12 Jan 2017

Taste of the Obscure 80s

My latest list for Taste of Cinema brings together 25 less talked about films from the 80s - nine animated and sixteen live-action features, to be precise. It's quite an eclectic (and bizarre) selection, considering it includes a Tunisian fantasy, campy anime, Yugoslavian TV drama and experimental stop-motion animation, inter alia.

Chronopolis (Piotr Kamler, 1983)

Pentimento (Frans Zwartjes, 1979)

"Once Frans Zwartjes has caressed your eyeballs, you will never be able to see cinema in the same way again." (Maximilian Le Cain)

I wouldn't wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Le Cain's claim, especially not with the 'caressing' part, considering my first encounter with Zwartjes's oeuvre felt more like a punch in the stomach. Pentimento is a moody, disquieting, viscerally poetic and highly experimental mystery-drama (for the lack of a better term) probably conceived and brought to life in a fit of creative madness.

Set in a ramshackle spa situated in the middle of nowhere, it chronicles weird experiments coordinated by a Japanese doctor on a group of randomly picked women. Treated as nothing more (or even worse) than lab rats, they are stripped naked (with only their high-heel shoes on, until they die) and subjected to a torture from a sicko's sexual fantasy. The staff consisting of creepy nurses and men in black suits engages in strange activites, while their boss plays golf with his victims' stilettos as balls. At one point, these sadists enter Sweet Movie mode.

As you've already assumed, Pentimento is a total opposite of an easy watch. Raw, dirty, perverse, extremely unerotic and mostly shot at twilight or in dimly lit spaces, it is infused with a grim atmosphere of claustrophobia and human depravity. The unnerving soundtrack which marries ambient noises to alien electronica complements the gritty and grainy imagery, as well as the obscure, dialogue-free experience.

Think Arrabal meets Makavejev, Terayama, Pasolini and Cronenberg (?) and sprinkle Shozin Fukui obsessions (minus all the screaming) on top and you might get the idea of what to expect from Zwartjes. Beware, though, as the feminist inside you will be shocked by his provocative, nightmarish and, at first sight, mysoginic puzzle.

7 Jan 2017

Shōjo tsubaki (Torico, 2016)

The campiest J-film in (my) recent memory, Shōjo tsubaki is the second adaptation of Suehiro Maruo's ero guro manga of the same name (the first one is a notorious anime from 1992). Literally translated as The Camellia Girl, it tells the story of a 14-yo orphan, Midori (played by a 27-yo model, Risa Nakamura, and with a good reason), who is forced to join a freak show where she is humiliated and molested by everyone. The arrival of an enigmatic illusionist, Masamitsu (Shunsuke Kazama), reverses the situation in her favor, but there's something devilish about him and it's not only his horned haircut.
Torico's live-action rendition of Midori's disturbing misadventures seems to be inspired mostly by the works of Mika Ninagawa (Sakuran, Helter Skelter), considering its palette of dazzling colors (and not to mention that both directors share the background in fashion). Even though she (obviously) has less resources than her more prominent colleague, she demonstrates great creativity, particularly in the costume department, which is to be expected from a clothes designer (for Meewee Dinkee brand). Her exuberant, baroquely extravagant visuals are peppered with Carroll-esque surrealism and a few animated sequences which honor the aforementioned anime (painstakingly produced by Hiroshi Harada).

Actually, Torico quotes her predecessor in many scenes, albeit toning down the shock factor and transposing the narrative from Shōwa period to (alternative) present day, while commenting on misogyny in Japan. (Note: This is just an assumption, since I watched the film without the subtitles.) From the pop-art intro credits, through origami camellia and all the way to Midori's dreams coming true, she deliberately emphasizes the artificiality of her perverse, delightfully kitschy fantasy and lets the cast overact their hearts out.

In spite of my not understanding the dialogue and the inconsistency of digital cinematography, I thoroughly enjoyed this eccentric B-movie, so I'll be looking forward to seeing another Torico's cinematic offering.

29 Dec 2016

NGboo Presents: Top 80 Films 2016

The last months of 2016 have been quite busy for me, particularly in Taste of Cinema list-compiling department, with my latest article focusing on more or less obscure titles from the 90s

As for the annual list, I'm accustomed to including older films I haven't seen prior to the current year, but this time I shall not go back as far as 2014 (seven entries). The advantage is given to weird, exotic, eccentric, whimsical, atmospheric, experimental, visually stimulating and "Oh, what a surprise!" works, although there are some exceptions to this "rule". So, without further ado, I present my pick of top 80 cinematic treats of 2016.

(Letter "E" signifies that the linked review is written in English.)

Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson / Canada
André Turpin / Canada
3. The Survivalist (2015)
Stephen Fingleton / UK
4. Grüße aus Fukushima / Greetings from Fukushima (2016)
Doris Dörrie / Germany
5. Elle (2016)
Paul Verhoeven / France | Germany | Belgium
6. La distancia / The Distance (2014) (E)
Sergio Caballero / Spain
7. Nōnai Poizun Berii / Poison Berry in My Brain (2015) 
Yūichi Satō / Japan
8. Kurīpī: Itsuwari no rinjin / Creepy (2016)
Kiyoshi Kurosawa / Japan
9. Love & Peace (2015)
Pietro Marcello / Italy | France

11. Risttuules / In the Crosswind (2014)
Ismail Basbeth / Indonesia
13. Zoom (2015) (E)
Pedro Morelli / Brazil | Canada
14. Knight of Cups (2015)
Chan-wook Park / South Korea
16. Cosmos (2015)
Andrzej Zulawski / France | Portugal
17. The VVitch: A New-England Folktale / The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers / USA | UK | Canada | Brazil
Nicolas Winding Refn / USA | Denmark | France
19. Evolution (2015)
Lucile Hadžihalilović / France | Belgium | Spain
20. Zeit der Kannibalen / Age of Cannibals (2015)
Johannes Naber / Germany

Miguel Llansó / Spain | Ethiopia | Finland
22. Umimachi Diary / Our Little Sister (2015)
Hirokazu Koreeda / Japan
23. True Love Ways (2015) (E)
Mathieu Seiler / Germany 
Kiyoshi Kurosawa / Japan | France
25. The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid
Takashi Miike / Japan | France | China
27. Girl Asleep (2015)
Rosemary Myers / Australia
28. John From (2015)
João Nicolau / Portugal | France (E)
29. The Childhood of a Leader (2015) (E)
Brady Corbet / UK | France | Hungary
Marcin Wrona / Poland | Israel

31. The Nice Guys (2016)
Shane Black / USA
32. Hrútar / Rams (2015)
Grímur Hákonarson / Iceland | Denmark | Norway | Poland
33. Dol-yeon-byeon-i / Collective Invention (2015)
Kwon Oh-kwang / South Korea
34. Notias / Mythopathy (2016)
Tassos Boulmetis / Greece
35. Collective: Unconscious (2016) (E)
Daniel Patrick Carbone, Lauren Wolkstein, Lily Baldwin,
Frances Bodomo & Josephine Decker / USA
36. Córki dancingu / The Lure (2015)
Agnieszka Smoczynska / Poland
Nikias Chryssos / Germany 
38. Disorder (2015)
Alice Winocour / France | Belgium
39. Simindis kundzuli / Corn Island (2014)
George Ovashvili / Georgia | Germany | France |
Czech Republic | Kazakhstan | Hungary
40. Já, Olga Hepnarová / I, Olga (2016)
Petr Kazda & Tomás Weinreb / Czech Republic |
Poland | Slovakia | France

41. Boi neon / Neon Bull (2015)
Gabriel Mascaro / Brazil | Uruguay | Netherlands
42. A Bigger Splash (2015)
Luca Guadagnino / Italy | France
43. Hide and Seek / Amorous (2014)
Jae-hyun Jang / South Korea (E)
45. Gesu no ai / Lowlife Love (2015)
Aleksey German Jr, 2015 / Russia | Ukraine | Poland 
47. Die dunkle Seite des Mondes / The Dark Side of the Moon (2015)
Stephan Rick / Germany | Luxembourg
48. Goksung / The Wailing (2016)
Hong-Jin Na / South Korea
49. Busanhaeng / Train to Busan (2016)
Sang-ho Yeon / South Korea
50. Scare Campaign (2016)
Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes / Australia

Nicolas Pesce / USA
Jeppe Rønde / Denmark
53. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Tim Burton / UK | Belgium | USA
54. Deo Pon / The Phone (2015)
Kim Bong-Joo / South Korea
55. Heart of a Dog (2015)
Laurie Anderson / USA | France
56. Zir-e Sayeh / Under the Shadow (2016)
Babak Anvari / UK | Qatar | Jordan | Iran
57. Saul fia / Son of Saul (2015)
László Nemes / Hungary
58. He Never Died (2015)
Jason Krawczyk / USA | Canada
59. 4 Könige / 4 Kings (2015)
Theresa von Eltz / Germany
60. The Invitation (2015)
Karyn Kusama / USA

61. El abrazo de la serpiente / Embrace of the Serpent (2015)
 Ciro Guerra / Colombia | Venezuela | Argentina
62. Southbound (2015)
 Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner,
Patrick Horvath & Radio Silence / USA
63. Demolition (2015)
Jean-Marc Vallée / USA
64. Aloys (2016)
Tobias Nölle / Switzerland | France
65. High-Rise (2015)
Ben Wheatley / UK | Belgium
66. Identicals (2015)
Simon Pummell / UK
67. Ham-jeong / Exchange (2015)
Hyeong-jin Kwon / South Korea
68. Polednice / The Noonday Witch (2016)
Jiří Sádek / Czech Republic
69. Tu dors Nicole / You're Sleeping Nicole (2014)
Stéphane Lafleur / Canada
70. Wild (2016) (E)
Nicolette Krebitz / Germany

71. Mi gran noche / My Big Night (2015)
Álex de la Iglesia / Spain
72. Deadpool (2016)
Tim Miller / USA
73. Swiss Army Man (2016)
Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert / USA
74. Der Nachtmahr / The Nightmare (2015)
Akiz / Germany
75. Nachthelle / Bright Night (2015)
Florian Gottschik / Germany
76. El vigilante / Night Guard (2016)
Elena Hazanov / Germany | Russia | Switzerland
78. Mot naturen / Out of Nature (2014)
Ole Giæver & Marte Vold / Norway
79. Shelley (2016)
Ali Abassi / Denmark | Sweden
80. Before I Wake (2016)
Mike Flanagan / USA

28 Dec 2016

10 najboljih animiranih filmova za 2016.

... prema NGboo Art-u, podrazumeva se. Pre naslova koji su mi prijali na ovaj ili onaj način, kao najveće razočaranje, a uprkos odličnom prijemu kod glavnotokovske publike i kritike, izdvajam anime Kimi no Na wa. kojim, prema nekim izvorima, ni sam autor Makoto Šinkai nije sasvim zadovoljan. A sudeći po mom izboru, ove godine su francuski animatori bili najmarljiviji i najubedljiviji.

8. Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush)
France | Denmark

Honorable mentions:

Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight)
Seoul Station (Sang-ho Yeon)
South Korea
Phantom Boy (Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol)
Lithuania | Denmark | Latvia | Luxembourg
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (Takeshi Nozue)
Japan | USA

27 Dec 2016

Da Yu Hai Tang (Xuan Liang & Chun Zhang, 2016)

Inspirisan drevnim tekstovima iz Zbirke planina i mora (Shan Hai Jing), antologije legendi U potrazi za natprirodnim (Soushen Ji) i taoističkog klasika Čuang Ce (Zhuangzi), nezavisni film Da Yu Hai Tang (Krupna riba i begonija) predstavlja prekretnicu u kineskoj "industriji crtaća", jer je toliko moćan da ostavlja snažan utisak čak i onda kada se gleda bez titlova. Nakon prolaska kroz dvanaestogodišnji produkcijski pakao i sa budžetom koji je višestruko manji od onog za blokbastere kao što su Zootopia ili Kubo and the Two Strings, dospeva u top 3 dugometražne animacije za 2016-u, bar što se autora ovih redova tiče.

Smeštena u magični svet čije nebo je ispod dna zemaljskih okeana, a koji nastanjuju mitska bića odgovorna za ljudske emocije, godišnja doba i protok vremena, ova duhovno-ekološka fantazija (sa filozofskom notom?) deluje kao Mala sirena koja "sedi" na folklornoj gromadi Kine. Egzotična i mijazakijevski gorkoslatka, usredsređuje se na neobičnu (i zabranjenu) romansu između devojčice Čan, koja ima moć da kontroliše floru, i duše dečaka, koji se utapa pri pokušaju da je, preobraženu u delfina, oslobodi iz ribarske mreže.

Baveći se temama kao što su požrtvovanje, iskupljenje, ljubav i smrt, Krupna riba i begonija (inače, prvenac rediteljskog dueta Liang i Žang) ostavlja bez daha već u prvim minutima tokom kojih, uz umirujuć glas naratorke, uranjamo u predivno oslikano okruženje i susrećemo se sa izvrsno dizajniranim likovima. Vizuelno nadahnute scene raskošnih boja i neretko simetrične kompozicije kadrova nižu se jedna za drugom, odišući prefinjenošću i elegancijom, bilo da izgledaju kao da su istkane od najfinijih niti snova (let jata delfina) ili da evociraju apokaliptične košmare (provala oblaka). A ubedljiva glasovna gluma i atmosferični skor sa tradicionalnim prizvukom čine da užitak u opčinjavajućim slikama bude još prijatniji.