Abraham Lincoln

RVIFF Reviews: Film About Film, Yakuza Vengeance, and Plenty of Soju

September 9th, 2023 | Robin

A Ken and Robin Consume Media Special Feature

For the second year running, my wife Valerie and I are attending our own at-home film festival. It takes the place in our hearts and vacation plans formerly reserved by the Toronto International Film Festival. The Robin and Valerie International Film Festival is the cinema event you can play along with at home, with a roster of streaming service and SVOD titles. Its roster includes the foreign, independent and cult titles we used to love to see at TIFF, but cheaper, hassle-free, and on the comfort of our own couch. Daily capsule reviews roll out throughout the festival, with a complete list in order of preference dropping a day or two afterwards. Review ratings are out of 5.

Hal [US, Amy Scott, 2018, 4] Documentary profiles Hal Ashby, the combative, instinct-driven director of seminal American New Wave films including Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Coming Home and Shampoo. Moving portrait of an uncompromising artist who fought the system when it was weak enough to sometimes lose.

I Like Movies [Canada, Chandler Levack, 2022, 4] High school senior and aspiring filmmaker who masks his mental health issues with insufferable arrogance gets a shot of reality when he takes a job at a video store. Observational dramedy regards its protagonist with a rueful sympathy that cuts through the usual phony nostalgia of the coming-of-age genre.

The Novelist’s Film [South Korea, Hong Sang-soo, 2022, 4] A day of mostly chance encounters with past acquaintances leads an acclaimed novelist (Lee Hye-yeong) to try her hand at filmmaking. A strong entry in the prolific director’s career-long exploration of social awkwardness, metatextuality, and the revelatory permission granted by alcohol—in this case, makgeolli.

Alcarràs [Spain, Carla Simón, 2022, 4] Family of peach farmers face an uncertain future when their orchard, which they own only by an old verbal contract, is slated for replacement by a solar panel installation. Naturalistic ensemble drama portrays the 21st century version of the agrarian struggle, with a truthful look at familial conflicts.

Return to Seoul [France, Davy Chou, 2022, 5] Young French woman (Park Ji-min) initiates years of inner turmoil when, during an unexpected trip to Korea she ambivalently seeks her birth parents. Incisive writing and emotion-packed visuals brought into stunning focus by a searing, lucid performance from Park. And it’s her first movie role!

Outrage Coda [Japan, Takeshi Kitano, 2017, 4] A murder committed by a dimwitted  mid-level yakuza on Jeju Island Korea brings the dangerous gangster Otomo (Beat Takeshi) back to Japan to unleash a final eruption of violent reprisal. After the nihilistic contempt of the first two installments, Kitano lets some of the elegiac wryness of his earlier crime films creep back into the trilogy’s conclusion.

Arab Blues [France/Tunisia, Manele Labidi, 2019, 4] Parisian psychoanalyst (Golshifteh Farahani) moves back to her childhood home in Tunis to open a practice, finding surprising demand for treatment and resistance from family and a handsome but rule-bound police officer. Comic drama takes on the clash between secular and Islamist worldviews with the subversive weapon of charm.

Due to moderate demand, the RVIFF shirts I made for the two of us are available in the Ken and Robin merch store.

If you enjoy this special text feature of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast and don’t already support our Patreon, consider tossing a few bucks in the tip jar. Or check out my book on action films and their roleplaying applications, Blowing Up the Movies. Or the roleplaying game inspired by the Hong Kong films I first encountered at TIFF, Feng Shui 2.

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