The Very Last Day Examined

Sexual assault is a crime that has been perpetrated upon far too many women; some who’ve unfortunately gone through this may find this film to be one too difficult to sit through. An experience like this is not one which needs re-living--especially when it hits this close to home (which happens to be the case of the director/screenwriter/producer, Cédric Jouaire according to my press notes).  A best-selling writer is seduced, then kidnapped by a stalker who accuses him of rape. She claims that the rape occurred 20 years ago and that he has used her personal tragedy and exploited it by making it the plot of his latest novel. The author insists that this is merely a coincidence and that his work is merely one of fiction, yet the vengeful woman persistently forces him to confess.

Review: Cavale

Director Virginie Gourmel’s feature debut, “Cavale”, has the performances, the visual look, and the concept to be a great film, but it is ultimately thwarted by being an experience that’s all too simple and hollow.

The film follows Kathy (Lisa Viance), a young girl who is thrown into a psychiatric facility by her father after her mother dies. Feeling trapped inside this new “prison” and being angry at her father for sending her away, Kathy decides to escape when a prime opportunity arises. However, she doesn’t leave alone as her two roommates, the wild Nabila (Yamina Zaghouani) and the shy Carole (Noa Pellizari), quickly follow her out of the door. Even with Nabila and Carole sidetracking her with their drug-fueled antics and abrasive personalities, Kathy is on a mission to confront her father and deal with their unresolved feelings.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 25: Shirkers

In 1992 Sandi Tan set out to make Singapore's first road movie with the assistance of her friends Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique, as well as her mentor a much older man called Georges Cardona. Cardona was an enigmatic man who claimed to be the inspiration of James Spader's character in "Sex, Lies and Videotapes". To Tan, he was someone who saw her potential as a filmmaker and helped shaped her love for independent film. Cardona knew his cinema, but he was a magpie simply picking things up that didn't belong to him and claiming them to be his own.

The plot of Tan's film followed a young woman (who was played by Tan herself) who goes on the run after committing a crime. Along the way she creates new friends, picking up stray children like a pied-piper character as she travels across Singapore.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 30: Toni Erdmann

With her third feature film, Maren Ade announced herself on to the international scene during 2016, with her robust, confounding comedy of delicate, deliberate and disastrously strained parental ties. A thematic notion achieved with such success is not often seen in cinema, capturing the fraught emotional bonds of a career-driven daughter and her aloof father. As varying dynamics exist in relationships between adulthood and childhood and vice versa, very few directors have successfully articulated and dramatised them as well as Ade. A remarkable cinematic achievement, creating a film that is deeply human and tragically nostalgic and profound whilst absurdly comedic.

Review: In My Room

In this quiet, sweet little German flick, ‘tis the end of humanity as we know it. Time and time again we’ve seen Hollywood emphasize, in many terrifying ways, just how something like this could come about: invading aliens, nuclear warfare, immense natural disasters… yet none of that (at least none seen in the context of this story at least) is seen here. Humanity just disappears; one could probably argue this film takes place in the same universe where Thanos’ snap severely depopulates the world (it would be nice to think about how this was how some human beings lived their lives in the 5 years it took for the Avengers to get their you-know-what together, but I digress). No Hollywood junk to be found here, just pure truths and insights which are inherent in all humans; which exist in both the context of the hectic day-to-day lives we all lead, and the fictional scenario presented here.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 40: I Am Not A Witch

A dry humour. An uncomfortable satire. A stunning fairytale tableaux. “I Am Not A Witch” (2017) has an impact that’s hard to describe. The film starts with a young Zambian girl Shula (non-professional actor Margaret Mulubwa) being accused of witchcraft. She is given the choice of being turned into a goat or declaring she is a witch. She chooses to say she is a witch and is taken to live in a ‘witch camp’.

At the witch camp Shula is cared for and encouraged by the other women who all remain attached to long white ribbons at all times lest they fly away. Tourists arrive by minibus to leer at them as a local attraction and they’re loaned out to work long hours for someone else’s benefit.

Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

This is the female gaze like you’ve never seen it before. "Portrait"--a film set in Brittany, France in the 18th century--is a showcase of how the depths of insight and poignancy in a work of art comes as a result of the artist having a deep, loving, obsessive understanding of their subject. It is a film about two women on an island with hardly anyone else around them and the painfully, yet deliciously slow romance that materializes from a connection of their minds, bodies, and souls. The film is thematically rich and daring, yet never once seeks to shove a message or agenda down your throat; it’s a love story, plain and simple. Writer/director Céline Sciamma clearly isn’t interested in subverting history in an effort to appease the needs of a contemporary audience--yet in spite of that, this is a film brimming with human truths. It is reminiscent of the underpinnings and themes found Greek and Gothic literature and poetry. Tender, yet complex and multifaceted--this is in no way a political film, but rather, a subtle social commentary on the kinds of job opportunities available to women in the 18th century.

31 Days of Horror, Day 20: The Lure

Fish-people are creepy. H.P. Lovecraft knew it, that one guy in “The Cabin in the Woods” knew it, and even “The Mighty Boosh”’s Old Gregg character would deter any right-thinking individual from renting a boat for some lonely night-fishing on a lake. It beggars belief, therefore, that the mere-community has been so underrepresented in cinema (barring a few B-movie schlock-fests, of course).

Thank Poseidon then, for Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s “The Lure”: a Polish horror-musical about Golden (Michalina Olszańska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek), two mermaids who make for dry land and earn a living as singers in a nightclub, while finding themselves getting in too deep with the humans they would otherwise be pulling down to the briny depths for dinner.

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