VIFF 2011 Reviews: Bullhead;The Sword Identity; White; The Salt of Life.


Bullhead. Belgium, 126 min.

Who would have thought it? Agricultural gangsters. Muscle-bound Jacky (Matthias Schoenaerts) is an enforcer for the family business, ensuring that local beef farmers trade with the right people for the right prices. But the murder of a cop gives Jacky doubts about a deal the family is about to make with another gang. What led Jacky to his steroid-addicted, sex-avoiding life is a childhood trauma that cries for vengeance. A highly-original take on the gangster genre.

The Sword Identity. China, 110 min.

Coupla swordsmen tackle a village whose only economic activity seems to be training sword fodder. Blame Kurosawa; he started this genre. I keep hoping that the latest absurdity will see the end of it.

White. South Korea, 108 min.

Another genre flick, this one featuring a all-girl rock group whose members scream real shrill when the ghost lurking in an old video tape bleeds them. Lots of shocks, but nothing original.

The Salt of Life. Italy, 89 min.

Writer-director-actor Gianni Di Gregorio attempts a reprise of last year’s charming Mid-August Lunch. It doesn’t quite work. We are meant to empathize with the central character, middle-aged retiree Gianni (played by Di Gregorio), who is living close to the economic edge while his mother squanders the family fortune. But Gianni, although blessed with an attractive, loving wife, squanders his attention on other women. That some of these bimbos find him appealing is a mystery.

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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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