My Week in Film (3/10-3/16)

Most of my movie watching this week has been part of marathons so I haven't had time for other movies so here it goes. I've decided not to do an Asian film marathon so I'll just be going over them in here.

The Mist (2007)
(Directed by Frank Darabont)

It's mostly crappy. There's only so much cheese one can take, after all. There's almost too much bad in here but somehow it all balances out. All the shitty performances (Marcia Gay Harden/Thomas Jane, I'm looking at you), all the shitty CGI, the shitty ergh, somehow all of that doesn't make this movie bad. In fact, it's par for the course. Darabont's direction is capable, I suppose, though there is only so much one can do with this kind of situation. The whole religion crap was heavy-handed (hilariously so.) Everything about this screams bad and yet I enjoyed it. Probably cuz of its ultra-depressing ending which was like a big FU to the audience. Dig it. I think I do.


Café Lumière (2003)
(Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

The key word here might be: interesting. That about sums up the resonance that this film possesses. Since it was originally commissioned as a homage to Ozu (I've only seen Tokyo Story) commemorating the centennial of the Japanese master's birth, I probably missed out on a whole lot of the thematic connections between this and Ozu's work (if there are any.) From what I do know though, he concerned himself largely with families and their dynamics. Later on, he also focused on the plight of young women who were faced with difficult choices. I suppose those two things come through here. Stylistically though, this bears absolutely no resemblance to Ozu. Well, it's not like I expected Hou to start doing tatami shots or keep his camera still or whatever. The problem here seems to be that it all feels too slight. This is one of those films where I was pretty restless throughout the majority of it. I kept waiting for something to happen. I kept waiting for Tadanobu Asano to be used in a manner worthy of his talents. I kept waiting... and then it ended. It may seem like I didn't like it but I sorta did. I really can't get tired of Hou's style but it seems that this time it all didn't really add up to much.


3-Iron (2004)
(Directed by Ki-Duk Kim)

Where the hell did this come from? Ki-Duk Kim's 3-Iron is quite unlike any other film I've ever seen. It starts out with a young man who breaks into vacant apartments and stays in them for the night. He doesn't steal anything. In fact, he repays the people whose homes he trespasses by fixing their appliances and cleaning up. Then he meets a woman in a place he thought vacant. The surprises that the film springs up on you from after this point are too good for me to reveal them. It is better to let them come naturally. I knew next to nothing about the film going into it (outside of that it was one of my friend's favorite movies) and that led to me being surprised at every turn the story took. Like a majority of today's Asian films, it is pretty silent. But it's never boring. The stillness that a lot of Ki-Duk Kim's contemporaries prefer is nowhere to be found here. In fact, everything about this movie is pretty dynamic which was a refreshing change of pace.


Far From Heaven (2002)
(Directed by Todd Haynes)

2nd Haynes film that I've seen (after I'm Not There.) I have never seen a single Douglas Sirk film. Even though that's Haynes' main inspiration, there doesn't appear to be a need to have seen any of those films to enjoy this one. All that's needed is for you to know that this is your typical 50s suburban neighborhood. The film works mainly because there is no winking going on. There's no "look at how racist/close-minded we were back then" kind of thing. There's only the values of the age. By playing it absolutely true, the film has an emotional resonance that can't be denied or chalked up to pure melodrama. It earns it. Julianne Moore is usually pretty good in everything she does but this is easily the best work I've ever seen her do. The Oscar should've been hers.


Rambo (2008)
(Directed by Sylvester Stallone)

I'm not really sure what I expected from this film. Well, it is a Rambo movie so I knew there would be an exorbitant amount of violence. Kind of strange since I've never seen a Rambo movie all the way through. Only seen a bit here and there on TV. There is only one interesting thing about this film: the violence. This will probably be the most violent film of the year. No question about it. The amount of carnage present here is enough to satiate the most hungry of bloodhounds. There's so much over-the-top gore that it's almost ridiculous. Stallone almost had me thinking this was sort of fun until they started massacring the villages. It was almost too much. After that point, the film became extremely unpleasant to watch. Honestly, this is a cartoon. Also, apparently the message that Stallone wants to get across is that the only way to illicit change is blowing everything to fucking bits. I realize this is a Rambo film and I shouldn't expect valid social commentary or something but, Jesus, talk about misguided. So I guess if what you want to watch are a bunch of mindless, cartoony massacres, then Rambo is the film for you. Also, Stallone, you're old. Stop.


The Flower Of My Secret (1995)
(Directed by Pedro Almodovar)

This is the 4th Almodovar film I've seen and probably my least favorite. That only means that this one just isn't a masterpiece like the other ones. From what I've read, this signals a turning point in Almodovar's work to more dramatic fare. The film stars Marisa Paredes as a chick lit author who writes under a pseudonym because she despises her own work so much. Her own life is filled with so much pain and misery that she can no longer write the happy endings that those novels require. At the same time, she wants to start writing darker stuff but can't because of her contract. There's an obvious parallel between what Almodovar is doing himself and what's having his protagonist do. There's still doses of human comedy here but it's done mostly to inform the dramatic changes that the characters are going through. Undeniably likable but a little bit too dry for my tastes. From here on in, it got only better.


Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring (2003)
(Directed by Ki-Duk Kim)

Another of my friend's favorite films. This Buddhist drama is exquisite. Each season mirrors the stages of man's life and the circularity of the film's narrative (which at the end is laid on a bit too thick but it works) serves only to highlight the tenets of Buddhism. That's all fine and dandy but what really makes the film amazing is that on top of doing all of that, it still works as a fine drama. Another point of interest is the film's apparent stillness. It feels still mainly due to the film's setting: a remarkable little floating monastery in the middle of a lake which is a marvel all by itself. This is one to revisit for sure.


My Own Private Idaho (1991)
(Directed by Gus Van Sant)

Gus Van Sant may have an unnatural fixation with the dudes on the fringes of society but that doesn't stop him from making damn fine films. My Own Private Idaho stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves (both bad and good here) as two hustlers who wander the streets of Portland trying to turn a trick here and there. Keanu who comes from a wealthy family and whose slumming is a sort of rebellion while Phoenix plays a young narcoleptic with serious family issues. River Phoenix is a revelation. One of the best performances I've seen from a young actor. By comparison, Keanu doesn't really stand up but he does fit the role I suppose. I didn't know what to really make of all the Shakespeare stuff. I'm not familiar with the play enough to really have an opinion on it. It just sort of was. Overall, it's pretty damn impressive. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a Van Sant flick (Psycho is already forgotten) and I don't really see myself being disappointed as I check out more of his stuff. His uniquely personal vision is one to be cherished. A true American independent.


Jhon's Movie of the Week is.... 3-Iron.

Ask me another day and it might be Spring. Ki-Duk Kim owned my week.


sean said...

Isn't the camera still in Cafe Lumiere? I remember it that way, at least much less roving than in Hou's other films of the period. There's certainly an extended tatami shot when the girl goes home and her mom makes her dinner. I recall the camera behind her at ground level in a dark room while mom works in the kitchen, the shot divided into rectangles (light kitchen, dark room) and two planes (front and back), all of which are Ozu trademarks.

roujin said...

I think this is a case where a lot of the significance of the movie is sort of lost on me. I'm a big Ozu novice so even though I know what a tatami shot is I guess I can't really tell you if Hou used it prominently. I remember the scene you're referring to and I suppose it is a tatami shot.

Well, it was definitely way more static than Millennium Mambo and Three Times (the other Hou films I've seen.) However, I don't think there was full-on stillness. Something about the compositions and perhaps the movement in the scenes themselves lead me to believe that. I don't know. I'm looking forward to watching more Ozu films than coming back to this one and seeing if I can get more out if it :)