The Postman’s White Nights (Konchalovsky, 2014)



Words like banal, uneventful and repetitive are normally viewed as having negative connotations. However, in Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Postman’s White Nights, they describe a life most modern iPhone and Android addicts wouldn’t understand. There are no game consoles; no fidget spinners. On these small Russian islands, one would be hard pressed to find a vehicle other than a fishing boat. Life by Kenozero Lake has its own rhythm and routine. As much as there are mundane daily tasks, there are also warm camaraderie and a familiarity between neighbors and colleagues that modern society lacks.

The region’s postman (Aleksey Tryapitsyn) deals with personal demons (or, more specifically, a mysterious grey cat) as he tends to his daily chores. Not only does he deliver mail to the villagers, but also checks in on them and brings them groceries. He even temporarily adopts a young boy to keep him entertained and enriched. Otherwise what would the child do all day while his mother takes secret lovers in the back room of their house? Possibly the best parts of The Postman are the Continue reading

On Blu-Ray: Triangle (UK, Australia – 2009)



Triangle (2009) is an example of what the ‘twist’ genre should emulate. It is seamless. All loose ends are tied up by the final scene. The lead character, Jess (Melissa George) is understated but well played. The audience can’t anticipate the twists because many are constructed by camera angles, specific dialogue and what may at first seem unimportant. Watching Triangle a second time may cause a-ha! moments when we see these storytelling mechanisms as foreshadowing. Every shot that may have felt odd is explained either visually or through slowly unraveling plot elements.

Loosely linked to the mythological tale of Sisyphus, the theme here is one we’ve seen a million times. Humans will never be able to cheat death. The difference between the million other films tackling this idea, and writer-director Christopher Smith’s Triangle, is that the latter is tight. There are almost no filler scenes. Every shot; every piece of dialogue, every hesitation, every flashback has its place. Even Jess’s annoying cohort’s snarky quips about Jess being a troublemaker (okay, female dog, really), are pertinent. This makes the theme more Continue reading

29th Tokyo International Film Festival: Love Letter (1995)



The TIFF Japan Now section brought back Shunji Iwai’s first feature film, Love Letter. Hiroko (Miho Nakayama) writes a letter to her dearly departed Itsuki at his childhood address. By an odd twist of fate, she receives a response from a woman with the same name, who’s compelled to keep writing.

Filmed in blustery, slushy weather, the outdoor scenes have a tangible dampness. Bluish tones and overcast skies are the setting in an otherwise warm tale. There are Continue reading

29th Tokyo International Film Festival: Morris From America (Germany-USA, 2016)



Thirteen year old Morris is oblivious to the gorgeous German scenery all around him. All he sees is Katrin. The pesky fifteen year old smokes, drinks, and uses recreational drugs. But Morris is no angel either. He swears. He freestyle raps about sex and worldly things he actually knows nothing about. His dad scolds him, but is probably the child’s main source of daily cuss words.

Morris From America (written and directed by Chad Hartigan) is a typical coming of age tale about a boy adjusting to life in a new environment. While learning the language, he also learns how much a foreigner can stand out and be ostracized. Morris is generally Continue reading

29th Tokyo International Film Festival – Classics: Swallowtail Butterfly



Yentown. Drugs, prostitution, poverty. Tramps and scavengers society has deemed undeserving of even a proper burial upon death. Immigrants, orphans and people with no identity live in Yentown. Swallowtail Butterfly (1996) was a sensation at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival and won the 1998 Fantasia Best Asian Film award. It was the start of a lovely relationship between the festival and director Shunji Iwai. This week, the same film showed at the Tokyo International Film Festival as part of the Japan Now section.

The plot, images and characters are still valid in 2016. The story is told in three languages (Chinese, English and Japanese), and follows the protagonists’ evolution in their quest for the Self and their role in society. Jump cuts and quick pans build tension Continue reading