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A Brand New Life (2009), directed by Ounie Lecomte.  In her breakout role, Kim Sae-ron plays a little girl devastated after being abandoned at an orphanage by her father.

Zhou Xun in The Equation of Love and Death (2008), directed by Cao Baoping.

Some more films I’d like to see at TIFF 2014 (top to bottom):  Bird People, directed by Pascale Ferran; Laggies, starring Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz; Tokyo Fiancee, with Pauline Etienne and Taichi Inoue; Tu Dors Nicole, directed by Stephane Lafleur; Two Days, One Night, starring Marion Cotillard.

An exciting part of this year’s TIFF is that their City To City programme will focus on Seoul, South Korea.  Some of the films announced include (top to bottom):  Cart, directed by Boo Ji-young; Confession, featuring Ji Sung, Ju Ji-hoon, and Lee Kwang-soo; A Girl At My Door, starring Bae Doona; Gyeongju, with Park Hae-il and Shin Min-a; Scarlet Innocence, starring Jung Woo-sung and Esom.

The Korean edition blu-ray of Snowpiercer finally arrived in the mail this week.  Unlike DVDs, Korean blu-rays work fine in North American players.  Good to see a lot of care is still put into the artwork and packaging.  I’d buy more movies from Korea if it wasn’t so expensive to ship.

One to Watch: Drama / dark-comedy Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014), directed by David Zellner.

Synopsis: A lonely Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) comes across a copy of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, mistakes the film for a documentary, and heads to Minnesota in search of the $920,000 buried in the snow by Steve Buscemi’s character in the movie.

"Ae fond kiss, and then we sever.  Ae fareweel, alas, for ever."

Rachel Sermanni sings “Ae Fond Kiss” by Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796).  Burns was in a platonic relationship with a married woman named Agnes McLehose, though the two secretly penned love letters to another.  ”Ae Fond Kiss” was written after McLehose chose to leave Scotland and join her estranged husband in Jamaica.  Burns would never see her again.

Video upload courtesy of The Mahogany Sessions.

Character portraits for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, 2012.

Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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Directed by Wes Anderson.  Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bill Murray.

Wes Anderson has refined his particular visual aesthetic to the point where the opening sequence of Moonrise Kingdom comes across like a natural extension of his last film, the stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).  In fact his trademark attention to detail borders on sensory overload as the camera pans up, down, and across the Bishop household circa 1965, finally focusing on eldest child Suzy (Kara Hayward).  She’s constantly peering through a pair of binoculars and it’s eventually revealed who she’s watching: Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), a boy scout she’s been secretly writing letters to after a chance encounter at a school play.  They hatch an elaborate plan to run away together into the wilderness but being only twelve years old, their disappearance attracts the attention of Suzy’s parents, Sam’s scoutmaster, and the local police.

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When people talk - positively or negatively - about Wes Anderson films, they’ll usually bring up those retro color schemes, the offbeat speech patterns of his characters, or the whimsical nature of the plots.  What Anderson doesn’t get enough credit for though, is how innately funny his works are; there’s nothing art house about his brand of humor nor is he relying on an audience’s ingrained pop-culture sensibility.  Like many of the youth in Moonrise Kingdom, the laughs that Anderson evokes are child-like in nature but under the guise of being more mature than they actually are.

The performances here are great.  Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are both fun to watch as the young, young lovers; together they do a fine job capturing the essence of Anderson’s dialogue (they’re understandably less comfortable with another of Anderson’s trademarks: holding a blank expression while facing straight towards the camera).  Bill Murray and Bruce Willis amusingly play against type, the former doing away with his sardonic mannerisms and the latter suppressing his action hero bravado.  The only misfire is a superfluous narrator (played by Bob Balaban), whose historical insights into the setting’s New England island only distract from the main story.

Moonrise Kingdom is charming, heartfelt, and probably deserves to be seen more than once to appreciate the level of artistry in every scene.  It’s one of Anderson’s best and most accessible films.