Tag Archives: Riviera Theater

Note from Roger – The Handmaiden

Before getting to Mr. Durling’s note, I saw this film yesterday. It’s an extraordinary effort from the South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook. Already an admirer of his now seemingly classic works of Old Boy (2003), and Lady Vengence  (2005), I experienced an entirely new level of his artistic craft with The Handmaiden. Mesmerizing and undaunting with a raw, creative, narrative flair, Mr. Park delivers an explosive human drama – thrilling and compelling. Park’s best work to date. (See below review by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

“Far too good to be watched in one sitting,” exclaims the Philadelphia Inquirer about THE HANDMAIDEN, and I couldn’t agree more.  Gorgeous, classical, and erotic, I don’t think you’ll see a more delicious film this year.  If you love cinema AT ALL, you have to see THE HANDMAIDEN.  It’s the visual equivalent of drinking champagne!

Below find the New York Times Review. It plays tonight (Tuesday) at 5:00pm, tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30pm, and next Sunday through Wednesday at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click here for tickets.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-1-54-37-pm

‘The Handmaiden’ Explores Confinement in Rich, Erotic Textures
By Manohla Dargis – The New York Times

The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in “The Handmaiden.” Set in Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you may not notice its sleights of hand.

It’s not for nothing that one of its heroines, Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), is a pickpocket, though that’s getting ahead of her story. It opens with Sookee weepily saying goodbye to some adults and wailing children, their gushing matched by the torrential rain. She’s off to work for Lady Hideko (a sensational Kim Min-hee), a pale beauty who lives with her tyrannical uncle, Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), a collector and purveyor of art and rare erotic books whose darting tongue has turned black from his ink pen. The realms of his bibliophilic senses are suggested when a client asks if one of his books is by the Marquis de Sade. “It’s Sade-esque,” the uncle says, all but winking at the audience.

The kinks grow more outré and twisted, the winks dirtier and broader. The uncle has raised Hideko from childhood, away from the world, intending to wed her for her fortune. He’s also turned her into a puppet, having trained her to read erotic fiction aloud for the delectation of his potential customers. Fate in the form of the con man (Ha Jung-woo) intervenes. Disguised as a count, he insinuates himself into the uncle’s home and seemingly into the niece’s affection, enlisting Sookee in the ruse as Hideko’s new maid. The count plans to marry Hideko and then ditch her, a plan that seems doomed when Sookee and Hideko’s lady-maid intimacy steams and then boils over.

The inspiration for all this intrigue is Sarah Waters’s ambitious 2002 novel, “Fingersmith,” a lesbian romance set in Victorian Britain in which she slyly has her way with established literary themes like avaricious male guardians and cloistered female wards. In adapting the movie, Mr. Park, who wrote the script with Chung Seo-kyung, has moved the story to Korea during the Japanese occupation. This setting initially seems more thread than cloth, conveyed in the smatterings of soldiers who pass through the story and in the mixing of languages, although it also factors into the villainy of the uncle, a Korean who’s embraced a Japanese identity, asserting, “Korea is ugly and Japan is beautiful.”

Mr. Park is a genre virtuoso, known for thrillers like “Oldboy,” whose filmmaking is notable for its visual order and extreme violence, a combination that creates a seductive, at times unsettling aesthetic of immaculate frenzy. The violence in “The Handmaiden” tends to be more restrained than in some of his other work, more psychological and rather less blunt and bloody. A notable exception is some sadomasochistic whip-work that’s far more vigorous than is found in, oh, say, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” There’s also a characteristic Grand Guignol flourish toward the end that’s outrageous enough that you may find yourself at once laughing and gasping, only to hastily avert your eyes.

It’s one of the rare times you want to look away in “The Handmaiden,” which Mr. Park has turned into an emporium of visual delights. Part of Sookee’s journey is one from perdition into opulence, from a lowly thieves’ den into the sumptuousness of the mansion. Yet appearances remain deceiving, which is one of this story’s themes. Everything inside the manor and out has been calculated to enchant, from the grounds with their carpets of green and bursts of flowering trees to the interiors with their wood paneling and floral wallpaper. Nothing is more perfect than Hideko’s petal mouth with its lusciously carnal red lipstick.

Yet beauty can be a curse; a prison, too. Hideko’s uncle has forbidden her to leave the grounds, turning her into a bird in a gilded cage. Under his steady gaze and severe hand, with the ever-present threat of violence (there are rightfully ominous allusions to a basement), she has been raised amid material plenty with luxuriously appointed rooms as well as drawers and shelves stuffed with elegant feminine frippery — gloves, hats, gowns. Mr. Park loves displaying all these goods, much like a proud merchant (or Gatsby), even as moment by moment he pushes the narrative into ugliness, scratching off the gilt to reveal a grim drama in which Hideko plays both the leading lady and slave.

Mr. Park’s attention to this world’s sumptuous surfaces at first can seem at odds with the underlying evil, as if — like the uncle — he were putting his aesthetic sensibility above all else. Mr. Park just seems to be enjoying himself too much, as the camera glides over satiny robes and bodies or pauses on an exquisite tableau. In one such display, as another of the uncle’s confined women narrates a tale, two shoji screens behind her part, an opening that mirrors the sexual conquest she’s relating. Yet Mr. Park also slips in little jokes, comic line readings and clownish faces that ease the tension, lighten the mood and suggest there’s freedom in laughing into the void.

The void is by turns enslaving and emancipating in “The Handmaiden,” which plays with familiar form as a way to deliver unexpected meaning. A rebus, a romance, a gothic thriller and a woozy comedy, “The Handmaiden” is finally and most significantly a liberation story. Mr. Park may not seem to be doing all that much with the big ideas simmering here, including how the relentless pursuit of aesthetic perfection — especially when it comes to inherently imperfect human beings — can serve as a means of terror. But the ideas are here, tucked into a different kind of erotic story, one that alternately jolts and delights as Sookee and Hideko laugh their way to a new ending.

(Source: sbiff.org)

Advertisements

SBIFF The Showcase – Notes On Blindness

After losing sight, John Hull knew that if he did not try to understand blindness it would destroy him. In 1983 he began keeping an audio diary. Over three years John recorded over sixteen hours of material, a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness. Published in 1990, the diaries were described by author and neurologist Oliver Sacks as, ‘A masterpiece… The most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read.’ Following on from the Emmy Award-winning short film of the same name, Notes on Blindness is an ambitious and groundbreaking work, both affecting and innovative – and one of the most essential British documentaries of the year.

NOTES ON BLINDNESS
Written & Directed by Pete Middleton, James Spinney
Starring John M. Hull, Marilyn Hull, Miranda Beinart-Smith
Country of Origin: UK
Running Time: 90 min

Get Tickets Here

 

Here’s what other critics are saying:

“Hull’s wisdom and the agility of his insights as he struggles to make sense of his condition, form the basis of this elegant, evocative, and deeply affecting documentary.”
Wendy Ide – Screen International

“A seamless patchwork of reminiscences, tracing John’s voyage into darkness with astute and sensitive cinematic imagination.”
Tim Robey – Telegraph

Notes On Blindness raises fascinating questions about our reliance on visual memory aids and the amount to which we truly experience the world around us.”
Ben Nicholson – CineVue

(Source: sbiff.org)

SBIFF The Showcase – The Battle of Algiers

NEW RESTORATION OF THE 1967 ITALIAN FILM MASTERPIECE!

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Franco Solinas, Gillo Pontecorvo
Starring Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef
Country of Origin: Algeria/Italy
Running Time: 123 min
Subtitled

 algiers

New restoration of one of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers (1966), vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s. As violence escalates on both sides, children shoot soldiers at point-blank range, women plant bombs in cafés, and French soldiers resort to torture to break the will of the insurgents. Shot on the streets of Algiers in documentary style, the film is a case study in modern warfare, with its terrorist attacks and the brutal techniques used to combat them. Pontecorvo’s tour de force has astonishing relevance today.

 Here’s what other leading critics are saying:

“ASTONISHING! A political thriller of unmatched realism!”
A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“A GREAT FILM…Everything about this film says it’s real, it’s happening now, it’s important.”
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“PULSES WITH ENERGY! As urgent, intense, prescient as ever!”
Ann Hornady, The Washington Post

Screening:
Sunday October 23 @ 2:00pm
Monday October 24 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday October 25 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday October 26 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre
2044 Alameda Padre Serra

riviera

See you at the movies!

santa-barbara-riviera-theater1

(Source:sbiff.org release)

CLOSET MONSTER

A fresh take on the coming-of-age story, this surreal tale follows the artistically driven Oscar (AMERICAN CRIME’s Connor Jessup) hovering on the brink of adulthood. Struggling to find his place in the world after a rough childhood and haunted by images of a tragic incident, Oscar dreams of escaping his small town. After he meets a mysterious and attractive new co-worker, Oscar follows the guidance of his pet hamster Buffy (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and faces his demons to find the life he wants.

closet-monster

CLOSET MONSTER

Written & Directed

by

Stephen Dunn

Starring:

Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider,
Sofia Banzhaf, Jack Fulton, Mary Walsh, Isabella Rossellini

Country of Origin: Canada

 Running Time: 90 min

 

 

 

Screening at the Riviera Theater, 2044 Alameda Padre Serra, Santa Barbara, CA

Showtimes:

Sunday October 16 @ 2:00pm
Monday October 17 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday October 18 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday October 19 @ 7:30pm

Get Tickets Here

“An accomplished, courageous debut”
– Harry Windsor, The Hollywood Reporter

“A most auspicious debut.”
– Dennis Harvey, Variety

“A highly original spin on the coming-of-age drama”
– Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“There’s always a new coming-of-age drama, but ‘Closet Monster’ is great, we swear.”
– Chuck Wilson, The Village Voice

(Source: sbiff.org)

Sandstorm Unhinged

As wedding festivities get underway in a Bedouin village in Southern Israel, Jalila finds herself in the awkward position of hosting her husband Suliman’s marriage to a second, much younger wife. During the celebration, Jalila stumbles across her eldest daughter Layla’s involvement with a boy from her university—a strictly forbidden liaison that would shame the family. Burying the indignity of Suliman and his new bride living next door, Jalila also tries to contain Layla’s situation by clamping down on her. But Layla sees a different life for herself…

sand-storm

Written and Directed by Elite Zexer
Starring Khadija Alakel, Haitham Omari, Ruba Blal-Asfour, Lamis Ammar,
Jalal Masarwa
Country of Origin: Israel
Running Time: 87 min
Not Rated
Subtitled

Here’s what leading critics are saying:

“Critics’ Pick. Coursing with feeling – an ethnographic melodrama, rich in cultural specifics, but also universal longings.”
– Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

“One of the most-admired films at this year’s Sundance. A lovely, deeply affecting film.”
– Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine

“A complex drama with characters to match. The choices (Zexer) makes in terms of visuals, tone and script establish her as a strong directorial presence.”
– Kimber Myers, The Playlist

Get SBIFF Showcase Series Tickets Here

Screening:
Sunday October 2 @ 2:00pm
Monday October 3 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday October 4 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday October 5 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre
2044 Alameda Padre Serra

See you at the cinema!

IMG_5566

(Source: http://www.sbiff.org)