My Week in Film (12/7 - 12/13)

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)
(Directed by Tsai Ming-liang)

Probably a little too minimalistic. I mean, this movie made me sleepy at 8 AM after I had eight hours of sleep. I dug the whole last breath of the experience of going to watch a movie or even treating moviegoing as a communal experience. It's almost like an elegy or something except with ghosts and strange Japanese dudes looking for other dudes to have "connections" with and all that stuff. Sometimes it lingered way too much (although it's a nice contrast to the stuff King Hu is doing in the movie up there on the screen). Sometimes, it was just so minimalistic that it became comedic. There's this one shot that consists of nothing but the woman looking at some kind of cake (one of those steamed buns thingies?) for god knows how long, and I'm like, huh, weirdo roujin experiments. I also got curious as to the actual geography of the theater. There's scenes were people are amblin' around in these totally leaky and strange corridors and hallways that seem to be in a totally disconnected part of the theater. Anyway, this is probably the worst place to start with Tsai, I'm guessing, since it's probably his most extreme and lacks pretty much all of the narrative pleasures and coincidences and oddball humor (minus a couple parts which I'll talk about in a second) that his other ones have, but it was interesting, at least, thematically and stylistically, duh. But I did like the sense of space he conveys, I guess. Nobody does corridors like this guy! Uh, probably my favorite part of the movie (and the funniest) is that one scene in the restroom that goes on forever. These dudes are peeing for like five minutes! And the best part is that one dude pulling up his cigarette ever so slowly every once in a while and taking a slow puff and then putting it back down. Maybe after all the other ghostly emptiness, a nice joke was needed to wake up the roujin.


Je t'aime, Je t'aime (1968)
(Directed by Alain Resnais)

A precursor to Eternal Sunshine in many different ways. It's about a man who recently tried to commit suicide who, after he gets out, volunteers in an experiment in time travel. Somewhere along the way, the experiment goes awry and he starts reliving his increasingly fragmented memories of a love long past (but that may have caused his suicide attempt). The memories themselves are sometimes banal, sometimes very intimate and painful. They sometimes deal with the dude's work and sometimes they're just snippets or actions whose meaning is not quite clear. I wish I could tell you I got a handle on the film's structure and how the images were organized or whatever, but none of that was apparently clear to me. Also not clear were the identities of some of the other different girls he was with at some points. I don't know. I guess I don't pay enough attention. Anyway, it was often really good, though I kinda missed the blissful mindfuckery of Marienbad which isn't something I'd ever thought I would write/say/whatever. So, it was good and emotional while still delivering in other ways, but fell short of a true connection for whatever reason. Who knows.


The Mouth Agape (1974)
(Directed by Maurice Pialat)

Really painful film. Basically, a woman gets diagnosed with cancer and the rest of the film is about watching the people around her deal with this and come to terms with the fact of watching death happen right in front of their eyes. The film deals sometimes in a very basic dichotomy of kinda comparing the decaying flesh of the woman against the bodies of the living. The son, just like the father, basically cheats on his wife whenever she isn't around, and the bodies of the women he's with are all youthful and BOUNCY and all that stuff. Basically, life keeps going on even as we witness death because this is what the family really is doing: they're watching the mother die. They witness her deteriorating in front of their very eyes going from a fully-capable adult woman to what you see on that screencap above. God, that wallpaper is so depressing...


Anchors Aweigh (George Sidney, 1945)

Anchors Away is a bloated film. It clocks in at over two hours, not all of which is particularly interesting or memorable. It's plot isn't particularly good and the execution leaves a lot to be desired. But it isn't really all that terrible. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra make for a really good team together. Kelly plays the "sea wolf," the guy around the ship known for his skill in getting the ladies. He tells the crew all his stories and teases them by describing his girlfriend. Sinatra, in what I'm assuming is an against type performance, is the shy one - "the romantical type" as they say. He doesn't know much about women and once he gets a leave, he has no idea how to get girls. So, the plot kicks in and Kelly and Sinatra hook up and go out to get Sinatra laid, er, I mean, a pure and chaste kiss.

how do women walk

While Kelly is fun and charming (it's in his genes or something), his character is the cocky know-it-all playboy that gets tiresome; and some of the songs and routines that he goes through are unpleasant. I get that it's all a joke and it's for fun, but it just annoyed me.

This number, in particular, struck me as being completely offensive:

so mean

It basically goes on to say that the girl who they both supposedly like is known throughout the Navy as being easy and kind of loosey and not very choosey. It kinda makes the whole romance angle of the story not ring very true. I mean, sure, Kelly is fun in the scene and Sinatra getting into it makes the scene even better, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Although, the whole song is made up to scare some guy off, it still seems like a low thing to do to me.

There's also this reliance in these cliches and cutesiness that I didn't like. For example, Kelly in two scenes plays around with children to show what a swell guy he is. I'm willing to forgive that largely because that penchant for cutesiness is what leads to, arguably, the film's most famous scene where Kelly tells the story of his visit to a magical word where there's no singing and dancing and Kelly has to show them what's what and gets all the toons to sing and dance (this is what dreams are made for, liquid dreams).. Great scene and it definitely shows his creativity in the choreography and all the cool stuff. Really loved the use of slo-mo. It actually may be my favorite part of the film. Maybe more dancing stuff should be done in slow motion to emphasize the poetics of movement.

this is what it means to be Kelly from roujin on Vimeo.

Anyway, the real reason why this film is probably no good is because of its plotting and the way that it drags out the manufactured drama in favor of any sort of creativeness. There's moments where you forget all that stuff and you just thrive in just random moments in the friendship between Kelly and Sinatra (my favorite being the part where they bounce on the bed during their musical number) and random parts where Kelly's athleticism is most evident, such as this particular moment in the 2nd of the film's fantasy sequences:

go! go! kelly! go! from roujin on Vimeo.

So, the film was a dud and way too long but I could see the Kelly/Sinatra relationship being better in another film where the particulars are done in a better manner. I'm still really looking forward to On The Town.


PTU (2003)
(Directed by Johnnie To)

Man, the music in this is so bad. Which is a shame because so much of this is really great. If there ever a doubt that To is a really great director, this film puts that to rest. His treatment of bodies moving through the frame is superb and his compositions and just the arrangements of things inside the frame (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL) is without reproach. Which, again, brings me back to the terrible music. It's so damn distracting. There's this one part where the unit storms this one building. At first, one person goes in, then the other and so forth, reaching an understanding as they move up the building that's quite stunning (all done without words) but while all this is happening, this incredibly terrible music plays that ruins the poetic kineticism (is this even a word?) of To's images. So, that's my big knock against it. Also, the film's climactic gun battle is hilariously over-the-top (lol, they shoot even after they're dead!) Even with these things, it's still a very worthwhile film though I'm still looking for the To film that fully coheres for me.


Peking Opera Blues (1986)
(Directed by Tsui Hark)

Man, some movies strive hard to entertain just on one level, and then comes this film which does so many different things effortlessly, without breaking a sweat, that it's almost like it's showing off. You got your handsome revolutionaries, backstage fuzz at the local opera house, gender roles, frenetic action sequences, political intrigue, it's all here! Brigitte Lin plays the daughter of the local General. She always dresses like a man so she can go around places undisturbed. Then there's the daughter of the owner of the opera house who desperately wants to go onstage but can't cuz only men are allowed to. And then there's the down on her lock singer who's only motivation is trying to find a little bit of cash. The film never lets up. It careens wildly between action sequences, wacky slapstick and surprising moments of melodrama. Haven't you learned your lessons? Who let these animals into my kingdom? Ride off, roujin!


Bells are Ringing (1960)
(Directed by Vincente Minnelli)

Sadly, this was not that great. I think it's because it takes a really long time to even physically introduce the Dean Martin role and although Judy Holliday is pretty good, the film only really gets anywhere near good when it's the both of them. It's basically about a phone answering business and about how Holliday gets involved in the lives of the people she talks to on the phone. Martin is a boozy playwright who's on the dumps. Guess who brightens his life? So, yeah, the story is really predictable and the film pads out the running time with a couple of subplots about bookies and about an investigation regarding the phone answering place. It's dumb stuff although I do love how it gets resolved and how the threads all tie together. I didn't really like the musical numbers very much. My opinion of the treatment of the numbers varied moment-to-moment. I liked the one where Dean Martin fights through a throng of people as he sings of his love or whatever. I also liked the one where Holliday is pretty much lost in the crowd at a big party. I don't know. I guess the whole thing just didn't seem very special to me and since the musical numbers weren't particularly appealing to me all I had to rely on was the cliched story so when that fails, the only thing that's left is the charm of the actors. That only gets you so far. . .


Platform (2000)
(Directed by Jia Zhang-ke)

One of the greatest films of the decade. Platform explores, through a fairly distanced long-take style, the cultural changes that have occurred in China during the 70's and 80's as pertaining to the effects of globalism and an integrated system of free enterprise. Sounds boring, right? Well, it isn't. The film explores a culture team that goes around espousing the messages of the state. However, as the film goes on, the group becomes privatized and just becomes a group of performers. They cease playing Chinese standards and play electronic music. They constantly try out things that are supposed to be fashionable like bell-bottoms or something about eyebrows. Point is: things are changing. Things get complicated. And, yet, things stay the same. What I find most interesting that even with all this "progress" most of the characters in the film seem trapped or adrift, lost. There really aren't any options, which I guess is why the film's final shot is such a damn downer, it seems like a total defeat. Even with all these politics and history and shit, I still found it engaging on a dramatic level. There are a bunch of really beautiful and poetic moments in the film. Such as when that one dude breaks away from the group and builds a fire all by himself. Or when they run to catch the train. I hear this guy is a chronicler of the modern world... pretty good one.


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... Platform

No comments: