Category Archives: Reviews

Barking Dogs Never Bite (Bong Joon Ho, 2000)

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho has previously said in interviews that he considers his 2003 sophomore breakout Memories of Murder to be something akin to his “true” debut feature. Whether or not that has anything to do with his actual debut feature, Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), underperforming financially in its home nation – and only belatedly being distributed in many international territories – is a question only the man himself, or possibly a therapist, can answer. In the US, distribution rights were only finally acquired in the summer of 2009, around the time when Bong’s Mother received rave reviews at Cannes. In the UK, Barking Dogs Never Bite played at the London Film Festival in 2000 but has otherwise never had an official release until now, a time when Bong’s star has never been higher after Parasite’s game-changing Oscars haul and global box office success…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011)

Monsieur Lazhar was Canada’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars ceremony of 2012, making it to the final five nominees but losing to Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation. On a surface level, that Monsieur Lazhar concerns a new teacher changing the perceptions and lives of a group of students may make it seem like an ideal, easy target to which the Academy might take a shine. Philippe Falardeau’s film, though, is a much different – and better – beast…

Full review for VODzilla.co’s MUBI Mondays column

Koko-di Koko-da (Johannes Nyholm, 2019)

On a day out in Denmark just before her eighth birthday, young Maja (Katarina Jakobson) tells her parents, Elin (Ylva Gallon) and Tobias (Leif Edlund), that she wishes the day could last forever. The day will end up playing in her parents’ minds in perpetuity, though not for the reasons that the happy child intends.

And in Swedish writer-director Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-di Koko-da, a literal never-ending quality will take effect for another dreadful day in the aftermath…

Full review for SciFiNow

Isadora’s Children (Damien Manivel, 2019)

Among the most influential figures in dance of the 20th century, Isadora Duncan faced a horrible tragedy in 1913 when her infant children both drowned while in the care of their nanny as their runaway car plunged into the Seine. During her grieving process, Duncan choreographed a three-part piece called ‘Mother’ as a means to express her heartbreak.

Written and directed by former dancer and acrobat Damien Manivel (who won the Best Director prize at Locarno in 2019), the delicate and deliberately-paced Isadora’s Children is cut into three distinct parts, each exploring how the lives of three sets of women – all of different ages and backgrounds – are touched by ‘Mother’…

Full review for Little White Lies

The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953)

Alongside noir The Hitch-Hiker earlier that same year, 1953’s The Bigamist would be actor Ida Lupino’s final big screen credit as a director until the Hayley Mills family comedy The Trouble with Angels (1966) over a decade later, though she became a fixture of directing rosters for major television series of the time, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller and The Untouchables. Lupino’s work as an actor in thrillers and comedies remains well remembered and regarded, but just as much of her filmmaking career was driven by a passion for writing, producing and directing. An independent production company she established facilitated much of this before it closed shop and the TV work started, and its existence outside the traditional studio system factored into the unique body of work produced…

Full review for VODzilla.co’s MUBI Mondays column

Special Actors (Shinichiro Ueda, 2019)

When your breakout feature as a writer/director is predicated on narrative twists and sudden aesthetic left turns, there can be pressure for your next film to retain a similar element of surprise. Shinichiro Ueda’s Special Actors is his solo follow-up to One Cut of the Dead (he co-directed another feature in-between), the independent Japanese zombie horror of sorts that earned more than one thousand times its budget back in its home country, and became a word-of-mouth hit overseas.

For the sake of those still yet to see it, this review will avoid explicit spoilers for One Cut of the Dead; suffice it to say that Special Actors was always going to struggle to live up to its predecessor. That said, the results are largely entertaining and inventive…

Full review for Little White Lies

 

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (Salvador Simó, 2018)

With the Jean-Luc Godard portrait Redoubtable and Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato still lingering in the memory, and a Rainer Werner Fassbinder biopic on its way, there seems to be growing interest in fiction features chronicling the early years of some of Europe‘s most influential filmmakers. As an animation, Salvador Simó’s Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles – about the father of cinematic surrealism, Luis Buñuel – immediately stands out from the pack on form alone. Following the success of 1929’s surreal short Un Chien Andalou (where he was overshadowed by collaborator Salvador Dalí) and the controversy surrounding its follow-up, L’Age d’Or, Buñuel decided to take a comparative left turn by making a pseudo-documentary in a remote region of Spain as both his career and the country entered a turbulent period…

Full review for Little White Lies

The Girl with a Bracelet (Stéphane Demoustier, 2019)

Adapted from the screenplay of 2018 Argentine film The Accused, writer-director Stéphane Demoustier’s The Girl with a Bracelet transplants the story to France for a colder tonal register. While its title may initially suggest either a period costume drama or a potboiler in the vein of Paula Hawkins, this is a modern courtroom drama and profile of a potential murderer, here a teenage girl. The bracelet of the title ultimately has another meaning, but it mainly references the electronic monitoring device attached to the accused’s ankle while under house arrest…

Full review for VODzilla.co

The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019)

A slick country-hopping noir riff with bloody shootouts and occasionally lavish locations, The Whistlers would seem to be a rather surprising swerve into mainstream crowd-pleasing territory for writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu, one of the poster boys of the Romanian New Wave. But while some of his earlier features, such as 12:08 East of Bucharest and Police, Adjective, certainly fit the realist and/or minimalist mode of the types of Romanian films that have broken out internationally in the last decade-plus, the pattern of his career has been as eccentric as the onscreen tone and characters of his movies.

For one of the odder one-two filmmaking punches of recent memory, the movie he made directly before The Whistlers was Infinite Football, a documentary about a proposed reinvention of the rules of the beautiful game, which looks like it cost as much to make as one night’s rent at the motel in this film. Unlike Infinite Football’s civil servant, Porumboiu doesn’t seem to be looking to reinvent his chosen subject (noir) with The Whistlers, although it is still full of strangeness in line with his other works. For one thing, there’s its distinct hook for a crime movie, as hinted at in its title for English-speaking territories…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Romantic Comedy (Elizabeth Sankey, 2019)

Elizabeth Sankey is an English multi-hyphenate whose work encompasses music, writing and acting. She’s likely best known as one half of the indie pop duo Summer Camp, who’ve released several albums to date, one of which was the soundtrack to Charlie Shackleton’s essay documentary on teen films, Beyond Clueless. In the realm of critical commentary, she has written for The Guardian, NME, Vice and other publications on all kinds of pop culture, with many of her pieces concerning deconstructions of media from her formative years.

Her feature debut as a director, Romantic Comedy, is a melting pot of all these creative interests: an essay film heavy on autobiographical relationships to the art and texts being discussed, for which Sankey, through Summer Camp, also provides songs – although Jeremy Warmsley also contributes a score…

Full review for VODzilla.co