The Woodsman is cunning

TheWoodsman-Bacon

It’s a new year and a new year for watching lots of movies. I hope everyone’s got their new year’s resolutions cap on: open your mind to watching foreign and independent films!

The Woodsman is a thought-provoking and intelligent debut feature film from Nicole Kassell, a graduate of the NYU film school. The film stars Kevin Bacon as Walter, a pedophile. The film is remarkably confident at focusing its attention on the drama that exists inside Walter’s mind and conscience. It is a great character study and one that suggests it is not Walter who is evil, it is the pedophilia. Walter is fighting the monster inside him; it reminds me of Peter Lorre’s desperate character in Fritz Lang’s M.

Walter has just re-entered society after 12 years behind bars, he finds work as a lumberyard and is ironically put up in an apartment opposite a school playground. It is a film about this man trying to start a new life, it shows us the tiny details and a various series of emotions that Walter has to deal with. The film is written superbly by Steven Fechter and holds together convincingly. Will Walter be able to break the chain of transmission?

Watch the trailer below:

Solemn Bravery – The Deep

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This week, I’ve tried to catch up on some films from around the world, which included Iceland’s Oscar entry The Deep.

The film was released in UK cinemas back in Summer of this year after being picked up by Metrodome distribution last year. The director, Baltasar Kormakur, has since go on to direct pictures in Hollywood, including this years 2 Guns starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and Everest, a film currently in production for 2014 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin. Anyway, The Deep is a fantastic film that depicts a true story of an Icelandic fishermen who survives over 6 hours in the freezing North Atlantic Ocean waters. It is a Perfect Storm set-up, a crew of firsherman go out in the big sea and their boat capsizes (in this case, the incident is for a slightly different and more naive reason). This event surprisingly happens within the first thirty minutes of the movie, what story could be left to tell?

It is an intriguing one and well constructed despite common critique. Gulli, our protagonist, is a solemn but brave character and he is convincingly played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. There is a profound subtelty to his psychology, his remorse in not explored in depth, but is nonetheless apparent. He isn’t interested in the miracle his body has performed, or the press interest gained by it. He is a local Icelandic fishermen, born and bred, and that is his wish. A rather comforting scene, is when Gulli visits a recent widow of the incident to tell her that her husband had a peaceful and painless death.

This film is a great undertaking by the Icelandic film industry and it has surpassed the epic sea adventure that is expected, it has become a far greater and globally figured film of love, loss, loneliness, omnipresence and myth.

Watch the trailer below:

Films of the Week #48 & #49

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So, it’s been a busy past two weeks. I started out by shooting a short film for a friend on my 7D (it could have gone a lot worse), had two essay deadlines (one of which is tomorrow), and I currently have 4 corporate jobs to reign in; I’m getting whipped left, right and centre!

I forgot to mention that I’ve also been ill and bed-ridden for a few days these last two weeks, which has made for some great home viewing however. I have recently, in research for my essay on Asian cinema, probed into a load of ‘Asia Extreme’ titles, as branded by Tartan Video. Of course, there’s the original classics, I’m sure many of you have seen Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy or Miike Takashi’s Audition. Anyhow, in deciding to dig a little deeper into the label, I watched Shimizu Takashi’s Marebito and Miike Takashi’s Visitor Q, of which both were excellent and disturbing. I feel there is a whole chunk of wonderfully incongrous cinema waiting to be explored – though I feel I may be a tad late to this J-horror (Japanese) cult ‘fanboy’ following.

I digress, here are my movies of the week (no shorts this week I’m afraid) – In fact, I’m going to do each week and then pick the best from the two!

Film of the week – The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson (week 8), Dragon – Peter Chan (week 9) – Other great films worth checking out that I’ve added to my ‘films worth your time’ list these past two weeks: Reincarnation, Visitor Q, Porco Rosso and Renoir.

In Theatres Well… unfortunately I’ve gone to see films that I haven’t actually enjoyed very much (Gravity and Oldboy). Firstly, and most appallingly, I dislike Gravity. I, however, have admiration for the groundbreaking visual effects, it is wonderful… for five minutes. The whole movie felt a bit like a joke, the narrative was the sloppiest I think I’ve ever encountered. Secondly, I’ve come to realise, that as soon as Spike Lee announced he was remaking Oldboy, the movie was already dead in the water. I haven’t come out of the cinema feeling so sour in a while, what a waste of everyones time.

Enough ranting, here’s a movie that I rented for 99p on Blinkbox and really enjoyed.

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Dragon (best film of the two weeks, though PTA’s The Master is well worth your time)

Donnie Yen is a modern day martial arts hero. He choreographs impeccable and fierce fight scenes in this Western-influenced action film by Peter Chan. Yen is not just a martial artist, here, once again, he proves wonderfully adept with subtler emotional beats. Jet Li springs to mind as one of the few other martial arts actors capable of bringing subtle beauty, emotion and conflict to the table.

The script is rather reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, as Yen has previously lived a life as a notorious killer for a clan reigned by his Father. Yen, however, simply wants no more than to be a family man who lives in a remote village and works at the paper-mill. This peaceful life is interrupted by a forensically minded detective who is dispatched to investigate the murder of a notorious criminal in the village, Yes, Yen had sent him flying with an innocous blow to the head in order to protect the village. What follows is the detective becoming obsessed by Yen’s past life and this past life coming back to haunt (in very much a physical way) Yen.

The film is also stunningly shot, as our many great kung fu films, with a great diversity of overhanging angles, slow-motion sequences and extruding colour grades.

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: