Henry VI Part 1 (1983)

I’m going to do here what I did for Henry IV Parts 1 & 2. Stick up a few snapshots captured from the film, and add a few cursory comments.

Here is Trevor Peacock as Talbot about to shuffle off his mortal coil (with his dead son sprawled across him) doing his ‘Antic death’ speech. (What is meant by ‘antic death’? I must look it up)

Henry VI 1

He looks comical when you see him goggle-eyed like that. And actually there is quite  a lot of  dying and deading going on throughout this play. It can get too feel farcical, and kind of pointless, which is probably the whole point.

Here is Bernard Hill in a wig as Duke of York and Brenda Blethyn as Joan of Arc.

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Brenda Blethyn does Joan of Arc in a pantomime Northern accent. Some critics have taken objection to it. I’ve heard worse. But Brenda Blethyn and Jon of Arc don’t go together in my mind. I’ve seen her in too many Mike Leigh films playing pathetic doormats (“OK there sweedhard?”) to be convinced she could be an heroic leader and slaughter of Men.

Here is somebody else who is hopelessly miscast

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Not the actor in close up (don’t remember his name) but her behind: the ‘gorgeous beauty’, Julia Foster

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As you can see, she’s neither ‘gorgeous’, or a ‘beauty’. I remember Julia Foster being in Alfie as one of Michael Caines pathetic ‘birds’. She did all his cooking and ironing. And then he dumped her. Probably because, like me, he never saw her as a gorgeous beauty. It might be she comes more into her own as the conniving Queen Margaret (in Parts 2 & 3, and Richard III)

That’s about all I want to say. Don’t know if I’ll do more snapshotty posts of Henry VI parts 2 and 3. Don’t even know if I’m going to bother to watch them.

All of these Henry’s are a bit ‘blah’. Although I suppose I’ll have to watch and review Henry V at some point.

That’s how watching these Shakespeare BBC productions is getting to feel: not excited anticipation but a sense of weary obligation that I’ve got to see yet another one. Maybe I should just delete the whole lot of them. Erase them from my hard drive (and memory)

Dir: Jane Howell



No Mans Land (1985)

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The film evokes a time (mid 80’s) a place (Switzerland) a mood (weary stagnation in them, giddy transience in me) an aspiration (to be elsewhere in them, to be everywhere in me)

Swiss clocks are clingiling, Swiss cowbells clangiling, Swiss church bells chingiling.

On of the best scenes: waiting to cross the border into Switzerland, being beckoned by the clingy clang of cowbells.

Cows figure quite dreamily

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Any scene that Myriam Mezieres appears in tends to be automatically sexily sweetly enhanced.

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She’s plays the sultry seductress with ease, as if to the Siren born. But she’s also capable of interiorising her character ‘Madeleine’ with sorrowful vulnerability.

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Mostly, the 5 main characters are a pretty indistinguishable bunch of morose malcontents.

In the 30 intervening years since this film was made, the smuggling of a few immigrants (1985) has become the mass human trafficking catastrophe of 2017. Looked at from the more troubling perspective of now, it’s difficult to see this border ‘trading’ as a bit of harmless malarkey.

There’s a lively Terry Riley soundtrack. A lot of it. Every 2 or 3 minutes there’s hurry up jazzy piano agitating restlessness into inert scenes with no inherent dramatic interest. His music gets to be distracting, becomes too intrusive.

Are we missing John Berger here?. He wrote screenplays for some of Tanners films. Might have added more poetical, philosophical, ethical, oomph

I’ve dipped in and out of this film several times, it hasn’t compelled my attention much.

Apart from those lovely Swiss cows, and the even lovelier Myriam Mezieres, there’s not really that much to heat up the blood. A bloodless and milkless film.

Dir: Alain Tanner, Switzerland


Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 (1979)

These 2 BBC films could be, and probably should be, reviewed separately. But I’m going to stick them together for no other reason than I’m too lazy to spend too much time doing a compare and contrast type evaluation.

In fact this isn’t going to be a ‘review’ as such. More like posting up some pics with a few pithy comments.

This is Tim Pigott-Smith as Hotspur.

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Used to seeing the older balding Tim Pigot-Smith. Seeing him with a fire of frizzy red hair makes him look, well, positively virile. His Hotspur is hot-headed, impulsive, dynamic (which is I guess how he’s supposed to be)

Here he is  coming to his bloody end

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Apparently some viewers at the time were complaining that this bloody end was far too gruesome. I can see their point. It is quite graphic. The camera close ups of his bloodied mouth do luridly linger.

And what of Antony Quayles Falstaff?

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I was pretty compelled by his Falstaff. More so than the Falstaff Simon Russell Beale was giving us in the Hollow Crown Henry’s recently. Antony Quayle’s Falstaff seemed more rambunctiously conniving.

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A jolly rogerer who can’t really get it up any more.

David Gwillim was a more convincing Prince Hal than Tom Huddleston (in the Hollow Crown version) Tom Huddleston was more hollow than callow. He’s got the resonant speaking voice, but acts like somebody advertising leather jerkins for M & S. David Gwillim seemed less showily glamourized, more modestly, and credibly, understated.

John Finch as Henry IV seemed to raise his game in Part 2.

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The camera close ups go right into the disappointment, rage, bitter sadness that Finch is imbuing them with.

In the Hollow Crown this scene is reset to Gloucester Cathedral with Jeremy Irons solitary footsteps echoing across the flagstones at the dead of night. Visually it’s captivating. But you lose some of the intense micro focus of emotion that is seen in John Finch crumpled small and sad up against his bed (there is that picture above)

I think I’d take this slightly stitled but richly interiorized BBC version over the more lavishly filmed Hollow Crown production.

Antony Quayle’s Falstaff or Simon Rusell-Beale’s? Got to be Antony Quayle.

Tom Huddleston or David Gwillm’s Prince Hal? Well, defintely not Tom Huddleston. So it has to be David Gwillim.

Not that I am going to watch either version, or any version, of Henry IV Part 1 or Part 2 ever again.

Dir: David Giles

5/10 for both of them. Although I wasn’t totally bored, neither of these Henrys really got hold of me that much. It’s like I was watching films that might be useful for a class in A Level English. Neither of them compelling, or riveting, much attention.

The Salamander (1971)

Managed to download 8 Alain Tanner films; so think I’ll be giving him a go over the next couple of months. I’ve already watched 2 of his films: In The White City (which got a thumbs up) and Messidor (which got a thumbs down) I’d be surprised if I didn’t like some of these films.

‘The Salamander’ from 1971 was Tanners second feature film. It’s in black and white. It’s slow to set itself up. Things liven up considerable when Bulle Ogier appears. She’s probably the reason you’d want to stick with this film.

There’s a pair of ‘nitwits’: Pierre (Jean-Luc Bideau) and Paul (Jacques Denis) trying to get to the truth, the ‘essence’ of Rosemonde’s (Bulle Ogier) alleged shooting of her uncle.

The Salamander 1

I liked Jean-Luc Bideau’s (on the right there) longed legged lugubriousness. Jacques Dennis was slightly less compelling; a little weaker than the other two leads.

Paul sings when he’s sad. Pierre is suitably sardonic. Here he is pulling a face

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‘We’re just mucking about’ says Pierre at one point. It feels like mucking about, as if Tanner is having a ‘play around’ in trying to create an off-beat satire in which Swiss bourgeois conformity is gently poked in the ribs.

Here is Rosamonde confessing to the 2 clever chaps

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Bulle Ogier gets better and better as the film goes on.

Here she is coyly asking Paul to bring her coffee in bed.

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And here she is seductively and sweetly lying in wait for Pierre to finish his silly typing.

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‘I’m staying, I’m sleeping in your bed, and I’m sleeping with you’. John Berger wrote that. (he wrote the screenplay)

This is a moderately charming film.

You haven’t missed anything if you haven’t seen it. But if you want to acquaint yourself with Alan Tanners ‘ouevre’ you’ll want to watch it.

Dir: Alain Tanner, Switzerland


Messidor (1979)

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This is one of those 70’s films it would have been better, better for me anyway, to have actually seen in the 70’s. I’ve got a feeling I did see an Alain Tanner film around that time. And I definitely saw his film ‘The White City’ with Bruno Ganz in 1983 when I lived in Berlin. But I don’t remember seeing this.

Back then I was young enough, and impressionable enough, to suck up any obscurely named European film with subtitles.

And this film would have been in my ballpark at the time. Two dissatisfied girls hitching aimlessly around Switzerland. Treating life like an absurd game to be played for kicks. Feeling alienated from the ordinary worker-drone humdrum lifes they were attempting gallantly, and yet ultimately, vaingloriously, to leave behind. Yes, it would have all been something I could identify with, have sympathy for.

But watching it now, almost 40 years on from when it was made, and 40 years on from when I was a Young Discontented Rebel, I don’t feel much sympathy for it at all.

The biggest problem I have with it is the 2 girls who were cast to play the 2 protagonists, or perhaps better to say, antagonists. They didn’t really appeal to me. I couldn’t get ‘into’ them. They seemed to be pyschologically depthless. This may have been the deliberate intention of the director: to show them more as a product of the times, to see them as if from the outside as outsiders, to demonstrate how they were located, or mislocated, sociologically. They become wilfully misplaced, missing, persons. Dispossessed and dislocated, and gradually disenfranchised, and disappeared into the hinterland, marginalised out and away from any societal norms.

They live a fragmented and fragmentary existence, scrabbling desperately around on the periphery, edging around the edges of self-inflicted existential ennui.

I couldn’t identify with them. Were they deliberately depersonalised? Yes, I think so. Were they consciously de-feminised? Yes, I think so. Hence the short hair, and the lack of anything you could call a conventional female identity. They weren’t attractive in any gendered sense. It was like watching a pair of asexual neutered boys aimlessly running around trying to avoid capture. And then they sort of fell in love with one another. Out of a kind of needy dependency. They’d become arbitrary lesbians, as if by default.

It was 2 hours of repetitive monotony. The repetitive monotony of their ‘life on the road’ escapades becoming increasingly episodic, disconnected, meaningless. As if to say that their runaway from ‘normality’ had merely made them captive inside a helpless hopeless wider unfreedom, doomed to inevitable failure.

I didn’t really like the film that much, and was glad when it was over.

Dir: Alain Tanner, Switzerland


The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty (1972)

Goalkeepers Fear

One of those late 70’s films I was watching on BBC 2 till 1 in the morning.  A film about German goalkeepers. Saving, or not saving, penalties. Got to be good.

I don’t know about good. It was odd. It still is odd.

I was up for a bit of odd, back them, when I was an odd, at variance with everything, 19 year old. I associated oddness with otherness. And I was looking for ways of being anything ‘other’ than the boring ordinary I was.

Now, 40 years on, I still see how oddly ‘other’ this film is. But not in a good way. It’s an oddbodball of a film. Gloomily nihilistic. Coldly alienating and estranging. Not especially special of anything. Tediously underwhelming.

The goalkeeping sequence at the beginning is badly botched, well, faked up. Goalkeeper is sent off. He’s so upset at being sent off he has to go off and murder somebody; like the pretty cashier he’s picked up and slept with. Only, he’s not upset. And there’s no ‘has to’ about it. He’s not compelled to do it. He just chokes her off as arbitrarily as he’s fucked her. Doesn’t, didn’t, seem to mean a thing (the fucking, or the murdering). No change of expression. No visible affect or emotion.

And then he’s off to visit an ex living in a village on the Austrian border. Pesters her for the rest of the film. Doesn’t appear that he wants to, or is about to, kill anybody else. He listlessly wanders about swigging bottles of beer and fiddling with jukeboxes. Nothing about him, about his outer demeanour, gives anything away. And we aren’t going to be given privileged access to his thoughts, feelings, motivations. He doesn’t appear to be suffering inner torment or turmoil re the murder he’s committed.

He’s blanked off. A characterless colourless individual caught up in a perfunctory performance of sterile stasis. Kind of like a goalkeeper with nothing to do, no penalty kicks or shots to save. The vital action all happening in the other half, at the other side. He’s left guarding his desultory goal, passively observing the play from this redundant other end, marginalised, unnecessary, a spectator.

Yes, the experience of watching this film is like spectating a dull null game. A nil-nil draw. The main protagonist – the goalkeeper – removed from essential action, a mere passive spectator of unexciting nondescript none in-play events.

It was monotonous watching this goalkeeper doing nothing, saying nothing, feeling nothing, expressing nothing. A dislocated, disconnected, disengaged, existence. Could feel nothing for him. Because he was feeling nothing. Couldn’t even feel revulsion at the murder he’d done. Actually, I did start to feel something towards him: irritation at how irritating he was; boredom with how boring he was.

There’s a tune blowing throughout, a little 2 note refrain played by a brass band, its jaunty motif dislocates the gloom of existential ennui even further.

It was a gloom of existential ennui I was seeing, being meaninglessly subjected to. If I’d watched this film then – back in the 70’s – with the more aware awareness I have now, I’d have probably switched it off after 20 minutes, and gone to bed.

Dir: Wim Wenders, Germany


Footnote: About the title. It’s a snappy title. I’ve seen it translated as ‘The Goalkeepers Anxiety at the Penalty Kick’, But the better sounding translation is ‘The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty’. However, its a misnomer. It isn’t goalkeepers who fear penalties, its penalty takers. The expectation is on the taker to score; if he misses he disappoints; therefore he incurs greater risk, greater penalty, greater anxiety. There is much less expectation on the goalkeeper to keep the penalty out; if he saves it he’s defied the odds. Surely every goalkeeper must therefore relish, not fear, the award of a penalty; for it gives him the opportunity to become an instant savour, a rescuer, a hero.

The Comedy of Errors (1983)

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The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare’s early plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play.

So says Wikipedia.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be liking this.
And sure enough, I didn’t.
Didn’t like the farcical or the slapstickical. Didn’t get the punnery or word playery. Didn’t like the miming. Didn’t like the artificial stage set. Didn’t like the story. It’s a load of trite.

Silliest silly bugger is Roger Daltry as a Cockney chappie manservant/fool ‘Dromio’.

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‘I’ll break that sconce of yours‘ says Michael Kitchen. Yes, go on, slap his cheeky chops. The curly headed moppet.
This is about the best thing in the play; seeing Roger Daltry getting his face slapped. Frequently.

The other best bit is seeing the voluptuous lusty lady of Hammer Horror, Ingrid Pitt

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Getting her best bits out as a sexy courtesan.

After about half an hour I was baffled, bemused, lost.

You’ve got 2 Michael Kitchens and 2 Roger Daltry’s. Playing 2 sets of identical twins. And you never really know who they are either, or both, meant to be. They wear identical costumes. With identical identities. I haven’t got a clue who is who. Can I be bothered to be working out which one is which? No.

One Roger Daltry would be bad enough. But two Daltry’s is a Roger too far. His comedic ability consists of imbecilic gazing, goofing, and gurning off. No wonder Micheal Kitchen is slapping him all the time.

By half way I’ve become way too hopelessly confused by all this mistakening and misunderstanding malarkying about to continue paying proper attention. The coincidences and contrivances have stretched way beyond their, and my, breaking point.

Too tiresome. This is too contrived to be making any effort with. I’ve checked out. Given up caring. Given up watching.

I fast forward through the last 45 minutes. It’s pointless doing that really to Shakespeare. But the play, or this production of the play, seem to encourage pointlessness as a legitimate viewing response.

A comedy null on laughs, but far too proned on errors (of the ‘what a load of nonsense’ variety).

“What a silly play this is”, the director Cellan Jones exclaimed at the end of editing.

Yes, I agree. It is. Too silly for words.

Dir: James Cellan Jones, UK


I’ve got to stop watching these Shakespearean so called ‘comedies’ for a while. I’ve seen 4 in the last couple of weeks, and each one has got progressively worse.

I’ll switch to the Henry’s for a bit. Get into something less inconsequential and trite.

One Fine Day (1979)


An Alan Bennett play from 1979 with Dave Allen.
It was broadcast in Feb 1979. I would have watched it in my bedroom on my little b/w portable telly. Wouldn’t have appealed to my mom and dad.

This wasn’t the funny Dave Allen they knew. This was Dave Allen as a straight actor. Playing an unfunny, rather melancholic estate agent.

This play has significance for me, which is probably why I remember it, and want to watch it again.
Yes, it’s coming back as I watch why this would have appealed to me back then.
It’s Allen’s melancholy. It’s the character he plays. Somebody estranged from his job (like I was), his family (like I was). Somebody yearning for something better, longing for release, escape (like I was), needing to be transformed out, and away, from his workaday humdrum life (like I did)

His means of seeking release was akin to mine: sticking headphones on and shutting out the world, retreating into a cut-off interior world.

And he finds peace and quiet, some necessary solitude in the way I did: up on that empty top floor, away from it all; just like I was on my solitary Saturday afternoons in the post office – such blessed relief to have the space and the solitude to be simply, and merely, me.

Dave Allen puts in an anti-acting performance, understated and unshow offy; not a funny face or gag anywhere.
There seems a simmering pissed offness going on within, that he can’t give voice to. His undisclosed yearnings are expressed through Puccini arias and rooftop panoramas.

He’s getting away from his dull duty, his obligations, and disappearing off up to that vacant top floor tower, take some time out to be alone, unencumbered, unattached.

That’s what I would do. That’s what I did.

He isn’t being given very much to say. A character prone to ponder. Not giving away much. Somewhat withheld. Taciturn (a rather wry irony given how Allen the comedian, was always known for his garrulous verbosity)

It’s the being up in the air, remote, observing but unobserved. Abstractly abstracted from all the life you’ve know, and are known for – to become unknown and unknowable, to disappear into a dreamworld of airy invisibility.

Yes, I’m still identifying with all of this. This is as good as I remember it being.

The play (ITV), the writing (Alan Bennett), the direction (Stephen Frears), and Dave Allen’s performance – are all quietly, and unassumingly, brilliant.

Dir: Stephen Frears, UK


As You Like It (1978)

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Yet more Hey Nonny No – NO! nonsense. As evidenced by those hats. Actually, they’re more than hats. They’re uber-hats. They’re maiden headpieces. They’re impressively preposterous.

Nothing else about this production is as impressive. Or as preposterous. In fact proceedings remain doggedly, and dogmatically, and determinedly, unpreposterous throughout. It’s as dull as dead dog on a wet weekend in Tetbury is As You Like It circa 1978.

This should be renamed ‘As You, or They, or Them, or I, Don’t Like It’. There seems to be a fair few people who Didn’t, or Don’t, Like It. Of which I am one.

Some people who Didn’t Like It accuse it of being an ‘Appallingly unfunny meandering production of what can be a very meandering play’.

Some people who Didn’t Like It think “As You Like It” ‘Has one of Shakespeare’s lamest plots, with poor characterizations, perfunctory incidents and sloppy story resolution’.

Well, it seems to me, Shakespeares plots do have a tendency to be lame. By lame I mean ludicrous. By ludicrous I mean convoluted. By convoluted/ludicrous/lame I mean: fabricated, factitious, implausible, unbelievable.

Most of this BBC production involves aimless ambling around outside saying stuff for the sake of saying stuff.

I didn’t see sparkle or wit or magic or even any charm about it.

It’s watches like something Made for Schools (which it was) used to punish bored O level students into disliking Shakespeare even more. I know I would.

Several welcome breaks were necessary to relieve the tedium, to go do something more interesting. Like brush my teeth.

Helen Mirren as the lad Gannymede; sticks her curly hair in a little hat, wears a tunic and breeches. But its still too blatantly bloody obvious that she’s not a boy. More effort required to effect a convincing disguise cum deception. She’s not that great as Rosalind either. Her words get blown away with the wind. She’s sucked in by too much outside. Her performance seems more contingently circumstantial than compellingly centrifugal

Brian Stirner as romantic lead Orlando is about as charismatic as a boring background bass player in a 70’s prog rock band. No sweet Rosalind or sexy Helen would fall for such a scrawny adolescent.
James Bolam. Friggin James Bolam. He’s irritating. As Touchstone. As James Bolam. I’ve had enough of James Bolam for one lifetime.
Victoria Plunkett as buxom country maid Phebe plunks her oo-aargh west country accent into the river Severn.

Richard Pasco as Jacques is about the best thing in it, giving good world weary to the ‘All the worlds a stage’ soliloquy. I liked his little turn about Melancholy also.

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The more this has gone on the more I keep thinking there must be better versions than this lame duck of dog. Its like watching a Songs of Praise Elizabethan Enactment group. ‘Hey nonny no no…..hey ding a ding a ding’. NO – please enough.

Some people who Didn’t Like It thought that ‘From the awful beginning to the cringe worthy ending, this is possibly the worst film of Shakespeare I have ever seen’.

Some people who Didn’t Like It found it so ‘Awful it will make you never want to see the play again, never mind this production’.

Which I don’t. Ever want to see the play again. Or this production.

Dir: Basil Coleman, UK


This Charming Girl (2004)

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I watched this 2 or 3 years ago. It’s appeal:
Girl working in a post office as a postal clerk.
I was a boy working in a post office as a postal clerk once.
Only I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t charming.

This girl is South Korean. She’s very pretty. Perhaps a bit too photogenic to be totally credible. The actress Kim su Ji (as Jung-hye) gives a captivatingly composed performance. She’s not having to do that much, or show many emotions, other than variations on the sad-shy-sensitive spectrum.

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She’s a single girl living on her own. A loner. An introvert. Films about quiet introverts appeal to me – being one myself.
Is she going to have some quirkily idiosyncratic inner life to feel engaged by, and with? Turns out, bit by bit, that the quirks of idiosyncrasy in her character have been inflicted upon her from the outside, against her will.

Shes crunching her kimchi, watching her big telly. Lying around listless. She needs a companion. To feel for. Like a little lost kitten mewling.

Its all nicely nuanced this. The minutiae of life lived in a minor melancholy key. Sat there on the floor watching her telly, her hand distractedly searching for life of its own, collecting together the dust crumbs.

Its a small safe life, regulated by clocks, alarms, and little everyday routines.

Here comes her kitten companion. That will be nice. Charming girl meets cute kitten. All the women in the audience go ‘Awww!’

I’m going along with this film because its so small, so modest. It’s sweet, but not too sugary to make you sick of or with it. It isn’t getting out of 3nd gear. It chugs quietly, slowly, along, being prosaically everyday mundane.
But leaking in, are disturbing flashbacks, breaking into the becalmed composed surface.
Shyly some romantic interest is slowly simmered in.
But this is not a romantic drama at heart.
At heart its about her heart in shock, her heart made too vulnerable too soon.

The film becomes quieter and quieter, more and more subdued.
The outer chatter and talk becomes less, the internal space deepens.

Her shy sensitivity, dreamy otherness. is labelled mentally disturbed.

She’s letting her little kitten go. She’s intending one last final act of revenge on the uncle who did it to her as a child.
Got a knife in her bag to do the job.
He sits next to her silently in the park, seemingly waiting to be killed.
She slides the knife out of her bag intending to – but she can’t.
Follows a full 3 minutes of her sobbingly uncontrollably in the bathroom
Got to run back and find that kitten.

Was she a charming girl?
She was a pretty girl. ‘This Very Pretty Girl’ it could be called.
Or perhaps ‘This Vulnerable Girl’ or ‘This Violated Girl’.
This ‘charming’ girl doesn’t quite fit to the complexity of what has been revealed.

Dir: Yoon Ki Lee, South Korea