Leap Year (2010) – Too Much Information

What a piece of work is a man.  A species that evolved amidst the mighty trees of a world-spanning tropical forest now spreads across this planet like an impenetrable oil slick.  Our litter fouls the highest peaks, our scientific instruments plumb the deepest depths.  We go everywhere.  We adapt.  We feed.  We breed.  We spread.  And yet, despite our adaptability and despite our ambition, the majority of our species now live in cities.  We could live anywhere and yet we choose to shut ourselves away in cramped concrete boxes.  Why is this?

Despite most films being set in some kind of urban environment, few of them manage to capture what it really feels like to live in such an alien and bizarre landscape.  Roman Polanski’s Apartment trilogy perhaps comes closest but Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976) all stress the Otherness of city life while down-playing its attractions.  Patrick Keiller’s London (1994) may well skewer the combination of hollowness and (largely fictitious) potential for adventure and fun that comprise London but its detached narration and photographic sensibility makes its message cerebral rather than instinctual. Analytical rather than subjective.

Winner of the 2010 Camera D’Or award at the Cannes film festival for best debut feature, Michael Rowe’s Leap Year (a.k.a. Año bisiesto) seeks to capture the elusive charms of city life by depicting a life characterised by a profound ambivalence to human intimacy.  An ambivalence that expresses itself in every aspect of a young woman’s life.


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Kairo (2001) – Hedgehogs meet the Internet

There is something faintly Proustian about sitting down at a keyboard in order to write about Japanese Horror.  As though biting into a madeleine, I am suddenly transported back to the horrible ICA seating I put up with in order to see Hideo Nakata’s Ring (1998).  I am swamped by memories of girlfriends past, trips to out of the way cinemas, sequels rented on VHS tape and vindictive reviews of terrible American remakes.  It all seems like so long ago and yet it was only the early 00s.  Tempus Fugit.  Sic Transit Gloria Mundi…

Though historically accurate, mentioning Ringu seems somehow inappropriate as,  despite having been a product of the J-Horror bubble (it even earned itself a terrible 2005 American remake), Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo is no mere genre copy-cat.  Clearly influenced by Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979), the film uses genre formulae as a spring-board for exploring philosophical ideas with an almost poetical elegance and softness of touch.  Kairo is, in every way, a remarkable film.

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