifter, is the cook attached to a party of trappers travelling through the woodlands. He’s a poor scavenger for food and as a result, they are starving – with much acrimony directed towards him. As soon as they find a small settlement, he departs company and lets the trappers go on their way without him. He watches a rich local take delivery of his first cow with plans for buying a mate and breeding a herd later on.

Cookie falls in with Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee) who has a hut nearby. They bond over a bottle of wine at King-Lu’s shack in the woods and become friends. Finding the cow wandering near their dwelling, they hatch a plan to milk it secretly at night (cookie milks while King-Lu keeps watch from a nearby tree) and use the milk as an ingredient in oily cakes, which they start selling at the settlement and which become a huge success overnight.… Read the rest

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Judas And The Black Messiah

Director – Shaka King – 2021 – US – Cert. 12 – 126m

****1/2

The FBI recruit a small-time thief to infiltrate the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers and report on rising political leader and activist Fred Hampton – two-time Oscar winner is on digital from Monday, April 26th

This cleverly and skilfully plays out both as a terrific thriller about a smart, small time crook recruited by the FBI as an undercover agent and as a chance to take a fresh look at a piece of US social history that has been presented in an unfavourable light by its largely state-sympathetic chroniclers. That piece of history is the Black Panther Party (BPP), long presented as violent insurgents intention upsetting the US status quo. However in the #BlackLivesMatter era when the police in the US have all too often shown themselves in sync with ideas of white entitlement, maybe it’s time to look at the BPP again.

I’m not sure you can totally exonerate the BPP – they did, after all, take up arms against the police although you might argue much of that’s in self-defence – but at the same time there seems to have been a lot in the organisation that’s good: social programmes and trying to help blacks and the social underclass stand on their own two feet in a system rigged against them.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Day Off (Hyuil, 휴일)

Director – Lee Man-hee – 1968 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

A man passes the boredom of Sunday in Seoul by spending time in the park with his lover, robbing an old schoolmate then going out drinking and womanising in bars – watch for free at the Korean Film Archive’s YouTube channel (link at bottom of page)

Shot in stark black and white, this opens with a voice-over which immediately makes you think you’re watching a film noir. However, A Day Off is something else entirely – there are no cops or gangsters in sight, the narrative concerning instead a couple of doomed lovers and the opening voice-over bemoaning the hero’s meeting with his lover Ji-Yeon every Sunday. That said, it’s all about poor people struggling to survive on Seoul’s mean streets and the main character is constantly cheating his fellow citizens or stealing money from them, so its subject matter is not entirely noir unrelated.

Heo-uk (Shin Seong-il, a huge star who also has a bit part in the earlier Bloodline a.k.a. Kinship, Kim Soo-yong, 1963) asks a consults a bird fortune-teller as to what the day will bring: her trained bird picks out a card warning him to Stay Away From Women.… Read the rest

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Ieoh Island (Iodo, 이어도)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1977 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

An acquitted murder suspect visits the island birthplace of his alleged victim to learn about the latter’s life and the strange, ritualistic, matriarchal society that still exists there – from the London Korean Film Festival 2019

Environmental journalist Chun Nam-seok (Choi Yoon-seok) is sent by his editor on a boat trip junket. Both men are unaware that it’s promoting a proposed Ieoh Island hotel. Chun Nam-seok was born and raised on Parang-do island, off the coast of Jeju island. On Parang-do, Ieoh Island was regarded with a terrible awe owing to the water spirits alleged to live there and believed to take the fishermen from their boats during storms at sea. The island is populated by women who mostly work as divers and their children, the men having been lost at sea on fishing vessels or having left the island for other reasons.

Aware of Chun Nam-seok’s environmentalist credentials, but not of his past associations with the island, company man Sun Woo-hyun (Kim Jong-cheol), whose brainchild the proposed Ieoh Island hotel is, expresses a desire to colleagues to get rid of him and engages with a drinking contest with the man on deck during which Chun Nam-seok goes missing, presumed drowned.… Read the rest

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Rocks

Director – Sarah Gavron – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12 – 93m

****

A 15-year-old, East End London schoolgirl must look after her seven-year-old brother when their mother abandons themin cinemas from Friday, September 18th

From its opening, in which a bunch of ethnically diverse, 15-year-old girls from Hackney in London’s East End clown around together, lean on a balcony and film each other on a mobile phone, it’s clear that this is something very different. It’s been made with a young, mostly female cast many of whom have little or no acting experience via intensive workshopping and improvisation. Thrown into this mix somewhere along the process a highly personal script outline has emerged from Theresa Ikoko, one of two writers involved in the lengthy development process, which seems a perfect fit for the young cast.

Although the story source was Ikoko, I’m guessing that the input of co-writer Claire Wilson is just as significant. And while I believe you can never underestimate the importance of a good script which lays the foundations of a production, in this particular instance many other collaborators both behind and in front of the cameras have also contributed a great deal, with director Gavron and her producers holding it all together.… Read the rest