9ae7eea7-3b8a-4212-96ca-023eb8b5cdd5wallpaper1Review of Kim Ki-duk’s latest from the London Korean Film Festival up at UK Anime Network.

This oddly symmetrical tale begins with the shockingly matter of fact murder of a young schoolgirl by a gang of seven masked aggressors. Following this seemingly senseless crime another group of seven, this time a group of vigilantes brought together by a desire for some kind of personal vengeance against society, have taken it upon themselves to avenge this killing by kidnapping each of the seven perpetrators and torturing them until they confess and give some kind of information regarding the true nature of the crime. In another duality, the “villains” are all well to do, successful underlings whereas the “vigilantes” are generally working-class people who’ve lost out in the current economic climate and in some cases are living in dire poverty through no fault of their own. The villains offer several different reactions or explanations for their involvement in such a heinous crime varying from “I was just following orders” or “it was for the common good” to “what does it matter, I have status and can do as I please” but at the end of the day those on both sides will have to realise that the lines between good and bad are much more fluid than most people would like to think and that eventually you will have to decide for yourself not just where you stand but who it is you really are. 

 

 

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Another LFF review up at UK Anime Network – The World of Kanako. I was also lucky enough to interview the director, Tatsuya Nakashima, who was actually very nice and quite chatty in contrast to some of the other interviews I’d read with him! (The consequence being I had way too many questions so it’s sort of a front loaded interview, oh well.) Interview’s already transcribed and in the system so hopefully live soon.

Disgraced former policeman Fujishima has a whole host of problems in his life, alcoholism and possible schizophrenia being but two of them. Suddenly he gets a call from his estranged wife, who’s out of her mind with worry because their teenage daughter, Kanako, has not been home in a few days. On searching her room in true detective style, he finds a stash of illegal drugs hidden in her school pencil case. This alarming discovery sends Fujishima down an increasingly dark alley that leads only to the heartbreaking realisation that the kind and beautiful straight A student he believed his daughter to be was no more than a figment of his own imagination. 

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Review of A Girl at My Door from the London Film Festival up at UK-anime.net. This is also playing at the London Korean Film Festival which opens today with a gala screening of Kundo: Age of the Rampant. Director July Jung will be at the LKFF screening on 7th November for a Q&A tootickets still available!

Lee Young-nam (Bae Doona) has just arrived in the little hick town she’s been exiled to thanks to some kind of undisclosed infraction committed in Seoul. As the town’s new police chief, she’s thrust into the largely male world of local law enforcement and forced to acclimatise to small town politics with hardly enough time to breathe. Lee is also a high functioning alcoholic who guzzles soju from refilled litre bottles of water, though her colleagues don’t seem to have noticed and her work is barely affected. After catching sight of the same young girl who seems to be constantly running away from someone or other, Lee eventually intervenes when a group of teenagers are picking on her. Do-hee is a troubled teenager from a violent home where, abandoned by her mother, she’s ‘cared for’ by a step father and resentful drunken grandmother. Do-hee quickly fixates on Lee and her superficially fearless attitude and eventually Lee has taken the girl in and offered her a place of solace way from the chaos of her home life. However, no matter how good one’s intentions may be, others will twist the facts to their own advantage and doing the right thing can often prove dangerous. 

meinImage(Is the tag line really “A woman’s unpainted face is scary!”? I get where they’re coming from but, hmmm – problematic)

Adapted from the 1997 novel by Aya Imamura, you’d be forgiven be forgiven for thinking that Roommate is something of a rehash of seminal ’90s “my roommate is a psycho” drama Single White Female though it goes a couple of steps further in the influences stakes and throws in Fatal Attraction and The Three Faces of Eve for good measure. Honestly anything else is a spoiler (though anyone who’s ever watched a film of this nature before is going to guess 70% of the plot about ten minutes in) but sit back and get ready to enjoy a very silly (though not really silly enough) tale of violence and psychological intrigue!

The film starts with the police arriving at the scene of a violent crime where a severely injured man and woman are being taken to hospital leaving another man dead inside. Cut to three months earlier and Harumi (Keiko Kitagawa) – the woman from the crime scene, has been injured in a car accident and wakes up in a hospital dormitory. Shortly thereafter she’s visited by the man who was driving the car, Keisuke (Kengo Kora), along with his insurance broker friend who’s very keen to sort out the paperwork for the compensation etc. Whilst recuperating Harumi builds up friendship with one of the nurses, Reiko (Kyoko Fukada), and when it comes time for Harumi to be discharged the two decide to become roommates! It’s all amazing at first but cracks begin to appear as Reiko’s behaviour becomes increasingly strange and Harumi starts getting closer to Keisuke. Then Harumi starts seeing a woman who looks really like Reiko, but is not actually Reiko, hanging around and things just start to get even more bizarre from then on.

Yes, you’ve seen all of this before. Not just in Single White Female and every other identity theft stalker drama since but even the various twists and turns feel lifted from other, more successful, movies. There’s even an incident with a pet that’s kind of like the one in Single White Female but it’s been given a Fatal Attraction style twist to make it less obvious. At this point, when your roommate’s behaviour has become this dangerous, a normal person would actually do something about it, wouldn’t they? Not in the land of the movies though! Revelation after revelation and about an hour of psychobabble later it’s all explained (sort of, as long as you don’t really think about it) but the last twist and the subplot with Tomorowo Taguchi’s sleazy mayoral candidate seem a little superfluous.

Mostly the film has a disappointingly televisual feeling and though there are a fair few interesting techniques in play such as the use of split screens, this feels both too on the nose and underdeveloped to have much of an impact. Performances are also on the weaker side though this may rest partly on the lack of depth in the fairly schlocky script – Kengo Kora isn’t left much to do other than being generally ‘nice’ and though the bond between the two women is well brought out, neither of them really gets to let loose with the intense extremes of their characters. The problem, really, is that Roommate walks a fine line between camp horror movie and serious psychological thriller, which just makes it a little bit dull. It never manages to build up much of an atmosphere of fear and its unwillingness to play with ambiguity makes it that much less engaging. Had it gone further down the schlocky, campy, melodrama route, Roommate might have proved more fun but this light on gore heavy on drama approach makes it only mildly diverting.

It’s about as tame and mainstream as they come, but Roommate isn’t exactly a bad film, just not a very interesting one. Not crazy enough for the midnight crowd nor smart enough lovers of cerebral thrillers, it ultimately falls between two stools. With such a high profile cast you might have expected something a little more powerful but Roommate is the classically OK, yet totally inconsequential film that’s fine for occupying a couple of hours but little more.

LFF 2014 Round-up

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

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Total Films
  1. Hill of Freedom
  2. Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
  3. Black Coal Thin Ice
  4. Bjork Biophilia Live
  5. Tokyo Tribe
  6. Shrew’s Nest
  7. Still the Water
  8. Giovanni’s Island
  9. The Drop
  10. The New Girlfriend
  11. Dearest
  12. Rosewater
  13. John Stewart Debate Event
  14. War Book
  15. The Wonders
  16. A Girl Walks Home Alone, at Night
  17. Black Souls
  18. The Goddess
  19. A Girl at My Door
  20. No Man’s Land
  21. Betibú
  22. Dragon Inn
  23. Jauja
  24. Leviathan
  25. Furthest End Awaits
  26. Shadow Days
  27. White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom
  28. Winter Sleep
  29. Satellite Girl and Milk Cow
  30. Three Hearts
  31. Mommy
Booked but Missed
  1. Pasolini
  2. Exit
  3. White Bird in a Blizzard
Wanted to see but couldn’t (off the top of my head, probably I’ve forgotten most of them)
  1. Duke of Burgundy
  2. The Dinner
  3. pretty much everything else
Top Picks (the ones I liked most, not necessarily the ‘best’ films, also a bit arbitrary )
  1. A Girl Walks Home Alone, At Night
  2. The New Girl Friend
  3. Mommy
  4. Black Coal Thin Ice
  5. The Furthest End Awaits

So, the London film festival is over for another year. Blow for blow I think I feel less ‘wowed’ by this year than others even though most of the films I saw were more than good and I only saw two that I didn’t like so much, hmm – well maybe three.  My selections were a bit random though – started with the ones I most wanted to see and worked around those meaning I missed some of the most popular titles like Hard to be a God, Goodbye to Language, The Tribe etc. I really wanted to see Duke of Burgundy but that’ll get a release soon enough, bit disappointed I had to miss Exit but it was for a good reason. Would have liked to have seen more of the archive stuff – had an idea I didn’t really like Altman but I was kind of blown away by Jimmy Dean. Oddly I saw most of the competition films and agree with the winner, Leviathan – a true masterpiece. I guess that’s it ’til next year – I wonder what that will bring?

Stray Cat Rock Wild Measures '71 castReview of the new high definition Stray Cat Rock box set up at uk-anime.net

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Totally forgot to post this at the time but here’s an interview I conducted with rising star Hoshi Ishida at Raindance 2014 on behalf of Uk-anime.net.

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Another Raindance 2014 review up on Uk-anime.net

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Review of Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats up at Uk-anime.net! Screening in London as part of the 2014 Raindance Film Festival on 30th September / 1st October. Tickets still available and the director will be in attendance!

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The Tale of Iya review up on uk-anime.net