Film in Detail
A deeper look at the films that matter - and more fantastic movies you might enjoy too.
Who would have thought that a Swedish vampire movie could work on so many levels? First there's the cool title: John Ajvide Lindqvist openly borrowed it from a Morrissey song called Let the Right One Slip In (sample lyric: "Let the right one in/I'd say you were within your rights to bite/The right one and say, 'What kept you so long?") for both his bestselling horror novel and the adapted screenplay.
Then there's the disturbing but still rooted-in-the-familiar subject matter: Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) not only has divorced parents but is also an outsider at school; a strange, spectral boy with alabaster skin, he is unsure of his place in this world and is taunted, bullied and made to feel the pain of loneliness. Oskar is "saved" by Eli (Lina Leandersson), another 12-year-old outsider, but one who can look after herself. Eli takes Oskar's hand, flashes her fangs and becomes his friend.
Despite the inevitable gruesome, bloody scenes, this is a very arty vampire film which forces itself free of the boundaries of its genre. Director Tomas Alfredson and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have worked together to create a visually stunning film in which the snow-covered landscape is not just an obvious contrast for the red of the blood, but also a metaphor for Oskar's cold, blank life. Alfredson is not afraid to let the camera linger either, which makes a welcome change from the usual frenetic hand-held style of horror films.
Let the Right One In is a chilling but poetic film which embraces a serious subject matter (the bullying, not the blood sucking) but it's funny too. The haunting score by Johan Soderqvist only adds to the film's beauty and melancholy. The film works so well, it seems, because the team behind it were determined to get it right. The producer claims that it took almost a year to find Hedbrant and Leandersson and the search paid off; the young actors are utterly convincing.
Shame then that there's already an American remake on the cards Matt Reeves, who directed Cloverfield, has already signed up. The original has already become a classic vampire film, so why give it the Hollywood treatment? Surely part of the considerable attraction of the original is due to its subtle European artfulness.
Keith Haring's mantra was always a simple one: "Art is for everyone". Born in Pennsylvania in 1958, he drew from an early age and developed a skill for creating cartoons, spurred on by his love of Dr Seuss and Walt Disney. At the age of 20, he moved to New York and discovered a burgeoning alternative art community that rejected the elite nature of museums and galleries in favour of street art. Although he experimented with performance, video, installation and collage, Haring's head was turned by the power of public drawing and graffiti.
Haring's vividly-coloured work of crawling babies, flying saucers and mad dogs was influenced by the hip-hop music of the South Bronx, youth movements such as skateboarding and the gay clubs of downtown Manhattan. For years he took the train all the way from Harlem to Brooklyn, jumping off at stations and doing quick chalk drawings on empty black advertisement panels. Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of public drawings in the subway while simultaneously becoming an internationally celebrated artist.
The Universe of Keith Haring documents the late artist's story in a fast-paced style evocative of his restless spirit: we see his unbelievably prolific output (Banksy looks like a dawdling part-timer by comparison) and hear testimony from his peers and friends. Given that he lived and worked in New York in the 1980s, these number Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Madonna and photographer David LaChapelle. Haring never set out to be a smart businessman despite the fact that he opened the Pop Shop to sell mass-produced T-shirts, badges and buttons displaying his work but was rather motivated by art as an accessible, fun form.
Haring died in 1990 of Aids-related complications at the age of 31. The Universe of Keith Haring is a timely reminder of the brilliance of one of the world's most famous public artists. As gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch pointed out: "Keith wanted to make art for the people. And he did, till the end of his life."
Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is often hailed as one of the world's greatest directors of animated films. He is part of a dying breed of hand-drawn cell animators whose films appeal to people of all ages. Ponyo, his most recent offering, certainly confirms his brilliance as both an animator and a story teller - but he is just one of many great animators to come from the legendary Studio Ghibli. Founded in 1985 by Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, it has become the focal point of anime - animated feature films - in Japan, and its output has enjoyed cult status worldwide.
When Ghibli signed a distribution deal with Disney in 1997 and then, in 2002, Miyazaki's Spirited Away became the first anime film to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the studio slowly became more familiar to a mainstream international audience. Old Ghibli classics are now being re-released for instance, Ocean Waves (or I Can Hear the Sea, the direct translation of its Japanese title) is an intricately-drawn TV film dating back to 1993.
Ocean Waves is the first anime Ghibli produced by a director other than Miyazaki or Takahata. Tomomi Mochizuki certainly rose to the challenge by directing a tender, romantic story: Morisaki Taku returns home for his high school reunion and, in doing so, recalls memories of his school days. As he heads home, he wonders if the love triangle that once existed between him, his best friend and a student from Tokyo will finally be resolved.
Ocean Waves is based on a book by Himuro Saeko, one of Japan's most popular writers of "shojo" novels (books for girls). Given that Saeko is renowned for her sensitive love stories, it is no surprise that Ocean Waves is, at times, sentimental. However, alongside its Ghibli stablemates, it gives a fascinating glimpse into Japanese youth culture. The famously reclusive Miyazaki has dismissed computer-generated imagery as "thin, shallow and fake" - but there's no reason why exquisitely-drawn anime can't exist side by side with the bright and often brash CG cartoons that tumble out of Hollywood.
In August and September 2007, Danish filmmaker Anders Ostergaard recorded a series of clandestine videos in Burma - also known as 'Myanmar' - a country ruled by a military junta. The army stands accused of gross human rights abuses, including the widespread use of forced labour. Prominent pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, is restricted in her activities. Her party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern.
Burma VJ is narrated by a 27-year-old Burmese pro-democracy activist known only as "Joshua," whose identity is blurred for his own protection. Joshua and his colleagues are haunted by the memories of the early 90s, when the military junta responded to electoral defeat by the National League for Democracy by cracking down ruthlessly on the public.
Joshua is part of the Democratic Voice of Burma, a network of journalists attempting to create an oral history archive by interviewing ordinary citizens about their daily lives. When small demonstrations began in the capital of Rangoon in 2007, the group captured events with video cameras. His life in danger, Joshua reluctantly fled Thailand and, via mobile phones and the internet, watched the demonstrations escalate.
When the Buddhist monks, who usually avoid being vocal on any political matter, started to speak up against the government and go on marches, images of their defiance spread around the world. The military beat the monks with their rifles and killed at least one.
The footage in Burma VJ (VJ stands for "video journalists") is often shaky and blurred, allowing a terrifying sense of how frightened the anonymous camera operators felt trying to capture the danger and lack of freedom in Burma. The VJs know that, if caught, they risk torture and life in jail.
Burma VJ is a brave, provocative, intelligent film that gives a glimpse of a country stifled by a repressive regime. It is inspirational but also, ultimately, heartbreaking: while new technology showed the rest of the world what was happening inside Burma via the Democratic Voice of Burma's viral videos, the military never lost its vice-like grip on power.
It can be tough to make it to film festivals – which is why we’re going to try to bring a little of them to you! Here you'll find news from all our favourite festivals, opportunities to get involved, and even let you know about some of the best festival movies for you to order.
Find out more...
FILMCLUB's quick guide to Film Festivals
What happens at a film festival? Why are they so important for filmmakers? Which are the most famous festivals? Find out in our quick guide. Read
FILMCLUB reports from Film Festivals
Watch our members' video reports from film festivals, featuring interviews with the likes of George Clooney and David Cronenberg. Watch
Film Festivals around the world
From now on, we'll be highlighting festivals from around the world right here on the FILMCLUB site. Here are a couple of features to get you started...
Russian Film Festival: Inspired by the 2011 London event, take a look back through the best of Russian cinema. Go
Zipangu Festival: We highlighted the best of this off-the-wall Japanese film festival. Go
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