Archive for the ‘Foreign’ Category

Toni ErdmannSaying that Toni Erdmann is a great film is easy. Explaining why is considerably more difficult. Rarely is a movie so obviously good in the viewing and so elusive in the analysis. A simple synopsis yields few clues as to the work’s manifest virtues. A frustrated career woman is forced to deal with the stresses of her job and the unexpected appearance of her practical jokester of a father, and that is essentially the whole show for two hours and forty-two minutes. And it’s in German. And it’s billed as a comedy. That’s what’s known in the business as a “tough sell.”

Maybe, just maybe, Toni Erdmann is the rare contemporary film for which critics and reviewers can play an outsized role in raising awareness so that audiences don’t miss the opportunity to see an indescribably transcendent work. Bottom line: if you love movies, you have to see this one. (more…)

Advertisements

RawRaw (aka Grave) represents the best elements of the London Film Festival. Not only did this neat, original, out-of-nowhere film about living zombies at a veterinary school play at the festival, it actually won the Sutherland Award, given to the first feature with “the most original and imaginative directorial debut.” Last year, the same award went to Robert Eggers for his outstanding maiden effort, The Witch. That’s two years in a row in which this prize has gone to horror films. London is at the forefront of the major festivals at showcasing and promoting excellence in genre films. It is part of what makes those 12 days in October in the UK capital so special for film fans. (more…)

The HandmaidenThe Handmaiden, the latest and most lascivious of offerings from Korean bad boy director/writer Chan-wook Park, gives whole new meaning to the phrase “guilty pleasure.” Many, if not most, will enjoy this wicked, naughty (oh, so naughty) tale of deceit, sexual politics, and betrayal, but be careful: too much enthusiasm for this luscious work may generate suspicion. Are you really so enamored of Park’s decision to transplant the story from the source material, the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, from Dickens’ London to 1930’s Korea? Are you a genuine fan of Asian film noir and relish a pitch black look at the human soul in its quest for money, power, and the upper hand? Or are you simply an educated pervert, engaging in blatant voyeurism, much like the gentlemen who listen to Lady Hideko’s readings of ribald tales at the invitation of her uncle? (more…)

braqueursThe Crew (aka Braqueurs) is a phenomenon – an 80-minute, pure adrenaline, perfectly crafted exercise in action filmmaking. Writer/director Julien Leclercq has assembled a dragster built for speed and stripped of anything that would weigh the story down for even one beat. This movie is mandatory viewing for all would-be genre directors. Scratch that. The Crew should be studied in film schools or shown to anyone interested in a pure economy of storytelling. Of course, not every film should be be built according to these specifications, but given that too many movies are simply too damn long, Leclercq beautifully demonstrates the art of the possible. (more…)

Under the ShadowThe Iran-Iraq War was an interminable sequence of horrors, largely unseen by the West and then quickly overshadowed by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War. The conflict stretched from 1980-88 and featured some of the most brutal warfare since the First World War including child soldiers, chemical weapons, trench fighting, human wave offensives, and wide-scale civilian bombing. To set a fantastical horror movie within the horribleness of this conflict would seem to risk trivializing the tragedy, but the eloquent, understated film Under the Shadow amplifies the terrors of the war and the all too real consequences for the populace. (more…)

Train to BusanRap versus rock. The designated hitter or pitchers batting. And, of course, the most contentious of arguments pitting fans of a classic approach against a band of upstarts: slow-moving zombies or their quick-footed brethren.

These are the unresolvable debates of our time. And while the Korean horror action flick Train to Busan (aka Busanhaeng) will not end the vitriol, advocates for a more fleet flock of undead have received a major boost from writer/director Yeon Sang-ho. In his first live-action feature film, Yeon has crafted a thrilling ride through a society sliding into the zombie apocalypse, utilizing a passenger train as his literal and metaphorical vehicle. (more…)

The WailingThe Wailing is a film that works – almost in spite of itself. It plays footsie with several genre conventions, while outright flouting others. It’s a horror movie that runs for 156 minutes. It’s a police procedural with an overweight, adulterous barely competent cop on the periphery of the investigation. One moment, The Wailing is about as subtle as a rake stuck in the head of a zombie (an actual image from the movie), and the next, it is as enigmatic as the mysteries of the world’s religions. It’s a Hitchcock mystery. No, it’s a gruesome hunt for a serial killer. Wait, it’s a biblical allegory.

You could spend the entire post film discussion arguing about the proper categorization for this latest offering from director/screenwriter Na Hong-jin, and not even have time remaining for a discussion of what the movie’s epigram from the Book of Luke means when it is uttered by a character in the denouement. (more…)