Friday, November 17, 2023

Empty Lust

Saltburn (2023) - Fennell Saltburn Oliver (Barry Keoghan) is a nebbish freshman at Oxford; the year is 2007. The soundtrack is all MGMT and Bloc Party, The Killers, etc. All around him are wealth and privilege. Only friend he can find is a weird math nerd with no social skills. Then there is Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), a very tall, handsome kid from an aristocratic family, whom everyone is swooning over. Felix's life is a never-ending party and drinking and girls. "Did I love him," Oliver asks over the series of close-up shots of present and near future Felix engaging in sexy activities. Oliver's lustful stares from a distance betrays his emotionless narration, or does it? "No I wasn't in love with him," he declares. But his luck would have it, Felix takes a liking to Oliver's poor scholarship kid with an addict/alcoholic parents sob story and off they go on the summer break to a sprawling Catton mansion, Saltburn.

The Cattons, unimaginably wealthy family of Felix, consists of frazzled dad- Sir James (Richard E. Grant), ice queen mom- Elsbeth (Rosamund Pike), nympho sister- Venetia (Alison Oliver) and snooty, gossipy cousin and fellow Oxford mate, Farleigh (Archie Madekwe), leading gilded life pampered by a group of servants. Golf, swimming, tanning, champaigns, lounging around naked in the garden, the works. The Saltburn manor is even equipped with The Overlook Hotel-style hedge maze. The film rapidly develops into a cross between Teorema and Talented Mr. Ripley, where everyone's giving Oliver sultry looks and he in turn, taking advantage of their curiosities, one by one.

Saltburn is unapologetically horny film. It's all about sweat, saliva and other bodily fluids. There are copious amounts of flesh shots of shirtless Felix as he is Oliver's de facto object of desire. Elordi as spoiled rich brat with a heart of gold (as his Elvis in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla) is perfect for the role. So is Keoghan, doing his creepy turn again (Killing of a Sacred Deer, Banshees of Inisherin), as an obsessive kid with dark desires. Fennell's script, bristling with sardonic wit and irony tickles your funnybones and gnarly, yet beautifully photographed transgressions (captured by Linus Sandgren, La La Land, Babylon) tickles your senses. But what does all of this amount to? Where do all these plot twists and turns and revelations ultimately lead us to?

Oliver's methodical plan to get closer to Felix come crashing down when the trip to his home reveals that he's not whom he pretends to be. With Oliver's planned birthday celebrations that would mark an end to their friendship, things take a dark turn. And this is where Fennell's steam runs out. Saltburn loses its rudder and ends with a massive hangover and disappointment.

There's no subtext to its period setting, there's no lessons to be learned about class disparities, not that there has to be. But with her last film Promising Young Woman, Fennell seems to be an ambulance chaser when it comes to topical issues of the day, but only on the surface level. Oliver, with his fuzzy motivations, is not consistent enough to make the film a character study even. Grant, Pike and Mulligan and others become toys to be played around and tossed (off screen even). Why do they deserve such cruel fate? Fennell never addresses. All we are left with is images of Keoghan slurping bath water, humping a fresh grave naked, and dance around full frontal in the empty manor. Keoghan is a major talent and a risk-taker obviously. I understand the film's concentrating on very narrow Gen Z and young LGBTQA+ audience. The promotion for the press screening made it very clear. But Saltburn ends up a titillation of flesh and nothing more.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Wrestling Picture

Neirud (2023) - Faya Neirud Brazilian filmmaker Fernanda Faya's Neirud is an intimate and affecting documentary that tells a larger-than-life story of a woman whom Faya thought she knew. Using wealth of family home videos, photos and historical news reels, Faya sets out to solve her family mystery like a good detective and constructs a beautiful portrait of her family friend, aunt Neirud, who happened to be a trailblazer in a country where things were still very much steeped in traditional ways.

With the Roma heritage on her father's side of the family, the filmmaker’s family has a long history being in the circus business. And her ancestral history is a fascinating one - they fled the persecution during the war in Europe to Brazil, moving place to place to avoid prejudice and racism. Faya's grandmother, Nely, a trailblazer in her own right, became the first in the family to be educated, and became a well-known actress in a traveling theater group. After a stint in Europe, Nely came back to her roots and start managing the circus theater group as an artistic director. That's where she met Neirud.

Aunt Neirud is seen in many home movies shot by Edgard, the filmmaker's father, gleefully holding the baby Faya on many occasions with Grandma Nely in the background. They are joyful family occasions. Donning full afro, Neirud, a towering black woman was a gentle giant. Her life story, told by herself in an inquisitive interview conducted by Faya, which was filmed when Neirud was nearing the end of her life, is as dramatic as any great fiction - after being abandoned by her biological mother in the small village to be cared for in a better to do household (as it was a common practice back in the day), young Neirud, being black, was put to work while attending school, not like other white children. At 8, she was already very tall and strong.She ran away to the city and asked to be hired as a nanny. At 12 when the circus was in town, enamored by the spectacle, she runs away again to join the circus. Strong as she was, she quickly established herself as a pivotal member of the troupe, then a main attraction. The legend has it, Neirud was the only one who can wield two hammers, one on each hand to put the spike in place to pitch the circus tent. The female wrestling, forbidden by law in still a conservative society, was allowed as the circus act. Developed by Nely, the female performers took on their own special characters -a pretty one, a vampire etc. In the ring, Neirud was the kimono wearing, 200 pounds of pure muscle, invincible Gorilla Woman.

Faya, finding wealth of pictures and footage of Grandma Nely, as she was the matriarch of the family and the face of the family business, but none of aunt Neirud from the wrestling days, sets out an investigation into her family history. She tracks down the only living remaining wrestler, Rita, from back in the day. In series of phone interview, Rita reveals that most of the photos were lost in the flood. She sends her a poster featuring "the Gorilla Woman" from that period. It's a towering picture of Neirud staring down. Neirud never wrestled again after Nely's passing, retired from the business, and lived in the house by the beach that she shared with Nely. Rita also informs the clue to Nely and Neirud's relationship. From all the materials she gathered, to her surprise, Faya finds a fantastic love story between the two women whom she dearly loved. It is also revealed that how they fled together on a road trip all over South America and ultimately formed their own circus troupe.

Neirud is not only a great love story, but an acute survey of Brazilian history and progress made in women's place in society. Aunt Neirud, along with Grandma Nely turn out to be a trailblazer in more ways than one. Switching gracefully between intimate home movie and a historical documentary, the film is also a wistful love letter to a person who meant a lot to the filmmaker. Gently bookending with the reenactments of her childhood memories of aunt Neirud driving with big colorful inflatable balls strapped on the roof of her station wagon on the beach, Faya possesses a kin eye for visual lyricism that conveys yearning and sweet sorrow.

Along with this year's Kleber Mendonça Filho's Pictures of Ghosts, Neirud chronicles changing Brazilian society through the bounds of first-person home movie narrative. Neirud works as a playful cinematic investigation with great warmth and heart.

Neirud plays part of DOC NYC. It has a theatrical premiere on 11/11 at Village East by Angelika, NYC.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

A Ghost Anywhere

Schlafkrankheit/Sleeping Sickness (2011) - Köhler Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 9.26.06 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 11.32.14 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 11.35.24 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 11.26.56 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 11.27.29 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 11.28.03 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 9.27.17 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-02 at 11.28.33 AM Ulrich Köhler's Sleeping Sickness examines a complicated relationship between Europe and Africa. It also shows how losing one's identity (in this case, being a German) is indirectly, but yet deeply connected to Germany's colonial, post-war revival past.

Epidemiologist Dr. Ebbo Velten (Pierre Bokma) and his wife Vera have been stationed in Cameroon for a long time. Velten is there to eradicate Sleeping Sickness, the insect borne disease that causes neurological problems if untreated. He has been successful and therefore, he has no reason to stay there any longer. It's time for him and his wife to go back to Germany. But something is nagging at him. Their sullen teenage daughter's visit only exacerbates his ambivalent feeling about going back home to his mundane life as a pharmacist, according to his expat doctor/industrialist pal Gaspard (Hippolyte Girardot), "prescribing pills for a living in the suburbs."

We see the whites' arrogance and the locals peddling for their money everywhere - at checkpoints, in restaurants, in Velten's home with guards, peddlers in city streets, in medical board meetings. The colonialism and free market enabled this ugly relationship to perpetuate and made any meaningful relationship between them impossible. The wife and daughter go home. Three years pass by.

A well-meaning, young doctor Alex Nzila (Jean-Christophe Folly) who works for the World Health Organization is first seen at a medical conference where a black representative is advocating cutting off relief funds to Africa and letting the free market take care of everything. He scoffs at the speaker. After Alex deflects his colleague's racist joke with 'I am born here,' speech, he is sent to Cameroon to evaluate Velten's project on sleeping sickness. The problem is, when he gets there to his compound/clinic, in the remote jungle, the German doctor is never around to meet with him. After failing to perform a Cesarean birth by throwing up and passing out on Velten's pregnant Cameroonian wife, Alex finally meets Velten. But it seems the illness is almost eradicated in the region. Then why does Velten ask for an evaluation on his progress?

It becomes slightly clear that it's Velten's cry for help, who is in the country he doesn't belong to and perhaps doesn't belong anywhere. He is pulling Colonel Kurtz. He is completely lost and wants someone else to decide his destiny.

The film ends with Velten and Gaspard taking Alex to a night time hunting in the jungle. Alex has no idea what they are hunting for. Again, for Alex, it's a wild goose chase.

Sleeping Sickness is a complex film that says a lot about colonialism and its ugly symbiotic relationship in capitalist society. As a German directed film with a German main character, the subtext of losing one's identity in a global capitalist system and yearning for some sort of metamorphosis is quite striking.

Thursday, October 19, 2023


A Woman Under the influence (1974) - Cassavetes Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.30.18 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.35.10 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.36.06 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.40.15 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.41.56 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.42.45 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.43.35 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.44.19 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.45.16 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.46.08 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.48.45 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.50.42 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.35.55 PM Screen Shot 2023-10-18 at 10.52.47 PM What more can be said about John Cassavetes's A Woman Under the Influence, I mean really? The immediacy, the realness of it all. Gena Rowlands's performance is perhaps the greatest of all in the cinema history?

Always portraying working class people with eccentricities, people who are little bit out of the norm. I keep thinking that all the people who are considered being on the spectrum and there's a large support community nowadays, if Mabel would be perceived differently today than back then - at least the frustration of Nick (Peter Falk) would've been largely aleviated because a half of the film is about him not knowing what to do about his cooky wife, other than raising his voice and knocking her down. For today's standards, Mabel might not have that much filter when it comes to social interactions, but it's not too extreme to be that upsetting. It says much about Nick and misguided masculinity as much as her.

Overall, it's a great, affecting love story between two people. Also I have to say kids performances are also amazing, especially the little girl who plays Maria. The beach scene where Nick agressively dragging his children to 'have a good time', and Maria running away was so good. These women can not be contained! What a film! Instant favorite!

Monday, October 16, 2023


Ferrari (2023) - Mann Ferrari Rubber, metal and mayhem ensue in Michael Mann's biopic Ferrari. Gone is his digital experimentation (Miami Vice, Public Enemies and Black Hat), but the testosterone level remains high and stoic manliness remains. Plus, it has Penelope Cruz chewing up every scene she is in as Laura Ferrari.

After almost comical monochrome footage of old car racing with Adam Driver's face grafted on them with old timey music and everything, the film settles on 1957 and silver haired Enzo Ferrari (Driver) is seen gently sneaking out of the idyllic villa he shares with his mistress Lina (Shailene Woodley) and their young son. Unbeknownst his fiery wife Laura (Cruz), who shares the ownership of the company, Enzo has been living a double life.

In Moderna, a quaint small town that hosts powerhouse custom sports car companies like Ferrari and its rival Maserati, where the local priest preaches in car metaphors, the times are changing. These local prides are having financial difficulties. For Enzo, it's all about craftsmanship and racing. But the company's finance in red, unless he and Laura goes on partnering with bigger companies, like Ford or Fiat, and mass produce, the company will go out of business.

Having lost his son to illness, the Ferraris' marriage has gone cold. Mann, based on the late Troy Kennedy Martin's script, presents both funny and revealing moments with Enzo and Laura visiting the grave of their son separately, back-to-back, to mourn the dead alone. Enzo talks to his dead son. Laura smiles in silence. But being a former racecar driver himself, Enzo's focus is always on racing and forming a winning team in the future races. After losing one of his drivers in a terrifying accident during a test run, he gives a chance to a young gun, Portago (Gabriel Leone). Enzo, addressed as commendatore by the locals, is seen as cold, uncaring man who only cares about winning.

Back then, racecar drivers are as popular as movie stars, every boy wants to be them and every girl wants to date them. Portago and many of Ferrari drivers are followed everywhere by adoring fans and paparazzi and subject of gossipy magazines. It's the danger where a millisecond decision-making can mean life or gruesome death that enthralls the spectators. It may also have to do with custom made, curvy, phallic shaped, sleek red cars they drive. Enzo instructs everyone to write a letter to the loved ones and leave them in their hotel room before every race, as it is customary to the profession.

Adam Driver, whose physiognomy could go either appropriate or not depending on the project, is convincing as a man in his late 50s, if he doesn't remind you too much of his old man skit from SNL. Driver portrays Ferrari's swagger and arrogance naturally and amiably. But it's Penelope Cruz who steals the show whenever she's on screen. Her Laura is a gun wielding firebrand who doesn't back down from anyone and anything. There is a great scene where Laura agrees to hand over her part of the ownership of the company, in order for Enzo to negotiate the possible partnership with bigger companies. Under one condition, she says. She wants her handgun back, which she'd fired on him before for his infidelity. After a brief tense moment, they smile at each other and proceed to tear each other's clothes off. It's that Laura he married long ago and Cruz embodies her with gusto. Shailene Woodley plays Lina with earnest. She is the proto-feminist type who doesn't want to stay behind the doors as a mistress forever. It's her soft feature that contrasts Cruz's angles. Patrick Dempsey shows up as Piero, a seasoned silver fox of the Ferrari team, who ends up winning the race.

The horrifying accident scene in the beginning presages what's to come as the Ferrari team prepares for the grueling, more than a thousand miles open road race, Mille Miglia, that encompasses Rome, Bologna, Florence, Parma and others. The route goes through densely populated cities, snaking roads up in the mountains and small rural towns alike with thousands of spectators on the side of the road. Stakes are very high, so is the danger. Mann, with his team of drivers, along with stunt coordinators, provides spectacular experience and unapologetically graphic mayhem.

Compared with his foray into digital technology over the years, Ferrari feels much more sumptuous. With production design and period costumes - men in dark suits and glasses, it resembles Godfather - especially with the opera and church scenes. But it's the racing scenes that are pure Mann - with tight close-ups and shaky camera; the speed and tension presented on screen are palpable. It's all about craftsmanship, on both counts - the filmmaker and the subject he portrays.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Native Americans Take Flight

Eureka (2023) - Alonso Eureka Argentine filmmaker, Lisandro Alonso, breaks 9-year silence with Eureka, after Viggo Mortensen starring meta-western Jauja. In an episodic structure, the film freely contemplates the state of indigenous people of the vast American continents, the past and present, as well as their uneasy relationship with cinema. It's perhaps his most expansive and ambitious film to date. He digs deep into the distorted representation and history, the effect of colonialism and the influence of Western culture that displaces the natives who are left out of place and out of time. Using his minimalist, elemental way of filmmaking, combined with Deleuzean look at time-image non-linear approach and Native American spirituality, Eureka is a deeply contemplative, perplexing film.

The first segment is a black and white western in full frame, starring Viggo Mortensen and Chiara Mastroianni. With coverages, combining wide and close-up shots, this is very much like a conventional filmmaking, not like Alonso's other works that utilize uninterrupted long takes and wide shots. Also, it's a rehash of Jauja's themes - looking for a daughter kidnapped by natives in the wild west, which the director intentionally appropriated from John Ford Western, The Searchers. The gunslinger named Murphy (Mortensen), tracks down where his daughter's kept in a small-town sheriff’s office. With the help of El Coronel (Mastroianni), he makes his way in with his vengeful guns blazing, to confront the captor of his daughter. But it is the daughter, the same daughter from Jauja (Dutch actress Wilber Malling Agger reviving her role), now all grown up, who turns a gun on him.

It turns out, the first part is movie within a movie, playing out on TV in a household in the Sioux reservation in South Dakota. More of a background noise for a Native American cop Alaina (Alaina Clifford) and her young basketball coach niece Sadie (Sadie Lapointe) as they get ready for their work. Alaina is taking her night shifts patrolling the neighborhood. Snowstorm is about to hit the area and she has to stop in, as her dispatcher send her to the origins of one distress call after another.

In a documentary style, we see the devastation of the Native American population living in the reservation - poverty, violence, incarceration and alcohol and drug use are everyday occurrence and Alaina being a good cop, she attends her job dutifully. Shot in a documentary style, the prolonged segment is as real as it gets. While white folks are playing out The Searchers fantasy for a century, the Natives are struggling with the bleak reality they inherited.

Mastroianni makes another appearance as a French actress researching the reservation life for a film who got stranded in a storm. She is our interlocutor, El Coronel, an unwitting bridge to the natives from as far back as Cortez days. Sadie visits her young cousin in jail, then goes to her grandfather's trailer. Grandfather tells her, "Time does not exist. It's a human invention." She says she is ready to go away. Her grandfather gives her an herbal tea which will make her sleep and wake up in another life. Say bye to everyone you know. He says. Lapointe, just like many of Alonso's non-actors, shines, as a young woman, who wholly embodies the terrible fate befallen to Native Americans in the 21st century.

Uncharacteristically for Alonso, we are presented with beautiful transition dissolves into the next segment, which takes place in Brazilian Amazon jungle, where a small tribe of peaceful natives who sit around and talk about their dreams. Their clothes and an old-style soda can tell us that this takes place in the past, during the Amazon's gold-rush days of the 1970s. A fight breaks out of their tranquil existence as jealousy between two men over a woman which results in stabbing and the stabber fleeing the village. The man then joins the gold-rush prospecting party nearby. El Coronel makes a third appearance, this time as a white man in charge of the prospecting operation. He is a typical middleman who would do anything for money. El Coronel tells the man that he doesn't belong there and would help him to get out of there.

With such a strong and engaging middle part with Alaina and Sadie, the third part of the film doesn't quite gel with the rest of the film. But overall, Eureka is always a fascinating watch with full of ideas swimming around your head long after you leave the theater.

Sunday, October 8, 2023


Retratos fantasmas (2023) - Mendonça Filho Pictures of Ghosts Kleber Mendonça Filho, whose films- Neighboring Sounds, Aquarius and Bacurau became arthouse darlings in international festival circuit and in turn, made his hometown of Recife, a city in northeastern Brazil, a center for a surging new Brazilian cinema. Living and working there in his beloved city for the last forty years, it is only natural that his new film, Pictures of Ghosts/Retratos de fantasmas, is a love letter to Recife. But the film is not merely all melancholic look back on the past. With the film, he is using his personal story, through the geography of the neighborhood and the historiography of cinema to illustrate the rapidly changing nation, and it's a charmer.

Mendonça Filho, who has seen his beloved city morphing into skyscrapers and shopping malls, fondly remembers his upbringing. His single mom Jocelice, a local historian, brought him and his siblings in a two-story apartment building, which has been a location for his several films, all the way back when he was making films with other cinephile friends using VHS camera, making action/horror films, to his more recent films. Part one of the film is dedicated to this house and neighboring buildings.

Physical buildings can be torn down and repurposed, but people and animals who inhabit the area linger in one way or another. The filmmaker, a well versed in cinema history and studies, puts an importance on oral history and ephemerals when drawing a complete picture of the place. There is a funny bit on a neighborhood dog, whose day and night barking that drove everyone crazy. The barking so distinctive and recognizable and ended up in many of the filmmaker's films unintentionally. Decades later, he was startled by the barking, only to find out someone was watching one of his films in the living room. Pictures of the Ghosts are filled with stories like that.

There are no shortage of local historical artifacts and news reel footage, including Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh's visit to the city in 1961. Chic boutique and luxury shops dotted the street near the riverside. Part two is dedicated to the cinemas and downtown Recife. Back in the heydays, being an important commercial hub of the northeastern Brazil, the downtown was booming with foreign investments and money pouring in. And it hosted many opulent cinema houses, where Mendonça Filho spent most of his teenage days. Now the money is gone, the downtown Recife is a hull of its glorious past, with faded buildings and most of its gilded cinema palaces either abandoned or turned into a shopping mall. In Pictures, the person in charge of changing the marquee of the cinemas become timekeepers, as the film titles appear in the background of historical photos in the papers, some of their letters obscured by trees, traffic and even marching soldiers during military incursions, presenting unintended Godardian wordplay. We see the lobby cards, movie posters and other movie paraphernalia being sold in an outdoor market outside those closed movie houses.

Mendonça Filho also has a video footage of a projectionist of one of the great cinemas he frequented with, asking earnest questions about his career and the prospect of the cinema house closing its doors. And the shot of one of the projectors kept in a locked room in now a shopping mall for posterity's sake.

The part three is 'Churches and Holy Ghosts'. The filmmaker connects an early Anglican church becoming a cinema house, then turning into Evangelical church. His criticism of the rise of Evangelicals (including the extreme right-wing Bolsonaro regime) in the country, is there, as he bluntly puts it, "Evangelicals bought cinema." The movie ends with whimsical taxi ride, throwing shades on Hollywood's superhero movies. The 80s Michael Mann vibe with night lights reflecting on the car, as it rides the bridge at night with smooth jazz - reminds the audience that the Brazilian director undoubtedly grew up loving the 80s Hollywood cinema.

Pictures of Ghosts is a loving, intimate documentary on ephemeral nature of our lives. Our loved ones grow old and die, buildings get torn down, video footages disintegrate, but there is evidence of those lives lived and experienced all over, if you know where to look. Combining his own experience and his love of cinema, Mendonça Filho serves as our expert guide to his beloved city of Recife. And It is definitely my choice for the documentary of the year.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Overhanging Dread

The Beast (2023) - Bonello la-bete-the-beast With arresting visuals and seductive filmmaking, Bonello has been chronicling our troubled 21st century like no other, with a string of films that are pretty, but not too pretty: House of Tolerance (sex workers rights), Nocturama (aimless angst of youth), Zombie Child (haunted by colonialism). and most recently Coma (Covid-19 lockdown). This time, Bonello is freely adapting Henry James's turn-of-the-century novella, The Beast of the Jungle, which tells of two would-be lovers forever beset by a sense of doom always hovering over them. It is a good parallel he is drawing with the state of things here and now.

The dawn of the 20th century was an exciting time, both socially and politically. And the possibilities with the advancement in science and medicine were endless, at least for the citizens of the first world. But there was also volatility in every corner of the street. Violence, disease, extreme wealth and poverty and uncertainties everywhere. Bonello taps on that anxiety with The Beast, a beast of a film, with these hefty ideas swirling around and stylized to perfection, also greatly helped by mesmerizing performances by Léa Seydoux and George MacKay. This timeline-jumbled, massive film is set in three distinctive time periods (1904, 2014 and 2044); Bonello effortlessly shifts from one point to another.

We first see Gabrielle (Seydoux), an actor playing a scene against a greenscreen on a soundstage. The off-stage direction tells her she is supposed to be afraid of some monster that will be filled in later, with a close-up of her frightened eyes dotting side to side. The only prop she has is a small knife she takes up to protect herself. When the invisible monster appears, she shrieks, and we are presented with an ugly digital smear along with the title sequence. Then we jump into 1904, which plays out like a typical Victorian-era period film. In beautiful dresses and constant close-ups, Seydoux has never been more radiant as Gabrielle, a married, upper-class woman living in Paris with the thought of impending doom.

She meets a British man, Louis (MacKay), whose life is entwined across time with that of Gabrielle's. He hears her feelings of omen and swears to protect her from it when it happens. And it does happen when the city floods, making historical connections with the 'flood of the century of 1910,' which submerged Paris for weeks.

In 2044, it's AI that rules the world, and the humans will need to undergo a medical procedure to cleans their DNA of any generational trauma, in order to be more productive members of society. It's their emotions that hamper whatever work they do. Gabrielle has reservations about the procedure. Wouldn't it erase what makes her herself? Yet, she can't get quite get rid of the sense of doom she has had since she was a child. Bonello is suggesting that this angst is what makes us human. Something that we have to carry around all the time. The melancholy and pessimism are ingrained in us, considering the world is hurtling toward ecological disaster. and its speed and ferocity are only accelerating.

A doll is an recurring theme throughout. Gabrielle's husband is an owner of a doll factory. The production is in transition from porcelain to silicon to be current with the times. Louis asks if all dolls have their own expressions, and she demonstrates their neutral face by freezing herself with a blank expression for several minutes for our amusement. Indeed, you can't deny Seydoux's porcelain beauty in her close ups. It goes the same with MacKay's pale face, in his period costumes. The doll factory also provides some spectacularly beautiful sequences when it catches fire during the flood, and the would-be lovers are forced to escape by swimming underwater for the exit. Then there is Kelly, played by Guslagie Malanda from Saint Omer, a doll assigned to help Gabrielle to better acquaint with the AI-dominant future. Then there's a Chucky-inspired talking doll in the Los Angeles part of the film.

Now we are back in 2014, and the images are mostly shot with crude cellphone-video aesthetics. Gabrielle is an actress in LA, milling about taking auditions for modeling and acting jobs. Louis is now a 30-year-old incel spouting YouTube manifestos and planning to kill all the girls who rejected him. It's interesting that Bonello is connecting the bowed celibacy of Victorian era to the incels of the YouTube age here, perhaps making fun of the seriousness and self-importance in both eras. With an opulent LA glass house with security monitors, the cat and mouse game playing and replaying out, the film is definitely in Haneke's Funny Games territory.

This is the thing - the images and sequences in The Beast often reminds us of the best of cinema, culled from, namely, Haneke, Lynch and Resnais. Bonello is certainly aware of the facsimile of images or sequences or even feelings. Watching it, my thoughts immediately connected with the debate in the art community about AI's takeover amid rising authenticity and copyright issues.

Back to the future, just like Last Year at Marienbad, These two would-be lovers find each other across time, again and again. Humans go to time specific theme clubs to mingle in 2044. One day it's 1972, another day it's the 1980s, another day it's 1963, and so on, accompanied by great music from those decades, trapped in generational trauma and memories of past lives, helpless to their fate to never be together.

The Beast is perhaps the most ambitious, seductive film that Bonello has ever done, filled with ideas to the brim. It also features the career-best performance by Seydoux. It's my frontrunner for the best film of the year.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

No More Moving Picture: Godard's Last Film

Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars (2023) - Godard It's hard to believe that it's been a year since Jean-Luc Godard left us forever in his own volition. His last moving picture, a twenty-minute preview of his contemplation on the state of the world we live right now, Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Prony Wars, is a testament to his legacy as the most unique film director ever lived in cinema history. Originally wanting to adapt a communist Belgian writer, Charles Plisnier's Faux Passport in 2020, Godard began to create a book of collages based on the book's six chapters. But the project stalled because of Covid pandemic. So, he decided to make a trailer for the project, a snapshot of a film to come, according to Godard's close collaborator Fabrice Argano.

It's a series of his hand made collages on A5 Canon glossy printing paper with sporadic sound. With no sound for first five minutes, I was yearning to hear his gravelly voice one last time and was relieved to hear it again when he narrates about Carlotta, a heroine of short story by Plisnier, which he wanted to adapt. He says that the writer made portraits and it intercuts with the Olga Brodsky's face in the scene from his 2004 masterpiece, Notre Musique. And it turns out that that's the only 'moving image' we see in this short preliminary image book for a film that will never be made. It's also a rare glance into Godard's process in constructing his films. It's hand-made images - with pens, markers and underlined words and instructions, with photos, paintings glued on. And with sound, film, video clips and music combined, building/constructing thoughts for his essay films. And it's fascinating.

Plisnier turned his back on communism and Stalinism and became a Roman Catholic in his later years. Through the sound clips from Notre Musique, you hear the character replying to a Russian soldier, "I don't understand what you are saying, I do not trust that language." And I can't help him connecting it to the current situation in Ukraine. Godard had always been a keen observer, an oracle, and an ardent critic of the aggressors of the world. He knew which side he was standing on. It would have been great to see what his take on the whole situation with more elaboration.

Because he always charted his own course from the very beginning, Godard had no disciples or imitators. Each of his films were borne out of his unique method and technique and there's no substitute for his filmmaking. As the twenty-minute Trailer ends, realizing that this is the final official release of his moving-picture (even though I know for a fact that there is wealth of materials he left behind), that this is indeed the end of it, filled me with great sadness. No more Godard. This is it.

Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars, plays along with Wang Bing's Man in Black and Pedro Costa's Daughters of Fire at NYFF.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Dissection of a Marriage

Anatomie d'une chute (2023) - Triet anatomy-of-a-fall-duo A fallen death of a husband in a troubled marriage in a small town in French Alpes and a following indictment and trial of his foreign wife is what constitutes Justine Triet's Palme d'Or winning courtroom drama. It's a modern marriage maginified under a microscope, revealing the nitty-gritty life of a young couple as their power dynamic plays out in the courtroom for all to see.

Triet, with only 3 feature films under her belt, all of them comedies, shows her tight handling of a material (co-written with her partner Arthur Harari). But the real star here is Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), a German actress whom Triet collaborated in her previous feature, Sybil. With the film's natural dialog and believable setup, Hüller manages to build a sympathetic character, a successful writer, a foreigner, a mom to a blind boy, trapped in a mountain town with a husband who has an inferiority complex.

At first, the police rules his fall from the attic window as a suicide. There were no witnesses. But there were some forensic evidence casting enough doubt that it might have been a murder. Sandra (Hüller) gets indicted and the case goes to trial. With her lawyer Renzi (Swann Arlaud) who was a college friend who was in love with her, Sandra defends herself from a vicious procecuter who accuses her of ill-tempered and violent woman who couldn't stand her loser husband.

As the trial plays out, it's revealing that there's prejudice against Sandra, a foreign woman, in a place where her husband grew up and had community. The film becomes less of a murder mystery but a procecution of a woman in the eyes of judging public. The unrelenting media blitz surrounding the trial and everyone painting her as an unfaithful harlot who blamed her husband for his own shortcomings.

Anatomie d'une chute paints a complex picture of a marriage where no one particular party is to blame. It's people's pre-ordered hate that makes one party more at fault and not the others. The real life isn't that black and white, especially when children are involved. Even the court decisions in family court can't ever paint the complete picture. Triet is very good at showing these nuiances and balancing all the points. The reenactment of the couple's violent argument recorded by the deceased as a material for his book, Triet skillfully cuts away to the courtroom, leaving us to guess who's throwing glasses and who's hitting who. Moral muck, guilt, ambiguity are bread and butter of every day life. Their son Daniel grows increasingly uncomfortable around Sandra as she tries to shield him from all the ugliness of the grownups - the money problems, dad's depression and taking anti-depressants, her own infidelity, etc. But he ends up becoming a pivotal witness to testify.

Well tuned and balanced, Anatomie d'une chute is a revealing film about this day and age where patriarchy and everyday sexism is slowly losing its grip on our society (or lets hope). Sandra Hüller again, is fast becoming the heroine we need in this social climate. Also, Triet, as with Sybil, examines the nature of art and literature- the art immitating life, plagiarism and even autofiction in a very captivating way.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Zone of Unsubtlety

The Zone of Interest (2023) - Glazer The Zone of Interest The film starts with a family, a father fishing in the creek with his children. It's peaceful and there's nothing that suggests that he is an SS commandant in charge of operations at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Maybe not nothing, since he has the buzzcut that is most severe as far as cinema memories go, he has to be a nazi. It turns out Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel of Amour Fou, White Ribbon, Babylon Berlin) is indeed a commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) and his Aryan children live in a brick and mortar house with a perfectly manicured vegetable and fruit garden, overlooking a barbed wire fence and a very active furnace of the camp. For Heddy, who hated city life, the place is a dream come true, more space, a garden, extensive supply of servants (from the camp), material goods (fur coats and jewelry, also collected from the camp), and fresh air(!) for the children. She touts proudly that she is known as the queen of Auschwitz in her social circle.

The Zone of Interest features great sound design and score. Low rumble of industrial machination (furnace) is always heard, so as frequent muffled screams and gunfires while they dine, sleep and play in the garden. Glazer doesn't let you forget that these banalities of evil are built on power and dominence, that they are not naive people shielded from what's going on just over the fence. They were consciously aware of what they were doing the whole time.

There are some striking sequences, like Höss hurriedly getting his children out of water when a sudden flow of ashes and bones flashfloods the creek they were frolicking in. The swanky garden party features active furnace spewing human ashes in the background just over the fence. And cutting between the past and present days at the end is also very powerful. But as a feature length film, the premise already has overstayed its welcome within thirty minutes of the film.

The miscalculation of the filmmaker here is that obvious visual metaphor doesn't quite work in a serious feature film, especially one about the holocaust. The point Glazer is making, the characters' willful blindness and absurdity and evilness of it, serves much better in shorts. I kept thinking of one of Roy Andersson's masterful absurdist short skits where he balances humor and tragedy perfectly.

The Zone of Interest is an obvious misfire from Glazer. Maybe his craftmanship is more suited for shorts and music videos after all.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Out of Focus

In Water (2023) - Hong Screen Shot 2023-09-20 at 4.12.00 AM Hong Sang-soo, a Korean auteur who's singular minimalist filmmaking has comfortably found home in film festivals everywhere, again, presents two films at the NYFF this year unsurprisingly. In Our Day (had its premiere at Cannes) and In Water. Even clocking just over an hour, In Water will test audience's patience, and I expect there will be many walkouts. It's not because the film is inherently bad (I guess it depends on where you stand on Hong's often idiosyncratic films about not very much, but I digress), but because film is out of focus most of its running time. Expect frustrated audiences getting up and complaining to the ushers that there's something wrong with its projection throughout. But as the film plays out, there are spurts of scenes that are in focus, telling the audience that the rest of the film is intended to be out of focus. Now having made over thirty features, and no problem financing his microbudget films, Hong makes whatever he wants and however he wants. In Water, just like last year's The Novelist's Film, concerns artist's struggle to create and finding inspirations. It just happens to be all out of focus!

So, what does he try to convey in these fuzzy mostly static long shots? Does it reflect the young protagonist's creative block? Does it represent Hong's failing eyesight? We don't get to see three actors' faces most of the time. Does it symbolize the struggle to create is universal by making them sort of anonymous? It is a bold statement for sure.

Sung-mo (Shin Seok-ho, Introduction, Walk-up) is location scouting for his short film in an off-season southern seaside town with two friends, Sang-guk (Ha Seong-guk) and Namhee (Kim Seung-yun). It is revealed in their conversation that the former actor is trying out his directing and the two friends from college days are there to help out. The young filmmaker is putting his own money into this week-long excursion without a script. He is trying to find inspirations in the surroundings.

There had been some ideas that Sung-mo had for a project but he is less certain now if they will work. Sang-guk and Namhee are cordial enough to follow his leads, braving the cold, windy weather by the sea. While looking out over the cliff, while Namhee shows off her Taekwondo kicks to Sang-guk, Sung-mo notices a woman collecting trash on the rocky beach below. He goes down there to talk to her. She is volunteering to clean the beaches because she lives in the neighborhood.

Then there is a phone call Sung-mo makes to a friend (ex-girlfriend?) who is in Malaysia, voiced by Hong's partner/muse, Kim Min-hee. He asks her if he can use the song he composed for her birthday in the past to be featured in the film. He is trying to gather inspirations from everywhere.

Just like reflecting his own creative process, with In Water, Hong shows where he draws his inspirations from - the surroundings, past relationships, supportive friends, etc. But obviously, Sung-mo, a young man who is dabbling in directing for the first time, is not Hong, a seasoned filmmaker in his 60s. It ends with Sang-guk filming him walking into the sea and I burst out laughing, because that was how I ended my extremely pretentious student film that I made long ago. But at least mine was in focus!

Hong is being playful here within the margins of his minimalist aesthetics that he cultivated over the years. The film being out of focus might mean a lot of different things as I mentioned above, but knowing Hong through his films over the years, I don't think there's greater mystery, deep philosophical subtext, or puzzle box to solve in In Water. He is at a career stage where he can comfortably experiment with form, within the minimalistic confines of his filmic world. And I am loving it.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Unseen-World of Connections

Remembering Every Night (2022) - Kiyohara Remembering-03_s_N0A3551_GuamaUchida and Ai Mikami copy It's a warm spring day. A group of musicians are leisurely rehearsing while sitting in the park lawn in Tama-shi, a quiet suburb of Tokyo. A key is missing from a small Casio keyboard player, and they can't continue. They disband for the day, and this is how Yui kiyohara's quietly enchanting, Remembering Every Night starts. The main thread involves a day in the life of three different women as their lives intersect and don't. Unhurriedly, in series of long takes, Kiyohara's second feature floats in its own delicate rhythm with warmth and longing, very much like the frangrant early summer air and sound of outdoors it portrays.

The three loosely interwoven stories meet and go separate ways naturally, complimenting each other and adding layer and texture of lived human experiences. The first thread of the story features an unnamed middle-aged, unemployed woman's (mis)adventure, getting lost. We observe the woman as she does her daily shores - getting groceries, visiting an unemployment office, looking through mails and other items. Through the conversations she engages in with others, we get her background a little and the modern Japanese society in a nutshell: she used to be a kimono dresser who was let go because of economic downturn and the loss of people's interest in traditions. This quiet, unassuming woman is quite lost (figuratively and literally) in what she wants to do - jobs that the unemployment office suggests - a salesclerk, a receptionist at a company, et cetera, don't appeal to her. While sorting through her mail, one of her neighbor's postcards announcing their move to their new home, becomes her destination for the day. But she becomes helplessly lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood soon enough.

While on her way to an wild goose chase, our middle-aged heroine encounters a couple of kids trying to get their unseen shuttlecock stuck in the tree in front of a housing complex for the elderly. She tries to get it down using the badminton racket to no avail, then she starts to climb uo the tree. The kids lose their interests and leave her on the tree. This tiny, almost insignificant scene is observed by a local gas meter reader, doing her rounds in the neighborhood. These transitions - the shift of focus, occur naturally and seamlessly in Remembering Every Night. Then, this young municipal worker is called upon by one of the elder residents of the building, being chatty while putting her laundry to dry on her balcony. An elderly resident has gone missing. Would the municipal worker be on the lookout for him? The elderly woman requests while handing her a bag full of mandarin oranges. The municipal worker soon finds the said elderly man lost in the neighborhood, mistaking other people's houses for his own. Here, Kiyohara gently addresses the nation's aging population and loneliness.

Then we go back to the lost woman in her adventure story. She sees a young woman practicing dance moves in the park in the distance. She unconsciously mimics the dance moves of the young woman - one of the many slight comic moments of the film, as she passes through the park field. Then the film's focus shifts again to the young woman, a university student in her final year, on her way to visit her dead boyfriend's parents, to hand them the receipt for a film roll that was never picked up from the film developing lab. The mother of the dead boyfriend suggests for her to pick up and keep the photos herself.

Remembering Every Night captures the unseen-world of delicate web that connects us all together. The film's very much in the same vein as Hamaguchi Ryusuke's 2021 crowd pleaser, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy but from a different, quieter, less punctuated angle. The film's nostalgic tone, imbued with contemplation of time, memories, loss of memories and longing, lingers long after its credits roll.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Cinematic Vs Literal

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2022) - Földes Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 10.28.08 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 10.28.51 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 10.52.26 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 11.15.47 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 11.19.54 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 11.23.05 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 11.45.56 AM Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 11.47.40 AM Based on several stories written by famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami from 3 different short story volumes, the animated feature Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman has the same qualities of Murakami's droning writing style. It has some fantastical, lyrical moments, like a giant talking frog, flies from a willow tree burrowing into a woman's ear or giant fish swimming in the ceiling of a love hotel, but it doesn't really justify why full on animation project is called for, for the Murakami style of writing and its wordiness. It's especially challenging considering the stories, however carefully selected to be interweaved, are very much literal adaptations, unlike the recent masterpieces by international auteurs who more freely, adventurously adapted the essence of Murakami far better - Burning by Lee Chang-dong and Drive My Car by Rusuke Hamaguchi, respectively.

Because of their literalness, the animated stories in Blind Willow accentuates the somnambulistic nature of Murakami's prose. The wife of one of the main characters who one day just packs up and leaves, leaving a note saying, "Living with you was like living with a chunk of air," encapsulates my feeling of watching the film and perhaps how I become regarding Murakami's writing over all in general.

It's not only Murakami's forever oblique prose that gets to me, but his women characters, over the years, bug me as well. They are there to be served only as objects of male desires and only to have casually sex with them or talk about sex in very frank manners. I mean, come on man, who asks, how sex with your wife was or why would they divulge intimate information about having sex while sounding alarm of a bear attack in the woods, to a total stranger? Women, in his writings, seems incapable of communicating with his male protagonists other than through sex.

From what I understand, Blind Willow, Sleeping Women was first wholey filmed in live action, capturing the movement of actors in 'play acting', then animated and heads are added and character expressions, animated. I can't quite decide if they are racist caricatures of Asian faces or just plain weird with their features exaggerated. While I appreciate that they are not illustrated in cute anime style, I can't help wondering over the filmmakers' decision-making in depicting what they see as authentic 'Japanese' faces.

I think the film being done in animation to display the surrealistic qualities of the author's writing robs of our imagination in this case. If the unreachable distances between man and woman, emptiness of modern world, 'searching one's self' in droning prose on paper that goes on for hundreds of pages sounds shallow and boring, they are boring in animation as well, unfortunately.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Out of Time

Wanda (1970) - Loden 965_image_01 Wanda, a waifish blonde woman, played by Barbara Loden who also wrote and directed, became the subject of discussion, with its fairly recent revival, on its nascent feminism. Can this passive woman, pushed about to and fro, who shows no urgency in her actions, be seen as a proto-feminist?

Wanda is first seen crashing on her sister's couch and getting kicked out by her unsympathetic brother-in-law. Then she is walking across the Pennsylvania coal field in her white dress. She shows up at a divorce court late and relinquishes her rights to her children and grants her husband the divorce. Then she gets fired from her job at the sewing factory. Her boss tells her that she works too slow. After one night stand with an older man, she is soon ditched at the road stop ice cream stand. After falling asleep in the movie theater and losing all of her belongings, she runs into Mr. Dennis, whom she first mistakes for a bartender, when in fact he was in the process of robbing the place. She clings to Mr. Dennis who is physically and verbally abusive to her, as they hit the road together. He has an elaborate bank robbing scheme that involves kidnapping that he needs Wanda's help with. She gets lost on her way to the bank and arrives too late and have Mr. Dennis killed in the process. Oops.

Wanda seems to be always late to the party: the divorce court, the sewing factory, at the bank robbery. It's as if she is consciously late (slow quitting). With her options in life being very limited, she seems to be holding on to her time as if it is her only resistance against the world that's expectant of her blonde female self. It's not an easy movie to like. After fighting off a rapist, she ends up in a pub where other females show her some solidarity and kindness, she still seems very lost and frightened in an unforgiving world at the end. Wanda is certainly an interesting one.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Life is a Party

Tótem (2023) - Avilés Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.09.29 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.12.52 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.15.38 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.15.53 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.16.11 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.18.52 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 11.01.23 AM Takes place in a day, Lila Avilés's Tótem tells a family gathering for the birthday of Tona, a young man dying of cancer, seen through the eyes of his 9 year old daughter, Sol (Naíma Sentíes). With her mom who is a theater actor, she is on her way to her grandfather's house. At the house, it's total chaos as Tona's two older sisters who are trying to prepare for the party. With more and more guests arriving - cousins and friends, sisters get on each others nerves - they argue about the responsibilites and about money, while Sol roams the house, eavesdropping, discovering various animals, playing with her cousins. Most of all, she wants to see her father, who is incapacitated most of the time in a room with the help of a personal nurse, Cruz (played by a great actress, Teresa Sánchez- Summer of Goliath, Fauna, Dos Estaciones). Tona, in great pain, is unsure if he can make it to the party.

We often try our best to shield children from the ugly life of grownups: responsibilites, money, parenthood, guilt.... Young Sentís, like Anna Torres before her in Victor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive, shines as a young, innocent child full of life, but who is old enough to realize that there's something awry about adulthood. Death is something we experience more and more as we grow older. It changes you and perhaps makes you grow up faster. The ending shot of young Sol looking straigth through the birthday cake candles, conveys that understanding without saying any words. Delicate and infinitely patient in her storytelling, Avilés let the film play out as it is supposed to. A beautiful film.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Rat in a Cage

The Housemaid (1960) - Kim Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 12.48.19 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 12.50.48 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 1.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.39.38 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.43.25 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.56.27 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.57.54 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 3.00.24 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 3.05.00 PM Mainly taking place in a two-story house, Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid is a high on cringe, yet effective melodrama that says a lot about rapidly changing capitalist society. Based on a real life news clip, it tells of an aspiring middle-class family trying to move up in the ladder, at all cost. Studious Kim (Kim Jin-kyu) is a music teacher who conducts a choir composed of a gaggle of gossipy female mill workers (incentives provided by the factory). In order to renovate his newly bought house, Kim actively pursues anyone for private lessons. Because he is a suave, good looking man, there are a lot of adoring workers who want his attention. But he is a married family man, a straight shooter. So when he discovers a love letter planted by one of the adoring girls, he straight up reports to the management, and the girl gets suspended and she later commits suicide. But it is Ms. Cho, the dead girl's best friend, who is in love with him as she takes private lessons to be closer to him.

In the meantime, Kim's seamstress wife's health is failing and will be in need of a housemaid to do house chores and take care of their two growing young children- a hyperactive boy Changsoon and a crippled older sister Aesoon. Ms. Cho introduces Ms. Kwak (Ko Seon-ae), a wide eyed young woman from the factory for the job. She becomes increasingly unstable and throws herself on Kim, then he and his family become the hostage of her threats of going to the authorities. Kim and his family, afraid of losing their aspiring petit bourgeoisie existence, gets trapped in living hell.

The lower class and middle class fighting for the scraps in vertical hierarchy is pronounced more subtly. Knowing Cho is in love with Kim, Kwak naturally wants what Cho has. It's not lust she's after. She just wants what others have, because that's what a consumerist capitalist is supposed to do. The premise might resemble some cheesy 90s psychosexual thriller but its presentation is nothing but - Kim' style is very much indebted to Hitchcock - constant tracking shots, use of space and even POV of water glass containing rat poison.

Bong Joonho apparently is a big fan of the film and took inspiration from it to make his award winning Parasite. But whereas his film (and his films in general) feels highly superficial, too overwrought and heavy on unsubtle symbolism, The Housemaid is bustling with raw energy and plays out like a neo-realist melodrama. Yes, the two-story house and a constantly featured wooden stairs are symbols of a rising middle class's upward mobility. But more than anything, it says a lot about people living under constant pressure of losing everything in a capitalist society. It is their fear which even overcomes murder(s). If you were moved by family devotion and sacrifice in Parasite, the murders and depravity toward children in The Housemade will shock you.

Is it the puffy tail that makes all the difference between a rat and a squirrel? You might have achieved the goal of becoming petit-bourgeoisie by having a pet squirrel, but you will always have rat poison hidden away in the cupboard. The Housemaid pokes at these conundrums of living in a rapidly developing capitalist society.