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Favourite movies at 12 years old: 'Alien' and 'Planet of the Apes'. They still are (at least in memory as I havent seen them since).
Ta'm e guilass (1997)
The metaphysicality of fruits
Mr. Badii is ready to die, his grave is dug out and he just takes one last trip around with his car. The people he meets gives him some perspectives on the value of life, or lack thereof.
Abbas Kiarostami is a master, and this is the best movie I have seen from him so far. It is poetic and harsh at the same time, which is a fine balance.
Truly this must be one of the best movies from the nineties, I will not attempt at a ranking, but inventive cinema like this has few competitors.
Ershani does a very fine role with his Mr. Badii indeed.
Nema-ye Nazdik (1990)
Inventive cinema from Iran
This is something of a mixed movie, it's a fictionalized documentary or maybe the other way around? I don't grasp how this movie came into being, but for sure it's a beautiful moment in movie history. A guy is impersonating famous Iranian movie director Mohsen Makmalbaf when given a chance to do so on a bus-ride. He plays the game too far though and ends up in court suspected for fraud. This is based on a real story and Abbas Kiarostami got unto this quite early on.
The strength here is the way you get to sympathize with the impersonator given his background, lack of future prospects and general innocence. Besides his crime is very minor.
Style over story
I love Masaki Kobayashi's movie Harakiri, I really do. What that movie has that this one doesn't I'm not sure. But what this has an abundance of is over stylization.
The backdrops here are painted in a grand style, the actors have a lot of makeup and act super-theatrically. Not that I don't enjoy theater, it's just that this is over the top.
And somehow this detracts from setting a mood for me. I did not feel scared once, nor felt drawn into the storyline. And it's not even very aesthetically minded however subjective that may be.
Lafcadio Hearn was important in bringing Japanese culture to Europe, now however there are better options.
The Way Back (2010)
The loooong way back
Some convicts escape from a gulag in the middle of Sibiria. One of the jail guards said that the Siberian was the real prison, so this tale is how to get out of that prison.
Essentially this has a very weak story, it is about the hardships they encounter on the way and a few of them fall off, but so what? First they walk to Bajkal, then China, then Tibet, then India, then done.
One reason to stay clear of Hollywood for me is that it's bound to have the standard story to appeal to all audiences and in the process not managing to tell anything, but instead pervert the whole experience. This has: evil vs good, romance between main characters, the wise, the weak that fall ... Bah.
Peter Weir, you used to be so good!
Noruwei no mori (2010)
This is as good as I hoped
Norwegian Wood is a wonderful adaptation of the novel of the same novel by Murakami Haruki. Whereas I stopped reading the novel because of it's non-stopping namedropping of British/American pop-culture and bad metaphors, I picked up many of Murakami's other books and have a very ambivalent relationship to them. There's something addictive about his stories that I can't deny.
For this movie version I didn't have much doubts though and I am so happy it doesn't fall into the obvious traps that put me off the novel initially. Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame creates a wonderful minimalist score without the obvious 60's American hits that you'd expect. And whatever descriptions the book had is in great hands, as always, with cinematographer Ping Bin Lee.
The story is one about tragic love and a powerful one at that. I will pick up the book again and finish it. For whatever it's flaws it has strong content.
Decay and perversion
Tokyo Decadence follows a prostitute on her way through the six gates of perversion forced upon her as her work demands. One of the imperatives of the trade is to never leave the client, something which makes her stay put in some pretty strange situations.
Miho Nikaido does a good job in her role and shows a great range from subservient prostitute to desperate woman in search for love.
The funniest part is when excellent whiskey-folk-punk musician Kan Mikami plays the bourgeois necrophiliac in search for a classic rape case where a girl got murdered.
This is most likely Murakami Ryu's best work and is a excellent commentary to Japanese bubble-economy moral decay.
The allure of die dritte Reich
This is a brilliant movies about how kids were given a chance for great fortune in the future German empire, happily without the morality a Hollywood movie would portray the same material with. This is a movie that asks the viewer to think for himself instead of being predisposed. However much this is filmed in a style akin to that of Leni Riefenstahl, master director of nazi-propaganda films, it is a critical movie. And it also shows how people could sympathize for the cause, however brutal it was seen with historical hindsight.
The actors of Albrecht and the boxer both do a good job here and the strength of the movie lies in what is cuts out, it's a sparse tale with just the bare necessities left, at least in what we're used to with western cinema.
Bimujang jidae (1965)
Cooking on a landmine, delineate the borders of your own country by weeing in a circle; this is a naive tale of the Korean tragedy
'Demilitarized Zone' is not unlike the Japanese 'Grave of the Fireflies,' but instead of being based in a post-nuclear bomb attack in Hiroshima it is based in the split Koreas. The chemistry between the two are similar and in both movies they try to survive by their own means.
In it the older brother takes care of his sister in the wasteland between Republic of Korea and Democratic Republic of Korea.
With child actors and a simple story it doesn't offer much to modern audiences that doesn't have a strong relation to the division of the countries themselves. But if you love children and/or are sentimental you might enjoy this.
For others it might be too naive, might have too much crying or simply be irrelevant.
Joshû 701-gô: Sasori (1972)
Cruel and sadistic
This first installment in the Sasori (scorpion) series featuring Kaji Meiko and is much more of a exploitation movie than the follow up. That means girls running around naked in punishment for whatever lack of discipline and getting raped by idiot prison guards.
Showing the making of Matsu the vengeful prisoner, we understand her motives quite well and it turns out to be a dense action movie.
In the end though this is more or less a display of sadistic torture in both a campy way and a more artistic way. As such it is not quite my cup of tea.
Kaji Meiko is not as developed as an actress as in her later movies here, but still puts up a good show, and a brilliant antihero although inferior to the more psychedelic Jailhouse #41 follow up.
Lesbians in the mountains
This is overambitious. It tries to problematize surrogate motherhood and the feelings this gives towards the respective parents and lesbian parenthood in itself. You see one of the characters read Bergmans 'Fanny och Alexander' at one point, but that is a huge contrast to this movie's drama. It needs a bit psychological depth than the ones accusation of not doing this and that the right way and the other not understanding and looking away or getting emotional in return, at least to measure itself against a master like Bergman. Someone like Jon Fosse should have helped with the screenplay.
The actresses are not very good, both giving a one sided performance.
However using mountains as locations is underestimated, so kudos for bringing the equipment out into harsh weather to bring the beauty to the audience.