While it looks like I’ve seen a lot of good movies this week I was actually a bit disappointed. Yes, these are great and all, but except for The Land of Hope I rate them all 7 out of 10. I guess I expected something more. Oh well.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
The Land of Hope (2012) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.6) – Drama (Japan)
The Housemaid (1960) – 7 (IMDb 7.4) – Crime, Drama, Horror (South Korea)
If anything can be said about the original Hanyo it’s that it looks absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful black & white cinematography by Kim Deok-jin. Great acting all around and a solid script. However the film about the housemaid/home wrecker/psycho suffers from some pacing issues here and there. One of the film’s strongest feats is the unique unsettling, creepy and uneasy atmosphere that is hard to describe. No other film has made me feel like this one. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but that’s why we watch horror films. This one certainly shines for its originality. It also breaks the “fourth wall”, you know when you have a character directly speaking to the camera, I thought it was a fun & funny touch. The film is considered a classic and we have to thank Martin Scorsese for restoring the original print and making this one available. Definitely skip the remake and watch this one instead.
The Demon (1963) – 7 (IMDb 6.6) – Drama, Horror (Italy)
I checked out Il Demonio because it’s set in Basilicata, that’s one of the lesser known Italian regions of the south. My dad comes from around these parts. Superstitions and weird rituals were and still are poplar in these parts. This film is said to be based on true events. The story about a young woman who was believed to be possessed by the devil is definitely a heavy one. In the film she tires to make this guy fall in love with her with a potion, but the bastard only exploits her for sex and then marries some other chick instead. It’s rare to see a film where the villain is also the only sympathetic character and it’s especially tricky to pull it off with a female lead (for some reason not many get it right). This film succeeds mostly because of Daliah Lavi’s committed performance and acting skills. The depiction of the people and traditions in the south seems very faithful and so I’d say this film is also culturally relevant and not many horror films are, so that’s again a plus for this film. On the downside it’s a fairly depressing and sad film from the get go.
One Point O (2004) – 7 (IMDb 5.9) – Mystery, Horror, Sci-Fi (USA)
I wasn’t expecting much from this film and maybe that’s why I was positively surprised by it. I chose to watch it mostly because one of my favorite actors, Udo Kier, makes an appearance as an improbable neighbor. However the star of the film is Jeremy Sisto, who was perfectly cast for this role. One Point O is what you’d call a “high concept” film. What I loved most about it is that the plot is so strange and incomprehensible, yet the characters are so relatable that you can still get invested in the story even if you don’t understand everything. Set in a dystopian future, this film is about government control, big brother stuff and all them crazy conspiracy theories. The filmmakers seem to be a fans of David Cronenberg’s work, but they still brings their own fresh vision and flavor to the screen and they do so in the most unpretentious way possible, without taking themselves too seriously, but at the same time without falling into annoying and constant auto-ironical jokes.
La città delle donne (1980) – 7 (IMDb 6.8) – Comedy, Drama (Italy)
At this point in his career Federico Fellini could basically do whatever the fuck he wanted. So he made City of Women a film about a man wondering around guided by his male organ who ends up in a hotel that has been taken over by some crazy feminists. I’m not even going to try and understand or explain all the sexual identity and gender issues brought up by this film, there’s too much of it and I’m not entirely sure what it means. In fact I’m not even entirely sure Fellini knew what it meant. This film takes a more dream-like/dream-logic approach and so not everything shown is meant to be read literally. It’s a crazy film, like every Fellini, it’s cinematic, hilarious, absurd, excessive, loud, quiet, bored, ecstatic, high, low, happy, sad, all over the place. While I think he has made better films, I still enjoy Marcello Mastroianni in the lead role and some of the humor. The film could have been a bit shorter, but still there are a lot of great and very entertaining scenes.
The Sinners of Hell (1960) – 7 (IMDb 6.9) – Horror, Drama, Criterion (Japan)
Jigoku is a film about hell according to Japanese culture (don’t ask me what religion exactly). It felt a bit like Dante Aligheri’s Inferno, only with more action and subtitles. The film has an experimental, art house look and feel, which is probably why it was picked up by the Criterion Collection. While the story gets a bit confusing and overly dramatic at times, it’s still a fun flick for a sunday evening train-ride home. I love how this film was lit, the actors almost seem translucent at times, as if the light is beaming through their skin. Speaking of skin, there’s not much going on in terms of sex and nudity in this film, which is weird because in the title sequence there are women stripping and dancing. In the actual film however there’s not much of that. I just thought that was odd.
The Ono’s are a humble family of farmers living in rural Japan. One day there is an earthquake which causes a disaster in the local nuclear power plant. Everyone is afraid of the consequences of radiation on the local population. The Ono family lives just on the 20 kilometer radius border, where the authorities have established there is no “officially” no risk of contamination. They watch their neighbors being brought away into some a provisory facility away from their hometown. Yoichi ono (Murakami Jun) wants to stay with his father Yasuhiko (Natsuyagi Isao) and mother Cheiko (Ohtani Naoko). However Yasuhiko advices his son to move away from the contaminated area, with his wife Izumi (Kagurazaka Megumi) and start a new life elsewhere. Yoichi says goodbye to his parents and moves to a nearby town that is supposedly safer, but when Izumi discovers that she is pregnant she becomes paranoid about the radiations possibly hurting her unborn child. Continue reading