Film Picks: The Two Popes, Chinese drama So Long, My Son, and cult anime classics

Stills from the Netflix film The Two Popes starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. PHOTO: NETFLIX

THE TWO POPES (rating to be confirmed)

126 minute / streams on Netflix from Dec 20 / 3.5 stars

This warmly funny, sharply-scripted account of the 2013 transfer of power from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis, in the first voluntary resignation of a pontiff in over 700 years, offers an entertaining glimpse into the workings of an organisation that does not give up its secrets easily.

It is all reconstructed from research by screenwriter Anthony McCarten (the Stephen and Jane Hawking story The Theory Of Everything, 2014; the wartime Churchill diary Darkest Hour, 2017), a writer with a knack for making recent history come alive.

Jonathan Pryce as the people-power Francis and Anthony Hopkins as the by-the-book Pope Benedict represent the new and the old, of course, but in the hands of McCarten and Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (crime drama City Of God, 2002) there is a vibrant urgency to what they say when they talk about the Church in the 21st century. The men bluff, implore, cajole and in their reflections on the state of the Church, there is as much said about the sorry state of the world.

In the Oscar-winning but overwrought Darkest Hour, director Joe Wright turned Churchill's speeches into action cinema. Meirelles's touch is far lighter - he steps aside to let two wonderfully relaxed and precise actors do their job.


185 minutes/4 stars

Over its luxurious three-hour run-time, this story packs in threads about forced abortions, labour camp stints for listening to decadent Western pop, attempted suicide and extramarital liaisons.

So Long, My Son stars Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei. PHOTO: ANTICIPATE PICTURES

If it all sounds like prime-time soap opera material, that is because it is. But celebrated Chinese film-maker Wang Xiaoshuai - master of social realist dramas like the prize-winning Beijing Bicycle (2001), Shanghai Dreams (2005) and 11 Flowers (2011, also starring Wang) - never lapses into mawkishness.

The son of Yaojun (Wang Jingchun) and Liyun (Yong Mei) is killed in an accident. The pain is felt all the more keenly because he is their only child, the result of China's population control policy. Over the next three decades, the after-effects of that death linger on in the lives of the couple and their friends and relatives.

Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Actor and Best Actress, for Wang and Yong respectively at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival.

WHERE: The Projector, Level 5, Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road

WHEN: From Dec 21, various times




Three films - psychological thriller Perfect Blue (1997, R21, screens from Dec 20), post-apocalyptic science-fiction piece Akira (1989, NC16, screens from Dec 25) and the meditation on thinking machines Ghost In The Shell (1995, M18, screens from Dec 21) - are on the programme.

Viewers are likely to have watched them already, or seen works from Western film-makers that paid homage to, or even copied, them, but here is the chance to catch them on the big screen.

WHERE: The Projector, Level 5, Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road

WHEN: From Dec 20, various times




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