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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Ennio: The Maestro (Ennio)

Director – Giuseppe Tornatore – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 156m

****

Documentary Ennio: The Maestro looks at the career of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

It’s difficult to know where to start with Ennio Morricone, whose career in film music covers some 70 years. Tornatore adopts the chronological approach, starting with his early life. The composer’s father was a trumpeter who pushed young Ennio to learn that same instrument, leading to entry into Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory where he studied both trumpet and composition. His father had raised him with a strong work ethic – using the trumpet to feed your family – and much of his early work was as a trumpeter on movie soundtrack sessions, including Othello (Orson Welles, 1951).

His wife secured him a brief stint at TV channel RAI where she was working, but on being told that he wouldn’t be able to perform anything recorded there anywhere else, Morricone quit almost immediately. Inspired by seeing experimental composer John Cage perform live, he formed the Nuovo Consonanza Improvisation Group to experiment with what he called “traumatic sounds”. This approach would inform a number of his later soundtracks.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Tampopo (タンポポ)

Director – Juzo Itami – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 114m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season, December at BFI Southbank.

This review was first published on All The Anime.

This so-called ‘Noodle Western’ always sounded somewhat off-the-wall. It impressed when it first appeared in 1985 and viewing it again on Criterion’s new Blu-ray, Tampopo has stood the test of time well. “This’ll be famous in the history of cinema” says cast member Fukumi Kuroda in director Juzo Itami’s 90-minute edited diary of making the film, one of many excellent extras on the new disc. 

tampopo box

Kuroda plays the girlfriend of an unnamed, white-suited gangster (a pre-Shall We Dance Koji Yakusho) and the couple share a number of scenes involving sex and food. One involves him putting an egg yolk in his mouth which the couple then pass back and forth between them from mouth to mouth until it finally breaks and spills out onto her dress. You can find out the finer points of how they filmed this by watching the diary. Yakusho also gets a memorable death scene, bloodily gunned down by unseen assailants in a rain-swept. He then proceeds to tell his lady love about wild boar being hunted and turned into yam sausage on account of their diet, before he passes away in her arms.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Calamity. A Childhood Of Martha Jane Cannary (Calamity. Une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary)

Director – Rémi Chayé – 2020 – France – 85m

****

A young girl dresses as a man to survive in the Wild West in this extraordinary 2D, colour animated film – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival

Martha Jane Cannary is travelling across the US in a wagon, part of a larger convoy, with her father and her two younger siblings Lena and Elijah. Leading the train is Abraham, an austere and traditional man who isn’t good at taking criticism. Martha Jane has frequent arguments with his son Ethan. Her dad Robert is generally looked down upon, a situation scarcely helped by his wagon’s wheel coming off on a hillside road causing the convoy to grind to a halt or his attempt to lasso a horse to show that he is skilful which ends in his getting two broken ribs and a broken leg when the horse gets out of control.

With her dad unconscious in the back of their wagon, she is assigned Ethan as driver and manages to persuade him to let her try driving. She also borrows a pair of her dad’s jeans as she finds them much easier to get around in than the dress she’s supposed to wear.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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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Features Live Action Movies

Bone Tomahawk

Director – S.Craig Zahler – 2015 – US – 18 – 132m

*****

Western with cannibals substituted for Red Indians proves hugely entertaining – on BFI Player from Monday, December 14th

Watching Bone Tomahawk is to watch a series of Wild West vignettes with a small number of characters in different locations – a primitive burial ground, a living room, a sheriff’s office, a crime scene in a stable, camp fires on a cross-country trail, a cave occupied by cannibals. It is also to follow a series of characters – a sheriff (Kurt Russell) given to shooting suspicious people in the legs, a foreman (Patrick Wilson) with an injured leg, his wife (Lili Simmons) a medical practitioner, a ladies man (Matthew Fox) with a reputation for killing Indians and an enthusiastic, second deputy sheriff (Richard Jenkins) eager to do the job. With a masterful understanding of characterisation, the script outwits its audience at every turn while the cast do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life on the screen. Made on a shoestring budget, it’s a real pleasure to watch, a reminder of just how great the best movies can be.

Original UK theatrical release date 19/02/2016.

Reviewed for Third Way, which ceased publication in April 2016.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

The End

Director – Wiebe Bonnema – 2019 – Netherlands – 4m 36s

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

I had to blink while I was watching this. Its opening two minutes play out like the animated title sequence of a spaghetti Western, and if you’ve seen a few of those you’ll know that a number sport superb 2D animation titles which this little short so brilliantly pastiches. This goes further in a way, simultaneously playing with genre clichés while depicting a gunfighter saving a town from despots. As he passes through, white squares standing for people’s windows wipe onto the screen.

This opening cleverly gets around one of the inherent problems with the short animated (or for that matter non-animated) film, the necessity for credits. Usually, these are boringly placed at the end as white titles creeping up the screen over a black background. But having got all that out of the way in his opening, which incidentally functions as the perfect calling card for selling himself as a maker of amazing titles sequences, Wiebe has space to explore what happens after the generic story is over. What happens after the hero rides off into the sunset?

The graphic genius already exhibited continues in what follows: a long, slow, single shot horse ride away from camera into the distance.… Read the rest