Leviathan, Andrey Zyagintsev, 2014 (Russia)
Watching it on a smallish screen, I felt like I was squinting the whole time. This was made for the big screen, I could hardly focus, my eyes hurt. The story was grim, a mechanic likely to lose his land, a beach side town, a corrupt nasty mayor, an angry son, a harassed woman acting as a stepmother. I got the hard work, I got the misery, I got the squalor of wrongness, I got the men's uneasy love affair with guns, and the women's acquiescence. A weird shooting party scene, a desolate location, the men shooting at tin cans, the women making food, the discovery of a love affair. But I learnt nothing about anybody or anything in this film. I think it was probably gorgeously shot. Maybe on the big screen the cinematography balances the subject matter. A wonderful scene, though, of a woman standing on a cliff, and a whale in the sea below. Something unbelievably big emerging.
Our Little Sister, Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan, 2015.
I get dead sick of movies that use trauma to approximate deep emotion. As if violence in itself gets us close to something. Our Little Sister (based on Akima Yoshida's manga series Umimachi Diary is about three sisters who meet their younger half sister at their shared father's funeral and invite her to live with them which she does. It's not violent or traumatic but I was far more interested and felt more intensely about it than anything that would bombard me. Suzu, the younger sister was a gorgeous adolescent mix of gracefulness and clumsiness, of openness and quiet shame, delight, despair. I believed utterly in her three very different sisters. I wonder if the middle one the first casually scruffy Japanese woman I've seen on the screen?. It was so beautiful and so beautifully shot I kept bracing myself for the awful thing that would happen to disrupt and corrupt it all. It never did. I've liked other stuff by Koreeda (I wish and Still Walking) He's so good on trains and family.
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