Category Archives: Romance

#238 – Moshi Moshi

(1951, Jap, 125 min, b/w) Dir Haruko Miyaguchi. Cast Setsuko Hara, Kuniko Miyake, Rentarō Mikuni.

Setsuko Hara, lovely as always, is Michiyo, a switchboard operator for a company in Tokyo. One day she receives a call from one of the new young executives, Ken Okamoto (Mikuni), and after a brief conversation she falls in love with him, sight unseen. Before long however her heart is broken when she finds herself juggling calls from both his wife and his mistress. Turning the situation to her advantage she elects to blackmail him with her knowledge so that he will take her out on a date. Once she has laid eyes on him she realises how foolish she had been and promptly leaves. Unfortunately for her the brief meeting was all it took for young Ken to fall head over heels in love with her and before she knows it she is fending off his advances from one side and defending herself against his aggrieved mistress on the other. A typical black comedy from Miyaguchi, often called the ‘Japanese Billy Wilder’, though Moshi Moshi was in fact a rare flop for him upon it’s release, some say due to the fact that the normally pure hearted Hara was cast so far against type.

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#232 – Sometime Stewart, Maybe

(1992, US, 98 min) Dir Jackson Harvey. Cast Phillip Milk, Angela Patrick, Leslie Sophie.

The US indie world pre-Tarantino was the land where deadpan reigned – think Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, Whit Stillman. But none panned deader than Jackson Harvey – his characters were rendered so inert by their ennui that they could have woken in bed next to an expired alpaca without troubling their eyebrows for a raise. The titular Stewart in this his feature debut (following his acclaimed short Whoopee) has just graduated from University and has moved back home to live with his parents toting nothing but a black bin bag full of soiled clothes and an already framed degree in ‘Applied Philosophy’. When he’s not sleepless in bed, staring disconsolately at his bedroom ceiling (an activity he pursues a lot), he’s down at the local drugstore mooning over Olivia (a statuesque, striking and scary Patrick) and hoping that his persistence will transmute into her affections. Despite possessing what he believes to be a soaring intelligence he’s not above having his adoration abused as he becomes, over time, Olivia’s unquestioning slave. Of course there is a second woman, the timid and mousey Frances (Sophie), who watches all this sadly, her declarations varying from subtle to hilariously obvious throughout the film but consistently met with obliviousness by Stewart. Rough around the edges and generic enough in it’s day, …Maybe still marked Harvey out as a director to watch.

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#219 – Moon and the Moth, The

(1961, Egy, 78 min) Dir Ezzel El-Hamed. Cast Omar Sharif, Soad Hosny.

A bizarrely fantastical film from El-Hamed, best known for his street level social realist dramas, starring the soon to be world-famous Sharif and the “Cinderella of Egyptian cinema” Hosny. Based on the scraps of poetry remaining of the “Desert Poet” known rather mysteriously as only Ibn or “son of”. Sharif plays an unnamed nomad who, one night in an unfamiliar country, spies a similarly unnamed princess in the high tower of her father’s palace and falls instantly in love. But, as is the way with such things, her father isn’t big on their union and summons a man of magic to transform his daughter into something else rather than have her endure a relationship with a commoner. This man of magic, for reasons best known to himself, decides that a moth would be a good idea and thus she is confined to an exquisite glass cage in that form. Of course it breaks and she escapes and Sharif is accordingly doomed to spend the rest of his life searching as far and as wide as he can to try to find the one moth that he loves. It looks as though his life’s search will be in vain when, as an old man, he collapses at the foot of an impassable dune, his eyes closing in the face of an oncoming storm. When he opens them again however he finds himself on the moon – his beloved princess has travelled there in the night, to the brightest object in the sky, where she transforms back for him and the two of them kiss, as young again as they were when they met. A beautiful tale well told and the fact that it plays out in near silence is a definite boon considering the expressiveness of the leads.

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#198 – Plastic Song (Peullaseutig Song)

(2008, SKor, 131 min) Dir Kim Chang-wan. Cast Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Roi-ha.

South Korea, the near future. Lonely office worker Joon, disheartened by a life of unrequited heartbreak, orders himself something from the cutting edge of technological advance – a seemingly sentient plastic sex doll that is called a Song. Once released from her coffin-sized packaging she is initially all that he could have hoped for – pretty, meek and sexually insatiable – but after a while he finds himself overcome with conflicting emotions towards her, the chief one being love though complicated by guilt. As you might expect from South Korean cinema Plastic Song juggles genres, morphing from the lighthearted comedy of the opening to a dramatic second act before going out in the world with Joon as he advocates politically for the recognition of the Songs. Not only that but it then becomes an action film as he in co-opted by pro-Song revolutionaries and then it finally ends with a blend of sci-fi dystopia and romance as Joon finds peace and mutual love with an upgraded Song in a shack in the hills of a depopulated post-apocalypse Korea where she lives on forever after Joon grows old and dies. If you can withstand the genre whiplash there’s much to enjoy in this buffet of a film with Kim Ok-bin managing to imbue her Song with an array of emotion despite being limited to a mere half-dozen expression settings.

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#139 – Monsieur B dans l’Univers (Mister B In Space)

(1963, Fr, 98 min) Dir Albert. Cast Albert, Mimi X, Oscar de la Vana.

A grayed up Albert is stuffy aged bachelor Monsieur B, the company man is chosen to travel to the distant planet of French Andromeda where he will act as accountant for the colony there. His  faster than light journey out is a wonderfully sustained piece of physical humour in faux zero gravity – like the Blue Danube sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey remade by Jacques Tati. French Andromeda too is a fantastic visual creation – the best that early Sixties film money could buy, all purple rocky landscapes and blue plants. When he’s out there he makes contact with one of the green-haired alien locals (as played by his real life wife Mimi X) and falls in love. Of course it all goes downhill from there with the colonists set against the natives. Albert found himself in the middle of a political storm at the time with both left and right agreed that his film was an allegory for the colonial enterprises of French Indochina and North Africa but neither side agreed on whether the film was pro or con. Albert, for his part, simply shrugged and claimed no responsibility for their interpretations. thankfully, now that more than fifty years have passed we can appreciate this sweet, sad film for its beautiful colour photography, balletic slapstick and romance.

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#121 – Love in the Shadows

(1920, US, 72 min, b/w) Dir Pit Piabro. Cast Francis de Pascal, Olivia Bead.

It can be hard looking back to fathom the appeal of what was popular in the past. The short-lived ‘Bowler Cat’ fad of the 1890’s, for example, where ladies of good breeding would keep a live kitten in their bonnets, seems from this remove unnecessarily cruel to the kittens (which so frequently fell from their mistresses’ headgear) and without sufficient reward for difficulty involved. Cinema is no different either, with the big hitters of yesteryear enjoying their moment in the sun before the public tires of them and we’re left looking back over the years wondering what people were thinking at the time. Burt Reynolds, perhaps, or Ryan O’Neal. All of this is a roundabout way of bringing your attention to Francis de Pascal and Love in the Shadows, his first English language film which was shot when he was a mere week off the boat from France. It’s the usual forgettable, melodramatic stuff but it catapulted de Pascal to a position just below Valentino in the viewers hearts for the next handful of years. Unlike Valentino though his name would nowadays be recognised by none but a few diehard film aficionados (of which I count myself one). But does his popularity now baffle, almost a century later? Is he the ‘Bowler Cat’ craze of 1920’s cinema? I’m relieved to say no – he was a fine actor and a magnetic presence on the screen but the one thing he was missing  at this point in his career was the right vehicle. Enter Hans Bismark…

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#92 – Wayne the First

(1988, Aust, 104 min) Dir Ben Tenzen. Cast Susan Alison, Alan Mann, Jenny Bitz, Doris Cholcos.

Australian comedy inspired by the number of areas that declared independence in Australia through the seventies and eighties. Susan Alison is a city living girl who is unlucky in love with a low paying job when she sees an advertisement in the paper from someone called Wayne the First who claims to be the King of Free Creek. Though she’s never heard of the place she decides to check it out, following the directions on the ad on the appointed day and finds herself on a farmstead in the middle of nowhere with the three other women all there to apply for the job of Queen. Much to their delight Wayne isn’t some backward slob, he’s a handsome, if socially inept, guy played by Alan Mann and soon enough there are four tents in his yard… Of course word gets out and before long the news crews are there and then the busloads of other hopefuls arrive too. A quirky romantic comedy which manages to transcend the potential iffiness of the premise by sheer force of its likability and appealing performances it’s mostly unknown cast.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms