On the flight to and back from Korea I saw some excellent films that I highly recommend. Airplane film choices are now so excellent (for people like me who like obscure movies) that I am starting to look forward to long-haul flights where I can watch two or three films.
Ode to My Father (Korean: Gukjesijang) by Yoon Je-kyoon: This melodramatic tear-jerker is from South Korea and apparently is the second highest grossing film there. I cried, rather embarrassingly, pretty much throughout the movie (when you are sitting along on a dark airplane at 30,000 feet it is easy for emotions to surge). The “finding dispersed families” scene was so poignant. I was not aware of that particular phase in the North-South conflict. Even though the film is somewhat hokey, the ambition and scale lingers. The acting is often phenomenal, and the combination of nostalgia, respect, and admiration for “the lives of our parents” is quite powerful. The director Yoon Je-kyoon has a sharp eye for letting the audience know that the personal is always political, especially under the authoritarian regimes of the 1960s and 1970s, but the film lets the viewer fill in the politics. A nice video review with scenes from the film is here.
Marshland (Spanish: La isla mínima) by Alberto Rodríguez: From the opening credits I thought to myself, “This is where True Detective got its style,” but I see on returning it was released in 2014, so maybe the influence was in the other direction (Wikipedia says filming began before True Detective, but the resemblance is quite striking). The film is a standard crime/political thriller. Two detectives investigating a disappearance uncover a dark underbelly in rural Spain in the late 1970s. Great cinematography and acting, and a tight story. Javier Gutierrez is really great. Here is the trailer.
Un homme idéal by Yann Gozlan: A straight ripoff or variation on Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” this is a film to enjoy as implausible complications pile up for the young man who has stolen the diary of a dead man whose house he is cleaning, and published it as his own novel of the war in Algeria. Good not great. Trailer is here.
True Story by Rupert Goold: The film dramatizes the book by former journalist Michael Finkel, who was fired by The New York Times for basically making up key elements of a magazine cover story about African minors working in cocoa plantations. Finkel, in disgrace, finds out that a now apprehended murderer-on-the-run Christian Longo, had been using his name while in Mexico. The two men begin the kind of symbiotic journalist-evil person relationship that is a trope all its own. Longo is on death row in Oregon. Jonah Hill in a twist I think is perfectly cast; he is infuriating to an intelligent viewer, which is what Finkel in real life must have been. James Franco’s sleepy eyes used to great effect. You never get inside him. Trailer is here.