Wednesday 5 July 2023

Bifan: On trial

There's something odd about being on a film festival jury, especially when you are handing out cash prizes (the winner here gets 20 million Korean won!). Who are we to make this kind of judgement? Well, this particular jury is made up of iconic Japanese filmmaker Kazuya Konaka (Ultraman), top Korean actress Kim Sunyoung (Dream Palace), rising-star Korean filmmaker Lee Wonsuk (Killing Romance), Canadian writer/producer Kier-La Janisse and me, chair of the London Film Critics' Circle. We are giving out three awards at Friday's ceremony, considering the 10 international films in the Bucheon Choice section. Meanwhile, I've been able to get out and explore a bit - more about that on Instagram. And here are some more films, starting with one I saw last year...

The Sparring Partner
dir Ho Cheuk-Tin; with Alan Yeung, Mak Pui-Tung 22/China ***.
A sensational real-life 2013 double murder case is brought to the screen with edgy style. Using spiralling flashbacks, director Ho Cheuk-Tin assembles the story in small pieces, with a bracing focus on the characters. This gets into the minds of the killers before the crime and then follows them through the trial. Along the way, sparky relatives, lawyers and jury members also engage as they take their own journeys. The level of detail is riveting, even if the film feels both rushed and overlong... FULL REVIEW >

The Artifice Girl
dir-scr Franklin Ritch; with Tatum Matthews, Sinda Nichols 23/US ***.
Grappling with enormous ideas, this drama explores the nature of humanity through a story about a digitally created young girl who takes on a life of her own. The film is sharply written and directed by actor Franklin Ritch, even if it essentially consists of three very talky conversations. This leaves the film feeling a bit static, and also limits the development of the characters. But as a piece of pointed theatre, it's riveting.

You'll Never Find Me
dir Josiah Allen, Indianna Bell; with Brendan Rock, Jordan Cowan 23/Australia **
Focussed and claustrophobic, this Australian horror has plenty of atmosphere and nastiness, although it's never remotely scary. Filmmakers Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell create creepy imagery and highly charged situations, but their approach is so indulgent that it feels both achingly slow and painfully arch. It also carries a darkly disturbing message about the, ahem, joys of silencing your conscience.

Whale Bones
dir-scr Takamasa Oe; with Motoki Ochiai, Ano 23/Japan ****
Insinuating and involving, this dark Japanese drama takes the audience on a journey through augmented reality with a young man who begins to lose track of himself and the situation he's stumbled into. Writer-director Takamasa Oe dives down this rabbit hole with a moody, introspective sensibility that's haunting. So even if the film is elusive and slow, it's a reminder that even virtual experiences have real impact.

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C R I T I C A L   W E E K

Before leaving London, I wrote all the reviews for films released while I'm away, and they're all posted on the site already. I've cut back a bit on the number of releases I'm covering, but I managed to see the big ticket movies Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Pixar's Elemental. Alas, I've missed a few things too, such as Insidious: The Red Door and the Wham documentary. And I've also missed the London press screening of Mission: Impossible 7, although that one opens the day I get back. 

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