Brilliante Mendoza’s “Kinatay“, winner of the Best Director Award at Cannes this year, is relentless in its iniquitous tone. From the very beginning we are given a view of modern Manila as a squalid corrupt city filled with urban chaos and its people hacking out a living from on the decaying streets. A police academy classroom looks like an inner city high school filled taught by a teacher who is more concerned with getting the students to listen than with real police work. From there the film takes us on a long journey into the dark heart of The Philippians with a young recruit held hostage by his higher-ups and made to participate in one of the most gruesome and chilling scene of violence I have ever seen on film.
This year’s PIFF Korean Cinema Retrospective covers eight films by Ha Kil-Chong, who worked in Korean cinema from 1970 until his sudden death at the age of 38 in 1979. Ha had a background in French Literature and also studied Film at UCLA. This helps to contextualize THE ASCENSION OF HAN-NE, which is a truly odd and I think fascinating mixture of traditionalism and modernism. It is set in contemporary Korea, but it explores the rituals of a small village that lives mostly untouched by modern life. There exists within the same text a great deal of traditional Korean culture along with an equal amount modern ideas such as Freudian psychology and patriarchal critique. Ha alternates between a hand-held realism and a very expressionist, almost film noir use of flashbacks. The result is a very modernist work with a great deal in common with European art films of the time, especially Pier Paolo Pasolini’s re-workings of ancient drama, such as OEDIPUS REX (1970). Ha takes his own cultural traditions and myths, and subjects them to the same type of critical re-examination that was taking place in Western cinema. The film is somewhat rough at times technically, especially in terms of sound limitations and occasional discrepancies in film stock, but this is a strikingly directed and totally unique work well worth seeing if you want something outside of your comfort zone. It is showing again on October 13th (Tuesday) at 10:30, Megabox 4.
“Fish Tank”, Andrea Arnold’s second feature following her 2006 Cannes Jury Prize winner, “Red Road”, takes us to the council houses of England for a brilliantly rendered look at a young girl struggling to find her way in her harsh surroundings. The story focuses on her relationship with her mother’s new boyfriend Conner played by Michael Fassbender and Arnold orchestrates a subtle tension between them that is elegant and raw. The films takes a strange turn in the last act that leads to a beautifully simple conclusion. “Fish Tank” screens again on Oct. 11 at 11:00am and Oct. 15 at 4:30
“Thanks Maa” walks a fine line between a gritty independent film about street kids in Mumbai and campy Bollywood film replete with cartoonishly silly characters and low-brow sight gags. The story is classic search for the father set in a world where children live adult lives in a world that perpetually pushing them aside. The precocious antics of street kids, wonderfully played by the cast, redeems the film from it’s on-the-nose motifs and the heavy handed pathos of a young boy playing the father he never had to an abandoned baby. “Thanks Maa” screens again on Oct. 11 at 5:30 and Oct. 14 at 5:30
“Leningrad” is a WWII film that looks like Picasso’s Guernica come alive on celluloid but fails miserably to elicit compelling performances from it’s capable cast. There isn’t much more to the film than what we have seen a million times already save it’s generously detailed design and occasionally spectacular photography. Mira Sorvino plays an English journalist trapped in Leningrad during the 900 day siege by the Germans. Much like Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” the film focuses on a group of people struggling to survive the cold and hunger of war-torn Europe with a heavy dose of political intrigue and historical context. “Leningrad” screens again on Oct. 11 at 10:30am and Oct. 13 at 4:30
All screening times and locations are posted at the PIFF website.
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