Thursday, August 14, 2014

Four-Sentence MIFF Reviews #5-8: I Hired a Contract Killer, Clara and the Secret of the Bears, Jack, Patema Inverted

I Hired a Contract Killer (Aki Kaurismaki)

Henri shuffles between his dingy apartment and his equally dingy job pushing paper from one side of a desk to another. When he loses his position at work, he tries to commit suicide, but can't quite get the job done, so he hires a contract killer to take himself out. This is a nicely odd film which manages to make something strangely lovable out of a series of deadpan encounters between unlikely people. It's the film version of a really dry, really crumpled, really black t-shirt that actually looks quite good once you put it on.

Clara and the Secret of the Bears (Tobias Ineichen)

13 year old Clara lives in the Swiss Alps with her mother and step-father, and is delighted one day to encounter a bear cub in the mountains. But as she is drawn into fraught disputes among townsfolk about the bears, Clara discovers her connection to a past wronging of nature, and to a ghost girl with unfinished business. The time-slip elements are perfectly handled, Clara's friendship with a new local boy is pleasingly unromantic, and the father-daughter elements are very touching. Twelve year old me would have killed to see this film, and thirty-three year old me loved it too.

Jack (Edward Berger)

When Jack's mum has him bundled off to a children's home for convenience, and dumps his younger brother with a friend "for the night", we work out that she pretty much sucks. But resourceful Jack believes against all evidence that his mum still wants them, so he takes off to find his younger brother and reunite the family. Wonderfully unsentimental, this is a film that never manipulates the audience or even demonises Jack's mother (though I would really like to punch her in the face). The moment at the end of the film where Jack ages emotionally a few years in a few seconds is a real credit to the film's subtlety.

Patema Inverted (Yasuhiro Yoshiura)

When a scientific experiment went wrong, half the population were suddenly inversely affected by gravity, sending scores of people and buildings 'falling up into the sky'. Those that survived retreated below the surface, walking on the underground ceilings of those left above. As soon as I saw the detailed animation of Patema's grimy, mechanical world, I was sold. Absorbing, beautifully animated, often incredibly tense and demanding full concentration - and featuring a male and female protagonist who were balanced in agency and importance.

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