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Animation Movies Shorts

A Mind Sang (A Mãe de Sangue)

Director – Vier Nev – 2019 – Portugal – 6m 11s

****

In the programme Annecy Awards 2020 – 8 Short Films #2 from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival hybrid and online editions

This is not a film to watch once. It’s a film to watch over and over and over again. It comprises a series of hugely affecting double images, double meanings. Am I looking at an eye or a person swimming / drowning? A man descending from the sky of a hand pulling a pencil out of water? The profile of a face with eyes and nose of the full length figure of a man sleeping, his head on a pillow?

Double images like this have always worked well in static art or illustration (there’s a famous one of Sigmund Freud’s face which can be read equally easily as a naked woman) while animation – in this case, 2D animation, but it applies to other forms of the medium as well – has a long tradition of portraying transformation of one object or physical state into another. This clever and subtle little film combines the two legacies.

A woman’s hand drawing becomes a person sitting in a bathtub becomes a woman lying prone (in water?… Read the rest

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Possessor

Director – Brandon Cronenberg – 2020 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 103m

*****

A woman possesses other people’s bodies via technology to assassinate selected targets – on Shudder from Thursday, June 10th, as well Digital HD or BFI Player rental

Anyone who’s seen Brandon Cronenberg’s earlier Antiviral (2012) will know that he is a force to be reckoned with, operating in much the same area as his father David (whose Crash, 1996, is currently out on VoD and is released on UHD and BD on December 14th) but with his own, highly individual slant. And equally impressive.

His protagonist here is assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) whose boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) inserts Vos’ consciousness into others so she can carry out hits on designated targets while occupying their bodies and consciousnesses. Lately, though, things haven’t been going quite to plan. In the body of Holly (Gabrielle Graham), Vos picks up a cutlery knife then repeatedly and bloodily stabs her target with it rather than simply shooting him with the supplied gun. Although Vos gives all the right answers in the psychological evaluation tests following her return, Girder is concerned.

He fears are raised further when Vos asks for time off with her partner Michael (Rossif Sutherland) and young son Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot).… Read the rest

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The Killing Of Two Lovers

Director – Robert Machoain – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 84m

****1/2

A family man separated from his wife who has agreed they can each see other people is consumed with hate for the other man she is now seeing – in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, June 4th

Morning. She sleeps soundly, a man beside her in bed. A second man stands at the the foot of the bed pointing a revolver at her. The first two are unaware of this. Someone can be heard using the bathroom. The second man leaves through the bedroom window.

Small town America. Welcome to David’s world. He (Clayne Crawford) and wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) are experiencing marital problems. They have four kids, a teenage girl and three younger boys. As agreed, David has moved out to live with his infirm, widower dad a hundred yards down the road. The couple have agreed that, while they try and work things out between them, it’s okay for either of them to see other people.

However while David assents to this on an intellectual level, he doesn’t accept it at all on an emotional one. He has discovered his wife is seeing a man named Derek (Chris Coy) and is furious about it.… Read the rest

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The Eight Hundred (Ba Bai, 八佰)

Director – Guan Hu – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 149m – IMAX

****1/2

Hopelessly outnumbered Chinese soldiers take a last stand against the Japanese in a Shanghai warehouse – – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Domestic Hits strand in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 which runs until Wednesday, May 12th

1937, the Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese have fallen back to , Shanghai as the Japanese advance. Rounding up Chinese deserters, Colonel Xie (Du Chun) and his men of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) hole up in the Sihang warehouse on the other side of the Souzou Creek from the International Concession from which the horrified civilians compulsively watch the conflict unfold.

A Western movie covering such a subject would likely introduce us to specific soldier characters at some length, possibly derailing the larger narrative to do this. The Chinese here do it rather differently. They take the overall sweep of the story and drop the characters in to it. There are deserters, there are brave and heroic fighters and there are men who move from the former to the latter group. The writers also sketch civilian characters living across the river.… Read the rest

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The Banishing

Director – Christopher Smith – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

***1/2

A vicar, his wife and their daughter move into a haunted rectory which seems out to get them – on digital platforms from Friday, March 26th and Shudder from Thursday, April 15th

The Rev Stanley Hall (Matthew Clarke) is found hanged from the top of four-poster bed in his bedroom in the old rectory near the village. This follows a session with his hefty bible, annotated in placed with scrawled pentagrams and pages burned through with holes, his reading out loud Pauline admonitions against ‘sexual immorality’ and a bizarre vision of himself either having sex with or inflicting extreme bloody violence upon his wife (or possibly both at once – it’s not entirely clear). Bishop Malachi (John Lynch) is summoned to the house.

Three years later, Malachi installs a new vicar Linus (John Heffernan) in the property which has remained vacant in the interim. Linus is joined by wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her illegitimate daughter Adelaide (Anya Mckenna-Bruce) as well as the house’s incumbent deaf maid Betsy (Jean St. Clair). Like his predecessor, Linus is obsessed with abstaining from sexual immorality, despite his wife’s pointing out to him that they are married.… Read the rest

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The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (Akinjeon)

Director – Lee Won-Tae – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

Better the devil you know. A no-nonsense cop and a ruthless gangland boss join forces to catch a serial killer in this South Korean thrilleron BBC Four Sunday, March 7th 22.00 and for one year after

Violent motorist Kang Kyung-ho (Kim Sungkyu) tailgates cars then after he and they have both pulled over stabs their unsuspecting drivers to death. One night, he picks mob boss Jang Dong-su (Ma Dong-seok) who fights back and gets away, inflicting wounds on the killer despite being first stabbed in the back. Meanwhile, his nemesis, cop Jung Tae-suk (Kim Mu-Yeol), is pursuing the same serial killer. Cop and gangster enter into an uneasy alliance to catch the murderer.

As South Korean gangster and crime movies have developed in recent decades, they’ve generally become slicker and, on one level, technically more proficient. Yet on another level, earlier South Korean gangster movies, while rougher around the edges, often have a lot more going on underneath the surface. This one however, while covering everything with the contemporary, superficially fast-paced and slick veneer with lots of impressive car chases and extremely violent one-on-one or group fights, achieves much more interesting dynamics beneath the slick, mass produced veneer.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Television

Black Cat Detective (Heimao Jingzhang, 黑猫警长)

Director – Dai Tielang – 2010 – China – Cert. N/C U – 76m

Parental Warning: Although this drawn animation has a (completely legitimate) recommended UK U certificate, it contains a lot of gun and knife violence and, in the subtitles, one swear word.

****

Black Cat Detective and his fellow police protect everyday citizens from nefarious criminal animals including a mouse mastermind – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

A purple mole proudly shows the children sacks of supplies stocked in his granary for the coming Winter. Unfortunately, an evil criminal mastermind mouse (backed by music with a stinger cue ripped off the opening of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) has his eye on these stocks and breaks in with his gang who get drunk on red wine and oil before passing the sacks out of the granary window, which action alerts the mother mole whose attempt at stopping them is thwarted by their throwing enough sax onto her to pin her down.

The cops led by Black Cat Detective turn up to shoot at the mice, one of whom they hit, and arrest the mole children on the premises, quickly realising their mistake and releasing the latter.… Read the rest

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Possessor

The irredeemable flesh

Possessor
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Certificate 18, 103 minutes
Released 27 November

The controversial director David Cronenberg has long been an exponent of something he calls ‘the new flesh’, ways that humanity might transcend its bodies. His son Brandon is the same, his new film Possessor concerning the world of cybernetic industrial espionage. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an assassin working for a company run by Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), which injects her consciousness into other people as host personalities so that, wearing the clothing of their minds and bodies, she can kill designated targets before being extracted…

His father’s notorious Crash (1996) was restored for reissue in November… [Read more]

Read the full review in Reform.

Read my alternative review here.

Trailer:

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La Haine

Director – Mathieu Kassovitz – 1995 – France – Cert. 15 – 98m

***1/2

Three disenchanted, immigrant youths from a banlieu estate take themselves to Central Paris for 24 hours – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th, on Blu-ray from Monday, November 16th and on BFI Player from Friday, December 18th

There’s a verbal story opening and underscoring La Haine. A man falls off a building. Each storey he passes in his descent, he says, “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land. Cue an image of planet Earth with a flaming Mototov Cocktail descending towards it.

Shot in stylish black and white and set in the aftermath of a riot in a Parisian banlieu, the film follows three young friends who beneath their tough guy street banter are concerned for their friend Abdel who has been hospitalized and may well die. While ‘banlieu’ translates literally as ‘suburb’, the French banlieu is at the rough, opposite end of the social scale from cosy, English ‘suburbia’. The banlieu is more like an English sink estate, full of people at the bottom of the social order, powerless, excluded.

This particular banlieu is home to immigrants of various different ethnic backgrounds: Sayid (Saïd Taghmaoui) is Arabic, Vinz (Vincent Cassell) Jewish and Hubert (Hubert Koundé) Black.… Read the rest

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Better Days (Shaonian De Ni)

Director – Derek Tsang – 2019 – China – 12A – 135m

***1/2

A bullied exam student is protected from her tormentors by and seeks solace in the company of a small time street criminal – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now, and Hong Kong’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars

The combination of impending exams and bullying by her peers causes student Hu to throw herself off the rooftop of a school building. Feeling guilty because she never stood up for the girl, fellow student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) covers the dead girl’s face to protect it from prying eyes and smartphone cameras. The next thing Chen knows, the late girl’s three bullies, led by the well-heeled and vindictive Wei Lai (Zhou Ye) have it in for her.

Not that Chen is having an easy time of it anyway. In the short term she’s being questioned by police about Hu’s death and like everyone else there’s the huge pressure of impending Gaokao university entrance exams, doing well in which is packaged in school rally chants as not failing the country or your parents. Her single parent mum (Wu Yue), beset with parental inadequacy as she tries to scrape a living from selling illegal goods away from home, has successfully convinced Chen that studying hard and getting excellent exam results is a way out of the poverty trap in which the family find themselves.… Read the rest