Ben Hopkins – The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz (2000)

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A sadly neglected gem of British Cinema, this stunningly inventive film takes in German Expressionism, the pop promo, the docudrama and film noir. And that’s just for starters. The story of a mysterious man who creates chaos and anarchy in his wake, this has buckets of sly humour and a pleasingly dark edge. With brilliant performances from Thomas Fisher and Ian McNeice, this is an astounding reminder that UK cinema is much more than gangsters and girls in corsets. Continue reading

Kaige Chen – Jing Ke ci Qin Wang AKA The Emperor and the Assassin [+extra] (1998)

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Set in 221 BC, The Emperor and the Assassin tells of Ying Zheng (Li Xuejian) and his obsession to unite seven Chinese kingdoms and become the first Emperor of China. The film mixes spectacular battle scenes with court intrigue, counterpointed by the King’s complex relationship with the only woman he has truly loved, the Lady Zhao (Gong Li). From protocol-ridden palaces to wide open grasslands, this is a visually striking film, both beautiful and at the same time burdened with the horrors of the period. Continue reading

Rachel Talalay – Tank Girl (1995)

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Based on a popular British cult comic book, this film is the story of a futuristic feminist superhero and her fight to preserve the environment against an evil government bureaucracy. The action is set in the year 2033, after an ecological disaster of drought and pollution has ravaged the countryside, and water is scarce. Tank Girl (Lori Petty) is a sassy punker who has her own vintage tank in tow, along with other high-tech weapons. Her mutant friends join her in bizarre battles against the corporate-statist Department of Water and Power and its villainous chief, Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell). At stake is the world’s water supply, which the Department is hoarding and which the rebels frequently raid. Rock star Iggy Pop has a cameo as Rat Face, one of the half-human, half-kangaroo Rippers. Courtney Love coordinated the post-punk soundtrack. Continue reading

Guillaume Nicloux – Le poulpe AKA The Octopus (1998)

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“Le Poulpe” is adapted from one of a series of French crime novels, each written by a different author. They are quick reads and often of dubious quality. This film adaptation by Guillaume Nicloux is, however, a different matter.
Gabriel, dit Le Poulpe (The Octopus), played superbly by Jean-Pierre Darroussin, is a laid-back private investigator who works on cases for his own pleasure. He is drawn to the fictional Loire Valley port of Angerneau (St. Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique), with his lover Clotilde (the luscious Courau) who has been summoned by the police concerning the defacement of a deceased relative’s grave. Since Angernau is her home town, she wants to leave it as soon as possible to avoid old acquaintances, but Gabriel stumbles on intriguing events concerning the cargo of a ship in port. Central to the scheme of things is a drunken Scotsman (Faulkner) who seems stranded in the town. Continue reading

Takashi Miike – Dead or Alive 2: Tôbôsha AKA Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000)

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From the ashes of Dead or Alive’s apocalyptic ending comes Dead or Alive 2, both a continuation of the series and a stand-alone film on par with its predecessor. Serving up shockingly graphic violence, sincere character nuance, engaging humor and transcendent magical realism with equal mastery, Dead or Alive 2 offers definitive evidence of why the New York Post hailed director Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) as “one of the most exciting, versatile directors working today.” Continue reading

Aki Kaurismäki – Juha (1999) (HD)

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A farmer’s wife is seduced into running away from her stolid older husband by a city slicker, who enslaves her in a brothel.

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Literature is full of triangle dramas, but very few of them can beat Juhani Aho’s “Juha” (1998) for deepness of emotions and understanding of all three parties. The story is straight and strong, yet full of detail, just waiting to be ruined by cinematic means.
I had planned to film “Juha” almost as long as we had planned to make a silent movie with composer Anssi Tikanmäki. One day we were clever enough to put the ideas together and the catastrophe was ready.
Afterwards I’m not surprised that all efforts (except Tati’s “Mon Oncle”) to make a silent film during the last decades have somehow failed; the easiness of explaining all by words has polluted our story telling to a pale shadow of original cinema.
We can never again make films like “Broken Blossoms”, “Sunrise” or “Queen Kelly” because since film started to gable with mumble and all that hoochie-coochie and fancy words, stories have lost their purity, cinema its essence: innocence.
(Aki Kaurismäki) Continue reading

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Xi meng ren sheng AKA The Puppetmaster (1993)

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In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan’s leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese rulers of Taiwan use the traditional Chinese puppet theatre for their war propaganda. Only after the war street theatres start playing agaiN.
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