Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Heart
of an Oak
(Le Chêne)

Directors – Laurent Charbonnier, Michel Seydoux – 2022 – France – Cert. U – 80m

****

The life of an oak tree, and the community of animal life which surrounds it, through the four seasons of a year – out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 12th and then on Digital Download from Monday, August 12th

This French movie is narrated almost entirely in sounds and images: no voiceover narration, no voices added to the animals.

A Pedunculate Oak tree, born in 1810 according to the (subtitled) caption at the end, sits on the edge of a large lake. The opening shots move towards and onto the tree and its branches, introducing us to the wide variety of wildlife present. Acorns hang in abundance, Acorn Weevils buzz and make their way through furrows in the bark, a Eurasian Jay looks at them quizzically, a Eurasian Red Squirrel runs around branches near its nest, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker prepares to do its thing.

I’m cheating slightly here: there are no titles to identify which creatures are which until the list at the end, at which point I made extensive notes. That doesn’t matter as you’re watching, though, as it’s pretty easy to follow the continuity.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sorcery (Brujería)

Director – Christopher Murray – 2023 – Chile, Mexico, Germany – Cert. 15 – 100m

*****

When the father of an indigenous Christian convert is murdered by her German Christian employer’s dogs, her thirst for justice leads her to employ occult folk magic against his family – out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 14th

1881. Chiloé, the Northernmost island of an archipelago off the coast of Chile. Indigenous, 13-year-old Rosa (Valentina Véliz Caileo) works as a maid for German immigrant Stefan (Sebastian Hülk from All Quiet on the Western Front, Edward Berger, 2022; Little Joe, Jessica Hausner, 2019; The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke, 2009) who together with his wife (Annick Durán) runs a sheep farm. The couple have two young boys, Thorsten (Matías Bannister) and Franz (Iker Echevers). The family are Christians, and Rosa is a convert to that religion.

One day, Stefan’s sheep lie dead in his field, with woven garlands of vegetation round their necks. With tensions understandably high, Rosa’s father approaches Stefan holding a knife, and Stefan releases his two dogs upon him, killing the man. Rosa later places a makeshift cross of two sticks bound together on his basic grave, which she and Stefan’s family visit, Stefan’s wife pointing out that the man wasn’t a Christian.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The White Ribbon
(Das Weiße Band)

Director – Michael Haneke – 2009 – Germany – Cert. 15 – 144m

Reviewed for Third Way magazine to coincide with UK release date 13/11/2009.

Haneke’s first period drama for the big screen is set in 1913-14 in a Northern German Protestant village where strange accidents befall the community. A doctor (Rainer Bock), out riding a regular route, is brought down and injured by a wire between two trees. The wife of a farm labourer is killed when factory floorboards give way beneath her. Children are abducted. A baby’s window is left open in Midwinter. A building burns. But who is – or are – responsible?

The film sets out its cast of characters in terms of the social hierarchy. The landowning classes are represented by the local Baron (Ulrich Tukur), his wife (Ursina Lardi) and their child; the professional classes by a widowed doctor, the midwife (Susanne Lothar) “who has made herself useful to him”, the Baron’s steward (Josef Bierbichler), the village Pastor (Burghart Klaussner) and the local teacher (Christian Friedel) – also as an old man the narrator (Ernst Jacobi) – who is courting the nanny of the Baron’s son; the working classes by numerous agricultural labourers who generally feature less prominently in the story.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s
Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Fadia’s Tree

Directors – Sarah Beddington, Susan Simnett – 2021 – UK – Cert. U – 84m

***1/2

A friendship between British artist Sarah and Palestinian refugee Fadia sparks the former into a search for a tree in the latter’s village to which she is currently unable to return – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 5th

Sometimes less is more. This takes what is essentially a very simple idea and runs with it to its logical conclusion. Fadia Loubani is a Palestinian born and living in Beirut’s Barajneh refugee camp. Her refugee status prevents her from visiting the part of what was then Palestine and now Northern Israel from which her family originally came. Even though the village of Sa’Sa’ is only about 15 miles away, it can only be accessed by a far longer round trip, the final part of which involves crossing a border which her status won’t permit. In this village is her father’s house and a mulberry tree that sits opposite it. If Fadia could achieve one thing in her life, it would be to visit Sa’Sa’ and find both the tree and the house.

She originally struck up a friendship with Sarah Beddington in a Beirut restaurant, subsequently introducing the artist to the community in her refugee camp.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Europa

Director – Haider Rashid – 2021 – Iraq, Italy, Kuwait – Cert. 12a – 75 m

****

A young Iraqi migrant is hunted by mercenaries after he crosses the Turkish/Bulgarian border – out in cinemas and on demand on Friday, March 18th

A number of movies hang over this bold adventure thriller about Kamal (Adam Ali), a young Iraqi migrant who after crossing from Turkey into Bulgaria finds himself hunted by paramilitaries with guns and balaclavas. One is the gothic classic The Most Dangerous Game / The Hounds Of Zaroff (Irving Pichel, Ernest B.Schoedsack, 1932) in which the passengers of a luxury liner shipwrecked on an island find themselves in a deadly relationship with the big game hunter who lives there. The others are much more recent. Utøya July 22 (Erik Poppe, 2018) is a one take recreation of the Utøya teen camp Summer massacre in which kids attempted to survive a rampaging gunman while Son Of Saul (László Nemes, 2015) follows a Jewish worker-prisoner around a Nazi death camp.

The connection with The Most Dangerous Game may actually be coincidental rather than deliberate, since what inspired Rashid was stories of real life migrants’ experiences. The locations are a Bulgarian woods not a constructed Hollywood jungle set, yet it fits neatly into that lineage.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Dance Movies Shorts

Boxballet
(Boxbalet,
БоксБалет)

Director – Anton Dyakov – 2020 – Russia – 15m 15s

*****

A pencil-thin ballerina becomes involved with a rough, stocky boxer. Some things seem destined not to be… And yet… – nominated for Best Animated Short in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars

Olya and Evgeny live near each other’s flats. When running to catch the subway train, tall, thin ballerina Olya’s movements are grace personified, the epitome of precision timing. The world of shorter, stocky boxer Evgeny, whose face is a patchwork of scars from his career in the ring, couldn’t be more different. Should she object to the hands of her choreographer on her leg when he’s showing her the position she needs to achieve? Is he being a little overly fresh? She’s unaware of Evgeny buying booze from the local shop and drinking it at home.

Then one day, he sees her in distress and rescues her cat from a tree. She invites him in for a cup of tea, but his embarrassment there causes him to know a cup off the table, breaking it. She takes him to an art gallery, a shooting gallery, roller skating. He retrieves her bag after she’s robbed in broad daylight. He goes to watch her at the ballet, but sees her drive off with her choreographer.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Lone Ume Tree
(Ume Kiranu Baka,
梅切らぬバカ)

Director – Kotaro Wajima – 2021 – Japan – 77m

*****

New next door neighbours pose challenges for a man with learning difficulties and his carer mother – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

Chu-san (Muga Tsukaji) gets up with his alarm, saying “it’s 6.45”. He folds up his bedding into a neat pile, starts to unbutton his pyjamas. By the time he’s saying, “it’s 6.56”, he’s heading for the loo. Everything runs on a rigid time grid. There’s only two minutes for his mother Tamako (Mariko Kaga) to shave him between 7.01 and 7.03; if it doesn’t get done, she has to stop. At breakfast, she tells him, “chew 30 times.”

Outside their modest house and courtyard, an Ume tree overhangs the fence, a public hazard. One of the removal men helping the new neighbours the Satomuras move in next door bangs his head and drops a box of things, out from which, unnoticed, falls a child’s ball. The husband Shigeru (Ikkei Watanabe) tells his wife Eiko (Yoko Moriguchi) that she – or he – needs to talk to the neighbours about the tree.… 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

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Story Of Looking

Director – Mark Cousins – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 87m

****

A highly personal film essay on the importance and significance of our visual senses – out in cinemas and on rental on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 17th

This opens with archive interview footage of musician Ray Charles, blind since losing his sight in childhood, asked about whether he’d like to have sight back. He says no – he’s already seen the things he needs to see and can picture them – the stars, his mother. And when he hears the news, there are a lot of things he frankly is glad he can’t see, and feels sorry for all the people who can. Pushed as to whether he’d like to be able to see for just one day, he’d less sure, responding with a guarded “maybe”.

This footage appears to be a touchstone for film-maker Cousins, who constantly refers back to it in this film essay. Another pertinent, recurring image is a man standing on a row of chimney pots. If we could see through his eyes, what would we see?

Cousins has spent a life looking at things, firstly as a human being with a visual leaning, then later on professionally as a film maker.… Read the rest