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The latest from two Film Movement auteurs

The Whaler Boy, They Say Nothing Stays the Same

The Whaler Boy: a Chukchi hunter (Vladimir Onokhov) makes a brief stopover at the whale graveyard before traveling to Detroit to meet the sex worker of his dreams.
The Whaler Boy: a Chukchi hunter (Vladimir Onokhov) makes a brief stopover at the whale graveyard before traveling to Detroit to meet the sex worker of his dreams.

Two titles, new-to-DVD from Film Movement, are ready to grace your home theater’s screen.

The Whaler Boy (2020)

Our story of a broken heart begins with a Detroit sex worker (Kristina Asmus) flossing her thong panties as she reports to the chatroom. Cut to a remote village off the Bering Strait, where for the first time, a group of whale hunters are being exposed to the internet’s chief export: porn. In ye olden days, these boys would be fighting over male-order brides, not pixelated prostitutes. But as it is, 15-year-old Leshka (Vladimir Onokhov) is instantly smitten by the face on the laptop screen, so much so that he decides an in-person meeting must be arranged. But even if he could afford to buy her love for a few hours, by the time he saved up for a round-trip ticket, the blush would be off the rose. His journey to America is populated by a fresh cast supporting characters, including the nicest border patrol agent (Ankas Aimetgirgin) this side of Hopalong Cassidy. To a guy who spends far too much time kvetching about the overall lack of originality inherent in movies today, novice auteur Philipp Yuryev’s The Whaler Boy is a winning lottery ticket of inventiveness.

They Say Nothing Stays the Same (2019)

Water has remained unchanged since the earth formed billions of years ago, leaving one to ponder the reason why actor Joe Odagiri cast it in a starring role for his second feature as writer-director. Situated against a breathtaking panoramic expanse, a small Japanese village (which we hear about but never see) is about to catch up with the times. With all the talk of convenience that a new bridge will bring to the surroundings, it seems the only one to be inconvenienced is Toichi (Akira Emoto), a boatman whose livelihood depends on his passengers. It’s not just that his ferry been his source of sustenance, spiritual and otherwise — whatever knowledge he has concerning the outside world comes from his passengers. Construction of the bridge takes place entirely offscreen, but we do get to meet the arrogant builders, as they show up as the most belligerent of of Toichi’s fares. A contractor tosses coins to the ground to register displeasure over services rendered and the hard hats mercilessly mock the blithe oarsman to his face. The girl in the picture (Ririka Kawashima) is introduced with a thud: floating through the water, her semi-conscious body bumps up against his boat. Toichi nurses her back to health, but even if she could remember her name, she would not dare speak it. Toichi surmises that the shattered young woman is the survivor of a family massacre that took place upstream. (One of his passengers mentions reincarnation, almost as means of justifying the girl’s constant reappearance and disappearance.) Dressed in red, a color one doesn’t see much of in these lush parts, she stands out in every shot. Their relationship isn’t forced, nor is there any struggling with romantic boundaries. (Hold the romance for an English-language remake.) Toichi best sums up their connection: he’s the boatman and she’s the wind.

With a running time of 137 minutes, the film initially moves at a pace befitting the wizened rower. One wishes the tempo might have stayed that way. Instead, Toichi’s young friend Genzo (Nijiro Murakami), who by his own admission is not very smart, jokes about sabotaging the bridge before it’s completed. The film’s occasional bursts of comic book necromancy — most notably, a fantasy sequence that graphically details Toichi enacting a bloody revenge on the construction crew — are out of place here. And for a film that does its best to eschew exposition, what’s with the sudden logjam of plot towards the end of the show?

No matter, I’ve saved the best for last. Credit God with the lighting and the incomparable Christopher Doyle (Temptress Moon, In the Mood for Love, The Limits of Control) with serving as His lumen-wrangler. Thanks to covid, we’ll probably never get a chance at seeing this projected on a big screen, so your living room will have to do.

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The Whaler Boy: a Chukchi hunter (Vladimir Onokhov) makes a brief stopover at the whale graveyard before traveling to Detroit to meet the sex worker of his dreams.
The Whaler Boy: a Chukchi hunter (Vladimir Onokhov) makes a brief stopover at the whale graveyard before traveling to Detroit to meet the sex worker of his dreams.

Two titles, new-to-DVD from Film Movement, are ready to grace your home theater’s screen.

The Whaler Boy (2020)

Our story of a broken heart begins with a Detroit sex worker (Kristina Asmus) flossing her thong panties as she reports to the chatroom. Cut to a remote village off the Bering Strait, where for the first time, a group of whale hunters are being exposed to the internet’s chief export: porn. In ye olden days, these boys would be fighting over male-order brides, not pixelated prostitutes. But as it is, 15-year-old Leshka (Vladimir Onokhov) is instantly smitten by the face on the laptop screen, so much so that he decides an in-person meeting must be arranged. But even if he could afford to buy her love for a few hours, by the time he saved up for a round-trip ticket, the blush would be off the rose. His journey to America is populated by a fresh cast supporting characters, including the nicest border patrol agent (Ankas Aimetgirgin) this side of Hopalong Cassidy. To a guy who spends far too much time kvetching about the overall lack of originality inherent in movies today, novice auteur Philipp Yuryev’s The Whaler Boy is a winning lottery ticket of inventiveness.

They Say Nothing Stays the Same (2019)

Water has remained unchanged since the earth formed billions of years ago, leaving one to ponder the reason why actor Joe Odagiri cast it in a starring role for his second feature as writer-director. Situated against a breathtaking panoramic expanse, a small Japanese village (which we hear about but never see) is about to catch up with the times. With all the talk of convenience that a new bridge will bring to the surroundings, it seems the only one to be inconvenienced is Toichi (Akira Emoto), a boatman whose livelihood depends on his passengers. It’s not just that his ferry been his source of sustenance, spiritual and otherwise — whatever knowledge he has concerning the outside world comes from his passengers. Construction of the bridge takes place entirely offscreen, but we do get to meet the arrogant builders, as they show up as the most belligerent of of Toichi’s fares. A contractor tosses coins to the ground to register displeasure over services rendered and the hard hats mercilessly mock the blithe oarsman to his face. The girl in the picture (Ririka Kawashima) is introduced with a thud: floating through the water, her semi-conscious body bumps up against his boat. Toichi nurses her back to health, but even if she could remember her name, she would not dare speak it. Toichi surmises that the shattered young woman is the survivor of a family massacre that took place upstream. (One of his passengers mentions reincarnation, almost as means of justifying the girl’s constant reappearance and disappearance.) Dressed in red, a color one doesn’t see much of in these lush parts, she stands out in every shot. Their relationship isn’t forced, nor is there any struggling with romantic boundaries. (Hold the romance for an English-language remake.) Toichi best sums up their connection: he’s the boatman and she’s the wind.

With a running time of 137 minutes, the film initially moves at a pace befitting the wizened rower. One wishes the tempo might have stayed that way. Instead, Toichi’s young friend Genzo (Nijiro Murakami), who by his own admission is not very smart, jokes about sabotaging the bridge before it’s completed. The film’s occasional bursts of comic book necromancy — most notably, a fantasy sequence that graphically details Toichi enacting a bloody revenge on the construction crew — are out of place here. And for a film that does its best to eschew exposition, what’s with the sudden logjam of plot towards the end of the show?

No matter, I’ve saved the best for last. Credit God with the lighting and the incomparable Christopher Doyle (Temptress Moon, In the Mood for Love, The Limits of Control) with serving as His lumen-wrangler. Thanks to covid, we’ll probably never get a chance at seeing this projected on a big screen, so your living room will have to do.

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