Posts Tagged ‘BFI Southbank’

The Wandering Princess (1960)

Dir: Kinuyo Tanaka | Japan, Drama 102′

Kinuyo Tanaka moved up several gears after a five-year hiatus as a director with this ambitious blockbuster for Daiei based on Saga Hiro’s 1959 best-selling memoir made in colour & ‘scope with Oscar-winning Machiko Kyo and superlative production values.

The Wandering Princess is based on the autobiography of Aishinkakura Hiro, who lived a turbulent life as the consort of Fuketsu, the younger brother of Emperor Puyi of Manchukuo.

Full of spectacle and drama it chronicles the war years from 1941 to 1945, the sight of all those uniforms marking an extraordinary departure for a director associated with woman-based intimate drama. It was huge hit ranked 27th in the ‘Cinema junpo’ poll for best films of 1960, despite – or perhaps because – it perpetuates the myth that remains popular in Japan that the Land of the Rising Sun’s participation was solely as a victim.@RichardChatten


Tell It To The Bees (2018) ***

Dir.: Annabel Jankel; Cast: Anna Paquin, Holiday Grainger, Gregor Selkirk, Emun Elliot, Steven Robertson, Kate Dickie, Lauren Lyle; UK 2018, 105 min.

Annabel Jankel’s literary adaptation of a popular fifties novel is strong on historical detail but much weaker on cinematographic potency, coming across as a rather tame affair, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Jankel (Live From Abbey Road) and her scriptwriters Jessica and Annabel Ashworth (Killing Eve) have already worked together in TV: Tell It To the Bees makes ideal family viewing and marks Flare Festival’s mature progression into programming decent drama for a sexually inclusive audience, not just a LGBTQ one.

When Dr. Jean Markham (Ana Paquin) comes home to small-town Scotland to take over her late father’s surgery, she is greeted with mixed feelings. As a teenager she had caused a bit of a scandal with her ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. But she settlers down striking up a friendship with Lydia (Grainger) a young mother of who husband Robert (Elliot), has gone off with another woman. Lydia’s wages in the local mill are not enough to even pay the rent, and when her son Charlie (Selkirk) becomes the victim of bullying at school, Dr Markham offers them board and very soon, a great deal more. Elsewhere, the town’s gossip monger Pam Krammer (Dickie), subjects her daughter Annie Lyle) to a botched abortion rather than bear the child of her black boyfriend, George. Meanwhile, Robert has become violent towards Lydia, and so Charlie is forced to come to her rescue. A muddled finale on the station platform accompanied by grown-up Charlie’s voice-over commentary is symbolic of this rather cack-handed adaption of its much superior novel. It feels like Jankel is aiming for the stoic fatalism of the adult voice-over in Joseph Loosey’s Palme d’Or winner The Go Between. But it doesn’t quite come off: Jankel is no Loosey, her story-telling is dictated by a TV norm. feeding the viewer impressive snippets, while losing a conceptual frame work.

DoP Bartosz Nalazek emerges with some credit: his images, shot from Charlie’s POV, show A boy being overwhelmed by adults. And the magic realism in the form of the bees, come across as artificial and unconvincing. There is no passion in this postwar village, just a rather limp romantic longing. AS




Wall (2017) ***

Dir.: Cam Christiansen; Documentary/Animation with David Hare, Elliot Levey, Nayef Rashad; Canada 2017, 82 min.

When Canadian producer David Christensen listened to David Hare’a 2009 Podcast Wall, a monologue about Israel building a wall between them and Palestine, he knew that animator Cam Christiansen would be the right person to tackle the project. The result, a mixture of 3D motion capture technology, documentary and hand drawn animation, is an aesthetically stunning portrait of the 708 km long wall, so far amounting to 4 Billion US dollars since building began in 2002. The political and human cost cannot be put into figures, and Hare’s script does not always allow us to come to terms with the numerous contradictions.   

Hare, who wore a Lycra suit for his first outing as an actor at the Pinewood Studios where the motion-capture footage was shot; is – symbolically – accompanied by the English/Israeli actor Elliot Levey and his Palestinian counterpart Nayef Rashad. Levey wants to stage a co-operation, something Palestinians are not fond of, because it would legitimise the status quo between Israel and Palestine. Hare visits the Israeli novelist David Grossman, who is critical of his state’s policies, but admits that there must be a place where Jews feel safe. Driving along the monstrous wall from Jerusalem to Ramallah and Nablus, we see the damage the continuous war has done. Nablus, once the trading centre of Palestine, is a ghost city. The most famous cafe, where guests once fought for one of the 500 places, is a ghostly place where Hare and his friends are the only customers. Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian administration has had better luck: mainly because it is one of the few places not mentioned in the scriptures of the main religions in the area. We learn that Hamas is not popular, they have won elections because the PLO is totally corrupt. Then there is the story of a man who has worked as in informer for the Israelis. Hamas, imprisoning him, then invented an innovative form of torture: on the wall of the cell, they have drawn a picture of a bicycle, asking the prisoner to fetch it, or risk torture. The journey is always interrupted by senseless controls by the Israeli forces, whilst a parallel road, fifty years in the future, will be reserved for cars with Israeli number plates, the traffic flowing uninterrupted. And the settlements, some even unlawful under Israeli law, overlook the West Bank in a very menacing way. But, the wall has stopped eighty percent of Palestinian terror acts in Israel. At the end, the black-and-white transforms into the colourful graffiti on the wall – not unlike those on the Berlin Wall.       

Whilst the aesthetics are brilliant, the political agenda is questionable – but perhaps, this is only to be expected. Nearly seventy years of permanent war has destroyed any kind of hope. For Israel, this means the most powerful military force in the region has no influence on the state of mind of its citizens: Grossman mentions that most Israelis feel vey insecure. Perhaps the repressed diaspora thinking has returned, but whatever the arguments on both sides, the founding father of Israel, Theodor Herzl, did not envisage a Sparta in the desert.  AS

WALL opens MARCH 1st | BERTHA DOCHOUSE | 6pm screening Q&A |Cam Christiansen

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