My Week In Film (9/15 - 9/21)

Things happened for reasons...

Millennium Mambo (2001)*
(Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

Upon a rewatch, the details, the relationships, all seem much sharper. Whereas before, I only had impressions and vaguely recalled moments or scenes, I'm now left with an absolute feeling by film's end. It's one of hope and happiness. Because to see Vicky smile is to smile yourself. Millennium Mambo is a film about emotional stasis, for sure, but it's also about moving on and looking back and remembering why you made the choices that you made. However, what sticks to me the most about the film (not to disregard the beautiful cinematography and Hou's masterful direction) is the looks and the glances that are captured. The way that Vicky lights a cigarette, the way Hao Hao handles his records, the way Jack talks on the phone. All these little things add up to such a great feeling of Euphoria by film's end. I wish I could go to Hokkaido.


The Virgin Spring (1960)
(Directed by Ingmar Bergman)

The Virgin Spring is as direct as you could possibly want it to be. It's about answering one violent act with another and the emotional strain that this places on one man's faith. Max von Sydow is commanding and proud throughout. The way her carries himself during the majority of this film only makes the final moments that much more heartbreaking. It is kinda heavy-handed in its themes (the sister's Odin worship contrasted with the traditional God) but it manages to evoke such deep emotion by film's end that I forgive it. Bergman seems to me a director who's in direct contact with my emotions at all times. His films are felt. I very much like that.


The Man With The Movie Camera (1929)
(Directed by Dziga Vertov)

A feast of montage and cinematography! Even though the film is short, it's kinda exhausting. So many images and ideas are crammed into it that it's hard to keep up. At first, I had no idea what was even happening. However, as it kept going, I just started going along with it and stopped worrying about the overall point. The film depicts everyday Soviet life all the while depicting the relationship between subject and camera or some other crap. Not only does the film depict the shooting of the film itself but even the editing! (that's gotta be ahead of its time). It's an inventive piece of filmmaking and, at times, it's even exhilarating. No complaints, really. I just wonder if I'll want to watch it again.


Bottle Rocket (1996)*
(Directed by Wes Anderson)

Major Flaws: There's a certain sense of goofing off in the air. It's by no means a flaw but it does kinda distract from the finer elements of the film. Also, James Caan is completely wasted. He's just kinda there. I only noticed him a couple of times. The film is slight when compared to Anderson's later films. It almost feels like a trifle but I tend to like those anyway.

Major Attributes: All of the elements of Wes Anderson's cinema that we enjoy today are present here. They're beginning to take shape. His characters are as interesting as his later ones although probably less memorable (with exception of Dignan!!!). This film is interesting because of what we know about how Anderson grew as a filmmaker. Here's a talent not yet fully developed. But the talent present here is undeniable and makes what should be a trifle a very enjoyable film. Sure, the crime elements are ridiculous (as they're probably meant to be) but what about those yellow jumpsuits!


Sakuran (2006)
(Directed by Mika Ninagawa)

A pretty extravagant mess. Lots of color, fantastic sets and costumes and interesting cinematography... but it's not really interesting on a human level. The story is pretty standard stuff (based on a jousei manga) and while Anna Tsuchiya has a weird charm to her, the character is pretty "eh." The whole goldfish visual metaphor (which they explain several times) is beaten to death by showing you shots of them every five minutes. The saving grace of the film is the anachronistic modern soundtrack done by Shiina Ringo. It's very, very good.


Gummo (1997)
(Directed by Harmony Korine)

I don't think I've ever seen a film as remotely anti-social as this one. Gummo doesn't care if you like it or not. It just wants you to FUCK OFF Shocked Is there a meaning to this madness? I'm not really sure. But enough of it is fascinating just because it exists that I wouldn't discourage someone from watching it. Sure, it's free-form non-narrative is interesting but is it satisfying? Sure, the film's form sometimes threaten to take sides and fight against each other. Sure, sometimes it seems like Korine makes fun of these people but then sometimes it feels like there's an affection in there as well. Yes, this is grotesque and completely alienating but why the hell not? This film isn't worthless... but it very well could be. And it's nasty. And kinda beautiful at parts. It's kinda happy too. And kinda sad... Where do I fall on this again?


A Confucian Confusion (1994)
(Directed by Edward Yang)

This was a comedy? Sure, there were outright comedic moments such as when Larry starts chasing Birdy through his apartment with a sword. But, mostly, what we find here are very lonely people. And all that they want is to no longer be misunderstood. Each character is instantly memorable and the issues that they have to work out are all extremely relevant in today's modern world (although I would imagine even more in the Taipei of 1994). Issues of self-identity, the importance of art, blah, blah, blah; it sounds dry but it isn't. It's all informed by Yang's gentle touch. He tells us that sometimes life is ridiculous and the choices we thought we were right turn out not be not right at all. We have to allow for that. Such great stuff.

And, yes, white subs. Sometimes I couldn't read them (just a couple scenes here and there) but I got by fine even with this. Just letting potential downloaders know :)


JFK (1991)
(Directed by Oliver Stone)

Major Flaws:

Also, isn't most of this movie just people... explaining things... to other people?

Major Attributes: Sure, they're explaining things to each other... and just talking... but Oliver Stone and company go crazy with 35mm, 16mm, Super 8, 8mm, video, still photos, color, black and white (thanks to Ebert) while recreating, making up and speculating. The film dives into the search for the truth at such a fast pace that it's seriously one of the quickest 3-hour films ever. Overall, the film is all about its masterful editing and how Stone managed to cram as much info and characters as he did into this film. It's ambitious and messy but somehow kinda masterful. Surely, his best film.


The film of the week is... Gummo?!!!

Nah, it's Millennium Mambo


face said...

Oh, thank Buddha!

Also, go over to our first home and explain to me why people like Ghost in the Shell.

ketch said...

hey there! i love your blog. i come to it every so often for film suggestions, so i thought i might suggest you something. when you find the time, check out The Taste of Tea (or, in Japanese: Cha No Aji). it's a quirky family drama that i'm pretty sure you'd love.

roujin said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

It's been on my radar for a while now. I just haven't watched it.

johnheberle said...

don't know if you've seen berlin symphony of a city (or whatever it's called) but i think it's more effective than man with a movie camera.

also less abrasive.