Into the Forest of Fireflies (Jpn) (site)
I was due to see the Ken Loach TV film Family Life, but a mixture of not being able to get out of work early enough, and a general feeling that I wasn't in the mood for something stodgy in the minutes after getting out of the door made me switch to this last minute addition.
Fireflies is a gentle short film (about 45 minutes) based on a manga about a young girl named Hotaru (firefly) who becomes lost in a large and confusing forest and can't find her way out. She is saved by Gin, a mysterious young man in a keaton mask who guides her out, but cannot be touched. He is one of the many Yokai of the woods, cursed by the forest god and if he is touched by a human, he will disappear.
Returning the next day with a thank-you gift, they begin a friendship that passes through the years. They only meet in summertime as that is when Hotaru is at her nearby grandparents.
The animation quality is that of a lower-budget anime, some choppy framerates create jerky movements and there are a few liberties taken (like Gin's mask so we don't see him speak) to lower the cell count and thus the cost. Most of the film's beauty (and it is a beautiful film) is in the gently swaying piano music, and in the watercolour backgrounds; mostly starry skies and ancient sun-dappled forests. Story-wise, it is light and airy, it's not going to invoke tears of joy or sadness in many people as I suspect the director might be hoping for, but it is a pleasant tale that made the residual thoughts of a working day fall behind. 7/10
Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (UK) (site)
Grant Morrison is a Scottish writer and one-time band member. His parents were both anti-nuclear activists and they encouraged him to lose himself in comics and graphic novels. His early life was quite solitary and insular, and he found pleasure in creating some comics in his teens, slowly gaining notoriety as an artist well before his years. As he got older and was given bigger projects (including writing works for some of the most iconic characters such as Superman and Batman) he teamed up with more established artists, and became a writer, providing the scripts (and some sketches) that the artist would then flesh out to the finished product.
This documentary, in a rather sequential art sort of way, proceeds through his life with Morrison providing most of the commentary (so much in fact - he just doesn't shut up!) about his works and how they coincided to major events in his life. Darker periods such as with family bereavements or the aftermath of 9/11, would translate into much more moody works, such as The Filth; in happier times where he would go on some more spiritual journeys both inside the mind (thanks to some light drug taking) and out, as he travelled the world and his perceived understanding of the world (not to mention some trippy Jesus hallucinations) changed his worldview, and the fate of the characters in his works, accordingly.
Not being much into comics (not a dislike as such or a conscious decision, I just never got round to it) some of the idol-worship laid upon him by his contemporaries, mixed with the 'deep understanding meditation' visuals (which I couldn't tell whether they were tongue in cheek or not) felt a little pretentious. And his trippy spiritual revelations which he seems to believe are a bit batshit. But I guess it's the mix of these things and the man himself which generates the enormous amount of creative output from the man, and the film did make me interested enough to look into trying a few issues of his work, like maybe The Invisibles six year epic, or the satirical Doom Patrol. 7/10
Shame (UK) (wiki/site)
A second directorial film from Steve McQueen (not him, another one) after Hunger debuted a couple of years back. The title encompasses the feelings that most people would have if they inhabited either of the lives of the two main parts. Brandon, played by a very open-minded Michael Fassbender is a somewhat oversexed man. His laptop is crippled with a thousand viruses from the porn sites he can't keep away from, and he just can't seem to leave the real-life ladies alone either. It's just as well that he has that certain something about him that keeps them heading towards his trousers. But his mysterious, distant attitude isn't just for show; he can't seem to get a connection going with anyone, and it's getting to him.
His detached inability to care extends to his little sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who is in need of a place to stay, and when her repeated calls are ignored, she breaks in and invades his life - which for a man with a flatful of booby mags and dirty, dirty hard drives, is going to lead to some uncomfortable confrontations. Sissy is the polar opposite of her brother; a beautiful cabaret singer, but clingy and emotional, constantly looking for love and never quite finding it, and she needs her brother's support as she is at her wits end.
Shame is carried along by an awful lot of nudeyness, and both sexes are well catered for, but I never once felt remotely aroused by what I saw; this is not pleasurable sex being portrayed here. They are the uncomfortable, unfulfilled and ugly acts to satisfy purely the base needs and desires of a broken and confused man. Sex is not the point here, but love and the need to be loved, about the importance of distinguishing from the other. It is an intimate and slow-paced look into Brandon and Sissy's life at a tipping point; the contrasting scenes of throwaway sex and beautiful musical numbers, (Mulligan's rendition of New York, New York is sublime) the orchestral scores and primal grunting makes for intriguing and occasionally compelling viewing, and the second half of the film ramps up both the emotion and the gratuity, working to a conclusion that in hindsight, like Brandon, you could have easily seen coming. It's candid, explicit, often shocking and sometimes beautiful. 7.5/10