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What movie festival are you attending?

Helsinki International Film Festival (Rakkautta & Anarkiaa / Love & Anarchy) 2007

Thursday September 20

Escaping from school at noon, taking a train to Helsinki (15:22 - 19:52) and collecting the reserved tickets before 21:00 (when they expire). Then trying to catch the correct bus and find my way to the friends place and sleep on the floor.

Friday September 21

Metallic Blues (Israel & Canada & Germany) (2004)

A film whose multinational production mirrors its own internal logic, “Metallic Blues” sneaks up on viewers. Starting out as a lowbrow comedy about two out-of-their-depth Israeli car salesmen who buy a vintage American limo with Canadian plates from an Arab to take it to sell in Hamburg, pic detours into murkier byways. Pair’s get-rich-quick scheme goes enjoyably south by way of slapstick tourist mishaps, before helmer-scribe Danny Verete resurrects the ghost of Deutschland past and throws a pall uber alles. Offbeat, largely comic treatment of present-day German/Jewish relations should prove strong urban draw.

This is a free screening and I’m gonna kick my festival off with it.

Retribution (Japan) (2006)

Sakebi comes closes to Cure in both some of its plot turns, especially the possible guiltiness of the police detective, and the creepy atmosphere. The film also has the typical J-horror feature of things not settled in the past coming back with a vengeance. What is different is that Kurosawa consciously plays with the idea of getting the ghost to be clearly visible and existing in real world. The film plays some nice plot twists that keep it runnings nicely till the end, and the sound work – always an important element in Kurosawa’s films, features some creepy screeming – hence the title sakebi, a scream. Koji Yakusho plays again one of his signature roles, a police detective estranged from his job.

My first Kurosawa, although I know it’s said to be far from his best

Black Book (Netherlands & Great Britain & Germany) (2006)

No movie about the Dutch Resistance during World War II has any right to be this wildly entertaining, not to mention this provocative and potently erotic. In part, it’s a love story about a sympathetic Nazi and a Jewish girl who dyes her hair blond, pubes included, to seduce him. Only in a Paul Verhoeven movie. – – There’s not a dull second.

I’m not actually that excited about this movie but I’ll give it a chance

Saturday September 22

Paprika (Japan) (2006)

The girl of your dreams — and his dreams, and her dreams — the punkish heroine of Satoshi Kon’s “Paprika” is a double-agent-provocateur in a shape-shifting movie of marvelous, baffling complexities. It’s a long way from the more safely beautiful work of that Japanese Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”). And it is also anime decidely for adults: Among “Paprika’s” thriller aspects, noirish angst and futuristic action, nothing is ever what it appears. Dreams intrude on dreams. Surfaces of reality fold over each other, like the petals on an origami chrysanthemum.

From the director of the masterful Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers. A must see.

Dai Nipponjin (Japan) (2007)

Dai Nipponjin" has to be, hands down, the strangest picture in Cannes this year. Decidedly odd, even by Japanese standards, this mockumentary about an electrically charged, skyscraper-high superhero saddled with misfortune, bad press and even worse TV ratings is tears-down-the-face funny and a genuine, jaw-dropping oddity. A must for midnight madness slots as well as Asia and fantasy-themed fests, pic will astound auds of all stripes. A long and healthy life as an ancillary cult item awaits.

Sounds too intentional but what the hell

Eastern Promises (Great Britain & USA) (2007)

The new thriller from director David Cronenberg reteams him with his A History of Violence leading man Viggo Mortensen. The film follows the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai (Mr. Mortensen), who is tied to one of London ’s most notorious organized crime families. His carefully maintained existence is jarred when he crosses paths with Anna (Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts), an innocent midwife trying to right a wrong, who accidentally uncovers potential evidence against the family. Now Nikolai must put into motion a harrowing chain of murder, deceit, and retribution.


Like a Dragon (Japan, 2007)

Nipponese maverick Takashi Miike provides an object lesson in how to transfer computer games to the bigscreen in Like a Dragon. Blithely ignoring the opportunities for a CGI-stuffed extravaganza, helmer simply stir-fries his usual mixture of psychopathic gangsters, black humor and childlike innocence into a fast-paced, character-heavy yarn – set during a single sweltering night – that’s one of his most purely enjoyable pics in ages.

This sounds awesome

Sunday September 23

Lost in Beijing (China, 2007)

Money (and maybe a little bit of love) makes the world go around in “Lost in Beijing,” an involving, highly accessible portrait of an emotional menage a quatre in the modern-day Chinese capital. Third feature by Mainland writer-director Li Yu reps a striking career fulfillment by the thirty-something former documaker, following her rough but ground-breaking lesbian pic “Fish and Elephant” (2001), and her accom-plished but Euro-style drama “Dam Street” two years ago. Though pic is facing censorship difficulties within China, specialized distribu-tion, plus robust fest travel, means “Lost” will be found by offshore viewers.

This should offer a good contast for the last night’s Miike

I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK (South Korea) (2006)

This tale of a psychologically fragile girl who thinks she’s a cyborg and talks to vending machines is served up in a bright, dreamy, hyper-real style, with sprinklings of acid-laced Amelie and Alice in Wonderland, and a large dollop of Park’s own- brand visual sauce. – – Grotesque and tender, alternately affected and affecting, it is larded with Parkisms, from the zigzag time structure (veering into the past to explain the present, and vice versa) to the use of extreme, fish-eye close-ups, to the film’s obssessive colour-coding of sets and costumes.

Chan-wook Park. Enough said.

Breath (South Korea) (2007)

On the fourth day of this 60th Festival, South Korean cineaste Kim Ki-duk returns to Cannes to present Breath in the Competition selection. His film The Bow was one of the highlights of the 2005 Un Certain Regard section. This time, Ki-duk tells the story of a prisoner condemned to death. He is visited by a woman who feels neglected by her husband, and she falls in love with him. With this drama revolving around jealousy, unhappiness, and the lack of love, Kim Ki-duk is "referring indirectly to a difficult relationship with Korean society. I concentrated on individuals. What interested me was to show how human beings utterly fail to communicate."

Kim Ki-duk’s latest

El Custodio (Argentina & France & Germany) (2006)

A rigorous character study shot from the p.o.v. of a minister’s trusted bodyguard, “El Custodio” takes the high road of Argentine minimalism, which has won hardcore fans around the world but which shuts out larger auds with its rigid rules. Stunted by an exasperatingly slow pace, Rodrigo Moreno’s technically impeccable feature film bow has the single-minded quality that wins festival prizes, but its cold protag and uninvolving approach will make it a very tough sell in the real world.

The slow pace sounds promising.

Monday September 24

13 Tzameti (France) (2005)

Grand Jury Prize World Cinema winner at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, 13 Tzameti is a snuff film rooted in the practical realities of our world economy where some human life (that of the poor, the powerless, the immigrant) is cheap. It joins other recent films – from Eli Roth’s gore shocker Hostel to Michael Haneke’s Caché to Gaspar Noé’s I Stand Alone – which delve into an ugly urban milieu informed by harsh divides of race, class and money. With its slow place and surreal story line, 13 Tzameti has a timelessness and visual elegance that can evoke Jean-Luc Godard, the early work of Polish auteurs Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski or French noir director Jean-Pierre Melville. The cumulative effect of so much horror and beauty is disconcerting. On one hand, there is the polished, visually refined, dark allure of Tariel Meliava’s Cinemascope cinematography. In distinct opposition is the slaughterhouse mood.

After all the positive feedback I need to check it myself

London to Brighton (Great Britain) (2006)

It’s 3:07am and two girls burst into a run down London toilet. Joanne is crying her eyes out and her clothing is ripped. Kelly’s face is bruised and starting to swell. Duncan Allen lies in his bathroom bleeding to death. Duncan’s son, Stuart, has found his father and wants answers. Derek, Kelly’s pimp, needs to find Kelly or it will be him who pays. Kelly and Joanne need to get through the next 24 hours alive…

Straight from the ‘shut up and fuck off’ school of British film-making – – has some excellently tense scenes, a polished script and thrilling, purposeful sense of direction.

This sounds a bit pretentious again but all the positive feedback got me interested

Triangle (Hong Kong & China) (2007)

Three Hong Kong cult helmers play pass-the-parcel in Triangle, a seriocomic crimer by Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To that’s a diverting, sometimes head-scratching experiment that will chime with Asian movie buffs. – – Pic’s passage from an antsy setup, via more character-driven drama, to an elaborately choreographed finale plays to the strengths of each director as well as being a mini-primer of their different styles.

Instead of three episodes To, Hark and Lam have directed a single storyline, with each director helming one third of the movie. Brilliant idea.

Tuesday September 25

Because of the retarded train schedules I won’t be able to watch any movies. I have to get back to school for a few days (already taken 3 days off) and since the screenings at the festival start at 16:30 on working days it won’t leave me any time for movies. The last train leaves somewhere around 6 pm. So, on tuesday I’ll be sitting on a train for 4 hours. But, remember the governator’s words


The program for the second weekend is still mostly open (about 2/3 will be decided during the festival when they see which movies are selling and need more screening). Some screenings have been decided already and I’ve reserved my tickets. There’s gonna be explosive warriors, tattooed beauties and naughty korean girls, among others. But lets get back to that at a later date (somewhere around September 27)

I felt like I didn’t have enough to do on Saturday September 22 (only 4 movies!) so I added one:

Tuli (Philippines) (2007)

Auraeus Solito departs from the Filipino urban jungle of his lauded debut “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros” and explores life in the wilder jungle of “Tuli,” in which a strong-willed daughter upsets every arrangement her alcoholic father tries to impose on her. With dad being the village’s official circumciser, and daughter Daisy expected to follow in his footsteps, pic sets up a heady brew of daring sexuality and ancient rituals that broadens Solito’s reach as a developing film artist. Though pic has been banned locally, Berlin and other major fests beckon, setting up potential arthouse and vid action.

Comments on this and all other movies after the second weekend which looks like this:

Friday 28 September

I’ll be arriving Helsinki 17:30. I could make it to the 18:30 screening but I screwed up and I didn’t reserve tickets early enough and now all 18:30 screenings are sold out. But I might try if I could â€

the first batch of reviews…

Metallic Blues - 2/5

Two Israeli car dealers go to Germany in the hope of big money. Unfortunately their plans go as wrong as this movie. Metallic Blues is a film for people who don’t know much about Israel, Germany, or movies. The storyline is too naive and features some really weak social commentary. Not a horrible movie but a totally uninspiring one.

Retribution (Sakebi) - 2,5/5

This is another rather typical j-horror fare. It’s unfortunate it had to be my first Kurosawa although I’m not letting it affect on my hopes. I’m convinced the director is capable of delivering good movies and I’m really looking forward to seeing Barren Illusions.

Black Book (Zwartboek) - 2,5/5

Verhoeven’s come back movie in an unoriginal and safely played WWII epic set in The Netherlands. Both the old school magic and Verhoeven’s golden exploitation touch are mostly missing. The storyline is often predictable but the humour works nicely. As a whole the movie remains somewhat entertaining throughout its 145 min running time.

Paprika – 3,5/5

Having loved Satoshi Kon’s previous films Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers I found Paprika surprisingly noisy (even if this was slightly visible in his older works, too). Nevertheless the movie is very catchy and offers a good ride for those not looking for anything too discreet.

Tuli – 1/5

Don’t let the glossy press materials fool you, this alwul Filipino movie looks like a bad home video (and is scripted accordingly). The hazy yellow tinted image is a disgrace to digital cinematography. Balancing somewhere between fiction and documentary Tuli’s depiction of adulthood rites and girl-love will either put you into sleep of make you feel very embarrased for the â€

and the second batch

13 Tzameti – 3/5

There’s been a lot of talk about this film but I guess that’s often the case when a new director picks a rough theme and shoots it in b/w. 13 Tzameti is a very decent thriller but ultimately there isn’t that much spectacular about it. It however isn’t too underlining like some other similiar films, and the b/w cinematography saves a lot.

London to Brighton – 2,5/5

Ah, the intentional roughness. It’s not too bad but it would be a good idea to either have some characterization first, or more cinematic skills to make the audience buy it. Paul Andrew Williams’s dedut film of a beaten up prostitute and a 12 year old girl on the run works if you don’t let the â€

Taking up a new challenge: Night Visions: Back to Basics 2008. One night (+ warm up), 7 movies, no break. I just reserved my tickets for the festival night (tickets for the warm up night can’t be bought in advance). Two theaters are showing the movies so you always have two films to choose from, except at 00:30 with Inside (“Official” festival staff statement: “This is so fucking good we want everybody to see it”) and 8:30 with Karate / Tiger, which are playing in both theatres at the same time. The films I miss are MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE (USA, 1977), THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN (USA, 1938), THE MAGIC SWORD (USA, 1962) and VAMPIRA THE MOVIE (USA, 2006). The films I’m not missing are:

Friday 4.4: Warm Up Night

21.00 Neil Marshall: DOOMSDAY (UK, 2008)

23.00 Ferdinando Baldi: VIVA DJANGO (Italy, 1968)

Saturday-Sunday 5-6.4: Festival Night

21:00 Marc Caro: DANTE 01 (France, 2008)

22:45 Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza: [REC] (Spain, 2007)

00:30 Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury: INSIDE (France, 2007)

02:30 Guerdon Trueblood: THE CANDY SNATCHERS (USA, 1973)

04:15 Takashi Miike: SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (Japan, 2007)

06:30 Gordon Parks Jr.: THREE THE HARD WAY (USA 1974)

08:30 Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: WHICH IS STRONGER, KARATE OR THE TIGER? (Japan 1976)