Five film recommendations for March

Five film recommendations for March

‘The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder’ – Alfred Hitchcock

So the dust has finally settled on Awards Season and the film industry can return to some form of normalcy. As the sentient among you reflect on what an indulgent, pompous, unrepresentative mess the Oscars have become, I figured it’s worth suggesting some films that are actually worth watching.

So have a gander at the below for 5 of my recommended movies. Love or hate? Post a reply below!

Film:  13 Assassins (2010)

Director:  Takashi Miike

Staring:  Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya

Why you should check this out:  When the deranged Lord Naritsugu threatens the stability of feudal Japan, seasoned samurai Shinzaemon is tasked with eliminating the sadistic noble. Despite his group of 12 fellow assassins, Shinzaemon faces suicidal odds as Naritsugu surrounds himself with a small army of deadly minions. So begins a game of cat and mouse that could decide the fate of Japan.

Takashi Miike has succeeded in creating a concise, simple Samurai story that oozes style, brutality and above all, directorial competence. The characters are rounded, fight scenes beautifully choreographed and shot (plenty of wides – none of that close-up fast-cutting rubbish sadly inherent in too many action films) and the story is poignantly poetic.

13 Assassins is tight and entertaining, a showcase feature for one of Japan’s most interesting directors.

Film:  The Grey Zone (2001)

Director:  Tim Blake Nelson

Staring:  David Arquette, Velizar Biney, David Chandler

Why you should check this out:  Set within the grim charnel house of Auschwitz, The Grey Zone follows a group of Sonderkommandos – Jews who aid their Nazi captors in exterminating their racial kin, for the chance to stay alive. As World War 2’s resolution creeps closer, the Sonderkommandos’ precarious existence hangs by a thread, prompting them to take decisive action.

This alternative and controversial view of Jewish persecution during wartime is especially horrific, considering it is based on a true story. While the direction is often lacking, The Grey Zone still manages to represent an original concept with punch; an accolade that is not easily earned within the over saturated war film genre.

An important film to see, not least for the revealing insight into concentration camps and the morally dubious choices the inmates were forced to make.

Film:  Renaissance (2006)

Director:  Christian Volckman

Staring:  Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce

Why you should check this out:  A French/British/Luxembourg co-production, Renaissance is an animated flick set within a dystopian futuristic Paris of 2054. Amidst an image obsessed culture overseen by omnipresent cctv, Barthelemy Karas (Daniel Craig) is a cop charged with locating captured scientist Ilona Tasuiev (Romola Garai). As Karas delves into the pharmacological affairs of corporate giant Avalon, an ominous web of kidnap, murder and nefarious experiments quickly emerges.

The thriller narrative set within a sinister future imagining is certainly engaging, dealing with ideas of immortality and the preservation of physical beauty. The voice casting generally works too, as the tones of Craig and Pryce provide a familiar feel.

But the most striking think about Renaissance is its visual style: high contrast black and white rotoscoped images backed with CGI environments. For this alone, it stands out as unique, utilising an interesting method of animation to great effect.

Film:  Naked Lunch (1991)

Director:  David Cronenberg

Staring:  Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm

Why you should check this out:  When exterminator William Lee (Peter Weller) becomes narcotically addicted to his own pesticide, the doors to a bizarre world are thrown open, controlled by a shadowy organisation of giant bugs.

This ‘90’s oddity is probably Cronenberg’s weirdest feature: based on William S Burrough’s notorious book and accounts of his own life, Naked Lunch delves into drug abuse, conspiracy theory and latent homosexuality. Its all about subtext and suggestion: from the puckered bug orifices that look strikingly like anuses to the talking insects in the role of government officials, clearly nothing is as it seems.

Not the easiest of watches and possessed of an unsettling quality, Naked Lunch is nevertheless a fascinating film that performs a superb study of William Lee, and by association William S Burroughs himself. Fans of Cronenberg, Lynch and even Phillip K Dick shouldn’t miss this bizarre treat.

Film:  The Ninth Gate (1999)

Director:  Roman Polanski

Staring:   Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin

Why you should check this out:  Rare book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is given a job to verify the authenticity of the supposedly satanic text ‘The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows.’ Travelling across Europe, the unscrupulous Corso finds himself caught in a mesh of murder and occultism and realises that the ancient tome could be far more than just a book.

An adaptation of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novel The Dumas Club, Polanski ditches much of the book’s literary history lesson for a more focused, horror-infused narrative. And this is a good thing: the resulting film is a satisfying blend of arcane intrigue and suspenseful thriller, underpinned by an unfaltering interest in the Devil’s domain. Indeed, it is this fatalistic curiosity with the Black Arts that drives both Corso and the audience along a journey of eldritch discovery that is undeniably compelling. An understated success for Polanski.

To interact with Henry – follow his tweets @filmfellahenry

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About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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