J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tribeca ’18: Satan & Adam

For a musical art form to survive, it must be performed live, for real people, so it can actively engage with the world around it. Starting in 1986, the veteran bluesman known as Satan (born Sterling Magee, not a fan of organized religion) and Adam Gussow very definitely kept the blues alive. Playing on the streets of Harlem undeniably strengthened their attacks and gave them ample opportunity to pick-up on all the life going on around them. Satan’s vocals started to incorporate rap elements, while Gussow developed jazz saxophone influences on his mouth harp. V. Scott Balcerek chronicles the duo’s life and times in his twenty-three-years-in-the-making documentary, Satan & Adam, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

It is probably the second most famous creation story in blues, after Robert Johnson’s meeting at the crossroads. On that fateful day, Gussow asked to sit in with Satan, who was already quite recognizable for playing solo electric guitar, while accompanying himself on drums with the foot pedals. Satan was curious enough to agree and was pleasantly surprised when the kid managed to keep up. They started playing together so often, they became a regular act: Satan & Adam.

Initially, they busked on the streets, but they started to get respectable, recording an album, holding down a regular weekly bar gig, and signing with a manager. Frankly, their story was so attractive, it was probably inevitable they would get at least fifteen minutes of fame. They were after all the first interracial performers to appear together on the cover of Living Blues magazine. However, the music was so good and so honest, they maintained a loyal (and rather sizable, by blues standards) fan base, even after the music media moved on.

Balcerek managed to capture a fair amount of those glory days and he was also there for the quiet years of separation. Balcerek’s treatment is somewhat vague on the particulars, but Satan had something like a nervous breakdown and moved to Florida, where his Evangelical family forced him to temporarily give up the blues and the “Satan” moniker. In his nonfiction collection, Journeyman’s Road, Gussow more-or-less suggests he had to learn to let Satan go and get on with his own life.

As poignant as those sentiments were, it turned out the music wasn’t ready to let them go. In fact, S&A has the best third act of any music doc since Searching for Sugar Man. It was maybe more like a fourth or fifth act, but for their fans, it was utterly shocking good news, sort of like Harper Lee publishing Go Set a Watchman, but more satisfying.

It is that combination of pain and joy that makes Balcerek’s film such an immediately indispensable document of modern Americana. This film is blues to the bone, including the clear-eyed manner it addresses issues of race. As is often the case with jazz, the music we call the blues is frequently intertwined with racially charged questions of authenticity. Yet, without white (and increasingly foreign) audiences, there would be little market for the music. Of course, the first listeners Satan & Adam won over were “pre-gentrification” Harlem residents, who just responded to what they heard. If you respect the music, you also have to respect young players keeping it alive, regardless what they look like. (That is why it is so odd to see Al Sharpton turn up as a talking head in the film, because probably nobody else who has done more to foster racial tension in New York, through his involvement in the Tawana Brawley hoax and the Crown Heights Riots.)

Regardless, it is impossible to miss the appealing symbolism of Satan & Adam for music journalists and fans alike. Fortunately, Balcerek delves even deeper, really getting at the essence of friendship and music. The blues is rooted in the African American Delta experience, but it speaks to us on a universally accessible level. Balcerek presents Satan and Gussow in a way that we can similarly relate to. Satan & Adam is a terrific film that will move your feet and your soul. Very highly recommended, it screens this Wednesday (4/25) and Saturday (4/28), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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Tribeca ’18: The Night Eats the World

It is based on a French novel written by Martin Page under the pen name Pit Agarmen, but it is clearly constructed over the foundation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Sam, a French musician, will barricade himself in a tony apartment when a zombie apocalypse sweeps through Paris, but as he battles loneliness and hunger, he comes to realize he is the freak amid this new world of the feral undead in Dominique Rocher’s The Night Eats the World (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

You could argue Sam is fortunate to be shy and have a low tolerance for alcohol, or perhaps the exact opposite. Either way, he survives the initial wave of the zombie outbreak, because he fell asleep in a tucked away back room during his ex-girlfriend’s hipster party. Most of the zombies have been there and gone, so he fortifies a particularly nice flat in her building and digs in.

Resigning himself to the new order, Sam does his best to forage for canned goods and clear the other flats of zombies. Much like Robert Neville in I Am Legend, Sam seeks companionship with a pet, but in this case, it is a cat—and Rocher and his co-screenwriters give their relationship a subversive twist. For most of the film, his only company is Alfred, an infected tenant trapped in the building’s retro wrought-iron elevator, until the exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani makes a cameo appearance.

There are so many similarities between Night Eats and I Am Legend, both the novel and its earlier film adaptations, Rocher really should have included some sort of hat-tip, such as a Matheson movie poster. Of course, Neville was fighting vampires in Matheson’s source novel, albeit very zombie-like vampires, so Night Eats should be off the hook for any potential litigation. There is also a pronounced Gallic vibe to Rocher’s film. For instance, when Sam passes the time by constructing some Rube Goldberg like musical constructions (which actually produces some groovy sounds), the vibe is almost Tati-esque.

As Sam, Anders Danielsen Lie does heroic work, withstanding the rigor and scrutiny that comes with being on-screen nearly every second of the way. One look at his tortured countenance tells us he is a quiet on the outside but roiling on the inside kind of guy. The always striking Farahani is also deeply haunting as the mysterious Sarah. However, the wonderfully eccentric Denis Lavant (Monsieur Oscar from Holy Motors) supplies the film’s indelibly memorable and most likely iconic performance as the infected and immobilized Alfred, who just might possibly be lucid at some level deep down in his diseased psyche.

These are real zombies, who are always looking to chomp down on the infected. Rocher’s approach is admittedly more stylish and cerebral than many zombie films, but he still embraces the core principles of the genre. Rocher also composes some eerie visuals of the de-populated Parisian neighborhood and the ferocious swarms of zombie masses. Despite a relative paucity of gore, Walking Dead fans should be able to relate and approve. Enthusiastically recommended, Night Eats the World screens again today (4/22), tomorrow (4/23), and Friday (4/27), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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Tribeca ’18: Kaiser, the Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football

They take football seriously in Brazil, maybe even more so than music. That is why the picaresque story of Carlos Enrique Raposo (a.k.a. Carlos “Kaiser”) is so amazing. He was more of con artist than an athlete, who essentially defrauded the bicheiros (numbers-running gangsters) that apparently ran Brazil’s professional club teams. Somehow, he lived to talk about it in Louis Myles’ breezy documentary-romp, Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Rio, with its nightclubs and beaches, was tailor-made for Raposo. He is still recognized when he strolls along their wavy sidewalks, even though he literally never logged a second of professional playing time. When it came to football, the man dubbed “Kaiser” (as in the German Emperor) had terrible skills, but he was always in great shape and bore a convenient resemblance to superstar player Franz Beckenbauer.

Through deceit and chutzpah, Raposo managed to get signed to a thoroughly mobbed-up Corsican pro-team. He easily passed his physical, but then immediately feigned an injury. Despite his lack of productivity, Kaiser managed to maintain his contract by cozying up to one of the team’s most-connected executives. Eventually, he was cut, but he was able to repeat the cycle, because he had a stint with a pro team on his resume. The more teams he did not play for, the more legit he looked on paper. However, things started getting dicey when “Dr.” Castor de Andrade, the notorious bicheiro patron of the Bangu club finally ran out of patience.

Raposo’s story is a lot like that of Frank Abignale, Jr. in Catch Me If You Can, but it is more hedonistic and has better music. Clearly, Kaiser managed to hang on as long as he did, at so many clubs, because he could always start a party. Even Beckenbauer found himself vicariously indulging through his roguish pseudo-impostor.

Kaiser is mostly a great deal of naughty fun laced with episodes of head-shaking audacity, but it eventually gets serious in the third act. Alas, Raposo could not avoid real life indefinitely, but he has had a heck of a ride. Frankly, the film has the vibe of a guilty pleasure, but it also serves as quite a bold expose of the rough & tumble Brazilian football world in the 1980s and 1990s. Raposo never hurt a fly, which is why most of his “teammates” still have a great deal of affection for him (he also brought a lot of women around). On the other hand, the bicheiros were seriously bad cats.

Kaiser goes down as smooth as an ice coffee on an Ipanema beach. Myles keeps the pace at a brisk gallop and the diverse Brazilian soundtrack puts viewers in an after-hours-party frame-of-mind. He also scores some dishy and droll interviews with the survivors of the eighties and nineties Brazilian football scene. Even if you do not follow international football, you will be hard pressed to find a more entertaining documentary. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates Brazilian culture or a good con, Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football screens again today (4/22), tomorrow (4/23) and Saturday (4/28), as part of this year’s Tribeca.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tribeca ’18: Blue Night

You should not judge Vivienne Carala too harshly for ignoring her body’s warning signs. When you are a jazz vocalist, you have to strike while the iron is hot and you can never stop hustling. However, missing out on her daughter’s childhood is another matter entirely, but that is the price she paid for kind of-sort of making it. A tumor diagnosis will rudely prompt her to reconsider all the choices she made throughout the fateful day before she is admitted for an invasive battery of tests and treatment in Fabien Constant’s Blue Night, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Carala has been gigging at a high level for over two decades. She is preparing for the twenty-fifth anniversary of her first Birdland gig (presumably, she has one of those weekend spots), which is an accomplishment, but instead of fulfilling her ambition of playing the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall, she might have to settle for Zankel Hall (which is also really nice).

Those were all yesterday’s concerns. This morning’s diagnosis has put everything in doubt. Yet, she still goes through the motions at a rehearsal and in press interviews. She has many people in her life she should tell, but she has trouble communicating with them (rather ironically, considering she is a vocalist in the Susannah McCorkle mold, who specializes in dramatically interpreting lyrics, rather than dazzling audiences with her chops).

Frankly, Blue Night is a lot better than you might expect, because it really looks like New York and gets a lot of the jazz details right. There is a scene shot on location in Birdland and another looks a lot like the Cornelia Street Café bar. The way Carala interacts with her musicians also feels very real (except for the fact that she is sleeping with her drummer, which happens less frequently than you might suppose). It is therefore frustrating that Constant did not have more confidence in jazz to use it for the underlying soundtrack. Instead, we hear a great deal of discordant strings.

Regardless, you have to give Sarah Jessica Parker a great deal of credit. First of all, she is willing to look her (and Carala’s age), often under harsh light and unflattering circumstances. Make no mistake, there is nothing vain about this film. She also handles Carala’s vocals with surprising taste and sensitivity. In fact, she really nicely turns a Rufus Wainwright original and a cover of Ritchie Cordell’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” that plays over the closing credits.

When it comes to the drama, Parker develops some remarkably, ambiguously poignant chemistry with Common, playing her manager Ben. She also has some honest and effective scenes with Gus Birney and Simon Baker, as her daughter and ex-husband. However, the melodrama with her high-maintenance mother Jeanne (portrayed by the scenery-gorging Jacqueline Bisset) always feel forced and phony.

Sometimes Constant hits us over the head, as in Carala’s scenes with her mother and a chance encounter with a former friend and colleague, who essentially made the opposite choice, opting to raise her family instead of pursuing her career. Yet, somehow, he uses a lighter touch for the business with a Lyft driver who keeps crossing paths with Carala. By not forcing the issue, their final meeting packs a quiet wallop. It is just too bad there isn’t more music in the film Carala would actually like to hear. Recommended with all its imperfections, Blue Night screens again this Monday (4/23) and the following Sunday (4/29), as part of this year’s Tribeca.


Tribeca ’18: Cargo

Relatively speaking, Australia should expect high survival rates if a zombie apocalypse ever swept across the globe. They have a low population density and a good deal of open space. In fact, even the unassuming Andy has survived with his wife and infant daughter for several months. Unfortunately, dwindling supplies will lead to tragedy in Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s Cargo (trailer here), a feature expansion of their widely viewed short film, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Commandeering a houseboat was a temporarily winning strategy, but it is not sustainable over the long run. Eventually, the need for food forces Andy (perhaps a nod to Andy Rodoreda, the lead actor in the 2013 short) and Kay to take risks and that leads to sloppiness. The upshot is first Kay and then Andy is infected with the zombie virus. She will go fairly quickly, but he will presumably have most of his full forty-eight-hour incubation period to figure out how to secure his baby daughter Rose’s future.

There are a few survivors out there, but some of them reflect the worst in human nature. Others demonstrate kindness, like a cancer-stricken school teacher, but obviously she cannot be a long-term guardian. Frankly, Australia’s aboriginal population seems to be the best prepared to deal with the zombies, so Andy tries to forge an alliance with Thoomi a resilient teen girl, who is essentially an orphan since her father turned.

Cargo is a zombie film with real emotional heft, sort of in the tradition of the Schwarzenegger film Maggie. Frankly, Howling & Ramke serve up relatively few zombie attacks, but they maintain an overwhelming sense of tension every second of the way, so you really can’t call it a revisionist zombie movie, or Heaven forbid, “post-horror.”

Based on what we heard from Steve’s interview with Martin Freeman forthcoming on Unseen Films, it is easy to understand why the film’s themes of fatherhood and sacrifice appealed to Martin Freeman. He is terrific taking over from Rodoreda as the father. He might just be the actor with the most everyman (or everyhobbit) credibility since Tom Hanks at his peak, which serves him well in this context. Susie Porter is also pretty darned devastating as Kay, while Kris McQuade also adds a graceful note of compassion as the school teacher, Etta.

The media and popular culture generally portrays widespread calamities as a catalyst for looting and exploitation, but the historical record suggests the opposite is more accurate. Disasters usually bring out the best in people, but we never see that in zombie movies and TV shows. At least Ramke’s screenplay offers a more balanced assessment. There are both good and bad people in Cargo, just as there are in real life. Recommended as a zombie film with heart and genuine feeling, the Netflix-bound Cargo screens again tonight (4/21) and Wednesday (4/25), during this year’s Tribeca.

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Tribeca ’18: Stockholm

Ostensibly, it is a term used to condone questionable decisions, but the term “Stockholm Syndrome” definitely carries highly negative connotations. In general parlance, it implies the victim was either too weak or too stupid to resist the brainwashing or seduction of their captors. However, the circumstances of the historical incident that coined the term were considerably different. At least, that is how the somewhat fictionalized chronicle of the Normalmstorg Kreditbanken hostage crisis unfolds in Robert Budreau’s Stockholm, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

He presents himself as an American singing cowboy, but the hostage-taker’s real identity will be the source of some controversy during the stand-off. Regardless, his love for Bob Dylan is genuine enough (the film opens with “New Morning,” a good one that isn’t over-played). Oddly enough, Kaj Hansson (as he is first assumed to be) is not so shocked when the alarm is tripped. In fact, it is a necessary precondition for him to start presenting his demands, which includes the release of his bank-robbing best pal Gunnar Sorensson.

It turns out Sorensson is rather surprised by the scheme, but he plays along—and maybe plays both sides against each other when the cops offer him a deal to act as a “mediator.” Bank officer Bianca Lind is more perceptive than Hansson (or whoever). She can tell he has more enthusiasm than brains. He is in over his head, but the increasingly infuriated cops are probably a greater threat to her safety. Together with the two other hostages, who also start to see things her way, Lind tries to help plot an exit strategy for Hansson and Sorensson.

For many viewers, the big surprise here is the portrayal of Lind (and to a lesser extent her two fellow hostages). Frankly, they are not victims at all (yes, they were menaced a bit during the initial hostage-taking, but they quickly get over it). There is no question Lind is the smartest person in the room—and she choses to help her serenading captor, making her own voluntary decision. As a result, this film is bound to be controversial, especially in Sweden, considering it portrays the sainted Olof Palme as a craven political beast.

The other happy revelation is just how good Noomi Rapace is as Lind. Let’s be honest, her post-Millennium Trilogy work has been iffy (we’re talking about films like Bright, Unlocked, and What Happened to Monday? here). Maybe going back to Sweden was healthy for her, because she is totally riveting as Lind, but in a way that is both cerebral and humane.

Rapace also develops some intriguingly ambiguous chemistry with Ethan Hawke as the nice guy hostage-taker. Arguably, Hawke is a tad old for the “impetuous kid” role (his historical analog was thirty-two at the time of the standoff), but he might be one of the few thesps working today who can credibly convey the character’s flamboyance and his naivete. Of course, Mark Strong is money in the bank as the intense, borderline sociopathic Sorensson. Terms like “heroes,” “villains,” and “anti-heroes” definitely get a little murky in a film like this, but Christopher Heyerdahl (a distant relation of the explorer) makes quite a memorably severe antagonist as police chief Mattsson.

“Stockholm Syndrome” is a term that gets haphazardly thrown around, but this film makes viewers question its usage, even starting in the first instance. It is a tight, energetic period thriller, helmed with a fair amount of flair by Budreau (who also directed Hawke in the hip Chet Baker bio-pic, Born to Be Blue). Highly recommended, Stockholm screens again this Monday (4/23) and the following Sunday (4/29), as part of this year’s Tribeca.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Tribeca ’18: You Shall Not Sleep

Method actors can be pretentious and annoying, but Alma Böhm’s method is downright dangerous. She has her actors stay up for days straight, in order to strip away their self-conscious selves and unleash their pure instinct—or something like that. Needless to say, this is a bad idea in a horror movie kind of way. Staging their performance in abandoned mental hospital further compounds the danger in Gustavo Hernández’s You Shall Not Sleep (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Bianca has also been fascinated by Böhm’s work, so she can’t no when offered a part in her latest theatrical happening, even though she is well aware of the infamous ending to her last attempt at sleep-deprivation theater (apparently, 108 hours is a significant red line for participants). However, she is rather put out to learn she still has to compete for the role, against her pretty but less talented friend Dora.

The good news is she is much more susceptible to Böhm’s method than Dora. That is also the bad news. Before long, Bianca is seeing shadowy figures out of the corner of her eye and having flashbacks from the POV of her character, a wronged patient who very nearly killed her baby when she set the hospital on fire.

Pretty soon, we are just as lost as Bianca in the various temporal shift and reality warps. Yet, there always seems to be a method to Hernández’s madness, so to speak. Frankly, YSNS is probably a horror movie by default (it would certainly be terrifying to live through equivalent experiences), but it has nearly as much in common with mind-benders like Inception. Still, it is hard to argue with the implication of a haunted and crumbling lunatic asylum.

The Uruguayan Hernández shows a masterful control of atmosphere, tension, and general mise-en-scene throughout it all. This is definitely a moody movie. He also gets some great performances from his cast, particularly Spanish actress Belén Rueda, who goes from being the woman-in-jeopardy in Julia’s Eyes, to being the one putting women in jeopardy, as Böhm. She is chillingly driven, sharing a kinship with Peter O’Toole in The Stunt Man. It is also scary to see how worn-down and hollowed-out Eva De Dominici gets as the tragically sensitive Bianca, while Susana Hornos really sneaks up on viewers as the dramatically less intuitive Dora.

You have to give Hernández credit for making a haunted asylum film that can never be mistaken for a clone of Grave Encounters or Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum. Indeed, there is quite a bit of fresh and originally creepy stuff to be found here. Highly recommended for unpedantic genre fans, You Shall Not Sleep screens again tonight (4/20), tomorrow night (4/21) and next Saturday (4/28), as part of this year’s Tribeca.

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Ramen Heads: You’re Supposed to Slurp

Osamu Tomita is a lot like Jiro Ono, but he dreams of ramen instead of sushi. Ramen is so much his thing, Tomita visits other ramen restaurants on his day off. It is mostly just to eat, rather than for purposes of industrial espionage. For the fourth year in a row, his ramen has been recognized as Japan’s best, so his competitors are more likely to steal from him, rather than vice versa. Yet, he boldly welcomes viewers into his kitchen to watch him prepare the next day’s broth and noodles in Koki Shigeno’s documentary Ramen Heads (trailer here), which opens today in Chicago.

Ramen is probably the most quintessentially Japanese meal. Originally, it was cheap but filling food the large class of struggling post-war laborers could afford, but it has evolved into a culinary art form. Yet, all the real ramen restaurants are small neighborhood establishments. To the uninitiated, Tomita’s place in Matsudo, Chiba looks like clean, unassuming establishment, but there are always long lines in the morning to buy timed-entry tickets for a table.

We see Tomita mix his broth, knead his noodles, and boil his bamboo shoots (none of those are euphemisms). Perhaps astute ramen chefs will pick up a step or two from what Tomita shows, but his secrets are safe with us. In fact, we feel like we more than sufficiently get it after a while. Fortunately, Shigeno eventually opens the film up a little, introducing us to some other notable ramen chefs and giving us a sly animated history of ramen. Frankly, Shigeno could have spent more time with the other ramen masters, because some of them must have stories to tell, especially seventy-two-year-old Katsuji Matsouka, who will nonchalantly sling 800-1,600 bowls of ramen each day at his Tsukiji Market stall.

Shigeno, a well-established director of Japanese TV food programming, gives viewers an insider’s perspective, which is obviously intended for hard-core ramen heads. However, he captures some of the vibe and every day details of Japanese ramen eating. This would be a good film to stream before visiting the country as a tourist, even if you have no intention of eating at Tomita’s shop.

Regardless, it is always refreshing to see someone like Tomita, who has a passion they are happy to share. Frankly, Ramen Heads is more accessible and energetic than the weirdly over-hyped Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but not nearly as fun as Mirai Kinishi’s Kampai! For the Love of Sake. Recommended for foodies and armchair travelers, Ramen Heads opens today (4/20) at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago (and also screens 4/22 and 4/28 as part of Udine’s Far East Film Festival).

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

CineFesta Italia ’18: Cinderella the Cat

There are no fairy godmothers in Naples. Prince Charming is the “King” of the underworld—and he’s no prince. Fortunately, Mia is a resourceful young girl, but not for long. She is about to come of age and inherit her murdered father’s fortune in Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak & Dario Sansone’s mature animated fable, Cinderella the Cat (trailer here), which screens during CineFesta Italia 2018 in Santa Fe.

Vittorio Basile’s plan to revitalize the Naples seaport district is so visionary, only he understands it. His grand QE2-like cruise ship headquarters and its pseudo-artificial intelligence only hints at the potential grandeur of the project. Unfortunately, Basile falls for the wrong woman, torch-singer Angelica Carannante, who is conspiring with her lover, gangster Salvatore Lo Giusto to kill Basile as soon as the rings are exchanged. They will have to keep his young daughter Mia around until she is old enough to sign over her inheritance, but that does not mean her wicked step-sisters (and drag queen step-brother) have to be nice to her.

Young Mia had a rather touching relationship with her bodyguard Primo Gemito (sort of like the Man on Fire movies), but alas, he is the first person Carannante fires. However, he will make a dramatic return to the now shabby-looking ship as an undercover cop. Frankly, the rusty vessel is a good place to nose around, because it often records significant moments and projects the holographic playback at times that are either extremely opportune or inopportune, depending on one’s perspective.

This is not a Cinderella for kids, but it is wonderfully stylish and rather inventive. With its retro-futuristic fairy tale setting and holographic imagery, it feels something like a cross between the under-appreciated Italian science fiction classic, Morel’s Invention and maybe Streets of Fire, or who knows what. Plus, as an added bonus, there are several contemporary pop-big band musical numbers that are quite jaunty.

Yes, there are four, count them four, credited directors on Cenerentola, but the look and tone are always consistent. Along with three additional co-screenwriters, they create some unusually sharply drawn characters. Their villains are particularly strong, especially the glamorous femme fatale Carannante. Arguably, the traumatized Mia is the least developed, but everyone around her more than compensates.

There is a cat who occasionally slinks in and out, but the title is figurative. However, there is a talking crow, who has a significant role to play. Frankly, this Cinderella is probably too adult for GKIDS to handle (more so even than Chico & Rita or Mind Game), which is a shame, because they might be the only distributor who can handle animation this sophisticated.

Regardless, animation fans will be impressed by the originality and ambition of this noir fairy tale. Again, it should be fully understood this is not a kid’s cartoon. It is meant for grown-ups with discerning taste, who still enjoy a little mayhem. Very highly recommended, Cinderella the Cat screens this Saturday (4/21) at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, as part of this year’s CineFesta Italia.

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Kazuo Miyagawa at Japan Society: The Devil’s Temple

If it were so easy to “sever the bondage of earthly desires,” than everyone would be doing it, right? Thanks to the Buddha’s teachings, a high priest from Kyoto managed to do exactly that—at least for a while. However, a disgraced noble turned outlaw was easy pickings for a demonic temptress. If she can also corrupt the priest, it would represent the metaphysical victory of evil over good. Although essentially a four-character chamber play, the stakes are unusually high throughout Kenji Misumi’s The Devil’s Temple, which screens during the Japan Society’s retrospective, Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

After the loss of his fortune and the dissolution of his clan, Mumyo no Taro became rather wayward. His long-suffering wife Kaede has tracked him down to the ruined temple, where he has been living in sin with his shameless mistress, Aizen. Kaede expected he would obediently return to her out of shame, but instead, the illicit lovers brazenly carry on in the main chamber, while she camps out in an anteroom.

Kaede hopes salvation arrives when a traveling high priest stops to rest at the temple. He hopes to talk Mumyo back onto the straight and narrow. However, he also gently calls out Kaede for the perverse pride she takes in her martyrdom. Unfortunately, Aizen is more dangerous than he initially assumes, but he will start to get the picture when he realizes she is his destructive former lover. Of course, she is determined to drag him back down into the carnal depths, whereas he hopes to lead Kaede and Mumyo toward righteousness through his example of resistance.

Even though there are no genre elements per se in Temple, the suggestively demonic nature of Aizen is profoundly unsettling. Frankly, Hawthorne could have easily related to both its vibe and marquee conflict, yet the character and flavor of the film are distinctly Buddhist. It is also a dramatic example of how evocative sets and general mise-en-scene can help foster a mood of foreboding. Plus, Miyagawa’s lensing is surprisingly dynamic for a more-or-less one-set four-hander. When the action strays the temple, he gives it a disorienting, nightmarish look.

Showing tremendous range, Michiyo Aratama is scorchingly seductive and flamboyantly evil as Aizen, the femme fatale to beat all femme fatales. This is light years away from her heart-rending performances in The Human Condition and Kwaidan, but it might leave an even deeper impression. The legendary Hideko Takamine (looking rather ghostly herself here) is also extraordinarily nuanced and rather ambiguous as the wronged Kaede. Shintaro Katsu (Ichi-san) is a bit of a blowhard stock character as Mumyo, but Kei Sato makes the humble priest quite a distinctively cerebral hero.

This is a terrific work of Buddhist cinema that treats big-picture spiritual concepts with scrupulous seriousness. There are not a lot of films structured around temptations of the flesh, so that makes Temple quite memorable, especially since it is Aratama providing the temptation. Very highly recommended, The Devil’s Temple screens this Saturday (4/21) at Japan Society, as part of Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Kazuo Miyagawa at Japan Society: Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold

Shintaro Katsu had quite a run with the Zatoichi franchise: twenty-six feature films from 1962 to 1989. For the final film he directed someone else in the role, but there were also four non-consecutive seasons of the 1974-1979 TV series. Tora-san still has him beat in terms of longevity (48 films, from 1969 to 1995), but Zatoichi definitely has a much higher body count. This time around, Katsu’s Zatoichi also gets to play Robin Hood. It is considered one of the more visually stylish entries in the popular series, so it is quite fitting Kazuo Ikehiro’s Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold screens during the Japan Society’s retrospective, Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

Zatoichi (often just plain Ichi) is coming to town, so you know there will be trouble. In this case, his motives are pure. He has come to pay his respects to a yakuza he mistakenly cut down. Apparently, mistakes like this can happen when you are a blind swordsman, even if you have Zatoichi’s remarkable skills. Unfortunately, while contemplating mortality, he sits down on a stolen chest of gold. That would be the villagers’ tax payment, which agents of the Intendant have stolen, so the corrupt official can double collect.

To be frank, Zatoichi maybe should have wondered what that wicker chest was doing in the middle of a field and why were people suddenly attacking him for it. Regardless, the villagers will somewhat logically suspect him of aiding and abetting the theft, so he will have too clear his name by finding their gold. Fortunately, he will have some help from Chuji, a rebel-bandit holed up in the mountains and Chiyo, the sister of the dead man Zatoichi laments.

The opening sequence is definitely one for the Miyagawa highlight reel. Bathing the foreground in darkness, Miyagawa creates a kabuki-like vibe for the sword fight, through judicious use of focused, golden light, approximating the chiaroscuro effect in Flemish masters. In fact, there is quite a bit of visual panache throughout the film. Shôhei Miyauchi’s fight choreography is also widely hailed as the roughest and toughest thus far (we’re six films into twenty-six at this point). Indeed, it definitely should hold up for Chanbara fans. One thing that might jump out at genteel viewers is the ugly contempt for the blind expressed by the villains, but that makes their anticipated comeuppance even sweeter.

Obviously, Katsu has a good idea of what he is doing as Zatoichi by this point. Machiko Hasegawa also has some amusing scenes with him and her femme fatale presence is definitely intriguing, but Ikehiro lets her disappear for far too long. However, Tomisaburo Wakayama (future star of the Lone Wolf and Cub franchise) really fills up the screen as the Intendant’s unrepentantly villainous Samurai enforcer, Jushiro.

Chest of Gold must be a fun movie, since they made twenty more Zatoichis (not including reboots). It definitely delivers the hack-and-slash, but the way Miyagawa lensed the action represents some true artistry. Highly recommended as a fan-pleasing, expectation-beating, formula-stretching Chanbara film, Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold screens this Friday (4/20) at Japan Society, as part of Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

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Mercury 13: The Other First-Generation Astronauts

The great Clare Boothe Luce championed them in Life at a time when that magazine really meant something, but it was to no avail. They privately trained for the American space program, passing many of the same physical and psychological tests, but the fix was in to keep them out. Although the thirteen women never trained as a unit like the original Mercury 7 astronauts, they still developed their own group identity. Their careers and legacy are chronicled in David Sington & Heather Walsh’s documentary Mercury 13 (trailer here), which premieres this Friday on Netflix.

Each of the Mercury 13 were accomplished aviators. In fact, many of them were veterans of the Women Airforce Service Pilots organization, who ferried combat planes from the factory to wherever the military needed them, except the actual combat zones. You could argue this made them something very much like test pilots, but NASA rigidly used test pilot experience as a prerequisite to disqualify the Mercury 13, even though such duties were not open to them.

When telling the story of the 13, Jacqueline Cochran emerges as the Chuck Yeager figure. Having achieved national stature as an aviator, Cochran convinced NASA flight doctor and life science expert Dr. William Randolph Lovelace to start a pilot program for prospective women astronauts at his private clinic. However, she later undercut the program at a critical moment.

Several of the surviving 13 lament what a great propaganda loss it was when the Soviet launched the first woman into space with Valentina Tereshkova in 1963. Frankly, she was more of a sporting figure than a real pilot or scientist, so any of the 13 would have made far more credible astronauts. There is no question they were qualified pilots and when it comes to space travel, being smaller of stature is a plus. However, there is a nagging hypothetical nobody dares to explore. Suppose a woman astronaut had died in the Apollo 1 fire that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The 13 were surely prepared to accept such risks, but you have to wonder if the reaction of the flawed 1967 media could have really set back the space program.

Regardless, the 13 deserved more respect from their male colleagues and NASA would have been much smarter if they had found high profile roles for them to play in the program, but not a lot of observers accuse NASA of being overly intelligent anymore. This is a fascinating story, but even at a highly-manageable seventy-eight minutes, Mercury 13 is conspicuously padded in places. If you enjoy footage of gliders, we have good news for you.

Even though Sington, Walsh, and most of their interview subjects direct plenty of criticism towards NASA, they are still obviously big believers in space exploration. After all, they are arguing for greater and wider participation, rather than less. That is why it is so frustrating to watch a space doc like this (or In the Shadow of the Moon, which Sington also directed, or Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo, which Walsh co-produced) knowing we have allowed our own space flight capabilities atrophy into nothing. Recommended for providing a unique perspective on the Space Race, Mercury 13 starts streaming this Friday (4/20) on Netflix.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

#Screamers: The Horror of Viral Videos

Can you imagine the endless debates among the producers whether or not to include the hashtag in the title? They must have been excruciating. Tom Brennan and Chris Grabow have that sort of argument all the time at Gigaler.com. They are sort of like YouTube for viral videos, but supposedly more curated. It hardly sounds like a revolutionary business model and their tight cash flows bears out our skepticism. However, they believe some creepy jump-scare videos might be the opportunity they have waiting for in Dean Matthew Ronalds’ #Screamers (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

We really get to know Brennan and Grabow thanks to the corporate film their marketing guy Griffin is shooting. The in-house doc paints a rosy picture of a start-up on the rise, but we later learn the company’s financial position is much more precarious. The so-called “screamer” videos were just what they needed. Basically, an otherworldly goth girl distracts the viewer, setting them up for a jolt when the Screamer comes lunging at them from out of the corner. Traffic is booming, but they need exclusivity, so they (or rather Abbi, their best coder) tracks down the makers. The metadata leads them Rochester, NY, where the makers might be engaging in an elaborate but distasteful hoax, involving a local woman gone missing and Francis Tumblety, an American suspect in the Jack the Ripper case.

Frankly, it is sort of strange Tumblety’s Ripper connections have not inspired more horror movies. Yet, Ronalds and co-screenwriter Malloy only skim the surface of his eccentric weirdness. Instead, they vexingly devote almost the entire first two acts to establishing the interpersonal dynamics of Gigaler. Brennan is the obnoxious glad-hander, Grabow is nebbish and passive aggressive, while Abbi is the shy computer nerd (in this wacky alternate universe). We so get all that. What we want is more creepy stuff involving Tumblety and more backstory for the mysteriously missing Tara Rogers.

Indeed, it is frustrating how little time Ronalds and Malloy devote to legit horror movie business, because they actually created some intriguing mythology. Still, there is no question, as Brennan and Grabow, Malloy and Chris Bannow feel like annoying hipster tech partners, who are just itching to sell out their customers, like Facebook. All the Gigaler scenes feel totally believable and true to life, but that also means they aren’t a lot of fun.

There is just too much click-and-eyeball talk in #Screamers and not enough Rippers and missing persons. When the film finally gets down to business, it rushes through the third act, rather than trying to build extended tension. It is the sort of film that makes you want to do your own reshoots and re-editing. So frustrating, #Screamers releases today on VOD platforms.

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Deep Blue Sea 2: Deeper, Bluer, Hungrier

Among fish, sharks are considered comparatively intelligent and sociable. However, bull sharks are such mean killing machines,even a touchy-feely shark conservationist like Misty Calhoun won’t go near them. So why would pharma billionaire Carl Durant make them his smart drug guinea pigs, like Bradley Cooper in Limitless? Maybe it has something to do with his reckless megalomania. Regardless, people are about to become fish food in Darin Scott’s direct-to-DVD sequel, Deep Blue Sea 2 (trailer here), which releases today.

It has been a while since the original Deep Blue Sea released in 1999, so you may have either forgotten it, or been faithfully pining for a sequel. In either case, you can feel free to dive into DBS2, because there are no returning characters. We just get another batch of smart sharks. As we know, sharks are Calhoun’s specialty. That is why Durant wants to recruit her for the project, even though her value-added seems minimal. At least she can tell just by looking Bella, the queen bee bull shark is mega-pregnant.

Of course, Calhoun is appalled by Durant’s scheme, as any rational person would be. Even his shark herder (or whatever) Trent Slater is pretty disgusted with his boss. Frankly, Durant was always arrogant, but he has become alarmingly erratic since he started dosing himself with the experimental cocktail. However, things really get ugly when the facility starts to flood—and Bella gives birth to a gaggle of piranha-like babies.

So yeah, killer sharks. Its definitely meathead stuff, but the execution is more competent than we would expect. Michael Beach is flamboyantly nutty as Durant and his motivating fear of an artificial intelligence-induced singularity is an interesting touch. Danielle Savre also makes Calhoun a pleasingly forceful protag. However, the rest of the ensemble bring little energy to their stock characters. Frankly, many of them look like they are just waiting around to get eaten.

Hopefully, The Meg will be better than this. However, as direct-to-DVD sequels go, this is much more watchable than most, but whether it is worth the nineteen-year wait is a question only you can answer for yourself. Probably decent hangover viewing material, Deep Blue Sea 2 releases today on DVD, exactly where it belongs.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Ghost Stories: Scary Stuff, with Martin Freeman

Ghostly yarns are meant to be told, person to person, as indeed happens here. In this case, they are prompted by a skeptic’s investigation (it still counts) that is rooted in a dare (which makes it even better). “The brain sees what it wants to see” is the motto of our intrepid paranormal investigator, but all bets are off during Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman’s pseudo-anthology film, Ghost Stories (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Prof. Phillip Goodman fancies himself a British Amazing Randi, but despite his TV show, he is not nearly as famous (or respected). His role model actually happens to be Charles Cameron, a famous TV debunker from the 1970s, who has disappeared from public sight in recent years. At first, Goodman is thrilled when the mysterious old man reaches out to him, but the camper-dwelling Cameron is surprisingly hostile when he pays a visit. Openly contemptuous of the logical materialism he and Goodman offered people in place of supernatural mystery, Cameron gives his follower three case files that you could say shook his lack of faith in the beyond. He challenges Goodman to investigate and explain them, thereby launching the film’s anthology structure, except there is rather a bit more to the wrap-around segments, as we will eventually learn.

The initial “proper” story focuses on an emotionally-broken night watchman, who reports being haunted on the job by a little girl. The second relates a pre-teen’s terrifying vehicular mishap along a remote stretch of road (a bit like Bryan Bertino’s The Monster, but more demonic), while the final tale relates the very personal and tragic hauntings experienced by City investment banker Mike Priddle. However, things are not precisely as they seem, but telling would be a shame.

Ghost Stories is based on Dyson & Nyman’s long-running play, which must have featured some inventive staging, judging from the film version. Even American horror fans who learn its secrets from the film would probably enjoy seeing it unfold on the boards. In large measure, this is because the framing narrative is so inventive—so much so, it eventually takes precedence over the constituent stories.

Co-writer-co-director Nyman is absolutely terrific as Prof. Goodman. He is a real character, with real flaws—and not just a device to introduce the next haunting. Martin Freeman similarly makes Priddle seem very real, but he also helps facilitate some big surprises (again telling would be telling). Yet, perhaps the rawest, most wrenching work comes from Paul Whitehouse (much better known in the UK), who really kills it as Tony Matthews, the literally and figuratively haunted night guard.

To put Ghost Stories into context, many critics and fans have invoked the name of Amicus, the Hammer-like studio that specialized in anthologies (like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, which featured Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and British jazz musician Tubby Hayes). However, you can also taste some of the flavoring of the decidedly existential British horror exemplified by Ben Wheatley and Gareth Tunley, but that rather makes sense, since producers Robin Gutch and Claire Jones performed like duties on films such as Kill List, Berberian Sound Studio, A Field in England, and Sightseers.

Arguably, you can see two traditions of British horror coming together in Ghost Stories, which is really cool. There is also real acting and stuff going on. The results are deliciously sly and sinister. Very highly recommended for horror fans, Ghost Stories opens this Friday (4/20) in New York, at the IFC Center.

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Clouzot’s Le Corbeau

In the 1940’s, it took considerable effort to write poison pen letters. It was literally a matter of pen and ink. These days, it can be done so much easier through social media. Always controversial as a production of the German-owned, Vichy-aligned Continental Films during the (second) French Occupation, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Corbeau feels timelier than ever. Freshly 4K-restored, it opens this Friday at Film Forum (trailer here).

Le Corbeau (The Raven) makes the provincial townsfolk so uncomfortable, because he or she is often correct in the accusations leveled against the apparently not so innocent villagers. For instance, Le Corbeau’s favorite target, Dr. Rémy Germain was indeed having an affair with the young wife of his colleague, grey-bearded psychiatrist Dr. Michel Vorzet. However, his main contention that Germain is an overzealous back-alley abortionist is most likely exaggerated. Nevertheless, he and Laura Vorzet find it prudent to put their affair on hold—at least temporarily.

Despite all the unwanted attention focused on Dr. Germain, he finds Denise Saillens, his landlord’s promiscuous sister is more than willing to take Vorzet’s place. He is not completely uninterested, but he has more than enough trouble without her attention seeking behavior. To clear his name, he will rather awkwardly team up with Dr. Vorzet, an expert in poison pen letter writers, after one of the Raven’s letters directly prompts a fatal suicide.

Le Corbeau is an absolutely fascinating film to analyze, both for what is on the screen and what was happening behind the scenes. Since it was produced by Continental Films, Clouzot and his two leads, Pierre Fresnay and Ginette Leclerc were banned from French film production and faced legal difficulties (including imprisonment in the case of Fresnay and Leclerc) after liberation. However, some critics read into it a subtle indictment of anonymous denunciations as well as a potent portrayal of the climate of paranoia that was true to life under occupation. Regardless, both the resistance and the establishment condemned the film, for either besmirching the French national character or traditional Catholic morality. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

Of course, it is easy to hear the Raven’s bitter moralizing voice in the social media cyber-lynchings of our times, such as the one that recently resulted in the death of adult film star August Ames. It is probably safe to predict there will not be a porn parody of Le Corbeau anytime soon, and certainly not with the participation of her harassers.  Social Justice Warrior intolerance has replaced Catholic prudery, but the psychology of their cold-blooded cruelty is strikingly similar.

Regardless, as Germain, Fresnay might be one of the most anti-heroic anti-heroes in motion picture history. At best, he is an adulterer and his professional bedside manner is distinctly frosty. Yet, as we come to know him and his backstory, Fresnay steadily stokes the audience’s sympathies. Pierre Larquey is just as terrific as the old but still sharp Dr. Vorzet. Modern viewers might find Leclerc a tad melodramatic as Mme. Saillens, but Liliane Maigné is wonderfully sly but sensitive as her scheming niece, Rolande.

Perhaps what most defines Le Corbeau is the ugly mob justice unleashed on the obvious (and therefore most likely innocent) suspect, Marie Corbin, Laura Vorzet’s rigidly judgmental sister. Again, this was probably not the messaging Vichy was looking for, but it would have been just as inconvenient for the épuration score-settling. Indeed, the Raven is an ornery beast, but it is wickedly clever. It also well-deserves its reputation as an early film noir forerunner, thanks to cinematographer Nicolas Hayer’s dramatically expressive use of shadow. Very highly recommended, Le Corbeau opens this Friday (5/20), at Film Forum.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kazuo Miyagawa at Japan Society: A Certain Killer

Shiozawa is a sushi chef, so it makes sense he is good with a blade. That also helps in his other line of work. Most civilians think he is the proprietor of a neighborhood sushi and sake restaurant, but he also fulfills contracts for Yakuza families. He is cautious and exacting. When he takes an assignment, he is like money in the bank. However, this job might be different, because it involves accomplices. There is a chance he could get killed, but nothing can possible blow his cool in Kazuo Mori’s A Certain Killer, which screens during the Japan Society’s latest film series, Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

No luxury hotels for Shiozawa. Instead, he rents a grubby room in a flop house next to a cemetery (talk about appropriate). Eventually, a pretty party girl named Keiko joins him and a dour looking Yakuza named Maeda soon follows. How did he meet them and what are they doing in this de-populated post-industrial neighborhood? The flashbacks will explain all.

Essentially, Keiko was a good deed Shiozawa is still being punished for. He paid for her diner tab, sparing her the indignity of trading sex for a bowl of soup and then saved her from her abusive pimp. However, she followed him home and started worming her way into his life. Maeda also has complicated history with the hitman. Initially, he tries to hire Shiozawa’s services for a hit sanctioned by his boss, but he soon starts getting ideas of his own.

A Certain Killer is one of those films that leaves you baffled that it doesn’t have more of an international reputation. Seriously, how is it not a staple of best noir lists? This is a lithe and deadly little film that swaggers through the urban jungle like a shark swimming in the ocean. Raizo Ichikawa was known for historicals, but Shiozawa could very well be the role of his career. He has the world-weary look of nothingness, but he conveys steely grit beneath his bland, disinterested surface. There is a bit of Le Samouraï Alain Delon in him, but he is very much a disillusioned middle-aged cat.

On the other side of the spectrum, Yumiko Nogawa is all kinds of trouble as Keiko. She projects a flirty, candy-colored coquetry, but oh my, is she ever a femme fatale. Mikio Narita also holds up his end as the tightly wound Maeda. Put them all together and there is bound to be trouble.

Certain Killer has all the elements in place, including the twists and narrative flashbacks of Yasuzo Masumura’s screenplay that predates so many Tarantino clones in the 1990s. However, the X-factor is Miyagawa’s distinctive cinematography, which includes a number of striking wide God’s-eye shots, reducing the characters to tiny scale (like the rats that they often are).

Seriously, why aren’t Scorsese and Tarantino constantly yammering about how we have to see A Certain Killer. Apparently, its up to us, so consider yourself duly lectured. Honestly, this is a terrific hitman thriller so take advantage of the opportunity to see it when A Certain Killer screens this Tuesday (4/17) at Japan Society, as part of Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

SFFILM ’18: The White Girl

This unnamed teenager is a lot like Japanese singer-songwriter Yui’s character in Taiyou no Uta (Midnight Sun) and whoever in the lame American remake. She too is allergic to the sun’s ultraviolet rays—or so she has always been told. However, she is not a singer, but perhaps her mother was—and maybe still is—or not. She is an outsider in Pearl Village, Hong Kong’s last surviving fishing hamlet, but in some ways that helps her appreciate what it represents in Jenny Suen & (co-director) Christopher Doyle’s The White Girl (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival.

All her life, the “White Girl” has hid beneath floppy hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing, because her controlling fisherman father assured her she must. Given her resulting pale skin and shy manner, the villagers dubbed her “White Girl” or even “Ghost” and have become convinced she can contaminate their nets with bad mojo with a hard stare. Her only friend is Ho Zai, a scampish little boy living with an eccentric Buddhist monk, at least until Sakamoto, an emotionally damaged Japanese expat fleeing his troubles, starts squatting in the decrepit colonial mansion overlooking the bay.

For the most part, the White Girl and Sakamoto are drawn to each other, because they sense the shared empathy and comradery of a fellow wounded spirit. However, there is also an element of creepy sexual attraction that Sakamoto scrupulously represses. Yet, she will still lose much of her innocence for other reasons, as she comes to doubt the validity of everything her father ever told her. Meanwhile, the resourceful Ho Zai uncovers evidence of the mayor’s plan to sell out the village to a consortium of Mainland investors.

White Girl is a more focused and conventional film than Doyle’s Hong Kong Trilogy, which Suen produced, but it is still much more concerned with mood and vibe than crass plot points. Without doubt, we can see its aesthetic kinship with some of the classic Wong Kar-wai films he shot. It is a quiet, lulling film, but fortunately Angela Yuen and Joe Odagiri can emote though the humid languor as the girl and the squatter. Jeff Yiu is also unusually charismatic for a young thesp as Ho Zai, while Rayna Lee adds some unlikely sympathetic glamor as the village school teacher, Miss Wong. However, Leung Kin-ping probably scores the most points for dramatics with his poignant turn as the girl’s clueless father.

Honestly, nobody would have accused Suen & Doyle of selling out if they had cranked up the narrative a little. Clearly, they believe meandering is part of the journey. Of course, the symbolism of the hyper-connected Mainland developers out to obliterate Pearl Village’s way of life is tough to miss, but that doesn’t mean the message isn’t still needed. Regardless, the mostly attractive and uniformly expressive ensemble redeems the stylistic excesses. Recommended as an evocative and elegiac coming of age film, The White Girl screens again this Monday (4/16), as part of this year’s SFFILM.

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