Friday, 30 May 2014

Love in the Afternoon (1972)

  'Love in the Afternoon' (L'amour l'apres-midi) is a 1972 French film directed by Eric Rohmer.

  Frederic is a lawyer living in the suburbs, and working in the city of Paris. He is married to Helene, who is pregnant with their second child. Frederic regrets being married and wants to be free, like when he was single. Soon enough, an old friend of Frederic, Chloe, returns to Paris and they both gradually become friends.

  My seventh Rohmer film, is probably his most famous. It has a 7.8 IMDB score, and has been remade as 'I Think I Love My Wife' in 2007 by Chris Rock. After watching the fantastic 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend', I was anticipating another great film. However this was not to be. I personally do not see why 'Love in the Afternoon' is considered his magnum opus.

  This is the most "talkiest" Rohmer I have seen. It is what all the characters do in Rohmer films, but in this film it seems none of the characters shut up at all. That is how it feels after watching anyway. The best thing about the film is the fluidity. Everything flows at a pace and a scene is never longer than necessary. It does feel like a Truffaut film, due to the upbeat pace, but sadly, the film does not deliver like Truffaut does.

  Despite this being made earlier than 'A Good Marriage' there is no sign of its naff aroma that plagued many of his 80s productions (except a turtleneck sweater). It does, however, feature some tedious characters. Frederic may seem fine at first, but as the film proceeds, I gradually hated him more and more. His wife just had a baby, and he insists of meeting Chloe to make him feel "free again". Chloe is equally as bad for encouraging him. This culminates in two irritating and punchable protagonists, which is never good. This is also told from the man's perspective, rarely done in a Rohmer film.

  The two characters are portrayed by Bernard Verley (Frederic) and Zouzou (Chloe). The acting is average at best, but I think it's more the script which is the problem. There is only so much you can act when you are talking about love in a bedroom or a cafe. Maybe I have seen one too many of his films, but the constant talking crap never appealed to me. After the final film in the Rohmer box-set 'The Marquise of O', I plan to take a long, needed, break from Eric Rohmer.

I wasn't as bored in this one. The film is Rohmer at his most usual. It is not good or bad, just a considerable meh.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)

  'The Flowers of St. Francis' (Francesco, giullare di Dio) is a 1950 Italian film directed by Roberto Rossellini.

  This is the story of St. Francis in the early 13th Century, where he founded the Orders of Friars Minor. He gave up a lifestyle of wealth, to devote his life to god, to share the teachings and to help the poor. The film tells of his years of being reclusive in the countryside, teaching a group of his early followers lessons about god. The film partially focuses on the follower Giovanni and his many experiences under Francesco.

  Told in a series of vignettes, 'The Flowers of St. Francis' is a biography of Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardo (shortened to Franceso) of Assisi. He was born to the upper class, known as maiores, but after a crusade, he gave up his wealth to meditate alone. He began to preach the word of god, and eventually gained followers. After repairing many churches, he founded the The Franciscan Order, and is now one of the most known religious figures in world history. Rossellini's film does not focus on the whole story, but one of the periods of time Francesco taught his group of disciples to believe in god. The story is told as Francesco is a normal person, without alluding to him being a saint. Rossellini shows him as a man that the audience can relate to, which is unusual for a religious biopic.

  Rossellini uses his Neo-realist style, first developed in his war trilogy ('Rome, Open City', 'Paisan', 'Germany Year Zero'), where he combined authenticity with truth and naturalness. The films also include natural lighting and many unprofessional actors. 'The Flowers of St. Francis' feels like he has perfected all of his neo-realist techniques, and is a flawless film.

  The hard-hitting truth of the poverty and barbarianism of the time is not overlooked or ignored, but is confronted throughout the film. Most films set during key points in history are extravagant or unrealistic, but this is not the case with this film. Nothing is shied away from, including leprosy, tyrants and poverty. That said, it is told in a way which is not obscene and gritty, but rather real and true. This is a good example of a film accurately portraying historical event.

  The best scene for me, was when Francesco was praying alone one night, when a leper passes. Instead of throwing a coin on the ground and walking away, he embraces the leper in his arms. This event actually occured to St. Francis, and is the most terrifying and beautiful scene in the film.

  It's critically acclaimed by many critics and loved by Martin Scorsese. I agree with them and think this is Rossellini's greatest film.

A wonderful film about St. Francis and his followers. A hidden gem of Italian cinema.


Monday, 26 May 2014

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (1987)

  'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend' (L'ami de mon amie) is a 1987 film directed by Eric Rohmer.

  Blanche, a young clerk, has just moved to a new town in Paris. She meets Lea in a restaurant, and the two become good friends. Blanche is introduced to Lea's boyfriend Fabien, and it's not until after Lea goes on vacation, do they fall in love. Blanche insists he still has feelings for Lea, and that she has feelings for Alexandre, but when Lea returns from holiday, events take a different turn.

  My sixth Rohmer film, and fifth in the boxset, is a massive surprise. It is still a Rohmer film, with all his auteur trademarks, but it goes against everything I hated about his previous films. I was expecting a bland and tedious talkfest, but what I got was a visually impressive film with well-crafted characters and an interesting plot.

  Instead of the dull realistic style of 'A Good Marriage' and 'Full Moon in Paris' which are set in bedrooms and depressing streets, the events of 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend' takes place in the modern metropolis of Cergy-Pontoise. The landscape of the town feels futuristic, with epic buildings and vast concrete streets, however, it's the trips out of town which provide for the best visuals. The green park and large lake remind me of my many holidays to the South of France, and is a great backdrop to the story.

  The characters are the best in any of his films. They do not infuriate like in his other films, which is a big improvement for Rohmer. The characters feel like authentic and genuine people, that are easy to sympathize with. The "naff" problem (I talked about in my 'Full Moon in Paris' review) has disappeared. They dress relatively normally, and nobody has a bad fashion sense.

  The story of a reclusive shy clerk befriending a lively and exciting girl, but secretly falling in love with her boyfriend, is constantly interesting and surprising. I may not have labelled it a "Comedy and Proverb" but it's a great story regardless. One thing I have learnt about Rohmer films is they end however he feels like it. Sometimes they are abrupt, sometimes they are sad, and sometimes they are good. 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend' will keep you guessing until the final minute.

  It is strange that, everything I complained about in the 'Full Moon in Paris' review has been corrected. It is not just that, but the resulting film is genuinely brilliant. Your eyes do not deceive you, Eric Rohmer has indeed created a good film.

I thought the day would never come when I like a Rohmer film, but it has finally come. This is his best film by quite a distance.


Full Moon in Paris (1984)

  'Full Moon in Paris' (Les nuits de la pleine lune) is a 1984 French film directed by Eric Rohmer.

  Louise is living in Paris, in love with her boyfriend Remi. She wants to stay single and avoid married life, and becomes friends with writer Octave. She has two apartments, one in urban Paris and one in the Suburbs. Eventually she becomes even more friendly with a young musician at a party, and so her third lover begins.

  I had to skip 'Pauline at the Beach' as the disc was too scratched to play, so 'Full Moon in Paris' was the next film in the box-set (my fifth Rohmer overall). This was easier to watch than 'A Good Marriage' and 'The Aviator's Wife' but it is equally as dull and infuriating. Let me explain...

  The main problem with Rohmer films is that the main protagonist is so detestable. In 'A Good Marriage' the young woman is addicted to a man who isn't the faintest bit interested in her. In this film, Louise falls in love with (not 1, not 2... but) 3 men. When the ending happens and we are meant to feel sad, I felt happy, because the one thing you should never do is date three people at the same time. She cries like it's a surprise! The film just follows what she does, and how she is taking advantage of the unmarried life, but honestly she is an idiot. There is nothing wrong with female leads in films, but there is everything wrong with Louise.

  The second problem is the naff levels. I don't like using the word naff, but there is no other word for it. I know nothing about fashion, but the clothes and the hairstyles are dire. Every character reeks of the 1980s. We all have seen photographs of our parents dancing in the 1980s looking ridiculous. This film is full of people dressed like that, and it is a major concern throughout Rohmer's filmography.

  The third problem is that it is not cinematic, whatsoever. Who would honestly go to the cinema to see people talking about love? It doesn't even look cinematic, with the same, realistic and boring cinematography Rohmer uses in 'A Good Marriage'. A film called 'Full Moon in Paris' should be beautiful and gorgeous, but it couldn't be further from the opposite.

  I respect Rohmer, as he is sticking to his auteur styles, but the problem is they are dull, naff and dated. The acting is good, especially from Pascale Ogier (La Pont du Nord). She may be portraying a character I dislike (Louise), but she does it well.

Nothing interesting here. Definitely one of his lesser works.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Immortal Love (1961)

  'Immortal Love' is a 1961 Japanese film directed by Keisuke Kinoshita and starring Tatsuya Nakadai and Hideko Takamine.

  The film spans 29 years from 1932-1951 in a small village in rural Japan. Heibei (Nakadai) is a young land owner, who forcefully marries Sadako (Takamine) after raping her. Sadako was in love with Takashi, which Heibei does not like. Over the years they have children of their own, and they each try and find love in their own separate ways.

  Kinoshita is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors. He had a 23 year career directing a 42 films containing a wide variety of subjects. This film was a pleasant surprise, especially seeing as it is completely unheard of.

  The soundtrack is a pulsating flamenco music, which raises any time the film gets heated. This is something I haven't heard before in any film, but, strangely, it works very well.

   It contains Japan's two greatest actors Tatsuya Nakadai ('Harakiri', 'Ran', 'Yojimbo') and Hideko Takamine ('24 Eyes', 'Flowing'), facing off against each other as a married couple which hate each other. As expected, the acting is immense. The film plays out as a character study between the two main characters, as many catastrophes happen to them. In five chapters the film explores the dark side of marriage, filled with regret, pain and arguments. Its not a happy film, but a powerful, sad and visually stunning study on married life. The sort of film I was hoping 'The Sting of Death' would be.

  The cinematography matches the tone of the film, with claustrophobic interiors and vast exteriors. The village is located in the flatlands in-between a group of tall mountains. Whenever the action moves to the glorious and beautiful open land of rural Japan, it gives the film a breathe of fresh air. The landscape really is gorgeously vast, making 'Immortal Love' a must-see for it's visual beauty and incredible acting.

A  Picturesque and stunning, acting masterclass. It's close to being Kinoshita's best film.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

  'An Autumn Afternoon' (Sanma no aji) is a 1962 Japanese film directed by Yasujiro Ozu.

  In post-war Japan, an elderly widow, Shuhei, attempts to arrange a marriage for his daughter, Michiko. Michiko insists on being single, but Shuhei believes he is holding her back, and if she doesn't get married now, she never will. With the help of his two ageing friends, he tries to find a suitable husband.

  Ozu is often known as the second best Japanese director, directing 50 films over his career (many of them lost). I have seen 14 of them, and they are all masterpieces. My personal favourites are the devastating 'Tokyo Twilight' and the under-appreciated 'The Only Son', but I have enjoyed every single one of them. 'An Autumn Afternoon' is his final film before he died of cancer on his 60th birthday in 1963.

  Throughout his career, he has perfected his unique and unconventional style. This includes filming the characters straight on, keeping the camera close to the floor and keeping the camera stationary. The camera is often placed in unusual places, such as behind the protagonists. Important scenes (like the marriage) are skipped in favour of the melodrama and family interactions, and scenes are linked together by stationary shots of insignificant objects/places (most famous is Ozu's infamous teapot). All of this may sound unusual, but it perfectly fits with Ozu's story and themes. There is nothing like viewing an Ozu film so, if you haven't already, I recommend you do so straight away.

  All of Ozu's films with seasons in the title ('The End of Summer', 'Late Autumn') are similar thematically and stylistically. This film deals with family, friendship and old age, common themes throughout his filmography. Having to say goodbye to the Michiko, the daughter Shuhei has lived with since her birth, is something every ageing parent dreads and is the basis for the storyline. It's not life or death, as Shuhei still has a son to care for him, but the pain of loosing her is overwhelming. Ozu specializes in family dilemmas, combining the subtle comedy of everyday life, and the emotional farewells which occur with age.

  Chrishu Ryu plays the lead of Shuhei, and has a fantastic screen presence. In Ozu films he always played characters much older than him (he was only 58 when making this film), despite him being the typical characteristic of a Japanese elder. He plays the role effortlessly and excellently.

  Japan's loss of the Second World War is present in the film and even though it happened 20 years prior, still has an everyday impact on society. 'An Autumn Afternoon' is the result of 3 1/2 decades of Ozu's experimenting and perfecting, and is a great film to conclude the filmography of one of cinema's greatest directors.

Typical Ozu excellence. Everything from the use of colour to the the unconventional cinematography are perfection, but its the emotional story, wonderful acting and the joyful soundtrack which excel the film to one of his best works.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Missing Picture (2013)

  'The Missing Picture' (L'image Manquante)is a 2013 Cambodian documentary directed by Rithy Panh.

  In the year 1975, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, was elected to power in Cambodia. Their reign lasted 4 years and resulted in widespread famine and the genocide of 1.5-3 million. The Khmer rouge (followers of the party), targeted minorities while banning any type of religion and medicines. Without medicines, Malaria infected many villages and the scarcity of food, wiped out thousands by starvation. Rithy Panh tells of his devastating experiences through one of the worst genocides in modern times, by using stills, news footage and clay figures.

  Clay figures are usually used in children animations, so its strange to see them used for such a serious and harrowing story. The figures are stationary while the camera glides in and out of scenes. Hundreds of different figures, all individually crafted and painted, were used throughout the film which is an impressive achievement in itself. It is a weird technique that hasn't been used before in film (correct me if I am wrong), but is effective as the faces of the victims seem even more haunting when every little detail of their face is hand-crafted.

  The events told in the film are from the directors perspective, when he grew up in Cambodia as a child. It tells how every member of his family died throughout the years 1975-1979. The first-hand view of the atrocities featured in the film tells everything that happened to him, in moving and sad detail. The fact he lost every member of his family, resonates through the entire film, giving the film a bleak and depressing outlook.

  Its a event that is known to people who were alive at the time (my parents), but is rarely mentioned today. I admit that before going into the film, I knew nothing about the Cambodian genocide. This film does well as a educating documentary about the events, while showing the consequences of the misuse of ideology and power.

  It is a staggering documentary, that informs about the Cambodian genocide for the generations that have forgotten the event, and those that never knew it's existence.

A harrowing and informative documentary about the genocide of millions. I must warn that the film is depressing.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Green Ray (1986)

  'The Green Ray' (Le rayon vert) is a 1986 French film directed by Eric Rohmer.

  Summer is about to begin, and Delphine, a single young woman living in Paris, has no plans for the oncoming months as her boyfriend has just broken up with her. She travels to Cherbourg with a friend to spend her vacation there, but she returns to Paris. She avoids going to Ireland with her parents, and decides to go to the Alps instead. She meets a topless Swedish lady on a beach (as you do) and they quickly become friends.

  I am determined to find a good Rohmer film, so much so, I skipped two films in 'The Eric Rohmer Collection' box-set as 'The Green Ray' is often considered his finest work. Although everyone seems to have a different Rohmer favourite, this film is always near the top of peoples lists. It also won the Golden Lion at the 1986 Venice Film Festival, their highest award (An Italian Oscar sort of).

  What I disliked about his other films is that they were not cinematic, they didn't deal with interesting subjects, they were set on the dismal streets of Paris, and they consisted of conversations about love. J'adore this and J'adore that. 'My Night with Maud' was my favourite film by him and most of that was spent in a bedroom talking about love. 'The Green Ray' is different!!! It doesn't do any of the things mentioned above, and is a decent film.

  The subject is the loneliness of a French girl, still recovering from a break-up. She wants to escape it by going on holiday, but finds she can't. There are numerous occasions when Delphine is introduced to men, but each time she refuses them, knowing that love is futile and determined to think that men aren't interesting. Something Delphine learns is that it's easier to deal with loneliness if she looks to the future instead of the past/present.

  The locations include Paris, Cherbourg (Nothern France) and The Alps region (Southern France). Paris is filmed in his usual bland style, but the film gets interesting when she visits the picturesque and sunny Cherbourg. The last thirty minutes of the film is spent in a town by The Alps, that is even more beautiful than Cherbourg, with packed beaches and gorgeous sunsets. The same style camera shots and lighting are used throughout, but it is amazing how much things improve with a great background.

  Not just the location, but the whole film elevates in it's final third. The acting by Marie Riviere is more significant, as her character's impressive reactions show the true feelings of her character. Awkward conversations are told realistically (and quite painfully), while other conversations end in Delphine emotionally breaking down. This is a big step up from her performance in 'The Aviator's Wife'.

  There are still conversations where the characters babble on about mindless twaddle (A Rohmer staple-mark so it appears), especially visible in the first ten minutes where characters just talk about holidays. However, the film is a humongous improvement with great locations, acting, story and there are no scenes set in bedrooms! The mini stories about turning over playing cards and the green ray of sunset are implemented well. The finale is strange, as it builds up tension, and I actually cared about Delphine, two things missing in the previous films I have seen of Rohmer. I may make 'The Green Ray' sound amazing, but honestly, it's still a Rohmer film and the film didn't really get going until the final third.

It may be the best Rohmer, but  his films are still hard to like.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Sting of Death (1990)

  'The Sting of Death' (Shi no toge) is a 1990 Japanese film directed by Kohei Oguri.

  In present day (well 1990) Japan, Miho and Toshio are a married couple with two kids, going through a break up. Toshio is having an affair, which Miho is beyond upset about. Their marriage is in pieces, but they both try and make it work. After a few nervous breakdowns and even a suicide attempt, any attempt at an improvement is hindered by some terrible news about Miho.

  Oguri seems to be the Ozu of the 1980s-90s. Both this and 'Muddy River' are small picturesque films about small families in alarming, but not unusual, situations. This is definitely the most depressing Japanese film I have seen. It holds no barriers to the subject of failing relationships, similar to Antonioni, and shows the affects of the parents actions on the children. They are helpless in the countless fights Toshio and Miho have, yet they are the reason for them staying together. The consequences of cheating has never truly been conveyed in a film, but Oguri attacks the subject with a startling realistic interpretation, that includes suicide attempts, psychotic attacks and (SPOILER 1). The pessimistic story doesn't make for happy viewing. The film's story is somewhere between 'Scenes from a Marriage' and 'A Woman Under the Influence' but this is far more bleak and dismal. At no point does the story uplift the audiences emotions as it is just one gloomy event after another.

  As oppose to 'Muddy River', 'The Sting of Death' is shot in colour, with a limited colour palette, so only bright beige, brown and white colours are visible during the daytime and dark brown and white colours during the night-time. The cinematography doesn't try to be advanced; there are no open views or camera movements, just stationary camera-work with 80-90% of the film set inside. It feels like a film from the 1950s, with traditional houses and no technology. The simple look to the film is it's best aspect, and adds significantly to the depressing atmosphere.

  It's fine to look at, and is fairly powerful, but the film is not enjoyable whatsoever. It's fantastically made, however the tone doesn't make for great viewing.

Not a great date movie. Pessimistic and dispiriting. Powerful nonetheless.


SPOILER 1 (highlight)-->a terminal illness<--

Monday, 5 May 2014

Delius: Song of Summer (1968)

  'Delius: Song of Summer' is a 1968 British Biopic directed by Ken Russell, about the composer Frederick Delius.

  Yorkshire born Eric Fenby, moves to the house of paralysed and blind composer Frederick Delius in 1928. Fenby's intention is to aid Delius in finishing his final works, but his impatient attitude, hate for religion and marriage, and his off-tone singing. Fenby's desire of working with an amazing composer seems to be ruined at first, but as time goes on, they gradually create a unique friendship.

  Ken Russell is Britain's Pasolini. His films are audacious and strange, mostly obsessed with sexuality and the church. His films include the 'The Devils', 'Women in Love' and 'Tommy' which feature sexually repressed nuns, nude wrestling and a rock opera about a blind pinball player, respectively. 'Delius: Song of Summer' doesn't fit to any of these, and is taken from a series of TV movies Russell filmed for the BBC called Omnibus. The BFI have released a DVD of the film separate from the series, which is how I watched it.

  The plot sounds identical to the French film 'Intouchables', but the key difference is that this film is scaled down. There is no hand-gliding or drag racing, as the action takes place at a mansion in the countryside. There are no elaborate sets, just the beauty of the small enclosed location and the power of the acting. The cheap black and white cinematography matches the mood of the film.

  There are roughly seven on-screen characters in the film, but it is the acting of the Mr and Mrs Delius and Fenby that elevates this film from mediocre. Max Adrian easily steals the show as the rude, tormented Delius, a performance so great it even makes the viewer feel uncomfortable.

  The story itself is based upon the true story of Frederick Delius, and the book Fenby wrote about their experiences. It doesn't go anywhere near whimsical, and the film is rooted in realism, so the film is powerful and gripping for the short running time (72 minutes).

  The two types of people which would enjoy this film are fans of Frederick Delius and fans of Ken Russell. I belong to neither of these groups, and found the film tells a formulaic story, compassionately and nicely. It is definitely not perfect, but there are a couple of touching scenes, especially the finale. It's a part of Russell's filmography I haven't seen before, and I'll definitely check out the other TV movies in the Omnibus series (if I can obtain them).

An enjoyable addition to the unseen part of Russell's filmography. The acting is superb, but it doesn't deserve the 8.5 IMDB score.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Travelling Players (1975)

  'The Travelling Players' (O thiasos) is a 1975 Greek film directed by Theo Angelopoulos.

  The film chronicles the lives of a travelling actors troupe over the years during and after the second world war. Each time the actors try and act out their play 'Golfo The Sheperdess', something interrupts their performance, so they can never finish it. Such as a bomb siren or bullets being fired etc. The film starts in 1939 at the last year of the Metaxas fascist dictatorship (featured in his previous film 'Days of 36') and finishes in 1952 with the right-wing Greek Mobilization Party winning the election.

  This, almost four hour, film is considered Angelopoulos's best film and the best Greek film ever made. This is my third film of his which I have seen, and it is taken from my DVD set Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol 1. The long running time and how it is hard to obtain, are the two main reasons why this is a well-known film which not many people have seen. It has no American release, even after the director's death in 2012. Where do I begin reviewing a 222 minute film?

  The film is like nothing I have seen. A Greek epic spanning 13 years, during Greece's most turbulent period of the 20th Century. It's a part of history which I never knew existed, but far more interesting than I could have expected. The film tells us about the fascist occupation, the formation of the EAM (Communist Party: the National Liberation Front), the execution of communist prisoners, British and American involvement and the many street wars between the two parties, resulting in many deaths. All this history is told from the perspective of 'The Travelling Players'.

  It's a huge task to get all of this into one film (hence why it's almost 4 hours). Not only does Angelopoulos manage to do this, but he adds and improves all of his auteuristic techniques used in his two previous films. They aren't showing off techniques used by many directors to make their films different and unique, but they genuinely add to the atmosphere of the film.

  Individual Camera shots last long durations of time, many of which are over 10 minutes. All of the shots are filmed from a medium to long distance from the main characters, feeling like I am not directly involved with the events of the film, but looking from a distance. The closest the camera gets, are the three separate shots when three of the main characters talk directly to the camera. Now it feels like we are intruding into the story, making for some intentional uncomfortable viewing. A normal conversation in a normal film would have constant cutting to the person who is speaking, but here, the camera takes one continual long duration shot from a distance, that sometimes shows the back of the character's heads. Sometimes it's what we don't see then what we do. There is a scene where the Players are lined up against the wall and ready to be shot, but a shoot-out occurs and they escape. We do not see the firefight, but instead see the Players's reaction to it.

  Four hour films are far and few between, but it is even rarer for the film to be constantly engaging and interesting for the entire duration. This is a film that uses every minute of the runtime effectively. It's a monumental film, with large events, hundreds of extras, and impressive location design. It should be a seen by every film fan. Everything from the music, to the locations, take us to a time and a place no other film has taken us to. It feels like a once in a lifetime film, and this is the reason for the high score.

A film that stays beautiful, powerful and interesting for it's entire 222 minute running time. This is the meaning of the word epic.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

When the Tenth Month Comes (1985)

  'When the Tenth Month Comes' (Bao gio cho den thang muoi) is a 1985 Vietnamese film directed by Nhat Minh Dang.

  During the closing days of the Vietnam War, Duyen is a wife of a soldier who has left for the South Western front. She has a son, Tuan, and lives with her father-in-law's family awaiting his arrival. Duyen gets a telegram that says her husband has died. She hides this from the family, and sacrifices her own personal feelings for the family. The father-in-law has already had one son die during war time, and it is the anniversary of their mothers death. Telling the family now would hurt them, so she withholds the information. She then gets a school teacher, Zhang, to write letters to the family pretending to be the dead husband.

  I never knew a Vietnamese film industry existed. Only China, Japan and South Korea have critically acclaimed film industries, so I was intrigued when I found this film. I had no idea what their cinema would be like. Turns out it's completely different from anywhere else.

  The many wars of the 20th Century has scarred their country. Instead of British and American movies focusing on the hero's of war, 'When the Tenth Month Comes' focuses the effects of war on the family. It approaches the subject with no remorse, and doesn't hide anything from the viewer. It's gritty realism is combined with beautiful cinematography, to create a film unique to Vietnam cinema.

  In some parts it feels like 'Pather Pachali', in other parts it feels like 'Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives'. The films inspirations are coming from Thailand, India and China, instead of Japan or the West creating an cultural atmosphere, I have never seen before.

  The story concerns a small family in Northern Vietnam. It doesn't focus on big events, but on family attitudes and behaviours. The characters of the family are carefully carved out, creating a terrific character study. The film accumulates power throughout, resulting in a devastating end scene. It's inevitable that the family will find out what happened to the father, but Dang takes a wonderful route to get there.

  Obtaining this film could be tough, but it's worth your time to do so as many people consider it the best Vietnamese film ever made.

A beautiful insight into the affects of the Vietnamese war on a small family.