Friday 7 July 2023

Bifan: Smile for the camera

With jury duty completed, I've had some time to explore beyond Bucheon, starting with taking a journey into central Seoul (about an hour by metro) on a very, very rainy Tuesday. Still, it was fun to walk around an area that's very different from Bucheon - both older and newer, with cool shops and restaurants packed in tiny, winding streets. Then the juries were taken on a day out for an archery experience that was a lot of fun - learning the history and tradition, training and then competing - followed by an amazing festival dinner. I also took the morning to head back over into Seoul and walk around the main palace, this time in blazing sunshine. And of course, I'm watching films as well. Here are two more I saw earlier, plus two more Japanese titles...

Smoking Causes Coughing [Fumer Fait Tousser]
dir-scr Quentin Dupieux; with Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste 22/France ***.
Leave it to demented genius Quentin Dupieux to offer a course correction for the superhero genre, producing this wry comedy in the style of a cheesy 1970s TV series, starting with some riotously exaggerated violence. Consistently amusing scenes are underlined with silly details, clunky tech and a surprisingly heartfelt emotion. In the end, it feels a bit slight and corny, but its considerable charm is difficult to shake... FULL REVIEW >

Evil Dead Rise
dir-scr Lee Cronin; with Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan 23/US ***
As the horror franchise returns, writer-director Lee Cronin sidesteps plot and characters to focus on creating the grisliest movie imaginable. It's an approach that keeps the audience squirming at each mind-bogglingly awful thing that happens to a bunch of relatively normal people minding their own business. Genre fans will enjoy the yuckiness, but the connection to the other movies is tenuous, and there's not much else to it... FULL REVIEW >

Life of Mariko in Kabukicho
dir Shinzo Katayama, Eiji Uchida; with Sairi Ito, Yutaka Takenouchi 22/Japan ****
Freewheeling energy propels this lively Japanese movie through a series of outrageous scenarios, as a large ensemble of characters weave in and out of each others' lives. Action, comedy, romance, drama and sci-fi are stirred into the mix, creating a riotously entertaining vibe from start to finish, even when things turn violent or dark. Set out as a series of episodes in the life of a sparky young woman and the people in her Tokyo neighbourhood, the film endearingly gets under the skin.

dir Daishi Matsunaga; with Ryohei Suzuki, Hio Miyazawa 22/Japan ***.
An understated, slice-of-life approach both adds to the emotional depth of this Japanese drama and leaves it feeling somewhat familiar. Director-cowriter Daishi Matsunaga tells the story with sensitivity, taking on big events and some surprising events without even a hint of melodramatics. What remains is an engaging exploration of unexpected relationships, most notably how love can be expressed through selflessness. And the story reveals this in some very moving ways.

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