By: Orlok666
Date: February 28, 2012

IFFR 2012 report (2): Black‘s Game, Ace Attorney, Dernière Sèance & more

This is the second and last part of our International Film Festival Rotterdam report. In this part you‘ll find short reviews of "I Wish", "Romance Joe", "Black‘s Game", "Ace Attorney" and "Dernière Sèance".

I Wish (aka Kiseki; 2011, Japan)

Koichi and his younger brother Ryunosuke are very close but, after the divorce of their parents, each moves to a different city. Koichi lives with his mother and his grandparents in the village, while Ryunosuke and his father live in the city, where the father tries to make a name for himself as a musician. The two children decide to conceive a plan to bridge the physical distance once and for all. Their complex operation means taking risks, however.


“I Wish” is a small tale seen through the eyes of two young brothers who want to reunite and get back to their old lives -one before their parents divorced. At Koichi’s (Koki Maeda) school the story goes that the new bullet trains are so fast that the energy that comes free when they pass allows you to make a wish. Together with their friends Koichi and Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda) make a plan to let each of their wishes come true. And that means getting the money for a train ride and find the exact point where the trains will pass each other.

“I Wish” is a charming film, filled with some touches of humor but above all a little journey along with the kids getting things done on their own in order to achieve their goal. Each of them have their problems they’d like to leave behind and dreams wanting to come true. Luckily director Hirokazu Koreeda managed to stay away from being overly sentimental and found a way to capture the world of children on film. The dreamy rock soundtrack provided by the Japanese band Quruli is perfect for the film. Koreeda all translated this into a light, intimate movie where eventually it is the youngsters’ journey that counts and not the goal itself.

Romance Joe (aka Lo-maen-seu Jo; 2011, Korea)

When a film director screams he cannot write a single word for his next project, a coffee shop waitress promises a good story if she’s paid the night. One day she knocked the wrong door when Romance Joe was committing suicide. There the waitress got to know about his first love in high school. Finally Romance Joe decides to live again and visits his hometown to retrace his memories.


Lee Kwang-Kuk directed this multi-layered tale that is ultimately about love. Via a very constructed, intertwined storytelling we learn about a filmmaker that doesn’t have inspiration anymore, a waitress telling him stories about a guy she met called Romance Joe and his stories about his childhood. I felt that the movie was too long and dragging itself forward slowly. It has some touches of odd humor and a few highlight scenes (in example where Romance Joe and his girlfriend kiss on the boat) but it’s not enough to save the film. The biggest problem is however is that the film gets a little bit too tangled in telling stories that are intertwined so it appeals more to the mind than to the heart.

Black’s Game (aka Svartur á leik; 2012, Iceland)

In the mid to late 90's, the Reykjavik crime and drug scene saw a drastic change from a relatively small and innocent world into a much more aggressive and violent one.. The film tells the story of this change through the fictional gang of pushers that took control of Iceland's underworld.


“Based on some shit that actually happened”. Óskar Thór Axelsson debut feature film “Black’s Game” kicks in with a blast of loud club music and shots reminiscent of The Prodigy’s clip of “Smack my Bitch up” where Stebbi (Thorvaldur David Kristjansson) is being thrown out of the club and arrested for aggravated assault. At the police station he meets his old friend Tóti (Johannes Haukur Johannesson) who is willing to help Stebbi from doing jailtime in exchange for a favour. When things get messed up Stebbi is getting dragged into Iceland’s criminal scene that revolves around drugs and control.

Much in the style of “Pusher” (Nicolas Winding Refn was executive producer) Axelsson knows what his audience wants. The film of fast-paced, doesn’t shy away from violence, keeps the criminals untrustworthy and the atmosphere gritty. It’s based on a book “Black Curse” by Stefán Máni which focused on the events that changed the criminal milieu -becoming more violent- in Iceland. While it isn’t as good as “Pusher” it Axelsson does bring in a bit of personal style into “Black’s Game” through the use of voice overs, split-screens and hand held shots. Definitely a must see if you’re into the grimy, criminal thrillers as Nicolas Winding Refn’s criminal trilogy and the works of Guy Ritchie.

Ace Attorney (aka Gyakuten saiban; 2012, Japan)

In 20XX, to prevent the rise of vicious crimes the government introduces “bench trials” a new justice system where the defense and prosecutor go head-to-head in open court. Within just three days, a guilty or not guilty verdict is decided. The young, rather clumsy lawyer Phoenix, assisted by old school friends Miles Edgeworth and Larry Butz, has to win several court cases in this story in order to solve a 15-year-old mystery.


Director Miike Takashi is well known for his gruesome films like “Ichi the Killer” and “Audition” while he has a vast variety in his career. This time he takes on “Ace Attorney” based on the video game series by Capcom. Having never played the games myself he did manage to make a fun, quirky film with weird characters, inventive use of technology in court and an intriguing murder mystery.

The characters look over the top and if they just walked right out of the video game and it’s filled with funny sidesteps. Ace Phoenix isn’t the perfect attorney and he often struggles with his cases and finding evidence in the three-day trials, making him also a person of flesh and blood. The film itself is quite story driven and filled with several subplots but it is still easy to follow. All this makes “Ace Attorney” a real fun, fast-paced and entertaining experience with a typical Japanese touch of humour pleasing both fans as people unfamiliar with the video game.

Dernière Séance (aka Last Screening; 2011, France)

The lonely, taciturn Sylvain is a projectionist in an old local cinema. The place has to close because it doesn’t get enough customers, but the film lover Sylvain doggedly keeps screening films. At night he has a very different, macabre obsession.


Laurent Achard directed a mix between drama and horror in his latest film “Dernière Séance”, but leaning more towards horror. Sylvain (Pascal Cervo) is a bit of a timid einzelgänger who runs the local cinema. He loves the cinema and the films playing there (most notably “French Cancan”). But that is just his mask; at night he roams the streets looking for victims for his obsession: earrings.

The film is has a dense atmosphere with Sylvain as an alien, silent and unsettling person that waits till his prey is in reach, showing almost no emotions at all. Even while most murders are shown off screen or from a distance you keep feeling the terror of it, with the only victims’ screams that fill the soundtrack. Archard plays with sound and image in this film and Cervo makes up a great psycho. This film might not be for everyone but if you don’t mind a slower paced horror that mostly relies on the feel of threat and character than gore.


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