In Grimm, 52-year-old Dutch writer/director Alex van Warmerdam puts a black, post-modern spin on some of the brothers Grimm fairytales, Hansel And Gretel in particular. Not only do we get to see Hansel and Gretel get lost in the woods, they also take a road trip to Spain and end up embroiled in some spaghetti-western action. It is hilarious in the same way that David Lynch films are funny, so be prepared for the ride.
Van Warmerdam co-wrote his latest and fifth feature with Czech Otaker Votocek, who also collaborated on his first film. Warmerdam has established himself in Holland as somewhat of a satirist and comedian of sorts in his previous, very Dutch films. He won many awards for The Northerners (1992), a surreal black comedy set in a 60s housing development, then went on to direct The Dress (1996), which also won awards and was characterised by his trademark blend of quirky humour, sex and violence.
Grimm has some very, very funny moments and although a little drawn out at the end, the film is punctuated by a classic silent cameo from Dutch actor Kees Prins playing a drunk. Warmerdam’s own acoustic guitar score is interesting and Tom Erisman’s cinematography is excellent. If you are looking for something decidedly offbeat, Grimm is definitely the film for you.
Memories Of Murder (Salinui Chueok), the second feature from 35-year-old South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Barking Dogs Never Bite), also blends the surreal with the macabre in a film that cleverly uses a series of unsolved murders by a serial killer between 1986 and 1991 to look at an era when the country was ruled by a military dictatorship. Memories Of Murder won Bong the Best New Director award at San Sebastian last year and has been a film festival favourite around the world. The film is also one of the biggest box-office successes in Korean history.
This film is a departure from the usual South Korean fare seen in the West in that it mixes Keystone cops-style humour with serious drama, macabre analysis of corpses and violence to reveal the true nature of the political regime of the time.
On the other hand, 34-year-old Kim Ki-duk’s film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter -¦ And Spring is arthouse Korean cinema and continues Kim’s exploration of jealousy, obsession and redemption within the context of an idyllic, tranquil landscape also seen in The Isle (1999). This is a visually striking film that very successfully examines the struggle of a Buddhist monk to conquer his desires against the backdrop of the inherent harmony of the seasons, the natural environment and Buddhist teachings.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter -¦ And Spring is made more interesting as it appears to be a departure from the use of the ultraviolent, tortured imagery that characterised Bad Guy (2002) for a poetic framework, yet underneath it all, the lustful, greedy desires of both the central characters in the two films are essentially the same.
The Return (Vozvraschenie), a gripping feature debut from Russian director Andrey Zvagintsev which won the Golden Lion at Venice amongst many other awards, is contemporary filmmaking at its best. Two young brothers find their lives shattered by the mysterious reappearance of their father, known to them only from a 10-year-old photograph. Dark secrets are revealed during a trip with him to a remote island. The cinematography is extraordinary from the opening to the closing scene, the Antonioni-inspired film having been shot in northern Russia during summer when the sun never sets. Zvagintsev has established himself as a major new talent in this universal story of father-son relationships with a very Russian flavour. Not to be missed.
Grimm screens at the State Theatre on Wednesday 16 June at 8:30pm and again on Friday 18 June at 10am. Memories Of Murder screens at Dendy Opera Quays at 7:55pm on Thursday 24 June and again on Friday 25 June at 5:40pm. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter -¦ And Spring screens at the State Theatre on Saturday 12 June at 10am and again on Monday 14 June at 8:25pm. The Return screens at the State Theatre on Wednesday 16 June at 11:50 am and again on Tuesday 22 June at 8:20pm. Its commercial season is due to start in Sydney at Palace Cinemas on 1 July.