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RVIFF Reviews: Sublimely Gorgeous Japanese Period Drama, Twilight of the Yakuza, and a Cat and Cat and Other Cat Crime Thriller

September 14th, 2022 | Robin

A Ken and Robin Consume Media Special Feature

At the end of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, my wife Valerie and I decided to break up with it, after decades of attendance. We have replaced it with RVIFF, the Robin and Valerie International Film Festival. It’s the festival you can play along with at home, with a curated roster of streaming titles I’m excited to see. 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.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Romania, Radu Jude, 2021, 4) Middle school teacher faces parent and administration backlash when a sex video she made with her husband appears online. Three-sectioned satire updates Makavejev’s WR: Mystery of the Organism to COVID-era Romania.

A Family (Japan, Michihito Fujii, 2020, 4) After the death of his junkie father, a stubbornly focused young man finds a substitute in the person of an old-school gang boss. Instead of briefly handwaving to it and then continuing on with the usual genre tropes, this handsomely mounted yakuza drama takes as its main subject matter the recent death spiral of the yakuza in the wake of comprehensive anti-crime statutes.

The strong production values on this one represent another example of Netflix spending more on the Japanese film industry than any of its established players do these days.

They Say Nothing Stays the Same (Japan, Joe Odagiri, 2019, 4) In Meiji Japan, an elderly boatman facing the end of his trade due to bridge construction rescues an injured girl from the river. Visually stunning fable of relationship to nature and community with a ghost story on the periphery.

If when you read “visually stunning” you inferred “cinematography by Christopher Doyle,” why yes that was exactly what I was implying.

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (South Korea, Lee Won-tae, 2019, 4) When a brutal gang lord (Ma Dong-seok) survives the random attack of a serial killer, a maverick cop (Mu-Yeol Kim) persuades him to join the hunt to track him down. Investigative crime drama makes the most of a juicy premise, in which cat and mouse becomes cat and cat and other cat.

The Other Side of Hope (Finland, Aki Kaurismaki, 2019, 4) Syrian refugee claimant bonds with the staff of a floundering restaurant run by a taciturn former shirt salesman. Stoic deadpan camaraderie results when an urgent contemporary crisis enters Kaurismaki’s distinctive world of down-at-the-heels retro cool.

Due to moderate demand, the RVIFF shirts I made for the two of us are now 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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