The Rare Review

Movies, books, music and TV

An Animated Movie About Cambodia: “Funan”

At first, with its relatively simple animation, the French-made Funan (2018) may seem to be a children’s film. But it isn’t. It is a pronouncedly dark adult picture about life in Cambodia beginning in 1975, the action revolving around a middle-class family of four.

The communist Angkar—or the Khmer Rouge—has taken over the country, and Mom and Dad must persistently think hard about how to survive. And how to find their little son who, along with his grandmother, is taken away by the commies.

Funan spares us very little from this time period. Angkar is disgustingly cruel, wholly vile. Cambodians are overworked in the fields and begin to die from hunger; an exploited woman kills herself. There is no sensationalism, though, just as there are no strong characterizations except, maybe, for that of Sok. The film, at any rate—directed and co-written by Denis Do—is venerable.

Reportedly more than a third of millennials support communism. If they want what is shown in this movie, they can have it.

(In French with English subtitles. Available on Netflix.)

Another One From Christian Author Sandra Byrd: “Flirting With Disaster”

Flirting with Disaster (2010) is a likable Christian novel for young people written by Sandra Byrd, the author of The Secret Keeper, which I reviewed on this site.  Keeper is mainly for adults, Disaster can be enjoyed by adults as it chronicles the actions of Savvy Smith, an American girl in London who is 15 years old and fits right in among her English peers.

Ordinary in many ways, Savvy is also devoted to Christ, facing the challenge of paying no mind to what others believe about luck and horoscopes, even when something good happens after a chain-text message is passed on.  Sending such a message is “flirting with disaster”—a hackneyed title for this book—since God is forever sovereign over “fortune.”  Savvy need not believe in an impersonal force like fortune when she is always surrounded by personal ones, of whom God, the object of her faith, is the most prominent.

Hackneyed title or not, Byrd’s novel is clever and genial.  It belongs to a series called London Confidential and, although I likely will not read the other three books in the series, that in no way means the reader of this review should not.

English: mobile phone text message

English: mobile phone text message (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


One Of The Few Good Movies From The ’80s: “Say Anything”

Cover of "Say Anything"

Cover of Say Anything

A love story, Say Anything (1989) has the distinction of focusing on a teenaged boyfriend (John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler) who is a Great Guy, however unambitious.  The main proof that he’s a Great Guy is his romantic—or chivalrous—prowess—not aimed at just anyone but at the very pretty class valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye).  “I’m good at it,” Lloyd says of his companionship with Diane, but the girl’s father (John Mahoney) deems Lloyd a nice mediocrity and dislikes the relationship.  Ironically, this is despite the detractor’s being in prison for accruing ill-gotten gain off a nursing home.  (How naughty some of these middle-agers are!)

The girls in the film are close to being paragons of virtue, but . . . there’s also Lloyd.  Over and above, SA is a good-hearted picture with inventive story elements and a fun, discerning cast.  A middlebrow worthy.

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe.

Indestructible? “Fearless,” Anyway

With relentless expertise Jeff Bridges plays, in 1993’s Fearless, a man who marvelously survives a terrible jet plane crash only to strongly suspect he is indestructible, thus turning fearless. He is afraid of nothing, including the truth (so he refuses to lie).

Directed by Peter Weir, the film’s themes are: man as “god” (like Alexander the Great) or at least “angel”; the rewards, and non-rewards, of experience; marriage and one’s acting against it; and grief. . . Weir does a felt and savvy job of filming Rafael Yglesias‘s screenplay, based on his novel. And a riveting novelistic work it is.

Bang Bang In Tokyo: “First Love”

Death—somebody’s death, at least—has a way of reminding the drug smugglers in Takashi Miike‘s First Love (2019) that they’re wicked. But, here, death usually happens too fast for the characters to be reminded of anything. Kill-or-be-killed proceeds apace. It’s better just not to be wicked.

A young boxer (Masataka Kubota) helps a drug-addicted girl forced into prostitution (Sakurato Konishi) escape her captor, this being the fulcrum for the chaotic arena of the movie’s murderers. Scripted by Masa Nakamura, the film is an ultra-violent actioner set in Tokyo. Its villains have startling vitality, and are often interesting and troubling. This describes vicious Kase and frantic Julie, whose portrayers are excellent. (Kubota and Konishi are good too.)

I love the powderkeg nature of First Love, and I don’t think Konishi’s call girl is un-addicted to drugs yet at the film’s end. The pic is a little too honest for that.

(In Japanese with English subtitles)

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