Some uninformed idiot recently suggested in a Forbes Op-Ed that libraries are not worth Americans’ tax dollars and should be replaced instead with Amazon bookstores. The second part of the argument is so outlandish that I won’t even bother addressing it here, but the first sadly merits some attention. Thankfully, the backlash against the op-ed was immediate and crushing, leading to the publications retraction by the magazine – a sign that all is not yet lost in this world. Plenty of counter-articles have summarised the many levels on which the initial assertion was wrong, but I would like to draw attention to Ex Libris, a documentary on the New York Public Library that neatly summarises it all by introducing us to the third largest and most visited library system in the world (55 million items and 18 million visitors).
Southern China, in early 1997. A serial killer is murdering women and dumping them in the muddy grassland of an industrial area. The bodies pile up, to the bafflement of local police. From the side-lines, a security guard for a nearby steel factory called Yu Guowei (Duan Yihong), offers to assist the under-staffed police in the case. Incorruptible and efficient at his job, Yu is a model worker, rewarded with an “employee of the year” award, to which his reaction is to reiterate his commitment to keep on improving, to keep making security better. But the award is only for show, and Yu is soon cast aside along with the majority of workers soon after, as the state-owned company shuts down. It is at this point that his desire to catch the culprit, at first seemingly driven by an innocent eagerness to serve, turns into blind obsession.
One of the first things we learn about Justine is that she was raised as a vegetarian and has never strayed. Both her parents are veterinarians, and we meet her as she is about to follow in their footsteps by joining veterinary school. Her older sister has already completed her first year there: a concrete hospital complex in a pale semi-urban area. The film unsettles quickly, as the new arrivals are hazed by the second years, forced through a series of humiliating situations. Under pressure from her peers, Justine has her first taste of meat: the raw liver of a rabbit. Horrible as the experience is, complete with red raw rashes, it sparks in her a shameful curiosity.
It’s been a great month. I got to revisit some classics in the cinema, discover directors I had thus-far unfairly neglected, reconnect with one of my favourite documentarians and with my love for Hong Kong cinema. Here’s the overview, rapid-fire reviews below. Split, by M. Night Shyamalan (02/03 – in the cinema) Logan, by James Mangold (03/03 – in the cinema) Gattaca, by Andrew Niccol (04/05) Drug War, by Johnnie
We are introduced to Major Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) as he leads a deer hunt. A talented shooter and military man of ambition, his career is constrained by a shameful family history. Fawcett’s father was a gambler and a drunk, pastimes of ill repute. He may not have passed on his defects to his son, but in Edwardian England, the shame of it is still inheritable. Restrained as he is by the rigid conceptions of class structure and masculinity of the time, he finally sees an opportunity to transcend his status and prove his worth as a man when the president of the Royal Society of Geography assigns him to map an unknown part of the Amazon.
I’ve been too busy this month to write long reviews, but I sure as hell didn’t stop watching films. This month’s overview features some real heavy-hitters, not least because the 2017 update of the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They 1000 Greatest Films list was released early in the month and it reminded me of some classics I’d meant to watch for a long time. Short reviews really can’t do them justice, but here we go anyway.
It’s a pleasure to see Jeff Nichols back on the screens so soon after Midnight Special, this time with the thoughtful, delicate beauty of a love story. It’s mid-February and I already know Loving is likely to make it on my best films of 2017 list (I know US folks saw it months ago, but it came out in France just yesterday). As residents of the state of Virginia, Richard
In the first three months of 2017, I watched an inordinate number of films. These are my reviews for January.
I’ve always been a fan of Japanese cinema, whether its the animations of studio Ghibli (bright stars of my childhood), the much darker animes like Akira that I watched as a teenager, or the clever social criticism of Hara-Kiri and the grand scale of Kurosawa’s epics like Kagemusha that came to me later on. Thankfully, there is always more to discover. I live in a country fascinated with Japan and its cinematic output, so much so that the large cinema chain I went to this week was showing more Japanese films (two) than American or even French films (one of each). Harmonium most likely won’t retain a high place in my personal pantheon of Japanese cinema, but I’m very curious to see director Kōji Fukada’s previous films, for in his work there is the promise of much challenging filmmaking that I am now keen to discover.
I’m so biased in favour of Michael Shannon, I’ll go see anything he stars in. Especially the Jeff Nichols stuff. If you haven’t seen Take Shelter or Shotgun Stories or any of the others, do it now. Having seen Arrival twice in the last couple of weeks, I also started the year curious to see more of Amy Adams’ acting, so one viewing of the Nocturnal Animals trailer was enough