Saturday, 14 March 2020

Mo movies - March

RECENTLY RE/WATCHED


Jaws (1975)
SPOILER ALERT. I hadn't seen this for over 20 years and couldn't remember a thing about it so I thought I'd give it a whirl considering Emma bought me a Jaws t-shirt the other day. Amity Island has a killer shark roaming its beaches. How are they going to combat this commerce/people killing machine. The best part of the film is when it's just Brody, Quint and Hooper in a vessel out at sea to battle the Great White. Some very cool spectacular shit happens plus a ye olde drunken sailor sing along and eventually BOOM! there goes the shark. Robert Shaw as Quint the old salt and the shark as The Shark are the two outstanding creatures here. I will now wear my t-shirt with pride.


The Witness aka 목격자 (2018)
This was a first time watch for me as I only came across it one Sunday arvo on Stan. I'd never even heard of it. It's beginning to sound like a cliche but the South Koreans have done it again: This is a masterpiece. The Witness is where the serial killer thriller sub-genre is turned on its head. As I've said before eventually these films will be called Tangent movies and this one is no exception, many a tangent is gone off on. It never loses its pacing or entertainment value though. In fact it just keeps gaining in intrigue right up until the mortifying climax. Sang-Hoon (Lee Sung-min) witnesses a murder in his apartment complex but the killer Tae-ho (Kwak See-yang) sees him up in his sixth floor window. Sang-Hoon thinks he's going to be next on the killer's hit list so he doesn't report the crime to police. This is probably not the best of moves as shit soon hits the fan. Sang-Hoon is an infuriatingly spineless but believable character. Look out for a sterling performance from Kim Sang-ho as Detective Jae-Yeob. Kudos to the cast and crew who collectively pull off a piece of astonishing cinema. Totally recommended.


Big Bad Wolves (2013)
Excellent Israeli movie. You don't hear that sentence too often do you? This is some kind of violent crime/horror film. The plot here goes off in many unexpected directions and it's wonderful, darkly comic and brutally violent. A young male teacher is accused of paedophelia. The cops try to beat a confession out of  him but to no avail then things go apeshit. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Who's this bloke on a horse? Big Bad Wolves is a shocking tale executed to perfection. Creepy Israeli revenge horror anyone?


The Man With Two Brains (1983)
I was feeling very ill during the watching of this so I haven't got a hell of a lot to say except that this silly sci-fi comedy is pretty funny and even the occasional dated un-PC jokes are even funnier. Kathleen Turner is fabulous as the raunchy gold digger Dolores BenedictSteve Martin was on a remarkable roll back in the late 70s/early 80s. It might be time to revisit teen favourites Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) and The Jerk (1979).


The Chaser aka 추격자 (2008)
Is this South Korean cinema's darkest film? It's certainly unrelentingly grim and horrific but it's still incredible film-making. This is an absurdly frustrating flick as the inept cops don't do their jobs properly and keep making things way way worse. A scumbag ex-cop turned pimp Eom Joong-ho suspects someone is selling his girls into slavery so he's on the look out for this scumbag Je Yeong-min only to discover that this scumbag is a way worse scumbag than he ever could have imagined. There's a lot more of police procedural in The Chaser than in (ab)normal South Korean terrifying thrillers. Na Hong-jin made an auspicious debut feature here and has gone on to direct two other highly regarded movies The Yellow Sea (2010) and The Wailing (2016). The Chaser is a hell of an experience that you won't forget too soon. Grisly fun for all the family.

Funny Games (1997)
I thought I'd never seen this attempt at a deconstruction of a thriller but then soon disappointingly realised I had. This is a really boring home invasion movie that feels like it was made by a bunch of year 11 students in the 90s. These kids would have thought we're gonna blow people's minds man by talking to the camera, blurring reality and fiction, fucking with linear narrative and timelines etc. Haneke thinks he's being oh so provocative and meta (man) but this is just amateur, dull and lame bullshit. An attempt at an intellectual exercise that falls flat on it obvious and bland face. I can't believe how many so called smart people have been sucked in by this but then again... Anyway if you are looking for a mental scuzzy home invasion type of film check out Canada's Death Weekend (1976) directed William Fruet. This is actually thrilling, horrifying and exhilarating ie. it's a successful thriller.


BUT THEN TV SHOWS STOPPED THE MOVIE VIEWING.
BANSHEE (2013-2016), LODGE 49 (2018-2019), CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (SEASON 10) & INSIDE No 9. (SEASON 5).

I got hooked on Banshee pretty quickly well I mean I'm seven years too late but whatever. I had to watch the entire first season with nothing else in-between. As I commented to KB Banshee is like primo 00s Alan Ball (an executive producer here) but like he's making an absurd ultra violent 11.30 pm time-slot 90s crime/action/cop show. A winning combo in my book. For others perhaps not. To put it another way it's like a HBO drama crossed with the aesthetics of Claws (2017- Corona Virus Panic). The finale of season one goes full Death Wish 3 (1985). Awesome trash.

Lodge 49 insidiously grabbed my attention and before I knew I'd watched the entire first season of that too. The key word of the moment in telly seems to be absurd and Lodge 49 isn't lacking in that department. This is treading a line between charming and stupid. It's a story of a small beach-side suburb where people's lives seem to be going nowhere but the mysterious Lodge 49 brings the disparate lives of the community together. I can't for the life of me figure out how it has managed to engage me for ten 40+ minute episodes. I have been watching it very late at night though...

I've been slowly working my way through season 5 of Inside No. 9 and season 10 of Curb. Saving and savouring each precious episode though. These two splendid shows are still the best telly has to offer.


Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable aka 女囚さそり けもの部屋 (1973)
Stop The Presses: MIND BLOWN! I've tried over the years to dig Japanese cinema but I just found much of it to be dull as fuck, just not for me. You can't like everything although I liked some stuff from the 70s, 80s & 90s that I saw on SBS-TV in the 90s which I only have vague recollections of now. Seijun Suzuki was the first Japanese director to make an indelible impression on me with the brilliant Branded To Kill (1967). Then I went through his filmography when the Melbourne International Film Festival held a retrospective of his work and down at the old video shop. Then I saw Hausu (1977) the fantastic off the wall cute psychedelic/comedy/horror directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi which is a work of pop art genius like no other. I didn't get into all that 90s/00s J-horror gear but hey maybe I need to give it another chance.

Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable is the third film in a series of four about Scorpion the female convict played by Meiko Kaji. It's a strange place to start but it's still a fucking good place. This has got be the most appealing style of film-making I've ever seen so thank-you director Shunya Itō for your rare and sublime aesthetic vision. Once again the epic scale of a greek tragedy clashes with pop culture exploitation to create a totally distinctive specimen of a movie. Scorpion aka Nami Matsushima aka Matsu breaks free from detective Kondo (Mikio Narita) in a jaw dropping moment of cinema. She eventually finds refuge with a prostitute Yuki and her mentally challenged brother. A game of cat and mouse ensues between Nami, the cops and Nami's nemesis Katsu (Reisen Lee) amongst taboo sex, brutal violence, nightmarish horror, surrealism and ethereal sequences. The adult themes are of the disturbing and very adult variety. Make no mistake though this is a cinematic masterpiece. I am curious now to see what else is waiting out there for me amongst the hundreds of Japanese exploitation films and whether they'll be this captivating?


Katalin Varga (2009/06)
This is a rural revenge film of the highest order. Right out of the gate the setting and cinematography (Márk Györi) here are fucking breathtaking. What a tone that sets for this utterly exquisite and idiosyncratic piece of cinema. The sound design (Gábor ifj. Erdélyi & György Kovács) and soundtrack are in complete harmony with the vision, narrative and atmosphere. This has got to be one of the best sound designed films ever. A soundtrack featuring Nurse With Wound, Roj, Xylitol, Steven Stapleton & Geoff Cox, David Tibet, The Csavas Band, Alan Burbridge, Sonic Catering Band, Adam Bohman etc. is a subterranean music lovers delight. To add to the peculiar tone Peter Strickland, an Englishman, directed this film in foreign languages he didn't understand. Katalin (Hilda Péter) is banished from her home and village as her husband discovered their child Orbán (Norbert Tankó) is not his. So Katalin and Orbán set out on a crusade for revenge somewhere in the exotic Carpathian Mountains in Romania. An extraordinary low budget DIY cinematic feat.


Shirkers (2018)
A bunch of young and naive film lovers become film-makers (Sandi Tan, Jasmine Ng & Sophia Siddique) along with an older male mentor (Georges Cardona) and make a movie in Singapore in the early 90s. The film was called Shirkers. These upstarts were set for world domination with their punk-ish and quirky DIY debut feature film. One day though, the film canisters disappeared along with their fellow film-maker Georges Cardona. In this documentary Sandi Tan, a unique and rambunctious individual, reveals a strange and mysterious story that will have you intrigued and probably infuriated for the duration of the movie. What happened to the film? Can it be rescued? Who was Cardona really? Was the movie actually any good? What has happened to this trio of ladies in the last 25 years? Some of these questions will be answered while you watch this fascinating 25 year journey. I recommend.


Lady Snowblood aka 修羅雪姫 (1973)
After watching Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973) the other day I finally had to track down the most famous film starring Meiko Kaji Lady Snowblood. Perhaps I shouldn't have watched them so close together as I was comparing film styles way too much instead of just going with the flow of this film. It was like comparing MBV to Gang of Four. Two brilliant innovative bands who are nothing alike. Anyway Lady Snowblood turned out to be astounding anyway. This is where the Shakespearian Japanese folklore meets the absurdity of pop culture and it's irresistible. Splattered and spurting with ketchup coloured blood this is vengeance of the most fun variety although it's done with a serious straight-faced tone which makes it all the more glorious. Yuki Kashima (Meiko Kaji) is born in 1874 with a legacy to hunt down and kill three people who tormented and ruined her mother's life. From the age of eight Yuki is rigorously trained in the art of sword-fighting so by the time she is a young lady she is a flawless and ruthless assassin. Let the shenanigans begin. Will Yuki aka Lady Snowblood be able to fulfil the brutality expected of her? This is a great Japanese flick based on a Manga series. Oh and Quentin Tarantino ripped off swathes of this movie wholesale for his Kill Bill shows. Don't let that put you off though Lady Snowblood is a hundred times better than those empty homage flicks. Essential viewing.


Green Fish aka 초록 물고기 (1997)
If you are curious about the rise of South Korean cinema in the 21st century look no further than this right here. South Korea was so cool that they had a film director in their ministerial cabinet. Novelist and film director Lee Chang-dong was the minister of Culture in the early 00s. He directed his first flick, this terrific little gangster film in 1997, just before the pop culture blockbuster phenomenon of Kang Je-gyu's Shiri (1999) ignited the current new wave of South Korean cinema. Green Fish is a charming, bittersweet and rough around the edges family drama/gangster movie. This is not the super-slick South Korean cinema we all know and love in 2020. The violence here is is so shonky it's almost at Dolemite (1975) levels. The story however is a lil bewdy which more than makes up for any shortcomings this movie might have. Mak-dong (Han Sook-Kyu) is discharged from military service. Whilst travelling back home on a train he becomes embroiled in the life of Mi-ae (Shim Hye-jin) a gangster's moll. The directionless Mak-dong ends up working for this gangster who goes by the name of Bae Tae-gon (Moon Sung-keun). Things then start to unravel in this uncertain, bewildering and disillusioned time despite an economic upturn. Look out for two unforgettable gangster death scenes one in a toilet and one on the windscreen of a car. Green Fish was an auspicious debut for Lee Chang-dong who has gone on to further acclaim directing another five films including Peppermint Candy (2000), Poetry (2010) and Burning (2018).


Confessions aka 告白 (2010)
21st century vengeance Japanese stylee. This is on the artier side of the revenge movie genre, much of which is informed by dance, movement and choreography, so it's not going to be for everyone as its not action packed. Confessions is a top shelf cerebral, dark, atypical and mental revenge tale. I am constantly amazed at the inventiveness of revenge stories in this day and age. You would think you'd seen and heard it all before by now but nope here is another slice of unique Asian revenge cinema. A high school teacher's child is murdered by some of her pupils, further incredible, grim and devastating events unfold from there.


Mother aka 마더 (2009)
One of only two Bong Joon-ho films I had seen previous to Parasite (2019). I don't know why I never followed up on his other movies in that 10 year gap. I think they just didn't sound like they'd be up me alley like Mother (2009) and Memories of A Murder (2003) were. Anyway I feel like there's a definite theme running through the last few blog posts. Here's another epic tale of tragedy and vengeance of the biblical proportions. Sophocles with cell phones. Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin) a mentally challenged young man is charged with the murder of schoolgirl Moon Ah-jung (Moon Hee-ra). Do-joon's Mother (Kim Hye-ja) knows he's innocent though, so she sets out on a mission to find out the real facts as the police and even her own lawyers are content to just lazily blame her son. Kim Hye-ja puts in a dazzling performance as Mother and Won Bin is impeccable. Bong Joon-ho and his cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo were already at the peak of their superior powers here. Ten years later the American mainstream took notice. Mother is a 21st century classic. 

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