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The Man From London
Béla Tarr | Hungary / Germany / France | 2007 | 135 mins | PG

A creak of metal, a murder, a splash, a suitcase.
In the lush black and white world of our protagonist Maloin, the movie begins. A switchman at a seaside railway station, Maloin leads a simple life at the intersection between land and sea. He mediates comfortably between his disintegrating life and his job until this fateful night, when he is summoned by fate to witness a death.

Shades of gray seep into his life as Maloin struggles with his conscience – he comes face to face with issues of morality, sin, punishment. The line between innocence and complicity in a crime leads him to the ontological question of the meaning and worth of existence.

Based on a crime novel by Belgian writer Georges Simenon, The Man from London is Hungarian film director Béla Tarr’s latest film. The 12-minute long opening take is a masterpiece in itself – it prepares the audience as they get woven into the quagmire of events to come.

Featuring an international cast, including award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, this aesthetically brilliant noir-thriller promises to leave a hauntingly indelible impression on its viewer.

I Just Didn’t Do It
Masayuki Suo | Japan | 2006 | 143 mins | TBA

The director of the original version of Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, continues to explore Japanese society's more overlooked sectors. This time he focuses on Japan’s legal system, as viewed through the story of a man falsely accused of molesting a schoolgirl. The film explores what happens in an authoritarian judicial system when an individual struggles with the unchecked weight of state power.

Teppei Kaneko is a very typical young man, working part-time in Tokyo and trying to decide what he wants to do with his life. He is on his way to his first job interview when he is accused of groping a young schoolgirl on the train. Despite his plea of innocence, the police are only interested in coercing a quick confession and closing the books. Before he knows it, he is plunged into an insane world of Japan’s legal bureaucracy.

Being held in custody is a frustrating, brutalizing and lonely experience for Teppei. The prosecutor ignores his explanations of innocence and he's summarily arraigned for trail.

In Japan, the promotion of judges depends on the speed with which they deal with their caseloads, resulting in a 99.9% guilty rate. Lacking trial by jury, unlike most modern democracies, presumption of guilt is reality in all but name.

Despite these odds, Teppei is driven by the purity of his belief that innocence will save him and he secures the services of veteran defense counsel, Mr. Arakawa (played by Koji Yakusho) and greenhorn assistant defense attorney, Ms. Sudo. He experiences the frustration and loneliness of being held in custody while his mother and slacker best friend, Tatsu, attempt to organise an alliance to free him. It’s a race between them and the noose of “justice” to gain control of Teppei’s fate.

You, the Living
Roy Andersson | Sweden | 2007 | 92 mins | R21

From the director of the highly-acclaimed Songs from the Second Floor, Roy Andersson’s latest film You, the Living is a memorable ode to music which once again showcases the director’s fondness to fill the screen with both poignancy and wit.

Through fantasy sequences that showcase the dreams of the various characters, a visual feast is concocted, which is described as a “tragic-comedy” that examines the vulnerability of human beings.

Composed of more than 50 single shot scenes and painted in Andersson’s usual green and greys, it plays with music and songs sprinkled throughout the movie as it examines the state of the human condition in Andersson’s absurdist style.

Bleakness and hilarity come together to great effect in Roy Andersson's follow up to the magnificent Songs from the Second Floor. The residents of an unnamed grey urban sprawl lead their often pathetic lives in a symphony of failures, disappointments and embarrassment. A series of laconic, meticulously staged tableaux, You, The Living is occasionally poetic, sometimes depressing and frequently laugh-out-loud funny.

Visually arresting and peopled with Nordic eccentrics, it takes you to an alien planet and threatens to leave you there. If this peerless film belonged to a genre, it would be the miserable musical. Full of deadpan irony and schadenfreude, You, The Living exists halfway between Tati and Kafka, at once quick to find unexpected beauty and joy in the everyday and prompt to bring the skies crashing down in a bout of gloomy despair.

This film was selected as Sweden’s entry for the Best Foreign Film category at this year’s Oscars and was showcased as part of the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard programme.

The Hard-Hearted
Alexei Mizgiryov | Russia | 2007 | 90 mins | NC16

Winner of the Jury Award at the 7th Marrakesh International Film Festival 2007, the debut feature film by Alexei Mizgiryov takes you into the heart of Moscow and the rough life on her streets. Young, idealistic and impressionable Anton (Yevegni Antropov) has rosy fantasies about the Russian capital, but only because his childhood love Zina (Anastasiya Bezborodova) moved there with her family when they were young.

When he finally realizes his dream of visiting the city, he arrives to a Moscow too disquieting and dark for dreamers like him. His sunshine of innocence begins to get clouded by complicated relationships and the fickleness of human favour. The once-lovely Zina behaves coldly towards him, leaving him bewildered and empty at the unexpected loss of love. To compound his predicament, Anton later gets embroiled in troubles with the corrupt police force. Disillusioned, he decides to join the police force and becomes apprentice to the infamously cruel Chakhlov, who teaches him the tricks of the trade, training him psychologically – he introduces the hows and whys of mind-games -- and the art of violence.

The once innocuous Anton then embarks on a mortifying path towards Moscow’s daunting underground world, and takes us along for a chilling ride.

Kremen is Russian for “stone”. Or, to be more precise, “flint”, an element so hard it produces sparks if rubbed against steel. This is how Anton Remizov, a young man from the province straight out of the army describes himself: as hard as stone. And – as the story will prove – dangerously flammable like a simple lighter if brought close to dangerous elements. And these elements are all over the seductive capital which Anton is so eager to reach, in search of a chance and of those people who could help him change (unexpectedly) his existence. The hardships of military discipline have deeply moulded him and he feels ready to face any circumstance, to conquer the heart of that girl whose name he has tattooed on his body. But she will prove the greatest disappointment Anton will have to accept.

The uncompromising young man finds himself fighting against corruption, deceit, loneliness, indifference in his own very special way. The greyness of certain moods is reflected in the stillness of postures and through a bare cinematography where white prevails over anything else recalling the pictorial abstractions of Malevic.

The musical theme is a fragment playing monotonously and obsessively throughout the film, like the whistle of authority signalling with perseverance the breaking of rules. “Kremen” is written and directed by a young Russian filmmaker whose first feature feels like a meeting point between private thoughts and the stories of cinema and literary classics. The life and psychology of New York’s “Taxi Driver” meet “The Great Expectations” of a young blacksmith’s apprentice from London. Like these characters, Anton’s brutal yet heroic actions are not simply the extreme consequences of a bitter disenchantment. They also show his fierce frustration born from the wish to improve himself and the surrounding world in order to emerge from the alienating metropolitan dullness to assume the needed glory that will help conquer the heart of a woman he has idealised.

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