Tag Archives: Drama

#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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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#158 – Jellyfish

(2007, Can, 105 min) Dir Ben Roy. Cast Anton Yelchin, Mark Rendall, Susan Sarandon.

True life inspired tale. Todd Waugh wants to get out of his family’s house while his parents argue their way through their divorce so he replies to an ad for a maths tutor. When he turns up at the house he finds that the local boy confined to his upstairs bedroom is Eric Battersby, who made worldwide news when he was born due to his inability to form bones and thus a skeleton. “He should have died when he was a baby,” Eric’s mother tells Todd, “But he just kept living.” Initially Todd is freaked out but when he tells his parents about not wanting to go back they manage to agree on something for the first time in years – that Todd should go back and help him. So he does and over time he becomes friends with the kid who calls himself ‘The Jellyfish’, inspired to help him make the most of his life rather than being stuck in his bedroom learning maths… Probably the most positive aspect of the film is the irreverent characterisation of Eric who is no saint alternating between his enjoyment of gross out humour and tantrums of petty peevishness, all guided by a fine performance from Yelchin.

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#150 – Umber Erneut (Umber Once More)

(2010, Ger, 101 min) Dir Heinz Fäberhöck. Cast Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Nina Hoss.

1918. Gerhard Franz Holstein returns home from the front. He left his home a budding economics student and has returned the shell of a man. He sits in the attic of his family’s home day after day now, working on his grand project: he is working on the history of Umber, a country he invented to keep him sane during his time in the trenches. Now , far from saving his mind, it is taking it over instead. Decades pass outside his window and inside Umber takes on ever more a layered history with a national anthem he plays each morning on the trumpet, a flag that hangs on his bedroom wall and paintings and drawings in his own naïve style that illustrate every corner of the world that he has invented where brotherly love fills every corner and peace reigns eternal. Outside the Nazis rise to power and it seems his days of peace are numbered – war returns to Germany and contact with the outside world grows ever more inevitable. Of course there are no happy endings here. Based on the true story of the outside artist whose works now grace the wall of prestigious galleries the world over, Umber Erneut treads carefully on the line between worthiness, whimsy and the sober realities of Germany at the time and mostly gets it right, ably abetted by a strong cast doing what they can to help.

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#120 – Cuisine du Diable, La (Devil’s Kitchen, The)

(1918, Fr, 68 min, b/w) Dir B.F. Lebo. Cast Monica Lozange, Frederico de Pascal, Andreas Levant.

A pretty standard potboiler set in the fictional Parisian district of the title and about the people who call it home, The Devil’s Kitchen would be of little interest today as a film were it not for its historical import as the first feature of future star Frederico Francis St. Stephen de Pascal Paolo, AKA Francis de Pascal, who was popularly known in his heyday as the French Firebomb. He’s got a mid-level role in this as the dashing cad who lures Monica Lozange to the titular disreputable arrondissement where her innocence can be abused by its shady residents. Her beau, played by Andreas Levant in his usual white knight role, soon springs to her rescue and comeuppance is duly dealt out. The Devil’s Kitchen was a modest hit at the time but it got de Pascal noticed and it took only two further features before his name was changed and the film industry of France had become too small for him – Hollywood beckoned with his breakout role in the 1920 epic Love in the Shadows.

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#119 – Ich Bin Ein Bastard

(1985, US, 120 min) Dir Rachael Gaudi. Cast Kyle MacLachlan, Sissy Spacek, John Goodman.

Hot off I Love Japanese Punks Rachael Gaudi threw herself immediately into Ich Bin Ein Bastard after she read Michael Tool’s script on the flight home from Tokyo. “I knew I had to make it,” she said years later, “I had to because I loved it and it spoke to me, I think, about not knowing who I was but also because they hadn’t released Japanese Punks yet and I didn’t know if I was going to get the chance to direct anything even again! I didn’t know how right I would be!” Kyle MacLachlan is John F Lewis, hitching his way across the United States to Virginia in the middle of winter when he’s picked up by the Illinois roadside by Sissy Spacek’s fleeing housewife Pam. He tells Pam that he’s just found out from his dying mother that he’s the product of a one night stand with then president John F Kennedy and is travelling to Arlington Cemetery to see his supposed father’s grave. Mostly a two-hander between the two actors (with a mid-film interruption by John Goodman’s hectoring but big-hearted tyre salesman) it’s sensitively handled despite the shock-effect title and beautifully shot by Sandy Pattern.

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#115 – Falling Blossom

(1981, Fr, 101 min) Dir Catherine Dominique. Cast Allegra Biscotti, Serge de Foy, Jean Fillet.

The peak of the latter half of Dominique’s career and the last film she would make until 1990’s Love is the Death, Falling Blossom would also, if you removed all of the sex (which, sensitively handled and beautifully shot though it might be, is still pretty filthy), be a perfectly heartbreaking coming of age story. Allegra Biscotti, here in her first film role, confirms Dominique’s unerring eye for a beautiful lead actress as the titular Blossom, growing up in her family’s country house in the French countryside of the 1930’s. She becomes besotted with a local artist called Phillipe (de Foy, of Claude Claude fame) and through a campaign of borderline stalking manages to snare him, the two of them falling into passionate love over the course of this one hot, sweaty summer. Alas once summer is done Blossom must return to the city and Phillipe, staying behind, gives in to the ghosts of the old war he fought not so long ago while simultaneously fighting the premonitions of a new one looming on the horizon. Everything came together for Dominique here, perhaps now that the greater excesses of her work have been purged. Not that she would agree: “This is me,” she has said, “And so is that. There is no difference.”

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#112 – Happy New Year, Detrasta Melovian

(1973, GB, 86 min) Dir Adrian Fisher. Cast Eddie Mitchell, Sandra Gladstone, Tony Cousins.

The tale of young Alan Henry, who passes his time over the Christmas holidays in his boring seaside hometown of Yorrip by inventing saints, complete with illustrations of them being martyred. New Year’s Day he decides is the holy day of Saint Detrasta Melovian who was killed for not renouncing her faith in 1386 by having the top of her head sawn off in Bulgaria. Soon enough he finds himself accompanied by the forcibly trepanned imaginary saint on his walks along the beach where he goes to escape his quarrelling parents. This was Fisher’s first feature film after a tumultuous time with the BBC and the freedom of the big screen is palpable. It’s final image, of Alan back at school looking out of his classroom window at his Detrasta Melovian flying in slow circles over the building with Hovum’s Felestra swelling on the soundtrack, is surely one of the most ecstatic religious images produced in all of British cinema. A gentle and quietly confident debut from a director who would go on to prove himself an understated and underappreciated talent.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms