I am so behind on these. My lack of internet access for a couple of weeks didn’t stop my movie-watching, but it did prevent me from blogging about what I’d seen. Expect a few more of these before I’m up to date.
Asura: The City of Madness, Kim Sung-su (2016, South Korea). It’s been nearly two months since I watched this and, to be honest, all I can remember is it was a well-made Korean gangster film. There was an opening scene, I recall, in which the mayor of a city unveils a a new high-profile development, you know the sort, all skyscrapers for the rich, doesn’t really address any social or economic problems the city might be experiencing, but is supposed to attract investment, although no one says from whom… Anyway, the mayor is physically attacked by the city’s DA (or its Korean equivalent) and it’s made clear there’s some enmity there – and which side of the law the mayor is on. I also remember a fight between two police officers, one of whom was corrupt but I can’t remember which, and a guy falls off a rooftop and is impaled on some steel rods, and it was pretty damn realistic. But that’s about all I recall. A polished piece of work… I should really watch it again.
Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, Maneesh Sharma (2011, India). The daughter of a rich businessman is brought home drunk one night by her new boyfriend. The boyfriend impresses the father with his ambition and business acumen, and admits he comes from a family that fell on hard times when he lost his inheritance, a large villa worth millions, after the tenants took it over and he can’t afford to get them evicted. He does a deal with the father, who buys the villa at a knock-down price and sends in his own heavies… Except the villa never belonged to the boyfriend and he’s now vanished with the cash he was paid. A PA is tasked with buying a particular – and very expensive painting – for a client of her boss, and manages to do a shady deal with a gallery owner to get the painting… Only to be embarrassed in front of the client when it proves to be a fake. The boyfriend and the gallery owner are the same bloke – Ricky Bahl, obvs – and it turns out he has more victims. All young women. So they get together and plan to turn the tables on him. Which they do. Via an elaborate scam. Which doesn’t exactly go according to plan. Most Bollywood movies are fun, but this one I thought especially entertaining. The central conceit didn’t outstay its welcome over the typical Bollywood running time, and it was nice to see a film that privileged the women’s point of view (Bollywood films are good at that, by the way, much better than Hollywood). A good film to watch on a Saturday night with a pizza and beer instead of the latest MCU tosh.
The Colony, Florian Gallenberger (2015, UK). There’s a science fiction film, I think, with the same title, but this movie is based on a true story. The Chilean government, the one run by that evil monster Pinochet, you know, Margaret Thatcher was buddies with him, allowed a German paedophile to set up a “religious retreat” in the south of the country. And the Chilean government used it as a cover for a torture centre. It’s countries like that the US should be invading, but instead they support them. Of course they do. Because they’re all the same. Anyway, a German working for the opposition is taken by the secret police. His girlfriend, also German, tracks him down to the aforementioned cult headquarters, and enrols in the cult in order to rescue him. It’s films like The Colony which make you despise the ruling classes of every country – and with good reason. Pinochet and his regime committed countless crimes against humanity, and yet he was treated like royalty by the governments of most Western nations. He should have been carted off to the ICJ and imprisoned for life. And so should every government leader who treated him like a legitimate head of state. They were fine forcing regime changes in Iran, fucking up Central America and invading Iraq, but they bent over backwards to help a fascist dictator who used a convicted paedophile as cover for a torture centre. FFS. Good film, horrible story.
The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos (2018, UK). I’m not sure what to make of Lanthimos. Dogtooth was very strange but also very good. I wasn’t so taken with either Attenberg or The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And now we have The Favourite, which on the one hand presents as straight-up historical drama, but on the other seems slightly off-kilter throughout. Which is, it has to be said, totally a Lanthimos thing. The story is about Queen Anne (1702 to 1707) and her relationship with Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, ancestor of that idol beloved of the right-wing, a supposed man-of-the-people who was aristocracy through and through, but let’s not stop actual facts get in the way of right-wing mythology. Anyway, the Churchills were just as perfidious back in the 1700s as they were in the 1900s, and this is starting to sound like I sympathise with an actual queen of England, which of course I don’t, but… I don’t give a shit about Anne, Elizabeth, Edward, George, whatever name they choose to take… and even less about those with access to royalty and the wit to manipulate that tribe of inbreds. Olivia Colman puts in a star, if not award-winning, turn as Queen Anne. But we’re still talking about a small, and diminishing, gene pool with unsupportable power over the general population based on self-serving myths and the so-called weight of history; and films such as The Favourite – which is indeed well-made – only show how unsupportable and irrelevant that situation increasingly is.
Dhoka, Pooja Bhatt (2007, India). There is a suicide bomber attack at a shopping mall, and a policeman’s wife is among the victims. But then it transpires she was the bomber. And he doesn’t understand this. He had thought he was happily married. He’s shut out of the investigation, obviously, but decides to look into matters on his own. He learns that a corrupt police inspector had arrested his father-in-law as a suspected terrorist and the father-in-law had died during torture. When the policeman’s wife insists on filing a complaint, she is stripped and photographed by the corrupt inspector, and then raped. So she and her brother begin visiting an imam who persuades them to become suicide bombers. The policeman is too late to save his wife, but perhaps he can save his dead wife’s brother. For all that Dhoka covers a sensitive topic – and you don’t see Hollywood making movies about domestic terrorism – it all felt a bit overly melodramatic. True, it is a Bollywood film and melodrama is baked into the formula; but the scenes with the corrupt police inspector were so OTT, it undermined the story. There are hundreds of Bollywood (not to mention Kollywood and Tollywood) free to watch on Amazon Prime, new and old, and more appearing seemingly every day. So there’s plenty to chose from. I’ve generally been lucky with my picks, but this was a rare duff one.
Mary Poppins Returns, Rob Marshall (2018, USA). Before watching this, I rewatched Mary Poppins. I say “rewatched” although it’s been three or four decades, I think, since I last saw it, so it was more like an actual “watch”. But Mary Poppins was a cultural touchstone when I was growing up, so it’s not like I needed to see the film to remind myself what happens in it. And so it proved. Then I watched the sequel. Which, to be honest, I didn’t expect to like. The son from the original film has grown up to become Ben Wishart. He was an artist but now he works as a clerk at the bank his father worked at. And he has two children, who are surprisingly well-behaved (and precocious), but he still ends up with the latest incarnation of Mary Poppins, Emily Blunt, And she’s bloody good. Blunt not only nails Poppins, she redefines it as her own. Jack, a lamplighter and once apprentice of the original film’s chimney-sweep, played of course by an American, although he makes a much better fist of his accent than Dick Van Dyke ever did, seems mostly out of his depth. Not to mention the musical number where Blunt puts on a cockney accent and blows him completely out of the water. There’s a cleverly-done animated sequence, although I seem to remember the one in the original film was pretty good too, but not as comic. Sadly the songs in the new film are nowhere near as memorable, although the fact I remember the original movie’s songs may be because we had a LP of Disney songs when I was a kid and played it repeatedly… I’m glad I took the time to watch Mary Poppins before watching Mary Poppins Returns. I think it definitely added to my enjoyment of the sequel. And I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. Worth seeing.
1001 Movies you Must See Before You Die count: 940