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April Movies At Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

As we slowly move away from the awards season, our local film venues go back to what they do best: indie and cult cinema. 

1st April @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Frank (UK 2014)

A bizarre and surreal fable, Frank is based on Jon Ronson's memoir about the underground persona Frank Sidebottom. Frank is more a tragicomedy than a bio-epic of musician Christopher Mark Sievey, the man with the huge oval-fiberglass-head who became a very popular figure in the indie world during the 80s and 90s.

When director Lenny Abrahamson was asked to describe the relationship between his film and Chris Sievey, he replied, “there is a spirit in common, in the sense that it is true to Chris’s intense, maverick, playful but ultimately really serious approach to what he did. The way to think about Frank is, if Frank Sidebottom fell asleep and had a dream, than maybe this film is his dream.” The gifted Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, X-Men: First Class) is the on-screen man underneath the somewhat disturbing spheroidal head.

The film received two awards at the British Independent Film Awards in 2014, one for Best Screenplay and one for Best Technical Achievement. 

 

2nd April @ 8:30pm – Saigon Outcast

Whiplash (USA 2014)

Two years ago, Future Shorts Vietnam closed its international program with a short film in which a music teacher, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), verbally abused and bullied his jazz orchestra students. At that time, the electrifying short by writer-director Damien Chazelle had already won the Sundance Film Festival and was looking for funds to be adapted into a long-length feature film. And so it happened.

The release of Whiplash last year was met with awe by critics and audiences alike, and again winning big at Sundance. J.K. Simmons has been showered with awards for his performance, including an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (the film also took home two more golden statuettes for Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing).

This is not just the typical David versus Goliath story where an indie film makes it big; Whiplash is an audacious piece of filmmaking in every sense. Who would have bet on a story revolving around the relationship between a borderline mad, ferocious music instructor and his young drumming student? The brutal and claustrophobic, yet witty relationship between the two had critics comparing the film with Full Metal Jacket. In this case, too, the road to success and perfection seems to be filled with sweat and blood (literally). The film deserves praises on many levels: Chazelle's razor-sharp execution, an outstanding Simmons, and the soundtrack just to name a few, but our hat goes off to the editor who stitched together a 15-minute drum solo scene that is more gripping and filled with suspense than a thriller. 

 

8th April @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge 

Calvary (Ireland/UK 2014) 

Calvary may be the unsung hero of last year’s films. Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges, The Guard) dominates John Michael McDonagh’s black comedy, in which a small town Irish priest is warned, during a confession with a mysterious parishioner, that he will be murdered to pay for all the Catholic Church’s wrongdoings.

Ireland is evidently at war with itself when it comes to the Church, at least judging by all the films that have been made surrounding this subject (Philomena, The Magdalene Sisters, Ireland's Lost Babies), however, McDonagh goes for a bleaker approach, presenting us with an unconventional priest and his internal struggle in dealing with his upcoming death. Instead of directly addressing the recent scandals surrounding the Church, Calvary uses irony to present the universal values of forgiveness, redemption and acceptance. 

 

9th April @ 8:30pm – Saigon Outcast

Grease (USA 1978)

Saigon Outcast is opening the archive film catalogue by screening iconic 70s film Grease, the musical that established John Travolta as a dance-God and Olivia Newton-John as America’s sweetheart. The high-school love story between good-girl Sandy and bad-boy Danny engrossed an entire generation of youngsters and has given the rest of the world some of the catchiest tunes in film history. The projection of the film will include a sing-a-long and a free shot for anyone who comes dressed up as one of the film’s characters or simply as a 70s greaser. 

 

15th April @ 8pm - deciBel Lounge

The Lunchbox (India 2013)

Shying away from the over-used Bollywood clichés, this elegant and engrossing story of two strangers who accidentally begin a fantasy relationship based solely on written correspondence, was presented at the BAFTA Festival where it was nominated as Best Film Not in English Language.

Set in Mumbai, the film focuses on two main characters – a middle-aged man (played by Irrfan Khan, The Life of Pi) and a lonely housewife (Nimrat Kaur) – and their romantic relationship. Though it has comedic tones, it also serves as a social commentary about the dilemma of a generation that is stuck between traditional values and modernity.

 

16th April @ 8:30 pm - Saigon Outcast

Game of Thrones season 5 premier (USA 2015)

The extremely popular and successful HBO television fantasy-drama will premier this April and broadcast across 170 countries worldwide. For those of you that are working your way through George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, the upcoming instalment is based on the books A Feast for Crowns and A Dance with Dragons.

 

22nd April @ 8pm - deciBel Lounge

Inherent Vice (USA 2014)

Paul Thomas Anderson belongs to that rare group of acclaimed directors, such as Terrence Malick and Spike Jones that have reached widespread success and notoriety despite having made only a handful of films. P.T. Anderson has only seven feature films under his belt and each is top-notch in their own right, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, Hard Eight and now Inherent Vice

Based on the homonymous novel by National Book Award-winning author Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice follows stoner private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) who investigates the disappearance of his former girlfriend and her new lover. Like in many of his previous films, Anderson brings on set a terrific group of supporting actors (Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson and a magnetic Katherine Waterston) to unravel the mysterious plot of his anachronistic noir/comedy film.

 

23rd April @ 8:30 pm - Saigon Outcast

Song of the Sea (Ireland-Luxembourg-Belgium-France-Denmark and USA 2014)

Following the 2009 The Secret of Kells, Tomm Moore nailed his second Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film in 2015 with Song of the Sea. The film is rooted in Celtic culture, from the story to the soundtrack. Based on an Irish tale, a half-monster, half-human mother disappears and her husband and two children start a quest to uncover her mysterious fate.

Though more subdued than The Secret of Kells, the hand-drawn animations are nothing short of spectacular and are quickly becoming Moore’s cinematic signature.  

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