Jan 31, 2018

The King of Fighters: Destiny (2017-2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Based on quite a long-running fighting game series (including dozens of sequels, ports, spin-offs and whatnots), the latest animated adaptation of Street Fighter's younger brother combines picturesque motion-comic sequences (for intro and side-stories) with beautiful, highly detailed, albeit a tad 'plastic' CGI visuals (for the main story) accompanied by energized soundtrack, to take us to a martial arts tournament peppered with cheesy humor, filled with intrigue and bringing together 80's & 90's fashion, science fiction, mystical forces, B-movie sensibilities and odd assortment of 3D-modeled 2D characters, from domineering, seemingly undefeatable baddies to perseverant heroes and heroines possessing all kinds of special powers, engaged in exquisitely choreographed action.

(All 24 episodes are available on YouTube.)

Jan 30, 2018

Fathers and Sons (Roger Deutsch, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Chronicling the history of his family from 1787 to now while looking for the answers to some buried secrets regarding certain relatives, Roger Deutsch (The Boy on the Train) soothingly voices over his latest effort - a poetic, travelogue-esque 30-minute documentary which takes the viewer on an engaging personal journey from Hungary to America and back via beautiful vintage photographs, grainy home videos (that often look better than professional and persistently stand the test of time), as well as his own impressionistic footage, with the unique experience enhanced by excellent musical choices.

Jan 29, 2018

Violet Delusion: Hercules and Cerberus

Ascend, descend, 13 here, 19 there.
Inside the Sun or under the Moon,
that is where!

Feed the pain, incinerate the pleasure sea,
penetrate a dream, embrace the mystery!

(click to enlarge)

Yellow Curiosity: A Sphinx and a Poster Boy

"... We have to accept the possibility of total darkness, no purpose, no direction, no intention, no goal in order to be open, to listen, to see, to live. And it’s glorious! We exist, we create and it’s a miracle... We are mystic warriors on a personal quest..." (Daniel Fawcet and Clara Pais, The Underground Film Studio: An Interview in 12 parts. Part 1: On Avant-Gardism and the Purpose of Art)

(click to enlarge)

Jan 28, 2018

Blue Love: A Centaur and a Lady

... As he was trotting across the Nameless Vastness, carrying a lady asleep on his back, he remembered his past lives and rejoiced that he had finally become a Centaur...

(click to enlarge)

Jan 27, 2018

Paper Kids (Shane Ryan, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Shane Ryan's cinema is one of brutal honesty, no compromises and raw lyricism, especially when it comes to his portraiture of social outcasts, as well as exploration of sensitive topics and dark side of human nature. In that regard, his most penetrative, yet not the best works are The Girl Who Wasn't Missing which focuses on the ramblings of a 15-yo rape victim, Echo, and My Name is 'A' by anonymous which is based on a real life murder committed by a group of mentally unstable teenage girls.

For Paper Kids - a short version of a feature in making God Got Ill and a spiritual sequel to the aforementioned films, Ryan completely eschews dialogue in favor of the music video-like imagery that is initially gentle, evocative and somewhat mystifying, only to gradually shed its skin into something grittier and more biting. (He takes the similar approach with a post-apocalyptic 80'sploitation Guerrilla.)

During the first half of this 20-minute experimental drama symbolically opening with the sunset, he utilizes on-screen 'tags' to identify his protagonists all of whom are played with unaffected simplicity by non-professional juveniles and young adolescents. Their wistful stares and idling around (streets, fairgrounds and empty beaches) reflect apathy, revolt, isolation, sadness or the mixture thereof, with the reasons for the 'sulking' becoming clearer in the second act and resolving epilogue.

Aimlessly wandering while trying to escape from the clutches of reality, the children (from the posters that no sane parent would want to see) are lovingly captured with a hand-held camera at their most vulnerable, every moment acting as a verse of an emotionally devastating poem. The tonal shifts which correspond with the chaos ruling their young, unprotected lives are marked by the changes in aural landscapes turning from soothingly ethereal into disturbingly piercing. A few instances of nudity are not intended to titillate or produce a cheap shock effect, but to emphasize the dreariness of the subjects' unenviable situation.

(The review is based on the screener provided by the author.)

Jan 23, 2018

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (Hiroyuki Seshita & Kōbun Shizuno, 2017)

☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

The latest offering from Polygon Pictures (Knights of Sidonia, Blame!) is - strictly visually speaking - probably their best work so far (apart from the titular monster and its Pterosaur-like kin that look as if their skin was made of carbonized wood), with beautifully rendered cel-shaded frames in stylishly flashy abundance, but in the story department, it falls flat as a tasteless pancake, boring you to death with tons of dull exposition, mind-numbing technobabble and the blandest of characters you could ever imagine, and not to mention that it ends with a cliffhanger after some of those utterly uninvolving protagonists are blasted to death during the final, action-oriented yet unsatisfying act.

Jan 22, 2018

What Makes Me Take the Train (Pierre Mazingarbe, 2013)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
'Orphic' gets a new meaning in Pierre Mazingarbe's short, yet delightfully surreal adventure What Makes Me Take the Train (originally, Ce qui me fait prendre le train). Orpheus is transformed into a woman (portrayed by Noémie Rosenblatt), whereby a silver screen becomes a portal to the Underworld or rather to the train wagon operated by Charon.

After a brief encounter with Cerberus (in the first of a few stop-motion sequences) and the crossing of the Styx river, Orpheus is greeted by two of her lovers (or Eurydice suffering DID), Sophie (Priscilla Bescond) and Sacha (Grégoire Baujat), 'whom the snake had taken away' from her. Since she is not allowed to bring both of them back and does not want to choose between them, they decide to compete for her attention. At one point, they engage in the game of carrot-rabbit which is similar to tennis, but has a rabbit and a bunch of carrots involved (well, duh!), and later, they opt for 'Pétanque Astronomique' which requires the Milky Way to be rebuilt prior to each match.

To reveal anything more would bring us to the spoiler territory, but let's just say that a returning soul has to suffer some wood processing that would probably make Lynch's Log Lady sad... The story often takes pretty irrational (and in addition, mystical and metaphysical) turns, but that should come as no surprise, considering its sources of inspiration are almost certainly the works of Surrealists, pioneers and followers alike. Dream logic and Greek mythology go comfortably hand in hand, as Mazingarbe mesmerizes his viewer via the stark B&W imagery replete with hints of silent era cinema, Raúl Ruiz, Jan Švankmajer, David Lynch, the Quay Brothers and Bertrand Mandico.

And yet, despite of all the aforementioned influences, the oneirisms of What Makes Me Take the Train feel genuinely fresh.

Jan 21, 2018

In Short - Films by Julian Radlmaier

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
I thought that it was impossible to be more relentlessly deadpan than Roy Andersson and then I got myself acquainted with Julian Radlmaier's short, yet promising opus which could be labeled as 'Buñuelian blue-collar's neo-surrealism'.

His rigid, North-Korean-society-like aesthetics do require some time to get used to, but once they click with you, you're in for some deadly serious, occasionally laughing-out-loud fun stemming from the decidedly hipsterish satirization of both communism and liberal capitalism, as well as a few other 'isms'.

Moving from the playground of discreet hilarities caused by Vladimir Mayakovski’s ranting ghost (a memorable portrayal by a Georgian poet / multi-media performer, Zurab Rtveliashvili) in A Spectre is Haunting Europe, through the black hole installed at a high-brow exhibition in A Proletarian Winter's Tale and all the way to an apple farm which serves as a starting point for a failed working class revolution (as remembered by a canine specimen) in Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog, Radlmaier demonstrates a keen eye for square-format/suprematist compositions and a great sense of absurdist whimsy and self-reflexive irony, proving that birds tend to speak all sorts of utter nonsense and that St. Francis would've sucked as a modern-day laborer and politician.

 A Spectre is Haunting Europe
(Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa, 2013)

 A Proletarian Winter's Tale
(Ein proletarisches Wintermärchen, 2014)

Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog
(Selbstkritik eines buergerlichen Hundes, 2017) 

Jan 19, 2018

Phantom Islands (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Set to the piercing sound of roaring thunder that lights the night sky in the most hypnotic way, the striking opening of Rouzbeh Rashidi's latest - and if you ask this writer, most riveting - offering acts as a portal into the world of altered (cinematic) reality. But, it also stands for a sublime announcement of a mysterious Couple (a committed, boldly uninhibited and highly performative portrayal by Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais) that is the film's magnetic focal point.

Appearing as if they descended from the sky or another realm for that matter, the twosome wander, disoriented and yet sharing the common (spiritual?) purpose, through the breathtaking landscapes of Irish islands turned into the third, equally alluring protagonist. Who are they and what exactly do they seek? This question is surely not easy to answer and unsurprisingly so, considering the director's previous opus. They could be  benevolent (?) cousins of Jonathan Glazer's alien Female from Under the Skin or some supreme, unidentifiable entities working under human cover in an exile, whether it's forced or self-imposed.

Always walking away (as everybody else does) or strolling far from our sight, they keep us on a distance that is paradoxically closer than any closeness; they pull our thoughts into unexpected directions, lulling us into a meditative state. Even when their gazes are transfixed on us in an attempt to communicate whatever is beyond the inherent truth, we are left with nothing but another riddle. Both mystified and somewhat enlightened, we may resort to stripping them away of their otherness and viewing them as down-to-earth lovers who are just as confused as we are. In that regard, we are offered an assistance from the author himself who, now and then, lifts the veil of the abovementioned reality by blurring the lines between 'behind the scenes' and a finished piece of art. However, the fourth wall phrase does not apply here, for that 'trick' is the integral part of Rashidi's peculiar language.

Also indistinguishable are the boundaries between documentary and (science) fiction, just like it is noted in the director's statement. This illusion is simultaneously dispelled and consolidated by embedding the duo's staged romance into the islanders' everyday and vice versa, under the watchful eye of the invisible forces inhabiting gorgeous and not to mention gorgeously captured locations. As calm as they are maddening, the greenest of meadows, the stoniest of beaches and the thickest of mists destroy the blue, tumultuous love of our heroes and then rebuild it from the ashes, time and again. They have the very same effect on a lyrical (non)narrative which - made porous by black screen punctuations - explores the hidden nature of cinema, inter alia.

What's most astonishing about Phantom Islands are its dreamy visuals and ingenious music score, as well as the pitch-perfect sound design that more than compensate for the lack of dialogue. Virtually each shot is exquisitely composed, each tone being a worthy accompaniment. A masterwork of the (re)modern avant-garde.

Jan 18, 2018

A Hellenistic Travesty

A neo-Dadaist phantasy which acts as a meeting point of hyper-dreams, Greek mythology, Brutalist edifices, homoerotic provocations and fairy tale leftovers. It is 19 degrees of freedom, 71 squares of subconscious and 10 beats per (un)holy moonlight.

(click to enlarge)

Original size: 4 x A3 (29,7 x 42cm)

Jan 14, 2018

O (of Lights and Parasites)

Only nothing has the shape of truth,
an amorphous dream of falling through.

Only shadows sing of the divine
- an endless sorrow and a flying swine.

Only the Unborn will eat these nights,
as I sell my soul to lights and parasites.
© Nikola Gocić

(click to enlarge)

Original size: 4 x A3 (29,7 x 42cm)

Jan 11, 2018

Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼
A letter delivery by one of Vincent van Gogh's models (Armand Roulin portrayed by Douglas Booth) turns into a detective-like investigation of the tortured artist's final days at Auvers-sur-Oise, with all the events in a (bit corny) story vividly, breathtakingly represented in thousands of oil paintings that pay a loving, inspired homage to the prominent Post-Impressionist's instantly recognizable style (and prolific opus), boldly pushing the boundaries of the animated film medium (especially the rotoscoping technique) in varied brushstrokes and in a similar fashion as Aleksandr Petrov and Irina Evteeva.

Jan 10, 2018

Cinderella the Cat (Alessandro Rak, Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri & Dario Sansone, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

From the team that thought us The Art of Happiness (L'arte della felicità, 2013), comes one of the boldest deconstructions of Cinderella variants. The 17th century text written by Giambattista Basile (whose work was recently adapted by Matteo Garrone, in Tale of Tales) is turned head over heels and reimagined as a retro-futuristic neo-noir thriller which satirizes a certain Italian politician in jazzy, as well as the traditional Neapolitan rhythms.

The story goes like this: The shipping magnate Vittorio Basile prepares the inauguration of his 'Science and Memory Hub' project, as we learn via zippy 'Giornale Luce' newsreel parody. A mastermind behind the 'photosweep' technology that 'enables the recording and reproduction of reality itself' (think holograms), he is also about to get married to a beautiful mother of six (five daughters and an openly gay son), Angelica Carannante. However, his only child, Mia, will be left fatherless and his plans thwarted by Angelica's cabaret singer and mafioso lover, Salvatore Lo Giusto, whose name, ironically, translates as Saviour the Just and who has a different vision of the Naples harbor's future...

Fifteen years forward, Vittorio's cruise ship 'Megaride' is a dilapidated shadow of its former self, with Angelica having become a madame to her vain offspring and Salvatore having been promoted to 'Il Re' - the king of shoes made from, believe it or not, soluble cocaine. Dressed in rags, mute by choice and still clinging to the traumatic past, the soon-to-be-adult Mia is viciously exploited by her step-family, unaware that an old acquaintance - her dad's most trusted associate Primo Gemito - is on Salvatore's drug-dealing tail, coming to the rescue.

While Vesuvius ashes fall on criminalized Naples, portending (the city's) apocalypse and reminding us that we're watching a Cinderella story, Rak and his co-directors have a blast making the very same story almost unrecognizable, subtly peppering it with witty and occasionally 'dirty' references. Their narrative is as intense as the barrages of rapid-fire dialogue, galloping at a breathtaking pace towards the explosive end. The world they create is certainly not the one of fairy tales, with the silenced, seemingly helpless heroine taking justice into her own hands, after eventually learning the truth from her father's holographic ghosts.

The battle between the kind spirits and self-centered ones (or rather, progressive dreams and regressive nightmares) which the tale rests on is rendered in angular CGI with a mellow, watercolor-like feel to the textures, so the visuals might take some time to get accustomed to. But, once you adopt to the unique aesthetics, you're in for a pretty enjoyable ride, further made more appealing by virtue of excellent voice-work, especially by Massimiliano Gallo as the cunning Salvatore, as well as the groovy, eclectic score.

Jan 9, 2018

Real (Sa-Rang Lee, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Boasting handsome production values, huge, sparsely decorated spaces, an identity theft (crisis?) story that reaches new levels of mind-boggling irrationality, as well as the exuberant, 'super-neonized' cinematography that gives Nicolas Winding Refn a good run for his money, Sa-Rang Lee's extremely ambitious debut feature - a sexy and pulpy neo-noir action thriller peppered with hints of science fiction - could be described as The Face of Another meets Lost Highway through Only God Forgives, perfume/Schweppes commercial and The Matrix - a Frankenstein-ish, yet effective amalgam which mostly works despite its excessive running time, primarily thanks to Soo-hyun Kim's magnetic presence and subtly cool dual-role performance.

At psychotherapist's office

Casino grand, Cirque du Soleil-esque opening

Contempo architecture

A room with a view

The masque of glittering death

The cathedral of gambling

The most kaleidoscopic bar in the dreamland of crime

Dance, dance, dance...

Jan 8, 2018

Tri prpošna srca

... jer ja, sebičan som,
sećanja u masnu hartiju
i tri prpošna srca gutam,
jedno za nju, drugo za Kunst,
a treće za Traum(u)
širom zatvorenih očiju.

Možda ples
koji odvaja stopala od tla
bude kao zec plav,
kao riba plav,
kao dan grimizan.

I opet sam, betonski anđeo,
plivam sa 2.5 sekire
u rukama...

Mesec će noćas
urlati u pikselima
- ako, kad vatra
ima treće oko.

Kompozicija sa Skeletorom

Jan 6, 2018

Lucky (John Carroll Lynch, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Adorned with nothing but distilled sincerity, restrained pathos, subtle simplicities and bittersweet wisdom, John Carroll Lynch's assured and immersive directorial debut is a charming little film with a huge heart of gold, a decidedly unpretentious rumination on life and death, as well as a highly perceptive character study that is precisely written, beautifully lensed, tightly edited and outstandingly well-acted, especially on the part of the swan-singing nonagenarian Harry Dean Stanton who will be sorely missed in the years ahead of us, wretched mortals.