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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 23.Oct.22

Decision to Leave  
Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
Decision to Leave
dir Park Chan-wook
scr Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-kyeong
prd Park Chan-wook, Ko Daeseok
with Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Lee Jung-hyun, Go Kyung-Pyo, Park Yong-woo, Jung Yi-seo, Kim Shin-Young, Park Jeong-min, Seo Hyun-woo, Teo Yoo, Go Min-si, Lee Hak-joo
release Kor Oct.22 biff,
US 14.Oct.22, UK 21.Oct.22
22/Korea 2h19

42nd Shadows Awards

london film fest

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park and wei
Whizzy visual touches quickly make this far more intriguing than the usual police procedural thriller. But then, master filmmaker Park Chan-wook doesn't make simplistic movies, and this churning mystery is packed with his usual blend of jagged humour and offbeat violence, plus an understated but seriously heated noir-style romance. It's a dazzling film that tightens its grip with an intricately constructed drama that's both witty and emotionally powerful.
After finding the body of a 60-year-old man at the bottom of a high rock tower, Detective Hae-joon (Park) is surprised that the deceased's young Chinese widow Seo-rae (Wei) isn't shocked, even for someone who works as a care nurse. So Hae-joon starts following her with his hotheaded young partner Soo-wan (Go), while investigating suspicious details about the case. But the married Hae-joon finds an unexpected spark of connection with Seo-rae. Even when her husband's death is officially ruled a suicide, Hae-joon seems unable to pull himself away from this intriguing woman.
Early on, Hae-joon complains that there aren't enough murders in big city Busan, where he lives during the week, away from his wife Jeong-ahn (Lee) in the smaller seaside town Ipo. So it's understandable that he would be drawn into another stubbornly unsolvable case that spirals out to include a war hero and bribery scandal. Then as the snaky narrative evolves, Hae-joon moves from Busan to Ipo, and is assigned a new murder case with chilling ramifications that once again point to Seo-rae.

Wei is magnetic in a wonderfully nuanced performance that ripples and echoes with intent, slyly subverting her femme fatale persona. She pointedly teases Hae-joon about his obsessions, including his soft hands and multi-pocketed clothing. Park Hae-il is terrific as the insomniac Hae-joon, who sees in her someone who isn't afraid to look at things directly. So he nervously hides from his wife that he's spending time with a prime suspect in a confusing case. As Lee's amusingly traditional-remedy obsessed Jeong-ahn observes, he needs murder and violence to be happy.

Along with Kim Ji-yong's spectacular camerawork and Cho Young-wuk's fiendishly clever score, Park deploys pretty much every eye-catching directorial trick in the book, with insinuating sets and lighting, plus essential tech like laptops, security cameras, mobile phones and smartwatches that add sharp angles to an increasingly twisty narrative. All of this deepens both the character interaction and the wider mystery. And while the film circles around unresolved murder cases, it's even more interested in unresolved relationships.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 14.Oct.22

Godland   Vanskabte Land, Volaða Land
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
dir-scr Hlynur Palmason
prd Eva Jakobsen, Mikkel Jersin, Katrin Pors, Anton Mani Svansson
with Elliott Crosset Hove, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Vic Carmen Sonne, Hilmar Gudjonsson, Jacob Lohmann, Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir, Snaebjorg Gudmundsdottir, Fridrik Fridriksson, Waage Sando, Gunnar Bragi Thorsteinsson, Fridrik Hrafn Reynisson, Ingvar Thordarson
release US Sep.22 tff,
UK Oct.22 lff
22/Iceland 2h18

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Under gloomy skies in unforgiving landscapes, this visually striking epic follows a Danish priest to rural Iceland in the 19th century, where he confronts both a strange new land and his beliefs. Dark and brooding, continual moments of wit and artistry make the film remarkably compelling. And writer-director Hlynur Palmason digs deeply into the characters' souls to challenge the audience to think about big issues in new ways.
Travelling to his new post in Iceland, Father Lucas (Hove) carries his heavy photography equipment and documents the people and places at each step in the gruelling journey. This trek is far more difficult than he expected, as Ragnar (Sigurdsson) leads him on horseback across otherworldly, inhospitable terrain to get to the small community where his church is still under construction. Here he finally finds Danish people he can speak to, including Carl (Lohmann) and his sparky daughters Anna and Ida (Sonne and Hlynsdottir). Consumed by dark thoughts, Lucas isn't sure he belongs.
Interaction is laced with insinuation, as Lucas finds a profound connection with his interpreter (Gudjonsson). And later, Lucas launches a relationship with Anna, as they're the only eligible singles. Each character, including the faithful dogs and horses, adds layers of interest as Palmason builds bracing tension between these disparate people, both locals and interlopers. And there are also moments of lively humour and raucous game-playing. This creates all kinds of wrinkles, from personal religious ideas to broader expressions of culture.

Performances are introspective, digging into thoughts and feelings. Hove has a sympathetic presence that's strongly engaging, even when his temper snaps. Lucas' odyssey includes a crisis of faith, but this is cleverly more rooted in his identity than his beliefs. So the way Sigurdsson's knowingly confident Ragnar rattles him is fascinating. Sonne is also excellent as the smart, hopeful Anna, while Gudjonsson has visceral magnetism as seen through Lucas' eyes. And Hylnsdottir steals her scenes as the cheeky Ida.

If the film often feels perhaps random and slow, it's packed with strikingly powerful sequences that explore the connections between humans, culture, animals and the landscape. This reflects in Lucas' bleak journey into his own moral centre, as the purpose that seemed so clear to him at the start begins to blur due to his unexpected experiences. Where this goes is as harsh and relentless as the countryside itself, so the pungent ideas continue to resonate long after we leave the cinema.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 28.Sep.22

1976   aka: Chile ’76
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
dir Manuela Martelli
scr Manuela Martelli, Alejandra Moffat
prd Omar Zuniga, Alejandra Garcia, Nathalia Videla, Dominga Sotomayor, Andres Wood, Juan Pablo Gugliotta
with Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolas Sepulveda, Hugo Medina, Alejandro Goic, Carmen Gloria Martinez, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Amalia Kassai, Gabriel Urzua, Luis Cerda, Vilma M Verdejo, Mauricio Pesutic
release UK Oct.22 lff,
US Oct.22 mvff
22/Chile 1h37

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kuppenheim and sepulveda
This strikingly thoughtful dramatic thriller tells a story set in the wake of Chile's 1973 coup, as a dictator ruthlessly cracked down on the country. Filmmaker Manuela Martelli uses an observational approach, letting the narrative take shape in bits and pieces with characters who are afraid to say too much to each other. It's beautifully shot and edited, and performed with steely understatement by a gifted cast.

To escape the escalating police violence in the city, the wealthy Carmen (Kuppenheim) heads to her beach house with her maid Estela (Martinez). Because of her medical past, the local priest Sanchez (Medina) turns up asking her to care for Elias (Sepulveda), an injured young man who's in hiding from officials. As she treats him in secret, she intrepidly travels further into a secret underground movement that has violent intentions. And the deeper she gets, the more she fears what might happen to her husband (Goic), children and grandchildren if she's caught.
All of this plays out like an intense mystery, with all kinds of unsettling things going on in the background, as seen in media headlines, clandestine meetings and suspicious activities. Outside her bubble, Carmen is now rattled by what's happening around her, from police checkpoints to a body on the beach. She was able to blithely ignore politics before she met Elias, but casual comments from policemen now carry sinister threats. And no matter how cautious she is, the potential for a fatal error is palpable.

As a woman whose calmly ordered world becomes increasingly imperilled, Kuppenheim is riveting to watch. Which makes Carmen's journey an intensely vivid experience for the audience as well. It's a textured, nuanced performance that transitions from the privileged ignorance to engaged terror. Most of the characters around her flit in and out of her periphery, as she worries about Sepulveda's intriguing, somewhat elusive Elias and begins to see the bigger picture for the first time.

Martelli cleverly plays with colours and textures, with bright blue skies and a newly painted blood-red wall that matches tonight's dessert. This is a provocative exploration of what happens when we take our head out of the sand and confront the truth about what we have allowed to happen all around us simply through disinterest. And the story is told in such a subtle, personal style that it can't help but leave us chilled to the bone.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.Oct.22

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