Tales from Baltimore from the Crown Prince of Filth, John Waters
FEMALE TROUBLE (USA, CERT 18 RUNNING TIME 89 MINS)
A spoiled schoolgirl runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitchhiking, and ends up as a fashion model for a pair of beauticians who like to photograph women committing crimes.
PINK FLAMINGOS (USA, CERT 18 RUNNING TIME 93 MINS)
Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against Connie & Raymond Marble, a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as "The Filthiest Person Alive".
VENUE : ULSTER HALL MOVIE BAR TICKETS : £10/£7 MEMBERS
Having flunked graduation for a second time and needing cash to support his crabby (and thus unemployed) father, Danny Fisher takes a job as a singer in the King Creole nightclub - about the only joint around not run by smarmy crook Maxie Fields who wants him for his own place.
CHARRO!(USA, CERT U RUNNING TIME 98 MINS)
Jess Wade is innocently accused of having stolen a cannon from the Mexican revolutionary forces. He tries to find the real culprits, a gang of criminals.
VENUE : ULSTER HALL MOVIE BAR TICKETS : £7/£5 MEMBERS
Running time: 111 mins
Director: Takahiko Akiyama
Starring: Masatoshi Nakamura, Kanata Hongo, Mikako Tabe
With the recent success of Mostow’s Surrogates, and the unparalleled reception of Cameron’s Avatar, the concept of a surrogate existence outside of a human form has been reintroduced cinematically to a Western audience. Prior to this, in 2005, Akiyama released Hinokio, a farsighted film which posed the apt question: can you live your life through technology?
Satoru is an isolated 11-year-old boy. Confined to a wheelchair after a serious car crash, which killed his mother, he refuses to leave his room. His father, a robotics manufacturer, creates for him a robot, which he can control and communicate through via a station in his room. The purpose of this robot is that Satoru might go to school again and have some semblance of a life - albeit through robotic lenses.
As Satoru (Hongo) starts piloting his new robot - nicknamed by his fellow students ‘Hinokio’ due to the Hinoki cyprus wood which makes up part of its structure, and the similarity of the circumstances to Pinocchio - he soon begins to make friends in unusual ways, and experience life again through the safety and distance of the robot, even interacting - even if bitterly - with his father Kaoru (Nakamura), whom he hasn’t spoken to since his mother’s death a year previously.
As the film progresses, and love blossoms with tomboy Jun, Satoru must decide if his motives for remaining hidden behind the robot are valid or if they are driven by fear…
Hinokio was Akiyama’s directorial debut, with his career up to this point spent as a visual art director for well known richly visual work like Final Fantasy. His previous award-winning experience in visual effects served him well, as Hinokio benefits enormously from his eye for detail. Being both screenwriter and director it is understandable that Akiyama’s grounding in visual, and primarily computer game graphics would be part of the movie. The subplot of the movie is the effect of the mysterious, all consuming role play video game Purgatory, which simultaneously adds and detracts from the film. Its addition gives well thought out sequences of graphics, yet, at the same time, detracts from an insightful and poignant story with unnecessary plot convolutions. It seemed as if Akiyama’s use of the game was a way to add action into a film that didn’t need it.
The direction, though, is creative and inspired. Akiyama’s use of Hinokio’s perspective throughout portions of his scenes brings the audience a more intimate view of Saturo’s life. Shooting through a fish-eye lens to give the view through the robot’s eyes takes the viewer out of the filmic moment and instead into a computer simulation. The lenses give a considerably more vibrant colour than the ‘real’ world outside of them. The contrast when the camera goes back to the wide shot is enhanced by the grey tones which are utilised. Akiyama’s direction focuses very much on point of view shots of Saturo and Hinokio, often positioning cameras behind the robot and over-the-shoulder to allow an enhanced awareness of the reaction of his fellow pupils, or a perspective on the physical difference between Hinokio and its classmates.
Visually the cinematography is exceptional, creating overwhelmingly complicated and rewarding shot sequences and making use of captivating light. There is one particularly beautiful scene between Hinokio and Saturo’s father who has come to fix him. The poignant scene as Saturo speaks of his feelings to his father through Hinokio for the first time in a year takes place in front of a burning sunset, which moves, systematically obscuring and revealing the characters causing them to be illuminated with the dying light.
The sound of the film is split between the upbeat pop songs which accompany Hinokio’s escapades and the stark diagetic sound which accompanies forays into Saturo’s home. His wheelchair moving, the sound of typing and the fridge opening is often the only sound which accompanies the deafening silence. Choosing not to speak, his messages to his father are relayed in notes he leaves outside of the door, despite Kaoru imploring Saturo to communicate with him. The contrast between the two different uses of sound contrasts well - it emphasises the imposed solitude Saturo has chosen for himself, and the joy of his new friendships as he uses Hinokio.
The performances are well considered. With such a young cast there is often a tendency to overact yet they are very restrained. Hongo’s performance of the often expressionless Saturo is captivating. It is possible to feel the hopelessness of the character that has imposed his own hikikomori in his bedroom. A special mention must be given to Nakamura, whose depiction of Kaoru - the father unable to break his son’s isolated captivity - is superb.
Released a year after Facebook, a year after the current prolific incarnation of World Of Warcraft, and two years after Second Life, the film taps into an audience who are already utilising their own avatars in their technological lives. The repeated mention of ‘Purgatory’, and its drug like influence on some of the children who disappear for days to play it, and the references to the suspension of the soul both in the game and outside of it, points to a larger message Akiyama is relaying.
Hinokio, although aimed at children and young people, raises a point which is applicable to all watchers, even with the advances in technology - there is no substitute for human interaction. Conversely it took a robot to fully emphasise the power of humanity.
It is hard to believe Hinokio is Akiyama’s directorial debut. It is a beautiful, poignantly executed work which celebrates life as much as it deals with death. A story which is full of heart, even if it is robotic.
UK DVD release date: Monday 4th October 2010
Running time: 95 mins
Director: Jane Birkin
Starring: Jane Birkin, Geraldine Chaplin, Michel Piccoli, John Hurt, Tcheky Karyo,
UK distributor: Bluebell
When Jane Birkin turned her hand to direction, lovers of Anglo/Franco cinema were to be treated with a strong female voice who’s experiences of working with such great directors as Michelangelo Antonioni, Richard Lester and Alain Resnais would certainly give a rise to a new chapter of a eclectic career.
Boxes, Birkin’s debut with a narrative driven feature, tells the story of Anna (played by Birkin herself), a lady in her 50’s, who while unpacking in her new seaside residence in picturesque Brittany is visited by moments and people from her past. Whether it is her three ex-husbands or her three children or deceased father Anna is forced to deal with the emotion scars, tragedies and triumphs or her live in a physically sparse yet psychologically dense environment.
For Birkin and Birkinites alike a film about memory and the overlapping presence of past and present in the one space is not a new subject matter. Fans of the made for TV French title Oh pardon! You were sleeping…will be familiar with the notion of individuals dealing with memory and tragedy in a heavily theatrical environment. Birkin’s performance is, like her direction, understated though she is never better or more complicated a character than when she is interacting with her daughters either in a one on one or all together. Adele Exarchopoulos as Lilli gives an incredibly mature performance for one so young. At times a playful child, others carrying the wisdom of her older self that Anna is clearly projecting on to the child from her foreknowledge of the grown up Lilli allows for a fascinating back and forth between mother and daughter on several occasions. The complicated and sexual relationship between Maurice Benicho (Max) and his daughter (Camille) played by Lou Doillon gives the film, which could easily drift off into the realm of arthouse pulp, a degree of gravitas that is deeply needed and is carried across by both actors so skilfully that it manages to leave the audience pondering the unasked questions as to the level of intimacy between father and child. The casting of Anna’s husbands is wonderfully eclectic with Benicho, John Hurt and Tcheky Karyo all pitching in with excellent yet short performances but also highlighting the different ages of what is surely a diverse and complicated woman (in Anna).
Cinematically there are some issues with the film, at points the lack of movement in camera only serves to highlight the fact that this is all staged, which perhaps was Birkin’s intention but in cinema it creates issues between film and audience. At other times, most notably when Anna’s parents are talking in the garden the cinematography has adopted an extremely low angle creating an almost expressionistically Weimar shot, though without the psychological devices to drive the idea home. This is momentary though and before long the cinematography is back to being made up of master and two shots which, along with the almost nonexistent score, does little to alter the idea that perhaps Boxes would translate better on a Parisian stage than a cinema screen. The deep focus master shot of Karyo, Hurt and Birkin is something that should be savoured by cinema audiences as all three actors have such rich oeuvres yet is almost too understated and stagey. Several scenes through the coast of the film screams Beckett, Endgame especially which is both a example of the directors theatrical background but only goes to highlight that it is not Beckett nor up to the standard of Beckett.
The most interesting avenue in Boxes is one that is key to the film yet almost disregarded. Notions of memory and it’s reliability are littered throughout cinema so it was probably preferable not to linger on it for too long however the fact that Hurt’s character goes without a name and is initially referred to as a ‘dick’ and is forced to break through Anna’s subconscious to force her to acknowledge that it was her who oversimplified their relationship in order to justify walking away with their child is extremely interesting. Idea’s of suppression would certainly allow you to wonder if perhaps Anna knew, at least on one level, about the unsavoury relationship between her ex-husband and her daughter or that her Grandmother, a constant source of entertainment in the film, is so deep in the final stages of dementia because that’s how Anna has choice to remember her, all notions that Antonioni would have been highly interested in.
Ultimately Boxes is a stage play that has been recorded for the cinema audience and though at times it is extremely thought provoking and rich with excellent actors and narrative it ultimately has a level of theatrically that sits uncomfortable with the cinematic audience. A theatrically that has long since been left behind for the advancement of cinema as it’s own autonomous artform and not a derivative of theatre. There are many moments in the film that should provoke excitement, warmth, rage in the audience but the misfiring format of the film ultimately leaves the narrative key points falling flat with cinema audiences at least.