The Breadwinner (2018)

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From the studios that gifted us the stunning fantasy feature ‘Song of the Sea’, comes this equally stunning film. There’s a smart combination of visual wonder and coming of age material, but it’s also a story not scared to tackle the troubling setting of a Taliban controlled city.

On the streets of Kabul, a young girl called Parvana (Saara Chaudry) helps her father sell wares to passersby. A heated argument causes a furious Taliban member to arrest him and he’s taken to prison. Parvana has a mother, sister and little brother back at home, who are running out of food and because women aren’t allowed to roam free by themselves, she decides to change her identity in the hope of helping her family and finding her dad again.

This story based off a book by Deborah Ellis is such an honest, textured look on a world far away from the luxuries of Western living. Ellis and Anita Doron have mastered a screenplay that wonderfully juggles the main narrative with a magical story within a story. What works so flawlessly for this film, is the way they aren’t afraid to show how brutal the place can be and how chained women are; by the words of men and society in general. When the film illustrates these times of powerful masculinity beating down on innocents, it’s a significant weight that bears down on you watching and really makes you think.

The animation is gorgeous and there’s two styles on show. The prominent one is a standard but immersive, grounded and dusty drawing of Afghanistan’s capital, one that’s filled with squared off imagery, browns, whites and muted yellows with the odd pop of candy colour. Then there’s the tale narrated within the story, this like ‘Song of the Sea’, is mystical and bursting with a vivid fantasy set-up. The characters that walk this world look like paper puppetry and the flat visuals roll sideways like a bewitching sideshow act.

There might be some that think a character stepping stone reflects a Disney heroine, but Parvana cutting off her hair is where the ‘Mulan’ similarities start and end. Women are deemed fine to walk the city only if they’re covered up and led by a man, otherwise they best be inside. This stifling way of things leads the well-read and smart young girl to bravely make a change and step out into a place dominated by men. A developing friendship with a fellow child on the streets of Kabul is great to watch and important too, it’s her escape, they can share an innocence and much needed play-about antics, but what’s so well presented is their maturity. Where they’ve grown up has made them wise beyond their years, so they know how to try and avoid the dangerous environment that is presented throughout the film.

‘The Breadwinner’ is a film I won’t forget anytime soon, women live in a world of rules, no breathing room and incoming Western threats which aren’t shied away from. I am devastated to see that on a $10 million budget, the film hasn’t even broken $500’000, because this is a film that deserves to be seen and applauded for it’s beautiful story of culture, humour, war, loss, oppression and transformation.

9/10

 

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Discopath (2013)

Discopath

Succeeding more in it’s originality and genre based soundtrack, this film doesn’t tighten up all it’s narrative points and it’s also somehow a tad cheesy considering the subject of a murderous male gallivanting about the place. Look past the moments that don’t add up though and this is an interesting and odd warp of a horror.

After leaving his chef work, New Yorker Duane Lewis (Jeremie Earp) gets invited along to a disco night though it’s this funky beat of music that sets off the crazed murderer inside him and it isn’t long until he’s in a new country but still with this disco demon ready to jump out.

It’s a debut feature for director Renaud Gauthier and from this you can see he has an eye for taking on something others wouldn’t have even dreamed up. I do hope his next movie is the same type of deal, a mash-up of styles and one that plays heavily on the music to add atmosphere. The film may look like a VHS sleaze fest of 70’s/80’s times but it echoes to that period and the change in decades and setting is captured nicely. Gauthier is better handled to directing the kills than he is the bits in between, a murder on (under) the dance-floor and a dorm room slaying are two prime examples of neat horror directing.

Another cool moment comes in a strobe lighting sequence, but then this seems to be done more and more so it’s nothing overtly special, that and the fact that how in God’s green Earth did no-one else see this guy strangling the dancer!? The writing itself loses plot credentials, he has a knife just when he needs it, the character of the killer is so bland honestly and the attempt to give him the backstory motivation is naff. Also the American policeman just has an astounding connection from just the idea of music and then when he arrives in Canada he seems to know all there is about this guy though he hadn’t never been seen. If the film had tightened the screws on the story then it would have been much stronger.

The alluring sound of disco repeats throughout the movie and Bruce Cameron works a treat on the majority of the music side. It’s this hypnotic theme that works like a pacy signal to set Duane going. This specific track also works with the spinning of the disco lights, the records rotation in the college basement and apparently this sick twisting mind of Duane, it’s mixed well with the standard horror tropes of music to conjoin death scenes. Gauthier also crops up in the sound department for the main theme. As with all good horror scores it utilises on an unnerving piano baseline to kick things off. The theme is pulsating and lively to reflect the disco element but it hits with a horror bite especially near the end with siren bursts sounding electronic but harsh like screams of the victims almost. The you can’t kill me lyric is funnily ironic too but not nearly as funny as the pumping anthem from KISS which accompanies the ending part of the film.

Potential of something unique in this director can be found in this 2013 Canadian horror. The score is electric and backs the whole movie in a boogie boogeyman way, the characters and plot may lack a lot but it’s a film that fits the 70’s mantra of dirty, brooding and disco delight.

5.5/10