After counting down their Top 20 TV Series of 2015 …
Following the brilliant A Touch of Sin, auteur and Chinese master Jia Zhangke returns with a similarly structured, yet more narratively linked, portrait of China in the new millennium. Mountains May Depart is two-thirds of a gripping relationship drama that captures not only a China in constant flux, but also the universality of human experience.
To describe Bone Tomahawk as a “horror-Western” is good shorthand, but could be a little misleading. The film indeed has horror elements but novelist turned screenwriter/director S. Craig Zahler seems more interested in spending time with his four main protagonists as they travel across country, letting their different personalities and world views, and the harshness of the terrain, challenge them on their journey
Assassination is pure entertainment. Director Choi Dong-hoon pulls together an astonishing group of talent both in front and behind the camera to portray a story close to South Korea’s heart with humour, pathos, gorgeous cinematography and a series of impressively bombastic action scenes to create one of the most exciting adventure films in recent years.
Anyone growing into pop culture consciousness during the mid-2000s will be familiar with a certain type of Tom Cruise, one labeled with some criticism in a recent Buzzfeed article as “Tom Cruise 2.0.” To them, Tom Cruise may have first become familiar as Ethan Hunt in the first Mission: Impossible movie, as an action star who, in spite of fearful insurance agents and publicists, prefers to do his own stunts—especially if they include declaring maniacal love for Katie Holmes atop Oprah Winfrey’s couch. He was probably their first introduction to the alien world of Scientology, or perhaps already known as the face of another hero thrust into the supernatural, having once served as the model for the titular character in Disney’s Aladdin.
A feeling of gloom pervades every frame of Bridgend, the Danish teen drama which makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia. Even as the kids drink and dance in ecstasy (in a scene which wouldn’t be out of place in Skins, the British soap where star Hannah Murray got her break) or skinny dip in large groups, there’s an undeniable sense of melancholy in their maniacal celebrations. Given the sadness evident in otherwise ebullient scenes such as these, the ominous shots of the countryside shrouded in darkness or mournful messages on a computer screen make life in the film’s titular Welsh town seem unbearably grim.
The Marquis de Sade wrote, “There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image”. Georges Bataille latched onto this idea, arguing that without death there is no desire. Factors of procreation and beauty play a role in sex, but true desire is rooted in our mortality: we want to fuck because we know we will die. The link between death and desire is at the heart of the Blaine brothers’ debut feature, Nina Forever.
Alright-ness continues at this year’s festival with the Un Certain Regard opening film An (“Sweet Red Bean Paste”) by Cannes regular Naomi Kawase. The film stars Masatoshi Nagase as Sen, a middle-aged dorayaki pastry maker with alcohol issues and Kirin Kiki as Tokue, an elderly woman eager to work as Sen’s assistant in the pastry shop. The youthful touch is provided by Kyara Uchida as a shy schoolgirl having a hard time getting along with her single mother. Reluctant at first, Sen ends up admiring Tokue’s unique bean paste making talent and employs her to the displeasure of the pastry shop’s owner. Gradually, the three generations forge an intimate friendship as their respective traumas are revealed.
After a kick-off day with some alright films, variously peddling frivolous contrivance or social awareness rehash, Saul Fia (Son of Saul), the third film in the official competition, finally delivers an overdose of the goosebumps absent so far. An all-too-real horror film for grown-up audiences by first-time director Laszlo Nemes, Saul Fia should at least scoop the Caméra d’Or award for first film and a best actor prize for newcomer Géza Röhrig’s performance.
Perhaps it’s an unfortunate coincidence for the festival opener, French social drama La Tête Haute, that it follows but a year after the adulation apparently garnered by Xavier Dolan’s Mommy at last year’s festival – while the flamboyant Quebec drama received 10 minutes’ standing ovation, this year’s press screening of the more down-to-earth underprivileged mother-son duo from Dunkerque was met by a total of two claps and a single boo…