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The Battle At Lake Changjin (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖)

Directors – Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 176m

*****

Chinese war movie which has barnstormed the global box office does exactly what it says on the tin – out in cinemas on Friday, November 19th

There is a history of war films with a cast of thousands being directed by several (usually three) directors in an attempt to portray campaigns with huge military logistics on the screen. Probably the best known are The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernard Wicki, 1962) about the World War Two Allied invasion of Normandy and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Toshio Matsuda, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970) about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Both of those Western (and, as it happens, Twentieth Century Fox) movies presented both sides of the conflict by hiring directors from the different countries concerned.

The big difference between them and Chinese global box office phenomenon The Battle At Lake Changjin is that although the latter film deals with a conflict in which the Chinese are pitted against the Americans, all three directors are Chinese. Tsui (Zu Warriors, 1983; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991) at least has some working knowledge of America, having studied film in Texas.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Getting Away With Murder(s)

Director – David Nicholas Wilkinson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 tbc – 175m

*****

Most of the perpetrators of the Holocaust were never prosecuted: this documentary attempts to understand why not – out in cinemas on Friday, October 1st, the 75th anniversary of the end of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg

There’s something about the enormity of the issues involved here that makes this a very tough watch. (If it wasn’t, there would be something wrong. The Holocaust is not an easy issue to deal with. Films about it can consequently be tough to watch. And so they should be.) That combined with the near three-hour running time (this is not a complaint, honest) means it sat on my pending review pile for quite a while before I finally sat down and watched it.

I suspect Wilkinson is aware of this problem. As the film starts, he takes you (as it were) gently by the hand as he walks into Auschwitz and matter-of-factly discusses its horrors, helped by a man who works in the museum there and has probably helped numerous people before and since to come to terms with the implications of the place as they go round it.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Getting Away With Murder(s)

State-sanctioned killing

Getting Away With Murder(s)
Directed by David Nicholas Wilkinson
Certificate 15, 175 minutes
Released 1 October

The industrial extermination of the Holocaust included most infamously some six million Jews but also smaller numbers of other groups including Poles, gay men, the disabled and political dissidents, some 11 million people in all. It remains a stark reminder of the evil of which human beings at their worst are capable.

Getting Away With Murder(s) is a consistently compelling documentary which approaches this atrocity from an angle we’ve not really seen before: why were 99% of the perpetrators never held to account for their crimes?

The filmmaker David Wilkinson takes his camera to the sites of specific events, from the Auschwitz death camps… [read more]

Full review published in October 2021 issue of Reform.

See also my alternative review on this site.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Wife Of A Spy (Supai no Tsuma, スパイの妻)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2020 – Japan – 115m

****1/2

A Japanese businessman’s wife decides to help her husband after discovering he is passing inflammatory state secrets to the Americans – out on MUBI in the UK and Ireland on Wednesday, September 8th

1940, Kobe, Japan. British silk trader John Fitzgerald Drummond is arrested by the Kenpetai then released thanks in part to his friend and business associate Yusaku Fukuhara (Issey Takahashi from Shin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, 2014; Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2, Quentin Tarantino, 2003 & 4; Whisper Of The Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995), who defends him against Officer Taiji Tsumori (Masahiro Higashide from Foreboding, 2017; Before We Vanish, 2017; Creepy, 2016 – all Kiyoshi Kurosawa), a childhood friend of Yusaku’s wife Satoko (Yu Aoi from Killing, Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018; Journey To The Shore, Kurosawa, 2015 and much else). (Europeans are systematically being arrested, with the exception of Axis power nationals Germans and Italians.)

As Fukuhara and his nephew Fumio Takeshita (Ryota Bando) travel abroad to Manchuria, Satako invites Taiji to her house for a whisky, but once there he berates her for the drink being Western- not Japanese-made and suggests she should wear traditional Japanese clothes rather than Western dresses.… Read the rest

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Dunkirk

Director – Christopher Nolan – 2017 – UK – Cert. 12a – 106m

*****

Review originally published in DMovies.org. On Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st.

British filmmaker Christopher Nolan – now one of the highest-grossing film directors in history, with the Dark Knight trilogy under his belt – has created a complex and multilayered film that cleverly interweaves three separate narrative strands: 1) on land over a week a young soldier (Fionn Whitehead) after he arrives alone at Dunkirk beach and falls in with others (including the music superstar and heartthrob Harry Styles); 2) on sea over a day a small, requisitioned, civilian boat (crew: three) go to bring home trapped combatants; and 3) in the air over an hour three Spitfires fly a sortie.

Nolan is fascinated by time and runs these in parallel so that an incident partly revealed in one strand is later retold in another revealing more. There’s a constant sense of the clock ticking differently in the three time frames: mind-bending and exhilarating stuff.

Full review at DMovies.org.

On Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st.

Trailers:

Original UK theatrical release: Friday, July 21st 2017.

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Favorite War

Director – Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen – 2020 – Latvia, Norway – Cert. N/C 12+ – 77m

****

Autobiographical documentary employs cut-out animation to describe a childhood in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet UnionGlasgow Film Festival Thursday, February 25th to Sunday, February 28th

In World War Two. Latvia was caught between the Nazis and the Russians. After the Nazis capitulated, the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Ilze’s grandfather, a small farmer, was declared an Enemy of the State and sent to Siberia because he owned a small piece of land. Her Communist Party member father became a City Manager but he was killed in a car crash leaving her mother to bring up her and her brother alone.

At age three, Ilze’s parents risk everything by taking her to a forbidden beach a few miles from their home just so their young daughter can see the sea. This is the self-proclaimed “happiest country in the world” where party officials can queue jump and take the last pack of butter, where peace is paramount but shooting lessons are mandatory at school. As Ilze grows, she must keep quiet about all sorts of things or her mother will lose her job.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Capital In The 21st Century

Director – Justin Pemberton – 2019 – France, New Zealand – Cert. 12 – 103m

*****

An adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s controversial economic treatise Capital In The 21st Century – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

The content of French economist Thomas Piketty’s eponymous book couldn’t be more relevant. Far from being dry economics, Piketty’s thesis begins that there has always been a minority of wealthy people whose wealth derives from nothing more than being born into wealth. They have done nothing to merit wealth. They do not own it because of any sort of achievement.

The industrial revolution, he argues, gave those with capital (financial assets) the means to substantially increase the amount of capital they own.

Throughout history, the rich have not looked after the whole of society but rather have merely defended their own interests, i.e. maintaining and if possible increasing their position of wealth. They have shown a disdain for the other 99% of people. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, society was broken into those two groups, wealthy and poor.

The rise of the middle class after World War One changed everything, with middle class people wanting their say in how things were run. Changes since the 1970s however threaten the power of the middle class and we may be seeing a return to a majority of very poor people beholden to a wealthy minority – unless we take the action necessary to prevent it.… Read the rest

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The Painted Bird (Nabarvené ptáče)

Director – Václav Marhoul – 2019 – Czech Republic – Cert. 18 – 169m

****1/2

An orphan boy meets a series of adults, a few kind but most cruel, travelling around Eastern Europe during World War Twoin cinemas and online at Amazon, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, IFI@HOME, Rio Cinema Online and Vimeo On Demand in the UK from Friday, September 11th

You’re really not quite sure where you are for the first hour of this mammoth Czech production stuffed with Hollywood stars speaking not a word in English. A boy (Petr Kotlár) whose name we won’t discover until the film’s final minutes flees through a wood before being caught by bullies who burn and kill his pet ferret.

That proves prophetic because soon afterwards at night, he discovers that his aunt, with whom he lives, has died upright in her chair. He is so startled that he knocks over an oil lamp and burns the house down. Now he’s an orphan at the mercy of the world, which is not a pleasant one being Eastern Europe at the time of the second world war. The rural people are primitive. Christianity is largely a matter of ritual and superstition; belief in vampires is so widespread that a local witch can claim the boy is a vampire and be believed.… Read the rest

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A Hidden Life

Director – Terrence Malick – 2019 – US / Germany / Austria – Cert. 12a – 174m

Standing against evil. A married Austrian farmer conscripted as a soldier for the German army in WW2 is imprisoned for refusing to sign the standard oath of allegiance to Hitler – in cinemas from Friday, January 17th

Opening with and periodically punctuated by documentary footage of Hitler and the Third Reich, this is Malick’s retelling of the wartime life experience of a real life couple. Deeply in love, Franz and Fani Jägerstätter (August Diehl and Valerie Pachner) run their farm near a remote, mountainous Austrian country village. With the Third Reich on the ascendant, he gets called up for military service and is billeted in a nearby castle and trained while she, the kids (three girls) and her sister Resie (Maria Simon) struggle to manage the farm without him.

When France surrenders, many men are released from national service and Franz is allowed to go back to farm, wife and family. However it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up again. And this time, the only way out of signing the oath is to go to prison. [Read more]

A Hidden Life is out in the UK on Friday, January 17th.… Read the rest

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The Keeper (Trautmann)

Director – Marcus H. Rosenmüller – 2018 – Germany / Austria – Cert. 15 – 120m

*****

The (not-so-) beautiful game. A WW2 PoW who becomes Manchester City’s goalkeeper is faced with anti-German prejudice both on and off the pitch – in cinemas from Friday, April 5th 2019

Set in WW2 and its aftermath in Britain, this looks at first sight like a football movie. However, it becomes something else altogether by taking a long hard look at the plight of a person living in another country that’s heavily prejudiced against his own. Sadly one doesn’t have to look very far in present day, hostile environment Britain to see that such attitudes are currently very real and out in the open.

German infantryman Bert Trautmann (David Kross) is captured by the British and sent to a PoW camp just outside Manchester. Despite the presence of a few hardcore Nazis among the prisoners, most including Bert are ordinary Germans caught up in the conflict. Nevertheless, the English sergeant who runs the camp would have all of them shot were the decision his and makes their lives as difficult as possible.

However Bert has something specific in his favour: for as long as he can remember, he’s loved playing football… [read more]

Full review published in DMovies.orgRead the rest