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Mean, moody and probably rather cold – Lee Jung-Jae in Typhoon

Typhoon

      A Korean thriller about a modern-day pirate planning a nuclear attack on the motherland. It’s the biggest production in Korean movie history, apparently, and has swishy looks, bombastic tone and frequent dips into gooey sentimentality. In other words Typhoon has half an eye on Hollywood, though its story is firmly set around the 38th parallel – two blameless kids, one grows up good (in the freedom-loving south), the other bad (damn those Commies). Getting himself caught between two stools, director Kwak Kyung-Taek isn’t sure whether to concentrate on the back story (the kids) or the front story (a dastardly plan to let loose balloons filled with nuclear waste). But his … Read more
Freda Dowie in Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives

    A re-release from one of the most distinctive cineastes in British film. Terence Davies’s 1988 maundering autobiographical film (“It all happened… I had to tone down the violence of my dad”, Davies told The Guardian) is set in the Liverpool of his youth and is more an impressionistic montage of vibrant tableaux vivants than a drama with a traditional structure. It’s a two part affair, the first half concentrating on the brutish, violent dad (Pete Postlethwaite), long suffering, sad-eyed mum (Freda Dowie) and their three kids – as wartime austerity starts to crack and the good times of the late 1950s start to make their presence felt, which is the theme of … Read more
Smadar Sayar and Neama Shendar in Close to Home

Close to Home

    An unusual “buddy movie” focusing on two young women conscripted into the Israeli army, where they spend their time either checking bags for bombs or asking anyone suspicious – Arabs, let’s be honest – for their ID. Shot on handheld cameras on the streets of Jerusalem, Close to Home is in most other respects firmly within the tradition of the buddy movie. In other words the girls don’t initially get on – fiery Smadar (Smadar Sayar) would rather get her hair done and ogle boys than bother decent people who are just trying to get to work. The quieter Mirit (Neama Shendar) on the other hand is a stickler for protocol. Vardit … Read more
Paris, dawn, August, in the long hot summer of 1976

C’était un Rendezvous

The story goes that after wrapping on a film starring Catherine Deneuve, having come in under budget and with a day of shooting time left, as he often managed, director Claude Lelouch decided to do something mad and foolish, make a guerrilla short. All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl, is how Lelouch’s New Wave colleague Jean-Luc Godard had put it. Lelouch set out to show you didn’t need even that, just a fast car and a camera strapped on the front. And that’s what C’était un Rendezvous is, a single shot from a slow-slung camera, as the car it’s attached to (a Ferrari?) hurtles through the … Read more
Keanu the interviewer in Side by Side

13 May 2013-05-13

Out in the UK this week     Side By Side (Axiom, cert 15, DVD) A documentary about the digital revolution in movie making that runs through the whole process – first the workings of the old photochemical technology which was king for more than 100 years and then on to how digital has changed everything, from cameras and acting, to editing and effects, the print and the projector. His Matrix experience apart, Keanu Reeves initially seems an unlikely guide to the whole thing. But he’s not just a voiceover, he’s the interviewer and producer of the documentary and it’s probably thanks to his clout that it gets access to pretty much anyone … Read more
Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde in Deadfall

Deadfall

    Remember Eric Bana in Chopper, frightening everyone to death as Australia’s most gruesomely violent criminal, Mark “Chopper” Read? There are echoes of Bana the Bad in Deadfall, in which he plays one half of a psycho sibling pair who are heading, unwittingly as far as they and everyone else concerned can tell, for a showdown rendezvous at a Thanksgiving dinner. Deadfall isn’t half as good as Chopper, though it does give Bana a chance to show us he can still do ugly. If only writer Zach Dean and director Stefan Ruzowitzky had worked out some way of telling the other four stories they’re trying to tell with economy, leaving Bana with … Read more
Louis Garrel and Romain Duris in Dans Paris

Dans Paris

    Since The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Romain Duris has been pretty much the hottest name in French cinema. There’s plenty of opportunity for him to do some high intensity scowling in this claustrophobic drama about a family whose secret, its driving force, is depression. His dad (the excellent Guy Marchand) is clearly wrestling with it, his brother (Louis Garrel) has flown off in the other direction and is banging anything female that moves and now Paul (Duris) is in deep trouble too. There’s a bad attack of the narrative cutes at the outset of Christophe Honoré’s latest film, when Garrel turns to the camera and addresses it directly. But give … Read more
Rosamund PIke and Ryan Gosling

Fracture

      Anthony Hopkins plays the cat to Ryan Gosling’s mouse in this glossy thriller from Gregory Hoblit, whose CV (including 1996’s Primal Fear and 2002’s Hart’s War) demonstrates he’s a slick journeyman. Hopkins is the wealthy Irish-American engineer who’s flagrantly killed his wife but has so arranged things that the case against him appears to be falling apart in the courtroom, in spite of the fact he was found with the weapon in his hand and has fessed up. Can public prosecutor Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) nail him? The film is more a howdunit than a whodunit, and ingenious enough, though Fracture does come with its own faultlines. There’s simply not … Read more
Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

Dick Van Dyke on DVD

  What a great thing Dick Van Dyke has been. First there’s that improbable name. Even more improbable, it’s his real name. Then there’s his legs, long and lean and made for comedy dancing and comedy pratfalls. And his smile – as wide as the screen and surely the biggest on TV, if we’re not counting that of Mary Tyler Moore, who played his screen wife. We tend to think of him as a TV performer – no less than three TV series have been named after him, including the seminal Dick Van Dyke Show of the 1960s, the direct descendants of which (via Mary Tyler Moore and James Burrows) are Friends and The … Read more
Gillian Anderson and Danny Dyer in Straightheads

Straightheads aka Closure

      Yet another Danny Dyer movie in which he plays a flaky spliffer. And another, like Outlaw, in which he’s involved in vigilantism of a particularly unpleasant sort. This one, though, co-stars Gillian Anderson as the posh totty Dyer ends up bedding after installing CCTV equipment at her pad. And then, after she’s invited him out to a party at a swish country house, the pair are set upon on the drive back to town. He is horribly beaten up, she is brutally raped. But hang on – Danny Dyer? Gillian Anderson? No, it doesn’t seem right somehow but Anderson has a habit of turning up in some odd corners. And in … Read more
Julian Richings in Cube

What Is an Aseptic White Room Thriller?

  The simple answer to the question “what is an aseptic white room thriller” (AWRT) is Cube, Vincenzo Natali’s cult Canadian sci-fi movie from 1997. More abstractly, it’s a film that takes place on a single set, usually white though not necessarily. Lighting will be clean, clinical, fairly devoid of shadow. Soundtrack music will be scarce or absent. As for sound design, a background hum of air-conditioning is standard. Clanking, the whooshing of doors, “noises off”. It’s the plot that is most definitive. In the AWRT no one really knows what’s going on. Typically the film opens with the characters who don’t know each other waking up somewhere far from home, to find … Read more
Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in McCabe & Mrs Miller

McCabe And Mrs Miller

    As Ang Lee now redefines every genre he touches, so did Robert Altman three and more decades ago. Here’s his remodelling of the western, an “anti-western” according to him, though these days what Altman was doing decades ago has mostly been incorporated in the mainstream – the “anti-western” is now just a western. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie take the leads – he a lousy entrepreneur with a plan to build a whorehouse, she a Cockney madam with an opium habit and a determination to make McCabe succeed in the enterprise they agree to jointly undertake. They sleep together but she charges him top dollar. It’s that sort of relationship and that … Read more

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