A handsome, sepia-monochrome, very Criterion-ish, poster for the 2017 restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s head-scratching sci-fi classic, Stalker keeps the grim, and grimy nature of the film on display, while also highlighting the puzzle-box nature by adding some text/symbol elements. I have seen a couple very scratchy, beat-up prints of the film over the years, and as the clear, razor-sharp nature of this poster indicates, I am looking forward to the new restoration of the film that will be playing in select cities before heading to Blu-Ray.
If you managed to catch the surprising Māori martial arts film from a few years ago, The Dead Lands, you will be well aware that Kiwi director Tao Fraser had big things ahead of him. His follow up picture, a 1980-set recreation of an Iranian hostage situation in the UK, 6 Days, just dropped its first trailer. There is a radical switch genre and aesthetic – out of the forest, and into the city, with sticks and tattoos replaced with flak jackets and rifles, but it is clear that the filmmaking is snappy and aims for adrenaline and impact.
In April 1980, six armed gunmen stormed the Iranian Embassy in Princes Gate, London, taking 26 people inside hostage. Over the next six days a tense standoff took place, all the while a group of highly trained soldiers from the SAS prepared for a raid, the likes of which the world had never seen before.
Norway’s answer to Olivier Assayas, already a master at his craft with only four features under his belt, Joachim Trier follows up the magnificent Louder Than Bombs, his English language debut, by returning to his native tongue and a supernatural sexual awakening story. Exhibiting a clean eye for visual film-making with an emphasis on people and character-study, I am curious to see what Trier can do with a more commercial project, than his past three films (which were firmly fixed on festival audiences).
After much acclaim for The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, Cartoon Saloon, Ireland’s increasingly high profile animation house founded by Paul Young and Tomm Moore, are working on their fourth feature film, Wolfwalkers. (The third one, The Breadwinner, will be released this year.)
With a signature 2D animation style, and a quite mature, epic sensibility, Cartoon Saloon, is aiming to be the next Laika (which in turn is aiming to be the next Pixar…)
Below is a proof-of-concept teaser which is, in a word, stunning.
In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn, comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mebh, their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transforms her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.
One of the great pieces of excess fantasy non-sense was 2015’s Telugu Fantasy Epic Baahubali. From S.S. Rajamouli, who made the zonkers reincarnation comedy Eega, which sees a man take vengeance on his murderer in the form of a common housefly. (It’s on Netflix as Makkhi, and it’s magnificent.)
Like an Indian Lord of the Rings, we only got part of a movie and had to wait a long time, 2 years in fact, for the conclusion to the film. The trailer, as bombastic as one might imagine, has popped up online, and while you may not have heard of it, over 10 Million people have already watched it in less than 24 hours. Baahubali: THe Beginning briefly cracked the top 10 at the box office in a minuscule number of theatres, and this for a movie sporting a near 3 hour runtime, based on an the Indian, Pakistani, Tamil and Sri Lankan’s in the USA and Canada that are hungry for blockbusters that stem from their own colourful culture.
I managed to catch part one in a packed and rowdy cinema on the outskirts of Toronto and it was one of my favourite blockbusters of 2015 for its nutbar gender politics alone.
When Sanga and her husband, part of a tribe living around the province of Mahismathi, save a drowning infant, little do they know the background of the infant or what the future holds for him. The kid grows up to as Shivudu, a free-spirit wanting to explore the mountains and in the process learns of his roots and then realizes the whole purpose of his life and ends up confronting the mighty Bhallala Deva!
When two opposite ends unite the rod breaks in between. When Shiva, the son of Bahubali realizes his past from Kattappa, he seeks to find consensus to his question : Why did Kattapa kill his father? This, Bahubali- the Conclusion showcases the answer and its consequences on the Mahishmati Kingdom when its roots are stirred.
An interesting companion piece to Antonio Campos’ Christine, insofar as if you are aware of the character at the heart of the matter, cannot help but be ‘waiting’ for the inevitable in I, Olga Hepnarová. Likewise, here, it is the lead performance makes the queasy journey worthwhile. Michalina Olszanska (The Lure) essays a portrait of the 22-year-old mass murderer Olga Hepnarová, who was the last person executed by the Czechoslovakian government in 1973 for driving her delivery truck through a crowded sidewalk in Prague.
Presented in stark monochrome, it is a very uncomfortable movie about the effects of bullying (by her peers, by her family, by the state) and particular state of mental health – two subjects that are as relevant today as they were in the 1970s. I quite liked the film when I caught it at Fantasia, as difficult as it was to watch (and less than a week after a similar incident occurred in Nice, no less).
Also, man, that still above is very reminiscent of Michael Haneke, which is kind of the head-space one can easily occupy while watching this trailer. The film is being theatrically released in a few US markets by indie outfit Strand on March 24, 2017.
Mermaids are apparently popular again. Disney is currently remaking their animated hit as an expensive live-action feature, and Stephen Chow’s, The Mermaid ended up being an epic-sized cash-machine of a blockbuster in his native China. But whoa there now, here is a first feature, and one of the most confident film debuts, particularly for a style this tricky, to come along in some time. If you love weird yet meticulous filmmaking that is simultaneously both classic and fresh, then you are going to want to remember the name Agnieszka Smoczynska. Her deeply unorthodox adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson classic fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, as a Polish period musical he has given the original title Córki Dancingu, literally translated to Daughter of the Dance, for domestic release, but for the rest of the worlds as simply called, The Lure, comes with a wheelbarrow full of superlatives: shocking! sexy! subversive! sublime! entertaining! visionary! And just plain catchy.
Smoczynska takes the classic, literal, fish-out of water tale, and places it in a burlesque club in 1980s Poland. When a family of musicians (whose main gig is to play back-up for the strippers at a night-club) discover two mermaids in the water while drinking and singing on the beach, they bring them aboard as part of their act. Sort of like adopting two new children, and drop them right in to soft-core sex trade. This hardly sounds like it could be the beginning to a mainstream Hollywood film, but trust me, it kind of is. However, I doubt, if it were, there would be the scene where the owner casually examines the ‘tail-vagina’ on the one of the ‘maids and declares, ‘it is fishy, but I like it.’ Nudity and sexual hunger, both casual and intense, are rampant in The Lure, but because of Smoczynska’s acute sense of how to stage-dress, light, and shoot the film like an Blondie video on steroids, these things are not off-putting or controversial, they are part of the films sense of style and sensibility. Somewhere in Iceland, Bjork is going to see this movie, slap her forehead and say, “Shit! How did I never make this movie?!” Furthermore, if in 2016 you still need an argument for more women directors, well, here is another great one to put on the pile.
Michalina Olszanska (a major rising actress in eastern Europe, who for lack of a better explanation is a blend between Juno Temple and Kristen Stewart) and Marta Mazurek (here exquisitely channeling Sissy Spacek) play the pair of mermaids, Golden and Silver. They are, in essence, the aquatic version of twenty-something party girls looking for shits and giggles up for a quick stop in Poland before swimming onward to America. But Silver beings to fall in love with their blonde young band-mate, Mietek. She is strongly warned by her ‘sister,’ as well as another air-touring underwater creature named Triton, who looks like the Kurgan and rocks a riotous punk act in Warsaw. Unsurprisingly, Mermaids and Mermen are obviously great, charismatic singers-of-songs, and The Lure has a seemingly endless capacity for incorporating classic mer-mythology among the drama and the musical numbers. The crisis of the films (after a quick rise to fame) is that if Silver falls in truly in love, but the love is not returned, then she will cease to exist. In an honest, if not particularly wise, sacrificial gesture to earn the love of her bright young thing, she decides to remove her tail and become a human. (Wait for that set piece! It’s a serious OMG bit of genre craft!) The mermaids may want to fall in love human-style, but they are vicious, cunning, and selfish creatures when they want to be. They make no bones about it, and neither does the filmmaking.
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Beautifully shot, languid, haunting, esoteric, and cold. All of these things can be said of Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s latest film, Évolution. The same could be said of her first feature, Innocence, which was about a boarding school for girls. Her latest, coming more than a decade later, is about a strange ‘school’ for boys, but considering the somewhat spoiler-y nature of the trailer below, it’s not really a school in the case, more of a clinic (and it’s not really that either). Some very impressive body horror and formal cinematography abound in this one; both gorgeous shots of the seaside, and what lies beneath.
10-year-old Nicolas lives with his mother on a remote island, in a village inhabited solely by women and young boys. In a hospital overlooking the ocean, all the boys are subjected to a mysterious medical treatment. Only Nicolas questions what is happening around him. He senses that his mother is lying to him, and is determined to find out what she does with the other women at night, on the beach… What he discovers is the beginning of a nightmare into which he is helplessly drawn.
Fun Fact: Lucile Hadzihalilovic is married to Gaspar Noe, and their cinema complements each other in interesting ways, she is the yin to his yang, but she is also the better filmmaker.
It seems now that Japan’s Studio Ghibli is awaiting auteurs to step up on native soil, they have turned to some international co-productions to keep the lights on. If Dutch director Michaël Dudok de Wit is any indication of this new collaboration arrangement, I am happy to see the direction things go. The Red Turtle looks gorgeous, has a hand animated aesthetic, with a flair for visual and emotional storytelling. The film premiers at Cannes this week. The trailer is below.