2018, 90 minutes
Love at first fright
Le’s first feature is a knockout-punch depiction of art imitates life. Along with writer Minh Ngoc Nguyen, he has crafted a film that speaks to the abhorrent side of human existence (debt collector Dung “Thunderbolt”, played with grit and smouldering sexuality by Lien Binh Phat)—(cross-reference below), whose everyday work brings him into contact with rising Vietnamese Cải Lương theatrical star, Linh Phung (Isaac lights up the screen with his performances, perplexities and sultry good looks).
It’s a gay film with no sex, but deeper, unspoken love by many more who “strip down” at the earliest opportunity.
The marvellously staged and sung operatic scenes are worth the price of admission alone.
And Ton That’s Rossini-infused cellos in the original score are welcome with every stroke of the bows.
But the glue to it all is the title: a musical instrument played by Dung and performed to by Phung (more colloquially meaning two men).
As their lives move from adversaries to, perhaps, life-long companions, all those who have ever wondered who they really are and what—if anything can be done about it—they might become, will savour every frame; understanding before the final curtain falls, just what “close, but no cigar” means. JWR
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
2020, 95 minutes
A clear and president danger
Seen earlier giving a superb portrayal of Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7 (cross-reference below), Sacha Baron Cohen reprises his role as the ever-zany Borat Sagdiyev with a fortuitous vengeance, setting his sights on Trumpism and its blindly obedient enablers.
Teaming up with Cohen (who along with a host of writers cobbled together this mocumentary of the US&A), is the beguiling Maria Bakalova playing Borat’s daughter, Tutar. Tom Hanks makes an appearance (wanted), while Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani are more ambushed than acting—there’s some sexual ambiguity in the former NYC’s mayor after-interview bedroom shot. Viewers can come to their own conclusions.
The film mercilessly pillories Holocaust deniers, COVID-19 spread, and wilful denialists of all stripes.
Released just a couple of weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the film (with its message to vote at the end), may have helped Joe Biden, a wee bit, win. But given the mantra of “stolen election”, and given the January 6 Trump-inspired riot then impeachment II, the comedy proved to be far more prophetic than laughable. JWR
Anything for Jackson
2020, 130 minutes
Bicycle built for no one
I haven’t watched a so-called horror movie in many years. Now I remember why. Pulling a grandson back from the grave has initial narrative possibilities, but Keith Cooper’s script brings many more unintentional laughs (the cop shooting herself over and over as just one example) than chills.