Posts Tagged ‘Like Son’

1) THE GREAT BEAUTY (DIR. PAULO SORRENTINO, ITALY)

rsz_18nejA Federico Fellini film for the Bunga Bunga generation, Sorrentino returns to form with perhaps his greatest film yet. Toni Servillo plays an ageing playboy journalist who begins to tire of the endless parties and excess in his beloved Rome. The film mixes high art and low trash to an exhilarating degree, swooping from sober existentialism to scandalous hedonism at the directors whim. While the parties are filmed with an inventive, restless vigour, it’s Servillo’s hangdog lead that lingers in the memory.

2) NEBRASKA (DIR. ALEXANDER PAYNE, USA)

rsz_nebraska3This austere, melancholic road movie follows Woody, an alcoholic pensioner and his put upon son as they travel across the American highways to cash in a bogus junk mail prize for 1 million dollars. It’s a superbly concise and effective set up to explore the American dream and the way it lures in its everyday victims with visions of wild riches. Shot in beautiful black and white, director Payne makes great use of both the endless plains and the weary faces. It would be a bleak watch if it didn’t contain a redeeming mix of wry and slapstick humour.

3) POST TENEBRAS LUX (DIR. CARLOS REYGADAS, MEXICO)

This is Mexican maverick Carlos Reygadas going for broke here. Wildly adventurous, visually inventive and probably quite infuriating for large swathes of the audience, I loved every beguiling second of it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I could tell you what it’s about. The story, of which there is little, follows a privileged Mexican family living on the outskirts of an impoverished and remote rural town. Oppressed by a tyrannical father, the film is possibly a semi-autobiographical account of Reygadas’ own life. Surreal highlights include a glowing animated devil figure and steamy sauna scenes.

4) FRANCES HA (DIR. NOAH BAUMBACH, USA)

A delightful and charming rites of passage comedy showcasing Greta Garwig’s inimitable charisma. She plays a naive and childlike New Yorker struggling to hold onto her dreams of being a dancer. Ditched by her best friend and unwilling to commit to a romantic relationship, Frances is forced to seek out on her own. As a privileged and somewhat spoilt protagonist, the film would fall apart if it wasn’t for Frances’ infectious goofiness and will to succeed. Baumbach again succeeds at making us care about characters who aren’t always perfect human beings.

5) HORS SATAN (DIR. BRUNO DUMONT, FRANCE)

Imagine a more mystical Michael Haneke and you might be halfway towards the films of Bruno Dumont. This strange, unsettling film follows ‘The Guy’, a mystical, messianic figure, and ‘The Girl’, a local gothic girl who together roam the windswept coastline of Northern France. ‘The Guy’ has the power to kill and the power to heal, with a strange ability to save people by having sex with them. An absurd idea on paper, but Dumont makes it work. A beguiling mix of realism and surrealism, Dumont orchestrates both the visual and aural brutality of the desolate landscape to startling effect.

6) LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (DIR. HIROKAZU KOREEDA, JAPAN)

Carrying on from his previous film I Wish, director Koreeda concocts another incisive and moving portrait of modern Japanese families. Ryota is a workaholic in the city who has little time for his son Keita, and when Ryota learns that Keita might be the result of a mix up at birth, he has to decide whether blood ties or love ties matter the most to him. The story contrasts Ryota’s uptight, glossy family with their biological son Ryusei’s scatty family living in the country to great effect. A moving and humane exploration of what it means to be a parent.

7) THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (DIR. DEREK CIANFRANCE, USA)

A film which divided critics and audiences alike, Cianfrance’s ‘difficult second album’ is an ambitious, sprawling crime drama that motors through three generations. Ryan Gosling’s turn as a speedy heist merchant steals the show in the opening act, yet it’s Bradley Cooper’s angsty performance that lends weight to the whole film. The final section is a little weak but overall the film is a joy to watch. Cianfrance combines stylish retro thrills with an inventive structure and meaty drama.

8) TO THE WONDER (DIR. TERRENCE MALICK, USA)

As a self confessed Malick-nerd this arrives at a surprisingly lowly position, and I would suggest it is his weakest film in his ouevre so far. The film is a frustrating, challenging piece of work with some enigmatic, introspective performances…and yet there is something niggling away, burrowing beneath your skin as you watch it. A muted Ben Affleck plays a desolate man torn between Olga Kurylenko, a vivacious Parisian, and Rachel McAdams, a sweet local. The themes and drama are less pronounced that in his previous films and that is often infuriating, yet if I was to pick one of these films to have staying power then it might just be this one.

9) BULLHEAD (DIR. MICHAEL R. ROSKAM, BELGIUM)

This was a criminally under-seen thriller that came out earlier in the year. Matthias Schoenaerts, a hulking presence, plays a simmering Cattle farmer in rural Belgium who helps illegally inject steroids into the animals. When a new business venture with foreign investors goes suitably awry, Schoenaerts has to fight to save the business and his own life. Coming on the heels of moody, character driven French thrillers like A Prophet and A Beat That My Heart Skipped, newcomer Roskam delivers a punchy crime drama like Scorsese used to make in his heyday.

10) SPRING BREAKERS (DIR. HARMONY KORINE, USA)

Harmony Korine now seems like the Peter Pan of the US underground cinema, constantly ferreting away trying to find the latest movements in youth culture. With Spring Breakers he has hit upon the Girls Gone Wild franchise and turned it into something surreal and often beautiful. In a master stroke of casting he nabbed a couple of Disney starlets for the leads, giving the film both considerable marketable clout and blurring the lines between reality and fiction. The lean story is essentially a bunch of bollocks; four teenagers go on a Cancun-style orgy of excess and violence. It is Korine’s own warped, poetic take on proceedings that make it something special.

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In one of his most notorious quotes Yasujiro Ozu mused ‘I just want to make a tray of good tofu. If people want something else, they should go to the restaurants and shops.’ What the Japanese auteur was insinuating was a dedication to his own distinctive film making style and a dismissal of experimentation for experimentation’s sake. The same could equally be applied to his fellow native director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who has often been likened to Ozu for both his minimalistic aesthetic and concentration on family matters. As with his previous film I WishKore-eda has trained his focus on issues of class, parenthood and childhood.

It is actually remarkably similar to I Wish. That particular film focused on two brothers living with separate parents and kept apart by distance and their upbringing. In Like Father, Like Son we again have two sons from differing backgrounds, but this time it is a case of mistaken identity. Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a workaholic high flyer living in the city with his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and young son Keita (Keita Ninomiya). Their life comes to an abrupt halt when they get a phone call from Keita’s birth hospital informing them that there was a mix up with the babies; Keita is not their son. Soon the family are introduced to Ryusei (Shogen Hwang), their biological son, and his working class family out in the sticks.

Like I Wish, it is an intriguing and playful experimentation with the idea of families. If I Wish, perused the notion of parental guidance and what it means to be family, then Like Father, Like Son  pushes the idea one step further. Ryota is desperate for Keita to be a winner in life and baulks at his son’s perceived softness. Meanwhile his wife Midori worries about the disconnection of Ryota from family life and his dedication to his job. Taking on writing duties as well, Kore-eda cleverly contrasts their uptight world with Ryusei’s family- the lackadaisical father who tells Ryota that there is nothing more important than time to a child, something Ryota cannot dispense.

As the two families begin to see more of each other and consider the possibilities of ‘exchanging’ the children, Ryota starts to question the meaning of parenthood and family; is blood more important than the time he has spent bringing up Keita? Kore-eda refrains from giving the audience easy answers to the questions he asks of them, leaving us with a complex and subtle drama. In fact, I would place it up alongside his earlier film After Life as one of Kore-eda’s best works. Framed around a series of vignettes, the film does begin to lag slightly in the second half when the two boys move homes, but picks up again for a cathartic yet understated ending.

The performances are subtle and nuanced, while the children are sprightly and naturalistic. Kore-eda uses his customary static framing to observe the action without judgement. The melancholic piano score does threaten to over sentimentalise the scenes but this is only a small flaw in the film. Although Like Father, Like Son is steeped in Japanese culture, it has a universal appeal that conveys the complexities of both family and parenthood.

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