Film Review: PARASITE (South Korea 2019) ****

Parasite Poster
Trailer

All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.

Director:

Bong Joon Ho (as Joon-ho Bong)

Writers:

Jin Won Han (screenplay), Bong Joon Ho (screenplay) (as Bong Joon-ho)

From the director of OKJA and SNOWPIERCER, PARASITE has already garnished praise from critics and filmgoers all over the world.  The Winner o the roestgious  Palme d’Or at thisnyear’s Cannes Film Festival.  PARASITE is already abbot-office success in Korea and the wold over.

PARASITE is also a Netflix original movie.  It has a limited run before being going on to Netflix, which means that the ilm will stream for free for Netflix subscribers.  Netflix has made excellent films such as ROMA last year.  There is a slew of excellent Netlfix films coming soon after PARASITE like THE KING and THE IRISHMAN with THE LAUNDROMAT, DOLEMITE just opening.

Half way through the movie, the effectiveness of a plan is discussed.  If one has no plan, then chaplain cannot go wrong and things will work out.  This weird logic is subtle applied to the story of PARASITE where anything can happen and chaos rules.  The result is a sort of ‘wtf’ foreign art film that is as energetic and it is unpredictable.

PARASITE tells the story of two families, one rich and one poor.  The poor one slowly but surely takes over the rich none just as a parasite, hence the film’s title.  This is a vertical story of class struggle — punctuated by staircase scenes going from mouldy basements to top floors, from darkness to breezy spaces designed by star architects. — Parasite observes and dissects with surgical precision the life of two families of different social backgrounds.

The poor family: Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) is a good-for-nothing, unemployed family man, patriarch of a family of derelicts — his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), his clever twenty-something daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and his son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) — who live in an overcrowded, sordid basement. 

The rich family: Parks, on the other hand, live in a fabulous house with their teenage daughter Da-hye and terribly spoiled son Da-song, who has suffered a childhood trauma that occasionally causes him seizures and strange behaviour. When, due to an unexpected stroke of luck, Ki-woo is hired by the Parks to be the private English tutor of Da-hye, the destinies of the two families cross.  Ki-woo gets his mother to be employed as the new housekeeper, not letting the Parks know of their mother/son relationship.  Then he gets the father and sister employed as well, again not disclaim the family relationship.  The parasitic family ate over but not with dire consequences.

The film takes a third of tis running  time for the predictable series of events before director Bong pulls a super punch in his film.  The story takes a wild totally unpredictable twist where the class struggle story turns into a wicked farce.  All the events take place amidst a huge flood take wreck the poor family’s dwelling.

The ending is  a little marred by slow preaching but Bong’s film has at this point already accomplished what he had intended in what is supposed to be an ‘unplanned’ film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isOGD_7hNIY

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Film Review: GRACE A DIEU (By the Grace of God) (France 2018) ****

By the Grace of God Poster
Trailer

The three men, friends of childhood, will cross, compare their personal experiences and question their life of couple, family and professional.

Director:

François Ozon

French veteran director Francois Ozon has made his name with upbeat comedic drama like SITCOM, LES AMANTS CRIMINELS (The Criminal Lovers), SWIMMING POOL and others.  His mood takes in turn to sombreness in his latest offering GRACE A DIEU (By the Grace of God).  The film is a fictional account inspired by the real life and trials Father Preynat, implicated for acts of pedophilia dating back to 1986.  With a case still then pending before the French courts, the film created an unprecedented controversy and the Father Preynat’s lawyer even asked for the postponement of its release.  At present, French justice has ruled and authorized the film’s release in France in February.  Since then, Father Bernard Preynat has been found guilty of sex abuse of minors and defrocked.

This film tells the moving incredible story.

The film first centres on Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud of Xavier Dolan’s LAURENCE ANYWAYS) living in Lyon with his wife and children. One day he learns by chance that the priest who abused him, Father Preynat when he was in scouts is still working with children.  

The consequences are deeply rooted in Alexandre’s life.  He confronts Preynat who admits the deed but does not ask for forgiveness.  The important moment is examined in the film when Alexandre tells his wife that if Preynat went on bended knee to ask for his forgiveness, he would not know what to do.  The wife replies that if Alexandre forgave him, he would be Preynat’s victim forever.  The film also debates the fact that the church’s aim is forgiveness and redemption at the expense of the victim.  “I don’t want forgiveness,” says Alexandre. “I want Other Preynat sanctioned.  He is a danger to children.”

Alexandre decides to take action and is soon joined by two other victims of the priest, François and Emmanuel. They band together to “lift the burden of silence” surrounding their ordeal. But the repercussions and consequences will leave no one unscathed.  Based on events from the 2019 conviction of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon for concealing the conduct of Father Bernard Preynat, the film  compassionately illustrates the varying effects of trauma on survivors and their families in this urgent portrait of resistance, the power of mobilization, and the mysteries of faith. 

Ozon’s film might not stop child abuse in the Catholic Church forever but his heavy guilt-laden film will almost certainly make the guilty ashamed.

Ozon is known for his twisted sense of humour as evident in his breakthrough film SITCOM or his gay re-telling of the Hansel and Gretel story in LES AMANTS CRIMINELS.  Not much humour can be found in GRACE A DIEU, but he includes one quote of Father Preynat’s victims: “In my life, I have only made love to 3 people – me , my wife and Father Preynat”

The film finally gets a release in Canada on October 18th after official selection at the Halifax, Cinefest Sudbury and Vancouver Film Festival. Grand Jury Prize winner at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, BY THE GRACE OF GOD is a film, told as it is in all its sensitivity and dead seriousness and should be seen for its subject of pedophilia in the Catholic church to be revealed.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8095860/videoplayer/vi2285091353?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

Full Review: PAIN AND GLORY (Dolor y Gloria) (Spain 2019) ***** Top 10

Pain & Glory Poster
Trailer

A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.

Director:

Pedro Almodóvar

PAIN AND GLORY sees director Pedro Almodovar still in peak form in this highly personal film about a successful filmmaker, Salvador (Antonio Banderas) in his autumn years.  A revival screening of an old movie, “Sabor” with the invitation for him and his main actor to attend a Q &A awakens skeletons in the closet.  The film intercuts his life as a child with his loving mother (Penelope Cruz) and his first male desire in the form of an older teen, Eduardo (César Vicente) he educates in reading, writing and in mathematics.  

PAIN AND GLORY is most similar to Almodovar’s best film LA MALA EDUCACION (BAD EDUCATION) with similar scenes like young boys bathing in the river and the influence on cinema on the protagonist as well as first love.  The young boys were under the watch of Catholic priests, one of which is a pedophile.  In PAIN AND GLORY, the river scene has Penelope Cruz, looking as beautiful as ever, washing her sheets in the river with other women and her son.  She is singing what could be a traditional country Spanish song in a scene that the protagonist, Salvador reminisces of.

PAIN AND GLORY draws from the work and life of director Almodovar and could be describe as an autobiographical film.  It can be described as several vignettes put together to form a story.

What is most inspirational about Almodovar movies, are that most of his movies are about the love of cinema.  In LA MALA EDUCACION, the two male lovers first met as kids in a cinema. In PAIN AND GLORY,  it is all about Salvador and his films.  At the film’s start, Salvador confesses he has just watched and was moved by his second watching of his film “Sabor”.  That is so true that watching a film a second viewing brings forth much more that was miss the first time. Salvador also confesses that his lead actor’s performance seems much better than it was 30 years ago.

The film’s best parts are those involving Salvador’s sexual awakening – when as a boy he places his hand over Eduardo’s, the one he is teaching how to write, or how the Eduardo trips don to wash, totally nude. 

Director Almodovar splashes his colours again in this film.  He transforms the dull cave Salvador lived in as a kid into whitewashed walls with colours in the curtains and tiles.

What is most marvellous is the way Almodovar shows the beauty in life and how life dishes it out.  Being poor, he had to go to a seminary on a scholarship to earn his A Levels diploma.  But there, he is pulled out to sing in the choir because of his beautiful voice and given passing grades in his subjects without learning anything.  Yet, when he became a filmmaker, his knowledge came from other means.  But now as an ageing filmmaker with physical and emotional ailments, Salvador must find himself again.

Salvador is constantly sick with ailments like migraines (Almodovar has them too), back pain and others.  Almodovar’s deeply personal work is extremely moving and he is able to arouse the audience to feel the pain suffered by Salvador.  Banderas won the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his portrayal of Salvador and the actor playing Salvador’s first desire is the hottest thing seen this year at TIFF.

PAIN AND GLORY has the best joke that would not be noticed by the majority of the audience.  I would call it Almodovar’s personal joke.  Which is really funny.  When the boy faints in the middle of the film, his mother and Eduardo think it is due to the sun and possibly a minor heat stroke.  But the reality is that the boy fainted after seeing Eduardo’s big penis.

I first viewed PAIN AND GLORY at TIFF and now a second time.  The film survives a viewing proving that it is layered, brilliantly and an overall excellent film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEjFOkCKb3g 

Film Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY ( USA 2019)

The Addams Family Poster
An animated version of Charles Addams’ series of cartoons about a peculiar, ghoulish family.

Writers:

Matt Lieberman (screenplay by), Charles Addams (based on characters created by) | 3 more credits »

This 3D computer animated film began in 2010 as a Tim Burton stop motion animation feature project.  After several revisions, it was decided and finalized in 2017 to have directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan direct a new film with a revised screenplay.  As everyone already knows, this is not the first adaptation of the ADDAMS FAMILY since the beloved TV series.  At present, I cannot remember all the previous film adaptations, they being released quite some time back.

The best of the ADDAMS FAMILY’s is as most people will agree, the TV series with John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia.   This latest version clearly attempt to re-create the atmosphere and feel of the TV series, which it succeeds, but only to a point.

The premise of the film is The Addams family’s move to New Jersey.  Their lives begin to unravel when they move to New Jersey and face-off against the 21st century and its greedy, arrogant and sly reality TV host Margaux Needler while also preparing for their extended family to arrive for a major celebration.

The film begins with the wedding of of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Moritica (Charlze Theron).  Their celebration is interrupted by angry town folk who want to get rid of monsters from their town, a scene familiar to the classic FRANKENSTEIN story.  So there is the move to New Jersey –  never mind the explanation how come the two children Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) are suddenly grown up. 

The film springs to life once the catchy theme song of the TV Series ADDAMS FAMILY is heard on the soundtrack.  So much for beloved nostalgia.  Even the new songs Christina Aguilera released “Haunted Heart” and “My Family” sung by Migos, rapper Snoop Dogg and Colombian Reggaeton superstar Karol G cannot match that.

The film suffers from a weak narrative made worse by weak story-telling.  The ilm is punctuated or interrupted by un-connected humour.  The lack of a sufficiently menacing villain does not help either.  The TV host Needler and the mean girl at school Bethany do not really qualify as the usual destroy the whole planet-type villains.

In the TV series, a lot of the humour is derived by innocent ordinary humans stumbling across the Addams Family and being shocked by their strangeness.  These were funny and worked well.  In this film, it is the other way around here the human beings are the monsters that taunt the otherwise innocent Addams Family.

The humour of the film will escape the little ones in the audience as there are quite a few dialogue jokes.  The monsters should be harmless enough not to scare the children.

When the film ends with the full lyrics of the TV series song sung out, as if forming the film’s climax, one feels certain that the filmmakers have run out of ideas.  THE ADDAMS FAMILY is harmless fun but it could have been more fun.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Ug863S8dQ

Film Review: HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK (Ireland 2019) ***

Henry Glassie: Field Work Poster
The worldwide travels and unique cultural finds of renowned American folklorist Henry Glassie are enthralling chronicled in this portrait by director Pat Collins.

Director:

Henry Glassie and his wife are folklorists, the audience is told at the beginning of this Irish documentary that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.  They have travelled around the world for field work, their last year spent in Bahia, Brazil.

What is a folklorist and what do folklorists do?

Folklorists—many of whom are members of the American Folklore Society or of similar associations around the world—live and work throughout the world. They include students, teachers, scholars, consultants, community organizers, educators, and public agency professionals. Folklorists’ interests range from local family traditions to transnational issues of ethnic conflict, from publications to public programming, from the performing to the visual arts, from everyday life to communities’ most special occasions, and from research to public policy.

Folklorists publish scholarly articles, in-depth books, and engaging exhibition catalogs. They produce award-winning documentary films and recordings (as do director Pat Collins and subject Henry Glassie), as well as nationally recognized radio programs.  Most important, they work to establish public policy that honours and respects cultural diversity as this doc demonstrates.

Whatever their particular interests or work, folklorists recognize the value of experience-based knowledge and the importance of understanding the intersections of artfulness and everyday life. The artistic, cultural, educational, historical, and political questions folklorists raise place the field at the leading edge of contemporary cultural issues, and establish folklore as a primary field of the humanities.

The doc is not flawless. Unlike other docs, there is clearly a lack of archival footage  When songs are used in the film, only photos of the singers appear on screen.  Some have titles of their names and some do not.  The film goes on to inform of Glassie’s childhood and background at the midway mark of the film instead of the start, after going through some of his subjects.  As a result, the doc looks disorganized in structure and in its arrangement of the presentation.  There is one scene filmed in Turkey in which the mike from the boom can be seen at the top the screen.

As the doc takes the audience around the world, particularly in the countryside away from the cites, there is some stunning display of nature – of the mountains, forests  and rivers, courtesy of cinematographer Colm Hogan.

Watching as a few pottery craftsmen work their wares is somewhat equivalent to watching paint dry.  The film is extremely slow.  In the midst of the film, Glassie says that folklore is patience and reverence.  That is so true.  For one to appreciate this film, one has to be interested in folklore – and to be both patient and reverent towards the material in the film.  

Director Collins only attempts to connect his audience to his subject at the end of the film.  Glassie talks about his encounters with folk in different countries.  He tells the audience that in is opinion, most people are generally good and willing too are their experiences.  Otherwise, folklore can be quite the isolated subject for many.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvzZbwSq-Lw

Film Review: BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE (Sweden 2019) ***

Britt-Marie Was Here Poster
Trailer

Britt-Marie, 63 years old, has just left a 40 year old marriage and her long life as a house wife. Being told she is a nagging passive aggressive aunt the new, only job, in small town Borg … See full summary »

Director:

Tuva Novotny

            BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, the second feature by Swedish actress and director Tuva Novotny is a feel-good film from Sweden that serves as the perfect ‘foreign film for beginners’.  Unlike other notable Swedish films from Masters like Ingmar Bergman, there is no contemplation on death or the evil one or complicated love affairs.  It is about living.  BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE is a film that intends to show that it is never too late to start living.  The film is the second adaptation to the big screen of a novel by Fredrik Backman (A Man called Ove). 

Britt-Marie, 63 years old (Pernilla August), has just left a 40-year-old marriage when she finds out that her husband has been cheating with a younger woman.  She has lived too long a life as a housewife.  Being told she is a nagging passive aggressive aunt, the new, only job, in small town Borg will be quite challenging.  The small town of Borg has no pride left except the young soccer team, and Britt-Marie’s new job is to coach them.

Britt-Marie knows nothing about football.  All she knows is order and tidiness as in house cleaning.  When her husband leaves her, she is forced to take the job in Borg to coach football when she knows nothing about football. “One day at a time,” Britt-Marie tells herself, “One day at a time.”

  Britt-Marie’s journey that is filled with struggles, challenges but also warmth and love makes director’s Novotny’s endearing story.

A bit too eager to please, the film tends up to be a bit too predictable towards the end.  The set-up, however is fresh and full of little surprises like the ones that pop up to change Britt-Maries life.  The film also contains quite a few emotional moments that might require one to brig some Kleenex.

The small film that it is, it has a (small) limited release at the local Regent Thetare, that might be out of the way for some folks.  But if one wants to fee good and perhaps shed a tear or two, BRITT-MARIE is the one to see.  Filmed in Swedish and German.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD4rT3GDlEI