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Film Review: Dolphin (2023) by Bae Du-ri

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Film Review: Dolphin (2023) by Bae Du-ri

“Go to Seoul and die, jerk”

Written, directed and edited by Bae Du-ri as a school project at the Korean Academy of Film Arts, “Dolphin” premiered last year at Jeonju and was released in Korean theaters this week.

The movie revolves around Na-young, a 35-year-old journalist at a local newspaper, who is definitely stuck in the small-town life she has experienced all her life, with her main focus being taking care of her mother, Jeong-ok, younger brother, Seong-woon and her friends. Na-young had a rather dramatic childhood, but through her routines and the simplicity of life in the particular location, she has found a degree of harmony. Everything, however, starts changing, when her mother informs her that she wants to sell the house Na-young grew up in, her brother decides to move to Seoul after finishing school, and Hae-soo, a man her age, relocates from Seoul. As Na-young cannot handle change, the potential alterations have her struggling intensely, until she discovers bowling.

Bae Du-ri directs a film that draws from personal experience, in a rather unusual coming-of-age story, since it focuses not on a teenager, but on a woman in her mid-30s. Without falling into the clutches of melodrama, as so frequently happens in Korean movies, she deals both with what causes people to be afraid of change, and how one can find relief from this type of agony. Regarding the first aspect, Na-young’s rather dramatic past as a kid is presented as the main source, which is actually revealed gradually, in timely moments within the narrative, with the director eloquently stating that, for her protagonist, life could have been much harder and the one she has now does look quite good for her. On the other hand, and while her mentality is somewhat justified in that fashion, the fact that she cannot cope with others moving on is a sign of immaturity, with the story focusing on how Na-young tries to overcome it.

And here comes the second, rather unusual element in the film, with bowling becoming a factor, and Bae exploring the sport in its amateur level quite thoroughly, as the particular alley and her proprietor function in the way bars and bartenders frequently function in cinema. That Na-young finds solace, a way out of her problems, and someone to talk to is a rather appealing element within the narrative, also adding a very entertaining sport element to an indie drama that actually stands out due to this part.

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The comments, however, do not stop in Na-young and her effort to cope with change. The concept of the blended family is also central to the story, as much as the way people in small communities react to “outsiders” and the reasons the population of young adults in such areas is diminishing. That the characters of the movie mirror these comments is a testament to the quality of the writing, since Bae manages to both make her audience empathize with them and creates a chemistry that results in a number of interesting comments.

This aspect also owes a lot to the acting, which is one of the main sources of the realism that permeates the movie. Kwon Yu-ri as Na-young highlights her frustration excellently, both in her calm moments and the more rare ones, when she lashes out. The same applies to Kil Hae-yeon’s Jeong-ok, who does let’s her anger show more frequently, and Hyeon Woo-seok’s Seong-woon, who is actually the calmest one in the whole movie, despite his age. Both the acting, and the bottled up sentiments of the protagonist find their apogee in a scene close to the end, when no one can control their feelings anymore, in probably the most memorable sequence in the whole movie.

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Kim Him-chan’s cinematography follows the realistic lines of the narrative, although the bowling parts are occasionally impressive, in a rather welcome change from the usual approach of Korean arthouse dramas, which is also found in the pace. That the movie lasts for 90 minutes is another rather welcome aspect that should be attributed to Bae’s editing, which results in an economical approach that does so by avoiding the usual melodramatic shenanigans.

“Dolphin” is a gem of a film, one of the rare Japanese indies that manages to stray away both from the melodrama and the “Hong Sang-soo recipe”, retaining both its entertainment and its contextual richness for the whole of its duration.

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Movie Reviews

Humane (2024) – Review | Dystopian Family Thriller | Heaven of Horror

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Humane (2024) – Review | Dystopian Family Thriller | Heaven of Horror

How to reduce the population in a humane way

In Humane, which takes place in one single afternoon, but based on events that have happened over decades, a family is forced to deal with an ecological collapse. Basically, we need to reduce Earth’s population now, so the question becomes; How can we do that as a society in a humane way?

Hot tip: You need to pay attention to everything being said in the background during the opening credits!

Of course, there isn’t anything humane about having to eliminate a large percentage of the population. And yet, money can help, so a new euthanasia program has been made. Basically, you can volunteer to be “put down!

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A very different take on the euthanasia plot here >

Your family will be by your side as you say goodbye to them and they will also get a pretty penny for your sacrifice. Clearly, this scheme leads to mostly poor people and immigrants signing up, as they can then help their children and grandchildren to a better life.

That’s why it’s such a shock when a recently retired newsman – who has plenty of wealth to last a few lifetimes – invites his four grown children to dinner to announce that he has enlisted for the euthanasia program.

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Of course, nothing is as simple as described in the commercials constantly playing on TV to enlist volunteers. So, when the father’s plan goes wrong, full-blown chaos erupts among the four siblings, and they end up fighting each other to survive.

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Movie Review

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Movie Review

There’s Still Tomorrow, 2023.

Directed by Paola Cortellesi.
Starring Paola Cortellesi, Valerio Mastandrea, Romana Maggiora Vergano, Emanuela Fanelli, Giorgio Colangeli, and Vinicio Marchioni.

SYNOPSIS:

Trying to escape from the patriarchy in the Italian post-war society, Delia plots an act of rebellion against her violent husband.

Italian Cinema has had its share of triumphs over the years with the likes of Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini helping to define European Cinema of the mid 1900s. There’s Still Tomorrow from Star and Director Paola Cortellesi, proves that there is still plenty of life left in Italian Cinema. It has earned rave reviews and proven to be the most successful film of 2023 in Italy and the ninth highest-grossing film of all time there.

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Set in Rome in 1946, it follows Delia (Cortellisi), caught in a loveless marriage, struggling to put food on the table. Delia cares for their three young children and is also expected to tend to her bedridden father-in-law.  The Rome we follow is far from the more glamorous one we tend to see now, more like something in Rome Open City, with the effects of the war apparent, with a sizable US military presence still in place.

It has rightly earned plaudits and the way Cortellisi has balanced the period elements with neorealism is worth singling out. On paper this shouldn’t work, feeling often like a drama lifted straight from the era but also with a striking, contemporary edge to it, buoyed by some of the musical choices. The likes of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Outkast helping to lend it a ferocious energy and give it a sense of purpose. As far as debuts go this is incredibly ambitious but it never succumbs to striving for too much, miraculously finding balance throughout.

While the action is kept largely to Delia and her family it is gripping with plenty of impressive traits from our first-time director from the use of music and dance to slow motion. Davide Leone’s cinematography is striking and perfectly captures the downbeat nature of post-war Rome.

There’s Still Tomorrow is a wonderful blend of 1940s Italian Cinema and melodrama with a distinctly modern edge to it, landing this awkward balance for the most part. It will be intriguing to see whether international audiences take to it quite as strongly but as Italian as it feels, there is a global appeal to it, of a woman trying to escape a horrendous situation and reclaim her life. It is a very impressive debut and we can only hope Paola Cortellisi directs more in future. It is an unpredictable love letter to Italian cinema and this particular era in Italian society that wears its heart on its sleeve and is hard not to be enamoured with.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Chris Connor

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Movie Review: Prepare to get hot and bothered with stylish, synthy tennis drama 'Challengers'

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Movie Review: Prepare to get hot and bothered with stylish, synthy tennis drama 'Challengers'

“Challengers” is a bit of a tease. That’s what makes it fun.

There is plenty of skin, sweat, close-ups of muscly thighs and smoldering looks of lust and hate in this deliriously over-the-top psychodrama. But get that image of Josh O’Connor, Zendaya and Mike Faist sitting together on the bed out of your mind. Most of this action takes place on the tennis court.

It’s still a sexy tennis movie about friendship, love, competition and sport set to a synth-y score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — it just might not contain exactly what you think it does. But remember, Luca Guadagnino is the one who filmed Timothée Chalamet with that peach, perhaps more memorable than any actual sex scene from the past decade. Manage expectations, but also trust.

And like “Call Me By Your Name” did for Chalamet, “Challengers” is one of those rare original big-screen delights that firmly announces the arrival of a new generation of movie stars. Zendaya and Faist already had a bit of a leg up. She has played significant supporting roles in some of the biggest movies of the past few years, from “Spider-Man” to “Dune,” and he had had his big cinematic breakthrough as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” But it’s O’Connor who really comes out on top, effectively shedding any lingering image of him as a whiny, dweeby Prince Charles in seasons three and four of “The Crown.” In “Challengers,” his Patrick Zweig is the cocky, flirty, slightly mean, slightly dirty and slightly broken bad boyfriend of our fictional dreams.

Written by playwright Justin Kuritzkes (who is married to “Past Lives” filmmaker Celine Song) “Challengers” is a prickly treat, about fractured relationships, egos, infidelity and ambition. Set during a qualifying match at the New Rochelle Tennis Club, outside New York City, the intricately woven story reveals itself through flashbacks that build to a crescendo in the present-day match.

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O’Connor’s Patrick and Faist’s Art are old boarding school roommates turned tennis teammates. It’s a relationship that’s at turns brotherly, erotic and competitive. Whatever it is, they are definitely too close and not remotely prepared for Zendaya’s Tashi Duncan to enter the mix.

Tashi, in high school, is well on her way to becoming the next big tennis superstar. Art and Patrick watch her play, mouths agape at her technical form and physical beauty. Later, they both ask for her number, leading to a revealing night in a grungy hotel room. She promises her number to the one who wins the singles match the next day. Tashi just wants to see some good tennis, she says, but she also knows how to motivate and manipulate.

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Zendaya in a scene from “Challengers.” Credit: AP/Niko Tavernise

Because of the fractured timeline, we know that Tashi in the present day does not play tennis anymore. She was injured at some point and never recovered, unlike her husband, Art, who is now one of the most famous players in the world. The two of them are wildly wealthy, living in a ritzy hotel and fronting Aston Martin ad campaigns. At night, Tashi uses Augustinus Bader cream to moisturize her legs. Guadagnino, who likes to wink at and luxuriate in wealth signifiers, enlisted JW Anderson designer Jonathan Anderson to do the costumes, which will surely populate summer style inspiration boards the way his “A Bigger Splash” and “Call Me By Your Name” have in the past.

But while they are technically at the top, Art is also on a losing streak, so Tashi sends him to a low-stakes tournament where he can get his confidence back. That’s where they encounter Patrick, who has not been so fortunate over the years and who has fallen out with his old friends. Of course, it’s all building to Patrick and Art playing one another in the final match, a part of which is so wildly and comically drawn out that you can almost envision the “Saturday Night Live” spoof.

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“Challengers” is a drama, but a funny and self-aware one. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and has a lot of fun with its characters, all three of which are anti-heroes in a way. You might have a favorite, but you’re probably not rooting for anyone exactly — just glued to the screen to see how it all plays out on and off the court.

“Challengers,” an MGM release in theaters Friday, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.” Running time: 131 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

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