May 14, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, 2023)

I’ve been feeling extremely down lately, and then, this film came along and just like that, it shone a ray of light on my gloomy Sunday! Even though I’ve only been familiar with a couple of Capcom’s ‘Dungeons & Dragons’-themed beat ‘em ups, and have never played the tabletop ‘alpha’ that influenced many RPGs, I was almost instantly pulled into the world of Daley and Goldstein’s high fantasy. (Oh yeah, I also did watch that notorious 2000 movie, but I can’t remember much of it.) 

The band of unlikely heroes that guide the viewer through their larger-than-life adventure makes for the very heart of the story that may be formulaic, but it is damn exciting! Laced with a neat blend of great humor and unexpected poignancy, it brims with hazardous challenges, from a morbidly obese dragon to a trap-infested maze to a powerful sorceress. (Speaking of whom, her clan of mages that can turn humans into zombies actually reminded me of the scummy political ‘sect’ that rules my country, but I’m being awfully nice here, the real monsters are more insidious.) And the pacing is mostly brisk!

All members of the ensemble cast seem to enjoy their roles, and each one of them is allowed a place under the spotlight, and as far as I’m concerned, they do a fine job in earning the sympathies. When it comes to the youngest of protagonists – a shapeshifter (or rather, Wild Shape) Doric portrayed by lovely Sophia Lillis, it is CGI that complements the character, providing you with one exceptionally memorable scene featuring a beautiful fictitious beast called Owlbear. The production design is top-notch, with generous amounts of eye-candy served in the form of dwarf villages, Gothic edifices and caves overflowing with lava, inter alia, their epicness elevated by an evocative score imbued with folksy notes.

May 1, 2023

Best Premiere Viewings of April 2023


1. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)

From the emerald ring to strong incestuous undertones (pretty bold for the time, if I may add), it’s easy to see ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ as one of major influences on ‘Twin Peaks’, and it’s no secret that Lynch has taken many cues from Hitchcock. What makes this superb thriller still engaging eight decades later is the masterly built suspense, particularly in its second half, with the psychological tension between a heroine, Charlie, and her namesake uncle antagonist (stellar performances from Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, respectively) oozing from the screen.

2. Le mur / The Wall (Serge Roullet, 1967)

One cell. Three men. Sentenced to death. Time: the Spanish Civil War. 

Co-written by director Serge Roullet and playwright/philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The Wall’ comes across as a sullen and solemn meditation on the absurdity of existence, or rather on humans’ torturous inability to accept their own imminent end, and grasp what comes afterwards, for those who remain. The film’s many silences, some of which act as pitch-black voids for the answers, fall as heavy as dirt and rocks tossed on the coffin, their funereal attributes emphasized by the tomb-like coldness of the prison, as well as by the gravely beautiful B&W cinematography. Highly evocative of Bresson, especially of ‘Procès de Jeanne d'Arc’, in its narrative economy, camera’s languorous movements, and desensitized performances from the largely non-professional cast, this harrowing drama is not an easy watch, but it is a powerful piece of art cinema.

3. Fiul Stelelor / The Son of the Stars (Calin Cazan, Dan Chisovski & Mircea Toia, 1985)

(read my mini-review HERE)

4. Veneno para las hadas / Poison for the Fairies (Carlos Enrique Taboada, 1986)

Ana Patricia Rojo (only 12 at the time of the film’s release) brilliantly portrays one of the most dominant and manipulative pubescent girls of cinema, Verónica, with Elsa María Gutiérrez in her first and only screen role making for her perfect partner, as a submissive and oh-so-naive Flavia, in a wicked modern fairy tale that grows increasingly unsettling, like a children’s movie subverted through the prism of (unconventional) horror. What makes their strained, toxic ‘friendship’ – speeding on a highway to the Loss of Innocence city – quite discomforting to watch is the perspective of a minor that Taboada opts for to tell the story, shooting the film from the angles that conceal adults’ faces, with a few ‘reveals’ reserved for traumas and nightmares. (This may be seen as a gimmick by some viewers, yet it works like a charm, with Guadalupe García’s crisp cinematography giving off a picture-book vibe). Twisted dynamics between the two main characters reflect the themes of jealousy, class tension, superstition vs. reason, and the power of suggestion reaching alarming heights when the fantasy it conjures becomes reality fueled by fear and despair...

5. L’Alliance / The Wedding Ring (Christian de Chalonge, 1970)

Based on a story by Jean-Claude Carrière who also co-stars with Anna Karina, ‘The Wedding Ring’ is a sly, slow-burning, subtly surreal study of paranoia that re/deconstructs the Adam and Eve myth and, in a certain way, anticipates Victor Pelevin’s novel ‘The Life of Insects’. Imbued with both wry humor and the sense of impending doom, it provides you with a bizarre ‘eyegasmic’ experience by virtue of its autumnal palette of ripe yellow-oranges, leaden grays and earthy tones occasionally (and beautifully!) complemented by velvety shades of blue. The increasingly foreboding presence of mostly exotic animals – the male protagonist’s ‘patients’ – brings forth a soundscape of squeaks, squeals and screeches made even more disquieting by sparingly employed cacophonies of gloom from Gilbert Amy. The film’s elusive, anti-Eden mood is further enhanced by Carrière’s deadpan professionalism, and impenetrable secrecy surrounding Karina’s character.

6. Romeo Is Bleeding (Peter Medak, 1993)

At once a hard-boiled neo-noir and a camp-infused near-parody of the genre, ‘Romeo Is Bleeding’ is a richly woven tapestry of morally conflicted anti-heroism (Gary Oldman’s stellar, increasingly melodramatic take on the crooked cop stereotype), a feverish femme fatale delirium (Lena Olin at her most obscenely elegant and slyly domineering), Dariusz Wolski’s classy lensing that intensifies the sense of impending doom often coupled with the sexual and/or psychological tension, and Mark Isham’s smoky, melancholic jazz perfectly compatible with both the story’s seedy milieu and the protagonist’s macho-romanticism. What makes the impression even stronger are remarkable supporting performances from Michael Wincott, his gravelly voice unmistakably disquieting, Roy Scheider, intimidating as a crime boss with a cold gaze, and Juliette Lewis whose character of a hussy lover remains memorable, in spite of being underused.

7. Zero Patience (John Greyson, 1993)

Synonymous with unhinged weirdness, ‘Zero Patience’ subverts the discriminatory urban legend of HIV ‘patient 0’ Gaëtan Dugas (1952-1984) into a campy, audacious musical comedy that has garnered polarizing opinions during three decades of its existence. Fighting sensationalism with sensationalism, film pokes fun at mass hysteria caused by the abuse of information by both tabloids and mainstream media (on a dangerous rise in recent years), and thus provides a healthy dose of thought-provoking entertainment. On top of that, director/writer John Greyson injects his story with spicy elements of exuberant phantasmagoria, bringing to modern life Victorian adventurer and sexologist Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), and materializing the ghost of ‘Zero’ guided by the desire to clear his name (paradoxically, never mentioned). As the former is the only one who can see the latter, it is only a matter of time before the two men get up close and personal, with catchy pop numbers along the lines of Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys operating as a connecting tissue. Taking the stage, among others, are a bathhouse trio whose performance in the shower evokes the absurd humor of Monty Python sketches, a butthole duet accompanied by nude aerobics, and a drag-personification of HIV falsetto-ing ‘Scheherezade’ from under the microscope. Yes, it’s queer cinema at its most whimsical.

8. De cierta manera / One Way or Another (Sara Gómez, 1977)

The first Cuban offering directed by a woman marks the feature debut from Sara Gómez who died at only 31, right after the shooting was completed. Edited by her colleagues and released three years after hear death, ‘One Way or Another’ is a fascinating account on post-revolutionary Cuba, focusing on a growing romance between an independent schoolmistress, Yolanda, and a macho factory worker, Mario, against the backdrop of (still marginalized) Afro-Cuban community. An experimental symbiosis of anthropological documentary, neorealist drama with a feminist edge, and keen examination of the communist propaganda, it insightfully captures a tumultuous chapter in history, with all of its cultural and socio-political specificities viewed from the perspective of rapid changes... or the illusion thereof. Gómez takes a matter-of-fact-like approach in her direction, and treats the camera as an objective observer, so even the fictionalized parts of her film give off ‘cinéma vérité’ vibes, as the largely non-professional cast coalesce into the stream of daily life.

9. Still Breathing (James F. Robinson, 1997)

Behind a corny poster hides a delightfully quirky romantic dramedy that marks director/writer/producer James F. Robinson’s first and sadly only fiction feature. Like the vast majority of similar offerings, it comes across as a beautiful, typically filmic lie that you just can’t help but cherish, as it self-consciously jokes about itself being a real life. A great part of the film’s off-kilter charm can be credited to the leading duo – Joanna Going’s tastefully sensual, subtly campy take on a wannabe-cynical L.A. con artist, Rosalyn, and Brendan Fraser’s disarmingly candid portrayal of a psychic, soft-spoken Texan marionettist, Fletcher, who expresses his creativity through collages, stone stacking and playing Verdi in a trumpet-euphonium duo with his eccentric grandmother (Celeste Holm, utterly endearing in her supporting role). Rather then being star-crossed lovers, these two meet in (black and white) dreams as their boy and girl selves, with the innocence of their fated affair lending color to the proceedings, even during the scenes of simmering eroticism, such as the one of Rococo paintings projected on Rosalyn’s body. The peculiar chemistry between the stars makes the suspension of disbelief easier, as their characters’ fairy tale blooms to a soundtrack as diversified as a 90’s mix-tape of a sentimental jazz enthusiast. 

10. 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle / 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)

“Today, when revolutions are impossible and bloody wars loom, when capitalism is unsure of its rights and the working class is in retreat, when the lightning progress of science makes future centuries hauntingly present, when the future is more present than the present, when distant galaxies are at my doorstep.”

At his most socialist / anti-consumerist, Jean-Luc Godard speaks truths and eerily accurate predictions in a whisperry voice, bringing about the birth of a whole universe in a cup of coffee. The city of lights acts like a microcosm of the prostituting society, as primary colors train the viewer’s eye to hunt for details, for neither god nor devil are in them, but the remnants of humanity (gradually losing to indifference). The boundaries between politics and poetics, personal and common are torn, leaving you defenseless against an intentionally dry, genre-defying piece of cinema, in equal measures Pop Art and Brutalist.

11. The Sleeping Tiger (Joseph Losey, 1954)

Marking Joseph Losey’s first British film and the beginning of his (great!) collaboration with Dirk Bogarde, ‘The Sleeping Tiger’ is a pretty neat blend of melodrama and thriller that goes slightly off the rails (and into the viewer’s face) towards the end, but most of the time poses as a nuanced character study of a ‘bad apple’. Malcolm Arnold’s sweeping score and Harry Waxman’s handsome lensing both work like a charm, with the aforementioned actor’s performance being the film’s most valuable asset.

12. Rosen für Bettina / Ballerina (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1956)

Elisabeth Müller radiates timeless elegance as the titular ballerina, Bettina Sanden, who is diagnosed with polio just before the rehearsals for the production of Boléro are about to start, in the second to last film by Austrian filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst. A classic melodrama that may appear a bit reactionary nowadays finds its anchor in composed direction, beautifully noirish cinematography, and inspired portrayal of human perseverance. 

13. The Bedroom Window (Curtis Hanson, 1987)

‘The Bedrom Window’ may not be ‘Rear Window’, but there’s more than enough itching suspense in this pulpy neo-noir thriller, particularly during its final act, to earn it the ‘Hitchcockian’ label. The unlikely cast of Isabelle Huppert (nonchalantly injecting the film with femme fatale iciness), Steve Guttenberg (of ‘Police Academy’ fame, bringing boyish charm to his reckless hero) and Elizabeth McGovern (transforming from a vulnerable victim into a determined avenger) works weirdly well, with a bit of sex appeal attached to each of their roles. And Brad Greenquist with his eerily piercing blue eyes is perfectly cast as the psycho perpetrator of the intricate tale adapted from the novel ‘The Witnesses’ by Anne Holden. Also memorable are Ron Foreman’s neat production design, with the unexpected image of E.A. Poe delineated in neon as a nightclub decoration, and the charmingly understated cinematography by Gilbert Taylor (Dr. Strangelove, Repulsion, Frenzy, The Omen).

14. Světlonoc / Nightsiren (Tereza Nvotová, 2022)

“The Sun can burn you, but the Moon is different... It’s like a caress.”

In Tereza Nvotová’s sophomore fiction feature, biting social commentary on superstition, prejudice and the position of women in a traditional community outlines the tale of a girl, Šarlota, haunted by the ghosts of the past. The setting is modern, yet the belief in witches still lives, and brings forth tension in a remote mountain village surrounded by the fog of god-fearing, patriarchal-minded hypocrisy. A sense of foreboding is present right from the get-go, and it grows stronger with each Šarlota’s step, especially after she becomes close to a mysterious herbalist, Mira, both of them rejecting some of the locals’ advances. The (magnetic!) duo may be falsely accused of witchcraft, but they do cast a spell on the viewer by virtue of finely tuned performances from Natalia Germani and Eva Mores (a superb big-screen debut!), as Nvotová balances between drama and folk horror, leaving something to be desired in her mostly restrained treatment of the latter genre. Elevating the director’s efforts in her examination of real evils against the hints of supernatural is the beautiful forest where much of the action takes place, especially in the second half that rewards our patience – required for a slow build-up – with a highly memorable sequence of rave-like sabbath.

15. Thanh Sói / Furies (Veronica Ngo, 2022)

Veronica Ngo and the trio of badass heroines she commands both behind and in front of the camera pull no punches in the first Netflix original from Vietnam – a prequel to Le-Van Kiet’s solid 2019 flick ‘Furie’ (Hai Phuong). Directing with verve and intensity, she delivers a stylishly pulptastic mix of drama, revenge thriller and action laced with feminist ferocity, and set in the underbelly of Saigon awashed in garish colors and dazzling neon lights that evoke Ninagawa and Refn. Although her wig and CG effects tend to be a bit jarring, the aftertaste of adrenaline-fueled fighting sequences and that one motorcycle chase involving some more kicking and clashing of cold weapons make you turn a blind eye to the film’s flaws.

16. Sri Asih (Upi Avianto, 2022)

Is it possible to make a solid superhero flick on a budget tighter than what the team of Donner’s ‘Superman’ (released 45 years ago!) lost solely on flying tests? According to Upi Avianto, the answer is ‘yes’. Based on the characters appearing in the comics released by Indonesian entertainment company Bumilangit, ‘Sri Asih’ brings the origin story of the titular heroine – an orphaned girl, Alana, trained as a MMA fighter by her adoptive mother, to incarnate the goddess of all good in life, when the time comes. She can be described as a mix of Wonder Woman, Cole from the latest ‘Mortal Kombat’ flick, and Rose from ‘Street Fighter’ series, given that she uses a scarf as a weapon. Opposing her is a group of ‘businessmen’ involved in gentrification plans, and tightly knit with the corrupted police (not to mention dark supernatural forces), so one can say that the narrative is laced with some biting socio-political commentary. Its ‘by the Marvel-and-DC numbers’ traits are elevated by local flavors, such as the ritual surrounding the ‘harnessing’ of Alana’s powers, making ‘Sri Asih’ a worthy follow-up to Joko Anwar’s ‘Gundala’ (2019) – the first feature of Bumilangit Cinematic Universe. Also, there’s a satisfying sense of poetic justice in seeing a girl beat the crap out of a privileged misogynist whose famous daddy bribes him out of any trouble, especially when you’re familiar with a real-life case of hit-and-run in which the son of a sycophant TV-station owner destroyed an innocent life, and was punished with an ankle-bracelet house arrest...


1. Le rideau cramoisi / The Crimson Curtain (Alexandre Astruc, 1953)

Directed by French critic Alexandre Astruc revered for his ‘caméra-stylo’ contribution to the auteur theory, ‘The Crimson Curtain’ takes a simple premise of forbidden romance and gently filters it through the prism of gothic horror, its elegantly lavish costume + production design (Mayo), and highly expressive black and white cinematography (Eugen Schüfftan) stealing your breath away with their awe-inspiring beauty. Though a protagonist’s voice-over narration slightly stains the purity of visual / dialogue-free storytelling, this mid-length piece of cinema – a brooding chamber drama with a tragic denouement – deeply impresses time and again, awaking a sense of wonder with nothing but a touch under the table, and evoking Poe’s apparitions by means of Anouk Aimée’s ethereal, otherworldly presence in her big-screen debut.

2. Introspection (Sara Kathryn Arledge, 1941-1946)

Modern dance interpreted in the language of avant-garde cinema to the music of Franz Schubert. A dream-stream of colors, movements and overlays.

3. The Chocolate Acrobat (Tessa Sheridan, 1995)

If you like your films poetic, dreamy, opaque, darkly romantic, deliberately paced, and gorgeously shot in high-contrast B&W, then Tessa Sheridan’s 37-minute debut will surely mesmerize you. 

4. Dream Work (Peter Tscherkassky, 2001)

Apr 24, 2023

Il Futuro / The Future (Alicia Scherson, 2013)

***(*) our of 10

MUBI’s take on ‘The Future’ is a fine example of false advertising, and it goes like this:

“A surreal, freewheeling adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel A Little Lumpen Novelita, this remarkable film from Chilean director Alicia Scherson leaps between genres – from noir to 50’s sci-fi pastiche. Told through a series of flashbacks, The Future is a thrillingly postmodern, magic-realist enigma.”

Even though I’m not familiar with the source material, I’ve seen enough ‘surreal’ and ‘magic-realist’ pieces of cinema to know that a mysterious (or rather, meta-gimmicky) light seen by two protagonists can hardly be considered a reason for such labels. The only thing remarkable about Scherson’s film is how unremarkable most of its aspects are, from her bland direction and uninvolving screenplay, to weathered Rutger Hauer on autopilot in a supporting role of a blind ex-bodybuilder / actor who falls for an adolescent girl played with a cold, if uninhibited nonchalance by 30-yo Manuela Martinelli. That leaping through genres is much closer to aimless meandering, with noir-ish vibes only present in parts that feel as if belonging to another film, and 50’s sci-fi pastiche being... what exactly? The aforementioned light, or the excerpts from ‘Maciste’ fantasy features seen on a TV? As ‘thrillingly postmodern’ as a dead horse flogged by a celery stalk, ‘The Future’ is barely redeemed by its decent visuals, with some stylish imagery popping-up in the second half, as well as by the weirdly evocative score.

However, if you want a different opinion to make you waste 90 minutes of your time, here’s the last line from Andrew McArthur’s article for The People’s Movies website:

“Scherson has crafted a fascinating slice of gothic noir that proves to be both sublimely acted and directed. Il Futuro is packed with suspense, heart and nostalgia – resulting in an outstandingly original combination.”

Apr 9, 2023

Fiul Stelelor / The Son of the Stars (Calin Cazan, Dan Chisovski & Mircea Toia, 1985)

Being a child of the 80’s and a total sucker for rotoscoped films (vintage ones, not the Linklater kind), I was completely enchanted by ‘The Son of the Stars’ recently restored by Deaf Crocodile and released on Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome, as a follow-up to Cazan and Toia’s first collaboration ‘Delta Space Mission’ (1984) (written about in THIS ARTICLE). A wildly weird mix of science-fiction and fantasy found in plenty of Saturday morning cartoons of the time, particularly from Filmation workshop (Flash Gordon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Bravestarr), the film opens like ‘Tarzan’ of the very distant future (in the year of 6470!), only to turn into an existential space opera that involves everything but the kitchen sink from learning telepathic communication to facing a mysterious entity that controls time, and evokes Lovecraftian lore in one of its manifestations. 

I can’t tell which Western films were available in Romania behind the Iron Curtain, but I can’t shake off the feeling that the creative team of this low-budget gem did come across René Laloux’s ‘The Masters of Time’ (1982), as well as with some of Ralph Bakshi’s features. They could’ve also been influenced by Vladimir Tarasov’s shorts of the late 70’s, considering that both visuals – quite charming in their ‘wobbliness’ – and synth-and-bleep-heavy soundscapes can often be labeled as psychedelic, despite the gloomy color palette of murky greens, grayish blues, and muddy oranges. The bizarre universe that the viewer is taken to reveals the exotic jungles of Doreea where a young hero, Dan, is raised by pear-shaped critters, an industrial wasteland guarded by a knight who wouldn’t be out of place in ‘Star Wars’, and a rocky planet whose caves serve as communication channels to different worlds, and where ‘matter is in constant transformation’. Speaking of which, Dan’s coming-of-age-and-savior that parallels his intergalactic adventure assumes the shape-shifting traits of imaginative designs, with spatio-temporal distortions and vacuum-defying conflicts posing as signs of the story’s unexpected turns.

Apr 1, 2023

Best Premiere Viewings of March 2023

1. Сказка (Александр Сокуров, 2022) / Fairytale (Alexander Sokurov, 2022)

In the artists’ purgatory, Dante meets Beckett by way of Goya and Doré, their souls converge into a sly entity that possesses Sokurov’s dreams, and as a result of this esoteric act, he delivers a fascinating piece of experimental animation. Cleverly utilizing a combo of deepfake technology and archive footage, the Russian master brings four historical figures in their multiple versions to (after)life, and pokes some serious fun at them against the backdrop of foggy limbo where they’re stuck believing they deserve to enter paradise. The plot sounds like the beginning of a political joke that involves Stalin, Churchill, Mussolini and Hitler, with cameos by Jesus and Napoleon, and indeed, one can’t help but laugh at those egotistical, imperialistic mugs bickering about various topics, from their clothes and hygiene to religion and ideological isms. However, sardonically titled ‘Fairytale’ isn’t just an absurdist collection of darkly humorous quips – it is a powerful, provocative artistic experience that often remind us of history’s inconvenient tendency to repeat itself:

“Don’t lament, my brother. All will be forgotten, we’ll start anew... The best it yet to come... Soon, soon...

2. Flesh and Fantasy (Julien Duvivier, 1943)

Out of three Duvivier’s films I’ve seen so far, ‘Flesh and Fantasy’ is the one closest to my heart. A peculiar noir anthology laced with supernatural elements and hopeless romanticism, it weaves dreams, premonitions, and life’s multifaceted intricacies, into short, yet compelling tales built upon the dichotomy of fatalism and self-reliance / superstition and logic. The film’s main forte lies in its startling cinematography by Paul Ivano and Stanley Cortez (who would lend his remarkable talent to ‘The Night of the Hunter’ 12 years later), and Alexander Tansman’s sweeping, rapturously melodramatic score, their airtight synergy providing plenty of moments of breathtaking or even goosebump-inducing beauty. Also praiseworthy are stellar performances from the entire cast, with Betty Field, Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck standing out as scene-stealers, and Duvivier’s meticulous direction paired with keen sense of pacing, tonal shifts and mystery.

3. Caminhos Magnétykos / Magnetick Pathways (Edgar Pêra, 2018)

In Portugal turned into a fascist dystopia, Dominique Pinon’s ex-revolutionary character Raymond Vachs faces an intense inner struggle that is eloquently translated into a fierce torrent of hypnotizing dissolves and superimpositions making an entire film a dazzling, uninterrupted hallucinatory sequence. The protagonist’s existential dilemma – soaked in the reality-shattering multitude of conflicting thoughts and feverish rants – finds its liquid reflection in kaleidoscopic imagery boldly edited into a formally challenging phantasmagoria. Additionally greasing his descent into both personal and societal hell is the moody soundtrack dominated by droning electronica that occasionally slips into unexpected interludes of blistering metal, jazzy dissonance, and acoustic guitar compassion. The color palette of Raymond’s tearing of time and space would leave Refn breathless in the run for his money, and the film’s puzzling nature – emphasized by the inclusion of Outer God worshippers and ghosts from the Portuguese real-life past – strives to outweird Lynch’s psychological mind-benders. ‘Magnetick Pathways’ is the work of a brilliant cine-fetishist who really knows how to treat the most adventurous among the viewers.

4. Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais, 1959)

“It will begin again. It will be 10,000 degrees on the earth. 10,000 suns, people will say. The asphalt will burn. Chaos will prevail. An entire city will be lifted off the ground, then fall back to earth in ashes. New vegetation rises from the sands...”

Ringing stronger now than ever, these premonitory words remind us of how terrible a teacher history has been, as they set the oppressively brooding tone of this highly unconventional romantic drama. Easily one of the most assured feature debuts for both the screenwriter, Marguerite Duras, and director, Alain Resnais, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ plunges the viewer into the unpredictable depths of emotions, leaving you helpless, as if you were a distant observer. Reliant on sombre performances from its leading duo of Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada, or rather their poetic, increasingly bleak dialogue, the film also strives to unlock the secrets of (traumatic) memories, raising a plethora of questions on the psychological mechanism of forgetting and remembering. Anticipated by stunning opening shots of entangled bodies, its narrative convolution makes it a challenging or rather aching watch somewhat alleviated by Sacha Vierny and Michio Takahashi’s stark cinematography, as well as by Georges Delerue and Giovanni Fusco’s solemn score. The atrocities of war and its aftermath engage in a mysterious pas de deux with the devastating beauty of love, as the past buries the present in the gaping maw of time...

In the second of two films he created prior to retreating into a life of seclusion, Yong-Kyun Bae adopts the language of slow cinema to build a bleak world of loss and longing, dead silences and lost souls, fractured memories and neverending night(s). ‘The People in White’ is an oneiric, deeply meditative drama about the ghosts of the past so traumatic that the future becomes a certain impossibility. Unfolding at a languorously mesmerizing pace, it feels like one of those heavy, harrowing dreams that tend to make you believe that you actually experienced them. And it’s heart-achingly beautiful, with all of its derelict and industrial locations reigned by the darkest of shadows engulfing the protagonists burdened with melancholy...

6. La navire Night (Marguerite Duras, 1979)

As the camera smoothly glides like a ship across the most silent of seas, there are at least four layers to peel here. One is a story of doomed romance – a sorrowful phantom of de-sentimentalized words. The other is a gloomy ode to the city of light and its ghosts risen – unseen – from their Père Lachaise graves. Then, there is a literal document of the film’s own making – a poeticized, hypnotizing, illusion-shattering behind-the-scenes. And finally, we find an imaginary / unfinished piece of cinema, at once denied and re-confirmed, emerging from the disparity between off-screen voices and crestfallen images. We are kept at a distance, an insurmountable one, and yet we feel close to this strange entity, dead before it was born.

7. To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985)

A dancer’s painted face which can be glimpsed during the opening sequence acts like a bad omen, its cold expression of indifference setting up the film’s nihilist tone. Add a cynical (anti)hero guided by the thirst for revenge to the pulpy story revolving around the counterfeiting biz, and you have yourself one of the best and grittiest neo-noir actioners of the 80’s. Propelled by Wang Chung’s avid, electrifying score and stylishly lensed by Wenders’s and Jarmusch’s frequent collaborator Robby Müller, ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ boasts a slick, kinetic direction from Friedkin, and well-rounded performances from the entire cast, its strongest asset being the bold transformation of ‘sleaze’ into an admirable piece of art, as well as the apnea-inducing chase sequence that many critics have already raved about.

8. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino, 1974)

Sometimes, it takes a single shot accidentally caught after switching a TV channel to fall for a movie, track it down and watch it. This time around, it’s Cimino’s admirable feature debut – a buddy-road-heist-flick in which tonal shifts occur so smoothly that you can’t help but go with the flow and see where it takes you. The stars of the show, Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges, give stellar performances, and spark some genuine pal or even brotherly chemistry right from the very first exchange of wits, with Frank Stanley capturing the spirit of Americana in beautiful widescreen. Although our (anti)heroes live by night, not caring much about the consequences of their deeds, you keep rooting for them charming bastards, and finding unexpected moments of poignancy between all the jokes, robberies, car chases and Lightfoot’s hunger for sex.

9. Hyakumannen chikyū no tabi: Bandā bukku / One Million-Year Trip: Bander Book (Osamu Tezuka, 1978)

Giving weirdness a whole new meaning, this long-forgotten animated TV special – first of its feature-length kind in Japan – anticipates great many Saturday-morning cartoons of the 80’s with its freewheeling melding of genres. A space opera at its core, it follows an intergalactic adventure of a 17-yo boy, Bander, whose peaceful life on a planet of shape-shifters is interrupted by the sudden arrival of invaders from Earth, led by none other than one of Tezuka’s most famous creations, Dr. Black Jack, turned into a pirate.

The hero’s journey is brimful of references, ranging from Ancient Greece and Max Fleischer cartoons to 1973 sci-fi western ‘Westworld’ and Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ to ‘The Exorcist’ and Hammer horror movies to M.C. Escher’s art and Disney flicks to the Panspermia hypothesis and Orwellian dystopia! As the viewer is introduced to the plethora of alien creatures some of whom defy description, Bander faces a humanoid robot, count Dracula who keeps biting his tongue, a Cyclops riding a Pterodactyl-like dragon, a nunchaku-wielding Neanderthal (during a time-traveling sequence), and an evil super-computer that serves autocratic forces. Surprisingly, the melting pot of a story is pretty easy to follow, and it doesn’t feel like a mere patchwork of incongruous influences and homages – it is a wildly imaginative exploration of the destructive side of human nature, as well as an eco-conscious parable featuring a short lesson on evolution according to Darwin. Although the animation hasn’t aged well, the diversified, borderline experimental artwork  beautifully accompanied by eclectic soundtrack of epic orchestrations, psychedelic rock, and funky disco provides a gripping, inner child-awakening experience.

10. Arracht / Monster (Tom Sullivan, 2019)

Filmed in Irish Gaelic, and set during the Potato Famine of the mid-1840’s, the feature debut by actor turned filmmaker Tom Sullivan is a bleakly beautiful and subtly directed tone poem about hope, kindness and the perseverance of human spirit in times of moil, despair, treachery and death. Its forte lies in two captivating leading performances by Dónall Ó Héalai, whose haggard physicality mirrors his character’s tragedy, and firsttimer Saise Quinn portraying orphaned Kitty whose angelic looks and innocence rekindle the mournful man’s paternal instincts, and heal his tender heart. Equally striking is Kate McCullough’s cinematography that captures the countryside of Ireland at its most depressing, with rocky shore, withered grass, nearly-black sea and steely, cloudless sky accentuating the protagonists’ misery. Complementing the austere atmosphere is a phantasmal dialogue of the elegiac, evocative score by veterans of Kíla with the imposing soundscape in which the crashing of the waves and the howling of the wind become an uncanny presence.

11. El Mar / The Sea (Agustí Villaronga, 2000)

Three friends who suffered a shared childhood trauma reunite in a tuberculosis sanatorium where the ghosts of their past awaken in the atmosphere of omnipresent death and sexual repression. Laced with a myriad of conflicting and/or self-destructing emotions, this ostensibly simple story acts as a psychologically complex character study built around a thorny love triangle, identity issues, and dichotomy of homosexuality and Christianity. Villaronga’s meticulously understated direction and believable performances, particularly from Roger Casamajor and Bruno Bergonzini in their uninhibited big-screen debuts, anchor this darkly poignant drama, its nuances captured in both beautiful cinematography by Jaume Peracaula, and melancholic score by Javier Navarrete.

Five curious boys are initiated into the world of adults by my namesake Nikola (Zoran Radmilović at his most Belmondo-esque cool) in Mirza Idrizović’s delightful debut which firmly embraces the whims of European modernist cinema and mixes them with local flavors to witty effect, amidst the city suburbia that appears like the ghetto from Pasolini’s ‘Accattone’. Making the transition from kid’s play and mischief to talks about sex and first encounter with a prostitute (vampy Dušica Žegarac) as smooth as silk is the synergy of Kornelije Kovač’s jazzy score and Miroljub Dikosavljević’s handsome framing.

13. Unicorn Wars (Alberto Vázquez, 2022)

Inspired – in the author’s own words – by ‘Bible’, ‘Bambi’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’, though ‘Care Bears’ by way of ‘Happy Tree Friends’ also come to one’s mind, Alberto Vázquez’s sophomore feature operates as a bleak, nihilistic exploration of sibling rivalry, pathological ambition, religious zealotry, authoritarianism, egotism and militarism, making ‘Watership Down’ look like a Disney flick. Anti-war, anti-fascist and anti-clerical to the bone, this grim fable pulls no punches in its graphic depiction of candy-colored teddy bears engaging in the acts of gory violence, twincest, matricide, cannibalism, and abuse of psychedelic substances extracted from big, juicy rainbow-caterpillars. Brainwashed into the Holy War against unicorns of the Magic Forest, the inherently cuddly creatures are transformed into the instruments of senseless killing, with the last remnants of hope minced and drowned in the puddles of blood. The film’s ‘cute’, Saturday-morning-toon-like aesthetics – boldly subverted (or rather, strongly opposed) by the tale’s content, and complemented by some black humor – offer but a few sighs of relief in a visceral experience comparable to multiple unicorn horn stabs in the stomach. Vázquez’s audacity is nothing short of admirable, and he has gathered a team of talented artists to breathe grotesque life into his oddly, depressingly beautiful vision.

History is transmuted into a dream represented as a cinematic ritual in which action is reduced to symbols, and the passing of time is suggested by the camera’s elaborate movements beautifully capturing the ascetic, yet magnificent mise-en-scène. Quite possibly the most peculiar story of Attila the Hun or rather, the analysis of his behavior, as noted in the opening crawl, ‘The Technique and the Rite’ feels like a test film for Miklós Jancsó’s masterpiece ‘Electra, My Love’ (1974), with his signature style instantly recognizable in elegant one-takers.

15. Hon dansade en sommar / One Summer of Happiness (Arne Mattson, 1951)

After seeing three films by Arne Mattson, I think it’s safe to claim his work comes across as more accessible than that of his widely recognized compatriot Ingmar Bergman, which by no means diminishes its value. On the surface, ‘One Summer of Happiness’ is a light romantic / coming-of-age drama with a tragic epilogue (announced in the very opening), and you don’t even have to scratch it too much to notice the clash between the religious conservatism and socialist-minded liberalism painted against the backdrop of urban haughtiness vs. rural straightforwardness. Controversial in its time for one short scene involving the nudity of two young (and handsome) protagonists, Kerstin (Ulla Jacobsson) and Göran (Folke Sundquist), this titillating ode to love is quite tame by today’s standards, its themes still being relevant in many parts of the world. Mattson elicits excellent performances from his entire cast, with John Elfström perfectly embodying hate and faux spirituality in the character of minister, and by virtue of Göran Strindberg’s camera, paints both the beauty and hardships of pastoral life in compelling black and white.

16. Tokyo Vampire Hotel (Sion Sono, 2017)

At his most unrestrained (read: gleefully anarchic and merrily misanthropic), Sion Sono delivers a hyper-stylized, batshit crazy, unapologetically outré vampire flick in which two clans of bloodsuckers, Draculas and Corvins, fight over a ‘chosen one’ born on the 9th second past 9:09 a.m. (of September 9, I presume) in 1999. The former appear like an ethno-hippie cult living in a Romanian salt mine and fearing the crucifix, whereas the latter run a Tokyo hotel, Requiem, sustained by a ‘princess’ figure whose vagina is an entrance to (or exit from?) a Dantean inferno crowded with self-harming humans. The edifice interior is designed by Takashi Matsuzuka – fresh off ‘Antiporno’ – so you can expect the outbursts of bright colors both in rooms and hallways that will be sprayed with gallons of blood once the carnage of ‘Why Don’t You Play in Hell?’ proportions begins. Yes, everything about ‘Tokyo Vampire Hotel’ – edited from a six and a half hour long series – is defiantly over-the-top, rarely allowing you a breather to decide who to root for, or try to figure out how the locations on a European soil and Asian island are connected. Add to that a shriveled mater familias whose downfall is plotted by her incestuous children in one of a few betrayals saucing up the story, and you have yourself 140 minutes of wild, anime-like eccentricities, as well as a fine proof that action scenes should always be propelled by metal music.


Christmas on Earth (Barbara Rubin, 1964)

Opening with Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus in Furs’ and featuring Little Willie John’s ‘Fever’ on a diverse, psychedelic pop-rock soundtrack that nowadays operates like a groovy time-capsule, Barbara Rubin’s first and only completed film is, hands down, one of the most transgressive debuts, its alternative title betraying the provocative contents. Dreamily shot on a 16mm camera lent by Jonas Mekas, and entirely composed of tinted, frame-within-frame overlays, it beautifully captures the wild spirit of sexual revolution in a series of erotic performances almost ritualistic in their genital celebration. What Rubin (only 17 at the time!) achieves is transcending the carnal nature of her work, with extreme close-ups of both male and female reproductive organs often transformed into abstract backgrounds for the acts of free love.

Hidari (Masashi Kawamura, 2023)

A proof-of-concept for a feature-length film, ‘Hidari’ is a mighty impressive piece of stop-motion animation which utilizes beautiful wooden carved puppets – inspired by the work of legendary (possibly fictitious) Edo-era artist Jingorō Hidari – in a spellbinding fighting choreography captured by some expert camerawork. If you’re a fan of Samurai lore, I can guarantee that you will be left wanting more!

Mar 1, 2023

Best Premiere Viewings of February 2023

1. Ilektra / Electra (Michael Cacoyannis, 1962)

If beauty (in the eye of the beholder) could kill, this adaptation of Euripedes’s tragedy would be the death of me. The first five minutes alone are the masterclass in visual storytelling, with Walter Lassally’s eloquent B&W cinematography, and Cacoyannis’s absolute control over the cast’s tiniest expressions and slightest of gestures capturing the tension that leads to Agamemnon’s death in the hands of his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Intensifying the overwhelming power of imagery is the dramatic score by the legendary Mikis Theodorakis who harkens back to the ancient past through the solemn dialogue between classical and traditional music. The (now largely forgotten) art of blocking is brought to breathtaking perfection, elevating Irene Papas’s noble histrionics in the role of the titular anti-heroine whose pain, sorrow and burning desire for revenge engulf the rugged landscape under the silent sky. ‘Electra’ is so stunning, it hurts to the point of filling your eyes with tears.

2. Ďáblova past / The Devil’s Trap (František Vláčil, 1962)

‘The Devil’s Trap’ opens with an awe-inspiring extreme wide shot that juxtaposes a miniscule human figure against an armless crucifix statue ominously towered over the barren landscape, as the spectral vocalization worthy of a gothic horror sneaks under your skin, underlining the transcendental nature of that first image. Following it is a virtually uninterrupted succession of masterfully composed frames that – imbued with meaning, and backed by Zdeněk Liška’s moodily haunting score – capture the invisible, id est the tension between superstition/religion and reason/research embodied, respectively, by the chaplain and the miller who’s rumored to be collaborating with the Devil himself. The entire cast gives strong performances, their movement in the beautiful mise en scène synchronized with the elegantly choreographed camerawork by DP Rudolf Milič. There’s a grim folk/fairy tale-like quality to the story, particularly towards the end, with the supernatural elements remaining hidden or rather, ambiguous, and young love posing as an extra light on the path to the liberation from reactionary ideas...

3. Bruges-La-Morte (Ronald Chase, 1978)

In a delirious and highly POEtic psychological drama delicately laced with gothic horror undertones, Ronald Chase effectively amalgamates the lavish Victorian setting, dreamily mesmerizing camerawork, haunting sound design, eerily ambient score, and progressively disorienting narrative to establish a phantasmal atmosphere so thick that you can cut it with a knife. A darkly romanticized depiction of mourning over the death of a beloved one, ‘Bruges-La-Morte’ is told from the unreliable perspective of its (anti?) hero whose dance with the ghosts of the past puts a robe of delusions on his reality. Awakening from the nightmare may be just another trick of his faltering mind... 

Available on the authors official Vimeo channel, HERE.

4. La femme bourreau / A Woman Kills (Jean-Denis Bonan, 1968)

If you’re a fan of gialli, Godard, neo-noir, ‘Dressed to Kill’, dizzying POV takes, twisted camera angles, cacophonous music scores, disorienting chase sequences, the atmosphere of uneasiness, and biting social commentary thrown in for good measure, it’s about time you check out Jean-Denis Bonan’s feature debut – an obscure New Wave gem that was reportedly lost for 40 years.

5. The Thief of Bagdad (Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger & Tim Whelan, 1940)

Considering the troubled production which involves the beginning of the WWII, creative disagreements and another three uncredited directors, this version of ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ feels almost as magical as Raoul Walsh’s 1924 feature starring Douglas Fairbanks. Had I seen it as a kid, its dazzling color palette and fascinating set pieces, such as the battle with a giant spider inside the goddess statue, or the dance of six-handed ‘silver maid’ that probably inspired Ray Harryhausen’s Kali for ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ (1974), would’ve certainly shaped one of the most cherished cine-memories of my childhood. And for that reason alone, I just can’t find any major flaws – it is one of the most ravishing (and influential) fantasies ever to hit the silver screen.

6. Nije bilo uzalud / It Was Not in Vain (Nikola Tanhofer, 1957)

The fascinating directorial debut by Nikola Tanhofer (1926-1998) – considered one of the best Croatian filmmakers – blends social drama and rural gothic (with elements of crime thriller) to captivating effect, its story built around the clash between science and superstition. Set in the (fictitious?) village of Krnje in the proximity of Baranja swamps contributing to the eeriness that permeates the film’s dense atmosphere, it sees the practice of an enthusiastic physician, Jure, challenged and often thwarted by provincial mentality and local witch doctor, Čarka, whose herbs and spells are trusted more than his advices and medications. What makes this narrative as relevant as decades ago is the introduction of vaccine as the symbol of progress, and we all know very well that you don’t have to wander into a remote area of Balkan for a chance meeting with an anti-vaxxer. The people’s ignorant resistance on one side and Jure’s passionate dedication to his call on the other create a psychological tension reflected in the hero’s slightly deteriorating mental health, as well as in Slavko Zalar’s expressive lensing, particularly in the great use of deep focuses and noirish lighting, admirably complemented by Milo Cipra’s soaring score that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Hollywood flick of the time. 

7. Tiere / Animals (Greg Zglinski, 2017)

Taking cues from Bergman, Polanski and Lynch, Greg Zglinski delivers a mind-bending psychological drama / thriller that questions identities, realities and even a possibility of alternate dimensions through the prism of a dysfunctional relationship. Structured like an Escher’s artwork of impossible objects, perspectives and geometries, it keeps branching into multiple subplots that parallel and/or collide with each other, as well as pulling the rug from under your feet until you can’t tell what’s imaginary, and from whose point of view the nightmare unfolds. Whatever the solution to the mystery may be (and I have a feeling that only a black talking cat knows the answer), ‘Animals’ is an intriguing cine-puzzle, sharply directed, framed with a keen eye, and tightly edited, with brooding score complementing the dark and twisty mood.

8. Yek Etefagh sadeh / A Simple Event (Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1974)

Unfolding at a leisurely pace that corresponds with the rhythm of a young protagonist’s everyday routine, ‘A Simple Event’ portrays a dry slice of a boy’s life in a coastal town on the north of Iran. The film’s narrative minimalism – an unsentimental, matter-of-fact observation of struggling with, or rather accepting of poverty – translates into the thoughtfully framed imagery of raw poetry and austere beauty, channeling the apathy of the universe. The hardened unity of desaturated colors, sparse dialogue, almost complete absence of music, and Bressonian performances from the non-professional cast operates like a pathos-free elegy in which even mourning is a luxury.

9. Sherekilebi / The Eccentrics (Eldar Shengelaia, 1974)

On the way to find the means of repaying his recently deceased father’s debts, orphaned Ertaozi ends up in a prison where he meets a quirky, da Vinci look-alike inventor Qristepore, and after breaking free, the duo comes up with a flying contraption. The events leading to their chance meeting, as well as those surrounding the luckiest of escapes and construction of the strange machine are presented in the form of a delightful farce that must be even funnier for viewers familiar with the Georgian culture. Much of the humor stems from the mockery of authorities and officials (the priest, the police, the doctor), so I wouldn’t be surprised if I learned that the film had been banned for many years. What leaves a lasting impression, however, is the surrealist finale in which the aircraft so shaky and ramshackle that it barely stands on the ground actually starts flying, with no use of rear projections or any obvious special effects. Shown from various angles, this beautiful illusion alone is enough to seek out this gem of classic Georgian cinema.

10. Lulu (Ronald Chase, 1978)

(read my short review HERE)

Watch it at Vimeo.

11. Johnny Gunman (Art Ford, 1957)

A sole directorial credit of radio station DJ turned filmmaker Art Ford (1921-2006), ‘Johnny Gunman’ is an indie / low-budget crime drama whose charm derives from its ‘naïveté’ and sincerity which marks not only the author’s writing and direction, but also the two leading performances of Martin Brooks as laid-back gangster Johnny G. and Ann Donaldson as an aspiring writer nicknamed Coffee. The unlikely romance that blossoms between these characters – as delightfully stereotypical as ‘bad boy’ and ‘good girl’ get – is one of the main reasons the reality of the story appears somewhat dreamlike or rather, intrinsically filmic, keeping all the cogs of your ‘suspension of disbelief’ mechanism well-oiled. Part pulp noir, and part cautionary tale, the film isn’t without its share of continuity goofs and other flaws, and yet, it comes across as a compelling labor of love, with some nifty B&W shots of NY nightlife and evocative score that ranges from jazzy to (melo)dramatic supporting Ford’s vision.

12. Neugdaesanyang / Project Wolf Hunting (Hong-sun Kim, 2022)

Hong-sun Kim’s previous film – possession horror ‘Metamorphosis’ – has pretty much faded from my memory, but his latest offering won’t be nearly as easy to forget. A self-consciously pulpy, not to mention excessive combination of action and splatter (with a capital, dark-red S), ‘Project Wolf Hunting’ takes a ship hijack thriller premise, adds some ‘Universal Soldier’ elements, and turns it into a blood-soaked survival game that brings to mind Rob Jabbaz’s 2021 shocker ‘The Sadness’. Gallons and gallons of vital fluid paint the walls, floors, ceilings and peripherals of a freighter Titan in handsomely framed and dazzlingly color-graded compositions, as limbs are ripped, chests are pummeled and punctured, heads are smashed with a hammer, and knife stabs are followed by anime-style ‘geysers’, even before a Frankensteinian superhuman stowaway awakes from his hibernation. This gleefully nihilist, decidedly animalistic symphony of violence sees a great majority of (psychopathic) characters as nothing but cannon fodder, with a couple of villains you just love to hate stealing the spotlight, and a silent-type hero being saved for the grand finale which leaves room for a sequel... 

13. Sharper (Benjamin Caron, 2023)

“You can’t cheat an honest man, right?”

Benjamin Caron’s first big-screen outing underscores the deceptive nature of cinema, as well as its reliance on its own history. His (anti)heroes are con artists – brilliant ones at that – and they are portrayed by the cast who knows exactly what they’re doing which is making the viewer believe their dirty little swindling schemes. Written with wit, these characters never reveal their true selves, and honesty is reserved for their ‘victims’ until the final and most predictable of many twists in the story told in non-linear chapters. It is not a revelatory experience that Caron & Co. provide, yet it is a refreshing and entertaining one, elevated by the  sleek direction, Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s stylish cinematography and Kevin Thompson’s classy production design. 

14. Μια Νύχτα στο Θέατρο / A Night at the Theater (Sotiris Stamatis, 2022)

Small or rather, minimalist in scope, but ambitious in its playful juggling with the plethora of themes, Sotiris Stamatis’s feature debut comes across as a politically charged arthouse drama heavily relying upon leading (and sole) performances. Thankfully, both Rea Samaropoulou and Andreas Konstantinou are up to the task of pulling you in and keeping your attention on a decidedly meandering, dialogue-propelled narrative, as they portray the characters whose mythologically grandiose names – Athena and Odysseus – anticipate their transformation. Spending a night at a closed theater, as the title clearly indicates, the duo faces a coup d’état crisis in alternative present-day Greece, and simultaneously, their own set of issues that plunges them into a state of confusion – a  reflection of chaos raging outside. Their oft-heated conversations on politics, cinema, literature, historical hysteria, and much more betray the author struggling to find his place in the mad world, all the while making the most of the limited setting, with cinematographer Peter Salapatas as his right-hand man.  

15. Faces of Anne (Kongdej Jaturanrasamee & Rasiguet Sookkarn, 2022)

One of those ‘the less you know, the more you’ll enjoy’ kind of films, ‘Faces of Anne’ explores identity crisis (and depression) in a mind-bending blend of psychological thriller and slasher, utilizing an extensive palette of ‘tricks’, from hints provided through the details in production design, to red (meta)herrings, to depictions of the same event from different perspectives, in order to keep you as disoriented as the extremely vulnerable heroine(s) locked in a strange institution where all the inmates’ rooms look (almost) the same. Although it is intended for the ‘young adult’ audience, it will surely reach the older demographic who enjoy stubbornly ambiguous cine-puzzles with vague resolutions. The co-direction of Kongdej Jaturanrasamee & Rasiguet Sookkarn (whose previous offerings I’m not familiar with) is coherent, despite the story’s twisty nature, with cinematographer Boonyanuch Kraithong capturing some dark corners of the subconscious, and editorial duo of Harin Paesongthai and Nisarat Meechok cutting through nightmarish reality of Anne (played by 20 actresses!) with aplomb.