Click HERE to open.
Click HERE to open.
Click to open ‘window’.
Click the ‘window’ to open!
I love Christmas. I know it’s commercially rife and expensive and wall-to-wall capitalism. But I’m totally under the spell. I think people are happier and nicer to one another from 1st December. And there’s usually one or two TV gems knocking about the place, too.
A few months ago I put out a call on Twitter for volunteers to appear in my photo advent calendar. Around 15 people got in touch and I’m very happy to say … advent is upon us!
This is just a little fun way to spread some festive cheer to the people of Leeds and beyond. The first two ‘windows’ are below and to see the rest each day of advent just click this link to visit and ‘Like’ my Facebook page. please share with your friends, too!
I’m also looking for a few more volunteers for the calendar. If you’d like to appear as one of the windows, please email me here: email@example.com.
Thanks and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
I missed Love Eternal at its first LIFF27 screening so I was glad of the repeat, making it my final film of this year’s festival. As every year of the Leeds International Film Festival is, it has been an immense adventure in cinema. My brain feels as if it has been washed in celluloid (or dipped in digital, at the very least). The two or so weeks have flown by but, equally, there has been many months’ worth of cinema on offer. It has been a real treat for the city.
Based on a novel by Kei Ôishi (writer of the Ju-on/Grudge novels), Love Eternal has troubling and fascinating premise at its heart. After witnessing the death of his father as a young boy, recluse Ian becomes entirely dependent on his mother and sits in his room, alone, observing the world through his telescope. When his mother dies she leaves him a manual for life, allowing Ian to function, loosely, in society.
Ian develops an obsession with death and, specifically, with suicide. After reconsidering his own suicide-by-car-exhaust when a group of people arrive to carry out exactly the same act, Ian steals one of the bodies of the women who perish, along with her suicide note.
Thus begins a strange journey for Ian where the bodies of recently dead women become life (or death) partners to him. He converses with them, negotiates and, in some of the most uncanny cinematic scenes I’ve seen in a while, grooms and washes them.
Throughout the picture, Ian asks us to accept that he is “not human” and we begin to believe him. There seems to be little aggressive or malicious about Ian and an empty sadness is his defining characteristic. This makes his actions even more curious and, in the most macabre way, intriguing. There’s an element of the Norman Bates about the character which is inescapable in this arena. But director Muldowney manages to retain a frosty originality at the heart of his film.
There’s something of Edgar Allen Poe in Ian’s admiration for and fascination with the lifeless body. There’s an atmosphere of necrophilia in parts of the picture which, again, unsettles enormously. When Naomi (Pollyanna McIntosh) enters the story we see a glimmer of hope for Ian; a chance for him to regain his humanity. But as this conventional-unconventional love story emerges, we’re lulled into forgetting Ian’s actions, somewhat, and we’re tempted to forgive him. Or, at the very least, to consider him as a victim as well as a perpetrator.
The differences between assisting suicide, suffering suicide (i.e. doing nothing to prevent it) and murder are blurred in Love Eternal. The question of where the line is drawn is posed as Ian agrees to a suicide pact merely, so it seems, to observe death and to steal away another deceased companion. When the act goes wrong, however, and the young woman wakes up from the sleeping pills before the fumes kill her, Ian’s decision reveals a much more sinister and determined edge of his psyche. This is a film with many sides.
The subdued tone of the movie is linked with Ian’s state of mind and the performances from both Pollyanna McIntosh and Robert de Hoog, particularly when they are sharing the screen, are quite wonderful. Despite its troubling and difficult subject matter, this is a well composed and watchable piece of cinema.
So, that’s the end of my Leeds International Film Festival coverage. Look out for the special events coming up in December - a whole host of cinematic goodies, some more Christmassy than others!
Director: Brendan Muldowney
Screenwriter: Brendan Muldowney, Kei Ôishi (novel)
Producer: Conor Barry, Manami Fukawa
Leading Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Amanda Ryan, Robert de Hoog Cinematographer: Tom Comerford
Film Editor: Mairead McIvor
Original Music: Bart Westerlaken
I once saw a man cut a spaceship in half with a guitar. Granted, it was at a Night of the Dead event at the Hyde Park Picture House, at around 2am, in a film called Wild Zero. Since that point, though, I began to understand (or not) the boundlessness of Japanese cinema. You think you know where you are (Oh, it’s a zombie movie) and then the lead protagonist is suddenly running around in his underpants, shooting fireballs from his eyes.
HK: Forbidden Hero is … well, it’s … ok, the film … Right. I’ll just explain it, shall I? Kyosuke Shikijo (Ryohei Suzuki) is an awkward and weedy (though inexplicably handsome and buff) schoolboy. The son of a maverick cop and an S&M mistress (who met when he was supposed to be busting her most recent client but ends up being bound and whipped and enjoying it), Kyosuke battles with keeping his sense of perversion and justice aligned - don’t we all? And then it gets weird. After meeting (the alarmingly young-looking) Aiko (Fumika Shimizu) and falling in love with her, Kyosuke attempts to rescue her from an idiotic and violent gang.
In order to disguise himself, Kyosuke mistakenly puts a pair of panties on his face which, much to his surprise gives him superpowers (well, it would be a surprise). As the film progresses, Kyosuke realises that the pants have to have been worn in order to give him his powers (laundered is apparently fine, just not brand new) and that his strength stems from being a “pervert” but, in actuality, he’s not a pervert and, later, a fake version of his superhero self who in fact is a pervert demonstrates what being a real pervert is all about (being humiliated, having people think you have small genitalia, rubbing your nipples at lightning speed etc). It’s this kind of thing for 90 minutes.
HK, which stands for Hentai Kamen (which translated, as far as I can gather, means ‘pervert mask’) literally uses his mankini-clad crotch to thwart his enemies and save Aiko time and time again. The film, which openings with a witty imitation of the Marvel Spider-Man credits (the seams of panties standing in for spider web) has a broadly-comic first act. It is funny and silly and manic. But, as the plot develops (there’s gold buried under the school and the long-haired, chicken-chomping villain has to defeat the school martial arts team to get at it) I found myself completely at sea and, surprisingly, a little bored.
The film is like a cross between a spoofish superhero film (a la Super and Kick Ass) and an episode of Power Rangers. There are specific cultural ingredients to the film which may leave audiences who are more familiar with non-Japanese cinema entirely baffled. But, there’s plenty to chuckle at in the first half of HK: Forbidden Superhero, if little else to engage with. If you have a penchant for Manga, this is a film worth seeking out. If not but you fancy a totally different cinematic experience; why not?
And the prize for strangest and most unpredictable film I’ve seen at LIFF27 goes to …
Director: Yûichi Fukuda
Screenwriter: Keishû Andô manga, Yûichi Fukuda, Shun Oguri
Producer: Koji Hyakutake, Takahisa Miyaji, Tomohiro Kobayashi
Leading Cast: Shunsuke Daitô, Narushi Ikeda, Nana Katase
Cinematographer: Tetsuya Kudo