Skip to main content

Halloween Movie Update

Parasite (South Korea 2019
South Korean writer-director Bong Joon Ho received the coveted Palme d’Or for this savage caricature of class divides and duplicity in a status-conscious society.  The consummate con artists are the Kim family foursome of slovenly scroungers living in a messy sub-basement apartment and eking out a marginal living by folding pizza boxes.  The con begins when a friend of the son Ki-Woo goes to study abroad and recommends Ki-Woo to be a replacement English tutor for Da-hye, the high-school daughter of the Parks, an affluent family of four living in a palatial landscaped residence.  Her kid brother Da-Song is a hyperactive handful obsessed with pretending to be an Indian.  Ki-Woo had his sister Ki-jung forge his academic credentials. He then recommends her to give “art therapy” to the precocious boy. Ki-Woo is called “Kevin” and Ki-Jung “Jessica” as she in turn schemes to have the Park’s chauffeur fired and her dad Ki-taek hired as their driver.  The shameless targeting is complete when the Kims use an unfortunate allergy to get rid of the longtime housekeeper—she had served the previous owner occupant, a noted architect—installing mother Kim Chung-sook in her place. 
            We revel in how the conniving Kims are able to exploit the extreme gullibility of their rich employers, especially Mrs. Park Yeon-kyo with her precious three little dogs.  When the Parks leave on a camping trip, the Kims enjoy their house with abandon.  That is until the return of the dumped housekeeper who has a living secret hidden in the mansion’s subterranean passages. A series of frantic scenes ensue capped by the Parks returning early from their trip. Still the Kims manage to sneak out—into a driving rainstorm that floods their apartment as sewers back up, sending them to a shelter.  The next day the unsuspecting Parks throw a fancy birthday party for the boy that turns into a riotous sequence of the blackest bloodiest comedy imaginable. The aftermath ends on a note of upended irony.
            These layers of satire are richly developed as parasitical members of the underclass conspire to dupe the elite of a parasitical society and fight among themselves.  Combining hilarity and horror, the movie doesn’t pull its punches. The performances are all superb, as is the musical score that matches the mood of each scene. One of the year’s best, it’s not to be missed.  A      
The King (UK/Hungary/Australia 2019)
This historical epic from Australian director David Michôd may benefit from being seen on the theatrical wide screen but will be streaming on Netflix from November 1.  The setting is early 15th century Britain beset by internal strife. The wastrel Prince of Wales, Prince “Hal”, played by the willowy Timothée Chalamet, appears first as no one’s idea of a robust warrior and is due to be passed over for the succession to the throne.  But then he rouses himself and slays the rebellious Hotspur in single combat.  After Hal’s favoured younger brother is killed, Hal, sobered up and with a severe new pageboy haircut, becomes King Henry V.  He’s soon wasting no time asserting his dominion as a ruthless suspicious absolute monarch.  Goaded into invading France by royal advisors, clergy and nobles, Henry brings along his trusted hard-drinking confidant Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton, also co-writer of the script). The latter’s strategy famously prevails in the mudbath battle of Agincourt against a larger force led by the insolent dauphin (a long-haired sneering Robert Pattinson affecting a French accent). Although Falstaff doesn’t survive to enjoy the result, the victorious Henry brings back the French king’s daughter as a bride and takes a stab (quite literally) at treachery in his own court.  All hail the king?  It’s been 30 years since Kenneth Branagh’s far more stirring 1989 screen adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry V with Branagh himself in the title role. Notwithstanding the expense lavished on period details, costumes and ghastly battle scenes, this version lacks a compelling purpose. B-
The Lighthouse (US/Canada 2019)
Robert Pattinson has a much meatier role as the character of Ephraim Winslow in this dark and stormy seaside tale by director Robert Eggers from a script co-written with his brother Max. The setting is the 1890s in a remote New England lighthouse (actually a set created in Nova Scotia). Winslow joins a gruff salty older seaman Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) doing a long stint in this isolated outpost.  Wake has Winslow toil as an apprentice underling while he is sole guardian of the precious light.  They are an odd couple cooped up in a claustrophobic space while gales howl outside, aggressive seagulls bring ill omens, and superstitions arise from the depths. Shadowy black and white cinematography using vintage lenses and a squarish aspect ratio add to the foreboding mood and sense of confinement veering into madness.  Pattinson and Dafoe play off one another brilliantly and Eggers (The Witch) proves once again to be the master of the menacing mise-en-scène. A-    
Queen of Hearts (Denmark/Sweden 2019)
Director and co-writer May el Toukhy’s searing family drama received a world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance film festival.  The narrative is driven by a fearless performance from great Danish actress Trine Dyrholm who literally bares all.  She plays Anne, a lawyer who works on troubled situations including on behalf of young victims of sexual assault.  Mother to young twin daughters she has a comfortable existence with physician husband Peter (Magnus Krepper). That is until the teenage Gustav (Gustav Lindh), Peter’s son from a previous marriage, comes from Stockholm to live with them.  Peter feels responsibility for a son he has neglected but the arrangement isn’t the happiest. And at first Gustav’s relations with the middle-aged Anne are at best wary if not frosty.  She also holds over his head a break in at their house. But then something about Gustav’s bold physical presence awakens a carnal desire in Anne.  She strays into dangerous territory by seducing him.  Anne knows how wrong this is but can’t seem to stop herself even as the risks increase and her sister guesses what’s been going on. When Gustav spills the secret of their illicit liaison, Anne reacts with furious dissembling and denial to protect herself and her marriage. Gustav is abandoned and banished.  A transgressive tale with tragic consequences, this is definitely for adult viewing only due to explicit scenes. B+     
Dolemite is My Name (US 2019)
Also now streaming on Netflix, Craig Brewers’ crude and lewd biopic stars Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore who created the character of “Dolemite” and achieved success as a middle-aged foul-mouthed comedian with Black audiences in the 1970s.  As the act caught on Moore’s ambition led him to make the first in a series of ultra-low-budget blaxploitation movies.  As ineptly made and trashy as they were, inner-city Black audiences made them commercial hits. With his in-your-face “Dolemite” patter Moore even became known as the “godfather of rap”.  It’s an outrageously true story which Murphy and an ensemble of good actors indulge with every twist. But watch only if you have a high tolerance for pervasive vulgarity. C


Popular posts from this blog

Best of 2018: My Choices for the Best Dramas and Documentaries

The Best of 2018 Notwithstanding the popularity of at-home streaming services led by Netflix, movie-going to theatres is not declining.Indeed in 2018 North American attendance is up with a record box office of almost US$12 billion. Even if much of this is for tentpole blockbusters centred on comic characters, the big screen appeals more broadly.Take the case of my best movie of the year, the Spanish-language Roma.A Netflix production available online since December 14, the large Ottawa theatre where I saw it a second time was still packed for a post-Christmas showing in a 10-day run. Good news indeed.
10 Best Narrative Features 1.Roma (Mexico/U.S.) Viewed on the big screen the immersive luminous black-and-white cinematography and ambient soundscape is even more impressive in this semi-autobiographical masterwork from Alfonso Cuarón which features a sublime performance by first-time actor Yalitza Aparicio as the central figure of Cleo, the Indigenous nanny-housemaid in an upper-class Mexi…



April 24, 2019 was the official launch of The Best of Screenings and Meanings: A Journey Through Film at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon, SK

Blog Posts for 2018

September: The Human Condition My most recent peak cinematic experience was in the last days of August at Toronto’s Bell Lightbox, home base of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which starts September 6. (I’ll be seeing about 25 films at this year’s edition. That’s for a later blog.) This was the screening over three days—August 25, 26, and 28—of the monumental Japanese masterwork The Human Condition directed by Masaki Kobayashi and released as three two-part films—No Greater Love, Road to Eternity, A Soldier’s Prayer—from 1959 to 1961. Presented as part of TIFF’s “Summer in Japan” series, this was a rare chance to take in a theatrical showing of one of the greatest achievements of Japanese cinema. The timing also coincided with the 80th birthday on August 28 of a longtime Ottawa friend George Wright whose son Roger and family with two young granddaughters live in Tokyo. Bring…