coming-home-film-decembre-2014-sortieZhang Yimou’s latest reviewed at UK Anime Network

spring-in-a-small-town-1948-001-two-couples-in-the-householdReview of this Chinese lost classic up at UK Anime Network

 

back-to-1942-poster08Review of this (slightly stodgy) war time starvation drama up at UK Anime Network.

 

 

exit 1Review of this existential character drama from Taiwan up at UK Anime Network. This one was screened at BFI London Film Festival but now it’s at Glasgow too and will be getting a further UK release courtesy of relatively new distributor Facet Films in April!

 

tumblr_nfxugkn3kO1seecgzo1_1280Another one from The Glasgow Film Festival (which starts today!), Uzumasa Limelight reviewed at UK Anime Network.

On a side note, this is a really well made trailer!

Pale-Moon_MainIn the words of Skunk Anansie – Just because you feel good, doesn’t make you right! (*insert disapproving yet slightly impressed face here*). Review of Daihachi Yoshida’s follow up to The Kirishima Thing, Pale Moon up on UK Anime Network now.

Pale Moon is receiving its UK Premier at the Glasgow Film Festival on 19th February so if you’re in the Glasgow area be sure to check it out!

ff20140516a1aReview of the forestry themed comedy Wood Job! up at UK Anime Network. I love how many puns they managed to pack into the title of this film, it wins just for that. This is playing as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme so it’ll be a bunch of places between now and the end of March including:

  • MAC Birmingham (24th February)
  • Dundee Contemporary Arts (25 February)
  • Tyneside Cinema Newcastle (15th march)
  • Nottingham Broadway (25th March)
  • Brewery Arts Centre Cumbria (25th March).

So if you’re near any of these be sure to check it out! Also because people always say this – if the festival isn’t coming near you it’s most likely not Japan Foundation deliberately snubbing you, get in touch with your local indie cinema and try and convince them to book some of these films. If you don’t have a local indie cinema you’re probably out of luck though as the big chains often won’t take these kinds of special screenings :(. In short, support your local indie (or a not so local one if it’s your only option).

vlcsnap-2015-02-04-17h43m36s189Look at baby Andy Lau!!!

Review of Chang Cheh’s 1984 kung fu extravaganza Shanghai 13 up on UK Anime Network. Out now on UK DVD courtesy of Terracotta Distribution and their new Classic Kung Fu collection!

Screen-Shot-2014-12-29-at-10.49.38I wrote this getting on for a year ago when the film was screened at Sundance London (which is apparently dead now) but seeing as it’s getting a proper release by Soda Pictures from 20th February here it is again! Hit the jump to read my review over at UK Anime Network.

Dem-3 Photo. Helene Jeanbrau © 1996 cine-tamaris.tif

With a name like “Army”, you’d expect this to be a stridently propagandistic film about brave men fighting for their countries – some of whom will likely fall but will cover their families in eternal glory through their selfless sacrifice. Those are certainly the ideas behind Kinoshita’s 1944 film, the last film he’d be permitted to make before the war’s end, however any lingering feelings of pro-militaristic ardor are completely undercut by the film’s near silent closing moments.

Like The Living Magoroku, we begin in another historical era – one just as turbulent as the contemporary action. As people flee burning houses at the dawn of the Meiji era, a father and son shelter a wounded samurai who gifts them a set of historical encyclopaedias. Despite the changing times, the father is convinced a man’s highest duty is to his country and makes a deathbed plea that his son Tomohiko become a fine soldier. Tomohiko tries his best, as an infantry Captain through the several of Japan’s international conflicts of the early 20th century he’s certainly had ample opportunity to distinguish himself. However, luck is not on Tomohiko’s side as minor injuries, illness or simply failing to be selected have kept him safely away from the front lines. Eventually invalided out, Tomohiko tries to make a go of civilian life, finally ending up trying to run a pawn shop (before realising he’s not good at that either and leaving the heavy lifting to his more capable wife). Still convinced of the wisdom of his father’s philosophy, Tomohiko pushes his wishes for military glory onto his oldest son – the equally weedy Shintaro whose slight frame and kindly nature don’t exactly point to a future Field Marshall. Japan needs soldiers though, it’s time for every man and boy to stand up to defend her!

Final scene excised, Army would look like the most obviously propagandistic film in the box set. Full of references to the importance of military virtue and physical strength over book learning, Army brings home that a man who does not fight is not a man. He is weak and womanly and is to be shamed. Even those who are in poor physical health or simply not built for brute force attacks are expected to suddenly shape up and join every other young man in sacrificing themselves nobly for the Emperor. Mothers, even, are not permitted to grieve as their sons were never theirs in the first place – they were merely taking care of them for the Emperor. Now they’ve done their duty and returned their progeny to the father of the nation, they ought to feel nothing more than relief at a job well done, or so says Tomohiko’s wife, Waka. Wouldn’t it be shaming to have a grown up son still at home, after all, or even one that was far from the front line but relatively safe? Prepare for the worst or hope for it? It’s an oddly macabre way of thinking.

However, the last scene of the film which is played almost silently, undercuts this cold willingness to sacrifice and shows it up for its own hollowness. Having originally claimed not to be going to see the brigade depart because she’s a weak and emotional woman, Waka is suddenly overcome by something. She rises and follows the other townspeople drifting towards the noise of the parade with its crowds of cheering, flag waving supporters. Desperately, anxiously, she searches for her son in amongst the multitudes of other young men in identical uniforms marching off gleefully almost certainly not to return. Having pushed through the ranks of ecstatic civilians, she finally catches a glimpse of Shintaro who smiles at her before disappearing back into the ranks of anonymous infantrymen. Waka is left bereft, alone and terrified – her only recourse is prayer.

Unsurprisingly, the army didn’t really like this bit. In fact, one high ranking official marched right down to Shochiku and accused Kinoshita of treason! Luckily, not too much came of that but Kinoshita’s next script about kamikaze pilots was rejected and he wasn’t allowed anywhere near a camera until after the end of the war. Waka’s final uncertainty, her grief at losing her son to this faceless monster undercuts the entirety of the previous 80 minute celebration of glorious military history and masculine pride. All of a sudden it’s not a joyful celebration anymore, it’s a funeral peopled with grieving wives and mothers – hardly the sort of message you want to send out when you’re trying to give the barrel a final scrape when it comes to conscripting for the army. Army is a film that’s defined by its final minutes and is surprising in the level of ambiguity it was allowed to get away with given the strict censorship conditions in place. As a propaganda film it fails, but by design. Kinoshita once again refuses to depict his characters as unfeeling robots who can suppress their natural empathy in the name of duty or honour and a mother’s love proves the most dominant (if hopeless) force of all.