Review Archive: May 2007

Charlotte's Web

A piglet is saved by the wonderful webs spun by Charlotte in this children's fantasy...

The Andrei Tarkovsky Companion

Noel Megahey reviews Artificial Eye’s 2-disc collection of three documentaries on Andrei Tarkovsky by Alexander Sokurov, Chris Marker, Tonino Guerra and Tarkovsky himself.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Mike Sutton takes a look at the disappointing R2 release of an excellent documentary.

Climates

Artificial Eye release the latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, an intense drama that stars the director himself and his wife as a couple who come to the realisation that their relationship is over. Noel Megahey reviews.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Early Works

Noel Megahey reviews Artificial Eye’s collection of two early films by the Turkish director of Uzak and Climates – Kasaba and Clouds of May, two quite beautiful and poetic films on family and small town life.

Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier

Gary Couzens has reviewed the Region 1 release of Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam war epic is reissued in a two-disc edition which includes both the original and Redux cut of the film plus an extensive set of extras.

Female Yakuza Tale

The sequel to Sex and Fury comes from the mad and sometimes bad Teruo Ishii. John looks at the forthcoming Fabulous Films DVD release

Hanzo the Razor Trilogy

Produced between 1972 and 1974 By Shinatro Katsu, star of the legendary Zatoichi series, The Hanzo the Razor trilogy also stars Katsu in the role of a disgruntled cop: a man on a mission to protect the good citizens of Edo, who are being trampled on by a corrupt government. It also has lots of blood and boobs. Available to own from June 25th care of Eureka Video.

Never Give Up

Ken Takakura stars in this lengthy tale of an ex-Special Forces member who vowes to protect a young amnesic girl who lost her father one year ago in a jungly massacre.

Straight Time

Continuing his look at Warner's Region 1 "Director's Showcase: Take Two", Gary Couzens reviews Straight Time, a 1978 drama in which ex-con Dustin Hoffman tries to go straight but circumstances conspire against him.

Afro Samurai: Director's Cut

Kev takes a look at the latest animated epic from Japanese studio GONZO, starring Samuel L. Jackson as the main man, man. Samurai, sex and violence lead the way in this tale of revenge, set to the backdrop of a hip-hoppin' Japan.

Vengeance is Mine (Criterion)

Criterion's release of Shohei Imamura's Vengeance is Mine has an excellent transfer but is it at the right ratio? John appreciates a great film from the late master.

Sex and Fury

Fabulous DVD bring Norifumi Suzuki's classic tale of revenge and naked swordplay to the UK. John has a look and compares it with the R1 release.

Diary Of A Lost Girl

Masters of Cinema release the second remarkable teaming of G.W. Pabst and Louise Brooks following their success on Pandora’s Box – a silent melodrama given incredible force by one of the most remarkable actresses ever to appear on the screen. Noel Megahey reviews.

Pasolini Volume 2

Tartan’s second collection contains three Pier Paolo Pasolini films from the late sixties - Hawks And Sparrows (1966), Oedipus Rex (1967) and Pigsty. Noel Megahey reviews.

The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky leaves the drug nightmares of the suburbs for a story about the dream of eternal life...

The Third Part of the Night

Andrzej Zulawski's debut feature is supposedly a reclaiming of the Nazi occupation of Poland from Communist myths. John White waxes lyrical about the self proclaimed "difficult character"

Comedy of Power

The Film Depending on your point of view, Comedy of Power starts with either a fib or a joke when the clearly reality based plot is prefaced with the usual disclaimer about being a work of fiction. The film is clearly taken from the headlines in French public life where a tenacious investigating judge hunted down corporate wrongdoing in the Elf scandal. In fact, the judge involved has even seen fit to comment on Chabrol's film and denounced it as giving succour to those involved in bribes and conspiracies. Chabrol has on a number of previous occasions sailed close to the wind in his films when adapting from real-life sources, and he has received criticism and censorship because of it. 1973's Les Noces Rouges was held up from distribution because of it's resemblance to a political scandal, but this has not put off Chabrol from using stories from the headlines in his films. Despite it's disclaimer, Chabrol's latest is clearly an attempt to capture the public mood and interest, but, contrary as ever, he chooses to make this a tale of laughable villains and unsympathetic heroes. The film stars Isabelle Huppert as the single minded investigating judge nicknamed the "piranha". From an initial lead from an interested friend she hunts down corporate executives who have taken bribes, laundered money, and abused public grants. At first her fat, middle class, and white prey are contemptuous and rely on expensive lawyers to protect them but the removal of their liberty and the loss of their status soon causes them to break down and justify the normality of their behaviour. As she remorselessly closes in, they even try to frighten and kill her but not even the likely breakdown of her marriage will stop her. Political tricks and personal disaster eventually take their toll, and Huppert's judge realises that her pursuit can only bring unhappiness for those around her. This story has been decried as a cynical one, one whose ending justifies doing nothing and simply enjoys the absurdity of it all, but to me this seems to miss the point somewhat and to ignore Chabrol's constant trick of turning the film back on the viewer. Much as he did in La Ceremonie, the intention here is to play with the audience's need for identification within the film and to contrast ideas about class and power. In that film Huppert played a woman rejected by the affluent who the viewer almost found themselves applauding for murdering a bourgeois family - Chabrol has ironically referred to the film as his most Marxist - and here a butcher's daughter who has made good through single mindedness and hard work hunts down people who have made their fortunes because of their loose morals and connections. The desire to identify with Huppert as a moral crusader becomes impossible as her desire for retribution is rather excessive and speaks of her own character's class experience, and secondly because her character has let her professional life take over any private one she had. When questioned about a suicide attempt caused by her obscene dedication, she is asked why the person jumped from a window rather than use a gun and in response she realises that the action was one of someone driven to a dangerous gesture rather than someone wanting to die. Her character is forced to accept the personal again. Some have taken this as a note of resignation, as a sign that any rebellion against the system is doomed to fail and this would be the case if we were supposed to admire Huppert, but I think we are not. What her resignation should amount to is how incredibly rooted corruption is in the system that her character, her prey and the audience all live in. Through two chief devices Chabrol points out that the corruption Huppert investigates is not so unusual. Firstly the characterisation of Huppert's monomanic obsessive and the complimentary characterisation of the stupid, greedy and downright pathetic men she catches. When they explain why they have, in effect, stolen money through bribes, the corporate criminals point out ordinary their actions were and how they found it easy to justify their actions as tradition or reward, and just so we get the point that they are not master criminals we see them broken, friendless and ashamed after their downfalls. The second device is the role played by Thomas Chabrol, Felix, probably his largest yet in his father's films. His character is a throwback to the high living archetypes of Chabrol's early films, men who live life freely and accept the world's foibles - he flirts, he drinks and he parties, but he does not condemn. It is through the agent of Felix that the dour judge learns to find a real life again and recognise the capacity for corruption in us all. Chabrol jr twinkles through this film and is a delight much as his turn was as the cheery pathologist in the Color of Lies, here though he is crucial to the film's journey. The lack of a real villain in his films is one of the fascinations of Chabrol for me and the way this causes the camera to turn back on the audience. When watching the film you may delight in the judge's cleverness, or laugh at her plaintiff's self justifications, but it is never clear whose side you should be on or indeed whether there is a strong moral case made against corruption. Chabrol leaves a certain space for the viewer to reflect on how they feel about understanding these criminals so well and liking the righteous judge so little. That in my view is the work of a master. Being objective, I must say that despite a lot of good writing, wit and great performances, this is not a great film. It is a little too long and has lost some of the biographical backstory of the judge which would have given the class angle more of a bite. For people unaware of Chabrol or not particularly on his wavelength, this would leave you a little cold and perhaps in sympathy with the real-life judge in wanting there to be a real hero and real villains. For those people I'd advise seeking out some earlier more accessible films like Cry of the Owl, before returning to the present day. For Chabrol enthusiasts like myself this will do nicely. The Disc

Prince of the City

Gary Couzens has reviewed the Region 1 release of Prince of the City, Sidney Lumet's 1981 epic of police corruption, released tomorrow as part of Warners' Director's Showcase: Take Two.

No Blood, No Tears

Kev revisits Ryoo Seung-wan's (Crying Fist, City of Violence) first mainstream effort, following on from the huge success of Die Bad. No Blood, No Tears is available to own on R2 DVD from May 21st.

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Whose Life Is It Anyway? stars Richard Dreyfuss as a quadraplegic man determined to be allowed to die, in this frequently funny and moving drama from 1981. This Region 1 DVD is part of Warner's Director's Showcase: Take Two, to be released on Monday 22 May. Reviewed by Gary Couzens.

Flags of Our Fathers

Richard Booth belatedly reviews the Region 1 single-disc edition of Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers. Daring in scope and disappointing in execution, it still makes for interesting viewing.

Pistol Opera

Yume Pictures presents Seijun Suzuki's delightfully colourful follow up to his 1967 cult classic Branded to Kill. Kev reviews it.

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

The final of Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi films makes it's way to DVD in the uk courtesy of Arrow. John White watches the flashing blade and lives to tell the tale.

The Last King of Scotland

In 1970s Uganda, a Scottish doctor falls under the spell of the country's dictator Idi Amin, in The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor Oscar as Amin, and James McAvoy and Gillian Anderson co-star. Gary Couzens reviews the Region 2 DVD from Fox.

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