Sunday, July 28, 2013

Like Someone in Love

Akiko and Takashi
Like Someone in Love is a lopsided triangle of a movie. The base of the triangle is Akiko, a perpetually tired and badgered call girl / university student. She wants to study or sleep and hence escape her troubles, but finds herself cornered by the expectations of her pimp, her grandmother, her boyfriend, her client and his nosy neighbour. These expectations of her are ones that she is at least partly responsible for creating. All but one of these characters are desperate for love in various ways that impact on Akiko over 24 hours.

In contract to Akiko's passive role, her client Takashi, a retired professor, steals the show; metamorphosing from lonely old man, through reluctant agony aunt to knight in shining Volvo. Ironically Akiko's volatile boyfriend, the shortest side of this triangle, has the most honest intentions of the three but also poses the most danger.

In Like Someone in Love we are watching ordinary people doing ordinary things while trying to cope with their own and each other's desires. Everything is laid back and taken at a measured pace. The very ordinary interiors are beautifully shot. While some reviewers didn't like the ending I preferred it to some of the more drawn out endings I've seen lately. I left the movie unwinding it back looking for a point at which Akiko could have avoided the tragedy to see if it was inevitable or not.

Ian's rating 3/5

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Why would someone want to see a silent movie in 2013?

The novelty factor? Curiosity? Masochism? Ludditism?

Actually the masochism was entirely due to sitting in row M at the Paramount (rows M and beyond are not suitable for people with legs). It was curiosity to see a modern "silent" movie, and to see a Spanish take on the fairytale of Snow White, that got me to part with my money. As I hinted with the quote marks, Blancanieves is not entirely silent. It has sound track of music and sound effects but no spoken dialogue. It follows the original silent movie techniques in terms of its almost square aspect ratio, black-and-white photography, over acting and intertitles. The intertitles were in English in the version shown at the Film Festival. The almost square aspect ratio and the 1920's setting sells this film as a silent movie and the over acting meshes well with the fairytale script.

In terms of 21st century mores, Snow White is one of the kinkiest of fairytales. In today's terms explain why it is OK for a teenage girl to move in with seven older men, or why it is OK to put a (presumably dead) girl's body on public display in a glass coffin, or let a random guy sexually molest her? This sort of behaviour is only acceptable in fairytales. In Blancanieves we are in 1920's Spain and Carmencita is the daughter of a widowed matador who marries the scheming Encarna (whose sexual proclivities normalise the kinkiness of the Grimm Bros plot). Carmencita's childhood and Encarna's torment of her take up rather more of the film than they should but the pace picks up a bit once the dwarves come on the scene. Here we feel we are on familiar territory but we should realise that this version of Snow White has not been following the Grimm Bros (or Disney) plots particularly closely and while Encarma's demise is satisfying, Blancanieves' fate deviates from expectation to remind us that this version of the story is for adults.

Ian's rating 3.5/5

Outrage Beyond

In case you didn't know yakuza usually wear black and always drive black cars. Or at least that is how Takeshi Kitano portraits yakuza. Middle aged, senior yakuza look and act like successful businessmen. Young upstarts look like successful rap-stars in suits and the footsoldiers look like secret service agents escaped from a Hollywood film. The cops dress like they got their clothes from a Salvation Army store. This is important because clothing implies status within your organisation and status is important in Outrage Beyond, as is the power of the organisation you belong to. Even the two most important yakuza clans acknowledge that the police, as part of the government, are more powerful than they are and so the detectives are accorded more respect than their dress sense would suggest. In particular this allows the ever smiling Detective Kataoka access to the top yakuza executives whenever he feels like it.

Detective Kataoka of the Tokyo organised crime squad doesn't seem have much reason to smile, the film starts with a double murder with the potential to become a political scandal and his bosses want revenge on the Sanno clan. Kataoka's strategy is to provoke a clan war between the Sanno clan and the Osaka based Hanabishi clan. This proves unsuccessful as does his attempt to stir up trouble with the soon to be released from prison Otomo (played by Takeshi Kitano). Despite the disapproval and bleak assessments of his more junior partner, Kataoka is an energizer bunny and eventually his attempts to stir up trouble pay off and we get to see a series of set-piece yakuza fights punctuated by negotiating and double crossing.

While you could watch Outrage Beyond for the stylish violent set pieces, it is a better experience to try and follow all the plot lines and plot twists. There is more plot and more characters to keep track off than in two or three Hollywood crime films.  Even a few unexplained bits of plot that might imply a sequel.

Ian's rating 3/5


Wadjda is a ten year old girl who is an only child and she's a little different from her schoolmates. Her best friend is the (younger) boy who lives next door. They socialize on the trip to their respective schools - she walks and he rides his bike. She's not supposed to ride a bike because she's a girl but at least her trip to school is pretty carefree compared to her schoolteacher mother's trip to work. (Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia,  so her mother and her colleagues are picked up and driven to school by an employed male driver. And if the driver is a tosser, your choices are limited by the fact you can't drive yourself). Wadjda desperately wants her own bike and is saving to buy the one in the local store - and she's pretty enterprising. She makes bracelets to sell to her schoolmates and delivering illicit messages from her schoolmates to boys also provides income. When she finds that a school contest involving reciting the Koran has a monetary prize big enough to buy the bike, she signs up - surprising the head teacher who has her categorised as a rebel

Wadjda  was a great way to kick off the film festival.  It's the first feature directed by a Saudi woman and the first full length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and as I was being entertained I was pleased to feel that a local was telling me "so this is how it is for women in Saudi Arabia". It made me think of Pride and Prejudice - a thoroughly entertaining story, encapsulating life for women in a particular place and time, told by someone who was there. And like Britain in the early 19th Century, life for women in Saudi Arabia in the twenty-first century is heavily dependent on men  and they really need to be married to one. Life has a  bizarre focus on what random men are doing -for example, all the girls in the school playground are supposed to go inside if a man happens to be within viewing distance.

Wadjda's mum is an interesting mix of progressive and deeply socially conservative. She allows her daughter to listen to pop music, wear jeans and sneakers and hang out with her male neighbour, and yet she's horrified when one of her own friends dares to talk to a man with her face uncovered.There's a nice contrast between how she'd like the world to be and being deeply conscious of the price of inviting society's disapproval.

A great cast, a good script, an exotic location and gender issues addressed with humour make for a great watch,

Anne's rating: 4/5  Ian's rating 4/5