18:00 September 18, 2022
In front of your face (12A)
My major problem with theater is that there’s something quite unseemly about being in the presence of actors.
The distance provided by a screen, big or small, gives it a certain decency, but watching actors do it right in front of you in the same room, ugh. I feel something similar with the films of the Korean Hong Sangsoo, whose method is so bare, so strict, that it removes the protective veil of cinema.
It’s a clean aesthetic committed to the pursuit of pure truth, but very cheap truth.
Hong is a walking and talking film representative. The actors speak and walk, often simultaneously, and often play characters close to themselves. This ultra-low-budget Seoul-based filmmaker will often focus on a character who is an ultra-low-budget Seoul-based filmmaker. His films are shot quickly and cheaply on location with basic video cameras. The dialogue is improvised and acted out in long scenes – usually captured by a static camera. Compared to him, people like Rohmer and Leigh are meticulous Kubrickian gossip.
Walking and talking in this one is Lee Hyeyeong as a former actress who has returned home after spending most of her adult life in the United States. Initially, she walks and talks around Seoul with her sister (Cho Yunhee) before heading to an important lunch, which will involve sitting down and talking with a director.
The flat, domestic lighting of these films is brutal and unforgiving for the performers. You wouldn’t hire Hong to shoot your wedding video. Yet in Korea, big names work with him without money, and Lee is captivating in the lead role as a woman trying to come to terms with her life thus far and figure out how best to handle the rest.
Watching a person try to truly live in the moment, accept the life that is right in front of their face, and not dwell on past regrets is deeply moving. The film gently transports you to its core. Form and substance are in perfect harmony; the viewer gradually learns to appreciate the beauty of what’s in front of them, even if everything seems a bit skimpy.
Directed by Hong Sangsoo. With Lee Hyeyeong, Cho Yunhee, Hae-hyo Kwon, Shin Seokho and Kim Saebyeok. Subtitle. Duration: 85 mins.
Catherine, called Birdy (12A)
Medieval England, 1290 to be precise, seems like a pretty brutal change of pace for Girls creator Dunham.
So she brought together several members of the cast of Game of Thrones to help show her the ropes of the era: Dean-Charles Chapman, David Bradley, Paul Kaye, Ralph Ineson and Ramsey as the main character, the rebellious daughter of Lord Rollo, (Scott. )
Although based on a children’s book, life here is only slightly less brutal than in GoT: everyone is chattel and no one marries for love. Discovering that his estate is near bankruptcy, Rollo attempts to marry off his 14-year-old daughter to any wealthy suitor, no matter how physically repulsive, while Birdy tries to thwart his plans. It’s a medieval mish-mash with a multicultural cast, dialogue oscillating between Chaucerian and contemporary, and a soundtrack with covers of songs by Elastica, Supergrass, Mazzy Star and Rod Stewart.
Such a freewheeling approach has great potential, but requires strong vision to sustain it, and Birdy lacks a striking visual sense and isn’t always funny. All of its abstractions should create a seductive irreverence, but in the end, they only put a barrier between the film and the audience’s involvement.
Directed by Lena Dunham. With Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott, Lesley Sharp, Billie Piper, Joe Alwyn and Sophie Okonedo. In cinemas now, streaming on Amazon Prime from October 7. Duration: 108 mins.
It’s in all of us (15)
JG Ballard moves to rural Ireland in this brooding play in which a car accident creates a strange and unstable bond between the two survivors.
Hamish Considine (Jarvis) is a classy London guy who came to visit the house left for him by the aunt he never met. His rental BMW is involved in a head-on collision on a dark country road with a car driven by two local guys, one of whom dies. The other however, Evan (Mannion) is attracted to the Englishman.
On the plus side, it looks fantastic. It’s taken some visual cues from Under The Skin, and the cinematography captures the barren beauty of the land, the wide open spaces dueling the heavy rain clouds pushing in and shrinking the landscape into a narrow strip.
In the lead role, Jarvis is mesmerizing throughout: capturing both his sense of entitlement and dismissive arrogance, as well as the confusion and vulnerability he feels after the accident. The problem is that after you dim the lights and set the mood, the relationship goes nowhere. For much of the film, Hamish is lost, and the audience shares his confusion.
Directed by Antonia Campbell-Hughes. With Cosmo Jarvis, Rhys Mannion, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Lalor Roddy and Claus Bang. Duration: 91 mins.
Go to http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for a preview of the BFI’s 8-film Ingmar Bergman Vol 3 Blu-ray box set.