Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Index






A

X

One Day in September


One Day in September
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald, Switzerland / Germany / UK, 1999
Documentary, 94min
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Story: The tragic and terrifying tale of how the 1972 Olympic games in Munich where plunged into darkness and tragedy as nine Palestinian terrorists from the Black September movement take the Israeli Olympic team hostage.

Me:
This is one of those documentaries that you stumble onto every now and then. Recently with the release of Spielberg's Munich, there was an obvious draw to watch this documentary. It's cold and slow pace makes it the sort of documentary that crawls under your skin and you can't help feeling some what sympathetic of the hostages and their fate. But the most shocking is the unrealistic way that the Germans handled this situation. Speak of the global view of German efficacy being totally wrong in this case. Told through archive footage, news reels, eye witnesses and the surviving family members, Macdonald manages to weave together an amazing documentary that keeps you on the edge of your seat even though history can't be changed and we know of the tragic outcome. Although I do feel that the final twelve minutes of slow-motion shots over the dead hostages counter cut with the were proud of our actions montage of the surviving kidnappers is almost a far bit past propaganda values, and could have been done in a more neutral way. I never like having to pick sides when there are two causes, both with logic reason behind them. But where ever your political views lie, this is definitely a must see documentary. Not for the squeamish, because it is very harsh and has scenes of extreme violence at times, but it's very well made and not surprisingly it won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2000.

Image:
1.85:1 Widescreen, colour with varied qualities due to source materials.
English shubtitles available.

Audio:
Dolby Digital Surround in English or dubbed German.

Extras:
Photogalleries, Biographies. Trailer for One Day In September and other Sony Picture Classics titles.

Joint Security Area (J.S.A.)


Joint Security Area (J.S.A.)
Original title: Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
Directed by; Chan-wook Park, 2000, South Korea
Drama / Mystery / Thriller, 110 min
Distributed by: Atlantic Film AB

Story:
In the de-militarized zone separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed. The blame is on the South Korean side, but there is one mysterious question being asked... Why was there one shot more than accounted for? And where did it come from? A neutral Swiss Swedish team is sent in to investigate, and as they try dig deeper into the mystery an unexpected tale surfaces.

Me:
This is the kind of movie that really proves what all the fuss is about the South Korean new wave of cinema. (Although in my opinion at the end of 2005, it's pretty much over, but we have a new batch of talented directors to keep our eyes on Park especially as we await the DVD release of his "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" late December.) The start of the movie, the main exposition, is quite tedious, but as time goes by and the rather heart-warming "real" story underneath the main mystery is unveiled, I just got sucked right into it. The way Park builds up the story is really good, and there's no sudden unexpected and illogical plot twists that one comes to expect of Asian movies. This one tells its tale and sticks to it. The look of the film is great, nothing feels out of place, and the politics of the film, which obviously get somewhat lost on a European viewer, still manage to make an impression. The actors are brilliant, and several of them return in later Park movies. Kang-ho Song, Min-sik Choi, Byung-hun Lee and Ha-kyun Shin, all come back in leading roles later, and it's a joy to watch them work with Park. I probably wouldn't recommend this as an initial Park or South Korean film for anyone wanting to get into that field, but I'd definitely say it's worth checking out if you want to see something that's not mainstream Hollywood. If you like Asian movies and haven't seen it, or even if you've jumped on the Asian Horror wagon, this should be one of the movies on your list to see.

Chan-wook Park is going places, let’s just prey that he doesn't get on the obnoxious, "direct-a-American-horror-franchise" band wagon like too many other great Asian directors have. I'll return to that at a later date.

Image:
1.85:1 presented in anamorphic widescreen 16:9. English, Danish Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish subtitles.

Audio:
Dolby Digital 5.1.

Extras:
This two disc set is packed with extras as the movie disc contains trailers for Park's JSA, Kim Ki-duk's Bad Guy & The Isle, Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer, Cho Jin-Gyu's My wife is a gangster, Kim Sung-su's Musa (Princess of the desert) , Kang Je-gyu's Shiri, Kyung-Taek Kwak's Friend and Kim Young-jun's Bichunmoo. Also there are selected talent files for Chan Wook-Park, Kang-Ho Song, Byung-Heon Lee and Young-Ae Lee. Disc2 is filled out to the brim with five small featurettes, an impressive 55 minute documentary about the movie from start to final movie and premiere. The original Korean trailer, the Japanese Trailer, a TV spot, a promotional music video, and a music video documenting the production.

Real Fiction


Real Fiction
Original Title: Shilje sanghwang

Directed by; Kim Ki-Duk, South Korea, 2000
Drama / Thriller, 81min
Distributed by: SRE Corporation

Story:
Street artist Na, [Joo Jin-mo, a Ki-Duk regular] grows sick of the constant abuse of the people who make their lively hoods working round the town square. A young woman [Kim Jin-ah] follows him around with her DV camera, and lures him into a kind of "find-yourself-theatre/workshop" where he is pushed and shoved by a mystic actor/being [who actually is his past failures & humiliations] until he breaks. His mental breakdown sends him through the streets of Seoul on a killing spree of all those who have done him wrong.

Me:
Well, well, sometime these things happen. This is the first Ki-Duk movie that really disappointed me. I knew that it was more experimental than his previous and later works, but in my opinion it's the one that doesn't quite make the cut. Ok so the basic Idea, trying to keep it real and disturbing works to some degree, the DV footage always gives a documentary feel. In most of the celluloid footage, there's people watching and looking into camera. There are even scenes where you see assistants walking into shot to remove onlookers. The fact that it was shot during three hours by Ki-Duk and eleven assistants is quite impressive. (I'd love to see the shooting schedule for this, as I have yet to work on a shoot where deadlines are held. So 3hours is amazing, if it's true!) In difference to the mental violence, the mortal violence is mostly off camera, which is a shame. I feel that if Ki-Duk had kept the violence aggressive and on cheapo DV camera quality it would have been much more effective, and disturbing. Unfortunately the stories in the film just play out like short scenes where half of them could have been left out of the movie. Don't get me wrong, there's some very Ki-Duk'ish moments & characters in this film, but it's not one of his better movies.

Image:
4:3 full screen, Dv quality as this is what it is shot on. The colours are quite faded and dull, but that's all part of the "reality" effect the dv cameras give. This edition has English, Chinese and Mandarin subtitles.

Audio:
Nothing fancy, just plain Dolby Digital 2.1

Extras:
Cast and crew texts, a Trailer for Hamburger Hill!, and the most disturbing 18minute featurette for Highlander2 Renegade version just has me wondering what the hell the distributor was drinking when they released this edition.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Last Horror Movie


The Last Horror Movie
Directed by: Julian Richards, UK, 2003
Thriller / Horror, 80min
Distributed by: Nordisk Film [Region 2]


Story:
On a rental video tape called The Last Horror Movie, psychopathic murderer Max [Kevin Howarth] has inserted his own personal video diary depicting his thoughts and feelings about his killings and the philosophy he has to motivate his murders.


Me:

This movie was a surprise actually; I deliberately didn’t read any of the text on the cover and have tried to avoid reviews for the movie, so when I stumbled upon it for a bargain price and saw all the awards printed on the front of the cover I decided to give it a shot. It starts very typical to the American stalk and slash genre. A lonely woman late at night closing down the diner. There’s a new report warning about a serial killer who just escaped from prison and he obviously turns up at the diner after a few stereotype “is that you Betty - stop fooling around” shocks. Just ass the killer is about to strike, bzzzt white static and the clod grin of a middle aged guy with his dark hair combed back comes into the screen. You are now staring into the face of Max a self proclaimed psychopathic murderer. The small details sell this transition straight away, the obvious difference in quality from the opening sequence shot on film with an exaggerated lighting and the grainy video shot in existing light, the absence of a soundtrack the auto focus shifts as Max moves around in shot. In a manner that is taken right out of typical “video diary” style, which even director Richards claims was one of his inspirations, as he worked on such productions previously, the movie follows Max as he stalks and goes about his evil deeds. The way Richards has chosen to build his quite impressive movie is intelligent, he has Max taunting us and mocking us all the way through, even in the first scene with Max he teases with a few short clips of his killings. The deeper we get inside Max head, the more he taunts us. In once murder he even forces his camera assistant [Mark Stevenson] to not film the violent murders so that he after performing the deeds can ask us the question,
“Now ask yourself, did you really want to see that? I’m sure that you hate me now, but then why are you still watching?” Then we are forced to see the murders anyhow, and this works quite well all through the movie as Max plays emotional and psychological cat and mouse with us the voyeuristic viewer, because that’s what Richards reduces us to through this play with genres. The ending is somewhat of a let down, not plot wise, because the idea that this is all authentic could have played all the way out, and we could easily have returned to the final sequence of the opening movie. The tension builder that the video Max has taped over is his own hunting ground, by stalking the people who rent it, then confronting them with the fact that they have been watching real murders and why didn’t they question it or turn it off, before killing them, is good, really good. They take it so far that Max even asks the question, “How do you know that I’m not watching you right now? I may be out side, or even in your room!” it actually got me looking over my shoulder even though I knew it was only a movie and there was no way that “Max” could have been in the room. But then they end on regular end credits which just blows the atmosphere. I wish that they had been cooler and just played it all the way out and took it to the limit, which would have been so extreme. The other flaw is that they pull one victim or not surprise too many, there are several people who turn up on Max diary that are his mates or family members who he obviously never would harm. It works the first two times, but then the effect wares off and it gets predictable.

The movie is very reminiscent of films like Mc Naughton’s Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer 1986, and the late Rémy Belvaux C’est arrive près de chez vous [Man Bites Dog] 1992, harsh realistic violence, there’s a burning guy which is amazingly realistically done, the hand held gritty image, no soundtrack, an enigmatic but intriguing lead character, but it still manages to bring something fresh to the genre and I must say a movie really well done.

Image:
16.9 Anamorphic Widescreen, wonderful colours in the opening sequence, then grainy DV quality.

Audio:
Stereo 2.0. The simplicity works well for this movie.

Extras:
Commentary with director Julian Richards and lead actor Kevin Howarth, a ten minute featurette about the movie where Richards, Howarth, Mark Stephenson, special effect creator Paul Hyett (who went on to create the FX for Neil Marshalls amazing
The Decent 2005) and producer Zorana Piggot talk about the movie. A five minute featurette about the casting, four deleted scenes, the original trailer and a bunch of trailers for other titles available from Nordisk Film