My Week in Film (9/21 - 9/27)

Jackie Brown (1997)*
(Directed by Quentin Tarantino)

what struck me the most about this viewing, how concerned it is with aging, trying to stake out your own way even if the years are getting on. Ordell has his money, Max has his thoughts about getting out of the bonds business and Jackie, well, she has a plan. I guess the people that wanted Tarantino to grow up must've skipped this movie cuz it's by far his most mature and soulful film. all while grounding it firmly in a genre framework. It also contains bar none his most emotionally resonant sequence (Max Cherry: out-of-focus, alone). Not to mention Tarantino's most complex and human characterizations. Fuck, that reprise of "Across 110th Street" is one of the greatest things ever. Those lines on Forster's face say it all. I liked the languid pace and the funky soundtrack and the repeating mall sequence and its incredible soundtrack. May be his best film.


What Time Is It There? (2001)
(Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang)

I intended to go all chronological with Tsai but it didn't work out that way (I lost my copy of Vive L'Amour somewhere...) Anyway, this is a fantastic film. I don't really know what to say about it. I kind of expected it to be a little boring but after a while I just started getting into the rhythm of the movie and the thought that "nothing is happening" quickly went away. In fact, the film is teeming with incident. Hsiao-Kang goes out into the streets after meeting a woman who's going to Paris and starts changing all the clocks to Paris time. Why does he do this? I don't really know. The woman she meets goes to Paris for no reason we ever know, wonders around, looking alone but not lonely? The film's best moment is the synchronized reach toward something. Well, you'll know the moment. Lest I make the film sound like nothing but Asian Ennui ™, I should also mention that it's startlingly funny. There's these little visual punchlines every once in a while that are both kinda sad but also, well, funny. My two favorites may be when Fatty, the fish, eats a cockroach and the dude who steals Hsiao-Kang's clock in the movie theater (that's gotta be one of the funniest things ever). And Jean-Pierre Leaud haunts the cemeteries of Paris, Hsiao-Kang watches The 400 Blows and it's apparently Tsai's favoritest movie. Hmmm, I need to watch The Skywalk is Gone now and then wrap it up with THE WAYWARD CLOUD. TSAI-FEST


The Skywalk is Gone (2002)
(Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang)

The connective tissue between What Time Is It There? and The Wayward Cloud that sets up that film's porn/water shortage shenanigans. The girl comes back from France looking for the street vendor but... look at the title. It's typical that they actually do walk past each other at one point but only one of them recognizes the other... and then does nothing about it. Anyway, it's interesting (the camera moves!) but not nearly long enough to truly get into it.


The Wayward Cloud (2005)*
(Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang)

I'm really glad I watched it again. The first time the only thing I registered was this: long static takes, weirdo sex scenes and bizarre musical numbers. Now, after watching What Time and The Skywalk is missing, I think I'm closer to... well, something. It feels like a damn angry movie in its depiction of pornography as an essentially dehumanizing force. There's a shot of a woman's face post-money shot that's grotesque and bizarre. The film's sex scenes are all without pleasure and they're often ridiculous. One of them has Hsiao-Kang having sex with a woman in the shower. However, since there's a water shortage, the film crew has to use water bottles to recreate the water in the shower and at one point they run out before Hsiao-Kang, uh, finishes. There's also some scenes that suggest a romance that could be. Tsai has a weird homage to Annie Hall in there as the couple pick up crabs from the kitchen floor and the film's most loving image is that of Hsiao-Kang taking puffs from a cigarette that's being held in Shiang-chyi's toes. The film's most daring and shocking moment is its final 30-minute (?) or so set piece that will probably seal the deal on your view of the movie. It's both disgusting and oddly touching. It's like the decade's weirdest musical romance!


The Brown Bunny (2003)
(Directed by Vincent Gallo)

It's good. Seriously, it's not that different from something like Taste of Cherry in that a lot of it takes place inside of a car. Mostly, we see a profile of Gallo's face as he drives his van. For extended periods of time, we see through his bug-splattered windshield as he drives across the country. Occasionally, a plaintive folk song will pop up on the soundtrack. It's just so damn lonely. I had this feeling about Buffalo '66, too, and this is a, well, not logical, but an extension of the same concerns of that film but carried over into a film that does not make the same narrative concessions that Buffalo made. This film will make you feel the loneliness... even if it bores you a little bit. Gallo goes through the country, his face stricken with pain or something, runs into several women named after flowers and then promptly leaves them. He convinces the first woman he meets to go away with him after like 2 minutes of knowing her (ha, Gallo, you dog, you!) but once she goes into her house to get her things, he leaves. In one of the film's best moments, Gallo meets a woman named Lilly in some rest stop (do all the women have their names visible somewhere?). Gallo senses something and sits next to her. Immediately, he's touching her hair and asking her if something's wrong and it's seriously one of the most intimate things I've ever seen. The whole thing is so quiet (does this film have one of the lowest sound mixes in history or something? I had to turn up my volume full blast to hear what they were saying) and painful and sad.

The film's last sequence has Gallo returning to Los Angeles to meet up with Daisy. Besides the unfortunate crack smoking, this entire sequence is masterful, revealing so much about this dude's issues with women and about his own self or something. By the time, Sevigny actually does what everyone expects her to do, we are completely with the film (even if we wonder about the necessity of that act). What I don't like about the film is what happens afterward. It's plausible that all the other women Gallo met on the way to Los Angeles were a way of trying to deal with his issues with Daisy, but the final revelation just makes him seem crazy... and this is what makes the film not pretty good, but only good. It's a psychological reveal that tries to "explain" or something and that didn't sit well with me.


Away We Go (2009)
(Directed by Sam Mendes)

It's bad. It's just a celebration of good old-fashioned values. You know, family, love, all that crap. Basically, take a sharpie and draw it on your foreheads: yay, we're boring!. ugh. Everything follows as you expect it to. The main couple are just trying to figure everything out. Hmmm, okay. So is everyone else. Well, they need to go on a journey to do this. Hmmm, okay. They need to be exposed to various different types of parenting so at the end we can come to the conclusion that, yep, what we got going on here, this is normal, this is how it should be. So, all those alternative ways of raising your children, that doesn't fly. The first two stops they make are ridiculous caricatures. I wanted to kill myself after suffering through Alison Janney's performance. It's so goddamn grating and hideous. Yeah, sure, that's what they're going for. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU RAISE CHILDREN. Got it. Next up is Gyllenhaal playing some kind of hippie mom, trying to rear her children in a non-traditional way. Well, our couple just won't stand for that. THAT'S JUST FUCKING WRONG. Sure, the characters are total cartoons but what they represent still stands. You just don't deviate from what's normal. no way! Then they go to Montreal where they meet some college buddies who've adopted... but... the wife feels so empty... because she can't conceive. That's right, adopting just isn't fulfilling. It needs to come out of her vagina for the child to feel like hers! Just nasty. I mean, some of this stuff is moving to me, too. I mean, I got the same ole boring values as everyone else but the way in which it's presented is just so boring. It's so bland and vanilla and whatever. NEXT.


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... The Wayward Cloud

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