Category: Cinema Around the World

What Richard Did

Overview: During his summer between college and university, middle class teenager, Richard, makes a mistake that threatens to destroy his life. 2012; New Video Group; Unrated; 88 minutes. What Richard does: This perturbing moral drama from the acclaimed Irish director of Frank, Adam And Paul and Garage, is loosely based on Kevin Power’s 2008 novel, Bad Day In Blackrock. Not to be confused with the 1955 Spencer Tracy film Bad Day At Blackrock, Power’s novel shares similarities with a real life event involving Irish teenager Brian Murphy. Although not a fictionalised account, viewers not already familiar with this news story are advised to look it up only after seeing the film. As the cryptic title suggests, What Richard Did is enhanced by the mystery of what Richard (Jack Reynor) will eventually do. Director Lenny Abrahamson’s unveiling of these events is remarkably understated and they appear entirely plausible. As a result his drama challenges expectations and remains deeply troubling. That the consequences of Richard’s actions are only fully comprehended the morning after, magnifies the gap between ‘then’ and ‘now’; the clock cannot be turned back and Richard must face up to the reality of his much altered future. The cost of one simple mistake seems insurmountable and, in the wake of this panic, Abrahamson’s slow and deliberate style momentarily gives way to bursts of action before settling into a steady...

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Three Asian Remakes of American Movies

There are tons of US remakes of foreign movies. Some are good, some are okay, and some are downright awful. It’s not often that a US movie is remade overseas (outside of cheap knockoffs and Bollywood movies). With that in mind, I set out to find some foreign language attempts at American movies and found three Asian based remakes. The Good, the Bad and the Weird (Joheunnom Nabbeunnom Isanghannom) 2008 Director: Jee-Woon Kim I’ve talked about this movie on this site before because I love it. It is a remake of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or...

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What We Do in the Shadows

Overview:  A new addition to their brood shakes things up for four vampire flatmates.  Madman Entertainment; 2015; 85 Minutes A Real Funny Fake Film Pretending to Be Real (About Fake Things): I could be wrong, but I have always felt that the most challenging element of comedic mockumentaries has to be the restriction that feigned real-life dialogue places upon the timing.  To properly sell the chosen narrative format, these types of films must forego standard comedic rhythms and beats and earn their laughs against a more precise, hurried, organic tempo. In a way, comedic mockumentaries are the jazz to...

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Amour Fou

Overview: Poet Heinrich von Kleist tries to convince a married woman to make a suicide pact with him in nineteenth century Prussia. Arrow Films; 2014; 96 Minutes. Double suicide pact: Amour Fou (“Wild Love”) began life as a script about a love induced suicide. Locked in a draw for five years because it ‘was in some way not close enough to life and was too constructed’, it resurfaced when Austrian writer-director Jessica Hausner (Lourdes) stumbled on the real life story of poet Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel. The film’s fictional roots are not disguised and those expecting a...

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Ida

Overview: A novice nun, Ida, discovers her Jewish ancestry in 1960s Poland and sets out with Wanda, her only surviving relative, to find and bury her parents. Music Box Films; 2013; Rated PG-13; 82 Minutes. Nested complexity: Watching the opening frames of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, you’d be forgiven for thinking its restrained visual and aural style (its stark monochrome, single shots and minimal dialogue) were indicative of a bleak but ultimately simple film. Instead, the director of My Summer Of Love and The Woman In The Fifth loads every scene with historical context and intricate ideas about spirituality, faith,...

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Wild Tales

Overview: Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at last weekend’s Oscars, Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) is comprised of 6 stories of varying length and complexity, dealing with revenge and excess, centering upon humans who act on their dark, violent, absurd urges when pushed just beyond the limit. Argentina, 2014 (US 2015). 122 minutes. Sony Pictures Classics. Sin and Surrealism: The stage is set for a darkly comic thrill ride from the very first story: a short and simple but deeply satisfying opening in which a group of passengers on a plane find that they’ve all been brought together for...

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Our Five Favourite Best Foreign Language Oscar Winners

The Oscars are over for another year. Polish movie, Ida took the top gong for a foreign movie and it got some of us thinking about our favourite movies to have won the Best Foreign Movie Oscar. Sara (A Redhead at the Movies): A Separation (2011) A Separation is one of those films that broke me and left me utterly shaken, but it also had me in awe of its effortless ability to do so. This Iranian feature from director Asghar Farhadi is beyond emotionally draining, never failing to involve you in the real, everyday suspense these characters are living...

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The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Overview: Sprouting from within a bamboo stalk a little girl, believed to be a divine being, is reared to the status of nobility. 2013; Distributed by Toho; Rated PG; 137 minutes. Unrestricted Innocence: The Bamboo Cutter and his wife raise their little princess from a bamboo shoot. Akin to her origins, the girl grows rapidly, changing before the eyes of her parents and village friends. The Bamboo Cutter’s notions of attaining a high social status for his child are reaffirmed after the bamboo grove gifts him gold and delicate silks. Within the capital, The Bamboo Cutter is disillusioned by what...

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Mr. Turner

Overview: The life of the late English, Romanticist painter J.M.W. Turner, whose distinctive watercolor landscapes heralded the dawn of impressionism, lends Mike Leigh’s film its dizzying array of geographic and architectural vistas. 2014; Distributed by Entertainment One; Rated R; 150 minutes. Possessed of Genius: In attempting to capture the folly of man through the depiction of one of its great artists, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner is possessed of a genius unlike most other films. A singular talent able to bring the Godly down to earth through aesthetic imitation, Timothy Spall plays the great British painter as a fundamentally flawed...

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Heritage and Homeland: Turkish-German Relations in German Cinema

Heimat— the German word for homeland. It is a word that is fraught with anxiety and double-meaning for the Turkish population of Germany. And, as a result, Heimat as it pertains to Turkish immigrants living in Germany is a theme throughout German cinema. The five exemplary films I’ve thought of for this post raise questions of homeland, identity, destiny, and duty for the Turkish people who were once, and perhaps in certain ways still are, displaced within a nation that is culturally and linguistically far away from their own– and yet who, with every passing generation, have come to consider Germany as somewhat of a home. Since these examples are German films, of course, they raise just as many questions about how the presence of Turkish people in Germany has shaped German history and German cultural identity. I think the relations between Turks and Germans within Germany are so fascinating and important, and yet I do think the films that explore these relations only make up an oft-overlooked subsection of German cinema. So, I’m here to highlight this subsection, starting with: Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland (2011) This isn’t necessarily the most well-known of these five films. (I actually watched it in Berlin during my semester abroad there.) But Yasemin Samdereli’s comedy Almanya – Welcome to Germany is a beautifully told story about three generations of a Turkish immigrant family,...

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Human Capital

Overview: Italy’s entry into this year’s Foreign Language Film Oscar race tells the story of two families, each grappling with ambition, secrecy, desire and greed. Both forever linked by the hit-and-run accident from which this non-linear, multi-layered drama unspools. Limited US Release 2015. Unrated. 110 minutes. US Distribution: Film Movement. He Said, She Said: The film, serving as a kind of Rashomon for modern day bourgeois Italy, is broken up into precise chapters, each highlighting a different individual’s side of the story. But rather than just focusing on “the story” at hand— the whodunit mystery surrounding the hit-and-run—the multiple...

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The Mule

Overview: A first time drug mule is caught by law enforcement. Cherub Films; 2014; Not Rated; 103 minutes. Comedy?: The Mule is a crime movie about a man who doesn’t want to take a dump, the men and women who think he should or shouldn’t take that dump, and the situation that led him to the point where a dump would be so important. Based on that description and the poster for this movie you would not be remiss to expect a comedy in the vein of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch. And while there are funny...

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Akira

Overview: In 2019, thirty-one years after a powerful force known as Akira destroyed Tokyo and set off World War III, Neo-Tokyo has become flooded with gang violence, political unrest, and religious zealots. When a young man displays telekinetic powers similar to that of Akira, he is captured by the government and sets off events leading to the creation of a new universe.  Distributed by Toho. 1988; Rated R; 124 Minutes Cultural Memory: Imagine for a moment that Philip K. Dick and Carl Sagan had a love child who grew up to write an X-Men arc. That is Akira. Katsuhiro...

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6 Sci Fi Movies from Around the World

Science Fiction is such a malleable genre that it works anywhere in the world. Ideas like alien invasions, time travel, robots, dystopias, cloning, genetic mutations, and space battles are not locked into a certain country or time. For this piece I have chosen five sci-fi movies from five different countries that stand out as some of the best. They are sometimes violent, always thought-provoking, and never boring. Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru) – Japan 2000  Students on a field trip are gassed and wake up on an island where they are told to fight and die. The last one standing gets to go home. So far, so Hunger Games, right? Where Battle Royale differs from The Hunger Games is that the teenagers on the island aren’t from post-apocalyptic dystopias. No, they are from Japan in the not-too-distant future, and they are school children. The best thing about this movie (and the book it is based on) is that the teenagers act like teenagers. They are still embroiled in their high school rivalries and unrequited crushes, only now they are armed to the teeth and given carte blanche to murder each other. It is a tragic, bloody, violent, actually pretty funny, and exhilarating movie. It has become popular again in recent years because people like to cite it as the movie that rips off The Hunger Games. But then, Battle Royale is...

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Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Overview: A group of film buffs is recruited by the Yakuza to make a movie out of their raid on a rival group. Drafthouse Films; 2014; Not Rated; 129 Minutes The Real: “We’re in reality, and they’re in the fantastical. At this rate, reality is going to lose!” I could tell you the context for that line, but it would hardly matter. The series of events leading up to it are impressively convoluted, and describing the plot of Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is a fool’s errand. Why, it’s almost as though the film wants you to forget about its narrative and focus...

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