Curse Of The Golden Flower (2007) Zhang Yimou
In 2004, Zhang Yimou caused a sensation with his astonishing HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, and his CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is yet another dazzling, visually stunning film. Calling again upon the talents of the striking Gong Li, Yimou tells an epic tale of lust and power set in the opulent world of the Later Tang dynasty. The plot follows the story of the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) and his Empress (Li) and the tragic disintegration of their royal family--whose problems go far beyond the merely dysfunctional. For starters, the ailing Empress has long been having an affair with her stepson, the Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye). Unbeknownst to her, Wan has been dallying with the Imperial Doctor's daughter (Li Man), and has plans to escape the palace with her. Meanwhile, the Emperor himself has just returned from a long trip, and while relations with his wife are obviously icy, it becomes clear that his plans for her are far more ominous than she could ever imagine. Everyone involved has a secret plan for either escape or domination, resulting in an explosive ending wherein the darkest family secrets are revealed and horrifically bloody battles are waged both inside and outside the walls of the sparkling, gold-encrusted palace. Yimou appears to be trying to balance his flair for telling an emotional story with his talent for thrilling, detail-driven action sequences, and while CURSE's plot does at times seem close to that of a soap opera, the phenomenal performances and breathtaking visuals are more than enough to power the film forward. Fans of Yimou's quieter work (RIDING ALONG FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES) are likely to enjoy the dramatic exploration of family relationships, while there are still plenty of hissing ninjas to satisfy DAGGERS enthusiasts.
Curse of the Golden Flower - Secrets Within
Released by Universal Pictures
The Ken Loach Collection (Vol 1)
Ken Loach is a name synonymous with British cinema; a director that has continued to challenge his audience's perception of film form and never ceased to surprise. This collection brings together many of his most celebrated films, along with some that are ripe for rediscovery. Featured titles are Poor Cow (1967), Kes (1969), The Gamekeeper (1980), Riff Raff (1990), Raining Stones (1993), Ladybird Ladybird (1994), Bread and Roses (2000) and The Navigators (2001).
Poor Cow is a combination of Wednesday Play realism and commercial "Swinging London" movie, and contains elements which were to become basics of Loach's method. Carol White's performance forms the real heart of the film.
Probably still Loach's best-known and best-loved film, Kes was adapted from the Barry Hines novel A Kestrel for a Knave. The portrait of northern working class life remains as pertinent and fiercely unsentimental almost 30 years on, and everyone remembers the famous football games sequence with the late lamented Brian Glover hilariously impersonating Bobby Charlton. A true classic of postwar British cinema.
The Gamekeeper, like Kes, is based on a novel from Barry Hines, and follows a year in the life of a gamekeeper, from rearing birds and dealing with predators to organising the shoot.
Witty and naturalistic, Riff-Raff had strong messages for workers in Thatcher's Britain: drugs, daydreams and horoscope escapisms are out, mutual support and retaliation, in! There are vintage Robert Carlyle and Ricky Tomlinson roles, plus an unforgettable foreman who sees laziness everywhere except in his own tea-leaves.
Raining Stones reflects Loach's unwavering left-wing sympathies and has a truly satisfactory ending as life dishes out justice for a change! Ricky Tomlinson is on form together with Bruce Jones (Coronation Street's Les Battersby) as they wrestle with sheep, drains, loan sharks and poverty.
Ladybird Ladybird is an intense drama in which a woman fights with the social services over the care of her children.
In Bread and Roses, sisters Maya and Rosa are Mexican immigrant cleaners who work in L.A., earn a pittance and get treated like dogs. A young activist offers hope when he vows to help them get the justice and dignity they deserve. Inspired by the real life 'Justice for Janitors' campaign.
The Navigators, one of Ken Loach's most accessible and poignant films, follows the fortunes of a group of track workers as the privatisation of British Rail takes effect. When the workers get their new working brief, the company's 'Mission Statement', the talk of 'performance-related pay' and unpaid holidays seem like a joke. Before long though, the workers are forced to make a very clear 'choice' to take their chances with the redundancy pay-off and life as casual agency workers, or toe the line and work for the new company under new rules. Forced to cut corners, a tragic accident seems inevitable.
8 discs; 16 page booklet; South Bank Show documentary (1993) with Ken Loach interviewed about his career to date.
Released by Spirit Entertainment.
The Ken Loach Collection (Vol 2)
Ken Loach is a name synonymous with British Cinema; a director that has continued to challenge his audience's perception of film form and never ceased to surprise. This second collection brings together many of his most celebrated films, along with some that are ripe for rediscovery. Featured titles are Cathy Come Home (1965), Hidden Agenda (1990), Land and Freedom (1995), Carla's Song (1996), My Name is Joe (1998), Sweet Sixteen (2002), Ae Fond Kiss (2004) and The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006).
Cathy Come Home is probably the most famous British television play ever, watched by a quarter of the population on its first broadcast in 1966. Its impact was enormous, provoking questions in the Houses of Parliament and helping to launch the housing charity Shelter. Ken Loach and producer Tony Garnett also ushered in a new style of television drama, taking the cameras onto the streets and fusing documentary and drama styles to give the story an extra sense of reality, and a devastating emotional impact. A bleak and uncompromising view of how inflexible officialdom splits families and ruins lives.
In Hidden Agenda, an American lawyer is killed in Northern Ireland after failing to stop at a road block. A top-ranking police officer is called upon to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. A taut, intriguing and exciting political thriller.
Land and Freedom is larger in scope than any previous Loach film and the Spanish Civil war sequences have a great authenticity. Jim Allen's screenplay connects the political education of Ian Hart's Liverpudlian volunteer with that of his 1990s granddaughter
Carla's Song sees Robert Carlyle's pawky Glasgow bus driver (the actor is actually driving that double-decker) wooing and winning Carla, a Nicaraguan refugee. When the couple move to Central America, Glaswegian wit cannot cope with what it encounters in a homeland subject to Contra attacks and the love story has to end - to be replaced by another one. The humour in the first half of Paul Laverty's script foreshadows that of My Name Is Joe.
In My Name is Joe, the drug addicts, dealers, and long-term unemployed are powerfully depicted in this drama set in contemporary Glasgow. Paul Laverty makes sure that humour and romance have their place in his screenplay. Peter Mullan as Joe fully merited his Cannes Best Actor award.
In Sweet Sixteen a Scottish teenager whose mother is in prison tries to raise the money for a home so that when she comes out she will be safe from the likes of her former boyfriend. An uncompromising and fiercely unsentimental slice of raw social realism that comes over like a Scottish Kes.
Ae Fond Kiss is Loach's most optimistic film to date, and asks some hard questions about religion, race and immigration in multi-cultural Britain. With insight and compassion, the film examines the culture clashes faced by second generation immigrants, to produce an intelligent and entertaining love story.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach's deserving Palme d'Or winner, is a searing and powerful depiction of the Irish War Of Independence, focusing on two brothers who find themselves on different sides during the conflict. Its representation of what happens when an occupying force withdraws is clearly applicable to current events, and this is a great piece of angry political cinema.
8 discs; Director commentaries; Documentaries; Booklet; 2006 documentary about Ken Loach's 40 year career making films.
Released by Spirit Entertainment.
Love In The Strangest Way (1994) - Christopher Frank
Aka Elles n'oublient jamais. A Hitchcockian thriller in which married debt collector Julien has a fling with a beautiful, mysterious woman while his wife is away. The one-nighter is over before it even begins - or so Julien would like to believe, but Angela, his pick-up, is after revenge and calmly begins to dismantle his career, home and sanity. A French Fatal Atraction.
Released by Bluebell
La Nouvelle Eve (1999) - Catherine Corsini
The New Eve. A touching madcap comedy. Scornful of marriage, hedonistic Camille is smitten by politically correct Alex who is married with children. Described as 'A Gallic Bridget Jones Diary'.
Released by Bluebell
Rien sur Robert (1999) - Pascal Bonitzer Getting a lot of dj vu here.
An assured French comedy of morals in which the life of superficial, middle-class, paranoid critic Didier starts to fall apart after writing a damning review of a film he hasn't seen. Michel Piccoli enjoys himself in his cameo as Ariel Chatwick-West, who lambasts the hapless critic.
Released by Bluebell
Take Care of my Cat (2002) - Jae Eun Jeong
A moving coming-of-age drama set in the South Korea port of Icheon where five young women try to remain close while navigating life for themselves after high school. Some resign themselves to the drab reality of their bleak environment, others try and get a toe-hold in the city.
Released by Bluebell