An alluring debut, one in which ambiguous designs and astute aesthetic sensibilities declare Yui Kiyohara as a talent worth keeping an eye on. A whiff of mystery and intrigue encapsulates this low-key ambiguous ghost story, and while the film doesn't coalesce into the fully-formed work, Our House remains an intriguing meditation, one in which mental desolation, unspoken trauma, and mystical intrigue are orchestrated with efficiency while never feeling overwrought with stylish flourish. While the influence of her protege's work is readily apparent - with Our House certainly being indebted to Kiyoshi Kursosawa - this debut effort manages to stand on its own in spite of tonal similarities, announcing a new voice which exhibits an understanding of atmosphere-inducing aesthetics, and more specifically negative space.
A sensual depiction of a budding romance which feels doomed due to external forces, much of Liliom finds Frank Borzage employing magical realism to detail the incalculable, intangible nature of love when placed against the vast tangibles- material and otherwise - which exist in any functioning society. Throughout Liliom's aesthetic and narrative formalism the intangible nature of love is presented with such a sweeping sense of omnipresence, one in which Borzage exhibits the world with ethereal sensibilities, evoking the power which love and passion can have on the individual, doing so without any sense of forced sentimentality or melodramatic depictions of romance. Liliom's construction places love as the fulcrum to leading an ethical life, exhibiting in its love story two characters who find their relationship tested by various external forces placed on them by modern life. The degradation which poverty places on the psyche of those affected, this faux socially-embedded belief in meritocracy and the corrosive effect it can have on any good natured and morally-just individual is thoroughly explored, with Borzage expressing how the social, political, and economic aspects of life often conflict and constrain the purity of love due to their disparate nature in modern society. The two lead characterizations - each having their own autonomy and individualistic desires- are nuanced, detailed, and complex; They come from different backgrounds, yet this sense of yearning for one and other unites them and gives them warm from the cold, hard unknown nature of everyday life. Their passion for one and other is undeniable and yet the social expectations related to class and status placed on them by larger society subverts and strains their relationship, breeding insecurities within them. The economic and social pressures placed on this relationship specifically drive it towards division and tragedy, with the central relationship suppressed and destroyed, at least when viewed through the lens of the material world. Aesthetically speaking, high contrast black-and-white cinematography evokes the dualism of light and dark with that of love and hate. The bright lights of the carnival - a central location in this story - piercing through the darkness of the night sky evokes the film's thematic intentions, a symbolic depiction of how these two individuals shared passion for one and other provides their a sense of guidance in an otherwise, dark, class-driven society in which love is often is confronted and contested by either social, economic, and political capital. In the end, Liliom is a salient example of the magical nature of the cinematic craft, a film which evolves from the material world to the metaphysical, astutely recognizing the intrinsic nature of selflessness necessary for love but perhaps more importantly detailing how no individual action, even those out of love or selfishness, is never completely disparate or detached from larger social subversion which societal expectations can evoke.
The film opens with a bang, centered around exhibiting how terrifying this updated version of Buddy would be given the general technological progress and the conceit of the story, juxtaposing the invasive nature of technology against the modern day convenience it grants. We see how much Buddy can do - he can control everything! your drones! your car! His patented quick learning technology only aids in him servicing you! The film is explicit in its satirical placation, yet the narrative in the very next scene sells the film short, making the decision to have Buddy's origin be rooted in a conscious act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee. In doing so this was not some destiny-laced error unforeseen by the technocrat but a calculated act by a disgruntled employee, a odd decision which largely undercuts the film's potential for any deeper themes centered around privacy, the invasive nature of technology, etc. This all occurs in the opening prologue of the film, before the title card, with Child's Play going through the relative motions from there, delivering a more respectable remake than many film's of its ilk, given its respect to the source material, understanding the subversive horror necessary to achieve something truly disturbed - unconditional love and servitude which transgresses into macabre. Has a few memorable horror sequences - particularly a few creative acts of macabre - but the film's narrative trajectory leads itself down a path which aims are more towards spectacle than constrained horror, with a finale which becomes unnecessarily unhinged relative to what up to that point had been, by-and-large, a quiet, creepy horror remake which updated and did the original justice.
An evocation on class struggle and the various dynamic social strains which subsist in any hierarchical, market economy, Bahram Beizai's poetic exploration uses the mysterious death of Yazdgerd III, the last of the Sassanid kings of Iran, as his central conceit to explore the vast complexities of society. Taking place in a sole location, Death of Yazdgerd plays largely like theater, yet the cinematic language implored by Bahram Beizai is impressive, oscillating between polemic diatribes and tranquil observation, the combustibility and tension of this situation being felt in every frame through use of staging, composition, and editing, juxtaposed with theatrical performances which combine to deliver a simple yet effective poetic literary-based construction that is full of dynamism. The complexities which strain any social formation or society when confronted by the vast power vacuum left in the wake of a king's death is explored in a way which the weight of the situation is felt in every frame, disparate souls - whether it be paupers or the king's most loyal subjects - all confronted with the unknown when the authority structure of one man - a god king in this case - is taken swiftly and mysteriously from this world.
An incisive sociological allegory which could easily feel stale yet it doesn't - deadpan comedic sensibilities beautifully juxtaposed against a stoic like acceptance of the inevitability of man's self destruction under the current socio-economic system. The Dead Don't Die is a film of subtle layers, one in which its droll performances and comedic sensibilities serve a salient purpose, amplifying humanity's slow, methodical march to self destruction. Jarmusch's purview is concise and unwavering in its acceptance of this inevitability, weaponizing the zombie genre to illustrate the willful ignorance of collective humanity under the current global system, illustrating how this self-imposed allotment at the precipice of the planetary hierarchy has placed humanity on the slow path of self-induced destruction. This crude, monolithic ignorance, one which places mankind as master of his natural environment, has led to acceptance of this existential threat, with notions of growth and technological progress under this global system being at odds with any notion of sustainability, leading the individual to have no choice but to firmly accept the inevitability of their fate. Much has made about Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die being a slight film for the long revered filmmaker, yet The Dead Don't Die illustrates a filmmaker whose perspective has turned into a type of frustration and acceptance, an acceptance rooted in inevitability which could only viewed as nihilistic by those who haven't been paying close enough attention.
Replacing an unnecessarily complex love story archetype with a stripped-down Revenge thriller, Ninja: Shadow of A Rear offers rather immediate improvement over its predecessor, moving at a brisk, chaotic pace. More of the same in terms of action - the choreography and composition in harmony, a mutual respect between director and martial artist is palpable in its presentation with brutal, visceral fight sequences which thrill without sacrificing coherence.
Jingoistic and affirmative in its support of neocolonialism, Wolf Warrior 2 is a slick, dynamic action film which repels any sense of nuance when it comes to notions of good and evil. Slick action set pieces oscillate between grounded and patently absurd, as the film's clean aesthetic and escapist sensibilities offer up a slick piece of propaganda. Adhering to the savior complex archetype of militaristic action films, the film is an engaging yet silly action film which is hilariously nationalist, placing the Chinese state firmly as an edifice for good in a chaotic and savage world.
Evokes a naturalism more akin to documentary than fiction, employing the visual language of the familiar - repetition and routine of day-to-day life - to tell its sensual tale of young love and personal identity. The idyllic mountainside, one of omnipresence yet desolation, provides the perfect juxtaposition for its main protagonist in Yara, a young woman whom in meeting a young man, finds her life filled with insurmountable promise. Feelings of connection, the power which the emotive instills in the disparate soul is what grants Yara a newfound sense of strength, giving her the courage to grapple with her own personal identity and sheltered upbringing, leading her to a path of personal growth and individual identity, one which is still rooted in her social environment but one that is not defined by it. Up to this point her existence, her way of life was never questioned, and yet this potential romance awakens Yara to the perils of her spatial environment, one which has become desolate due to emigration and modernization, an aging populace all that remains. A coming of age story which recognizes the omnipresent nature of love, specifically in how it can subvert social milieau and personal identity, Yara evokes an ethereal quality due to its mature understanding of such forces, encapsulating the insurmountable promise of autonomy which love grants to the individual.
Employs a textual precision to its ecological prescriptions, Dead Horse Nebula's aesthetic evokes the complexity in nature through complementary ascetic stylistic design. An in-elaborate narrative which manages to evoke the contextual relationship between man and nature within the larger social fabric of existence, where the metaphysical and natural worlds collide through the ontological lens of man.
A quiet sense of danger envelopes Liang Ying's A Family Tour, it's one of continuous affect, evoking the consciousness of the main protagonist - an exiled film director in Hong Kong who was forced to flee China, leaving everything and everyone she has ever known behind, including her own mother. A Family Tour understands that freedom is not easy, exhibiting how there is an element of chaos intrinsic to freedom, escape from authority is escape from repression but also the structural familiarity of one's social milieu, placing great strain and sacrifice on not just the individual in rebellion but also those they cherish. Illustrating in its main protagonist a character whose life has been in a sense, chaotic, since her subversion of the state, A Family Tour illustrates the diasporic induced fractures on personal identity, being a family drama in which our main protagonist is affronted by the notion that she will not be able to take care of her aging mother.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.