I went to two film festivals in the last two months and I’m now doing reviews on the movies I watched during them here they are.
Japanese Film Festival Ireland 2022
Under the Open Sky
This movie has some great tension and a wonderful sense of unpredictability as it goes on. You really don’t know the direction the main character is going to go, and it eventually evolves into an achingly personal and evocative story of forgiveness and rehabilitation. The way people react to him is very real and you get his struggle to stay on the right path while he remains endearing and likeable, helped a lot by a stellar performance from Kōji Yakusho. The rest of the cast fail to be that memorable and it has a painfully clichéd ending but overall it was a sweet compassionate drama and it really stuck with me. 8/10
So this is a live-action adaptation of a popular ongoing manga and anime of the same name. Usually the issues with these movies is that they feel rushed or incomplete because they don’t have the full story to pull reference from and yep pretty much the case here. I mean I haven’t seen the source material so take what I say with a grain of salt. I liked a lot of what was being set up earlier on especially how impactful the interpersonal relationships were with the cast, but honestly I don’t think it captures the majesty of what they were trying to recapture in live-action and the third act is a rushed mess. Maybe you’ll get more out of this as a fan, and it’s not horrible, but I felt pretty deflated. 5/10
A shy young woman with an awkward relationship with her father finds community and a reconnection with her love of music working at a maid café. There’s a lot here I really enjoyed-the examination of gender imbalance as they relate to a profession like this is thoughtfully explored and most of the cast are layered and stand out. It’s serviceably directed if not particularly standout and manages to be suitably warm and funny when it needs to, you really connect with the primary story in this one. 7/10
The Pursuit of Perfection
This movie examines Japanese food culture by looking at four major restaurants. There’s a lot of interesting and diverse dishes on display but I never felt the stories were well balanced or really stand unique among each other. I think if you’re more into the culture at hand it may hit you better, and hearing the individual stories was interesting in their own right, but I struggled to maintain a connection to what was going on and the scene to scene editing is a little haphazard in trying to make a cogent narrative for this doc. Probably would work better as individual stories than a movie in of itself. 5/10
Wheel of Fortunes & Fantasy
Keeping this more for posterity as I already reviewed it last year. My thoughts pretty much hold up from there.
This was more a short I saw out of Festival because it didn’t play in my area. It’s a shockingly bleak little tale but well animated and with a surprising amount of heart and pathos. The leads play off each other well and while the protagonist can get a little much I enjoy his interactions with the spectral presence. I wouldn’t recommend seeing this if you’re having a rough day but it’s a sweet and well told little story if a little rough around the edges to get its motifs across. 6/10
Italian Film Festival Ireland
The movie that launched a thousand remakes (seriously it’s in the Guinness World Records for most remade film and it only came out in 2016). What starts off as an innocent game with old friends putting their phones on the table and reading aloud whatever messages they get turns into absolute chaos. I enjoyed it for what it’s worth-there’s a gay subplot that aged really horribly and some of the set ups and reveals just kind of go nowhere, but there’s intrigue and tension abound and I was gripped throughout the runtime. 6/10
A young girl with an eating disorder is taken under the wing by a trans-feminine person who is in town as part of a touring fairground. This one starts off serviceable enough if a little unmotivated and a bit too tacked on with the themes at play but the second half really got under my skin in a way I can’t ignore. I don’t tend to let broader politics affect my view of a movie but with what is going on in the world the depiction of the gender nonconforming character feels really badly thought out and really predatory, and it just comes off as generally meandering and I was really waiting for them to get to the inevitable point. Not terrible but it really felt uncomfortable to me. 5/10
A Girl Returned
A young girl is sent to live with her biological parents despite longing to get back to the mother that raised her. There are some really gross and frankly unnecessary plot elements here, otherwise I enjoyed this one a lot. There’s a great sense of dynamic tension and interpersonal conflict offset with some beautiful cinematography which really gives a rustic charm which contrasts some real darkness at play. The cast are great and I really love the bold places they take the story in a really uncompromising way. You could probably cut a scene or two but I enjoyed it and it really comes together overall. 8/10
Absolute festival highlight-I was completely on edge the entire runtime. From the perspective of a young man crossing the border into Europe, it looks at the plight of contemporary refugees the way our culture demonises them and the absolutely cruel ways we force them to flee for their safety. There is some stellar camera work here which stays on our lead and ranks the tension up like nobody’s game, really helped by the lack of dialogue throughout. It’s a rather limited runtime but they make you feel every second as we see more and more perilous situations in the midst of this forest filled with men willing to kill those crossing. There’s probably a bit too much convenient moments for my liking but it’s still a worthwhile watch that kept me glued like no other. 8/10
I did not see it because I caught it at another festival, just wanted to include it here. My review is here if you are so curious.
The Tale of King Crab
This movie focuses on an old fisherman’s tale of a man fighting against a gate for love and then searching for treasure in his exile. I was really enjoying it for the first half with some atmospheric direction and a wonderful sense of myth and weight, and it kind of lost me at the second half. I just felt the drag of characters wondering around, the editing felt a bit haphazard and confused and I was just waiting for it to end. I liked the style and sense of roughness they gave to the setting, and they utilised their environments into the production really well, it just didn’t round up to as fully realising its potential by the end. 6/10
The Great Silence
A man finds out his house is being sold and has to confront the uneasy relationship he has with his family under the guidance of his long serving faithful housemaid. I did not care about this at all-the setting is dull and uninspired, I tend to hate movies locked on one location unless they’re really creative with the production or direction and this wasn’t really either. The actors felt mostly flat and arch-there’s no sense in how the film wants to play up the mood of the piece to be either playfully droll or full on moody dramedy. It also has an extremely stupid twist that completely lost me. It has some interesting conceits but it was utterly disengaging and relentlessly tiresome for me. 3/10
One of the greatest film composers of all time gets a massive documentary detailing his life and work. Probably the best stuff here is the interview with Morricone himself, which they were fortunate enough to get before his death in 2020. I love hearing artists reflect on their own craft and the guy just came across as a wry consummate professional, utterly unaffected by his legacy. Seeing a (small) selection of his work was also great, though I do not think this needed to be as long as it was and I was burnt out by the 2 hour mark. Still I get the compulsion to drag it out like that-a legendary runtime for one of cinema’s most legendary figures. 7/10