United Kingdom

Daniel Gordon – Crossing the Line (2006)

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In 1962, a U.S. soldier sent to guard the peace in South Korea deserted his unit, walked across the most heavily fortified area on earth and defected to the Cold War enemy, the communist state of North Korea. He then simply disappeared from the face of the known world. He became a coveted star of the North Korean propaganda machine, and found fame acting in films, typecast as an evil American. He uses Korean as his daily language. He has three sons from two wives. He has now lived in North Korea twice as long as he has in America. At one time, there were four Americans living in North Korea. Today, just one remains. Now, after 45 years, the story of Comrade Joe, the last American defector in North Korea, is told. Read More »

Daisuke Miyao – The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema (2014)

The reality of transnational innovation and dissemination of new technologies, including digital media, has yet to make a dent in the deep-seated culturalism that insists on reinscribing a divide between the West and Japan, even in realms of technological activity that are quite evidently dispersed across cultures. Film and media studies are not immune to this trend. They continue to fret over the “Westernness” of film technologies vis-à-vis the apparently self-evident “Japaneseness” of other modes of cultural production. The main goal of The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema is to counter this trend toward dichotomizing the West and Japan and to challenge the pervasive culturalism of today’s film and media studies. This volume addresses productive debates about what Japanese cinema is, where Japanese cinema is, and where Japanese cinema is going at the period of crisis of national boundary under globalization. In order to do so, this volume attempts to foster dialogue between Japanese scholars of Japanese cinema, film scholars of Japanese cinema based in Anglo-American and European countries, film scholars of non-Japanese cinema, film archivists, film critics, and filmmakers familiar with film scholarship. Read More »

Oliver Stone – Salvador (1986)

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The film tells the story of an American journalist covering the Salvadoran civil war who becomes entangled with both leftist guerrillas and the right wing military. The film is sympathetic towards the left wing revolutionaries and strongly critical of the U.S.-supported death squads, focusing on their murder of four American churchwomen, including Jean Donovan, and their assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero.
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Woods) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Stone and Boyle). Read More »

Charles Frank – Uncle Silas (1947)

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Plot Synopsis
“Victorian gothic melodrama based on the novel by Sheridan Le Fanu from a screenplay adapted by Aldwych farceur Ben Travers. This creepy chiller is saved from the doldrums by Robert Krasker’s atmospheric cinematography, and fine performances from the ensemble cast. The BBC later filmed the story for television in 1987.

In 1845, 17-year-old Caroline (Jean Simmons) is nursing her dying father. He has enough faith in the reform of his reprobate brother, Silas (Derrick de Marney), suspected but in the clear of murder, to place her under his wing after his death. The hitherto naïve heroine soon learns that scheming Uncle Silas is planning to kill her in order to get his hands on the family fortune, aided by the equally corrupt governess Madame de la Rougierre.” – britmovie.co.uk Read More »

Mike Leigh – Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

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Quote:
Unlike Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky probably won’t pick up many awards. It’s not a film with a ‘big statement’ and it signals a return to Leigh’s low-key films in the Nineties, such as Life Is Sweet and, in particular, Career Girls. But whereas those two films were only intermittingly successful, Happy-Go-Lucky’s vivid, absorbing and truthful portrayal of thirtysomething London life shows how far Leigh has developed his craft over the past decade.

There’s also a sense that Leigh’s brand of compassionate realism has become more engaging as cinema and drama becomes overly negative about the human condition. A refusal to rise above the banal and mundane was always Leigh’s glaring weakness as a film maker. But when ordinary people’s everyday life and behaviour has become politicised and problematised, Leigh’s ringing endorsement of free individuals enjoying the good life in twenty-first century Britain has never been more welcome. Read More »

Michael Powell – The Phantom Light (1935)

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synopsis

Three talented screenwriters collaborated in adapting Evadne Price and Joan Roy Byford’s play The Haunted Light to the screen as Phantom Light. This British chiller-diller-thriller begins with the mysterious murder of a lighthouse keeper. After his death, the region is plagued by shipwrecks, each heralded by a “phantom light” beaming from the lighthouse. Female detective Binnie Hale teams with new keeper Gordon Harker and navy officer Ian Hunter to solve the mystery. Directed with a sure and steady hand by Michael Powell, The Phantom Light is infinitely superior to the quota-quickie melodramas then flooding the British film market.- Hal Erickson Read More »

Ken Loach – Jimmy’s Hall (2014)

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Synopsis:
In the 1920s, political activist Jimmy Gralton built a dance hall in rural Ireland. As the hall grew in popularity its free-spirited reputation brought it to the attention of the church and politicians who forced Jimmy to flee and the hall to close.
A decade later, at the height of the Depression, Jimmy returns from the US. The hall stands abandoned but as Jimmy sees the poverty and growing oppresion in the village, the leader and activist within him is stirred. He decides to reopen the hall, and so takes on the established authorities of the church and the government. Read More »