My Week In Film (12/21 - 12/27)

Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker (1994)
(Directed by Ping He)

huh, I don't really know what to say about this one other than it kept me more engaged than the Roses movie. It's about this girl who inherits the family's firecracker business. Now, she runs the whole business, dresses like a man and is called "Young Master" or "Boss" by everyone. Due to some retarded family rules, the business can only be run by family, but, apparently, the girl can't marry according to the rules. Those are some dumb ancestors. Anyway, this one "itinerant" artist guy shows up and he's charged with painting the doors of the huge fortress where the firecracker lady lives. What will happen? She falls in love with him, duh, and starts dressing like a woman and things happen, terrible things, like fires and whippings and tortures, all because the firecracker lady wants to be seen as a woman. The film is kind of confusing sometimes. I think this may be due to the subtitles which aren't perfect although you can generally get the point. But also the narrative is just confusing: sometimes the artist seems to leave but then he's still there the next scene? And I don't think the subtitles convey what's really supposed to have happened between firecracker lady and the artist that well. There's gotta be some lost nuance going on here. Anyway, the firecrackers are some sort of sexual metaphor because no firecrackers are allowed to go off in the fortress where the firecracker lady lives (sexual repression!) and if you set one off, you get beaten the fuck up by a bunch of the people who work there. the whole thing is made even clearer when there's a firecracker handling competition (whut?) to see who can marry the firecracker lady and there's an apparent castration. It's some weird stuff, not all of it made sense to me. Largely, I think the appeal of the film is in the firecracker lady herself. Early on in the film, she's all distant and cold and upholding the family rules, but as the film goes on, she becomes more human and her performance shows that really well or something. Whatever. Doesn't matter. roujin's seeing red again.


Yolanda and the Thief (1945)
(Directed by Vincente Minnelli)

Didn't get into this one as much as I hoped I would but it's still pretty good. You got Lucille Bremer as an innocent 18-year-old girl who just got out of the convent and can now finally take control of the millions and millions of dollars that belong to her. Yeah, she's the richest person in this fictional Latin American (?) country. You got Fred Astaire as the guy who pretends to be her guardian angel in order to get her money. The film isn't really all that funny aside from that one gag about the door and one other one I forgot, it did manage to consistently make me smile. As for the numbers, there's no defining moment. Maybe Fred's Dream could count as that since it was pretty long but outside from the ridiculously overblown designs and shit like that, they feel kind of bogged down and not really special to me. I don't know. I much preferred the final dance between Bremer and Astaire. Bremer is an interesting presence. She has this innocence about her that totally makes the film for me. When she's praying to her guardian angel, it's like her face reveals everything about her. It's transparent. And when she kisses Astaire even though she knows she shouldn't because he's an angel, it's all kinds of sad and cute and beautiful. So, it was an interesting experience in that the usual things didn't really jive with me (I was hoping for more delirious Pirate shenanigans), but it ultimately turned out to be pretty swell. Ain't that grand, roujin? You'll never see a finer review in your life.


Lover Come Back (1961)
(Directed by Delbert Mann)

So much innuendo! It's hilarious. Underneath all that, there's a surprisingly nasty take on relationships with Rock Hudson playing Doris Day like a sucker and manipulating her into bedding down with him. Of course, not before, a bunch of references to Hudson's homosexuality are made. It's a barrel of laughs! Then there's Tony Randall manic depressive (?) boss of the advertising agency which kinda recalls Rock Hunter except in a much less excoriating and devastating mode. Hudson and Day are a good match together. Hudson is shirtless a bunch of times and Doris Day wears a bunch of ridiculously silly hats. The ending is really bizarre, and probably a product of the times, but it really rings as very depressing. I think it's supposed to be all romantic, but nothing in the film really sets it up at all, and the only way to read it is as the only available option for a woman at that time. Weird stuff. Can't wait to watch Pillow Talk.


Summer Hours (2008)
(Directed by Olivier Assayas)

I don't know why I put this off for so long. I'm stupid. It's funny. My top 3 favorites of 2008 are now all about French families. Don't know what's up with that. Anyway, this is basically a film about rich people who own a lot of shit, and about what happens when they gotta get rid of it. Well, not really. It's about the significance that objects and places have in our lives, about the role of art in the home (or outside of it), and basically, about life and people and about ideas and all that good shit. Dramatized in part through the Gautier's fantastic cinematography and Assayas' assured direction (those opening 25 minutes at the Mom's birthday is probably the most brilliant thing anyone has ever made, ever). Can't forget the actors either who are completely relatable and all understandable and all that good shit. It made me think a lot about things I would do and how I would react if I were in such a situation, and considering it's Christmas, that's probably depressing, but it really isn't because the spaces and the characters are so alive and real to me that they're just like good friends who I've come to understand, FAMILY. And if I owned anything, I would probably think twice about its meaning in my life. Also loved that last scene at the house and that little off-the-cuff revelation. Warmed my heart so much. I'm just a big ole softie, really. Where are the tissues, young gentlemen? No, don't use your tongue, please.


Frontier of Dawn (2008)
(Directed by Philippe Garrel)

A lot of this film is a real slog to get through. The first 20 minutes were pretty hard on me. I actually didn't get really get a handle on the film at all until six hours later when I woke up. But, after being refreshed by sleep, I begin to let go of my roujin fears and just trust that the film would take me somewhere interesting. It did. I like how the film seems to be basically nothing but what it shows. What I mean is that there's very little outside of the lovers. Love, in this film, is something that overwhelms everything else. There is no outside world. There's just this. You and I or Me or Whatever. The idea of it seems really old-fashioned. So, plot: Louis Garrel plays some random dude who falls in love with an actress. However, she's married, and kind of unstable. Their relationship ends in tragedy as is the frenchie custom. One year later, Louis has met another woman and is about to settle down. Then things get all freaky. And there are mirrors, invitations through them, and all of it is played straight. I liked that. I'm kind of a moron in that I always buy what films are selling. I take a lot of things at face value and if a film wants to take me somewhere, I don't resist. I'm just built that way (got me cheap from the factory). The place this film goes to is kind of ridiculous in a way, but also totally honest and almost kind of tragic and I dug the sensuousness of the film's textures and how the film seems to be decidedly not modern. It's all very strange and not heady and kind of romantic. I think if you can get on its wavelength, the film can work for you. Otherwise, it's gonna be a toughie to get through. roujin: bringing you the greatest reviews since 1958.


The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
(Directed by Tony Scott)

Too ordinary. I expected something a little more interesting after Deja Vu which I thought had a surprising emotional pull on me, even with all silly stuff going on (that car chase :D). This, however, is far too common, and not even Scott's visual tics can breathe life into the dumb screenplay. But that's not what really gets me about the whole thing. I think it's Travolta. Or, at least, his character. It's a very tired characterization and Travolta tries to punch it up by saying fuck every five seconds, and it just reeks of nasty ass nothingness. Washington looks all paunchy at the other end of the line, and the whole film bends over backwards to provide him opportunities in which to redeem himself leading to a very dumb final showdown or whatever. I still need to see Domino.


The Headless Woman (2008)
(Directed by Lucrecia Martel)

Kind of a pseudo-remake of Paranoid Park except with the hipster skaters of that film replaced with Argentinian bourgeoisie. Sort of. Both films are about how people deal with potentially traumatic events and the feelings of guilt that surround them. In this film, however, that issue is treated through an extensive focus on class, and how basically her family gathers 'round her to make the problem go away. I didn't realize that at first so I kept wondering if she was imagining a bunch of this stuff. It only hit me later that the out-of-focus phone dealings of the husband were all related to it. Anyway, even though I was engaged on a thematic level and the filmmaking is really great (a bunch of oblique compositions utilizing shallow focus), it always kept me at a distance, which although fine with some movies, didn't really sit well with me for some reason. I agree with a lot of what skjerva said about it I think (I'll have to re-read his take in a bit), just it worked way more for him than it did for me, and that's okay. Know why? Cuz I'm eating a nice sandwich right now and nothing you can do can take that away. What were we talking about again? Oh, right, Martel frames her without a head LOLZ GET IT.


Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
(Directed by Spike Jonze)

I was a hopeless romantic, you were swine. I feel that way. Some things just aren't meant to be understood. Maybe childhood is one of those things. You can feel it or you can not feel it. Doesn't matter either way. So what's the deal with this movie? Jonze/Eggers problematize the childhood experience by packing as much as hurt and confusion into the moments of sheer freedom and fun as it can. What's the result? A bunch of mopey monsters that act as surrogates for the people/things/feelings that Max has run away from. Basically, a bunch of whiny kids. Max learns that it's tough being a family all while Karen O yelps in the background and Lance Acord captures all the brown muckyness. It's tough shit being a kid. Or, at least, that's how 30-year-old white dudes remember it being. I don't know yet. Anyway, I did enjoy a lot of it. It felt emotionally right, I guess, even if a lot of it was too morose. The music sometimes got in the way, sometimes fit perfectly. The film also includes the most shockingly violent moment I've seen in quite some time and it frames it in the way that a child doesn't really know why it's doing something. Weird stuff. Where are your arty blockbusters now, roujin? Huh, the broom closet?


Vengeance (2009)
(Directed by Johnnie To)

Another really solid To flick. This guy is a machine. Anyway, the only difference here is that Johnny Halliday shows up, and he kinda looks weird to me so I was more happy when the film focused on Anthony Wong and the fat guy (the most awesome fat guy of all time, Suet Lam), and Simon Yam wearing those cool glasses. Because at the heart of it, the story isn't very interesting and the whole "I'm losing my memory" angle of it is really dumb. The film plays it seriously though as it does pretty much everything else (these guys are on a Hawksian (?) mission to goddamn do their jobs and do them well) all the while To invokes memories of Le Samourai by directly referencing Delon through Halliday's name in the film, Costello. Whatever. It's all beautifully orchestrated gunfight poetry of the highest order, and either you buy into that shit or you don't. Me? Well, I think To does this kind of stuff really well and I have a lot of fun with his films. And I've really grown to love the dudes he uses in his films (Anthony Wong, Suet Lam, Simon Yam) which helps a lot with me for whatever reason. Ah, yes, so comfortable. So nice. So many squibs.


An Education (2009)
(Directed by Lone Scherfig)

I don't have much to say as to why I didn't like it outside of I just didn't find it very interesting or engaging or whatever. The whole thing just felt kinda safe and inoffensive and none of it really made an impression (good or bad). I did find that Paris scene darkly hilarious though (a trip to Paris is all it takes!). Don't know. Carey Mulligan is good though. So, make of that what you will.


In The Loop (2009)
(Directed by Armando Iannucci)

British people say naughty words. Laughs are had.


Antichrist (2009)
(Directed by Lars Von Trier)

Misogyny! Alright, now that's out of the way. Man uses his (obviously) massive intellect to try and control the unpredictable emotions that turn up in his wife when their son dies (while they're fucking! lolz!). Immediately, Dafoe is like "nah, traditional medicine? I'm above that shit, son" and he takes her out to the woods to confront Gainsbourg's worst fears about herself... or something (she's the devil, bro!). So Dafoe's suffocating rationalism comes vs. Gainsbourg's guttural emotionalism. Audience wins. Why? Because when Von Trier isn't using annoying jump cuts and reframing his (dark as hell) compositions, this is a wonder of a movie to look at. Those five or so tableaux when Gainsbourg is walking through the woods on their way to the cabin are pretty much the greatest thing any of us will see this year and it's the highpoint of the movie. And I loved it when it gets all foggy at the end. Anyway, looks good, but looks can kill (not really). The movie's also kinda heavy into the symbolism and I'm useless at that so whatever. There are trees and references to the bible and their woody wonderland is named Eden as if the film needed more things to hang around its neck. It's kind of silly, too, I think (talking foxes!) and that's part of it's charm, I guess. Chaos reigns, I guess, but women reign supreme. Hey, what does the ending mean?


All's Well Ends Well (1992)
(Directed by Clifton Ko)

All's Well Ends Well is basically a Shakespearean comedy. There's three sets of couples and the film is about how they get together. Couple #1: Wong Bak-Ming and Raymond Chow play a married couple. Chow constantly cheats on her and basically treats her like dirt while Wong stays home and cares for the house and Chow's parents. Couple #2: Stephen Chow is Raymond Chow's brother and he lives at the house as well. He's a playboy and goes out with a bunch of girls. However, he soon meets Maggie Cheung, a girl who's obsessed with Hollywood movies. This leads to a bunch of gags involving early 90's Hollywood flicks (Ghost, Misery, Terminator 2) - that shit is hilarious. It's so weird seeing Maggie Cheung be totally silly. I always think of her in the WKW flicks and of her work with Assayas that I forget that she was also part of the HK scene and did these silly movies too. Couple #3: Leslie Cheung plays this extremely effeminate guy who teaches classes on flower arrangement. Teresa Mo plays his aunt (?) who is as butch as they come. They trade barbs all across the movie until they realize that they actually love each other, and then magically, Leslie Cheung starts talking like a man and Teresa Mo starts dressing like a woman. Ain't love grand. The best plot strand by far is that of Chow and Cheung, not only do you get Chow's comedic genius but Maggie Cheung is no slouch herself and can make the silliest joke work (she's first introduced as being a huge Madonna fan wearing those whatchamacallthems). Their relationship is so hilarious. And there's all these complications and mental illness and hilarity. The scene where he's almost caught two-timing is syllable-per-syllable hilarious. Raymond Chow's storyline is really weak. Basically because his character is a huge asshole and it's hard to make that funny. Anyway, watching this really led me to realize how integral those shitty subs are to the whole experience for me. There are some translations that are so awkward and strange that they add so much to the movie (this is probably my favorite). Anyway, it's not perfect, but it did make me laugh a bunch. More than In The Loop, which I saw earlier today and is much more sophisticated. huh, that was too much plot stuff, and you can tell that I liked it! That's gotta change! Okay, not really. You guys don't know much about these movies and I figure that part of this whole bracket thing is to raise exposure. Hence why you won't see any of my usual tricks in these thingiemajiggers. Well, kind of and sort of, but not really. You know, I'm just typing now. I flirted with turning this entire thing into a pop quiz format, but then I would have to add some footnotes abotu the reasons as to why I did that and my intentions and my worries, and really I'm just self-conscious about the entire thing now. So: here's some summational sentences.These movies are silly, but they make me laugh. I'm a simple man of simple tastes. It did need some talking foxes though.


Hail The Judge (1994)
(Directed by Wong Jing)

So Stephen Chow plays a government official, a judge. Hey, that's funny by itself. Seriously, this guy has reached Keaton and Lewis levels. I laugh just by looking at him. That said, the story of the movie is a mixed bag. Chow plays a corrupt judge. He takes bribes and generally doesn't care that much. Then all of a sudden, a very blatant frame is made accusing a girl Chow likes of killing 13 people. This entire sequence is brutal as hell depicting the government and everyone involved in the most terrible light. The girl talks about how she was raped and then it cuts back to Chow for a couple of seconds for a quick laugh. Weird stuff that doesn't work. Anyway, things turn dark as hell. Chow is also framed and now he has to try and fix everything. Sounds dark, right? Yeah, too dark for my tastes. Anyway, the rest of the film follows Chow as he tries to fix things - he stops by at a circus, at a whorehouse, etc. The whorehouse bit features one of the funniest things I've ever seen. It's a montage of Chow developing the ability to talk well. Previously in the film he was outtalked and outsmarted by other people. In the montage, he learns to talk and berate so well that he can bring back the dead (Image). Anyway, a lot of it was really funny, if too plotty for my tastes. That said, the final courtroom sequence where Chow goes to town on the other judges talking about their moms is pretty much the funniest thing of all time, and I think I peed myself a little when it happened (well, not really, but you get the point - it's funny). Good times were had.


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... Summer Hours

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