Saturday, 30 January 2010

"Breathless" (Korea, 2009): the strangest love film I've seen

It is not everyday that we can call a love story a film with the level of violence portrayed in "Breathless", yet this is a film about the redemption power of love; it is about a relationship forged over the background of extraordinary violent family histories (a father who killed his young daughter in a fit of wrath alcohol induced; a father who tries to kill her daughter after accusing her of being a slut who "opens her cunt to everybody").
Courting between this couple is done between a constant exchange of insults and four letter words. Prince charming was not that charming, after all. Yet there is something very touching how this two people coming from utterly dis-functional families try to reach to each other, hesitantly at first, sure footed as the film progresses, to end up in fully blossomed love... But that there was not to be...
Camera work is very agile, hand held, following in extreme close-ups the characters, every shade of emotion (or lack of it) being thrown onto the spectator's face. The fast paced action at the beginning of the film gradually gives way to a much slower pace, to the accompaniment of a sparse rock musical score.
Be warned, this is an extremely violent film, swearing is the normal communication means between the characters. However, this film is a must to see: an uncompromising portray of domestic violence. It is also one of the saddest films I have seen for a long time, emotionally intense.

From Terracotta Distribution:
Director: YANG Ik-june
Country: Korea
Genre: Violent Drama
Starring: Yang Ik-june, Kim Kobbi
Released: 29th January 2010
Winner of over 13 much lauded awards at international film festivals.
Sang-hoon (Yang Ik-june) is a lowlife gangster, a debt collector exercising thuggish ways to collect his money. The recipient of nothing but anger since his childhood, he expresses himself through violence.
When he finally encounters someone who can stand up to him, feisty school-girl Yoon-hee (Kim Kkobbi, recipient of multiple Best Actress awards for this role) they become unlikely friends. Together, they try to change their lives, to escape the confines of society’s periphery; change and escape never comes that easily though.
Cinema Listing:London Hull Manchester
ICA Cinema
From 29th January 2010 Reel Cinema
From 29th January 2010 Cornerhouse
From 5th February 2010
Prince Charles Cinema
From 5th February 2010 Dublin Int'l Film Festival
Mile End Genesis
From 5th February 2010

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

"Nowhere Boy": Sam Taylor-Wood take on John Lennon

If you expect an avant-garde film by video and installation artist (Turner Prize nominee) Sam Taylor-Wood in the manner of, lets say, Quinn's "Hunger", you will be disappointed. What you've got instead is a well crafted cinematic account of the early formative years of John Lennon in 50s Liverpool, before its decline. If you also expected some of "The Beatles" iconic songs, you also will be disappointed, what we got here are the very early songs, following the mould set up by Elvis Presley (it reminds me of those early years of my life, going to Elvis' films in Viña del Mar [Chile] to the Rialto on Saturday afternoons, an old grand cinema full of screaming girls).

Most importantly, this is very much a film of the transition of a Britain of stiff upper lips to the country we are now living in, that crucial transition from the 50s (post-war austerity) to the 60s (flower power, love and all of that): this transition is reflected on Mimi's (John's aunt) face from the beginning to the end of the film, when Lennon and his band went to Hamburg - the rest is music history.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Im Gonna Explode (Voy a Explotar)

I am not going to review Gerardo Naranjo's film as it has been done elsewhere. However, I think that it wavered, particularly at the beginning, from being a story as narrated by several protagonist or a straight told story. The device of its telling by a diary written by the girl who is already dead as the story is told is quite interesting. The actors, particularly the young ones, play in a restrained manner their roles, resulting in a very credible portrait of a couple of 15 years old misfit, very much in the manner of Malick's "Badlands", but pointing out at the corruption of Mexican society rather than the wide open badlands. The camera follows the actors with a leitmotiv associated with the characters.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

30 films from the noughties

30 films from the noughties that impressed me.

  • A Ma Soeur
  • Antichrist
  • Banishment, The
  • Battle in Heaven
  • Believer, The
  • Blackboards
  • City of God
  • Downfall
  • Ghost World
  • Hard Candy
  • Inland Empire
  • Innocence
  • London to Brighton
  • Machuca
  • Man Who Wasn't There, The
  • Niña Santa, La
  • No Man's Land
  • Of Time and the City
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Rabbit Proof Fence
  • Red Road
  • Russian Ark
  • Silence of Lorna, The
  • Spirited Away
  • Time Regained
  • Waltz with Bashir
  • Whale Rider
  • White Ribbon, The
  • Wind That Shakes The Barley, The
  • You the Living

Compiling this list made me realize how many films I missed during the last decade, although I intend to put a remedy to it. "35 Shots of Rum" is next in my films to view list, for example. Also, this is not a list of the best films I have seen, but a list of those who left a long lasting impression in me, in spite of some of them being flawed ("The Believer" is one of those). There are also many films which nearly made it.

In a way, this list was compiled in the mode of "Sight & Sound".

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Yolande Moreau was wonderful as Séraphine, a measured performance that, somehow, got us into the soul of Séraphine. This films raises other questions as well: sudden fame and wealth playing havoc in the lives of artists is not a contemporary phenomenon, and does not affect only to the young. Séraphine, who died in 1942 but had her 15 minutes of fame, and riches, in the 30s, fell for it, after a lifetime cleaning floors, etc. Yes, a bit of money after scratching your lifetime will make you giddy. The point I am making that age does not necessarily bring wisdom. As Carey Mulligan said, as Jenny in 'An Education': "I feel old, but not wise." Susan Boyle seems to be another case in these days of ours.

The other point is the artist as a "black box": we know what the outputs are, but we are not sure what the inputs are, and the processing that goes on within that box. 'Séraphine' does not clarify it. Perhaps we need a work of fiction rather than a biopic to she some light on it.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

My 10 favourites films of 2009

As we are in that time of the year, here are my 10 preferred films of 2009. This list includes the films I have seen, there are many which I did not see such as "The Hurt Locker" and others).

1. The White Ribbon
1. Let the Right One In
2. Tony Manero
3. In the City of Sylvya
4. The Beaches of Agnès
5. Delta
6. The Silence of Lorna
7. Antichrist
8. Waltz with Bashir
9. Bright Star

My list of my 10 preferred films of the past decade to come.