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The Forest (2016)
The villagers may be afraid of the forest, but little Ja knows how to deal with it...
I wasn't quite sure what genre THE FOREST was for the first fifty minutes. It seemed to be a fable for children, with morals on the evil of bullying, as well as befriending ghosts and goblins in the forest. A little clumsy with the set-up, but that was all soon forgiven when the second half of this movie ventured into a dark mysterious path with some violence and other adult themes. So it eventually had my attention, and I was glad that my finger didn't press the stop button earlier.
The two main protagonists, the teacher and the silent student, were well crafted characters that held you in there until the story took an interesting turn for that second half. More importantly was the performances by the actors that made these characters shine. The child actress, Wannasa Wintawong, took the limelight, along with her companion, Tanapol Kamkunkam, who played the feral boy, protector of the forest. The two played off each other so well that it gave the film a sense of neorealism.
The highlight was the character of the new male teacher in a backward school town. Preecha, played brilliantly by Asanee Suwan, walked away from being a Monk so he could teach the children how to face the World. The dilemmas he faced were conflicting with his morals, and those issues were dealt with intelligibly.
Director, Spurrier, seemed to be a one man band crew as he also photographed, edited, wrote the screenplay and even scored the music. He did a fine job in all those departments, and delivered a worthwhile film that dealt with various themes from bullying, school politics, belonging, spiritual being and it even touched on religion. Themes relevant anywhere in the World, and captured perfectly by Spurrier.
Director Kopple has still got it...
I'm a bit behind the times as I have only vaguely heard of Gigi Gorgeous, so in a way I am glad that I can look at this as an outsider. At first I thought I was going to get a glorified documentary on how YouTube can make almost anybody famous. But when I saw that Barbara Kopple was the director, then I knew there could be something of some interest. After all, Kopple did make one of my all time favorite observational documentaries, Harlan County U.S.A., and that was way back in 1976 or thereabouts.
With the Gigi Gorgeous doco, she has managed to get all this amazing footage that Gig herself had shot. Kopple then managed to inter-cut the intimate footage with very emotional interviews from Gigi's family to make it so involving and interesting. What really stood out for me was the phenomenal effects of fame via YouTube and most importantly, the unconditional love of a conservative father, specially during Gigi's gender transition period.
A well thought out and touching documentary about acceptance and being true to yourself, all for the general publics observational pleasure. We live in a time where revealing our intimate selves through forms of social media, and then receiving support in return from the public, can help us get through the hardships of life.
Another fine drama from Iran
Another fine drama from Iran, dealing with a Samaritan's moral dilemma in deciding who to financially assist amongst the underprivileged in an unjust society. He has to choose between two women in dire need of help to better their life's. The chose is difficult, but will it release the burden he carries?
Overall the film is an insightful look into the Iranian way of life and the struggles of those with health issues, as well as those harshly done by the unjust laws. It is a morale crusade without being too loud, underplayed like a perfect drama, revealing the stories with patience and real emotion.
The director and crew have crafted a well thought out drama that keeps you enthralled. But it is the performances that draws you in. At times I felt like I was an observer of some reality based documentary. The actors did a masterful job, making this film worth every minute of your time.
The TAXI DRIVER of India, but a tame version...
One cannot help but be reminded by Scorsese's masterpiece, TAXI DRIVER (1976), when seeing various shots of the taxi driving through the wet night streets. Only difference is that it's not on the streets of New York, but in India, where a country boy moves to the city and drives a rundown cab to make ends meet. One night he picks up a gorgeous woman who happens to be his childhood sweetheart. They somewhat rekindle their past, but she is stand-offish, reluctant to let him get too close, setting up an intriguing premise.
The first half plays like a whimsical love story with some integrity. Maybe this section goes that little bit too long, slightly repetitive but still enjoyable enough. It's until the hidden secret is revealed that the story comes alive, taking it onto another level. After a while the filmmaker somehow gets a little lost, not being clear in the direction of the protagonist who seems to bumble his way through his indecisive behavior. But the final scene is brilliant and brings the film back on course.
The two leads are brilliant, you can watch them all night and not get tired of their beauty.The technical aspect holds it together, with the continuity of cinematography sometimes slightly askew and that's maybe because of the various hands that shot it. Still this is an interesting piece of low budget independent work from a country full of many surprises.
The Kolkata life of secrets and...
The independent film scene of India is exploding at a rapid pace. Low budget movies pouring out of this country are very impressive indeed. Revelations is amongst the creative bunch that does not shy away from the realism of a diverse and cultured country.
First time feature director, Jayapal, takes us on the streets of Kolkata, visiting the music street scene which is an eye opener, as well as the backstreet brothels and other avenues rarely visited by Bollywood. But the most important insight Jayapal offers is that of the characters who are swamped by the chaotic scene of Kolkata. Revelations focuses on the inhabitants of an apartment block, and how their life's intersect and collide to create an interesting drama.
The tone and pace is deliberately slow, but yet effective. It allows the viewer to observe with great fascination, drawing them into the characters and the surprising revelations they have in store. It is a drama well worth sitting through, with its humanistic characters of honesty.
Like Hitchcock and Polanski on a low budget...
One can compare this neat little psychological thriller to Polanski's earlier works, Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976), where the protagonist is confined within the walls of their home and slowly deteriorate into their own madness! Throw in a bit of Hitchcock and you got this fine chilling creative piece from the most unassuming country to have made it, India.
India has been going through some amazing changes, creating neo-realism works as well as popular genres but without the Bollywood. The previous night I viewed the brilliant, MASAAN, a fascinating drama. After that I became interested in current Indian cinema and came across this little gem where first time director, Pulkit, has created an intense and abstract thriller.
Performances are top notch, proving that this country can do one better than Hollywood. The technical aspect is spot-on and effective, with the cinematography capturing the mood perfectly. The dramatic and chilling music is wonderfully over the top, working wonders with your nerves. And the intense story-line has elements of abstract that leave you guessing, even till the very unanswered end.
Night of Fear (1972)
An artistic Aussie slasher...
Before Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and way before WOLF CREEK, was this little Aussie treasure of sheer gore and stupidity of the Z-grade kind. What I admire about this film is the lack of dialogue, so there was no Aussie twang to cringe about. The effective campy horror suspense music with the wild and sometimes abstract editing made it more engrossing.
If you peel away all the zany technical aspects of the movie and look at the bare bones, you are left with the hammy performances which was perfect for this slasher. On top of that was the very thin storyline, about a woman who loses her way in the Aussie bush and comes across this mad man who plays a game of cat and mouse with her. Nothing creative in the telling of this story, but still good ole trashy slasher fun.
The highlight for me was those freaky cuts to naked bodies and sacrificial sex scenes, which almost made it very close to being an experimental slasher film. Maybe if it was recut to ten minutes, then this could have been a great experimental short film of the bizarre kind!
Challenging piece of work...
Wow! A movie that gives you plenty of questions, but no real answers. Leaving it up to the discerning film-goer to make of it what they wish. With me, well-- it has taken me 24 hours to sit right down and write something about this challenging piece of work.
It's not the sudden act of the killing that shocked me, but the way in which the relationship sustained that act to survive. If made by other mindless filmmakers, there would have been loud confrontations, the law would have been involved, as well as the psychiatrists. But we were in the capable hands of Klaus, the writer and director, who handled this horrendous situation with maturity, focusing more on the strength of the relationship.
I will admit that after the first thirty minutes it was getting rather tedious. How many shots of the joyous cat can you have? And the utter love in the human relationship had me envious! It wasn't until the incident that it all came to life. By then I was angry because the director had masterfully drawn me to empathize with the cat (and I'm not much of a cat lover). How could he have done that to the poor defenseless cat? I was yelling at the screen, telling the lover to leave the relationship, and was completely stupefied by his decision not to, and that's why I kept watching, engrossed in the sudden change in this once loving relationship. What made it work was the top-notch performances from the leads, including the cat that we fell in love with.
As for cat lovers, maybe not for you, but if you do watch it, please do so with an open mind because it is not about the killing of a creature, but how a strong relationship sustains such an incident and how the human condition enables us to forgive no matter what.
Who is this Mike Bir-Bi-Glia? I've heard of him, but not really! I've seen him somewhere, but not sure where! So when this title came up on my Netflix channel as something that I may be interested in, I thought, "Heck, it's got God in the title, so it could be another fun night of religion bashing by some vaguely known comedian!"
Well, it was better than that. This Bir-Bi-Glia comedian is a gem to be treasured. His cheeky grin and wry sense of humour had me hooked from the word go. Most importantly, is the timing, how he spreads his stories around and they all interconnect in a beautiful subtle way. He doesn't rush, but strolls through his tales of life's ups and downs, but mostly his unfortunate events that he turns to comedy gold. Better still, he involves his audience and utilizes them perfectly into his act.
By the end, I knew this Mike Birbiglia. I knew where he has been, and I now know where he will be going (definitely not on a David O. Russell film set).
Big Little Lies (2017)
Very creative with a sinister wit and some intelligence...
I almost gave up on it after the lacklustre and uncreative beginning, but then the clever structure and intricate story-line kicked-in, followed by the interesting characters who are slowly taking form. Their purpose and meaning to the unfolding mystery is becoming evident and damn fascinating. All thanks to the performers who have already got this perfectly down-pat in the first episode, and that allows the story to take shape and meaning for the remainder of the series.
So far this series is more than about fighting mums and a "who-done-it". What is so prevalent in the first episode is the underlying themes of parenthood, marital relationships and school-mom politics. I'm sure the writers will have more juice to add as the series progresses.
For now, it's the mystery that has got me hooked. And to heighten my viewing pleasure, it is the development of the characters and the conflicts surrounding them, and also within, that makes me want to watch it that little bit longer, hopefully right to the very end of the series that is slowly peeling away the hypocrisy and the nastiness of an affluent suburb/town!