Friday, March 31, 2006

Vanitas

(Portugal, 2004, 103 min)

The futile top model protegée of an aging fashion designer is forced by circumstances to come into her own as a woman of the world. Intriguing but ultimately incomplete, amateurish melodrama from a director who ought to know better; there’s a strong woman’s picture plot and great performances lost in incomprehensible plotting, inept handling and poor photography (shot on digital video).

An Atalanta Filmes release. A Suma Filmes production in association with RTP, supported by ICAM. Starring Isabel Ruth, Joana Bárcia, Filipe Cochofel, Pedro Miguel Silva, João Pedro Bénard, João Pedro Vaz. Directed and produced by Paulo Rocha; written by Regina Guimarães; music by Carlos Guedes; director of photography, Paulo Abreu; production and costume designers, Manuela Bronze and Acácio Carvalho; film editor, Edgar Feldman.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Breakfast on Pluto

(Ireland/Great Britain, 2005, 122 minutes)

Trials and tribulations of an irrepressibly optimistic transvestite growing up in a small village in Northern Ireland, then moving to London to seek his mother in the midst of the 1970s Troubles. Cheery, fast-moving but ultimately shallow coming-of-age comedy-drama that is carried by a striking lead but glosses over most of the interesting questions it raises.

Sony Pictures Classics and Pathé Pictures present in association with Bord Scannan na hEireann/The Irish Film Board and the Northern Ireland Film and TV Commission a Parallel Films/Number 9 Films production. Starring Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, and Liam Neeson. Directed by Neil Jordan; produced by Alan Moloney, Neil Jordan and Stephen Woolley; screenplay by Neil Jordan and Patrick McCabe, from the novel by McCabe; director of photography, Declan Quinn; production designer, Tom Conroy; costume designer, Elmer ni Mhaoldonhnaigh; film editor, Tony Lawson.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nobody Knows

Dare Mo Shiranai
(Japan, 2003, 140 minutes)

A single mother leaves her four children, the oldest of which is only 12, on their own while she goes away for long stretches of time; then she simply doesn't return and the kids have to fend for themselves. Powerful, moving melodrama, alternately delicate and harrowing, inspired by a true story and shot in a slow-building, quasi-documentary style with non-professional child actors; shame about a sagging third act. Yuya Yagira received the Best Actor award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

A TV Man Union production. Starring Yuya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu, Hanae Kan, You. Directed, produced, written and edited by Hirokazu Kore-Eda; music by Gontiti; director of photography, Yutaka Yamazaki; art directors, Toshihito Isomi and Keiko Mitsumatsu.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Three... Extremes

(Hong Kong/South Korea/Japan, 2004, 125 min)

Three horror tales set in modern-day Asia. “Dumplings”: a former Hong Kong star actress seeking to regain her youth tries a secret recipe for dumplings. “Cut!”: a Korean film director finds himself at the mercy of a vengeful extra. “Box”: a successful Japanese writer is haunted by the ghost of her dead sister. The old-fashioned and long unused horror compendium is updated by three oriental stylists usually described as "extreme" in their cinematic approach; all of them turn the genre conventions on its head and supply gripping and clever short-form exercises. "Dumplings" was extended by director Fruit Chan into a 90-min feature filmed with the same cast and crew.

A Fortissimo Films presentation. Applause Pictures, CJ Entertainment and Kadokawa Pictures present an Applause Pictures/Bom Film Productions/Kadokawa Pictures production. “Dumplings”: starring Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Tony Ka-Fai Leung. Directed by Fruit Chan; produced by Peter Ho-Sun Chan; written by Lilian Lee; music, Chon Kwong-Wing; photography director, Christopher Doyle; production designer, Yee Chung-Man; costume designer, Dora Ng; film editors, Tin Sak-Fat and Chan Ki-Hong. “Cut!”: starring Lee Byung-Hun, Lim Won-Hee, Gang Hye-Jung, Yum Jung-Ah. Written and directed by Park Chan-Wook; produced by Ahn Soo-Hyun; music, Peach; photography director, Chung Chung-Hoon; production designer, Ryu Seong-Hee; costume designer, Chu Sang-Kyong; film editors, Kim Sang-Bum and Kim Jae-Bum. “Box”: starring Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe, Mai Suzuki, Yuu Suzuki, Mitsuru Akaboshi. Directed by Takashi Miike; produced by Naoki Sato, Shun Shimizu and Fumio Inoue; written by Haruko Fukushima, from a story by Bun Saikou; music by Koji Endo; photography director, Koichi Kawakami; production designer, Takashi Sasako; costume designer, Tomoko Yasuno; film editor, Yasushi Shimamura.