Koko-di Koko-da: Don’t Loop Now

Fans of grim but strangely uplifting films but who also happen to love Groundhog Day, will have a new horror fable to prioritise in 2020 with Koko-di Koko-da.

This second feature from Swedish director Johannes Nyholm really does do something inventive – and frequently disturbing – with a time loop storytelling device.

Koko-di Koko-da follows a grieving married couple taking a holiday, stopping off in the woods on the way to camp for the night, only for their tent to come under siege from a group of figures straight out of the circus of your nightmares. We talk to Nyholm about his film…

Full interview for SciFiNow

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

Mulan: Made of Honour

It’s early January 2020 and SciFiNow is among what’s apparently the first audience to see select full scenes from one of the year’s most intriguing blockbuster prospects. We’re very impressed by the thrilling scale and tender, moving intimacy of the wildly different sequences we’re shown. And this is somewhat surprising because this film is one of those oft-dreaded propositions: a remake.

Well, yes and no to it being a strict remake of another movie. Disney’s new Mulan is definitely a live-action update of its own animated film from 1998, but the character of Hua Mulan originates in a famous story first told over 1,500 years ago, in which a young woman, disguised as a man, took her aging father’s place in the army. In paying tribute to various versions of the story, as well as the character’s importance for Chinese audiences, the new Mulan is a very different beast from its Disney predecessor…

Full interview for SciFiNow

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

 

‘She Dies Tomorrow’: Amy Seimetz on her timely contagion film

Writer-director Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow isn’t the first 2020 release to gain unexpected layers by arriving during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s perhaps the most prescient. A visually vivid absurdist thriller that’s unsettling and darkly funny in equal measure, it concerns Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), a woman consumed by the notion that she will die tomorrow.

Her’s isn’t a suicidal inclination, rather an unwavering conviction of her imminent demise. She vocalises this belief to her friend Jane (Jane Adams), with Jane then gripped by the same doom-laden anxiety. Jane then talks of her own death tomorrow to her brother (Chris Messina) and his party guests, and an increasing number of characters become ‘infected’ by this emotional contagion, the effects including transcendental visions and varying degrees of either panic or acceptance.

Whether consciously or not, much of the multi-talented Seimetz’s work has concerned mortality in various ways. Her striking first feature as director, Sun Don’t Shine (2012), is a Florida noir that resembles what you might get if Lynne Ramsay adapted a Jim Thompson story – like Ramsay’s Morvern Callar (2002), it involves the attempted discreet disposal of a body. As an actor, Seimetz’s credits include several key horror films of the last decade, from independent breakthrough You’re Next (2011) to studio spine-chillers Alien: Covenant (2017) and Pet Sematary (2019). Her fee for the latter reportedly funded She Dies Tomorrow.

Speaking to us via Zoom, Seimetz discussed the film’s existential dread and eccentricities…

Full interview for the BFI

10 great Scottish youth films

From A Taste of Honey (1961) to Rocks (2019), British cinema has plenty to offer when it comes to films about the young and restless. But of all the nations of the UK, it’s arguably Scotland that has offered the most formal invention and thematic bite – regarding issues of class, wealth gaps and isolation – when it comes to cinematic tales of youth.

Some of Scotland’s greatest filmmakers – Lynne Ramsay and Bill Forsyth among them – got their start with films told from the point of view of troubled kids and gawky teenagers. Directors from further south in the UK, meanwhile, have made some of their best work when journeying north and drawing from young talent.

While the relatively small pool of Scottish teen films leans towards narratives set in or around Edinburgh and Glasgow, you rarely find one that’s indistinguishable from another thanks to the distinctive imprints of their directors. Delinquency is a common thread, but you’re not going to confuse Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen (2002) with Peter Mullan’s Neds (2010).

The feature debut of writer-director Ninian Doff, horror-comedy Get Duked! (2019), supported by the BFI Film Fund, sees 4 teenage boys on a highlands trek stalked by wealthy aristocrats hunting them for sport. Not just a foul-mouthed riff on The Most Dangerous Game (1932), the film also has much on its mind about class warfare and the bad hand dealt to Generation Z.

To mark its release on 28 August, exclusive to Amazon Prime Video, here are 10 of the best films about Scottish youth…

Full feature for the BFI

A Julia Fox erotic drama explores domination and digital life

In one of the more attention-grabbing openings in recent memory, PVT Chat begins with a climax, opening on a young man, Jack (Peter Vack), in a dingy apartment, masturbating during a one-to-one session with leather-clad camgirl Scarlet (Julia Fox). They’re participating in roleplay, Scarlet commanding Jack to lick her boot and swallow the cigarette end she pushes towards her webcam.

Scarlet says she lives in San Francisco, while Jack lives in New York City. During their deepening nightly conversations where they get to know each other, Jack tells her he works in tech and waxes lyrical about his revolutionary app idea. In fact, his ‘profession’ is as an online blackjack player, using his wildly inconsistent earnings to pay for his Scarlet time at night, while bullshitting his way into constant rent deferrals for his tattered room and living off cheap noodles…

Full feature for Little White Lies

Where to begin with Atom Egoyan

Why this might not seem so easy

Excluding contributions to anthology films, Canada-based auteur Atom Egoyan has nearly 20 feature credits to his name as a director. But Egoyan’s work also extends to theatre, opera, art installations and music. While footage of some of his installations can be found on YouTube, and a number of his shorts have a home among the extras on disc releases of his features, a full portrait of him as an artist working across multiple fields is nigh on impossible to achieve without access to any archives the man himself might have.

In terms of content, something that may potentially put off newcomers to Egoyan’s work are the hermetic worlds in which many of them, particularly his early string of features, operate. Intense emotions are repressed and human interaction is often communicated through transmitted images. Before Exotica (1994) and the twice Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter (1997) brought him wider recognition and commercial success, Egoyan, alongside fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, was one of North American cinema’s key chroniclers of life in the developing video age, where the nature of human relationships radically altered in the wake of technology’s expanding role in our lives. Bureaucracy and other power structures also tend to isolate characters in his films. They are about alienation and so can be alienating…

Full feature for the BFI

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams