Tokyo TIFF 2017: Gukou Roku (Japan, 2017)



Both fiction and documentary writers are often taught to show instead of tell. Kei Ishikawa does a little of both in Gukou Roku (Traces of Sin) with more emphasis on telling. In this complex, talky murder mystery, various people give their take on how the “perfect family” might have come to be assassinated. For once, the telling method is a brilliant way to show a bloody massacre without a drop of blood or a glint of a knife. All violence is either described verbally or muted visually. It forces the viewer to think. To imagine. To create the scene from a character’s words rather than to rely on gratuitous onscreen carnage.

The unsolved case is the central theme linking every character, but on a deeper level, Gukou Roku isn’t about murder. It explores the psychological damage caused by the friction between Outsiders and Insiders. It tackles abuse of power between the sexes. At a moment in our sociological history where women are hashtagging #metoo about sexual and emotional harassment by men, the film is on point. Men are Continue reading


FNC 2017 : Black Hollow Cage ( Spain)



Most reviews of Spanish director Sadrac Gonzalez-Pelleron’s second feature film, Black Hollow Cage will probably revolve around the sci-fi element of a mysterious black box. In fact, the film is more about human grief and the quest for forgiveness.

The action takes place in a vaguely futuristic home set in an environment where architecture and nature coexist. There is a parallel between the black box out there and the one the protagonists inhabit, with its sleek dark walls fabricated out of what appears to be a hybrid of dark stained wood and tarnished metal. In the opening sequence, tinny squeaks and percussion of mundane objects such as cupboard doors or a plate making contact with a countertop, stand out against the otherwise auditory tranquility. Banal sounds resonate while the chirping of birds is ever-present off screen. A similar sound dynamic appears to highlight Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Rage (Lee Sang-il, 2016)



Without knowing in advance about the premise or plot, Rage throws at-first disjointed events and characters at the viewer. The connections slowly unfurl with a manhunt revealing three possible identities of a murderer. If however, the viewer goes into this 142-minute drama cum suspense thriller with the notion that it is a horror film, this isn’t the case. Perhaps by design, the mis-typing of Lee Sang-il’s film gives it the advantage of surprising its audience. It is Shunji Iwai-esque in its epic-length and treatment of subject matter. It follows multiple characters – misfits – whose confusion and grief propel their coming-of-age. Scenic Okinawan locations are juxtaposed against the neons of Tokyo, and the viewer is drawn into the relation between characters and environment.

Rarely seen in Japanese film, the gay community is surprisingly well showcased. Rage tackles several still-taboo subjects in this area, such as online hookups, what constitutes a ‘family’, and how to deal with chosen-family burial. The exchanges between characters in this story arc are Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: The House of the Disappeared (South Korea, 2017)




Lim Dae-Woong’s The House of the Disappeared is a remake of The House at the End of Time (2013, Alejandro Hidalgo), which showed at Fantasia in 2014. Lim’s version is as well done as the original, but not treated in an identical manner. The original is a psychological suspense story, and is good at building anticipation in a quiet, creeping manner. It doesn’t have much frill or special effects. Lim’s creation is more of a horror-thriller, and therefore throws in a few expected Hollywood style jump-scares, and certain stylistic ‘staged’ sets (such as very decoratively arranged cobwebs). However, the director claims to be a funny guy, and added a few lighter, silly moments to Continue reading