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Reviews

Il était une fois un flic...
(1972)

Very stylised, somewhat romantic, crime comedy
Inspector Campana (Michel Constantin), a driven, focussed single man, volunteers for an undercover assignment as a dead Mafia operative's brother, a family man. With his rentafamily (fake wife and nine-year old son) he travels to the South of France to attend the dead man's funeral, then infiltrate the dead man's world. The style of the film includes elements reminiscent of John Boorman's Point Blank, as well as referencing the classics of the French farce. The representation of family here is quite continental, and makes me think of great Czech comedies of the period, such as Setkani v Cervenci and Jak vytrhnout velrybe stolicku. Elements of the style of this film also show up in later British crime films, such as Wild Bill.

Kampen
(2013)

Magnus will steal your heart with his courage.
11 year old Magnus is an up and coming Danish ice hockey player, whose popularity at school, and on the ice, together with his confident and affable manner, belie what is going on at home. This is an assured, accurate, depiction of what happens when one link in the family chain weakens. Once again, Thomas Norgreen Nielsen turns in a strong, powerful, performance as stoical Magnus, in this well written, well directed, short Danish drama.

Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo
(1981)

Hits hard enough to wind you
This film is breathtaking in its approach to a complex set of circumstances that Christiane finds herself in, at the tender age of twelve. Disconnected from her poor quality neighbourhood and disparate family, in spite of her loving mother's best efforts, and feeling the tempestuous onset of adolescence, she reaches out to her seemingly more assured classmate, and the scene that she inhabits. It is Berlin, in the early 1980's and the scene is one of the heaviest club scenes in the world. There is a heady mix of drugs, hardcore music, and prostitution. Christiane falls in love with a slightly older boy. She is staying out all night at weekends. Someone offers her a pill, her hero, David Bowie, plays a concert, she collapses on her bathroom floor after injecting "H" (heroin), and her mother helps her and her boyfriend get clean. But it is not so easy to stay away. Aged just fourteen, she has become a prostitute, and it takes a tragedy for her to find the strength she needs.

Bølle Bob - Alle tiders helt
(2010)

A riotous romp through school!
As much a film for adults looking to relive the best bits of their own childhoods, as for children today, Bølle Bob - Alle tiders helt has it all. Set in a small-town Danish Middle School, there are all the elements of the best bits of childhood; it has adventure, fun, danger, tenderness, comedy, and spirit. With music. Lilleby school is a small school, filled with characters, who don't always get along, and it is due to be closed by a corrupt Mayor and equally corrupt Headteacher, who think it will be easy. They don't count on the disparate characters of the student body and faculty being pulled together, and galvanised into action by a very intelligent, very charming, twelve-year old psychopath (aren't all twelve year-old psychopaths like that? I know my friend was!), called Bølle Bob, who decides to prove that he cares, by doing the right thing for once! Peopled by believable characters, this is a charming, riotous, hilarious, musical romp through everyone's schooldays.

I Love Miami
(2006)

Concisely cuban-american
For an outsider like me, this film is a top-notch concise explanation of the cuban-american condition. It tells of the feeling of displacement of a people forced to leave their beloved mother country, because life became too dangerous or unbearable there. It tells also of the community culture that grows up amongst these people, complete with the hope of some, that their homeland will change, and become free, and the angst of others that this hope will hold the community back in their new homeland, There is also a theme of personal responsibility running through this film as strongly as the Miami river runs through the eponymous city. The acting is first rate, with swiftly drawn, but accurately and tenderly delivered characters. The film touches on the politics of being cuban-american, but concentrates on the depth of humanity of the people it depicts.

Dontel papa
(2004)

Simply put, this is life.
Essentially, this is a film about the relationship between a father and his eight year old son, played admirably by Woong In-Jeong, and Yoo Seung-Ho, respectively. High school student Woong In-Jeong has a brief relationship with another High school student, which results, a year later, in a baby being delivered to Woong In-Jeong's classroom. Woong is left with no choice but to get a job, to support the child. Eight years or so pass, and we return to see that Woong, although still quite immature, loves his son very much, and shares all aspects of his life with him. The problem is, Woong lacks confidence in himself, and over-compensates by being his son's best friend. This leads to the roles sometimes being reversed, with the boy being the parent. This is a tender, beautiful, laugh-out-loud drama, of a type that simply has to be categorised as "Life". There is no melodrama here; the story is conveyed through the sheer quality of the acting and backstage craft of those involved, especially Yoo Seung-Ho.

Rico, Oskar und die Tieferschatten
(2014)

A quirky, fun, family film.
A quirky, fun family film about two boys who crack a kidnapping case. Well acted by all concerned, and presented very much in the european tradition, where the characters aren't sanitized, or made "cutesie", this film has Rico, a boy of about ten years old, with his hang-ups and issues, running into Oskar, also about ten years old, with his hang-ups and issues. After arguing, the boys become friends, and realise that they need each other, as the two dysfunctional boys become functional only when together. Rico, well-loved by all in his neighbourhood, is not very "with it", and, due to being in a world of his own, is sometimes a bit slow on the uptake. Oskar, not so well loved, because of his directness and perceived spikiness, is on the ball, but difficult for most people to handle, because of his neuroses. An observant person, which Rico, oddly, is, would notice that these two boys have OCDs, and this film represents OCD in a fair, balanced, approachable, way, and the two boys, who are both fine young actors, handle their roles with aplomb. But, above all, this film has it all: the meaty storylines and quirks that children want, and the classic cars, romance, and fart jokes that the adults like.

Six-String Samurai
(1998)

String 'em High!
A very tongue in cheek send up of all those dystopian action adventure thrillers of the seventies, eighties, and nineties, Six-String Samurai is also very self-effacing, but stylish. The story is a combination of a road-trip, Mad Max beyond thunderdome, and a fight to the death for wannabe RocknRollers, with a most unusual father-son dynamic thrown in. Jeffrey Falcon and Justin McGuire (as Justin McQuire) are amazing together, which is just as well, as they're on screen together for all but a few scenes, and the success of this film depended entirely on their working well together on screen. If you enjoyed the tone of "Some Guy Who Kills People", or the australian classic schlock comedy "Body Melt", then this is definitely for you.

Breakfast with Scot
(2007)

Breakfast is the most important meal!
Breakfast with Scot is a beautifully played slightly comic drama about a gay couple faced with being surrogate parents to a child when the boy's almost-related-to-them mother dies They face the usual insecurities of being new parents, together with fears of being the gay couple with the kid, and all that that entails. But the surprise that Scot brings with him is that they are uniquely well-placed to be his parents, rather than just a way-station until his wayward legal guardian, a brother of one of the couple, is found and persuaded to come get the kid. What can I say...FABULOUS!

Nie bede cie kochac
(1974)

Grace and confusion
This film is a finely executed commentary on the effect alcoholism and mental illness in parents can have on children. Here, Grazyna Michalska plays the 13 year old daughter coping with her mother's mental ilnness, whilst watching her beloved father change before her eyes, thanks to the predations of alcohol. And all this amidst the confusing onslaught of puberty. This film was actually part of a social initiative by the Polish government, but is incredibly well done.

Les amitiés particulières
(1964)

The sins of the fathers have repercussions
An all-out attack on the repressive nature of Catholic boarding schools in the post-wwII period, this film examines the (platonic) love between two boys, two years apart, in the same school, and the attempts by the school to condemn homosexuality amid the burgeoning changes within society, which are embodied in the attitudes of the school's students. Beautifully acted, and a difficult subject deftly handled by both leads.

Du er ikke alene
(1978)

Do you know what you ought not?
Speaking with an English point of view, this film is very challenging, as it addresses a subject that we English, as a whole, are not very comfortable addressing: the enthusiastic sexuality of minors. This however, is a Danish film, and, typically of the Danish, it addresses sexuality in an open, broadminded, accepting fashion. Set in a Varnatt (a year-round secondary-aged boarding school for boys), the story is of the boys finding out who they are, and campaigning for the right to be who they are, and of the love between two boys, one of whom is the headmaster's son. The film is delicately, and caringly made, and the cinematography is lush and sedate, perfectly demonstrating Lasse Nielsen's love of natural beauty.

Setkání v cervenci
(1978)

Stepping past a stepfather
A young woman, who is an English teacher at a summer college, is on the verge of marrying a rich older man who is not really suited to being a family man. Her young son, David, is the only one who realises this. When he happens upon a young man at the college, one of her students, who is perfect for both of them, he does his best to push them together. This film is beautifully written, stunningly photographed (and typically Czechoslovakian in style.), and marvellously acted, with the late great Tomas Holy as David.

Luminous Motion
(1998)

It changes your mind
In this enthralling, mesmeric thriller, Eric Lloyd gives one of the most disturbingly powerful screen performances that I have ever seen. There are huge parallels between Eric Lloyd's Phillip and Kevin Towers' Simon, in El Cuarto (the Fourth) 2008. But this film comes from the United States of America, and therefore serves as proof positive that the US has the capacity to deliver a tour-de-force piece of original art-in-film, something which it does all too seldom. Before the end of the film, I was beginning to think the way Phillip thinks, because this film shows that ten year old Phillip is a real person, not just an accessory or a Caricature. The subtlety with which Lloyd's Phillip bores into your psyche is matched by his mother's ( Deborah Kara Unger) subtle descent into madness. Welcome back to the disorientation of childhood.

Rasmus på luffen
(1981)

Tremendously fun romp through Sweden's countryside
Rasmus is a cheeky but totally adorable orphan, who just has no luck finding the family he desperately wants, as everyone who come to the orphanage seems to want to adopt little girls. So he runs away, in the hope of finding parents. Immediately, he falls in with an elderly minstrel, who is friend to everybody, and they become an inseparable double act. The film is such charming fun because it seems as though Allan Edwall (Oskar, the minstrel) and Erik Lindgren (Rasmus) are just strolling through the countryside, being themselves!

El cuarto
(2008)

Masterful sleight of hand thriller
Every development in this film leads the viewer down the wrong path, as to what is going on, whilst not actually telling any falsehoods. This thriller is so twisted that it could not have worked without the first-rate acting, research, direction, and writing that have combined here. Prepare to be misled down every blind alley there is, because this is not a conventional thriller. The characters here are three dimensional people, with both good and bad in them, which sets this piece way above most thrillers. Don't be misled by the cover; this is not a horror, but a deeply conceptual psychological thriller. You will feel conflicting emotions towards the characters. Gavo Figueira (Mario) is not an actor I had come across before, but he is entirely believable, and Kevin Towers (Simon) is a gem of a talent.

Haganenet
(2014)

Twisted Magic
A well informed, well acted character study of somebody who is misunderstood, and of somebody who is misunderstanding. maurice is five years old, and something of an enigma: he enjoys the normal pursuits of a healthy five year old, but he also writes poetry that is way beyond his years, and exhibits a level of empathy that many adults are incapable of. His Kindergarten teacher is a wannabe poet who can't find her core. In spotting his talent, she is at the same time jealous and protective of it.

Annyeong, hyeonga
(2005)

A truly beautiful masterpiece
They say that film is the poor relation, artistically, to the theatre, but a good director uses the extra freedom that film offers, to the fullest extent. This film, where there are many stages, is one example of this.

One of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, this magnificently made film from Korea handles its multiple themes with a delicateness and deftness of touch rarely found in such a film. The beauty of two brothers coming to accept their love for each other through making a mutual friend who became a third brother, made me re-examine my closest childhood sibling relationship, and made me cry.

Peter och Petra
(1989)

A delightful fairy tale from Sweden
Gunnar, a boy of about seven or eight, has trouble speaking or reading in class, in spite of the encouragement from his teacher, so all of his classmates think he's backward. As a result, he has no friends. That is until two new children join the class. Peter and his sister Petra are only six inches tall, but Peter's cheerful confidence and Petra's quiet sweetness have everyone enchanted. The pair choose Gunnar as their best friend, sitting on his desk, and helping him to speak in class, which proves to everyone that he is not backward at all. The film assumes some intelligence in the viewer, as not all events affecting the characters are actually shown. The acting is perfect, and makes you believe that the actors are just as adorable as the characters they are playing.

Mondo
(1995)

Poetry in a motion picture
Mondo is a poem about the missing ingredients of life, how we replace them, and what happens when we lose them. The traveller, a nameless boy of about nine years old, arrives in town, unaccompanied. He is looking for parents, and wanders up to strangers, asking if they want to adopt him. He observes the treatment of strangers in this new land he has come to. He expects no help, but he stays. He remembers nothing before he came to this new land. This is the story of him in this new land, and his impact on it. Very lyrical piece telling a powerful, compelling story of the human condition, and of love, loss, and life. The fantastic central performances prove that beauty, poetry, pain, and love, can co-exist perfectly and eloquently on film.

Tiger Town
(1983)

Brings it home
Baseball-mad Alex (Justin Henry) is desperate for his team, the Detroit Tigers, to break their thirty year losing streak, and bring home the pennant. Before dying, his father tells him he can make anything happen, if he believes with all his heart. At this same time, Billy Young (Roy Scheider) is reaching the end of his career as a player for the Tigers, and is desperate to go out with a pennant. Alex, with his grief, and all his other troubles, reaches out to Billy, after sneaking in to the team practice, and with that briefest of contacts, the old man and the little boy connect and give each other what each needs. Scheider is a veteran of great action thrillers, and Henry, though young, is a master of intimate dramas, and once again shows why he is considered one of the finest child actors the world has ever known.

Lauf Junge lauf
(2013)

Strong Heart, Strong Stomach
Dramatic and powerful true story about human evil and human love. This film tells the story of one young Jewish boy's flight from the Warsaw Ghetto early in World War Two. This film takes a very balanced view of Poland during WW2, and shows that great compassion is possible during great trial. Stunningly presented from the viewpoint of a Jewish boy, who is eight years old at the start of the story, the piece swings dramatically from hope to heartache, and back to hope. Well directed and written, and starkly photographed, this piece is very ably handled by Kamil Tkacz, in a strong, vibrant, performance in the central role, Jurak.

The Boy
(2015)

A morbid little curiosity!
People have described this as a horror, but I agree with Rainn Wilson's description, in the special features. It is a psychological drama and a character study. It looks at the effects of loneliness and isolation on a disparate father and his nine year old son (the boy of the title). The story is an acute observation of what can happen to a family when it loses its gravitational centre, and then loses its footing. The setting is a remote and deserted Motel, much like the one in Baghdad Café or Tender Mercies. Unlike the former, there is no fuel here to be ignited by a spark of magic. Unlike the latter, there is no redemption for the lost soul. There is just pervading flatness, and a sense of tumbleweed. The quality and leanness of the writing and acting draw you along with morbid fascination

The Believers
(1987)

Slaughter of Innocence
Although a thriller, and a disturbing one at that, this is also a meditation on how people who are searching or in need of something outside of their regular lives, can be easily sucked into dangerous ideology. It can be terrorism, racism, or anarchism; here, it is a religious cult. Robert Loggia and Martin Sheen are a Police Lieuetenant and a Psychotherapist, respectively, who investigate when an NYPD detective goes off the rails after finding the body of an eight year old boy on a sacrificial altar. The deeper they go, the more personal it gets, until Sheen's own eight year old son, played by Harley Cross, is caught up in the affair.

Harnessing Peacocks
(1993)

Sweet hypocrisy
A sweetly claustrophobic tale of the tempestuous and almost incestuous whirl that lies beneath the genteel and respectable surface of civilised Society in the South west of England. Harnessing Peacocks is great fun, and is a well acted, well presented, rather saucy drawing room comedy, that also manages to expose the hypocrisy of 'the right sort of people'. Vivacious, and fun, and with just a small dollop of romance.

There is some nudity, and a considerable amount of foul language, which give ample justification for the fifteen certificate from the British Board of Film Classification.

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