I am a huge fan of the short story. There are many that are good at it, From Roald Dahl to D H Lawrence to Kafka and Chekhov there are some great short story tellers. Raymond Carver is my personal favourite and I loved Short Cuts a lot, Altman of course did a fantastic job. Therefore I was excited for The Turning. A series of films with different directors all based on the writings of Tim Winton. It’s huge undertaking there are 17 films and it sprawls over three hours. Yes that’s right. I said three hours. I did not know this upon entering the cinema and I was pretty horrified I must say. One needs prep for that kind of commitment.
Some of the films are naturalistic, some impressionistic, some a mixture of both. Some have an ending, a lot are open ended and of course some work and some don’t and I’m sure the mixture of what people liked and disliked varied wildly throughout the theatre. It’s like an art project where one must make up ones own mind.
There were a lot of the films I really liked and some I really didn’t. Rose Byrne, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving are amongst some of the more famous names and Mia Wasikowska directs one of the most funny and memorable pieces about the dissection of little red haired boy’s life. There are some truly great moments in here. Byrne and Blanchett of course stand out and their pieces are rich and involving immediately but also a film by Shaun Gladwelll, a contemporary artist is extremely effective and stars a fantastic young actor called Meyne Wyatt who is the first aboriginal actor on Neighbours don’t you know (as Gladwell says, he’s breaking that ghetto up). Hugo Weaving is alluring as an alcoholic dad and the first film, which I cannot find the name of anywhere about two teens from a deadbeat town that take a road trip, still sticks in my mind now.
It’s a bold and brave project is The Turning and it might not work on all levels but that’s what art is supposed to do isn’t it? Provoke? I’m looking forward to it coming out on DVD and dipping back into it now and then to see what else I might have missed. An interesting project.
In the Iranian ghost town of Bad City there are some, well, bad people around. Dealer, pimp and all round scum of the earth Saed has got a hold of local James Dean type, Arash’s father who since the passing of his mother has become junkie. Saed takes Arash’s beloved 1950’s convertible that eh worked over 2000 days as gardener to a rich family to buy to pay his father’s debt but Arash’s luck is about to change drastically when a lonely young female vampire comes into the picture.
It’s really quite something is A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The first full feature by Ana Lily Amirpour it’s certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen, despite borrowing heavily from several genres. It’s extremely stylish and Sheila Vand and Arash are obvious stars in the waiting. Shot in moody black and white with our titular vampire looking like a French poet in her stripy top there are many memorable scenes and the dejelleba lends itself well to becoming a batlike cloak, particularly when The Girl ends up with a skateboard. The Girl is a feminist vampire, praying on those such as misogynistic dealer Saed but these desires are somehow kept under control when she is with Arash.
The dialogue is as sparse as the landscape but the film doesn’t suffer from it. The moody silences work well and nothing is lost in translation. It gives the film a dreamlike quality, albeit a rather nightmarish one. Although there is much humour in AGWHAAN. The image of Arash coming from a fancy dress party, high on his first E dressed as Dracula face to face with The Girl is hilarious. ‘I won’t hurt you’ he says then gives her a big ravers hug. Funny stuff indeed.
Sheila Vand can convey a plethora of emotions with a look and Arash is also capable of some pretty moody staring that says a thousand words. Both of them are extremely easy on the eye and the costume design is minimalist cool, a bit of James Dean with beatnik thrown in. The Girl has a cool bob haircut and wears dark lipstick and eyeliner. Music is mostly Arab or British eighties pop.
Armipour’s choice of black and white at first perplexed but it suits the film perfectly. She uses slo mo a lot to good effect and as there are virtually no special effects, the low key rendering of the vampire attacks is handled quite well. What really works is the more intimate scenes between The Girl and Arash where it’s uncertain if she will unleash the fangs or will she control herself. A sexually charged scene of ear piercing is a stand out. Lyle Vincent has done a sublime job here as DP.
It doesn’t delve too far into the water AGWHAAN. We don’t learn much about Arash or The Girl’s backstory, we only live in the present and then hope for the future. It’s quite something alright. I can’t wait to see it again.
A beautiful love story set in a coastal town in Japan, Still the Water is set on the subtropical Japanese island of Amami. During the full-moon night of traditional dances in August, 16-year-old Kaito discovers a dead body floating in the sea. His relationship with his girlfriend Kyoko helps him try to make sense of it. A coming of age love story of a young man trying to deal with his parent’s separation, falling in love all set against the backdrop of a volatile nature. Love, life and death and how they are interwoven cycles.
Kyoko’s mother is dying. There is confusion for Kyoko because her mother is a shaman so she find sit hard to understand how she can be dying. Her and Kaito cycle round the island, her on the back of his bike standing up, young and free and try to make sense of life. Kaito is experiencing confusion and dislike of his mother as he wrongly believes she has been with many men. His visit with his father in Tokyo confuses him more but he is just a confused adolescent.
As Kaito’s mother moves towards death we see her learning so much about life she seems to grow up in front of our eyes whilst Kaito seems to regress. He shouts at his mother and Kyoko at one point asking why women always seem to know everything.
Still The Water is sumptuous, gorgeous locations, beautiful cast, and an enchanting central love story. I must admit I feel asleep for about twenty minutes in the middle but that was film fatigue rather than the fault of the movie. It is however a slow burner, a languid sunny afternoon in a hammock of a film. Writer / Director Naomi Kawase has crafted a beautiful film, the backdrop is stunning and the underwater filming ethereal and calming.The two leads are great although the scene is somewhat stolen by both sets of parents.