Monday, 31 March 2014

Filth (2013)

  'Filth' is a 2013 Scottish film directed by Jon S. Baird and starring James McAvoy.

  James McAvoy plays a drug-addicted, sex obsessed, bipolar police officer named Bruce Robertson told to hunt down the killers of a Japanese student. Meanwhile, he attempts to get a promotion to Detective Inspector, by playing games with (backstabbing) the other cops in the department. Hunting the killers is gradually forgotten, as he gets more and more addicted to drugs.

  The book the film is based on is written by Irvine Welsh, the author which wrote 'Trainspotting', so my expectations were Scottish and crazy. I did not expect it to be this insane. The drug trips may not be special effects heavy ('Requiem for a Dream', 'Enter the Void'), but it feels equally as intense and far more brutal. The film starts off like everyone loves the protagonist and drugs help him become a crazy, unpredictable person, but unlike 'The Wolf of Wall Street', the film shows the dark side as it progresses. Events turn from "going well", "to very very disastrously bad" about half way through and things only crescendo getting worse and worse. As things get worse, they get darker and darker, as Bruce Robertson descends further and further into a drug fuelled madness.

  The source material is strong, but the film also depends on the acting of the protagonist played by James McAvoy, Hollywood's go-to Scottish guy. He has never fully converted to Hollywood and has recently starred in many British films ('Trance', 'Welcome to the Punch'). In 'Filth', McAvoy lets his acting completely off the hook, and goes as insane as humanely possible, and then some. Ranging from fits of anger, to tears of sadness, this is the finest performance I have seen of his. Jim Broadbent is hilarious as well as the tape worm/psychologist. "AAAAAYE BRUCE".

  "Filth" doesn't bore because of the increasingly intense, disturbing things happening on screen, but also as it's very funny. The scene where Bruce takes a child's balloon and lets it go, is funnier than anything in "This is the End", and that happened in the first five minutes (although Schindler's List is funnier than "This is the End").

An excellent, extreme, exploitive, experience which had me laughing all the way. The creators made the movie as offensive as possible, so if you are easily offended... Watch 'Sunshine on Leith'. Although, that's a heck of a double bill.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Fugitive from the Past (1965)

  'A Fugitive from the Past' (Kiga kaikyo) is a 1965 Japanese film directed by Tomu Uchida.

  Three men are running away from a house they have burnt down and robbed. On the same night a storm destroys most of the landscape, and they escape by sailing across an stretch of sea unnoticed. When the boat arrives the other side, only one man is left, Inukai. Inukai escapes and flees, but gives some money to local prostitute Yae. The policeman on the trail of the robber, Yumisaka, follows Yae to Tokyo.

  When Kinema Junpo took a poll to see what Japanese critics considered the top 118 Japanese films ever made, this came number 3! Above 'Ran' and 'Sansho: The Bailiff' which didn't even appear on the list. It's not a list to be taken serious, but it's a good one to get obscure film suggestions, like 'A Fugitive from the Past'.

  Tomu Uchida is a director no-one has heard of, so I began viewing with no expectations at all. His style is impressive, filming in black and white, with exceptional control of the colour black. As soon as the movie starts, it keeps a solid pace throughout the three hours of run time. It's is a cop thriller, with half the film being the crime, and half the film focusing on the policemen and detectives trying to catch him. Usually films (and 'Jonathan Creek' episodes) spend 5-10 minutes displaying the crime and the rest of the time solving the case, so it's nice to see a change from the standard plot events. Leaving a gap of 10 years between two events, shows how Japan is coping after the war, and shows how the characters have changed in that time. The film gives you no preparation of this change, so it's a big surprise when the characters change so much.

  The film is very well-made and has an intriguing story, that keeps your attention throughout. However three hours is a long time for a story which could easily be told in two hours. The film is at it's most unnecessary, when repeating the story over and over (in the fugitive's alibi, and from the cops to each other), which fills up most of the running time of the last half. For all the build up, there was no big twist. The performances are some of the best I have seen from Japan. It's an expertly told character study, with amazing performances, which is a cross between 'Twelve Angry Men' and 'High and Low'.

A crime thriller, which is enthralling and appealing. Great acting, great lighting and a great story.


Friday, 28 March 2014

Oedipus Rex (1967)

  Oedipus Rex (Edipo re) is a 1967 film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

  This film takes place in three eras: 1920s Italy, a place outside time itself, and present day (1967) Bologna. They all narrate the same story, beginning in the 1920s, where a baby is born through an affair with a military officer. The film shows his upbringing and the love he has for his mother, before the father gets jealous and dumps him in the dessert. This is where the second part takes place set outside of time. The baby is found in the dessert and is adopted by king Polybus and queen Merope and named Oedipus. A prophesy arises stating he falls in love with his mother and kills his father, but when Oedipus hears this, he runs away.

  Pasolini was one of the strangest directors. He started in neo-realist with films (Accatone and Mama Roma), then in his middle career he went slightly weird and camp (Pigsty, Theorem), before finishing his career with some very strange abominations (The Canterbury Tales, Salo). Salo was so strange he was murdered a year after it's release. 'Oedipus Rex' belongs with the slightly weird and camp films.

  The use of colour in this film is bright and vibrant. The heat of the Moroccan dessert provides a glorious landscape for the events to occur and the many costumes are pretty and unique This may be Pasolini's best looking film.

  The storyline is the main reason I bought this. I can't say I'm a Freudian fan, but the story of Oedipus matched with the three separate settings, sounds like a great idea. If you see any Pasolini film, you will know you're going to see something strange and memorable, and that is definitely the case with 'Oedipus Rex'. I am beginning to adapt to Pasolini's camp directing style, which confused me so much with 'The Decamaron' and 'The Canterbury Tales'. It's not a great film as the length feels too long, the plot is too confusing, and the characters shout at each other all the time. It may, however, be the best Pasolini film I've seen.

Pasolini's strange, visually pleasing and undeniably camp ode to Freud.


Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

  "Ugetsu Monogatari" is a 1953 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.

  In feudal Japan during the 16th Century, the Shibata army are approaching a village. Genjuro is a greedy craftsman, who travels to the town of Nagahama to sell his pottery. He returns with lots of money, and vows to travel there again, this time with Tobei, his neighbour. As the Shibata army starts pillaging the town, enslaving families, and stealing food, Tobei and Genjuro try to keep the flame alight on the pottery they are creating. Genjuro's wife, Miyage, and Tobei's wife, Ohama, try and prevent them from this dangerous task. After narrowly avoiding the army, they set sail for Nagahama to sell their wares.

  This is my second time watching this, and it was better than I remember it. This is one of those few Mizoguchi films which are not about geishas, but feels completely different from his other films. To see a film set in 16th Century Japan and not a samurai film, is incredibly rare. The best thing about this film may be the time period. The film is set 80% outside, showing impressive sets, beautiful countryside and Mizoguchi's trademark cinematography. Every shot is appealing, but at the same time strange and intriguing, as this is a world no-one has seen before. Watching this movie is like being taken in a time machine as the setting is scarily realistic.

  The film's portrayal of feudal Japan is frightening and hard-hitting. There are realistic and unsettling scenes like the starving samurai scavenging the houses of the village looking for food and the startling non-dramatised death of one of the main characters. This isn't improvised fiction, but real-life horror, as all of this actually happened.

  The story of greed, and it's corruption, is still relevant today. As the husbands got more corrupted, their bad luck was inflicted on their innocent wives. The message is 'greed corrupts and ruins the lives of those around you'.

  The film is partially a Japanese ghost story. Similar to 'Kwaidan' and 'Kuroneko', 'Ugetsu' featuring curses and forest spirits. This adds a sense of mystery and unknown to the events, while simultaneously terrifying the bejesus out of me.

Haunting, and crafted to perfection.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Belly of an Architect (1987)

  'The Belly of an Architect' is a 1987 British film directed by Peter Greenaway.

  Stourley Kracktite is an American architect arriving in Rome with his wife Louisa, to create an exhibition he has been commissioned to build. The architecture of the project is dedicated by an architect unknown in Italy named Boullee. As he arrives in Rome, his wife begins cheating on him with rival architect Caspasian Speckler. As Kracktite wrestles with the massive project, and his wife leaving him, his stomach is diagnosed with cancer. Kracktite's world slowly deteriorates.

  Peter Greenaway, is one of the best directors alive, combining a striking visual style with booming hypnotic soundtracks to make films quite like any other. 'The Belly of an Architect' is one of his best films (not quite as good as 'The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover') despite the absence of a Michael Nyman soundtrack.

  Acting in Greenaway films can be touchy, with some fine performances (Michael Gambon in TCTFHWAHL) and some poor performances (Most of the cast of A Zed and Two Noughts), so also in an indecisive manner, Stourley Kracktite is portrayed remarkably by Brian Dennehy but Louisa Kracktite is played terribly by Chloe Webb. Dennehy is terrific, especially in the long takes where he has a melt-down on screen, and was a great choice for the main character. The close-ups solely on him and the medium-long shots on everyone else, make his character far more fascinating.

  Peter Greenaway is inspired in all of his films by Rembrandt. The use of tables and beds, with the dark tones of some of his films. Greenaway and his cinematographer Vierney, are one of the best collaborations in film history, as between the years 1986-2000, they made some amazing films with some of the best and most artistic shots in history. The colour red is present in all their films, but in this film it is better used, due to Vierny not overloading the viewer with it ('The Baby of Macon') and the limited colour pallet of beigey brown, white and red (and a little green). The colour is more controlled and restrained, combining with the Roman buildings and sculptures, to create their best looking film.

  Rome is architecturally the best place to set a film, with the tall arches, the long hallways, the beautiful buildings and the rows of sculptures. I can't say I've ever been interested in Roman architecture, but this film makes that dull subject far more exciting. Each shot is framed to perfection.

  The soundtrack may not be Nyman, but it's damn close. It's equally as good as Nyman, which is a massive compliment to the composer Wim Mertens.

This film is grand, intriguing and looks exquisite. The story of Stourley Kracktite's descent, is magnificent.


Emotion (1966)

  'Emotion' is a 1966 Japanese short film directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi.

  Emi lives in rural Japan, and becomes friends with a girl named Sari, who is like her in many ways. Emi is often beaten by her father. Soon Emi is introduced to a vampire, who sometimes appears as an old gentleman and sometimes appears as a caped fanged vampire. They fall in love, at least I think, it wasn't that clear.

  Nobuhiko Obayashi is known for his 1972 film 'Hausu', and that's it. His other twenty film are available exclusively in Japan, so I was fortunate to see this. 'Emotion' was preceded 'Hausu' by two films and was his ninth short film. It's 40 minutes long, and shows a period in his career where he was primarily experimenting with the camera, using many techniques never before used in cinema, and some techniques which were never used again.

  The plot of the film makes no sense whatsoever, the acting was dire, and character development non-existent, but that's not what this film is about. If you look at it from an experimentation point of view, the film becomes far greater. Scenes like a banana exiting from a man's mouth was shocking and partially disgusting, until I realized the shot was reversed. Like the banana scene, there's a bunch of real-life stop motion in 'Emotion', which makes it seem less like a standard film and more of a retarded hybrid.

  There are films like 'Shoah' which needs some serious editing down with it's takes, this film needs the complete opposite. The shots often last less than a second (excluding the stop animation), and important events of the plot are glanced over in seconds.

  A cowboy shoot out, Emi and Sari spazzing in the streets, experimental camera techniques, 'Emotion' feels like it was inspire by the French New Wave more than most Japanese New Wave films of the time. It definitely feels like Obayashi has seen 'Breathless' on repeat.

  The version I watched had no English subtitles, but it did have an upper-class English narration. I assume what the characters were saying would be irritating and/or pretentious. Although the film's thin story is conveyed nicely through the narration and the visuals, so this didn't take away from the experience at all.

Only watch after viewing 'Hausu', and you are intrigued by his experimentation. You can still miss this film, it's nothing substantial in any way, shape or form.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Nanami: The Inferno of First Love (1968)

  'Nanami: The Inferno of First Love' (Hatsuki: Jigoku-hen) is a 1968 Japanese New Wave film directed by Susumu Hani and co-scripted with Shuji Terayama.

  Its a simple story of boy (Shun) meets girl (Nanami). Boy's was sexually abused by his father, girl's a nude model. Living in Tokyo, they decide to have sex in a hotel room. It's Shun's first time, and due to nerves, they agree to get to know each other before trying again. They both begin to discuss their pasts. They tell us how Nanami entered the city, and due to entrance exams, was forced to become a model, and how Shun's father died and his mother abandoned him, he became friends with a 5 year old girl and was misinterpreted as touching her in a graveyard.

  It doesn't sound the greatest of stories, but keep in mind this is a Japanese New Wave film, where film-makers went crazy with their cameras and purposely tried to tackle difficult subjects with a sledgehammer. Not only is this the craziest Japanese New Wave film that I've seen, it's also the one with the most boobs. This film is shot in grainy black and white, on and off the streets of Tokyo with a Terayama style of film-making. This whole type of film-making has been completely forgotten by cinema, so I would recommend discovering it.

  The themes this film deals with includes, incest, adoption, nudity, and the many troubles of post-adolescence. In a cruel society, where tradition is the norm, the youth are left to rebel. Filming partially on the streets, you see the reaction to mostly elderly strangers, of surprise and disgust. However when there is a naked man blocking their way to work, I don't blame them for being a bit pissed.

  This film is provocative, shocking and by no way an easy watch. During the erotic nudity scenes we, the audience, look on as a voyeur like the desperate Tokyo business men photographing the models. There are many, many boobs, in fact if there was a boobometer, this film would surely top it. It's not a bad thing, but I can't exactly say it's a good thing without sounding like a pervert.

  So how do I summarise the film? I don't actually know. I'm not disgusted, and the film is well-made, but I'm not sure if I liked it or not. I guess I did. I think...

The crazy, edgy, thought-provoking film-making which I admire. Very similar to 'Throw Away Your Books and Rally in the Streets'.


Top 20 Film Themes

Music featuring an orchestra created primarily for that movie. The only rule is no main stream Hollywood.


5 Centimetres per Second - Tenmon
To get us started (even though you're just going to skip to number 1), here is some relaxing piano music.


Day for Night - Georges Delerue - Grand Choral
Grand theme from a fantastic film.


Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence - Ryuichi Sakamoto
The piano version is far superior and would place at around 5. The original is not as good, but still good.


Providence- Miklos Rozsa- Valse crepusculaire
Beautiful accompanying piano music.


The Naked Island- Hikaru Hayashi- L'lle Nue
The most recent addition, is from the highest reviewed film on the blog (as of March 2014). The video also features a French cover, which isn't in the film, but is also good.


Satantango - Mihaly Vig - Rain II
Occasionally the film would go silent, and this music would play. On screen, is people walking or a shot of a field, but this music makes it so epic.


Amelie - Yann Tiersen - La Valse D'Amelie
I think everyone knows this one.


A Woman Under the Influence - Bo Harwood
They never released the OST, so this is the only song available. It's short, but that just means you can replay it more.


This is just a free space in-case I think of anything. Ignore it and move on. It's not worth it.


Happy Together - Astor Piazzolla - Final Tango Apsaionado
A moody piece of music, which about half way through changes completely. The first half is anticipation for the second half, which is glorious.


Berlin Alexanderplatz- Peer Raben
When I saw the mini-series, I always looked forward to the end credits of each episode, to hear a different version of the theme song.


My Neighbour Totoro - Joe Hisashi
A musical adaptation of the Totoro theme song, jumping from piano, to violin, to alternating violin and (I would guess) flute.


Siberiade - Eduard Artemyev
Epic Russian music at it's peak, but probably better if you watch the film.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Explosions in the Sky - Your Hand in Mine
This was homework music for months after release. The chilled out guitar with the song constantly going into different choruses, make the song relaxing and refreshing.


Kikujiro - Joe Hisaishi- Summer
Joe Hisaishi is more known for his Ghibili soundtracks, but this film has the best. It's joyous and filled with contempt, much like 'Kikujiro'.


Werkmeister Harmonies - Mihaly Vig - Valuska/Old
Two pieces from Werckmeister Harmonies as they are both as good as each other. Ideal for homework music.


The Draughtsman's Contract- Michael Nyman- Chasing Sleep is Best Left to Shepards
Nyman is a vital part of Greenaway's films. I believe this to be his greatest piece.


8 1/2 - Nino Rota - La Passarella di Addio

Anyone who has seen 8 1/2, will say the last scene is the best. This song plays during that scene, and has inspired everything from 'Day for Night' to 'The Great Beauty'.


A City of Sadness- S.E.N.S
You have to wait a while before the chorus enters but when it does, things get epic.


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Ennio Morricone- The Ecstasy of Gold
Maybe not my favourite, but Ennio Morricone has done many good themes, it would be a shame not to put the best one at number 1. It's more of a safe bet, but the song is excellent. The Oboe at the beginning is music to my ears, continuing to the sound of an opera singer, before the whole orchestra joins in.


Monday, 24 March 2014

The Naked Island (1960)

  'The Naked Island' (Hadaka no shima) is a 1960 Japanese film directed by Kaneto Shindo.

  A family of four (a mother, a father and two sons) are living on a remote island in the 'Inland sea': the area of sea separating three mainland islands of Japan. It's a 'naked' island as the soil is dry, and the only inhabitants are the family. Their daily procedure of boating to the mainland and back to get fresh water, gradually takes a toll on the family. But there are far worse events on the horizon.

  Made on a minuscule budget, by a crew of thirteen people, 'The Naked Island' is an astonishing creation, both productively and visually. Especially visually. This film has some of the most gorgeous cinematography I have seen, making the most mundane tasks of carrying water up a hill, some of the most visually striking scenes in cinematic history. Similar to Shindo's 'Onibaba' in thay every scene is framed to perfection. However in 'The Naked Island' there is more time to take in the beautiful setting.

  The mute and slow-paced scenes gradually crescendo the power, resulting in some devastating scenes around the hour mark. Showing every little bit of the family's everyday life, makes the audience sympathize with them, so when the unexpected occurs, it hits hard. The characters look from a distance as society advances without them, while they are left behind in almost medieval times. It's possible to watch the entire film, and realize afterwards that no character spoke. It's not a silent film but a talkie with no dialogue. The film is told entirely by visuals and sound effects, a staggering achievement.

  Another film about humans interacting with nature which focuses on a loving family and the beauty/harshness of the landscape (The Horse Thief, Profound Desires of the Gods). Although, this film is superior in every aspect including the stunning photography, the first-class acting, the well-written story, and the marvellously remarkable soundtrack.

Impressive in every aspect. Slow-paced, but endlessly devastating.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Horse Thief (1986)

  'The Horse Thief' (Dao ma zei) is a 1986 Chinese film directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang.

  Norbu is a horse thief living in 1923 China. When he is caught stealing from the tribe, he, his wife and child, are exiled forever.

  That has to be the shortest synopsis for a film on this entire blog. The narrative is very thin, and as the film progresses it gets further and further from 'an actual story'. There is no way of telling what time of day it is, how far these events occur apart, or even how far away these places are from each other. If it wasn't for the card in the introduction stating the year and place, it would be impossible to identify otherwise. 'The Horse Thief' truly feels like a film that could be set outside time and space.

  The film focuses on man's interactions with nature, and man's belief of god. Being both primitive and religious, the film focuses on their basic human needs, while simultaneously questioning their existence. Nature is conveyed by the slaughter of animals, the vast landscapes, and the family's interaction with the countryside. Religion is conveyed through sacred objects/animals, ceremonies and society's view on existence. 'The Horse Thief' hits on something touching and profound, which few films manage to do.

  It's a film which is quite unlike anything I've seen. It's great and refreshing in many aspects however the plot is confusing, the first child has an painfully high voice, and no characters are particularly likeable. The film is magnificent in beauty, and is not one to be missed, if solely for the strange journey it takes you on.

A weird but pleasing film, both primitive and near silent.


Kaseki (1975)

  Kaseki (The Fossil) is a 1975 Japanese film directed by Masaki Kobayashi.

  Itsuki (Shin Saburi) is a wealthy ageing man on a business trip in Europe with his business partner Funzau. His wife, Yoshie, died a year ago and he is taking this business trip as a holiday to get away from everyday life. However, he starts feeling ill, and after reluctantly going to the doctor, he discovers he has an inoperable cancer. No-one else knows, so he spends the rest of the trip alone, and reflecting on life. He journeys off to Italy with his friend Kishi, his wife and, Madame Marcelin. Itsuki has met Madame Marcelin in the park twice before the trip, but she also plays the 'death' figure, recurring more often as he gets more and more sick.

  Nobody has ever heard of this film, but it has a reputation of being the best Japanese film no-one has seen. Kobayashi is one of my favourite directors, but only four of his films are available in the West: 'Harakiri', 'Kwaidan', 'Samurai Rebellion' and 'The Human Condition Trilogy'. The last of which is my favourite film, so any chance to see any of his other ten films, I have to take them.

  'Kaseki' draws many parallels with 'Ikiru', both are about old men, which don't know what to do with life once they hear the dreaded news. While in 'Ikiru', he's alone and he builds a playground, in 'Kaseki' he repels everyone's friendliness and travels around various parts of Europe including France, Spain and Italy. This is a film that depends entirely on the acting of the main character. Shin Saburi is no Takeshi Shimura, but he plays the film in the deepest possible voice possible and with the utmost compassion. Supporting actors were good as well. This is also the first film I've seen set in four different countries: France, Italy, Spain and Japan.

  There is constant narration through the entire film, in the third person stating 'Itsuki felt this' and 'Itskuki didn't want to be seen' etc. The most pessimistic and anti-social, third person narration in cinema history. The film is over three hours long, the ending was rather anti-climactic and doesn't raise up to the high bar of his other films. But it's a good watch.

A profound, reflective and obliquely sad film.


Friday, 21 March 2014

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939)

  'The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums' (Zangiku monogatariis a 1939 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.

  Kikunosuke Onoue is an actor for his adopted father's acting troupe. Everyone around him treats him as an excellent actor, but behind his back complain about his poor acting. They praise him for being the heir for his father until Otoku, the nurse for his father's son, tells him the truth. Kikunosuke is upset, falls in love with Otoku, and runs away to Tokyo to try and become a better actor on his own. Once there he meets Otoku again, who was fired from their household, and they fall in love.

  This is one of the few Mizoguchi films which wasn't about Geishas, and a definite highlight of his earlier work. With hints of 'Chikamatsu Monogatari' and 'Floating Weeds', the themes include alienation from society, forbidden love, and redemption. All of which, are presented in the classic Mizoguchi way, with great cinematography, superb acting and detailed sets.

  Despite the solid acting the film ran too long at 2 1/2 hours, and I never felt involved with the characters. Maybe because Ozu's 'Floating Weeds' and Mizoguchi's 'Chikamatsu Monogatari' felt similar and were greater. This film probably inspired 'Floating Weeds', and helped develop Mizoguchi's style in preparation for 'Chikamatsu Monogatari' but watching this film reminded me how great those other films were. The narrative was stretched out so much, when the ending occured, I wasn't shocked or sad.

  This is another film to be admired more than loved. His later films are immaculate in every way, but his earlier films don't feel quite there.

Mizoguchi's best film from the 1930s is enjoyable, lovingly crafted, but way too long.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Aviator's Wife (1981)

  'The Aviator's Wife' (La femme de l'aviateur) is a 1981 French film directed by Eric Rohmer.

  In Paris, Christian, a young aviator, visits his ex-lover's apartment. He was interrupted while putting the note under the door, and his ex-lover, Anne, let him in. After a lengthy conversation, he leaves the building with the conclusion there love is over. However Anne's current lover, Francois, sees them leave the apartment. After trying to contact Anne, and her avoiding him, Francois falls asleep in a cafe. He awakes to find Christian walking past with a woman, and he follows/spies on them. He meets a 'fun' 15 year old girl, called Lucie, on the way and they talk while spying on them.

  This is the first of Eric Rohmer's 'comedy of proverbs' and the first of my Rohmer eight film box-set. Rohmer has made 25 films, 16 of them available at my library, so I am eager to like his work. However, he is not the type of director I like. Focusing on long, dull conversations about love, set in the same small rooms and cafes, no action, no emotion, just talking. Apparently it's a comedy, which is strange as I didn't laugh once. The upbeat acting of Lucie was lively and fun, but still not funny, atleast not ha ha funny.

  When the character Lucie entered the film, the film went from uninteresting, to exciting. Later she leaves the film, and a 30 minute conversation occurs, cancelling the leeway the film was making. The scenes in the park were entertaining and earned my curiosity, but the over-long ending sadly lost it and descended me into boredom.

  This is a bad sign for my Rohmer box-set. C'etait tres tres terribleh. La femme de l'aviateur est trop bof. Finally my French GCSE has come in useful.

Talking. Realist talking. Realist talking about love. Dull realist talking about love... That is all.


A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985)

  'A Time to Live and a Time to Die' (Tong nien wang shi) is a semi-autobiographical 1985 Taiwanese film directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

  The film chronicles the life of Ah-ha (Hou) and his family during the years 1947-1960. The family, consisting of Ah-ha, his three brothers, a sister, his mother and father and his grandmother, are adapting to life after their move from China to Taiwan, after the end of the second world war. His father falls sick, as Ah-Ha takes his exams at school. The film then skips ahead ten years, where Ah-ha joins the bored youth rebellion, joining a street gang and violently attacking other street gangs (similar to 'A Brighter Summers Day'). However it's not long until disaster strikes again.

  After watching 'The Terrorizers' I was starting to thing Edward Yang was the best Taiwanese director, but now it has flipped once again. This film is phenomenal in every way. I don't think a film has ever been as personal as this in the history of cinema. 'Au revoir les enfants' came close, but this film is far more epic in scope. Telling the audience, in a non-causal narrative, the childhood of Hsiao-Hsien, the second in his childhood trilogy (succeeding 'A Summer at Grandpa's' and preceding 'Dust in the Wind').

  Hsiao-Hsien's films depict historical events in Taiwan over the last century. This film shows the exile of millions of Chinese, to Taiwan after World War Two, via a single family. The alienation they feel, and the adaption to their new homes in Taiwan, while feeling insecure about their future.

  As Woody Allen is Ingmar Bergman's biggest fan, Hou Hsiao-Hsien is Yasujiro Ozu's biggest fan. All his films have many similarities. The housing in Taiwan is similar to the Japanese, due to a war the Chinese fought for twenty years, big events happening to small families, and the peaceful tone of his films carry similarities to Ozu's filmography. Hsiao-Hsien's films have many of his own characteristics, most notably the long shots. They are a trademark of his film repertoire and this was the first film they were noticeable.

  The film is quiet and subtle, while simultaneously being powerful and unforgettable. I can't explain what occurs in the film but a title called 'A Time to Live and a Time to Die' means there will be a few deaths. As well as the 'If someone cough's they will die before the end' trope. 

For a film which is slow, beautiful, and peaceful, it is incredibly powerful. Long shots, Taiwanese history, an emotional piano soundtrack and wonderful acting, combine to create an unforgettable epic.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Mother (1926)

  'Mother' (Mat) is a 1926, Russian film directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin.

  Pelageya Nilovna Vlasova, is a poor mother, living with her son Pavel. Pavel is interested in the revolution (the Russian revolution of 1905 against the Czarist regime), soon he is caught and the mother's attempt of saving him causes more trouble.

  The film concerns murder, injustice and revolution, but feels eerily similar to every other Russian movie made in the 1920s. 'The End of St Petersburg', 'Oktabyr' and, of course, 'The Battleship Potemkin' all feature the same story, translated into slightly different contexts. First there is the struggle, where life is the hard and repetitive and the main characters are withstanding the system. This ends with a major act of injustice. The second third concerns the talk and plotting of revolution and features anticipation for the final third, where revolution occurs, people get constantly massacred and ends in a victory. It's a formula which works, but repeated far too often in Russian silent films. 'Mother' plays to all these plot points.

  Even when you know the inevitable plot twists, this has to be the most entertaining film to watch them happen. Despite the dull beginning, the ending trumps 'The End of St Petersburg' and 'Oktabyr' hands down. The storming of a prison is far more enjoyable then I expected, and the marching of people to the valiant soundtrack is an effective way to appeal to an audience and have them on their side. The fast editing combined with the well-framed and large variety of shots creates a stunning finale. 

  The difference with this film, in comparison with the other Russian, silent, revolutionary epics, is that this concerns the love of a mother. the mother is a metaphor for Mother Russia, and the dedication she has for her sons. With all the battles going on, the film never loses sight of the human aspect of the story, a mother's love for her two sons.

This Potemkin wannabe is an entertaining watch. Things really escalate for the finale.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Swimming Pool (2003)

  'Swimming Pool' is a 2003 French film directed by Francois Ozon.

  Sarah Morton is an English author living in London when her publisher John Bosload, tells her she can stay at his holiday cottage in the South of France. She accepts, and once arrived she starts writing her novel. Soon after, Julie Bosload, John's daughter arrives causing a noise and being reckless. While Sarah starts off hate her, she eventually becomes interested in her, and she becomes an inspiration for her book. Not long until these fantasies get sexual and a bit weird.

  Francois Ozon directed the wonderful 'In the house' which was one of the best films of last year, so I decided to check out his most famous film. I'm thinking I shouldn't have.

  The only redeeming quality is the decent acting by Charlotte Rampling who plays Sarah. It's not that the acting is amazing, but that she is a perfect fit for the main character. Charles Dance appears as the publisher, who is excellent in anything he's in. But that's it. That's the only good thing about this film.

The pacing is too slow. The film may only be 98 minutes long, but that doesn't change the fact it feels like it's 3 hours. Impeccably slow. As the genre for this film is a psychological, erotic thriller, it doesn't thrill at all. The film suffers from being uninteresting. Being interesting is vital for a film where you're meant to care about the main characters, but with the sleep-inducing, snails-pace narrative and the poor acting from Ludivine Sagnie, I didn't want to care, so much as to punch the main characters.

For a film set in the South of France, the setting and cinematography is bland. The eerie music doesn't improve things either, and the script feels like it's written by a very bored screenwriter who's ran out of ideas. Ozon has guts to try such a tricky genre. Sadly it didn't work.

Bland, uninteresting and wasn't the slightest bit thrilling. Not very good for a thriller.


The Baby of Macon (1993)

  'The Baby of Macon' is a 1993 British film, directed by Peter Greenaway.

  A baby is born, and is believed to be the new messiah. The sister of the child, tells everyone she is the mother and that she is a virgin (which she is). Soon after, the baby grows to a child, and she starts she sells blessings to strangers, all of which become true. The sister gets corrupted with power and decides to make love with the bishop's son (Ralph Fiennes). The child doesn't like this  and the consequences change everything.

  Greenaway always surprises, and this film is no different. This film couldn't have been directed by anyone else. He's a director which is as far away from Hollywood as possible. A director which focuses on the strange, with detail on the performances, and the costumes. Half-way between Avant-Garde and surreal, Greenaway is the only auter in Britain.

  This film is the worst out of the films I have seen by Greenaway. There's no Nyman soudtrack which is a pain, but the film has an overall depressing tone. Perhaps it's because, similar to 'Week-end', and 'Natural Born Killers', you hate the main characters. This film goes a step further and makes you hate ALL the characters. The mythical world Greenaway has created, couldn't be more unpleasant as he has purposely made the film detestable. Even the cinematography makes the audience angry, with every shot featuring the colour red. The colour of anger. Not sure the reason for any of this.

  The story is incredibly thought-provoking, even if the film peaks at the half way point. It shows the disgusting trait of human desperation, which every other film has avoided. There's a reason why they avoided it, because it's not pretty.

  The Church are presented as monsters, taking the child for themselves, and selling off parts of it, then forcing the mother/sister to be *** 208 times. The film feels like it has to say more about humans than god, but making up lies about The Church is pointless and offensive. The only time the child is seen with the power is in the stable, therefore the mother is the only person to know of his power. The response by society and The Church is disturbing and comments on the worst part of human corruption. It's a very depressing way to look at society, which I find sad and demoralizing.

  If the film opens and closes with a guy with cerebral palsy on a swing, the film's not going to be great. It has some really shocking parts, namely the stable scene. Good luck forgetting them any time soon. Despite all of these reasons, this film is a primarily a Greenaway film.

  This film doesn't have flaws, but reasons why everyone should hate it. I don't know if Greenaway is a master for being as Anti-Hollywood as you can get, or a twerp wanting to annoy everyone.

There are plenty of reasons to hate this film. Strictly for die-hard Greenaway fans.


Wadjda (2012)

  'Wadjda' is a 2012 Saudi Arabian film directed by Haifaa Al-Mansou.

  After a small fight with a friend who's a boy named Abdullah, Wadjda saves up money to obtain a bike. A bike, which only men should ride. At school, she enters a 'recite the Qur'an' competition to try and win the prize money of SR 1,000, SR 200 more than the cost of the bike. Meanwhile her mother is attempting to get  back with her father. Will she win the competition?

  This film is historically significant, as it's Saudi Arabia's first feature length film, it's directed by a female Saudi-Arabian and the subject matter is controversial to say the least. If it were filmed in any other country (except maybe North Korea), the film would not be the slightest bit controversial, but this is a country where women have to wear hijabs in public, they aren't allowed to vote and can't even drive a car. Riding a bike is not illegal, but is improper and looked down upon. In the film, there isn't one specific enemy, instead it is society which prevents her from obtaining the bike. It's in no way anti-Saudi, and presents the country in a beautiful and respected way, while promoting women's rights without being offensive and radical.

  The film itself is a story of motivation and defiance, telling the viewer: 'Anything is possible if you put you try hard enough'. I found it better than the eerily similar 'Children of Heaven', but similar to all Middle Eastern movies it's about human rights or has something to say about society. What I like about 'Wadjda' is that, unlike 'The Stoning of Soraya M.' and 'Ten', it's not all doom and gloom. It's a happy lovely story, that's not only concerned about rights, but also on making a good film.

  There's a lot to like and the 16, four or five star reviews on the poster are well-deserved. Firstly, the leading performance by Waad Mohammed is one of the best child performances I have seen. All of the cast act with passion and charisma and is very well directed for a first time director. The use of colour is impressive, especially in the scene she sees the bicycle for the first time. The bicycle is green, the colour of knowledge, learning, growth and harmony. When she sees the bicycle she runs, following the van. As she does this, bright green trees gradually appear in the background, a colour which has not been present thus far in the film.

I seem to be more impressed with it's historical significance, than the film itself. Very impressive.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Sisters of the Gion (1936)

  'Sisters of the Gion' is a 1936 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.

  Set in the Gion district in Kyoto, the film depicts the lives of two geishas: Umekichi and her younger sister Omocha. Umekichi comes to the aid of Furusawa, when he has become bankrupt, and allows him to stay in the Geisha-house. Omocha doesn't like this and believes they should be wasting their time with richer clients. Umekichi likes men, while Omocha believes they are losers and despises them. A shop clerk falls in love with Omocha, and ends up stealing the money for a kimono for her. Omocha takes the kimono and doesn't show any thanks. It's only when the owner of the shop (the clerk works at) becomes her cleint, do bad things begin to happen.

  Mizoguchi is often refered to as the third best Japanese director, behind Kurosawa and Ozu. 'Sisters of the Gion' is an early work of his with a duration of only 69 minutes. It's a short simple story, but if you know Mizoguchi, you pretty much know what to expect. Implicit prostitution, similar to Ozu cinematography, and an unresolved ending. 

  As it's a short film, there's not a lot to say. The film is genuinely good. Not great, but it plans out to tell a story and tells it. I feel that Mizoguchi's earlier work doesn't anywhere match the masterpieces in his later career. It feels like an average version of his final film 'Akasen Chitai'. That's the truth, it's just a good film.

A very short review, as I have few opinions on this film. Acting is good, cinematography is good, story is good. It's just a good film. No more, no less. What a lame review.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Terrorizers (1986)

  'The Terrorizers' (Kong bu fen zi) is a 1986 Taiwanese film directed by Edward Yang.

  The story is set in Taipei. The three threads of plot, include a photographer growing distant from his girlfriend and becomes interested in a girl he photographed, A couple who are having marriage problems, so the woman writes a book and escapes to the arms of her former lover, and a prostitute who is secluded and locked up at home. None of these stories are related, yet in a big city, the threads will eventually cross.

  Yang is one of three directors responsible for the Taiwanese New Wave, and is probably the most well-known, due to 'Yi Yi: A One and a Two' and 'A Brighter Summers Day'. The Terrorizers preceded both of these films, but is available in better quality than all the films which came after it (except 'Yi Yi').

 'The Terrorizers' is post-modernistic, and centres around the urbanization of Taipei, and the lives of complete strangers. The three stories are interlinked, not by causality, but by chance, an idea unheard of at the time. A bad example of this would be 'Love Actually', where characters would rarely meet, and if they did it would be accidental. The photographer watching the novelist on the television, or the prostitute calling the novelist on the phone. Masterly handled by Yang, the narrative interweaves through these stories, each influencing each other. There is a small blur between reality and fiction in this film. The film often tricks the viewer into thinking fantasy is reality and the characters are told lies and believe they are real. Not only are the characters being terrorized, but the audience is too.

  The film looks stunning with outbursts of bloody violence. Throughout the film, there is little in the way of establishing shots, making the viewer feel claustrophobic and lost. The way one scene, instantly moves into the next scene, with no shot to establish where the characters are, is surprisingly effective, especially with the speedy editing. Throughout the film, there is not a single shot of Taipei from the outside, just the occasional shot through a small window. For a film about urbanization, there's few shots of Taipei, or scenes filmed outside. We get the feeling of an urban metropolis without ever seeing it, alienating the characters in a very Antonioni way.

  This film has Antonioni all over it. The photographer in this film, is similar and most likely inspired, by the photographer from 'Blow-up'. The depressing theme of fading relationships is present, and the smooth camera-work reminds me clearly of Antonioni. Despite this, the film is creative and innovative enough to be applauded on it's own merits.

The movie equivalent of a jigsaw. When all of the many pieces come together, it creates something masterful.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Le Pont du Nord (1981)

  'Le Pont du Nord' is a 1981 French film directed by Jacques Rivette.

  Set on the streets of Paris, Marie an ex-convict, meets Baptise randomly on the streets three times. After this they become friends as "Once is accident, twice is chance, three times is fate". They travel the streets together as they follow a map, which they believe is a conspiracy, stolen from Marie's ex-boyfriend. Baptise has a tendency to stab out the eyes of posters and is a karate expert, but during the film they become good friends.

  'Celine and Julie go Boating' was my last Rivette film, which I hated. I wanted to watch another of his films, as I didn't understand the whole Rivette experience, and he currently has alzheimer's. Part of the late French New Wave, Rivette is a film-maker which critics and pretentious film snobs have been applauding, so when I blind bought this on bluray for a tenner. Even if it's one of his lesser films, it's a vast improvement on 'Celine and Julie go Boating'.

  With Rivette films, there is no way of predicting what may occur. Events occur randomly and have little to do with what happened before. The downfall of this film is that none of it makes any sense. There is a faint thread of a plot, but most of the story and characters I would consider to be 'stupid'. Even at two hours the film feels overlong, and the dialogue is well written, but feels like ramblings pursued by ramblings. This was the main criticism of 'Celine and Julie go Boating', and it's a shame to see it return. It's not all bad...

 Set entirely outside, the gorgeously shot cinematography is the best part of the film. Even if you don't like the film, you can admire 'Le Pont du Nord' purely for it's looks. The 80s set Paris is being half built and half destroyed, with some interesting scenes in 'new' Paris by the Arc de Triomphe and in the 'old' Paris with derelict train tracks. The tall building work well for the film, making Paris seem like a grand and alienating place. The memorable and vivid colour of the sky is due to the whole film being shot during the hours approaching sunset (I assume).

  The film stars Rivette muse Bulle Ogier, and her daughter Pascale Ogier. At the beginning I thought they were lesbians (sleeping on park benches together), an easy mistake to make. What is really tragic, is that Pascale died soon after making the film at the age of 24. For a inane script she acted well and unpretentiously.

I dislike it as much as I adore it. A memorable, and very strange, journey.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Henry V (1944)

  'Henry V' is a 1944 British film directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, taken from the play written by William Shakespeare.

  Henry V has inherited the throne after the death of his father Henry IV. He has a wild and lively reputation, so when the French Prince Dauphin sends Henry an insulting message in response to Henry's claim for French land, he starts a full on war. After the death of Falstaff, Henry and his small army travel to France, where the French large army wait for him.

  I have seen a couple of direct adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, and none of them have surpassed mediocre. Polanski's Macbeth was forgettable, Branagh's Hamlet was long, and Luhrmann's Romeo and Julliet was the movie equivalent of gherkins in a Big Mac. However it didn't help that my English teacher kept replaying the film over and over, I must have seen it five times. The question you are asking yourself now is, Is Henry V the first truly great Shakespeare film adaptation. erm... no.

  Maybe Shakespeare isn't my thing. This being my first Olivier film, I think my hopes were too high, and were inevitably destroyed after the first five minutes. Firstly the positives. For 1944, the film is ahead of it's time, and in colour! It doesn't feel like a 1940s film, which I think is a good thing. Partly due to the cardboard set design and the costumes, which are colourful and different to anything around that time.

  The negative list is quite long. With Shakespeare, the most important thing is the acting, and while most characters were portrayed decently, there was no outstanding performance. With all the hype surrounding Olivier, you can understand my disappointment. He was effective, but I feel Branagh did a superior job in 'Henry V' (1989). Without great performances, Shakespeare adaptations are don't work.

  I know the story of Henry V quite well, but in this version, Olivier managed to bore me to death. The first 25 minutes is set in The Globe, which was dull, and the last 20 minutes was Henry's stupid proposal for a girl he just met, who doesn't speak his language. You get the feeling he is a pimp or a womanizer rather than a great and loving king. My advice? take out the first and last 25 minutes. In the 1989 version, the story builds up to the bloody and brutal war scene. But here, the build-up is slower and the battle is not as satisfying, even if it's the best part of the film.

  The biggest problem of all is the language. They were speaking so fast, I couldn't process what they were saying. Luckily the film has a simple plot, but it felt like I was watching a silent film. The actors were rushing through their lines, there was no time to think about what they were saying.

  I'm sure I'm in the minority with disliking this film. So trusting other reviews is a better idea. A way better idea. One of these days I will find a good direct Shakespeare adaptation.

137 minutes of boredom. I tried to like it, but from the start, it wanted me to sleep.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Ceremony (1971)

  'The Ceremony' (Gishiki) is a 1971 Japanese film directed by Nagisa Oshima.

  The story covers the many ceremonies held by the Sakurada family from 1945-1971. Each ceremony happens on an important date in Japanese culture, adding to the historical depth of the film. Masuo and his mother arrive from Manchuria, where they had fled, to avoid the repercussions of war. When they get back, the family hold a ceremony to mark a year since Masuo's father's death. Here, it's announced his younger brother had died, so Masuo is expected to live for two sons. Masuo and his cousins hold a baseball match, which 'Future Masuo' remembers fondly. This is where he realizes his feelings for his Aunt Setsuko. Back to present day, where Masuo and his cousin Ritsuko receive a telegram saying Terumichi (also cousin) had commited suicide. They travel to the island to find out the truth. Flashback upon flashback occurs, revealing the family secrets one by one.

  Firstly, this film is tough to keep up with. The story darts back and forwards in time, and there are many different characters. Everything gets confusing, and there are a few things I don't understand even now. When it's revealed Ritsuko and Masuo are brother and sister, is Setsuko his mother? Who's son is Tadashi, the third cousin? And I thought 'The Inugami Family' was complex... These details are minor in the grand scope of the plot. The film is incredibly ambitious, with it's covering significant history of Japan and spanning 25 years.

  The film deals with many subjects, including communism, incest and suicide, but there are many underlying messages as well. It's a film about family control, and an  individual which has to withstand though the entirety of it, through his life. It's a film about how family ceremonies bring out the worst in people and bring up uncomfortable memories from the past. It's a film about Masuo's Oedipul love for his Aunt, and the resounding problems when an individual has no father to aspire to.

  There are four or five funerals and one wedding, during the entirety of the film, so the tone is serious and often depressing. Funerals signify the loss of a loved one, as well as the passing of time, so to have four or five in a single film is purely miserable. Even the wedding is depressing.

  While the story is complex and miserable, it's told flawlessly. This is my first Oshima film, and I, now, intend to see more. The pace of the film never slows down, and even if the flashbacks and story is complex, it definitely makes sense. After watching, you feel like you have seen an epic, like The Godfather, and that you have been taken on a long fantastical journey.

'Four Funerals and a Wedding'. Expertly told, this is a film I respect more than I love.


Friday, 7 March 2014

Picnic (1996)

  'Picnic' (Pikunikku) is a 1996 Japanese film directed by Shunji Iwai.

  The story follows 3 members of a mental asylum, Tsumiji, Coco and Satoru, as they escape from the asylum, and into the real world. On the way, they find a vicar, who changes their out-view on life, by giving them a bible. Tsumiji takes interest and starts believing in god, while Coco believes the world began when she was born. While they look around town, they must walk ontop of the fences and walls to avoid the floor. They read in the bible that the world will end on the 10th July, so they roam around town attempting to find the perfect place for a picnic.

  This is my first Iwai film, so I went into this open-minded and was pleasantly surprised. Only lasting 68 minutes, the film is short on time but long on heart. The story is lyrical and original, which is strange as there appears to be no definitive message. The characters are similar to 'I'm a Cyborg, but that's Okay', so this could be seen as a sequel, made before that film. The acting is impressive, making 'Picnic' a perfect character study.

  As the characters are constantly walking across walls, the camera points to the sky whenever filming the three characters. Tsumiji, Coco and Satoru seem to be talking about heaven and hell during the entire film, so the camerawork made me feel like they were taking a trip to heaven. The ground being temptation from the devil, and the wall being the stairway to heaven. This film can be interpreted many ways.

  The soundtrack contains a dizzying piano score, which crescendos with any plot point. It can be seen as irritating or wonderful, depending on how submerged into the film you are.

'Picnic' is a gorgeous, small budget film, with big ambitions.