Thursday, January 31, 2013

Padak (2012)

The free screening at the Korean Cultural Service screening was the animated film Padak. The film has been described as a kind of Korean Finding Nemo, but that really isn't fair, since this is much different and much darker, I mean neither Disney nor Pixar wouldn't make a film where characters die graphically. This isn't meant to give anything away only to say that this isn't your typical Hollywood animated film.

Ted Geohagen, writer, producer, director and host of the current series of KCS screenings said the film is akin to the work of Don Bluth since Bluth left Disney because they wanted to take death, danger and violence from their films. Bluth wanted to keep it in and went off on his own to make films his way, and made some money in the process. I think Ted was right, though this film is much darker than even Bluth's work. Ted also said that a friend of his compared the film said that the film is what you might get if Pink Floyd made Finding Nemo. I think in some form the statement is right on especially since some of the musical numbers resembled some of the animation used in Pink Floyd The Wall.

The plot of the film has Padak caught and brought to restaurant that serves sea food. As Padak tries to escape she butt heads with the fish in the tank who are all under the sway of a flat fish who lives under a steel grate in the floor of the tank. As Padak refuses to give up she begins to change the fish in the tank with her.

Okay if you're looking for friendly animation look elsewhere, this is a dark film where we watch as characters are pulled from the tank, cleaned and eaten. You will feel their fear...hell in many ways this is a horror film. This is not for most kids and many adults who would prefer not to have their characters served for dinner.

For my money this is a wonderful film. Once you get past the opening human world animation which looks like old school computer animation, this film really takes off. Actually the film begins to set a dark tone with Padak being caught and moved from boat to delivery van to tank. Its a wordless sequence that has more dread than most recent horror films put together. From there the story spins out in unexpected ways including dreams, flashbacks and a couple of musical numbers. The film also uses a variety of animation styles depending upon where we are in the story.

Don't kid yourself there is a complexity here that Disney, Pixar and all of the big American animation houses never ever approach. How complex is the film? It deals obliquely with cults, the notion of how to live, life in a concentration camp, pecking orders, nihilism and several other themes. You probably could do a dissertation on the film.

I know at the top I compared the film to Finding Nemo, but that isn't right.Its a lazy statement on my part, even if there are clown fish in the film. It's lazy because the film is, outside of the dream and human sequences is set entirely in the aquarium outside the restaurant. We only see the sea at the end, it always remains just out of reach for most of the film.

I don't know what to say. I think this is a brilliant film I know the film has low regard in some circles (IMDB has it rated under 5 out of 10), but based on what I've read it seems that the audiences have been expecting yet another happy Disney film not a mediation on life and death. The fact this is a complex mature animated film messes with their heads as much as the film itself. Personally I think they are really wrong and I'd say i's probably the first "great" film I've seen in 2013.

Track this film down.

Your turn Darling (1963)

Lemmy Caution, superstar FBI agent is brought in track down what happened to a missing scientist working on a new solid fuel.

Not only has the scientist gone missing but his secretary has turned up dead. Caution does what he can and begins to track the scientists fiancé who he soon finds was taken away by a bogus "Lemmy Caution".

Good little mystery is like bubble gum for the eyes with Constantine walking through the film completely in control. It is like most of the Lemmy Caution films I've seen, an amusing distraction.

Worth a look if you should run across it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A sneak peak at the New York International Children's FIlm Festival titles for 2013

(ADDENDUM: TIckets are on sale. Details and links to some trailers and our reviews can be found here.)

Randi stumbled upon the listing of films and show times for this years New York International Children's Film Festival this afternoon. She was searching for something at the Asia Society at Ticket Web and stumbled upon the listing for the films. (If you want the dates and times go to Ticketweb and put in NYICFF and the shows will come up- tickets however are not on sale)

I tried to get confirmation from the Festival via email this afternoon if these were indeed the titles but I didn't get a response. I know the official announcement is due in two days but I think some of you are as curious as I am so with the proviso that this list may not be right I give the list for this years NYICFF

Ernest and Celestine (opening night)

The Day for Crows

Rompe Ralph

Hey Krishna 3D

Welcome to the Space Show (This played the festival two years ago)

Starry Starry Night (I think this maybe a good Japanese film that played the NYAFF last year)


Wolf Children

Zarafra (This played Rendezvous with French Cinema last year and was great fun)

The Painting (One of last years best films returns )

Approved for Adoption (animated film about a Korean adopter)

Kiriku and the Men and the Women 3D (third film in the series)

Up on Poppy Hill (The latest Ghibli film and is a charmer)


Flicker Alley

Shorts 1 &2

Shorts for Tots 1&2

Heebie Jeebies

Girls POV

I'm mixed on this years films only in that I've seen a large number of them. I'll post links to the reviews we've run once everything is officially announced)

Miracle Kid (1941)

Amusing boxing comedy that has a great deal going on and going for it. I'm not really sure how to explain everything that happens since there are numerous plots and sub-plots wandering through this. The easiest thing to say is that not very good boxer suddenly begins to win his fights. Unknown to him they have been fixed in order to build up his stature. Wandering through this are a health guru, an all seeing madame and a publicity man.

The cast is first rate and they handle the comedy with great ease. I like that the story is nicely balanced with enough going on to keep you interested. I know in some of the poverty row comedies things can occasionally get one note, but thats not the case here. Forgive me for not saying more but its kind of hard to say more than this is a nice little film.

Ladies Man (1962)

Lemmy Caution is on vacation in Europe.The superstar detective is mobbed everywhere he goes and he can't seem to get anything (drinking) done. Despite his best efforts to relax, Caution finds himself stumbling in and out of trouble.

Good if disposable film plays as a nice send up of the dangers of fame and a send up of the great detective genre.

Jokier than is probably healthy this is an amusing distraction and nothing more thanks to too much of a knowing attitude.

Worth a look if you want to see something completely non-taxing.

I should point out that much of the cast is also in Your Turn Darling, making a back to back viewing seem as though its one interconnected movie. (I'll be reviewing that film tomorrow)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

5 Broken Cameras (2011)

Get ready to get pissed off.

This Oscar nominated film follows the course of Palestinian and Israeli relations in and around the town of Bil'in as documented by Emad Burnat and his five cameras which end up broken. It's a film that will really make you angry.

The story starts in 2005 when the Israeli government begins to confiscate the land around Bil'in. At about the same moment Emad gets a camera and welcomes his fourth son. As Emad begins to document the life of  his family and the village, he also documents the protests that arise when the Israelis begin to build a containment fence through the middle of their farm land. As the protests grow in intensity and more and more steps are taken to stop the theft of the land things begin to affect Emand's family.

Excellent documentary is sure to make your blood boil. It's truly amazing that people who should know better can behave so badly. I'm kind of appalled that the Israeli government pretty much sanctions some of the things that go on here. Is it any wonder that the Israeli's are not liked when they continually seize land and be have badly toward the people who are already living on the land they want to turn into settlements.

You'll forgive me for not saying a great deal, I'm kind of too pissed off  not to just scream bad things about the settlers who on one hand to stupid callous things and on the other hand no doubt wonder why they aren't liked.

One of the more important films of this past year has deservedly gotten itself an Oscar nomination for best documentary. Is it the best of the bunch? I can't say, but it is one of the ones that really fires up the emotions.

See this film.

Dames Get Along (1954)

Eddie Constantine is Lemmy Caution in his second or third go round at the character.

Here Caution is on the trail of a women who may or may not be mixed up in a blackmail scheme. Its a semi-complicated affair that Lemmy solves more with his fists then his brains.

Its an okay Euro Noir that is a bit too knowing for my tastes-Eddie and some of the other cast members pretty much look in the camera and wink. Constantine is a great actor and I could never understand why he never why he was never big here in the US. He was a fine tough guy that looked like he could do pretty much anything. To be certain he made films up to his death, but at the same time he should have been huge here in the US.

Worth a look if you're in the mood-its perfect late night fare.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dear Mandela (2012)

Dara Kell & Christopher Nizza's Dear Mandela is going to be making it's U.S. Broadcast TV Premiere on the World Channel tomorrow night at 7PM as part of AfroPop's season5.  The film is a look at the problems in the country, specifically the problems relating to housing, within South Africa since the end of apartheid.

Focusing on the lives of several activists and the people they are helping the film deals with how the government is dealing with people who are living in shacks simply because there are no homes for them. Whipping the houses together in a day or so the houses are collected together in in formal settlements  that run the risk of being knocked down by various government agencies who don't want them up. The film highlights problems with the so called reformed system by looking at this one issue. (The title comes from letters written to Nelson Mandela who everyone is certain could fix the problem is he only knew about it)

A well made and heart felt film this is an intellectually enlightening film that makes it clear, or clearer that just because the system has been cosmetically changed doesn't mean that everything is all right with the world. As the film shows more often then not the only time the government officials want anything to do with the people in the settlements is when they want them gone or when they want  votes come election time. It's a sad story that didn't quite enrage me as it should have.

I'm not going to lie to you, I like the film but I admire it more than I like it. I like it instead of loving it because while it intellectually challenged me to take off a kind of rose colored glasses, it never engaged me emotionally. I watched the film and followed the film with a certain amount of distance. I should have gotten to the end and been screaming from my seat, that didn't happen. This doesn't mean it's a bad film, it just means its good and not great.

You should make an effort to see the film if you can, and you'll have plenty of opportunity since after the film airs on World it's going to be available streaming:

National TV broadcast on the WORLD Channel
Tuesday January 29, 2013 7pm ET, 9pm PT

New York: WLIW World on Cablevision 132, Time Warner 164, Verizon Fios 473
Philadelphia: WHYY – Boston: WGBH - San Francisco: KQED
January 29 – February 5: free online streaming on
March 1-31: free online streaming on

Hail Mafia (1965)

Very very good mob movie with Eddie Constantine the target of his former mob brothers. They want the retired gangster silenced so that there is no chance that he will come back from France to talk to the Senate committee on organized crime. To that end the mob sends two hit men (Henry Silva and Jack Klugman) to Europe to hunt down Constantine.

More a drama then a "crime" film (with the action that implies) the movie really is about the relationship between the two hit men as they interact on the hunt for their target. The performances of both Silva and Klugmen are excellent and its clear that Silva was a much better actor then his later supporting roles suggested. Equally good, and a revelation to people who only know him from the Odd Couple or Quincy, is Jack Klugman. Its a shame that Klugman kind of got lost in the TV series rut since he is clearly capable of a performances that are more complex than what a TV series require. The pairing of the two vastly under rated actors make for a superior drama that has been unfairly lost over the years.

Hopefully a somewhere down the road someone will rescue this film and give it some sort of revival.

This is one to search out.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Nightcap 1/27/13 In between

This is an off week with not a lot to talk about. There is so little to talk about that I couldn’t come up with something despite actually wanting to write something up.

I’ve been pulled in a couple different directions concerning tonight’s piece.

The initial idea was to talk about whether the current influx of Asian films into the mainstream was a fad, ala the brief flare up of Romanian films from a few years back, or whether it actually was something that was going to sustain. I know the New York Asian Film festival has been growing nicely, but outside of them and the few other festivals I don’t see Asian films really taking off. I know the interest in genre films will sustain but I don’t know about what will happen to the non-action non-horror films. Sadly the dramas and comedies are going to get lost- the comedies especially since people won’t think they’ll travel well.

However I decided not to talk about that, hell starting in a week we're going to wade into two weeks of Chinese films for Chinese New Year, and kind of wanted to take a break from all of the Asian films I’ve been watching.

I considered just posting some links but that really didn’t float my boat.

I considered some random reviews of films that may not end up reviewed here fully, but either I’ve written the films up, or they just aren’t worth the effort to even mention them ( I mean Laurence Harvey may have started in A Killer Walks but it doesn't mean it's particularly good).

Honestly I couldn’t really come up with anything…hell this week I’m reposting some reviews of Eddie Constantine films. The reviews largely were posted at IMDB and I’ve tweaked them slightly, but I just wasn’t into writing anything… I mean I’m working with bits and pieces into June but for this week coming up I couldn’t come up with anything that thrilled me on any level. (There are some additional reviews- Dear Mandela for example that are worth noting)

Maybe I should say that you can send us any ideas you have for films that we should be reviewing or anything else. Drop us a line at and I’ll see about getting your choices into the cue. I know that over the next couple of weeks I have a whole bunch of suggested titles programmed, so some of you will be seeing stuff you suggested written up.

I think that’s it for this week’s night cap. As I said this week we have some Eddie Constantine films (He really is an actor you need to know about). Next weekend a look two looks at martial arts films which lead into a week of Shaw Brothers movies that start our Chinese New Year celebration. After that it’s a week of other types of films from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. That leads into a week of action films and our third anniversary.

And of course there is going to be a ton of other stuff coming including reports on several film festivals and a bunch of recent releases.

(FYI: FIlm Comment Selects goes on sale to Film Society members Tuesday, the general public Thursday. And titles for this year's New York International Children's Film Festival will be announced Friday)

AND REMEMBER- Warner Home Video is allowing me to pick two readers to get a copy of the new Blu-ray release of Cabaret. For details on how to get into the running please go here.

Alamo (1960)

John Wayne’s The Alamo was a labor of love. Wayne spared no expense and he went to great lengths to make sure that it was grand and heroic as the legend itself. Released in 1960 the film garnered much attention and numerous awards including a nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars. It also got a reputation as a bloated vanity project and as many films of the time, was cut apart after its initial roadshow screenings into a more manageable form.

Wayne’s tale tells the story of the battle from the arrival of Davy Crockett until the bloody end. Its more legend than reality (for example it’s now known that many people including Crockett survived the battle and were executed by Santa Ana out of spite) it also only really deals with events surrounding the battle fleetingly, it’s isn’t concerned with the larger picture.

It’s a huge Hollywood epic that that is truly spectacular. Its full of big Hollywood stars (Laurence Harvey and Richard Widmark co-star) and great character actors (Chill Wills, Richard Boone, Patrick Wayne amongst others). It has epic battle scenes and small scale drama. It was filmed with the idea that this is the sort of film you would never get on TV.

I’m not going to lie. If you see the version that is generally run- the chopped down non-road show version- The film is a mess. Things seem to be missing---which they are. Close to an hour has been chopped out of the film from its full length version (203 minutes, the currentlly available one runs about 140). Anyone who saw the long version of the film bemoaned the chops. (and anyone who’s seen the long version finds it impossible to watch the shorter version)

For years it was believed that the full roadshow version was lost to the ages but sometime around 1990 a full version of the film turned up. At first no one could be sure despite the markings on the can so was going to have to be run. A screening was organized and according to the story cheers went up with the appearence each bit of “found” footage. That version was eventually restored and put out on laser disc in 1993 or so.

Sadly when it came time to put it out on DVD Warners decided to put out the general release version and not the roadshow one. If you buy the Alamo on DVD it’s the short one. I know that one of the reasons that the longer version was not put on DVD was that in the years since it was mastered for laser disc and when they thought to put it on DVD it fell into disrepair. Colors shifted and by all accounts it was in a sorry state. There were no funds to restore the film.

Thankfully someone decided to undertake a restoration and as far as I know a restoration is underway. Begun in the days before Kickstarter they had to be careful where they got funds and when I investigated sending them money I found that it could only come from corporations. Or businesses. I’m hoping that someday soon the newly restored version will come out… and with it I hope is the documentary that was included on the laser disc about the making of the film (That’s a 90 minute film about film worth watching even if you don’t like the Alamo)

Personally right now I’m between a rock and a hard place. I haven’t seen the full version in years. My laserdisc machine crapped out not long before I got a DVD recorder so I have an orphan copy of the film watching to be watched. I know that The Alamo appears on TCM and other outlets from time to time but it’s always the short version, which for me is completely unwatchable. Honestly I know in some circles The Alamo is still a joke. However I also know that most people who don’t like it haven’t seen the full version which has additional character development and incidents that deepen everything that happens. The film long, is not just the spectacle but a human story.

Is it a great film? In its way it is. It’s one of the last gasps of old Hollywood before the 60’s and TV really changed the way we saw and made films. Certainly it’s one of the last truly huge American epics about America- after this would come David Lean and others making films about Lawrence of Arabia, Ryan’s Daughter, and any number of English or biblical subjects. It’s a film that speaks the old world (Hollywood) vernacular before the new world (Europe) taught us how to speak. In its way it’s the last of the rough and tumble epics before the fine craftsmanship took over

When the film finally gets its release on DVD or Bluray it will behoove you to make an effort to see the film. For all the mixed feelings toward the film, it is ultimately a milestone in film, t’s the point where the old gave way to the new and how we felt toward film changed and became something more refined (at least for a brief period befor Jaws and Star Wars made it wholly about money.)

John Wayne’s The  Alamo is possibly the last great old school American epic.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cabaret Blu-Ray Giveaway

As Joel Grey and Liza Minelli sing in Cabaret, Money makes the world go round, but there is something to say about free stuff. To that end the wonderful people at Warner Home Video have been kind enough to allow us to pick two readers to each receive a copy of their new super spectacular Blu-ray of Bob Fosse’s classic Cabaret. This edition is so fantastic (see below for a list of all the goodies on it) that I seriously considered diverting one of the copies my way, but I thought it was better served going your way.

If you’d like a shot at getting one of these Blu-rays’s here’s what to do, either:

--Email us at with your name and the email you want me to contact you at. Please put Cabaret in the subject line.

-- Leave a comment below with your name and email. The comments are being moderated so they shouldn't appear publicly.

I will email you let you know if you've won and get your  mailing address is so the people at Warner Brothers can send you the Blu-ray.

Now if you want a second shot at winning include your twitter name in the email or in the comment and then either tweet the link to this post or re-tweet one of my tweets (there will be many) about this giveaway. I'll then add you in a second time to the pool of possible winners. Remember you will have to include my twitter handle @unseenfilms so I know you’ve tweeted the giveaway information.

The giveaway is open until the last second of February 5 2013 (the street date for the Blu-ray). Warner Home Video has also informed me that the contest is open to US residents only. Your chances of winning will be determined entirely by the number of people entering. (I was going to make this more difficult but Bully kept guessing how many jelly beans were in the cookie jar)

Good luck.

If you’re curious about all the goodies included on the Cabaret DVD read on

Cabaret, Bob Fosse’s ground-breaking Oscar®-winning musical drama starring Liza Minnelli (Arthur, The Sterile Cuckoo), Michael York (the Austin Powers films), Joel Grey (TV’s “Oz”), Helmut Griem, and Marisa Berenson (I am Love), celebrates its 40th anniversary with a Blu-ray debut on February 5, 2013. Remastered for the first time in over 20 years, Cabaret is presented in its original aspect ratio (16 x 9 format). Winner of eight Academy Awards®, including Director (Fosse), Actress (Minnelli), and Supporting Actor (Grey), the film will be offered in a premium Blu-ray Book format ($27.98 SRP), which contains 40 pages of insightful photos and text. A new documentary, "Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals" will be featured, along with vintage documentaries "Cabaret: A Legend in the Making," "The Recreation of an Era," a multi-part memory gallery and more. A DVD version will also be available ($14.97 SRP).

Cabaret was adapted from the Tony® -winning stage production, which was in turn inspired by Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and the play and movie I Am a Camera. This remarkable musical turns the pre-war Berlin of 1931 into a sexually charged center of decadence. Liza Minnelli gives a bravura performance as nightclub entertainer Sally Bowles, and Joel Grey is the master of ceremonies at the nightclub, also acting as the storyteller for the audience, exposing the seediness of the cabaret world. The superb songwriting team of Kander and Ebb contributes a string of memorable songs that not only entertain but also provide social commentary on the events of the time. Under the helm of director-choreographer Bob Fosse (All that Jazz), Cabaret becomes both a devastating drama and top-rate entertainment, and the result is one of the most memorable and meaningful screen musicals ever made.

Flamboyant and eccentric American entertainer Sally Bowles (Minnelli) sings in Berlin’s decadent Kit Kat Club, even as Nazism rises in Germany in 1931. She falls in love with a British language teacher (York) – whom she shares with a homosexual German baron (Griem). But Sally's insular, carefree, tolerant and fragile cabaret world is about to be crushed under the boot of the Nazis as Berlin becomes a trap from which Sally's German friends will not escape.

Special Features:   
Commentary by Stephen Tropiano 
Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals New Featurette!           
Cabaret: A Legend in the Making       
The Recreation of an Era  
Marisa's Close-up Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Liza Minnelli Remembers...          
Sally's Look Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Liza Minnelli Remembers...     
Observing the Master Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Liza Minnelli Remembers...       
Challenges Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Joel Grey Reminisces...        
Collective Memory Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Joel Grey Reminisces...   
Strange Inspiration Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Joel Grey Reminisces...           
A Called Bluff Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Michael York Remembers...       
Risk Taking Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Michael York Remembers...         
Rush(es) Hour Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Michael York Remembers...           
A Happy Accident Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Michael York Remembers...  
 Rock 'N' Roll Editing Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Martin Baum Reminisces...
Isherwood's Surprise Reaction Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Martin Baum Reminisces...           Smithsonian Honor Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Martin Baum Reminisces...       
Tomorrow Belongs to Me Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Cy Feuer Remembers...          
Taking on 'The Godfather Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Emanuel L.Wolf Reminisces...           
Timeless Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Emanuel L. Wolf Reminisces...
  Playing 'What If?’ Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery; John Kander Remembers...          
Almost a Nervous Breakdown Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: John Kander Remembers...      
Sneaking a Peek Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: John Kander Remembers...           
Play vs. Book Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Jay Presson Allen Reminisces...        
Recruiting Hugh Wheeler Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Jay Presson Allen Reminisces...
Screening Blues Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Fred Ebb Remembers...            
Screening Hues Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Fred Ebb Remembers...         
Theatrical Trailer

To purchase the Blu-ray from the Warner Brothers Shop go here.
The Cabaret Facebook page is here.

And once more a big thank you to Warner Home Video for making this possible.

Hatari (1962)

People either love this film or loath it. Far from a meaty film, this is instead a freewheeling romp that is kind of like a three hour vacation.

The thought of the film being a vacation is an apt one since the film exists simple because John Wayne, Howard Hawks and friends wanted to go on African Safari and didn’t want to pay for the trip themselves. Cobbling the script together they flew off to Africa to make a film and have a good time.

The plot of the film has Wayne and his cohorts running an animal collection business. As they deal with bad luck, romance (thanks to the appearance of a female nature photographer) and not particular serious personal matters they occasionally go out and collect big game for circuses and zoos.

Deep and meaningful it’s not. A great deal of fun it is.

I am not a particularly big John Wayne fan. I tend to be a fan of his films on a film by film basis. Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon this film, somewhere in the middle and fell in love with it. There is something so non-taxing about the film that I will pop it in when I just need to relax and not think. I think the film that Wayne isn’t acting, I think he’s more or less being himself and just walking through the scenes. (I think at some point Wayne kind of stopped acting for a while and simply was himself, only acting when the role was good- True Grit or the Shootist- or when it was more than money making effort.)

Of course the high point of the film are the many animal related scenes. The capture sequences that are sprinkled through the film are spectacular and I really hope to one day see them on the big screen because seeing them on TV is amazing and I can only imagine how they will play big. To be honest I’m guessing that the sequences give animal rights people kittens but at the same time there is no denying that they are wonderful cinematic experiences from another time.

I love this film. It’s fun. If you get the chance and have three hours give it ago.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Some thoughts on Kim Ki-duk's Pieta (2012)

I am a huge Kim Ki-duk fan. Despite only reviewing a couple of his films here at Unseen, I really am a huge fan of the man's work. Actually I'm really confused some times when some of the other directors in Korea such as Jee-woon Kim and Chan-wook Park get more attention.

Pieta is Ki-duk's latest film. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival and has gone on to win a boatload of awards...a fact I'm kind of bewildered by.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad movie, I just don't think it's a great one.

The film follows a young man who works for a loan shark. His job is to cripple the people who owe his boss money so that the insurance money can be collected in place of the money owed. One day a strange woman comes into his life claiming to be his mother and suddenly his life is completely upset.

Before I say anything further I have to say that there are somethings I can't say in describing the film. I can't completely or even incompletely say more about the plot than I've said simply because to do so will give the progression of the film away and I don't want to do that. The less you know the better. (Also the film is too early in it's release cycle to spoil with a detailed discussion of plot details)

This is an extremely unpleasant film for a variety of reasons, which I'm not going to go into, partly because if you see the film you shouldn't be forewarned, and partly because I'd like to try and be one of the few reviews that doesn't go into them. The film needs to have it's shocks to work and I won't take that away. Just realize when you go in that this is the sort of film that is going to have many people covering their eyes, but not because of gore... but because the situations are just disturbing.

I like Pieta but I don’t love it. I suspect that I would like it more if it wasn’t getting the critical acclaim that it’s garnered in some corners. This isn’t to say the it’s a bad film, it’s not. It’s actually a very good one, it’s just not a great one.

I suspect much of the love for the film in Europe and elsewhere comes from people not really being familiar with the frequent turns of cruelty in Korean cinema. I can only imagine how this film would have played for me had I not seen some of the Korean films I have where cruelty and ugliness is a way of life. Films like King of Pigs, Choked, End of Animal, Re-encounter or Missing Person all are frightening in their bleak black world view. The darkness of big fish abusing the smaller ones runs all through Korean cinema and while it’s deeply disturbing it frequently feels like par for the course and the typical Korean world view. As much as it pains me to say this, the level of nastiness in this film, while disturbing isn’t as bad as I’ve seen in other Korean films (see any of the films above, all of which have been reviewed here). I really think that many of the people raving about this film have simply never seen anything like this before.

Another reason that the film didn’t blow my skirt up was that at times it feels like a conventional Korean film. The opening scenes with Kang seem more like a send up than the work of Ki-duk Kim who always manages to makes his films kind of lyrical and special. This film feel as though it could be the work of anyone of his contemporary directors. Actually it struck me as so much a riff on the work of others and soap opera that I found my chuckling through a good portion of the film. Yes it’s disturbing but at the same time I had to wonder if the director was being serious. (Blame the stoic brooding mother character for much of it, she’s simply too much to believe)

At the risk of saying too much the other thing that kind of disappointed me was that I knew where the larger story was going. I don’t know if it is the story itself or whether I’ve seen too many of the director’s other films, I knew where this was going. It didn’t kill the film, it just kind of took the edge off.

As I said I really like this film and would give it a solid good rating, I just don’t think it’s a great one. Perhaps down the road when I see it again I'll think more of it, but for right now I'm going to remain quizzical about all of the awards the film has won.

Critical reservations aside this film is most  definitely worth seeing when it hits theaters here in the US - especially if you want to have your ass kicked to the curb..

Film Comment Selects 2013 Titles Announced

Here's the llst of titles being shown at Lincoln Center's film Comment Selects. Its a great bunch of films.

Tickets are on sale to Film Society Members Tuesday and the general public Thursday.
All screenings will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam). Visit  for additional information.

Films, Descriptions & Schedule

SIMON KILLER (2012) 105m
Director: Antonio Campos
Country: U.S.
An American in Paris, only dark. Very dark. Afterschool writer-director Antonio Campos crosses the Atlantic to descend into the unraveling psyche of a charming young sociopath at loose in the City of Lights. On the rebound from a troubling breakup, sketchy and possibly unhinged Simon (Brady Corbet) becomes fixated on prostitute Victoria (Mati Diop)—and from there a chilling, claustrophobic, and unpredictable dance of death unfolds. This ostensible portrait of a serial killer in the making makes for tense, compulsive viewing, in no small part due to Corbet’s fearless performance, while Campos’s evocative location shooting perfectly captures the textures and sleazy ambience of Paris by night. An IFC Films release.
Monday, February 18 at 8:15pm

THE WE AND THE I (2012) 103m
Director: Michel Gondry
Country: U.S.
Michel Gondry’s delightful and wholly unexpected lo-fi experiment is a mobile kammerspiel set entirely on a crowded bus wending its way through the Bronx as it takes its high-school student passengers home on the last day of school. The film was developed by the unpredictable French director and his ensemble cast in an after-school arts-and-activism workshop—the latest in a series of site-specific open-participation film projects undertaken by Gondry between directing everything from Hollywood blockbusters to intimate personal documentaries. At first glance The We and the I might come off like an experiment in realism or ethnography, but Gondry is much more invested in celebrating the individuality of each member of his young multiethnic cast (all playing themselves) and the way the dynamics within and across its different subgroups and cliques shift and play out in a free-form setting that’s by turns raucously funny, poignantly tender, and gently observant. Moreover any notion that this is an exercise in naturalism are dispelled when you begin to notice how Gondry takes mischievous liberties with time and place (this is the longest bus ride in cinema history, and day turns to night before everybody gets home!). One of the most winning films of the year!
Thursday, February 28 at 8:30pm

A BORROWED LIFE (1994) 167m
Director: Wu Nien-jen
Country: Taiwan
A deeply felt, epic father-and-son drama chronicling the tumultuous life and times of a provincial mining-town family in the 1950s, A Borrowed Life is one of New Taiwanese Cinema’s masterpieces, and listed among Martin Scorsese’s 10 favorite films of the Nineties, yet has nevertheless remained largely unseen. Actor and novelist-turned-writer-director Wu’s 1994 film presents a dual portrait of coal miner Sega, a failed patriarch doomed to stand on the sidelines of his own life, and Wen Jian, his young son who bears witness from his own painful remove. It’s one of Taiwanese cinema’s most clear-eyed explorations of family dynamics—a distinction it shares with Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, which introduced Wu to Western audiences in the role of yet another discontented father figure. Few films have so vividly re-created the sensation of having known another human being for one’s entire life, while simultaneously evoking the suspicion that all along one has loved a stranger. Print courtesy of George Eastman House.
Sunday, February 24 at 2:00pm

CALL GIRL (2012) 140m
Director: Mikael Marcimain
Country: Sweden
Based on a true story, and subject of a major controversy in Sweden last year, this inevitably semi-lurid but never exploitative drama is about the corruption of a 14-year-old girl lured into a prostitution ring catering to the political establishment in the 1970s. Partly a hard-knocks coming-of-age story and partly a political thriller, the movie’s action centers on Iris (Sofia Karemyr), who routinely sneaks out of her group foster home, drawn like a moth to the flame by the bright lights of Stockholm at night. She finds a kind of mother figure in the form of Dagmar Glans (Pernilla August), a madam who initiates her latest catch into the life and its perks, and soon what starts out as a boundary-testing adventure becomes an intoxicating thrill—until things quickly get too much for our young heroine. Enter Sandberg (Simon J. Berger), the only honest vice cop on the force, who, against the backdrop of an impending general election, starts to expose the ring and finds that its links go all the way to the top. It’s only a matter of time before these two characters cross paths and start attracting the kind of attention that gets people killed. Having served as an second unit director on Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Marcimain is completely at ease in this Seventies period setting and takes care to underline the irony of politicians appearing on television and delivering campaign speeches extolling the virtues of the government’s progressive policies regarding women’s equality and evolving sexual mores. Based on an actual scandal in which assassinated Prime Minister Olof Palme was implicated and which was brushed under the carpet for many years by the Swedish authorities.
Wednesday, February 20 at 9:00pm
Thursday, February 21 at 3:30pm

DORMANT BEAUTY (2012) 115m
Director: Marco Bellocchio
Country: Italy
Isabelle Huppert and Toni Servillo star in Italian master Bellocchio’s compelling, somber ensemble drama in which a characters in three interrelated storylines struggle with the moral impasses and compromises of modern life. The film’s point of departure is a real-life right-to-euthanasia case that became a national controversy in 2008, culminating in a Parliamentary vote. (The film’s title might more precisely be “Sleeping Beauty.”) Against this backdrop Bellocchio attempts to encompass the differing values and outlook of young and old, reactionary and idealistic: that of a senator (Servillo) with a passionately pro-life daughter (Alba Rohrwacher) preparing to cast his vote on the issue; a retired actress and devout Catholic (Huppert) who tends to her own comatose daughter; and a troubled young doctor (Bellocchio’s brother, Pier Giorgio) who tries to help a suicidal methadone addict (Maya Sansa). Bellocchio takes an X-ray of the lingering malaise of late-Berlusconi Italy and its frightening intellectual and psychological confusion—and certainly touches a nerve.
Wednesday, February 20 at 6:30pm
Friday, February 22 at 4:00pm
Sunday, February 24 at 5:15pm

Director: James William Guercio
Country: U.S.
Record producer James William Guercio’s first and last film is a visually extravagant, behaviorally loopy story of an Arizona motorcycle cop named “Big” John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) who aspires to be a big-shot Los Angeles detective. Longer on mood and sun-soaked atmosphere than narrative complication, the film revels in the antics of its twitchy, hyped-up cast, a motley crew of character actors which includes Billy Green Bush as Blake’s partner, Mitchell Ryan, and Elisha Cook Jr. Stunningly shot by the legendary Conrad Hall, Electra Glide in Blue features a bravura final shot, a capper to the film’s Easy Rider-in-reverse ending. Print courtesy of Park Circus.
Saturday, February 23 at 9:45pm

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Germany
Never available on DVD, Bergman’s rarely screened film investigates the underlying emotional and psychological causes that lead an ordinary German business executive to murder a prostitute. After confessing to the crime, impeccably middle-class Peter (Robert Atzorn) is held in custody, while the police question those closest to him—his wife (who shares her name with Peter’s victim), his psychoanalyst, his mother, his wife’s gay fashion business partner—each of whom attempt to account for Peter's actions while revealing their own hidden emotional agendas and blind spots, which inadvertently combine to make the tragedy inevitable. Stylistically cold and stark, its narrative articulated in a nonlinear fashion that shifts back and forth in time, and clinical in its detachment, this is one of Bergman’s bleakest visions of emotional disconnect and the emptiness of modern European life—but it’s never less than mesmerizing. Print Courtesy of The Swedish Film Archive.
Tuesday, February 19 at 6:30pm

Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Countries: France/Portugal
Struggling to keep his family intact and fed, an impoverished government accountant faces a slow-burning crisis in this brooding nighttime kammerspiel starring Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau, and Oliveira axioms Leonor Silveira and Ricardo Trêpa. Now 104 and going strong, Portugal’s greatest living director once again explores the interplay of cinema and theater, adapting a 1923 modernist stage play by Raul Brandão. A prodigal son (Trêpa) returns to the bosom of his family with a hidden agenda, taking advantage of a mother (Cardinale) who idealizes him and a father (Lonsdale) who keeps his uneasy half-suspicions to himself.
Monday, February 18 at 6pm
Tuesday, February 19 at 4:30pm

HEARTS OF THE WEST (1975) 103m
Director: Howard Zieff
Country: U.S.
Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, Blythe Danner, and Andy Griffith star in this affectionate, underrated, often hilarious comedy about a naïve youth’s Tinseltown rite of passage. Set in a poverty row studio grinding out B-Westerns for Depression-era audiences, Howard Zieff’s nimble, laid-back comedy stars Bridges as a would-be novelist who accepts work as a stuntman after a run in with two grifters, while insisting he’s the next Zane Grey, and is taken under the wing of a wise old pro (Andy Griffith) who may not be as benign as imagined. Bridges’s canny performance balances broadness and subtlety, while Griffith wears his character’s sad, threadbare duplicity like a medal rather than a wound, oozing pride instead of blood. One of the highlights of the Seventies Hollywood’s nostalgia trend, Hearts of the West has as much vitality, originality, and craft as any classic from the Thirties and Forties. Print courtesy of BFI Distribution.
Thursday, February 21 at 6:30pm
SLITHER (1973) 96m
Director: Howard Zieff
Country: U.S.
In this little-known, rarely screened, not-to-be-missed comedy written by future Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai director W.D. Richter, bemused car thief James Caan, fresh from prison, hits the road to track down his murdered friend’s stash of embezzled cash. After hitching a ride with a fast talking, pistol-packing kook (Sally Kellerman), he teams up with rec-vehicle enthusiast Peter Boyle and wife Louise Lasser and soon the trio find themselves pursued across Northern California by two mysterious black mobile homes. Amidst the deadpan, rambling, low-key comedy and increasingly absurd circumstances (watch out for the Bingo Hall fight sequence), Caan reveals his genius for double-taking comic befuddlement, more than holding his own against the antics of Boyle, Kellerman, Allen Garfield, et al. A glorious piece of Seventies oddball Americana.
Thursday, February 21 at 8:25pm

Director: Adrían García Bogliano
Country: Mexico
In Adrían García Bogliano’s unnerving, bracingly lo-fi chiller, a Mexican family outing goes bad when two children disappear overnight and return strangely altered by their misadventure. Although this is the sixth feature by unpredictable Argentinean genre specialist Bogliano (Penumbra, Rooms for Tourists), it’s put together in an almost primitive rough-and-ready manner in every respect. Regardless of the unrefined style, make no mistake: the director’s definitely in control of his material, its tale of possession, revenge, and steadily encroaching supernatural malevolence underpinned by a sense of sexual unrest will keep you guessing all the way from the WTF prologue to the WTF kicker. A Magnet Films release.
Friday, February 22 at 10:15pm

IN THE FOG (2012) 128m
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Countries: Ukraine/Germany
This quietly spellbinding follow-up to 2010’s My Joy is a gritty yet deliberately paced behind-enemy-lines Word War II drama. Sushenya, a railway worker suspected of collaboration (having inexplicably been set free by the Germans after a case of attempted sabotage) finds himself marooned deep in the woods with the two Soviet resistance fighters charged with executing him. Too late, Sushenya realizes that he is the bait, and that a trap is closing in on all three of them. A vigorous, masterfully directed, and yet strangely placid vision that both honors the venerable Soviet genre of the partisan war film while refracting it through a perhaps more cynical contemporary lens, in which one cruel irony follows another and the dirty business of war is anything but glorious. A Strand Releasing release.
Sunday, February 24 at 7:45pm
Tuesday, February 26 at 4:00pm

LESSON OF THE EVIL (2012) 128m
Director: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan
Japan’s most notorious and unpredictable filmmaker returns to what he knows best in this sensationally violent thriller about a popular and seemingly model teacher who has his own special way of dealing with bullying and overbearing “monster parents.” Mr. Hasumi (heartthrob star Hideaki Ito) works at an elite high school where his adolescent students, on the verge of adulthood, bond, mope and tentatively flirt with each other. Hasumi wins their affection and his colleagues' respect for his smooth way of dealing with the daily problems of school life. But he’s not what he seems—for a start, what’s he doing living in a shack in the woods with two crows for company (like the Norse god Odin, we are told in voiceover)? Slowly it becomes clear that Hasumi is the proverbial teacher from hell, and after blackmailing two teachers who are having affairs with students, he turns to murder to cover his tracks. The action slowly builds for the first hour, and then Miike pulls out all the stops as the mayhem escalates and Harumi becomes a calculating killing machine. But wait: Miike assures you there’s a message in the madness: “The superficiality of the peacefulness within the classroom is a reflection of Japanese society. It’s not a true peace. And in the film, I express what actually happens when the illusion on the surface begins to fall apart.”
Tuesday, February 26 at 8:30pm
Wednesday, February 27 at 9:30pm

MISS LOVELY (2012) 100m
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
Countries: U.S./India
There’s no business like sleaze business in this tale of low-rent filmmaking in the illicit demimonde of gangster-controlled Bollywood exploitation film production. If you’re looking for Hindi song-and-dance, you’ve come to the wrong neighborhood. The first narrative feature by Ashim Ahluwalia (director of 2005’s call-center documentary John & Jane), takes us deep into the gangland precincts of Bombay’s cutthroat, cut-rate filmmaking scene, Eighties style. Keeping softcore porn and horror films fed with fresh meat under varying degrees of duress, director Vikky shoots writhing young things in titillating sex scenes while humoring the whims of his producer-gangster boss—until his hapless gofer brother Sonu gets the idea to make his own grindhouse effort starring the girl of his dreams, and soon gets in over his head. After an off-kilter, at times delirious first hour, Miss Lovely settles into a pungent story of jealousy, betrayal, and doomed love.
Tuesday, February 19 at 9:00pm
Wednesday, February 20 at 4:00pm

MOTORWAY (2012) 89m
Director: Soi Cheang
Country: Hong Kong
In this kinetic fuel-injected thriller produced by Soi Cheang’s mentor, Johnnie To, a secret high-speed-pursuit unit of the Hong Police called the Stealth Riders battle with underworld getaway drivers through the city’s nocturnal maze of streets and highways. Overconfident unit newcomer Cheung (Shawn Yue) arrests notorious getaway driver Sun (Gu Xiaodong) but soon finds he’s been taken for a ride when Sun stages a breakout to free his partner Huang (Li Haitao). The humbled Cheung, in the time-honored sifu-disciple tradition, takes lessons from veteran cop and master driver Lo (Anthony Wong) to gain the skills and knowhow he needs to nail his formidable adversary. State-of-the-art filmmaking and inspired, white-knuckle stuntwork once again prove that the Hong Kong action movie still lives—and need we say fasten your seatbelts? Print courtesy of Media Asia Films.
Saturday, February 23 at 1:00pm
Tuesday, February 26 at 6:30pm

Director: Sébastien Betbeder
Country: France
A romantic connection blossoms between two young Parisians during a succession of dreamlike nocturnal visits to a singular, beguiling park. Sébastien Betbeder’s haunting and delicate film is a decidedly sui generis affair that is truly enchanting. Anna meets Theodore at a party, and together they impulsively climb the fence and enter the nearby Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, an unusual and striking hillside public garden in Paris’s 19th arrondissement (if you’ve ever been there, you’ll never forget it). The two part in the morning but find themselves drawn back the following night, and, falling in love under the park’s spell, embark on nightly explorations of its topographic mysteries, gradually discovering that they are not the only ones drawn to this perhaps magical place. Ingeniously, Betbeder annotates his scenario with archival footage and anecdotes (perhaps invented) relating to the park and its history. A very special film that introduces a writer-director of great promise and originality.
Friday, February 22 at 6:30pm
Thursday, February 28 at 4:45pm

PENANCE (2012) 278m
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Country: Japan
After a four-year hiatus, Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns with this five-part made-for-television psychological drama/murder mystery that tests viewer endurance, and truly rewards it. Penance tells the stories of four women who have been shaped by a burden of guilt from 15 years ago, when they witnessed the abduction of a classmate who was later murdered. In the first four chapters, the carefully ordered and widely contrasting lives of the women are disturbed by a crisis that involves each one committing an act of aggression on a male victim. The film’s final segment focuses on the dead girl’s mother, who has turned up like a ghost from the past in all of the preceding sections, still searching for closure—and for the identity of her daughter’s killer. Filmed in the familiar placid-but-uneasy Kurosawa style, Penance marks a return to his roots.
Monday, February 18 at 1pm

SIGHTSEERS (2012) 89m
Director: Ben Wheatley
Country: U.K.
A country caravan tour spins horribly out of control when a very English couple embark on a romantic getaway that gradually escalates into all-out killing-spree in this blackly funny new outing from rising indie star Ben Wheatley, the man who, in collaboration with co-writer and partner Amy Jump, unleashed Kill List and Down Terrace on the world. Continuing to mine the irrational violence lurking just beneath the surface of unremarkable, everyday Englishness, Wheatley follows the progress of aspiring writer Chris (Steve Oram) and dog-lover Tina (Alice Lowe) as they visit the Keswick Pencil Museum, the Crich National Tramway Museum, and the Lake District’s majestic Ribblehead Viaduct. And you better believe it—Chris is not about to let litterbug tourists, obnoxious teenagers, and booked-up camping sites spoil things for them. Winner of the British Independent Film Award for Best Screenplay, this new thriller recently screened at Cannes, Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals. An IFC Midnight release.
Thursday, February 28 at 6:30pm

STEMPLE PASS (2012) 121m
Director: James Benning
Country: U.S.
Investigating another, deeply troubling facet of rugged American individualism, James Benning gives us four landscape shots containing a painstakingly constructed replica of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s cabin, one shot per season. On the soundtrack, Benning himself reads extracts from Kaczynski’s journals from the early 1970s, recording his progress at hunting and gathering, and his connection to the Montana wilderness; a hand-written folded sheet of paper detailing his acts of “monkey wrenching” and first attempts at planting bombs; two notebooks written in numerical code in 1985 and decoded by Benning in 2011; two excepts from Industrial Society and Its Future by "FC" (aka the Unabomber Manifesto) as published in its entirety (35,000 words) in The New York Times and The Washington Post in 1995; and a 2001 interview with Kaczynski by J. Alienus Rychalski, special correspondent for the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch.
Saturday, February 23 at 3:00pm

3 (2012) 199m
Director: Pablo Stoll
Country: Uruguay
A low-key and unexpected melancomédie from the co-director of Whisky. A middle-aged dentist with a quietly unraveling life makes repeated and poignantly ineffectual efforts to renew his relationship with his ex-wife and adolescent daughter. The two remain as oblivious to his approaches as they are to one another, caught up in their own burgeoning romantic and sexual entanglements. While setting up a refreshingly eccentric tempo through an episodic construction consisting of very brief scenes, Stoll never undercuts the pathos that gradually begins to emerge. Slight and unassuming, 3 is small but beautiful, full of wry observations and little heartbreaks.
Saturday, February 23 at 5:30pm
Wednesday, February 27 at 4:30pm

Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith
Country: Australia
Kieran Darcy-Smith’s feature debut is a calmly devastating exploration of how one misjudged moment in life has the potential to cause everything to fall to pieces. Dave (Joel Edgerton) reluctantly travels to Cambodia with his pregnant wife (co-writer Felicity Price) and her younger sister and new boyfriend, and after a night of partying the boyfriend disappears without a trace. The others are left to return to their lives, each bearing differing degrees of knowledge about what happened. Delivering doses of information bit by bit, the film’s meticulously edited, nonlinear disclosure of events is transfixing—as are the superb performances. An eOne release.
Saturday, February 23 at 7:45pm

Director: Philippe Grandrieux
Country: France
The man behind Sombre, La Vie Nouvelle, and Un Lac returns in person with his newest foray into the realm of the liminal. Derived from an installation piece, White Epilepsy pushes the limits of the visible and sheds all vestiges of narrative to enter a state of total immersion that’s at once disembodied yet deeply physical, metaphysical yet grounded in the primordial reality of the body. In the cinema of consciousness, Grandrieux continues to find ways to make darkness visible and embody mysterious states of becoming.
Friday, February 22 at 8:30pm

Public Screening Schedule

Screening Venue:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65 Street, between Broadway & Amsterdam

Monday, February 18
1pm Penance (270m)
6pm Gebo and the Shadow (95m)
8:15pm Simon Killer (105m)

Tuesday, February 19
4.30pm Gebo and the Shadow (95m)
6:30pm From the Life of the Marionettes (104m)
9:00pm Miss Lovely (115m)

Wednesday, February 20
4:00pm Miss Lovely (115m)
6:30pm Dormant Beauty (115m)
9:00pm Call Girl (140m)

Thursday, February 21
3:30pm Call Girl (140m)
6:30pm DOUBLE FEATURE: Hearts of the West (103m) & Slither (96m)

Friday, February 22
4:00pm Dormant Beauty (115m)
6:30pm Nights with Theodore (67m)
8:30pm White Epilepsy (68m)
10:15 Here Comes the Devil (97m)

Saturday, February 23
1:00pm Motorway (90m)
3:00pm Stemple Pass (121m)
5:30pm 3 (119m)
7.45pm Wish You Were Here (89m)
9.45pm Electra Glide in Blue (113m)

Sunday, February 24
2:00pm A Borrowed Life (165m)
5.15pm Dormant Beauty (115m)
7:45pm In the Fog (128m)

Monday, February 25
No Film Comment Selects screenings

Tuesday, February 26
4:00pm In the Fog (128m)
6:30pm Motorway (90m)
8.30pm Lesson of the Evil (128m)

Wednesday, February 27
4:30pm 3 (119m)
9:30pm Lesson of the Evil (128m)

Thursday, February 28
4:45pm Nights with Theodore (67m)
6:30pm Sightseers (89m)
8:30pm The We and the I (103m)

50/50 (2011)

For the most part I think Seth Rogen is an over rated actor. To me almost always just misses, especially when he is in aproject he was involved in on a technical level (Green Hornet anyone?). Occasionally he’ll find a role that is dead on perfect for him. Such is the case with his role in the film 50/50, where he is playing pretty much himself.

Based upon writer and Rogen’s best friend Will Reiser's story of his run in with schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma. The cancer is extremely deadly and the title comes from his chances for survival.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Reiser, or at least his cinematic counterpart. He’s a sweet guy who is chugging along with life until he’s derailed by the diagnosis of cancer. In Quick succession his life becomes complicated some old friends leave (his girlfriend goes),he makes new friends and he deals with the mental anguish of suddenly having to look at the potential end of his existence. Of course there are upsides, one being a cute nurse who he seems to click with and the other is his best friend played by Rogen. Rogen is a teddy bear of a guy and exactly the sort of friend you want in your corner. He doesn’t like the prospect of losing his friend or dealing with some of what he has to deal with but he signed the buddy pact so he knows he’s there for the long haul. If this is the way he is in real life I completely understand why he has such a good rep in Hollywood.

The film is a rather real look at illness and the people around us when we get sick. Its not all fun and flowers, nor is it gloom and doom either. Things are funny and sad (such as one of the chemo guys succumbs) but always life goes on.

I know when this film came out in 2011 it got largely good reviews and quietly made some money. The film then disappeared off the radar for a while. For me it reappeared when friends at the office started to stumble on it on cable. Apparently they are coming into the film unaware of what it is, getting hooked and discovering a new favorite film. When I ask them why they didn’t see the film earlier they say that they thought it was going to be overly sad and maudlin, but seeing some of the exchanges between Levitt and Rogen they became hooked. I asked them why they would think that since it was the directors story, and they said because they sometimes change things to make it more dramatic.

Its not overly sad or maudlin, its funny and life affirming

See it and feel good.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Padak (The Korean Finding Nemo) is the next free film at Tribeca Cinemas

Tuesday the Korean Cultural Service FREE screenings continue with Padak.

I know nothing about the film other than what the Korean CUltural Serive says which is as follows:

In Korea’s surprisingly powerful take on Pixar’s Finding Nemo, a mackerel from the sea named Flappy ends up caught in a net and dumped carelessly into a restaurant tank. A pessimistic old flatfish, who has somehow avoided death for ages inside the tank, becomes her confidant and mentor...even if his means for survival border on cowardice. Very quickly, Flappy refuses her fate and becomes determined to make it out of the tank and back to the ocean – even if that means going against the old flatfish and shattering the hierarchy of the tank. A feel-good adventure for the whole family, Padak combines computer animation with traditional hand-drawn art, delivering a funny, lovable film that’s also packed with social drama and subtext.

Tribeca Cinemas:
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, one block from the A, C, E and 1 train Canal Street stops

All seating is first-come, first served.
Doors open at 6:30PM.

I'm hoping to be there next week and I rpomise to report in should I see the film.

Premium Rush (2012)

This is a good film that’s doomed to obscurity. I say this based on the fact that this was in an out of theaters rather quickly and because anyone I’ve mentioned it to stared at me blankly when I mentioned the title. It seems almost no one remembers Premium Rush. That’s kind of a sad thing because the film is actually a pretty good B thriller.

The plot of the film has Joseph Gordon Levitt as a Manhattan bike messenger. Sent to his old ala mater to pick up a package he is almost instantly stopped by “security” who wants the package back because it was being mis-billed. Levitt smells a rat and refuses and sets off to deliver the package in the time allotted. This results in his being chased by the “security” guy, actually a dirty cop, and battling with an ex-girlfriend about his life style and a rival who wants to get his pay check.

What’s in the package is irrelevant, all you need know is that this is a high speed chase film that doesn’t make a great deal of sense but is a great deal fun. The fun comes from a couple of things:

1- the shifting time frame which shows us what got us to this point, what’s in the package and why people want to stop it’s delivery

2- The pop up visuals that make the film like a video game/smart phone showing us the course through the city, and the possible results of bad choices (they are gruesome but fun)

3- The witty dialog which has everyone cracking wise even in “deadly” circumstances

4- The chase it self which shows off Manhattan at a speed impossible short of on a bicycle.

As I frequently say, its not high art but it is well done.

Definitely worth seeing with a huge tub of popcorn and some sodas

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981)

Based on the life and work of Charles Bukowski Tales of Ordinary Madness is a little slice of strangeness starring Ben Gazarra as a Bukoski like writer who staggers through relationships and drinking sessions. Along the way he takes up with a hooker played by Ornella Muti and finds his soul mate who is even more self-destructive than he is.

Dark tale that is frequently funny, and slightly quaint, is a walk on the dark side. Gazarra’s character is, like Bukowski himself, a functioning drunk who seems best when he is drinking. He is also a man who reveals little so it’s hard to see what he is thinking and feeling, though it’s clear that he is falling for Muti just as she falls for him. If we care for the deeply internalized writer, its simply because Gazarra is such a good actor that we feel for his plight because of his performance’s small nuances lets us in on his emotion despite it not being big and showy.

Muti, who came on to my radar with her performance as Princess Aura in Mike Hodge’s Flash Gordon reveals just how good an actress she could be with its open rawness. She is clearly a broken girl despite her show of strength.

I’m not quite sure what I think of this film. I had always been aware of the film when it came out back in 1981 because I was intrigued by Muti who I had only recently discovered. I never managed to see the film, which kind of slid from view until recently when I picked up a used DVD copy. It’s certainly a film with acting tour de forces, but I’m not sure of much beyond that. Films based on Bukowski works tend not to work well because stripped of the language the films reveal the central weakness of the plotting, or lack thereof. Bukowski is describing life and without his organization and coloring the films collapse. This film doesn’t really collapse, but after a certain point you wonder why you are being told this. Additionally the films attempt at kinky sex, ass kissing and fat girls is no longer kinky, rather it’s just quaint.

While it’s definitely worth taking a look at I’m not sure how many people will fall madly in love with it because it seems to be aiming at a very specific audience. If you think you might be of that audience go for it.

Khartoum (1966)

Khartoum is one of the death films, which were a group of films about doomed heroic last stands that I discovered within several months of each other. One of the others was John Wayne’s The Alamo (which will be reviewed this weekend), and there were two others I don’t recall. All were films where everyone dies at the end and you're left feeling both bummed and kind of exhilarated. Watching them in rapid succesion I found my world was very colored. That however is a story for another time.

Khartoum is the story of the British last stand at Khartoum in the Sudan which came under attack by Muslim extremists lead by a character called the Mahdi. The British tried to hold the city but found they were being overwhelmed. In order to seem like they were doing something, some people suspected that the city was going to be lost regardless of what was done, they sent Charles“Chinese” Gordon to take control of the city. Gordon had a reputation for doing the impossible and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat(he had turned a similar situation around in China). He was his own man and decidedly eccentric even to the end when he decided to stay despite being the given the chance to leave.

In the film Charlton Heston plays Gordon and Laurence Olivier is the Mahdi. Heston isn’t really required to do much other than look strong and imposing while Olivier just looks awful in black face. Actually Olivier is a tad silly as well.

It’s a grand spectacle that was shot on location about the clash of ideas. Gordon is fighting for the British way, but there is also freedom and justice as well. The Mahdi wants to covert the world.

The battle between the two is reasonably accurate, with the exception being that to the best of my knowledge neither leader ever met the other. (Actually the interesting thing about the historical Mahdi is that we know almost nothing about him. He was a shadowy figure who whipped up the masses and swept across Africa. The taking of Khartoum was his high water mark, with his death following relatively closely behind. While he did spread Islam across Africa, his gains were eventually wiped away a decade or two later when the British army managed to take back much of what they lost.)

I really like the film a great deal, and will occasionally turn to this film to see a good, but not too taxing epic. I like that the film over comes the silliness of the leads to tell a truly moving story.

The film was recently revived for a single showing at Lincoln Center in their 70mm series because the film, in addition to being excellent, was shot in a widescreen process that was considered a single strip verion of Cinerama.

Definitely worth tracking

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Atrocity Exhibition - JG Ballard Commentary Track

I reviewed the film of The Atrocity Exhibition a while back. It’s a head kick film that is, to the best of my knowledge only available here in an import DVD. I really like the film a great deal and in the months since I’ve seen it where other films I saw more recently have faded.

For my money the clincher about why you should track this film down is one vitally important extra that’s on the DVD, namely a commentary track involving the director Jonathan Weiss and JG Ballard. Actually the notion of it being a commentary track is a major misnomer since other than two times they make no reference to what is happening in the film as they speak (once is when they refer to the view of a junk yard outside of an expensive house complex and the other is a discussion of the dead bodies we see being used in crash tests)

What transpires during the 105 minutes that they talk is eye opening discussion of filmmaking, adaption of books into other medium, Ballard’s work (including Croneberg’s Crash), reality and perception and enough food for thought that the first time I listened to the track I kept playing things over to fully catch what they were saying. The reason for this was that I foolishly was watching the film while listening to the commentary, I really should have just put it on and ignored the visuals, which is what I did the second time.

I’m kind of torn as to which I like more the commentary or the film. As much as it pains me I’m probably leaning toward the commentary because it never lets up, while the film kind of shifts in the last little bit.

Regardless of which is better, you really should make the effort to see the film and then listen to the commentary because both will blow your mind.

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Directors New Films announces the first 7 films plus other notes

As the Jewish Film Festival winds down and I try to write up my final reviews from it a couple of up coming notes regarding upcoming series

Thursday starts The Last New Wave: Celebrating The Australian Film Revival. This is going to have screenings of great films from Australia including Mad Max, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Newsfront, the Odd Angry Shot and a Michael Powell film I've never seen They're a Weird Mob Not sure what We'll get to but here's the link if you want to so see some great films.

After that is the Dance on Film Series which I want to get to but may not because of conflicts.

New Directors New Films has announced seven titles for their series. The series runs March 20-31 and it's the place to see lots of films that are going to be BIG next year are playing. Want proof? 5 Broken Cameras, How To Survive a Plague and Beasts of the Southern Wild all started there. There are a ton more coming, but for now this is what we have:

The seven official selections are:

Director: Emil Christov
Country: Bulgaria
Unfolding in the years immediately before and after the fall of communism, this blackly comic, implacably deadpan, all but unclassifiable puzzler delves into the manipulation and intimidation that underwrites the transactions between the secret police and their informants, going down a rabbit hole into a realm of twisted absurdity. The scenario by Vladislav Todorov, adapting his 2010 novel, Zincograph, centers on misfit youth turned engraving plant employee Batko Stamenov (codename: Marzipan), who is recruited by the secret police to infiltrate…a book reading group. Shades of Borges, the book being studied is “a subversive pseudo-philosophical novel” by the name of Zincograph about… an engraver who creates his own secret off-books network of informants. Going rogue after being dropped for his strange ideas, Batko targets another group, the so-called Club For New Thinking, invents a fictitious branch of the Ministry of Information known as ‘Department Sex’ and hatches a scheme that, as Todorov puts it, exposes the “very nature of secret policing under communism.” With this, its first film to appear in ND/NF in 35 years, Bulgaria is back!

A HIJACKING (Kapringen) (2012) 99min
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Country: Denmark
On its way to harbor, the cargo ship MV Rozen is boarded and seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean. Moving between the claustrophobic and intensely fraught day-to-day life of the crew and their captors and the physically removed negotiations by the freight company in Denmark, Lindholm creates a climate of almost unbearable tension with an unexpected climax. As in his previous work (the prison drama ‘R’ and the television series ‘Borgen’) Lindholm’s narrative is based on a true event and his use of actual locations—the film was shot under exceedingly difficult circumstances in the Indian Ocean-- and people who has been involved in similar situations (the negotiation team include a real-life hostage negotiator), provide the film with palpable authenticity and a lived-in feel. Augmented by a terrific cast, especially the amazing Pilou Asbæk as the ship’s cook Mikkel who becomes the pirates primary conduit for communication, Lindholm has created a suspenseful drama whose essential subject matter is the innate danger of an overwhelming disparity between impoverished nations and the developed world. A HIJACKING is a Magnolia Films release.

HOLD BACK (Rengaine) (2012) 75min
Director: Rachid Djaïdani
Country: France
The French title translates as “refrain,” and musical repetition is what this no-budget urban contemporary Romeo and Juliet embodies: in this case of the eternal conflict between true love and tribal loyalties, as real in 21st-century Paris as it was in the age of Shakespeare. The film’s two basic conditions are immediately established: Sabrina (Sabrina Hamida) accepts the marriage proposal of struggling actor Dorcy (Stéphane Soo Mongo) and then she and her eldest brother Slimane (Slimane Dazi) count off the names of the 40 “brothers” in her extended family clan. Dorcy is a black Christian and Sabrina is a Muslim Arab: de facto patriarch Slimane will enlist his brothers in an all-out effort to do whatever it takes to track down Dorcy and prevent this “taboo” union. Made on the run in the streets (“I film like a boxer” says director Rachid Djaïdani), this film is part love letter to the irresistible energy and creative street life of Paris, and part call for interracial tolerance.

PEOPLES PARK (2012) 78min
Directors: JP Sniadecki and Libbie Dina Cohn
Countries: USA/China
An immersive, inquisitive visit to the People's Park in Chengdu, China created with a single virtuouso tracking shot. The joys of communal play, exercise and leisure time come under intense scrutiny through the relentless gaze of the directors' lens, and create alternating states of unease and exhilaration.

STORIES WE TELL (2012) 108min
Director: Sarah Polley
Country: Canada
What is real? What is true? What do we remember, and how do we remember it? Actor/director Sarah Polley (AWAY FROM HER, TAKE THIS WALTZ) turns from fiction to non-fiction and in the process cracks open family secrets in this powerful examination of personal history and remembrance. Using home movies, still photographs and interviews, Polley delves into the life of her mother, shown as a creative yet secretive woman. What parents and siblings have to say and what they remember about events that occurred years ago, show the pitfalls of making the past present and cast a sharp light on the complicated paths of relationships. But while she is talking to her own relatives, Polley’s interest lies in the bigger picture of what families hold onto as truth. In an intimate setting, she shows us the process by which she tries to pluck information from family and friends: she interviews them but also delicately interrogates them as well as bringing them in as writers and collaborators in her own story. More than documentary, STORIES WE TELL is a delicately crafted personal essay about memory, loss and understanding.

Director: Shane Carruth
Country: USA
Ever since he created a wave of excitement with his 2004 debut, PRIMER, filmmaker of all trades Shane Carruth has prompted curiosity over what he would come up with next. For certain, it would likely contain a strain of science fact tilting into science fiction; almost probably, whatever would happen would happen in a reasonably recognizable America of the near-present moment, populated with a combination of confused and brilliant citizens of the Republic stumbling through as best they could toward something terrifyingly brilliant. UPSTREAM COLOR certainly checks all those boxes, but it can’t be overstated how starkly different and markedly advanced a work this is over the first one. It represents something new in American cinema, close cousin to Alain Resnais’ great films thematically and formally exploring the surprising jumps and shocks of life’s passages and science’s strange effects. A love story embedded in a horrifying kidnap plot whose full import isn’t revealed until the final, poignant moments, UPSTREAM COLOR doesn’t so much move as leap with great audacity through its moments and across sequences, a cinematic simulacrum of the ways we think back on our own lives, astonished at, as in the title of Grace Paley’s fiction collection, our “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.”

VIOLA (2012) 65min
Director: Matías Piñeiro
Country: Argentina
Matías Piñeiro is one of contemporary Argentine cinema’s most sensuous and sophisticated new voices. In his latest film, Viola, he ingeniously fashions out of Shakepeare’s Twelfth Night a seductive roundelay among young actors and lovers in present-day Buenos Aires. Mixing melodrama with sentimental comedy, philosophical conundrum with matters of the heart, VIOLA bears all the signature traits of a Piñeiro film: serpentine camera movements and slippages of language, an elliptical narrative and a playful confusion of reality and artifice. VIOLA is a Cinema Guild release.

More details will follow when we get them.

And even though it's three months off we've started looking toward Tribeca... and we're awaiting word on the New York International Children's Film Festival titles and tickets which I'm told will be announced next week. Plus we're very curious about the additional titles of the Film Comment Selects series.... so look for reports as stuff appears