Hitoshi Yazaki – Sangatsu no raion aka March Comes in Like a Lion (1991)

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TimeOut London:
March Comes in Like a Lion
Review

Or, perhaps, love among the ruins. In present-day Tokyo, a waste land of tenements prey to decrepitude and demolition, ‘Ice’ (Yura) decides to collect Haruo (Cho), the young man she’s set her heart on, from the hospital where he’s being treated for amnesia. A little lie is needed to entice him back to the apartment she’s found for them: she tells him she’s his lover, neglecting to add that she’s also his sister. With no recollections to suggest otherwise, he goes along with her – but how long before his memory returns? With its long, static, carefully composed takes, taciturn script and tantalisingly ambivalent tone, Yazaki’s beautifully matter-of-fact study of incestuous longing is an engrossing, sexy and remarkably tender movie. Crucially, it eschews both easy judgments and fake sentimentality; indeed, there’s a droll, deadpan humour at work, most noticeably in the frequent sight gags. At the same time, however, the evocative use of metaphors ensures that the general air of detachment makes not for a dry, academic exercise, but a poetic tale of a fragile, blossoming romance that’s finally both subtly subversive and, thanks to the charismatic central performances, deeply affecting. Continue reading

Kristian Levring – The King Is Alive (2000)

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When a bus breaks down in the desert, the passengers decide to stage “King Lear.”

Thinking Inside the Box
Rating * Has redeeming facet

The King Is Alive, directed and cowritten by Kristian Levring, is the fourth film to have the dubious honor of qualifying for certification under the rules of the Dogma 95 manifesto, whose professed aim is to get back to the basics of realism — shooting, for example, in natural locations with handheld cameras, direct sound, and natural lighting. But what’s basic or realistic and what isn’t, in terms of film history and technique? The manifesto also insists that movies be shot in color, a rather ahistorical reading of what’s basic — unless one labels all possible uses of color in film realistic and all possible uses of black and white artificial. Continue reading

Mona J. Hoel – Når nettene blir lange AKA Cabin Fever (2000)

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The entire extended family is happily on its way to a nostalgic Christmas at a rented cabin in the mountains. The cabin becomes cramped, however, when mom and dad and four grown-up children with their respective families, a dog and in-laws from Poland squeeze inside the frozen cabin walls in 30-below-zero weather.

Especially when the kerosene stove leaks, one of the children suffers from asthma, one of the daughters is lovesick, mom desperately tries to stay happy and dad is oh so thirsty. The Polish father-in-law sings his beautiful love ballads, the Swedish neighbour drops by for a slow waltz, the children go ice fishing, the dog wallows wildly in the close quarters, mom makes huge meals – and aren’t we having a wonderful time? Daughter Liv wishes for reconciliation, fervently hoping that there is a future for herself and her family. Yet at the same time she lances a boil which hides more than her father’s “skeletons” under the mattress. Continue reading

Donald Cammell – Wild Side [Director’s Cut] (1995)

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Quote:
A bank accountant, whom moonlights as a high-priced call girl, becomes embroiled in the lives of a money launderer, his seductive wife, and his bodyguard whom blackmails her to help the FBI entrap him with his latest money laundering scheme.

IMDB comment says:

Never have a Director’s cut and a released studio version been sodifferent . . .

I watched the Director’s Cut of this movie premiered August ’99, together with clips of the trash that the studio released. The studio movie is trash – completely and utterly and doesn’t even aspire to be anything better. The editing is flat and the performances look like rehearsals. The Director’s Cut (pieced together by the Editor after the Director’s suicide) is an outstanding piece of cinema. Not a frame wasted. The opening sequence shocks you into an awareness that this movie will be very different to anything you’ve seen before. Chris Walken gives one of the best performances of his career. This is exciting, original cinema that riveted my attention in every moment of its two hour authorised version. The script sparkles with wit and dry, unpretentious humour and you never quite know what is going to happen next. A sexy, stylish thriller that makes you laugh and also appreciate the beauty inside every villain. The tenacity and integrity of the Editor and Scriptwriter that saw it through to completion is a monument to the industry. Continue reading

Peter Greenaway – The Pillow Book (1996)

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Review
Nagiko’s father was a calligrapher, and when she was a little girl he would write his birthday greetings on her face. Her mother would read aloud from a 1,000-year-old manuscript, (italics) The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, (unital) which dealt among other things with the arts of love. Because children invest their birthdays with enormous importance, it’s no wonder that when Nagiko grows up she finds a powerful link between calligraphy, human flesh, poetry, and sexuality.

Peter Greenaway, born in Australia, long working in England, is not so far from Nagiko himself. His films also work by combining images, words, quotations and sexual situations. He uses the screen as Nagiko uses flesh, finding an erotic charge not just in the words, but in the surface they are written on, His new film “The Pillow Book,” starring Vivian Wu (from “The Last Emperor”), is a seductive and elegant story that combines a millennium of Japanese art and fetishes with the story of a neurotic modern woman who tells a lover: “Treat me like the pages of a book.” Early in Nagiko’s life, she sees something she was not intended to see: Her father’s publisher (Yoshi Oida), forcing her father (Ken Ogata) to have sex as the price of getting a book published. On another occasion, when she is 6 or 7, she is introduced to the publisher’s 10-year-old nephew, and told this will be her future husband. These events set up fundamental tensions in her life, and as an adult, unhappily married to the publisher’s nephew, she begins keeping her own pillow book. The nephew (Ken Mitsuishi) is a shallow dolt, who finds her book and in a jealous rage burns her papers and then their house. Continue reading