Heart of Glass Dir: Werner Herzog (1977)

Heart of Glass    Heart of Glass Film Poster

Release Date: December 17th, 1976

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Herbert Achternbusch (Script/Scenario),

Starring: Josef Bierbichler (Hias), Stefan Guttler (Huttenbesitzer), Clemens Scheitz (Adalbert), Volker Prechtel (Wudy), Sonja Skiba (Ludmilla), Brunhilde Kickner (Paulin)

IMDB

“A prophet is rarely welcome in their homeland” is a line from the Bible that can be applied here as a lonely cowherd predicts an apocalypse for his hometown.

Werner Herzog’s period drama Heart of Glass was one of two films he made that called back into the rich realm of German history (the other being The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser in 1974) at a time when he was busy making documentaries.

Set in the 18th Century, it tells the story of a town nestled somewhere in the rocky escarpments of Bavaria. The town, though rural, has a glassblowing factory and that provides income because this is a time when wealthy families across Europe collected the most lavishly decorated ceramics and glassware available, be it the high-quality but expensive pieces from China and Japan or the many factories in Europe that sprang up to imitate superior Asian works.

The unique selling point of this particular glassworks is its ruby red pieces that shine with a rich colour that mesmerises all who behold it. However, when we enter the town, it is at a time of crisis as the master glassblower has died and taken the secret of making ruby glass with him to his grave. The glasswork’s owner, an aristocrat named Huttenbesitzer (Stefan Guttler), a predatory fop who looks like he could hang out with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire (1994), becomes obsessed with finding the formula and his obsession turns into madness that infects other townspeople.

Enter our prophet, Hias, a cowherd who inhabits the forested hills with his cows.

Heart of Glass Film Image 2

Hias (Josef Bierbichler) is an observer, a loner. He is a man of nature and is first seen staring into the distant landscape as he offers ominous pronouncements of the future dressed in poetic language. The despair he rakes up is something which seems to have driven him to isolation. The aristocrat asks him for help finding the secret of the ruby glass but all Hias predicts is that the glass factory will be destroyed in a fire. Despite this danger of destruction, Hias descends from the mountains to the town and is on the ground as madness sweeps over the citizens and they descend into abasement and violence as they seek the secret of how to make ruby glass to save their town.

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Earthquake Bird Director: Wash Westmoreland (2019) Netflix

Earthquake Bird    Earthquake Bird Film Poster

Release Date: July 10th, 2022

Duration: 93 mins.

Director: Wash Westmoreland

Writer: Wash Westmoreland (Script), Susanna Jones (Original Novel),

Starring: Alicia Vikander (Lucy Fly), Naoki Kobayashi (Teiji Matsuda), Riley Keough (Lily Bridges), Jack Huston (Bob Johnson), Kiki Sukezane (Natsuk),

Website IMDB

“I think that’s what I like about Japan, it gives you a second chance.”

Japan is a country that attracts a lot of a certain type of person. People unhappy with their lot in life or looking for adventure. Sensitive, misguided, naïve, whatever you want to call them, they are people looking to immerse themselves in something different and possibly change their reality. This is what I found to be most interesting in Earthquake Bird, the Netflix adaptation of Susanna Jones’ same-named novel. 

The need to become someone else is definitely the case with Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander), a translator living in Tokyo circa 1989. When we first meet her, she is working on a Japanese translation of the dialogue of the Michael Douglas film Black Rain (1989). She’s soon arrested by police investigating the disappearance of an American nurse named Lily Bridges (Riley Keough). When body parts wash up in Tokyo Bay and Lucy confesses to having killed the woman, it seems like an open and shut case. Except it isn’t.

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Laundromat on the Corner Director: Tetsuki Ijichi (2020)

Laundromat on the Corner    Laundromat on the Corner Film Poster

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 18 mins.

Director: Tetsuki Ijichi

Writer: Tetsuki Ijichi, Doris Chia Ching Lin, (Story), Judith Redding (Screenplay)

Starring: Eric Slodysko (Josh), Stephanie Pham (Ming), Keizo Kaji (Old Chef), Josh Hammond, Nico Chang Lynch, Heather Plank,

Website IMDB

In what one might see as a modern twist on Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), a man eager to escape his bleak existence finds himself entering an unconventional relationship. While not a terrifying time, it has a good horror atmosphere and effectively mixes Eastern and Western culture together for something unique.

The Ugetsu update takes place in working-class Philadelphia where a desperate man named Josh (Eric Slodysko) has washed up following divorce and money problems. We learn of his woes from exposition-friendly sources like text/voice messages on smart phones that get viewers up to speed quickly about the depths of his despair. From there, we see how he falls under the spell of a mysterious lady love.

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My Sister 姊姊 Director: Pan Ke-yin (2021) Taiwan [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

My Sister    My Sister Film Poster

姊姊 Zizi

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 25 mins.

Director: Pan Ke-yin

Writer: Pan Ke-yin (Screenplay),

Starring: Huang Pei-chi, Chu Yi-ming, Kao Yi-ling, Lan Wei-hua, Chang Kai-jhe,

The title My Sister may make audiences think this film is told from the perspective of the main character’s sibling – a little terror who breaks the peaceful sleep of the lead by playing a tooting tune on a recorder in the opening seconds of the film – but it is really the closely observed portrait of a teenage girl as we get details her younger brother could never know and we are let into her interior world as she begins to doubt her place in the pecking order of the family.

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The Thing 遊星からの物体X (1982) Dir: John Carpenter

Happy Halloween! This is the time of year when people celebrate the supernatural and ghoulish aspects of popular culture and national myths. I do my part by highlighting horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzaiPOV: A Cursed Film CharismaDon’t Look Up, Snow Woman (2017) Snow Woman (1968)  Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel, and Gemini. I’ll be departing from Japan and heading to Antarctica for the next Halloween Review!

The Thing    The Thing Japanese Poster

遊星からの物体X ゆうせいからのぶったいエックス

Release Date: June 25th, 1982

Duration: 109 mins.

Director: John Carpenter

Writer: Bill Lancaster (Screenplay), John W. Campbell Jr. (Who Goes There?)

Starring: Kurt Russell (R.J. MacReady), A. Wilford Brimley (Blair), T.K. Carter (Nauls), David Clennon (Palmer), Keith David (Childs), Richard Dysart (Dr. Copper), Charles Hallahan (Norris), Peter Maloney (George Bennings), Richard Masur (Clark), Donald Moffat (Garry), Joel Polis (Fuchs), Thomas Waites (Windows),

Website IMDB

Given the cold shoulder by some big name critics and receiving a lukewarm box-office return from the general public, it is fair to say that John Carpenter’s arctic-set paranoia-fuelled alien killer chiller THE THING was misunderstood at its time of release. Now widely considered a classic, Carpenter’s cold vision of a film has become a sci-fi horror ur-text that has inspired countless filmmakers, creatives, and fans through its adaptation of an influential short story with genre-defining prosthetics, special effects, and great acting for the maximum of horror atmospherics.

The story takes place in the winter of 1982 where a 12-man expedition at a remote research base in Antarctica encounter a shape-shifting alien that has lain frozen in the snowy wastes for over 100,000 years. Thawed out, this parasitic creature proceeds to assimilate and imitate members of the group which causes paranoia and fear to mount as nobody is sure who has been consumed and is now imitated by… the Thing. Bloody body-horror ensues as the men try to isolate and destroy it.

thing-40th-anniversary

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Inside the Red Brick Wall 理大圍城 Dirs: Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers (2020) [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]

Inside the Red Brick Wall    Inside the Red Brick Wall Film Poster

理大圍城

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 88 mins.

Director: Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

IMDB

Winner of the 27th Hong Kong Film Critics Society prize for Best Film, Inside the Red Brick Wall is, along with Taking Back the Legislature, part of a diptych of films released by an anonymous collective known as Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers that chart the civil unrest in Hong Kong in 2019 as people took to the streets throughout the year to protest the erosions of their democratic rights after the government revealed its Extradition Bill. The resulting pushback by the authorities grew in brutality and even lethality as the protests wore on. In one of the most infamous examples late in 2019, police lay siege to protestors who had gathered at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

For 13 days, protestors who had gathered at the university to support the blockading of the nearby Cross-Harbour Tunnel endured police attacks that turned the environment into a veritable war zone until, amidst dwindling supplies and morale, they had to face the difficult decision of whether to hold out or face the uncertain consequences of surrendering to authorities who had been documented on social media using extreme force when arresting journalists, medics, and university staff who had earlier tried to leave. This action was caught by members of the film collective who were at the university and determined to document the experience at a time when police were preventing journalists from reporting.

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The Girl and the Gun Director: Rae Red, Philippines, (2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

The Girl and the Gun  The Girl and the Gun Film Poster

Release Date: March 07th, 2020

Duration: 80 mins.

Director: Rae Red

Writer: Rae Red (Script),

Starring: Janine Gutierrez, Elijah Canlas, Felix Roco, JC Santos,

OAFF IMDB

Rae Red was introduced to the world through co-writing Birdshot (2017) with her cousin Mikhail Red. Since then, she has quickly accrued projects, collaborating with Mikhail on the scripts for his features Neomanila (2017) and Eerie (2018). In terms of directing, her debut was the short film Luna (2016) which was screened at the CineFilipino Film Festival while her debut feature, which she co-directed, Si Chedeng at Si Apple (2017), was screened at the Far East Film Festival and Kansai Queer Film Festival. The Girl with the Gun is her solo directorial debut and it displays a distinctive style that marks her out as a director of immense talent.

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Miss Andy 迷失安狄 Dir: Teddy Chin (Malaysia-Taiwan, 2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Miss Andy  Miss Andy Film Poster

迷失安狄

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 108 mins.

Director: Teddy Chin

Writer: Ryan Tu (Script),

Starring: Lee Lee-zen, Ruby Lin, Jack Tan, Keshap Suria, Tou Kyzer,

OAFF Wikipedia

The human heart can be the most powerful thing as it always burns with the embers of hope for love, companionship and empathy even in the most difficult circumstances. That is what links all humans. Miss Andy is all about that hope in the face of such awful loneliness.

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Your Name Engraved Herein 刻在你心底的名字 Director: Liu Kuang-hui (2020) Taiwan Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020

Your Name Engraved Herein    Your Name Engraved Herein Film Poster

刻在你心底的名字 

Release Date: June 26th, 2020

Duration: 118 mins.

Director: Liu Kuang-hui

Writer: Chu Yu-ning (Script), Keralino Sandrovich (Original Novel)

Starring: Tseng Chin-hua, Chen Hao-sen, Wang Shih-sian, Leon Dai, Fabio Grangeon, Edward Chen, Mimi Shao,

OAFF IMDB

The first LGBTQ+ film since the legalisation of gay marriage in Taiwan, Your Name Engraved Herein makes itself emblematic of the gay experience by tacking its story of characters accepting their homosexuality and coming out to the easing of cultural conservatism in the 1980s and the embrace of a new openness in Taiwanese society experienced now.

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Heavy Craving 大餓 Dir: Hsieh Pei-ju (2019, Taiwan) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Heavy Craving    Heavy Craving Film Poster

大餓  Daikatsue

Release Date: June 30th, 2019

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Hsieh Pei-ju

Writer: Hsieh Pei-ju (Script), 

Starring: Tsai Jia-Yin, Samantha Ko, Yao Chang, Chang En-Wei, Lai Lene, Hsieh Tsu-wu,

OAFF IMDB

One woman’s battle to lose fat forms the basis of this heavy drama that comes wrapped with some light comedy as the weight of societal expectations on the physical appearance of people is skewered.

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