It’s hard to imagine a tougher man than Ji-wook Yoon (Seung-won Cha): a police officer whose preferred work method is to simply beat everybody up, preferably heroically on his own. But Yoon is not only at war with the criminals around him – a gang in particular has sworn revenge after he all but decimated them – he is also at war with himself. Because what he would really like to do is to live as a woman. He even tries to quit his job to start tranisitioning, but his plans don’t work out the way he wants it.
It’s weird writing this plot description/the review calling Yoon “he” throughout, but it’s also rather emblematic of the film that doesn’t really get into the gender politics of the premise but uses it as a gimmick. Thus, calling Yoon “she” would feel completely off, legitimating a very problematic approach. For the rest of this review I shall resort to “they”, even if that doesn’t sit right with me either.
Nevertheless, Hai-hil doesn’t only have strong (and pretty gory) fight scenes, but it’s engaging exactly because of the ambivalence it shows towards (trans*)gender issues. Though that engagement doesn’t come without pain about the often bad representation (at least judging from my pov as a European, cis woman and – hopefully – ally to trans* people).
A stranger (Sam Riley) arrives in a small village in the mountains. The villagers are suspicious. They don’t know anything about him, they don’t want him or his new-fangled photographic apparatus there. But the stranger who calls himself Greider is not to be dissuaded. He wants to stay over winter. After the six sons of the wealthiest farmer in the village give their okay, Greider is allowed to stay with Luzi (Paula Beer) and her mother (Carmen Gratl). Luzi is about to marry Lukas (Thomas Schubert), but something isn’t quite right there. And it is obvious that Greider has his own motives as well.
The Dark Valley was really successful and got some great reviews, but honestly, I don’t get it. It was boring, confusing where it wasn’t obvious and took some seriously misguided steps in the soundtrack department. Disappointing.
Harold (Bjørn Sundquist) has spent his life in his furniture shop, priding himself in the quality items he sells there. But after 40 years of this, Ikea opens a shop next to him and it doesn’t take long until he is out of business. To make matters worse, his wife Marny (Grethe Selius), who was always with him, starts showing signs of dementia. With all of his rugs pulled out from under him, Harold thinks of a desperate plan: he will kidnap Ingvar Kamprad (Björn Granath) and make him pay for all he has done to him.
The trailer for Her er Harold promised many things. Above all, it made me laugh. Unfortunately it seems that the best moments were in the trailer. The movie itself was a lackluster, disappointing affair.
Eddy (Benoît Poelvoorde) was just released from prison and is now staying with his best friend Osman (Roschdy Zem) and Osman’s daughter Samira (Séli Gmach). It’s not easy for Eddy to find his footing. Osman is dead-set on staying on the straight and narrow, despite big financial worries: his wife (Nadine Labaki) is ill and the hospital bills are mounting up. And then Charlie Chaplin dies and is buried not far from them. As Eddy watches the international grief, he has an idea: what if they were to hold Chaplin’s body for ransom?
La rançon de la gloire has all the makings of a dark little comedy with its unbelievable story that is actually based on true events, but unfortunately it falls almost completely flat.
They put together a strong collection of short films here, some of which were connected to the /slash Filmfestival – where they did show You’re Next, the basis for the Simpsons Couch Gag; both Baskin and Monster were turned into feature films that were also part of the festival program – Baskin and The Babadook respectively; and Jason Eisener had segments in V/H/S 2 and The ABCs of Death, where Lee Hardcastle also made an appearance. The short films ranged from very funny and silly to outright terrifying and most of them were really effective, even if not all worked for me.
[After the jump I’ll talk about each of the films individually.]
Plot: Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) loves one thing and one thing only: playing chess. And he’s damn good at it. So good, in fact, that he seems to be the only person who might be able to actually beat the Russians, in particular the current world champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). In times of the Cold War, that victory becomes much more than a simple win in a game. But the pressure that puts on Bobby starts to be too much for his already fractured psyche.
I’m not a huge fan of movies that are yet another take on how closely genius and madness lie together. Usually those films do a great disservice to both. So I probably wouldn’t have seen Pawn Sacrifice if it hadn’t been for Liev Schreiber. Which would have actually been a pity. It didn’t blow me away, but it is a very decent film with great characters.
Lucile (Michelle Williams) lives with her mother-in-law Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas). The Angelliers are one of the richest families in the areas and Madame Angellier sees no reason not to continue getting her share from the farmers who work her lands just because it’s war time. Lucile – whose husband is a soldier – doesn’t like that strictness and harshness, their relationship is tense. Their situation grows even more difficult when the Germans reach their village and office Bruno von Falck (Matthias Schoenaerts) is placed in their home. Madame Angellier insists on ignoring him, but Lucile feels drawn to Bruno after she discovers that they share a passion for music.
Suite Française is a strong film although it didn’t quite manage to blow me away. Still, it’s a touching story with a strong cast and I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of them at all.
Ben (David Rawle) and Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) live with their father Conor (Brendan Gleeson) in a small lighthouse. Their mother Bronach (Lisa Hannigan) disappeared after Saoirse was born. When Saorise finds a pelt that belonged to their mother, she discovers that she’s actually a selkie. After spending a night in the sea with the seals, she washes up on shore where her grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) finds her. Gran decides that the kids should come to the city to live with her. But there is a mission Saoirse as a selkie has to fulfill.
Moore’s first film The Secret of Kells completely enchanted me. Following that up is tough, but with Song of the Sea, he is more than up to the taks. It’s a sweet story that easily incorporates Irish mythology. Above all, it’s the beautiful imagery again that makes the film what it is.
At the beginning of the 40s, the Russians occupied Estonia and deported many people to Siberia without warning. Among those people were Erna (Laura Peterson), her husband Heldur (Tarmo Song) and their daughter Eliide (Mirt Preegel). Taken from their home and stuffed into cattle waggons, Erna and Eliide get separated from Heldur. Despite all the hardships they have to go through, Erna never stops writing letters to Heldur.
I don’t know if you remember this short film from a few years ago, but Risttuules was basically shot in the same style, only less action-y. Taking the real letters from Erna Tamm as a basis and a voice-over, the film is made up of more or less stationary shots the camera slowly moves through. That is a gimmicky way to shoot a film, but for me the gimmick never took over the film. Instead it’s an emotional film about a difficult, harrowing topic that manages to also be aesthetically pleasing.
Miguel (Andrés Gertrúdix) is a filmmaker who got stuck on his sophomore feature after a rather successful debut. He returns to his hometown with a camera, not for his own project but instead as a location scout for somebody else’s film. He looks up his old friend, but only finds her sister Paula (Diana Gómez) and meets Alicia (Itsaso Arana) at a party, a nurse and the only person without artistic aspirations in the circle of friends. Together they decide to look up Paula’s sister Monica (Marta Pazos) and her boyfriend Bruno (Hugo Torres) as Miguel’s attempts to work become increasingly aimless.
Every once in a while, Las altas presiones has some very nice imagery and great locations. But there was only one scene in it that I actually enjoyed, so that’s pretty much all the positive remarks I can make.