Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Watch Good Movies.
Directed by: Pang Ho-Cheung
Country: Hong Kong
2012 wasn’t a year of much inspiration for Taiwanese filmmaker Pang Ho-Cheung. After a sloppy Love in The Buff, Vulgaria was another missed shot on comedy. The first moments had some interest, with a controversial interview given by an experienced film producer in front of students. But suddenly, the movie changed to imbecilic jokes about masturbation techniques, popping candy blow-jobs or sex with animals, all with a cynical silliness that got me bored very quickly. Family problems and Mafia connections were also introduced as mere pretexts to deflect our attention from the uninteresting sexual adventures of producer To Wai-Cheung. Vulgaria, as the title suggests, is nothing more than a vulgar movie.
Black’s Game (2012)
Directed by: Óskar Thór Axelsson
Oskar Thor Axelsson’s debut film had Nicolas Winding Refn as executive producer, taking us to the Icelandic underworld of drugs trafficking and crime. So, it is not surprising if we note some resemblances with Refn’s movies about the underworld, such as Pusher or Bronson. Black’s Game shows the dark path taken by Stebbi, after bump into a childhood friend outside the jail. By joining a dangerous gang, Stebbi will experience things that he would never have imagined. All the cast did a great job, playing properly the dark and evil characters, but this was obfuscated with scenes of drug abuse and orgies that almost looked like one of those despicable low-grade movies. All got worse with a couple of superfluous scenes aiming to impose tension, as well as an hasty ending, which deserved a better conclusion. An hectic film, needing fresh ideas.
Directed by: Miguel Gomes
Aurora had a rich and spoiled youth, spent in a former Portuguese colony in Africa. Now she lives in Lisbon with her african maid, who she accuses of sorcery. She became a fragile, frightened and poor old woman, haunted by memories of a lost lover. Some of the characters have shown margin for further development, yet the plot was rather compelling. The unforeseen invocation of mute cinema to approach the scenes of the past, gave it a distinguished touch, luring the viewer for its magnificent black-and-white pictures. The Religion factor was another fundamental aspect to create a favorable mysticism – guilt, fear and regret are often associated with the devil and hell. Miguel Gomes was deservedly recognized at Berlin Film Festival as an emergent filmmaker.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)
Directed by: Alison Klayman
This is a powerful and thorough documentary about the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, famous not only for his art but also for his clash with the Chinese Government. The movie covers a long period in Ai Weiwei’s life, giving a perspective of the events that led him to a brain surgery and posterior domiciliary imprisonment. This will be another slap in the face of China’s Government, since we witness the inexistence of human rights, corruption and a shadowy democracy. Several people contributed with their words to tell the world how Weiwei is so important in this never-ending struggle. His personal life was also documented, although in a very discrete way. “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” denounces a persisting problem and shows how much fearless people are needed to make pacific changes.
Directed by: Kim Ki-Duk
Country: South Korea
With Pietà, Korean Kim-Ki Duk is back to interesting projects, after an extended period where his works didn’t achieve great notoriety. Since 2004, with 3-Iron and Samaritan Girl, that he hadn’t so satisfying and balanced results. Pietà carries a psychological weight and violence that could have easily fallen in those kinds of unbearable gloomy scenarios that often lead us to discomfort in detriment of substance. This time, the strong content of the plot was well handled, without excess of violence, keeping the story alive till the end, and even making the imagery appealing. The visual pollution that can be seen throughout the film (decimated buildings, dirty alleys) has the power of increasing the miserable reality of the characters. Awarded with the Golden Lion at Venice, Pietá is an asphyxiating story about motherhood, greed, evilness and revenge.