Quentin Tarantino has news to share on his new film – It’s going to be another Western!

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One of the most enduring topics around cinema is: what will be the next Tarantino picture?

Tarantino had previously hinted that Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained would be part of a ‘rewritten’ history trilogy. A third Kill Bill film and a Reservoir Dogs prequel were also in the mix. To be honest, when it comes to Tarantino, I think everything is in the mix!

However, Tarantino has announced that another Western is in the firing line, it will be very interesting to see how he ‘re-writes history’ for a second time with this genre. It will no doubt be another controversial affair – a civil war or political uprise perhaps? Though, that’s why I love the director so much, he makes his ‘kinda’ cinema, be it violent, irreverent and controversial.

“I can’t talk that much about it, but I will say one thing. I haven’t told anyone about this publicly, but I will say the genre. It’s a western,” Tarantino told Jay Leno on Tonight Show. “It’s not a Django sequel, but it’s another Western. I had so much fun doing Django and I love westerns so much, that after I taught myself how to make one, it’s like ‘OK, now let me make another one now that I know what I’m doing.'” (Guardian) This all makes sense, but Tarantino is great at trying new stuff – from gangster films, B-movies, martial arts flicks, revenge epics, war films, grind-house cinema and, of course, westerns. I’d love to see him do a psychological horror film or something, but I guess Tarantino dips in and out of most genres when making his films. So, whatever movie he is going to make, regardless of genre, we can expect a bit of the above (revenge, violence etc).

“When I make a film I am hoping to reinvent the genre a little bit. I just do it my way. I make my own little Quentin versions of them… I consider myself a student of cinema,” Tarantino explained at a South Korean film festival last month. “It’s almost like I am going for my professorship in cinema and the day I die is the day I graduate. It is a lifelong study.” He added that he couldn’t make a serial killer movie because it would “reveal my sickness far too much.”

How I would love to see that serial killer movie!

The above quote may all sound a bit depressing, but it is incredibly wise and relative to the field, filmmaking is indeed “a lifelong study” and nobody’s quite seen as many films as Tarantino – if he still has room for study, then we all certainly do!

Django Unchained was great, so, of course, I’m incredibly excited to hear more about Tarantino’s plans for his new Western. And, while we’re on the subject, what’s your favourite Tarantino movie, if you can bare narrowing it down? I confess my undying sweet spot for Pulp Fiction – unfortunately, I don’t think the man will ever herald that two and a half hours of pure awesomeness.

Watch Tarantino reveal the news about his new film with Jay Leno below:

The Limelight Index: San Charoenchai – Graphics Designer/Animator

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I recently spoke with San Charoenchai, a graphics designer and lead animator residing in Los Angeles. His clients have included Google, Flickr and Travel Channel – he even did the Man of Steel title sequence! So, he has created lots of cool stuff and most of it right inside of Adobe’s After Effects. Here, he gives some intriguing insight into his workflow as an animator and how he gets passionate about what he does.

When did you first get into graphics and animation?

From a young age I’ve always tried to create stuff. At first, I was into comic books and loved to draw. Both my parents were also artists, so they used to encourage me to create stuff. Art was the one thing I was good at in school. My drawings led to me getting interested in graphic design and then I really got into movies. It all stems from a love for characters and telling stories.

Is film a big influence on your work then?

It keeps changing. As a kid I was always into X-Men and the amazing comic work of Jim Lee and Chris Bachalo. As I got older, I got more into graphic design; people like David Carson and Saul Bass were big influences. I then got really into movies and my favourites are classics like Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick films. When you’re a kid and growing up, you find a lot of cool things out there, so I just wanted to absorb as much of it as possible.

What was the first piece of creative software you used?

When I was 12 or 13 I started using MS Paint, which was even before Windows 95. It was the worst program ever, but it allowed me to draw stuff and make little animated GIF files. I would also use PowerPoint to draw stuff. It was so sad.

Once I went to college, I got the chance to pick up all the Adobe products and other professional software.

What process did you go through in learning creative software?

I learned most once I’d actually started working. At work there’s always new things to figure out and deadlines to meet. I occasionally look up stuff online, but the best way is to find it out and explore things for yourself. I’m always curious about how to make different styles and effects. Whenever I see something cool I try to figure it out for myself.

Most of my work now is in After Effects, which came from learning Photoshop at school. After Effects is basically an animated Photoshop. I also picked up a lot of 3D software in school, but it wasn’t until I started working when I really became forced to create things quickly using 3D.

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You made your music video for Miss Kittin entirely inside of After Effects. How do manage such a vast workflow of material in one go?

I did a lot of tests. At the time I was trying to figure out a 2D animation look without drawing every single frame. I did multiple tests until one looked convincing enough and robust enough to use in an actual production. I then started creating the shots. It’s always important to play around with things a lot to find the best workflow. It helps prevent encountering too many problems down the road, as you get most of them out of the way with these little tests.

Do you not often need to use 3D software then?

It depends; you can get away with a lot in After Effects. I used a little bit of 3D in the Miss Kittin video, but the goal was to make it look hand drawn and sort of Anime, not 3D, so hopefully it wasn’t noticeable at all.

How long does it roughly take to complete a 2 minute animated piece?  

About a month would be comfortable, but usually things are never that luxurious. With the Kittin video, I was working on a number of projects at the same time; it probably took about 3 weeks. However, this is why I do a lot of tests, to make sure I don’t get stuck with problems later on that eat up all my time.

Do you switch between multiple projects then?

Sometimes, I do juggle a lot of projects at once. It can help with not getting bored over a singular project that you may be spending every hour of every day on. So, with a few projects, it can help refresh your mind and actually keep your work fresher. But, animation can always become overwhelming!

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Your short animated film, Frankie Rulez!!!, did well at festivals. Is narrative film something you’d like to do more of?

I’m currently working on a new short, and I’ve always been interested in short films. Eventually, I want to get into directing, that’s why I got into doing videos in the first place. The short film is a great way to show people you can tell a story, so I’m definitely interested in this.

Would you be interested in directing live-action as well as animation?

For me right now, computer animation is the one thing I’m good at, but I’m really interested in live-action. I think every director should be interested in both. I’ve been trying to find opportunities to combine animation with live-action so I can slowly get better at the live-action aspects. However, whatever medium you use really just depends on the story and mood you’re trying to get across.

Do you ever storyboard your films?

Most of the storyboards I do for stuff are really rough. The only time you put real effort into it is if you need to show it to a client or something. Most of the time, they will just be ‘chicken scratch’ storyboards. I’m not that interested in them really, as you can put so much work into it and not really gain that much from them in production.

Do you think there’s still a place for storyboarding?

A lot of storyboarding now is only for Saturday Morning cartoon stuff like Nickelodeon who will send their storyboards off to India or Korea for actual animation production. In film, pre-vis is more common, but it’s very expensive! I think storyboarding – however detailed it is – is always important because it helps get your idea out of your brain.

Have you worked at studios in the past?

Yeah, I used to work for UVPH, a post-production and design studio in New York. We did a lot of 2D and 3D animation. I was there for 6 years as a 3D Generalist/Compositor and then later an Art Director. However, I moved to LA when my wife got a job over here. I also worked one year as an Art Director at a studio called Will & Tale in LA. At the moment I’m just freelancing on a few different animation projects like music videos and documentaries, while trying to wrap my head around directing another short film.

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Do you have any advice for the best way to handle clients?

It’s really important to have good communication and make sure that you’re on the same page with expectations. However, you also don’t want to say too much as this might ruin some of the magic you are making. You don’t want to give them too many options either as it may become overwhelming for them. You have to trust your own personal taste sometimes.

Do you have any advice for someone starting out in the graphics industry?

I can’t talk too much about freelancing because when I started out I was staff at a studio. I had friends who freelanced a lot and sometimes I would envy them, as they’d get to travel around loads and meet all these different people, which is great. However, from my experience, being at one place was more stable and I learned a good foundation of things because of that stable environment. Keep preparing yourself for what’s out there. If you see something great, try to make it yourself or make something even better. If someone else made it, it’s possible that you can make it. That nerd can’t be that much smarter or stronger than you as a person. There is always some way to follow him and make something great too. You just have to put in the time and not settle for something mediocre.

Finally, what’s your favourite thing about what you do?

There was this interview with Billy Corgan where he had this interesting idea. I’m paraphrasing but he said that Man is created in God’s image – not so much in the way that we look but more in our nature to be creative. God created the world and all these interesting things in it, and in the same way, people have an inherent desire to create interesting things. So, inevitably there is something inside of you that wants to be creative. For example, if you’re at a job where you don’t get to do anything creative, then you will eventually go crazy and pick up a hobby like skydiving or get a million tattoos to express yourself creatively.

I think I have an itch to tell stories and make fun stuff. I always try to be creative with what little resources I have. So I don’t really have a favourite thing, it’s more like an itch that I have to scratch!

San has said lots of interesting stuff here (though, he had far more to say!) and should definitely be an inspiration to anyone starting out in graphics and animation. His passion and determination was very much present when talking about his craft, and it shows in his work. Watch San’s short film below:

Visit San’s website for more examples of his impressive work.

Jeune & Jolie – Francois Ozon is staking out impressive territory in the cinema

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MOVIE REVIEW

Jeune & Jolie (Young & Beautiful)
Mandarin Films, France
94 Min
1.85:1
UK Release: 29th November 2013

DIR François Ozon
PROD Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
SCR François Ozon
DP Pascal Marti
CAST Marine Vacth, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot, Charlotte Rampling

Just when you thought there’d been enough fascination with teenage girls’ coming of age in the cinema, François Ozon’s Young & Beautiful (Jeune & Jolie) comes along. Ozon’s provocative and vibrant tendencies are far from asleep in this wonderful and intriguing exploration of a 17-year-old girl’s malicious entry into the world of prostitution. The film instantly reminded me of Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour where Catherine Deneuvre, playing a frigid housewife, also steps willfully into the enraptured trade. However, of course, Ozon is far less ambiguous and detached as Bunuel, taking the situation into far more emotionally challenging places, heralded by the stunning performance from the young and beautiful Marin Vacth.

The film begins with a provocative shot of Isabelle (Vacth), our heroine, on the beach in her bikini, seen through the lens of peering binoculars. It then becomes clear that Isabelle is on a seaside vacation with her family and desperate to lose her virginity with the mentality of getting it done and out the way. She’s even happy to tell her younger brother “it’s done” when she gets in. Ozon then cuts to the fall and we are greeted by a vamped out Isabelle, one laced with a silk blouse, heels and vivid rouge lipstick. She will sleep with any man for $300 and appears to favour the elder. This plot may seem gimmicky, but there are many more twists to come and Ozon crafts a film that is far more complex than at first may appear; it certainly isn’t an impermeable and literal diary of a teenage prostitute.

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Despite the film being a voyeuristic approach to a young and beautiful girl having sex, there isn’t much erotica, and the attitudes and positions of Ozon’s characters, alongside the framing and cinematography, are surprisingly uniform. This isn’t to say there’s no nudity or startling imagery, for starters, we’re talking about a French film here! Though, the shots are well lit and nicely complement the dramatic approach of the film. I’m not saying that Ozon particularly needs to push the boat out with his style; the mood suitably meets the confinements of our lead girl Isabelle. Her wicked compulsion is self-contained and her emotions rarely float above the surface, but when they do, it is a combination of self-destruction, redemption and arguably bad parenting – just some of the themes entwined into this uncanny picture.

The biggest area, no doubt, to critique is “why”? Isabelle comes from a rich family, so money is out the question. The family appears stable, thus ruling out childhood trauma or repression – her Mother actually encourages her to grow up by leaving out condoms on the side! Perhaps Isabelle wants her own sense of control, a chance to breakout, and her families bourgeois inclinations may have driven her towards this. However, it ultimately boils down to the fact that sometimes we don’t exactly understand our actions and this is positively implicit of a 17 year old. The story might not have been pulled off if it wasn’t for Vacth being such a strong and intriguing lead as Isabelle. Not for one minute does the film feel dull; Isabelle’s next step is constantly ambiguous. Ozon crafts his films in such a lifelike, yet peculiar fashion that one could watch on with intent for hours before dawning back to reality.

4/5 stars

Watch the trailer below:

Films of the Week #47

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I’m sad to say that Leeds Film Festival finished last week, however my last screening was fortunate enough to be the fantastic British short films programme. There were some excellent shorts screened alongside some mediocre affairs, but overall the talent was very promising. I’ve recently been in touch with a few of the directors behind these shorts, so keep a look out on this page and visit this link for more info. on the programme.

Shorts – Pussy Cat – Simon Wharf (Other recommendations: Getting on by Ewan Stewart and The Phone Call by Mat Kirkby)

Feature – Once Upon a Time in the West – Sergio Leone

In Theatres – Jeune & Jolie (Young & Beautiful) – Francois Ozon

Pussy Cat

Pussy Cat is a delightful, satirical and bizarre short film. The plot centres around a great, big, cuddly cat who is the centre of attention within the household of a married couple. However, this proves greatly frustrating for the man when his wife is adamant to showing bounds of affection towards the cat, and the cat only. What follows, is an act that backfires on the husband and causes laughs all round for the audience.

It is a fantastic, fresh and humorous short film that had me grinning throughout. Try and get out there to see it – I know it is playing at Bath Film Festival next week.

Watch the trailer below:


Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone compiles everything he knows about the Western, and everything he’s done before, into one epic of sweaty faces, shoot-outs, double-crosses and love triangles. The film is brilliant, it boasts Leone’s playful use of rhythm and pacing, his attention to the fine details of Western life and his intuitive flair towards outbursts of violence.

I was lucky enough to see the film up on the big screen at Leeds Town Hall, it really was a treat. Sir Christopher Frayling also gave an hour long introduction to the film (as part of Leeds Film Festival), which was an incredibly detailed and insightful account of the Spaghetti Western.

I don’t consider this film to be the best Western by any means, it draws from classics like High Noon, Shane and The Wild Bunch, of which hold a higher status for me. However, it may well be the last great Western ever made. It was, nevertheless, a screening to remember and I’ll definitely be revisiting Leone’s Dollars Trilogy.

Watch the trailer below:


Young & Beautiful

Just when you thought there’d been enough fascination with teenage girls coming of age in the cinema, François Ozon’s Young & Beautiful (Jeune & Jolie) comes along. Ozon’s provocative and vibrant tendencies are far from asleep in this wonderful and intriguing exploration of a 17-year-old girls malicious entry into the world of prostitution.

Not for one minute does the film feel dull. Isabelle, our lead heroine played by Marin Vacth, is consistently ambiguous as the young lady who is drawn to prostitution for no particular reason. She truly gives a stunning performance and take us to unexpected emotionally and challenging places.

Ozon crafts his films in such a lifelike, yet peculiar fashion that one could watch on with intent for hours, before dawning back to reality.

Watch the trailer below:

The Limelight Index: Tom Van Avermaet – Writer/Director

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I recently met up with Tom Van Avermaet, Belgian film director, who has been over in the UK with his new Oscar nominated short film, Death of a Shadow (Dood van een schaduw). He is an incredibly passionate filmmaker who has put life and soul into this film, it was an absolute pleasure to hear what he had to say.

When did you first get interested in filmmaking?

Even from an early age, I’ve always been fascinated by film. I used to be a regular at the local video rental place (when these still existed) and devoured as many films as my pocket money would allow. This passion for film always remained and I always felt that I needed to be involved with cinema in one capacity or another. As I also had this great love for storytelling, I felt that either being a screenwriter or a director would be the best fit and I enrolled in film school on the directing side (as in the end this is still the function most prevalent in the making/shaping of a film). I ended my film school with a thesis film called Dreamtime, which then went on to do numerous festivals and gained awards worldwide. One of these awards helped me finance the next short film, which ended up being Death of a Shadow, my first professional short film.

Who are the filmmakers you look up to?

It’s always hard to pick one or two, as there are so many filmmakers I love. Even if I don’t enjoy their whole oeuvre, I at least am passionate, I at least enjoy, a few films of theirs. Stanley Kubrick, like with any visual director, has always been a great inspiration, but I particularly am drawn towards the great imaginative surrealists of world cinema, people like Guillermo Del Toro, Terry Gilliam, Michel Gondry and Darren Arronofsky. Darren Aronosky’s second film (Requiem for a Dream), which I watched in the theatre the first time I saw it, impressed me so much that it really solidified my desire to wanting to be a director (as it really inspired me to see how big an impact a 90 min film could make on an audience emotionally).

I’m also drawn to filmmakers from the early stages of cinema, people like Fritz Lang, Murnau, Carl Theodore Dreyer, people who really made their film with the essence of visual storytelling.

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How did the idea for Death of a Shadow come about?

As a writer and director I’ve always been fascinated by metaphysical and symbolic figures and with Death of a shadow I wanted to give my own interpretation of ‘Death’. It was important for me to find a way to make this an interpretation that I felt would be original. So I thought, why can’t Death be like an art collector, but instead of gathering paintings or sculptures, this figure collects moments of death, with his own esthetic view of what is a good death and what is a bad death, what is an ugly and what is a beautiful death.

Because I’ve always loved to work with light and shadow I’m am a big fan of expressionistic lighting, I felt that a shadow would be an ideal element to portray this visual and thus had the collector amass shadows of people at the moment that they died, pinning them down like butterflies. A shadow also felt like the right element to use, as in many stories and myths it’s been seen as something connected to the soul. A shadow is something that’s always with us, a reflection of ourselves. Separating body from shadow seemed like a very drastic thing to do.

In this world of the collector, I didn’t feel like he himself would actually go out and gather these deaths and shadows, I felt like he would use someone already in the collection and offer him/her a second chance at life, if they give him one life for every day that they would have lived. That’s how the vast story of Nathan Rijckx, the deceased WWI soldier, came into being.

Congratulations on your Oscar nomination. How did the festival journey begin?

We were lucky enough to begin our festival journey by immediately winning our Oscar Qualifier, a prize entitling you to be considered for Oscar nomination. We won this prize at a festival in Los Angeles called LA Shortfest. This came very early in our festival run, which is quite unusual and after that we were fortunate enough to get on the shortlist and finally be part of the nomination for the 2012/2013 edition of the Academy Awards. We were also very fortunate to have won a European Film Award nomination the month after in Valladolid, Spain, making us the only film up for both prestigious awards in 2013 (the latter will be announced the 7th of December). And now we’re very glad to be part of the Mélies D’Or nominations as well by winning the Silver Mélies, something very special for me as this is a prize specifically for fantastic shorts and I really consider the people supporting the fantastic genre as my core audience.

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The set design is exquisite, who designed this and how did you find the locations?

The design process was collaborative between me and the French art director ‘Erwan Le Flo’ch’. The locations and setting are very important to me as a filmmaker, I almost try to make them another character in my film, so a lot of research and thought was given to them. The locations were all found in the French region ‘Champagne-Ardennes’, who were also supporting the film financially. However, the process of finding the right ones wasn’t easy; I went down with the location scouts to explore the region myself, but in the end we managed to find everything we needed for the film. As a short film maker you don’t have a lot of money to really build stuff, so you have to really work at finding the right locations and props and depend on ‘the kindness of strangers’.

The machine in the entry hall in the film for instance, was designed by a Dutch artist named Jos De Vink, who designs steam powered works of art and who had made a steampunk time machine, an element just like the one we were looking for. Sometimes you have to be lucky in making a film.

Your film has done incredibly well here at Leeds. What has been your favourite short film in the programme?

I think the level of the short film programming was very high. I was fortunate to be both part of one competition and judging four others. I have really enjoyed watching all the incredible works. To pick a favorite would be difficult (we picked our winners as a jury, so these films are definitely my favorites too), but the selection was so diverse and interesting that it would be unfair of me to name one or another.

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What advice would you give to likeminded people starting out?

Don’t give up. Our film took quite a long time to make, five years in total, and at certain points it really felt as if the film was never going to happen. At those times it’s very easy to just say, enough is enough and give up. I think a lot of great films don’t get made because people abandon them when things get tough. What separates people from making films and talking about making them is definitely that drive and passion you have to have for a project. If you want to be a filmmaker you have to be prepared to fight tooth and nail, to suffer blood sweat and tears for your film, because in the end it’s only you who really cares if the film gets made or not (you might have partners who support you equally in this of course, but it’s still most important to you). So I would definitely tell them not to give up and if you have something you believe in and you have an objective view of its potential, then do everything to get it made, even if it takes a long time.

For you, what makes a great short film?

It’s hard to define this as there are so many different styles and genres, but I always look for something that grabs me, something that touches me, something that I’ll remember, be the film 5 minutes or 30. This can be the performance of the actors, the interesting story, the visual aesthetic, or a combination of all those things. I personally veer most towards the narrative films, but I do think that films in any genre can really be great as long as they move or intrigue an audience.

Watch the trailer:

Watch Tom talk about his short film here:

Follow him on Twitter

Big Bad Wolves – shock value and comedy go hand-in-hand

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MOVIE REVIEW

Big Bad Wolves
United Channel Movies, Israel 
110 Min
2.35:1
UK Release: TBA for 2014 by Metronome Distribution

DIR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
PROD Tami Leon, Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi
SCR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
DP Giora Bejach
CAST Lior Ashkenazi, Tzachi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy

Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as the best film of the year, so far, at Busan international film festival, it’s easy to see why with the flair, punch and shock value that Big Bad Wolves brings to the table.

The film is, ultimately, a black comedy that takes you headfirst into the rather corrupt underworld of the Israeli police. However, it is also a spin on the horror film with torture scenes designed to make your jaw drop one minute, and the next, to laugh out loud. This is by no means a new experience, but there is something fresh about the way Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales (the directors) combine horror and comedy. The horror itself, is not funny, it is overwhelmingly shocking, but it is constantly being switched on and off with unforeseen interruptions of almost burlesque value. We are bounced back and forth in our seats.

The story is quite straightforward: A reckless cop, Miki (Lior Ashkenazi), and a missing girls irate father, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), are drawn to the attention of Dror (Rotem Keinan) who they relentlessly believe is guilty of raping and beheading the girl. The pair duo up and take things into their own hands in order to find a way to extract the truth from Dror. It is the classic set-up for an acrimonious torture scene.

It is within this torture-ology that the film swims in the murky waters of good vs. evil where perspective is the only thing separating the two. You are left constantly trying to guess what the characters will do next, which keeps us tied right to the edge of our seats. This tense atmosphere infuses an air of moral superiority into the narrative. You can’t help wondering, surely there is a better way to go about this? There is also a comical play-off between the local Jews and Arab communities – a statement of change and novel friendship between the two.

The only thing lacking for me in the film was the absence of any real character development. Okay, it is not entirely necessary for the script to work as our squirming and laughing out loud soon sidetracks us. Also, part of the reason this film is so impulsive lies in the lack of back-story. However, there is also nothing to explain why Miki and Gidi are so focused on Dror, the man they are targeting as the killer. Towards the beginning, there is simply an anonymous throwaway line regarding someone alleging to have seen Dror with the child.

Big Bad Wolves is, nevertheless, beautifully crafted, from its apprehensive and muted prologue to sinisterly lit forest scenes and pronounced, sweeping camera shots of the basement corridors and walls. The film is innovative in nearly all respects, it is brimming with the unusual and it boasts a brilliant genre fare. Not since Park Chan-wook’s pictures has a director managed to maintain such a light tone whilst depicting a deeply troubling subject matter.

4 stars

Watch the trailer below: