Archive for June, 2012

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EIFF 2012: What Is This Film Called Love? (Mark Cousins, 2012)

June 30, 2012

Mark Cousins’ latest film follows his tremendous fifteen hour epic The Story of Film: An Odyssey, but is a polar opposite work from that documentary in terms of scale and ambition. Indeed, the creation of What Is This Film Called Love? was based on a whim, with a shooting budget of £5.80, and that was just for laminating a picture of Sergei Eisenstein. Initially inspired by Mexico City where he was staying, the film doesn’t attempt to promote a cause to do with the location, but is instead that rare beast of the documentary format: one that is autobiographical. This is a film of unabashed emotional candidness – and general candidness, considering Cousins bares all in a documented nude trek in Monument Valley – which will likely prove an instantly detrimental quality to many, but those open to its style and focus on the self may find potency in its wilful individuality and meditative atmosphere…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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EIFF 2012: Life Without Principle (Johnnie To, 2011)

June 29, 2012

Originally written for Reel Time, now at Sound on Sight

Just one of the ever-prolific Johnnie To’s latest efforts, Life Without Principle weaves together a triumvirate of stories, each concerned with the effects of the current global economic crisis. Its English title is shared with a famous essay by Henry David Thoreau on righteous livelihood, and the film explores some of the principles of Thoreau’s doctrine in its examination of society’s relationship with money. One of its strengths is in its cold framing, with shots divided into smaller segments against frequent backdrops of either shifting stock figures or oppressive business environments, almost suffocating its desperate characters. It is fitting due to their positions stuck in moral and economic crises, though it is also highly appropriate given one story’s relation to the housing crisis: every space in the frame must be filled, just like every available living space in Hong Kong must quickly be sold. Read the rest of this entry ?

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EIFF 2012: Killer Joe (William Friedkin, 2011)

June 28, 2012

Originally written for Reel Time, now at Sound on Sight

William Friedkin – in the likes of The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A. and The Exorcist – has always been a director drawn to the absurdities or extremes that can be found with figures of authority. Killer Joe – his second Tracy Letts play adaptation in a row, following Bug – stretches corruption so far as to have a homicide detective, the eponymous Joe played by Matthew McConaughey, operate a side career as a contract killer. His upfront fee is $25,000 in cash, with no exceptions. The latest party interested in his services is Chris (Emile Hirsch), a young man in debt to a gangster, who proposes a scheme to his goat-like hulk of a father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church): hire Joe to kill Chris’ much-disliked mother, and Hansel’s ex, and collect the $50,000 from her life insurance policy, for which Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple) is the sole beneficiary.

Hansel’s new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) is also made aware of the plan, as is Dottie who holds resentment towards her mother, but the group has the major problem in being unable to provide the upfront cash sum. Joe initially rejects their offer, but then agrees if sexual company with the virginal Dottie is included in the deal as a “retainer”. The two form a strange bond, Joe soon becoming her live-in lover. Chris disapproves of this new development and tries to back out of the deal, but Joe commits the deed soon enough. Of course, as to be expected, the insurance scam doesn’t quite go to plan. Read the rest of this entry ?

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EIFF 2012: V/H/S (Various, 2012)

June 27, 2012

A collaborative anthology feature, V/H/S is essentially five short films in the “found footage” style by several established names in low budget horror, framed by narrative segments also shot in the same style. The film follows a group of misfits who go around filming wanton sexual harassment and desecration, all while filming their antics. Hired, for a measly fifty dollar reward, to burglarise a house to find a rare VHS tape, the group discover a seemingly dead man sat in front of an assortment of televisions and videos. While members of the group explore the remainder of the house, one is tasked with checking the tapes in the room with the corpse. When a tape is watched, we see the result in the form of one of the shorts. As each tape concludes, we reconvene with the burglars as events get progressively stranger on their end. Read the rest of this entry ?

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EIFF 2012: Isn’t Anyone Alive? (Gakuryu Ishii, 2012)

June 26, 2012

Set around a university and its campus hospital, veteran director Gakuryu Ishii’s play adaptation follows several groups of students, and the occasional older presence, who go about their everyday lives against the backdrop of a series of mysterious public transport accidents. They are each then inconvenienced by their deaths through sudden, unexplained internal failure, as human life around them seems to slowly be succumbing to a version of the apocalypse. A premise that seems ripe for a horror imagining by someone like Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Ishii’s film does not cater to any specific genre or narrative formula, instead following its characters as they wander the campus knowing and waiting to die…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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EIFF 2012: Hospitalité (Koji Fukada, 2010)

June 25, 2012

Hospitalité opens with the slow introduction of the family of Mikio Kobayashi, a man running a print business through his home. He lives with his young second wife Natsuki, his daughter Eriko, and sister Seiko, who has returned following a recent divorce. Bar the disappearance of a pet bird, there seems little dramatic about their sleepy suburb existence, though local community watch members endlessly fret about homeless people or foreigners seeping into the neighbourhood. Things change relatively quickly and drastically with the arrival of the mysterious Kagawa. An initially helpful seeming presence, Kagawa arrives at the household having seemingly found their lost bird, but through circumstance and smooth talking ends up becoming a live-in employee. He promptly brings an aloof blonde woman to stay with him without permission, explaining that she is his wife; the white Annabelle, who is barely able to speak Japanese, claims to be from both Brazil and Bosnia on two separate occasions. Step by step, the enigmatic couple subvert the relationships between the host and his family members, and introduce increasingly bothersome attributes and additional guests to the household…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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EIFF 2012: The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)

June 24, 2012

This was written for The Skinny, but below the link is an expanded version of my review for them.

Review for The Skinny

In 1997, over three years after a child’s disappearance in San Antonio, Texas, a seemingly traumatised teenager found in a phone booth in Spain claimed to be the missing boy. When circumstances led authorities to believe him after an ambiguously articulated tale, he was returned to his family through his sister flying to Spain to identify and collect him. Nicholas Barclay, a blue-eyed, blonde thirteen year old American now had brown eyes, dark hair dyed blonde, a French accent, less pale skin, and looked much older than sixteen. Claiming to have escaped from a child prostitution ring where he was tortured, this Nicholas was an imposter, but was somehow still accepted by the family without question. Read the rest of this entry ?