Feb 29, 2020

Children of the Sea (Ayumu Watanabe, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Five years after a solid, if nothing-out-of-the-ordinary drama Space Brothers - a prequel to TV series of the same name - Ayumu Watanabe delivers the most ravishing (and daring!) anime feature in recent memory. Right from the get-go, Children of the Sea (originally, Kaijuu no Kodomo) pulls you into the ever-expanding world of its outsider heroine, Ruka (bravura voice performance from 16-yo wunderkind actress Mana Ashida), by simply introducing you to one of her earliest memories - an aquarium brimming with exotic sea life. Drenched in various shades of blue, these initial frames alone hold enough magic to 'spirit you away', yet the immensely talented artists of the acclaimed Studio 4°C don't stop there - oh, no, they persistently cast some pretty strong spells on you all throughout the film.

A seamless combination of traditional and computer animation with gouache-like textures makes for the countless picturesque scenes, especially when the 'camera' dives into the water, as well as when the narrative takes a psychedelic turn into the 2001: A Space Odyssey territory. At those moments, the proportions get distorted, the deliberately rough drawing lines break and the colors spill out to generate a dizzying spectacle of abstract patterns and transcendental lights. Equally enchanting are frequent close-ups of the characters' huge, round and lively eyes holding the entire universe(s), and inviting you to look deeper. And what elevates the superb visuals to a whole new level of awe-inspiring is their aural counterpart - the evocative, slightly melancholic score by the veteran Joe Hisaishi who's known for his frequent collaborations with Hayao Miyazaki (hence the reference above). Ranging from minimalist to sweeping, intimate to grandiose, his mellifluous compositions always hit the right chord.

Storywise, Children of the Sea begins as 'a girl meets boy' (actually, two boys) romance / summertime adventure, but gradually evolves into an enigmatic, metaphysical fantasy that links oceans' secrets to cosmic mysteries, and creatures of the Earth to the stars. The transition from the straightforward first half to the increasingly surreal, philosophical second one is effortlessly handled by Watanabe who succeeds in invoking and maintaining the sense of wide-eyed wonder without losing momentum. Allowing the viewers to dream up their own answers, or inspire them to keep searching, he suggests that one's innermost self touched by the purity of nature may pose as the doorway towards the unknown truth(s). In seemingly insignificant aspects of daily life, he finds sublime beauty and reveals its simple wisdom to us, and with great ease, he weaves together many themes, not once letting us be whirled away, let alone crushed by the waves of thoughts provoked by his exploration. Ultimately, in the end of the meditative post-credits sequence, he leaves us with a wonderful line: "The most important promises are not made through words."

Feb 26, 2020

Gretel & Hansel (Osgood Perkins, 2020)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Third time's definitely a charm for Osgood Perkins who ably reimagines the famous Grimm brothers' fairy tale as a metaphor for Gretel's becoming of a woman (hence the title inversion), and offers an apologia of sorts for the witches, humanizing them to a certain degree. Simultaneously, he uses a deliberately measured pace, expressive lighting and oft-symmetrically framed shots to create a sinister mood piece, and decidedly lends it a modern edge or rather, the feeling of otherworldliness with the help of the haunting electronic score and bold, 'anachronistic' set design. From his core cast, he draws well-rounded performances, pulling focus on the dynamics between the endearing Sophia Lillis as Gretel, and Alice Crige who delivers a memorable portrayal of the creepy and, in a way, tragic anti-heroine Holda.

Feb 25, 2020

The Insomniac City Cycles (Ran Slavin, 2009)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

"The lie is such a dreamy deal..."

And the same also applies to cinema - one of the most beautiful lies invented by humans. Now, multimedia artist Ran Slavin may not be the greatest of liars amongst the filmmakers, but his trippy feature debut The Insomniac City Cycles (available on Vimeo, HERE) does have its merits. Operating as a dream within a dream of an unknown dreamer, this experimental, visually alluring if a bit uneven psycho-drama is high on ambition, and low-key in its presentation due to obvious budgetary constraints.

Its enigmatic, languorously paced (non)narrative is broken into two parts, the first of which focuses on a man who seems to be stuck in a limbo of sorts after killing someone or being murdered himself. We see him lost in an empty parking lot and burning (!) between the decrepit walls, and occasionally hear him ruminating on his inescapable situation. His crumbling mental state is reflected on the city of Tel Aviv that becomes one with him, while gradually metamorphosing into a futuristic metropolis through subtle digital interventions. It turns out that he's only a part of 'an imaginary scenario' dreamed by a woman with a dragon tattoo on her back who wakes up in a hotel room somewhere in Shanghai. Her telephone conversation with a deep-voiced stranger calling from a noisy pet shop reveals that she has ordered her own murder, and is waiting to be executed by a dandy assassin... or his dancing counterpart wearing a baggy mask.

A brooding, conceptual urban nightmare is one way to describe Slavin's heavily fragmented mystery that wears its Lynchian influences on its sleeve, and is way too infatuated with lengthy city montages that often serve as fillers, especially during the Shanghai chapter, rather than important pieces of the puzzle or symbolic representations of one's mindscape. Open to various interpretations, it is comparable to a slow, break-up dance between Eros and Tanatos, with the latter leading, and establishing a funereal atmosphere in which the characters - everyone a cipher on their own - wallow. Defined by despair, their overwhelming inertness is accentuated by dim-lit surroundings that hold their souls in captivity, as well as by gloomy music score composed by the author himself, with the witty, Badalamenti-esque jazz song on love and death providing a strange catharsis in the epilogue.

Feb 24, 2020

Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Appearing like a Masaaki Yuasa's anime on LSD and/or heavy steroids, Promare is a trope-fueled sci-fi/fantasy action flick light on plot and characterization (though it addresses some burning issues), but excessively heavy on mind-blowing hyper-style which often acts as a substitute for substance. A spiritual successor to Imaishi's insanely brilliant directorial debut Dead Leaves (2004), it is a nonstop barrage of adrenalized motion, phosphorescent lights and psychedelic color combinations unconstrained by the angular linework. Frame after frame of intoxicating, highly concentrated visual delights, this unruly mecha-feature comes packed with an upbeat rock soundtrack and super-dedicated voice acting from the entire Japanese cast, enhancing the feeling that verges on spontaneous combustion.

Feb 20, 2020

The Damned (Joseph Losey, 1962)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

With unapologetic gusto, Oliver Reed portrays King - the dandy, charismatic leader of the Teddy Boys biker gang who employs his younger sister Joan (the ethereal, velvet-voiced Shirley Anne Field) as a bait to lure the unsuspecting tourists of Weymouth, England, into a beat & rob trap. His latest victim is a middle-aged American fella, Simon (Macdonald Carey, excellent), who falls for Joan's charms (who wouldn't?) in the same way the viewer becomes infatuated with the beautiful cinematography and 'sort of unfinished' fossil-like sculptures seen during the opening sequence. As the story untangles, the trio finds themselves trapped in a secret government facility where they meet a group of nine eleven-year-olds with ice-cold skin...

And let's stop at this point, because revealing more of The Damned goings-on would ruin the mystery which surrounds both its characters and slightly bizarre, Twilight Zone-ish narrative playing on the 60s fear of nuclear war, and exploring the theme of human condition. Although it does take awhile to get to the main course, the film is continually involving, and not to mention generating the strong sense of wonder that seems to have faded or entirely disappeared from many of the modern cinematic offerings. Even the tiny pieces that don't quite fit in at first glance do have their purpose in the grand scheme of things - one such 'piece' is an eccentric artist named after the Norse goddess of love Freya and wonderfully portrayed by magnetic Viveca Lindfors who delivers some of the most memorable lines. Speaking of actors, the ensemble cast functions like a well-oiled machine or rather, a well-balanced organism, with no one stealing the spotlight, and all of the children being amazing in their roles!

On the surface, The Damned is a sci-fi B-movie, but once you start digging into it, you may be surprised by how insightful (and dark) it can be. Refusing to have all of the questions answered, it lightly carries the atmosphere of impending doom reflected in Freya's brooding, roughly chiseled statues and amped up by James Bernard's 'nervous' string score typical of the period. The enjoyment of watching it rests on its stark black and white visuals - Losey and his DoP Arthur Grant compose each scene with meticulous care, making the most of breathtaking shooting locations and less impressive, yet handsomely designed studio sets. Oh, and let's not forget the groovy Black Leather Rock theme song which is given ominous tones via Teddy Boys' whistling...

Feb 19, 2020

7+7 preporuka za FEST 2020

Pod sloganom Skupljači emocija, od 28. februara do 8. marta biće održan 48. FEST iz čije šarolike ponude bih najpre izdvojio Svetionik Roberta Egersa, jednog od najtalentovanijih reditelja svoje generacije. Ovaj neobičan amalgam psihološke drame, apsurdne komedije i gotskog horora klaustrofobične atmosfere valjalo bi doživeti na što većem platnu, budući da je jedan od njegovih glavnih aduta izvrsna ekspresionistička fotografija.

Ako ste raspoloženi za snažan nalet anarhične energije, ne smete propustiti Istinitu priču o Kelijevoj bandi - visceralni, odlično režirani pank-vestern koji legendarnog australijskog odmetnika Neda Kelija (bravurozna izvedba Džordža Mekeja) predstavlja kao problematičnu rok zvezdu (OVDE možete pročitati moju mini-recenziju). 

Treće mesto na listi preporuka pripada "reklamnom eksperimentu" Neverovatna devojka Luke Gvadanjina kome je romantična drama Zovi me tvojim imenom donela svetsku slavu, da bi publiku i kritiku podelio rimejkom kultne Suspirije. Precizno vodeći sjajan glumački ansambl na čelu sa Džulijen Mur i Kajlom Meklahlanom (u čak tri uloge!), istaknuti italijanski reditelj uspešno postiže kompromis između visoke mode i klasičnog filma.

Ne bi trebalo propustiti ni krimi-komediju Prva ljubav Takašija Mikea koji se nakon nekoliko osrednjih adaptacija mangi vraća u formu, odnosno u svet jakuza gde se najbolje snalazi. Jednostavna priča o bokseru i prostitutki koji bivaju "uhvaćeni u mrežu šverca droge tokom jedne noći u Tokiju" ne nudi ništa revolucionarno, ali joj bizaran humor (šifra: belo rublje) i pojedini detalji (šifra: plišani pas) daju poseban šmek.

Ukradeni život u kojem se gusto prepliću veličanstvena pastoralna lepota austrijskih Alpa, antifašistički sentiment i metafizička meditacija sasvim sigurno će obradovati ljubitelje Terensa Malika i njegove "poezije u visokoj travi", a manje strpljivi gledaoci će možda želeti da svoje vreme posvete nešto drugačijem i smelijem (a znatno kraćem) preispitivanju vere u sumorno uslikanoj poljskoj drami Telo Hristovo koja bi za talentovanog Bartoša Bieleniju mogla da bude odskočna daska za nastavak karijere.

Kao sedmi među proverenim naslovima spomenuo bih još i Splav meduze Karpa Aćimovića-Godine iz programa FEST Klasik.

A što se neodgledanih filmova tiče, najprimamljivije mi deluje sedmorka koju čine Obojena pticaO beskonačnosti, LožaBela kao snegGrehVivarium Radioaktivno...

The Lighthouse / True History of the Kelly Gang / The Staggering Girl

Feb 17, 2020

In Search of Tanatos (Nikola Gocić, 2020)

My second solo animated project or rather, 'motion picture book' is online! If you can spare six and a half minutes of your time, please check it out!

Our apples were not picked in the Garden of Eden.
They arrived from Nowhere and shortly after, they returned to the very same Void...

concept, art, direction: Nikola Gocić
music: Microgravity in Macrosapience by Mother Beth VS Blondie (Predrag Karanjac), from 2013 album Nihil ex Nihilo

Feb 11, 2020

Contract (Vladimir Tarasov, 1985)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Lately, I've been keen on exploring Soviet-era animation which is how I've come upon Tarasov's 10-minute sci-fi short Contract. Based on the story Company Store (1958) by Robert Silverberg, this delightfully odd piece of the 80s psychedelia focuses on an unnamed colonist (voiced by Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy of the Stalker fame!) whom we meet zapping giant monsters with his laser gun on an uninhibited planet. It turns out the creatures (and the suddenly appeared protective field) are but a sneaky ploy of a trading robot, QBF-41, so our hero tries to chase him away... but all in vain, because the little guy (whose body is shaped like a vintage cash register, btw) is pretty persistent on selling goods. However, QBF-41 is the least of our hero's problems...

A witty stab at capitalism, Contract (originally, Контракт) is packed with a healthy dose of wonderful visuals, considering its limited time frame. Similar to one of Tarasov's earlier offerings, Mirror of Time (Зеркало времени, 1976), the design of human characters is pseudo-realistic, with its high contrast shading and bold color palette of matted reds and oranges getting all the images easily burned into one's mind. What makes them even more impressive are the light touches of surrealism, especially during the epilogue which is aurally laced with the recording of I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby performed by Ella Fitzgerald in 'Louis Armstrong impersonation' key.

Feb 9, 2020

The Dream of Reborn Venus

Inspired by Hokusai's The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, this piece is a part of my upcoming 'motion picture book' In Search of Tanatos...

True History of the Kelly Gang (Justin Kurzel, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Denying its title in the opening epigraph, True History of the Kelly Gang walks (or rather, carves) the thin line between admiration and condemnation of the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly (a tremendously intense portrayal by George MacKay), and plays out like a snarling, biting, unruly poetic and increasingly delirious punk western that bursts with anarchic energy, hypnotizes with its brutal viscerality, and features some of the most awe-inspiring, borderline surreal shots of the bleakly beautiful 'Outback', a compelling cast of grimy characters brought to life by virtue of expressive acting, and a healthy dose of f*ckingly good flickering which turns the final confrontation of Ned vs. the coppers into the nightmarish climax. Kurzel directs with an assured hand, often drawing bold moves in favor of the film's quirkiness (queerness?), and makes a troubled rock star out of his anti-hero, adding a welcome twist of modernity to the 19th century legend.

Feb 6, 2020

Nevrland (Gregor Schmidinger, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

"I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves."
Friedrich Nietzsche

It is not by mere chance that Gregor Schmidinger opens his promising feature debut with the above-cited words of the great philosopher, because the main protagonist of his (coming-of-age-and-out) story does have a lot of chaos in himself. And it is probably not by chance he names him Jakob, considering that one of many influences felt or recognized in Nevrland (no, it's not a typo!) is Adrian Lyne's cult horror Jacob's Ladder.

Struggling with uncontrollable anxiety attacks and repressed (homo)sexuality, not to mention a huge birthmark on his chest, this 17-yo boy is prone to escaping into the imaginary forest of lush vegetation or spending nights in the virtual world of gay porn. A chat room encounter with a 26-yo artist, Kristjan, sends him down the rabbit hole (or rather, into the labyrinth) of self discovery and healing, as the film that initially appears to be narrative gradually transforms into a nightmarish mood piece.

In turns darkly poetic, candidly sensual, brutally naturalistic and just outright creepy, yet consistent in its exploration of various themes, ranging from modern masculinity to familial pressure to mental health, Schmidinger's psychological drama plunges the viewer directly into the void of (young) human mind, and increasingly blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality. From the very opening scene, it lures us in with its beautiful imagery which comes off as quite eclectic - Jakob's escapist wanderings mesmerize with their refreshing greens and blues, his everyday is draped in sickly drab tones which become warmer towards the end, whereby the underground club flickers with hellish reds à la Gaspar Noé. And one of the most impressive shots arrives halfway through the film - the birdview of the ornate B&W marble floor of Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum which portends our hero's 'fall' and reflects the complexity of his inner workings.

While he demonstrates versatility in his visual style, the author elicits wonderful performance from Simon Frühwirth who portrays Jakob with heart-aching vulnerability, seething energy and micro expressions, as well as from Paul Forman whose Kristjan is an enigmatic figure, simultaneously seductive and subtly menacing. Both of them bring palpable chemistry to the screen, whereas the contrasting personalities of their characters establish tension which corresponds with the stark disparities of Jakob's larger-than-life longings and unenviable situation.

A perfectly trippy companion piece to Till Kleinert's Der Samurai, Nevrland is a damn fine borderline horror flick which the fans of David Lynch may find thrilling...

Feb 3, 2020

Kindle - a time capsule for my death told in three parts

Behind the long title KINDLE - a time capsule for my death told in three parts hides a 7-minute collage film which marks a new milestone in the successful collaboration between NYC-based artist Martin Del Carpio and I. In the past couple of years, I have designed numerous posters and covers for Martin's shorts (including his latest and most accomplished live-action offering, Auricular Confession) and music singles (such as the one for Si La Muerte), respectively, so I was delighted (and at once, a bit scared) when he asked me to create the visuals for Kindle, immediately after I released my debut animation, Untold. We're both pretty happy with the results of this small experiment, and I hope the viewers will feel our mutual satisfaction. Speaking of the viewers, their discretion is strongly advised, because the second chapter contains some nudity and references to sexual activity.

You can listen to the soundtrack from Martin Del Carpio's official Bandcamp page, HERE.

Feb 1, 2020

Cinematic Favorites 01/20

“Cinema is cinema. Church is church. Told the father. Did you ever see God in the house of the Devil?”
(João Viana, Our Madness, 2018)

The Cinematic Favorites series which started around this time last year continues, and the first edition of 2020 encompasses six oldies, six features released between 2000 and 2020, as well as six shorts - all first-time watches - which left the strongest impression on me. Its mid-section comes off as the most eclectic one, given that it includes, respectively, a formally challenging period drama composed of stunning tableaux vivants not unlike the masterpieces of Dutch masters + a brutal, deeply absorbing historical epic holding the power of an ancient myth + a satirical Russian thriller boasting cartoonish violence and great humor + a visually delightful anime which sees Masaaki Yuasa at his most mawkish and restrained + an exotic mood piece of dreamlike qualities co-produced by France, Portugal, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau & Qatar (sic!) + a teen rom-com which totally caught me by surprise with its unaffected performances, hints of magic realism, and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.


1. The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927)
2. The Empty Canvas (Damiano Damiani, 1963)
3. History of Cinema in Popielawy (Jan Jakub Kolski, 1998)
4. Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)
5. Tristana (Luis Buñuel, 1970)
6. Short Night of Glass Dolls (Aldo Lado, 1971) 


1. The Portuguese Woman (Rita Azevedeo Gomes, 2018)
2. Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)
3. Why Don't You Just Die! (Kirill Sokolov, 2018)
4. Ride Your Wave (Masaaki Yuasa, 2019)
5. Our Madness (João Viana, 2018)
6. Tamara (Alexandre Castagnetti, 2016)


1. What Did Jack Do? (David Lynch, 2017)
2. Sweep Away Hungry Ghosts (Zhang & Knight, 2020) 
3. M.C. Echer: Adventures in Perception (Han Van Gelder, 1972) 
4. The Clapping Tree (Jutta Pryor, 2020)
5. My Juke-Box (Florentine Grelier, 2019)
6. Nagi 2 (Takatoshi Arai, 2020)