My Week In film (12/22 - 12/28)

The Heart of the World (2000)
(Directed by Guy Maddin)

This is to make up for not being able to finish My Winnipeg.


Ugetsu (1953)
(Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi)

Doesn't come anywhere near the power of something like Sansho but doesn't really try to either. Instead, it weaves this really lyrical tale about brothers whose ambition basically leaves their wives out to dry. Oh, and it's also a ghost story. I like how some of the imagery suggests the supernatural world and the earthly world are kind of one and the same (like in the boat ride -- wowzers) and how the supernatural is treated as something natural. It's all very seamless and organic. Probably my favorite scene is the one involving this pan that connects a bath and a picnic in a way that shouldn't be possible. The pleasure overrides the physical plane or something ("I never dreamed such pleasures existed"). Another thing I thought was all great was the soundtrack which creates this really dreamy/haunting mood that perfectly brought back the mood I was in when I read that one Ueda Akinari short story I had to read for class once (this is also based on one his).


Peppermint Candy (1999)
(Directed by Lee Chang-Dong)

This is pretty much amazing. No suspense here, folks Smiley Basically, the film is about a guy who kills himself. We then go back into certain parts of his life (in backwards chronological order) to see how he got to this point. We're witness to his marriage, his affairs, his business ventures, his army service and everything. Apparently, the film closely follows recent Korean history which adds another level in which to see the film. And the backward chronology thing ain't no gimmick. It's utilized perfectly with moments in the film's early moments gaining great significance as they're given context in the scenes in the past. I also loved the train going backwards in time thing, giving the whole movie a structure (complete with its own cheesy music). However, the film works best for me as a drama, first and foremost. It's incredibly engaging with fantastic performances. The lead actor, Sol Kyung-gu, is required to be so many things and he pulls them off perfectly. In the opening scenes, all he can do is scream in agony. We are clueless as to why. At points, he's cold and icy. At others, he's innocent and smiling. Then he's brutal and violent. We are witness to all his changes (korea's changes?). And, while the film works perfectly on the dramatic level, on the formal side, it ain't too shabby either. It utilizes the long-take style a lot but it's far more dynamic than a lot of other films of its ilk. Anyway, it's consistently compelling and dramatically engaging and fucking ambitious in spades. I cannot wait to watch Oasis.


Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
(Directed by Danny Boyle)

Does this fall apart by the end? Nah. It just keeps going at its own speedy pace ignoring the feeling of what its portraying. There's some pretty shocking stuff in this film but I don't think of any of it has any weight. Its portrayals of the slums are cheapened because once we get a clear picture of something, we're rushed off to another question, another memory, another beating. The film doesn't really negotiate (or integrate) its hard-edged realism with the more fanciful aspects of the narrative so I'm kind of left at odds, not sure of what I'm supposed to be reacting to. Although, the problem is at the film's core and how Boyle chooses to present this material, the actors and the story are entertaining enough that most of these things don't matter. The film goes by extremely quickly and it's suspenseful enough. Blah blah blah. When did they learn English?

The dance scene is the best part.


Up The Yangtze (2007)
(Directed by Yung Chang)

I guess this is my fave doc of the year. As I had thought, this is a pretty great companion piece to Still Life (I'd image the Jia doc, Dong is as well, as Girish Shambu has suggested but I haven't seen it). It gives us a background and it gives us more specifics. At its heart, it's very painful. We see footage of the poorest of the poor at their lowest moments. We're forced to see the very real and very human toll of Chinese progress. As they say, the little families must help the big family. The details don't matter that much, really (plus jbizz already went over some of them) but what helps this be so good is that the film is no slouch in the visual department, either. I guess that's important or something. Eh, yeah. So good.


Speed Racer (2008)
(Directed by Andy & Larry Wachowski)

wow. I get how this movie can seem annoying but I ate it right up. It gleefully leaps into stylistic abstraction at a moment's notice and is genuinely aesthetically enticing as the whole thing collapses and rebuilds itself in seconds, breaking all sorts spatial whatever thingie majiggers. And, really, the colors! They pop off the screen and mix together and blend into delirious set pieces that don't make any sense and yet are awesome. And, it blends this weird stylistics into the very fabric of the movie's universe informing the whole sensibility at play. Plus it just makes what would be very boring race scenes into delightful splashes of primary colors. And it's genuinely exciting! The one big complaint I have is that at points, it does feel exhausting. I mean, I was right along with the film finding it constantly thrilling and inventive... but if this kind of thing goes on too long, it does get kind of tiring which is why I can't embrace it completely.


Silent Light (2007)*
(Directed by Carlos Reygadas)

I've had a long, weird struggle with this film that many of you may be familiar with. It's a film that I could find no fault with. To many, it may be a masterpiece. After seeing it for the second time, nothing much has changed. I blamed my mood on the initial disconnect with this film. But, it wasn't that. This time I was ready for a much more ascetic and languorous experience and still there were moments in which I find myself getting restless. However, I did connect with it much more this time. There are moments of pure sublime beauty. I could be speaking of the epic stuff like the six-minute opening shot of light separating from darkness (the dawn of man, I've seen it described as), but it's also little moments (the drops of sweat on a woman's face after a lovemaking session, a tender holding of hands). This is a love story. And, although faith is prevalent in the film, it's not like Ordet where it's front and center (this film owes hugely to Dreyer's masterpiece though). We don't even get to know the characters that well. They have names, yeah, but they might as well remain Man and Woman. They're pure archetypes. Even with this disconnect, this is one of the most assured pieces of filmmaking from the past few years that I've seen (hell, maybe ever) and it's certainly one of the most beautiful. So, yeah, this is the 3-star masterpiece.


A Girl Cut in Two (2007)
(Directed by Claude Chabrol)

huh, this was really interesting and weirdly watchable. It's basically Sagnier being tossed around by these two dudes the entire movie. She's portrayed as this very naive and innocent girl who's perhaps corrupted by these two guys. But the movie keeps a very safe distance from the things that happen, viewing the characters as if under a microscope. It's a passionate film (on the surface) and an erotic one but it's almost sad to see these people do these things. I also really like how the film skips over seemingly important information. Like, when Sagnier switches jobs, we only hear about it much, much later and the editing is at points strange with cuts that end scenes at weird places. All of this make the movie even more fascinating to me. I don't know, it's strange. Someone described Chabrol as making "slow-burn Hitchcockian anti-thrillers" so I'm excited for more. I think.


Edward Scissorhands (1990)*
(Directed by Tim Burton)

oh, the outsider. oh, johnny depp. oh, s&m getups. I've long thought Edward Scissorhands to be my favorite Tim Burton film (even after watching Ed Wood) even though I've always known it's flawed. I seem to remember my main complaint being the ending. Huh. Well, a second or third viewing (never sure with these type of films) has me even less enthused about revisiting Beetlejuice (which I guess is my fave now). This film creates this totally awesome character, Edward, right? Then the film proceeds to paint him as a total innocent, living up there all by himself, rocking the leather for no one's pleasure but his own. Taken down to the town, Edward sees a world no less stylized and weird than his own. I swear, I think every household has its own color code (I remember a part where each rooftop on a single street is a different color). Edward is taken in. He's accepted. He falls in love. Shit happens. Why does shit gotta happen? Johnny Depp as Edward is so great. All his mannerisms, the creation of this thing that shouldn't exist is so great. All his little moments and glances and whatever. Just Edward being Edward is great. The film doesn't think that just Edward is enough though. So on come the even more exaggerated caricatures (who are supposed to represent us "normal folks," I guess) who shun him because they can't accept his very nature (uh, scissors are sharp and they can cut). They label him as dangerous and Farmer Ted has to kick some ass (you do not cast Farmer Ted as your antagonist, no matter how buff he's become). I just don't understand why this has to happen. I guess outsiders and weird folk can't exist in "normal" society. We can only tolerate them when they're in a fucking castle away from us (interesting double bill with Beauty and the Beast, coupling Gaston/Farmer Ted's assholishness turning murderous). Anyway, Winona is great, duh. But the whole "I'm Winona and I can be old, too" is so dumb and cheesy. So, yeah, my main problem is (still) with the turns that the story takes. aye, aye, aye.


Magnetic Rose (1995)
(Directed by Koji Morimoto)

By far the best one and easily one of the more inventive and thrilling Anime films I've seen. Some dudes get a SOS signal, go and try to help and get sucked into this garbage heap hall of mirrors as they see illusions of some opera diva who may or may not really be there... And it does it in 40 or so minutes. Really love all the time, memory and whatever stuff coupled with the ridiculously fluid animation. It's just so, so great.


Stink Bomb (1995)
(Directed by Tensai Okamura)

This was a really funny dark comedy about some random dude who swallows a pill that turns him into a walking catastrophe. I liked the fact that that most of the trouble spring from the fact that the dude is just following orders from the higher ups. Bureaucracy at its finest. Also, it's great the solution to this particular problem is to blow fucking towns away. The Japanese never hesitate to bomb the shit out of their cities in Anime. It's great. Oh, and then the Americans come in and try to solve everything. Hilarious.


Cannon Fodder (1995)
(Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo)

So, the Akira guy turns in the shortest one here... but also the most daring one. The one that messes around with the idea of what can be done with animation the most. I liked all the long-take stuff showing the routine of the workers as they set up the cannons to be fired. It's done meticulously and we are shown pretty much all the steps. This coupled with the sly social commentary (they don't know who they're fighting against!) made the experience worthwhile.


Dead Leaves (2004)
(Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi)

So, two people wake up naked in the middle of a field, they get into trouble all the while killing a million cops and are sent to the moon. This is basically all the crazy shit in FLCL and Mind Game (without the heart of the former) done in the Gurrenn Lagann style and turned into some kind of fucking crazy action flick. It's just a sugar rush of fucking awesome. Yeah, it's pretty juvenile but all of it fits into the style of the story. It's frenetic and crazy with weird ass sex jokes and with ridiculously violence. And, it's about the perfect length. I don't think I could take more than 50 minutes of all the craziness in this thing. Anyway, I wish I had a TV as a head Sad


memories of underdevelopment

See this thread for my thoughts


Gohatto (1999)
(Directed by Nagisa Oshima)

The English title for this film is Taboo but I couldn't really figure out what the whole taboo deal was about. I mean, homosexuality was pretty much accepted as a normal thing among these dudes so that couldn't be it. Anyway, whatever. Ryuhei Matsuda is a pretty boy who has everyone under his charms. The whole movie is about other people watching him, really. Everyone is under his spell. Either because of his androgynous features or because he's such a good swordsman. Then all the other samurais start making passes at him, passions start to boil and stuff happens. This is all treated like a chamber piece. Intricate staging and from Rosenbaum's review, it seems Oshima seemed to care more about camera placement and movement than the actors (this is validated by the film). I think there's a lot of stuff I'm missing regarding the context. I mean, I know about the shinsengumi and shit but I think the fact that most of these people are historical figures and are well-known in Japan and the fact that Oshima is using them to comment on something is important. I don't know how... but whatever. I think my favorite part is when this one guy starts telling Beat Takeshi about a book (the book that Ugetsu is based on) he read. The camera sort of circles around them and the actors shift and move in this really awesome way. uh. And, then there's the ending. Which is pretty, pretty. uh. Yeah.


Metade Fumaca (1999)
(Directed by Yip Kam-Hung)

This was alright at first. Hitman comes back for revenge after living in exile for god knows how many years. At first, the story is enlivened by some cool little quirky details (they occasionally pop up during the story) but it really just is completely weighed down by too many cliches and other crap. By film's end, it turns insulting and downright bad. Which is a shame because at the film's core there are some cool touches and charismatic leads. Nicholas Tse is pretty charming and badass at the same time. Eric Tsang is fat and that's cool. There's also this one hitman guy who just came back from L.A. and will interject with random ghetto English. Those things and those elements are fine. But they're tied down to a really dumb story. Probably the best part of the entire affair is a flashback sequence to the fat dude's younger days and his competition with a guy named Nine Dragons (who's played by Autumn Moon from Made in Hong Kong). It's all set to this really cool song and there's lots of creative deaths and general goofiness (plus Shu Qi!!!!). Anyway, this could've been a pretty cool little flick but instead stupid plot stuff got the better of it.


Jhon's Film of the Week is... Magnetic Rose


nitesh said...

Love Ugestu, and enjoyed Slumdog and need to still catch up on rest of the films in the list.

just another budding cinephile from India.

roujin said...

Thank you for the comment. I really need to watch more Mizoguchi. Just glancing through his filmography on IMDB gets me all hyped up. I've only seen this and Sansho. I imagine he has a few gems :)

Not from India, but I'm a budding cinephile as well :)