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Cut & Wrapped: Japanese exploitation flicks & the most frightening film Herzog's ever seen

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NEW FILM OF THE WEEK: Before Midnight

Another nine years have passed in the indie romantic saga of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) in the chatty, Richard Linklater-directed series. They first crossed paths in 1995's Before Sunrise, passing one night together rambling round Vienna. In 2004's Before Sunset at a Paris bookstore reading they met again - and we were left on tenterhooks as to whether Jesse would skip his plane, or they would go back to their respective lives. Fast-forward another near-decade to Before Midnight, and they are now a couple, with two small daughters - and a strained relationship. The dialogue has never been sharper, their everyday quarrelling part of a deeper, bittersweet power struggle that asks how you retain your own identity when entwined in a serious relationship – and one with plenty of baggage. Opening in the UK on Friday 21 June.

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NEW DOCUMENTARY OF THE WEEK: The Act of Killing

When Werner Herzog says a film's the most surreal and frightening he's seen in at least a decade, it's worth paying attention. Director Joshua Oppeinhemer's The Act of Killing, which won the top prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest last week, lives up to the hype. Navigating a similar realm of unsettling surrealism as Herzog's own radical documentary experiment Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997), in which he took a Vietnam veteran back to the scene of his trauma too re-enact events, Oppenheimer has unrepentant members of the Indonesian death squads of the '60s, who were adulated for killing communists, don flamboyantly coloured costumes to theatrically re-enact their crimes in the style of their favourite movie genres - gangster, western and musical. The process sparks a shift in the psyche of the killers. Screening at London's Open City Docs fest on Saturday 22 June, and out on UK general release on Friday 28 June.

OLD FILM OF THE WEEK: STtray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

Chic, grim and full of raucous action, the 1970 Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter is the third – and widely considered the best – of a five-part series of Japanese exploitation flicks directed by Yasuharu Hasebe, who later moved into more porn-heavy “violent pink” cinema. The films made lead Meiko Kaji (who also had iconic roles in Female Convict Scorpion and Lady Snowblood) a star. In this episode, a member of delinquent girl gang the Alleycats led by Mako (Kaji) turns down the advances of a guy-gang Eagles member in favour of her half-black boyfriend. Eagles leader Baron vows to drive the mixed-race part of the town’s population out. The film was shot near the US naval base at Yokosuma, where race relations were strained. Screening on Tuesday 25 June at London’s BFI Southbank.

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FESTIVAL OF THE WEEK: EAST END FILM FESTIVAL

The East End Film Festival is back for its 12th edition with an expanded fest that will run for two weeks, showcasing independent films from the UK and abroad, and cross-arts events from installations to live music at venues across East London. Highlights this year include Grits'N'Gravy, a one-day cinematic celebration of America's Deep South (with free Bloody Mary's to boot); an outdoor screening of 2007 black-and-white Argentinian retro sci-fi allegory La Antena in Spitalfields Market accompanied by a soundscape from Darkwave band Esben and the Witch; and a crop of fresh new films from documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer to Zal Batmanglij's anarchist-collective thriller The East. The festival runs from June 25 to July 10.

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