Monday, 24 November 2014

School of Babel - French doc from Julie Bertuccelli

Julie Bertuccelli's 2013 documentary 'La Cour de Babel' about a 'reception' class in a French school in Paris, is fascinating as we see the group of 24 children speaking 24 different languages adapt to their new life in France. The children are from completely different backgrounds, and have come to France for a variety of reasons. There is a Venezuelean boy who plays the cello, a Jewish Serbian whose family have fled Nazi hatred for a new life, a Chinese girl whose parents run a restaurant, an African girl who has been reunited with her mother and finally given a chance to start school,  to new a few.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Winter Sleep Review

I wish my threshold of self-deception was as low as yours.” That line, a stinging rebuke, directed at Aydin (Haluk Bilgner), the hotelier, retired actor and landowner, by his sister Necla (Demet Akbag), during an increasingly intense (and lengthy) slanging match, in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s, Winter Sleep, winner of 2014 Palme d’Or, is one of many aimed in the fella’s direction.

In fact, any comment or insult is likely to stick. Aydin is a smug bourgeoisie hiding behind the mask of an artist; a bloke emotionally crippled by arrogance, self-regard and a cynical view of the world. One can’t help but ponder what sort of surrealist mishap or violent demise would befall him, had this been a Luis Buñuel film. Pier Paolo Pasolini might have fed Aydin to the pigs, or cursed the guy to wander the slopes of Mount Etna, for all eternity.

Friday, 14 November 2014

London Korean Film Festival 2014: Kundo - Age Of The Rampant

It is 1862, during the late Joseon Dynasty - a time, as we are told by the voice-over that opens Kundo: Age of the Rampant, when the Korean people were starving and exploited by corrupt, greedy and self-serving officials. But it might as well be the Wild Wild West, as Yoon Jong-bin's film proves to be a rambunctious, genre-blurring spaghetti eastern (or noodle western), akin to Kim Jee-woon's The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008). Although here swords and arrows are the weapons of choice, characters also get rescued from hangings and ride off into the sunset to the accompaniment of bass guitar licks and harmonica - and you can be sure that the Gatling gun glimsped early on (and assimilated into the mount of an ornate Asian carving) will eventually be mowing down bad guys, Django-style.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Golden Dream Review + DVD extras

With cinematography clearly taking inspiration from the sort of high end documentary film making that the BBC are world renowned for, director Diego Quemada-Diez's Spanish language film The Golden Dream follows the journey of four Guatemala children as they follow their golden dream of making a life for themselves in the United States.

The film has the viewer take an observational step back from the journey the children are on, to take in the breathtaking beauty of the countryside along with examples of the zenith and troughs of humanity. The three friends Juan (Brandon Lopez), Samuel (Carlos Chajon) and Sara (Karen Martinez) make their way on foot and by train without complaint but with a dogged determination that does not require explanation but action. When they meet Chauk (Rodolf Dominguez) an indigenous boy, the dynamic of the group shifts and Juan struggles with his own racism towards Chauk as they journey together.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Interstellar Review

‘Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your children’s future.’ There are plenty of philosophical musings like that in the astounding sci-fi blockbuster, Interstellar, and the film’s detractors may describe them as cod-flavoured. Cynics, beware, as this utterance is very much the fulcrum of Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic endeavour. The director appears intent on using a genre vehicle to transcend said genre and guide us to a universal message of hope in these dark times. It’s also about space exploration and packed with gnarly set-pieces. So don’t panic!

Monday, 27 October 2014

London Film Festival 2014 Capsule Reviews: Pasolini, White God & When Animals Dream

Pasolini (dir: Abel Ferrara) Pier Paolo Pasolini’s brutal murder in 1975 was truly an ignoble and cruel exit for the firebrand cultural figure. On the surface, the criminally underrated Abel Ferrara might appear to be an odd choice to make a biopic about such a divisive intellectual artist. However, the NYC auteur boasts a controversial movie or two in his own filmography and shares with Pasolini a certain roughhewn, albeit, poetic vision. The two directors could be spiritual brothers.

For a man often charged by his detractors as an immoral soul, the screenplay by Maurizio Braucci – and actor Willem Dafoe’s portrayal – paint the man as a profoundly moral individual, whose last movie, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, was a doom-filled political allegory so shocking that its message was barely palatable, let alone comprehended.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

London Film Festival 2014: Hard To Be A God

"This is not Earth, it's another planet," announces the voice-over at the beginning of Aleksei German's Hard To Be a God (Trudno Byt Bogom), "About 800 years behind." That might sound like a minor variant on "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" - but in fact the setting is some time in the future, and the hellish 'city' of Arkanar is behind only in the sense that the "Renaissance didn't happen here." As both city leader Don Reba's 'Greys' (soldiers so-named for the colour of their uniforms) and the 'Blacks' in the powerful religious Order all vie to round up, torture and execute any 'wise guys' (artisans or intellectuals), a group of Scientists from Earth go undercover as local nobles of divine descent, observing the atrocities all around them and trying to insinuate some sort of Enlightenment without resorting to their own violent interventions. Yet as one of these Earthlings, 'Don Rumata' (Leonid Yarmolnik), is discovering, it is relatively easy to go native, but hard to be a god.