visit is like a swan on a lake,” says a newcomer to the Downton Abbey servants’
quarters. “Grace and serenity above, demented kicking down below.” It’s a visual
metaphor that Julian Fellowes used several times in interviews when the show he
created a decade ago was sweeping the world. In the belated film adaptation, Fellowes
gives it to the King’s Royal Dresser (Max Brown). The recycling of a good line
signals that film is going to deliver a lot more of the same that was delivered
by the TV show—serenity and kicking.
sequence playing behind the opening credits shows a letter being written in
Buckingham Palace and making its way by train, car, motorcycle and foot to the
lord or the manor as an even more majestic version of the TV show’s theme plays
out. Shots linger on the sides of train cars and vans to remind us that the British
postal service is called the Royal Mail, and in this case is conveying a
for monarchy and tradition is what Fellowes and his TV show were all about.
Even the former chauffer and Irish Republican, now son-in-law Tom (Allen Leech)
can admit he respects the Crawley’s love of the monarchy even if he is not much
of a royalist himself. Such values were intriguingly nostalgic when the show
premiered in 2010, and are hopelessly out of touch in 2020, with scandals swirling
around Prince Andrew and Prince Harry. But being in-touch is never what Downton
Abbey is all about. The film is not really concerned about the future, but
rather about preserving traditions, despite subplots suggesting that things may
get better for gay men and women who have children out of wedlock.
just two of countless subplots packed into the film. The scripts for the first
three seasons of the TV show were published in book form, and many of the
scenes clock in at two pages or less. That kept a 45-minute episode moving
along at a fine clip, but with a two-hour running time, it can be overwhelming.
The main plot involves a suddenly announced visit by King George V and Queen Mary to Downton. The importance of the guests serves to bring back characters who had left the big house, namely Carson and Molesley (Kevin Doyle, who steals the show with his giddy nervousness). Maggie Smith, of course, is back and gets all the best one-liners. There are also newcomers in the form of the King’s Dresser (Max Brown) and a lady’s companion (Tuppence Middleton) who serve as dual love interests for single members of the household. But despite the fresh faces, the film rarely gives more than what fans want—more of what they got from the TV show.
Maggie Smith – Violet Crawley Michelle Dockery – Lady Mary Talbot Matthew Goode – Henry Talbot Tuppence Middleton – Lucy Smith Joanne Froggatt – Anna Bates Imelda Staunton – Maud Bagshaw Elizabeth McGovern – Cora Crawley Kate Phillips – Princess Mary Allen Leech – Tom Branson Geraldine James – Queen Mary Mark Addy – Mr. Bakewell Laura Carmichael – Lady Edith Sophie McShera – Daisy Mason Hugh Bonneville – Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham
Joan Blondell – Mabel Dick Powell – Jimmy Ruby Keeler – Barbara Zasu Pitts – Mathilda Guy Kibbee – Horace Hugh Herbert – Ezra Arthur Vinton – Bulger – Ounce’s Bodyguard Phil Regan – Johnny Harris – Songwriter Arthur Aylesworth – Train Conductor Johnny Arthur – Billings – Ounce’s Secretary Leila Bennett – Laura – Matilda’s Maid Berton Churchill – Harold Ellsworthy Todd
Directed by Ray Enright Busby Berkeley – (musical numbers)
Written by Delmer Daves – (screen play) Robert Lord – (story) & Delmer Daves – (story)
“How you and I been walking along this road now? 50 years now?” an unnamed old man asks. The odd thing is the woman is speaking to, who also goes unnamed, couldn’t be much older than 20. The Old Man (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy) finds a decaying motorbike in the jungle where he has lived his whole life, strips and meticulously cleans the useable parts. When he sells the parts on to a street vendor, he receives payment from a mobile phone, directly to a chip in his forearm. “You still have a government-issued chip?” the vendor yells. “Ancient technology, ancient man!”
These two lines early in the film tell the audience that despite the abundant nature of the jungle setting, The Long Walk is a science fiction fantasy story with its own rules about how the universe works. The Girl (Noutnapha Soydara) serves as a link between the Old Man and a painful memory from his childhood, which unfolded in the same house where he is still living. He dilapidated house is a perfect setting for a film about the inability to let loved ones move on after they have died.
Director Mattie Do was born to Lao refugees in America, and only
recently moved to Laos to become a filmmaker. It couldn’t be easy, as there is
not much of a film industry in the country. Her debut film became the first Lao
film to screen outside of Southeast Asia. The Long Walk is only her third
film, and already looks like the work of a seasoned filmmaker. It often calls
to mind Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, not only because it is a sci-fi
story in a naturalistic setting, but because of the assured tone and pace of
The Tokyo International Film Festival offers something that
is rather rare in the city—the chance to see French films with English
subtitles. I see as many as I can and am rarely disappointed. I went into Only
the Animals knowing next to nothing about it.
I was a bit apprehensive in the first ten minutes, as Alice (Laure
Calamy) makes her rounds in a mountainous area of France to see that farmers
are following hygiene regulations for some unmentioned agency and has sex with
lonesome farmer Joseph (Damien Bonnard). But this is not actually how the film
begins. The scene before the opening title has a young man weaving through
traffic in Côte d’Ivoire on a scooter with a live goat strapped to his back. He
goes to an apartment, where he asks for Papa Sanou (Christian Ezan). This prologue
signals that Alice’s story is going to go somewhere very different, and indeed
When Alice sees a news report about a missing woman with a
shot of an abandoned car she saw on her rounds, it is the first of many, many
plot twists, as the structure of the film unfolds like a Chinese box, shifting
to the perspectives a different characters, first Alice’s aloof husband Michel
(Denis Ménochet, who is the highlight of the ensemble cast) then missing woman
herself (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and a young, needy waitress (the intense Nadia
Tereszkiewicz, who has a great career ahead of her). Some of the same scenes
are replayed from the perspective of another character, until everything leads
back to the young man on the scooter in Côte d’Ivoire (Guy Roger ‘Bibisse’
N’Drin). He is told by the shaman Papa Senou “Chance is stronger than you”—a line
that seems designed to take some of the stink off the incredible coincidences in
the film. But more than chance of fate, the story is driven by impulse. All of
the characters immediately give into their impulses, except for the local Gendarme
(Bastien Bouillon), who doesn’t understand why people just don’t behave rationally.
If they did, we wouldn’t have stories like this.
“Guatemala is tired of weeping for its missing people,” a journalist
says, wrapping up a report on the overturning of a court ruling that found a retired
general guilty of genocide in the early 1980s. And La Llorona is a film
The news report is being broadcast on a widescreen TV in a
luxurious home and is soon drowned out by the chanting of protestors. We are
inside the home of the aging general himself. “People have been saying bad things
about grandpa on the internet,” says the preteen Sara (Ayla-Elea Hurtado) early
in the story. The general is named Enrique Monteverde in the film, but clearly
based on former chief of military intelligence Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, who denied
any responsibility for the genocide of the Maya Ixil people in court in
September, 2018, which must have been just as the writing on this film was
Enrique is played by Julio Diaz, who looks like a veteran
actor but IMDB has this as his only credit. Although Enrique agrees with his old
military cronies on their strategy to never lower their heads, so they appear
as heroes rather than victims, when the old man returns home under heavy guard
and bulletproof vest, he is troubled. He believes he hears a woman crying in
the middle of the night.
Attacks by the protesters have proven to be too much for the servants, and all but one has left during the trial. The loyal Valeriana (María Telón) tells the family she has sent for people she knows in her hometown, and soon arrives quiet Alma (María Mercedes Coroy) who fixes the adults with a haunting stare by bonds with the granddaughter. The maids are both Mayan Ixil, the ethnic group subject to the general’s genocide. With Alma’s arrival, Enrique is consumed by images of water, and the sounds of a woman weapon, and the film becomes both a social drama and a horror film. The actress and director Jayro Bustamante work together to make Alma both a frightened victim and unsettling.
Bustamante appeared after the screening at the Tokyo
International Film Festival and said that the legend of La Llorona is one of
the most well-known in all of Latin America. He said he wanted to share stories
of Guatemala’s war with viewers who are too young to remember it. When he
realized that young audiences like horror, he decided to combine a drama about genocide
in which thousands of children were lost with the legend of the woman who was
abandoned by a man and out of grief killed her own two children. The La Llorona
of legend and Alma in the film can only go on weeping.
“I got a gig at the club in Ikebukuro,” Bob tells his friend Lucy during a hike into the mountains. “The band is really the best musicians I have ever played with. That is what I love about Japan—you get a second chance here.” Bob is a Brit running a Karaoke bar in 1989 Tokyo who dreams of a more serious career in music. He’s just a minor character (played by an underused Jack Huston) in Earthquake Bird and just one of many trying to start afresh in Tokyo. He introduces recently arrived Lily Bridges (Riley Keough) to long-time resident Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander), whose name in its original Swedish pronunciation sounds just like the English word “flee.” Even Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi), the photographer who forms the third corner of the love triangle with Lily and Lucy, has come to Tokyo from Kagoshima in the rural south. “I didn’t like the girls in my hometown,” he says when asked about his dating history, although his excuse doesn’t quite ring true.
But this is
Lucy’s story, and Vikander’s movie. The actress is in every single scene of the
film, for which she not only learned to speak Japanese quite well but also
learned to play the cello. We meet Lucy is pouring herself into her work as a
translator, writing Japanese subtitles in pencil for another American film set
in Japan, Black Rain, when the police arrive at the office and ask her
to come in to answer a few questions. Lily was reported missing some time ago,
and now a body has been found. The good cop/bad cop duo (Kazuhiro Muroyama and Ken
Yamamura) see Lucy and uncooperative, when in fact she answers their questions,
and only their questions, with exacting precision. “Five years and two months,”
she says without taking time to think when asked how long she has been in
Japan. Another time she informs the officers that she didn’t lie, but that they
simply asked the question in the wrong tense. It is this rigid attitude that
brings back the past Lucy is so desperate to flee, both her recent past with Teiji
and Lily, and her more distant and more painful memories from Sweden, and the
majority of the story unfolds in flashbacks.
Westmoreland is probably the perfect director for this, having spent a year in
Japan in the 1980s. I happen to know Tokyo well, having lived in the city for
nearly 20 years, and was able to spot the usual sins of geography that have
cropped in foreign films set in the city since at You Only Live Twice. A
group of characters walk through the brightly lit streets of Shinjuku that were
used on the final scene of Lost in Translation, and go down into a club
that is nearly a mile away. But Westmoreland and his team work to make the
Japanese settings authentic. The late ‘80s setting could have invited gags
about big hair and clunky payphones, but the few reference to the time period help
fill out the characters. “I called a girlfriend back home and talked for like,
20 minutes,” Lily says in one of her early conversations with Lucy, “and it
wound up costing like a hundred bucks.” “It’s better not to call,” Lucy is quick
to say. “It is good to be isolated.” When that hike into the mountains leads four
characters to a stunning view of Mount Fuji, instead of pulling out smartphones
to capture the moment for Instagram, they simply realize they haven’t brought a
featuring the Ondeko drumming festival on Sado Island, is especially effective
at using the rhythms to underscore Lucy’s increasing disorientation, paranoia and
jealousy. After this masterful scene and a climax that is both surprising and mirror
Lucy’s long-held anxieties, the quite resolution leaves a bit to be desired.
and Kobayashi were on hand to present the film to the audience at the Tokyo
International Film Festival, and surprised the audience by making their comments
in both Japanese and English. This, as well as the film itself, is a sign of a
level of international film production that has rarely been reached.