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March 29, 2012

Debauchery

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Ryoshoku
Hidehiro Ito - 1983
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

Hidehiro Ito may have had an avant-garde sensibility that sometimes appears in Debauchery. One of the first shots is of a white wall, nothing but white on the screen. A small blue ball pops in and out of this field of white. Was Ito going for some abstract expressionism here? Could be. For me, this is what makes Roman Porno, the soft core Japanese films, interesting, is that as long as the filmmakers had the required amount of exposed body parts, and scenes of coupling or group sex, there was also the, er, insertion of artier moments, as if the filmmaker was notifying the more thoughtful viewers that they were capable of a loftier kind of cinema, given the opportunity.

For myself, I admit to some ambivalence about Roman Porno. I watch a few films here and there mostly to have some first hand familiarity with the genre. Jasper Sharp, probably the most knowledgeable writer on the subject provides some notes with the DVD. And yes, Debauchery does have a basic premise similar to that of Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour. But there is more than the two films being about housewives who work part-time as prostitutes. Where Ito has also taken his queues from Bunuel is with a couple of scenes that may, or may not, be dreams. One, which can be read more its symbolism, is of a spider crawling up Ryoko Watanabe's shirt, up to her neck. Instead of brushing the spider away, Watanabe opens her shirt, and cups one of her breasts with her hand, beginning to pleasure herself. In Belle de Jour, Bunuel use the sound of cats mewing. Ito makes use sometimes of a kind of buzzing sound in some of the scenes of sex.

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How seriously one wants to examine a film like Debauchery depends on the individual viewer. The main character, Ami, seems at the mercy of the men in her life, be it her husband who is more absorbed with his work as a doctor, and the men who use Ami for their own sexual pleasure. I should also note that Debauchery is presented as was originally seen by Japanese audiences, with masking done to hide certain naughty bits. What we have here is mostly bondage, some rough sex, and a bit of sadomasochism, in short, something for the Japanese salary man to enjoy during his break from work.

Some of the greater visual pleasures are a shot of a crack in the ceiling, just moments after Ami is about to step out for her first dangerous liaison. Also, near the end, a silent shot, a view outside a window, of trees swaying in the breeze. Ito also likes to photograph feet, whether walking, dancing, or on a bed. Which is to say, that there is a bit more going on in Debauchery than the obvious allure of Ryoko Watanabe.

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Posted by peter at 08:22 AM

March 27, 2012

The Girl in Room 2A

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La Casa della Paura
William Rose - 1974
Mondo Macabro All Region DVD

The Girl in Room 2A is one of those oddities that's more interesting because of some of the talent involved than what is actually on the screen. Aside from starring the former Miss Italy, Daniela Giordano, others marking time here are are former Italian matinee idol Raf Vallone, Brad Harris - best known as the American star of Italian peplum. the fetching Rosalba Neri and German strudel Karin Schubert. The film was written and directed by William Rose, a filmmaker who knocked around the exploitation circuit in the Sixties, whose career seems to have disappeared as mysteriously as those of the kidnapped girls in his last movie. If The Girl in Room 2A had been seen theatrically, it would have been caught as part of a grindhouse or drive-in double feature.

Giordano plays the part of a young woman, Margaret, who was just release from prison after doing time for a drug bust where she was erroneously fingered. She is sent to live at the house of a Mrs. Grant. It's not explained why someone's private home would have a numbered room, especially as Margaret is the only guest, with Mrs. Grant's creepy son, Frank, in the room next door. What is apparent also is that Mrs. Grant's home serves as a halfway house for wayward women - halfway to hell as it turns out. Among Mrs. Grant's friends is a philosopher named Drees, who loves quoting Nietzsche and Torquemada, leading a group with some half-baked ideology regarding sin and repentance that gives them a reason to torture and kill others, primarily attractive young women.

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There is are a few moments of interest - the room with a bloody spot on the white floor that always reappears after Margaret washes it away, Frank's room with its masks, props and a snake, and the mysterious character dressed in red who first seems to appear in Margaret's nightmares. Still, for a film about some characters with misplaced convictions, William Rose seems to be hedging when he should have gone full throttle. There is little visual style to speak of, and neither the nudity nor the violence are provocative. As one who spent a few hours of movie watching at New York City's 42nd Street back in the early Seventies, I could easily imagine members of the audience yawning through most of the story, perhaps popping eyes open long enough to catch a glimpse of Karin Schubert's exposed breasts.

The DVD comes with an interview with Giordano, undated, but I'm guessing from the late Nineties, talking a bit about her career and some of the directors who worked with, such as Mario Bava. There are also notes about William Rose's career including comments on some of his work in nudie and adult only movies prior to this attempt to make a more mainstream film. I've been a fan of much of what I've seen from Mondo Macabro. In comparison to other Mondo Macabro DVDs, The Girl in Room 2A comes off as bland gruel compared to the company's usual servings of movies that are hot, spicy, and not a little bit nutty.

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Posted by peter at 08:21 AM

March 25, 2012

Coffee Break

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Joel McCrea and Nancy Gates in The Gunfight in Dodge City (Joseph M. Newman - 1959)

Posted by peter at 09:03 AM

March 22, 2012

Air Doll

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Kuki Ningyo
Hirokazu Koreeda - 2009
AVE All Region DVD

I've had this film as part of my unseen DVD pile for longer than I care to admit. What inspired me to watch it now was reading that the film was part of the recent series at New York City's Japan Society, "Love will Tear Us Apart".

I might be wrong, but I am thinking that unlike several of Koreeda's other films, Air Doll was never picked up for stateside release because the narrative goes against the expectations one might have about its basic premise. Perhaps most radical is that the film is told mostly from the point of view of the title character. Nozomi is first seen as the silent companion and sex toy for a man, Hideo, whose job running a restaurant brings one complaint after another. Nozomi discovers herself awake with a heart, and walks out into the world, actually a small neighborhood outside of Tokyo.

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And while there are comic scenes, Koreeda's film can be more rightly described as a wistful look at what it means to be human. The symbolism is there on the surface regarding people as being as disposable as trash, or easily replaceable. Koreeda also breaks from Nozomi to show the lives of several people in the neighborhood whom Kozomi encounters, all of whom are dealing with loneliness in their own lives. Some of what happens can be interpreted more than one way as when Nozomi, accidentally causing herself to deflate while working at a local video store, is revived by fellow worker Junichi. The implications of Junichi breathing life back into Nozumi can be read as theological, although the way it is presented is also sexually charged.

One might ascribe some cultural significance to having the title role played by Korean actress Doona Bae. Aside from not being Japanese, Bae is unconventionally attractive. Bae has probably been most widely seen in The Host, but the performance that ties in with her earlier work would be Linda, Linda, Linda where Bae played the Korean high school exchange student who accidentally becomes the singer of an all girl band. Bae's performance here is physical, especially when Nozumi first comes alive, with almost mechanical movements. First walking, the gait is like that of a toddler in the body of a slender young woman, awkward and sometimes tentative. Also Bae's eyes seem unusually large, especially when she is in the process of observing the activity around her, trying to make sense of what she sees. Nozumi first appears dressed in a maid's uniform, one of the fetish outfits Hideo has bought for Nozumi. What may be a point of contention is that while Nozumi always dresses in a way that is fitting for someone, or something, that functions as a sexual object, that objectification is almost neutralized by Nozumi's self knowledge.

That Nozumi only looks human is reinforced several times with shots of her parts of her body, including seams along her neck and the air hole in her belly. Even when she acts human, Nozumi will revert to being a listless sex toy when necessary. While Koreeda made the film with the assumption that the metaphorical aspects would be understood, he simultaneously plays on Nozumi's literal interpretations of symbolic language. While there have been comparisons to Pinocchio, the classic doll come to life, one might also find a comparison to James Whale's interpretation of the Frankenstein monster.

Koreeda explains some of his choices regarding the making of Air Doll in this interview.

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Posted by peter at 08:59 AM

March 20, 2012

Spiritual Love

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Gui xin niang
David Lai & Taylor Wong - 1987
Joy Sales Films All Region DVD

Deanie Ip was unknown to me when she won the award at the last Venice Film Festival for her performance in Ann Hui's A Simple Life. The film never gained traction even with a screening at Toronto as everyone seemed mesmerized by the Best Actor at Venice, Michael Fassbender and his exposed penis. In the meantime, Ip has racked up awards from various Asian film groups. Even with the awards and critical acclaim, it looks like I'll probably see A Simple Life the same way as I've seen all of Ann Hui's other films, as a subtitled DVD.

Checking into IMDb's information on Ip, her win at Venice is less surprising in light of the number of awards and nominations received over her career in Hong Kong cinema. I felt it important to see at least one Ip's earlier performances, and chose Spiritual Love more or less at random. The film is primarily a starring vehicle for Chow Yun-Fat, with Ip in a supporting role, although another of her performances that received an award nomination.

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Chow plays the part of an ineffective mob enforcer, Bob, who's better at sponging off his cousin, played by Ip, than he is at making collections for his boss. When not asking when her cousin is going to pay his share of the rent, Ip is involved as some kind of Taoist priestess although she alternates with Buddhist prayers. Chow finds an antique desk that contains the letter of a woman, Wei, whom in some past period was condemned to live in the afterlife as the wife of a horrid man. Bob has the correct horoscope to be the man to rescue Wei. Bob brings Wei back to life in then present day Hong Kong, much to the horror of cousin, Chin-Hua. Spiritual Love can be best summed up as a broadly comic version of that classic Asian genre of a man in love with a female ghost.

Wei is played by Cherie Cheung. In a scene that shows why Ip was popular as a comic performer, she has a duel with Cheung, an extended piece of physical comedy that combines a parody of martial arts moves with Chinese opera. Much of this is done in full shots so that one can appreciate the ability of Ip to move around with Cheung as the two hit, kick and use available household items as weapons. What may seem unusual for a film of this kind of genre is that it is also partially a musical, taking advantage of Ip's standing as a popular singer at the time the film was made.

This is not a film with anything resembling artistic aspirations. As likable as Chow Yun-Fat usually is, he is less interesting to watch than the rest of the cast, which including Ip and the charming Cheung, features Pauline Wong as May, the former girlfriend who decides she really wants Bob for herself. Aside from a couple of shots of the leggy Wong in her underwear, the actress is in a scene of where she threatens to commit suicide by hanging herself. Wong's scene is so darkly comic that it might cause that master of suicide humor, Billy Wilder, to momentarily hesitate. It's also a scene that initiates a final battle between May and Wei in a disco, complete with wonderfully cheap special effects and a large video screen that acts as a conduit between the real world and the realm of ghosts.

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Posted by peter at 08:53 AM

March 18, 2012

Coffee Break

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Dorothy Malone and Richard Widmark in Warlock (Edward Dmytryk - 1959)

Posted by peter at 08:55 AM

March 15, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

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Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass - 2012
Paramount Pictures 35mm film

I might have liked Jeff, Who Lives at Home a bit better if it were not one of the worst photographed films in recent memory. It's not that I would want any filmmakers to slavishly imitate anyone else, but the overuse of the zoom lens was distracting. In Jeff, it is like no one could decide where to focus the camera so it moves in and out on characters in the worst manner of someone making a home movie. I'm not enthusiastic about the use of zoom lenses in most films but Robert Altman had a way of zooming in or out that helped propel the narrative. And if you're going to go for a home movie aesthetic, Vincent Gallo showed a knack for off-kilter composition in Buffalo '66. Even better in how to film comedy, totally trusting the script and the actors, is the little indie that could, God's Land, where Preston Miller positioned a stationary camera in just the right place, allowing the intelligent viewer to discover the humor. And while it might be argued that the camera style reflects the indecisiveness of the characters, or their own lack of focus, the overuse gets so annoying that I'm ready to watch a random film by Yasujiro Ozu just to recover my bearings.

The title gives away the setup of a guy who lives in the basement apartment in his mother's house. The film begins with quotes attributed to Jeff regarding how people should be opened to signs from the universe, and the interconnectedness of people and things. All well and good, although doughy Jeff gets his signs from informercials and M. Night Shyamalan"s Signs, neither of which are good, um, signs. Getting an insistent phone call for someone named Kevin, Jeff follows a guy named Kevin whom he spots on a bus, the name emblazoned on a basketball shirt. Even when this initially friendly encounter turns bad, Jeff doesn't seem to realize at sometimes things aren't more than what they appear to be, whether it is a wrong telephone number or a simple coincidence.

And there are coincidences aplenty, with Jeff literally running into his brother, Pat, who's got troubles of his own with a rocky marriage, and their mother, Sharon, whom the French might describe as "a woman of a certain age", who works in a cubicle where she gets computer messages from an unknown admirer. There is a message about thwarted dreams and expectations, as well as finding one's destiny in unexpected places. It's not that I disagree with any of the sentiments expressed here, but the film is kind of like Jeff, lazy and not fulfilling full potential.

The best realized comedy revolves around Pat's purchase of a Porsche, much to the chagrin of his wife, Linda. Not only is Linda angry that the dream of a house purchase is jeopardized, her response is to dump breakfast leftovers onto the gleaming white car. It's a given that what will happen to that white Porsche will be much, much worse than a few food stains. What also doesn't help Jeff is that the title character, played by Jason Segal, isn't all that interesting. Better is the often manic Ed Helm as the more accomplished to the two underachieving brothers. A bit more originality is to be found in Susan Sarandon's mother, underestimating her attractiveness in maturity, and Rae Dawn Chong as Sarandon's coworker and best friend, with a few secrets of her own.

Posted by peter at 08:10 AM

March 13, 2012

Hard, Fast and Beautiful

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Ida Lupino - 1951
Warner Archives DVD

I would think that what attracted Ida Lupino to making this film is the obvious parallel between the sports world and show business. The intertwining of the two may have always been mixed though there was still a greater discretionary distinction sixty years ago. And there is the basic story of the mother trying to live out her dreams through her daughter, not so much autobiographical in Lupino's own life, but one that she certainly observed from the time she was a teenage starlet in Hollywood.

Florence Farley is a talented amateur from Santa Monica. The boy next door just happens to work at a country club, where Florence shows her stuff on a couple of tennis dates. From there, here ability impresses all so that she receives sponsorship in top amateur competitions, eventually making it to the top, championship at Forest Hills. Her mother, Millie, never happy with her lot in life, although comfortably living a modest middle class existence, sees Florence as a way to have the best that life has to offer. Millie hooks up with Fletcher Locke, a former tennis champion turned coach-promoter. Endorsements come to Florence, along with free designer clothing, and a trip to Europe. Things sour when Florence gets a clearer picture of how her mother and Locke are using her. Instead, Florence takes things on her own terms with the others reluctantly going along. There is a physical transformation as the girl temporarily becomes a hardened woman. The symbolism of the end is obvious, but fitting, as Millie is left with nothing but an empty championship cup.

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Bosley Crowthers of the New York Times, commenting on the film, described the script by Martha Wilkerson as, "a trite and foolish thing. It simply recounts the quick parabola that a girl tennis player describes in becoming a tennis champion and then chucking it all for love. And it is played with such lack of authority by everyone in the cast that it doesn't even carry the satisfaction that a well-acted romance might have."

Ida Lupino would go on record as saying she wasn't a feminist. And perhaps, as it may be understood, Hard, Fast and Beautiful may not be a feminist or proto-feminist, but there are a few bits of business that are worth noting.

When Sally Forrest, as Florence, is playing tennis, she is always wearing a small cap. It's the kind of headwear more traditionally associated with men. Also, Florence is introduced hitting the tennis ball against a garage door with numbers painted on it, announcing the number before the ball hits the numbered square. Even though Florence likes to wear more formal dresses on occasion, the opening scenes indicate someone who likes to be in control of a situation, and may be a bit of a "tomboy". That Florence takes on the boy next door in tennis suggests some regard for gender equality.

The tennis matches are composed often of documentary footage intercut with Lupino's footage of Forrest and the match audiences. One a purely technical level, one can gripe about the footage not matching. What struck me here was how Forrest is framed. While the compositions may have been done to disguise that it was studio work, Forrest is usually filmed from a low angle looking up at her, so we see just her upper torso, and her arm swinging the tennis racket. The angle is the kind one uses to film heroic characters. In this case, Florence Farley is presented as someone of strength and power, at least on the tennis court.

One of the other visually striking moments is when we see Millie Farley and her milquetoast husband in their bedroom. As would be normal in a Hollywood film of the time, there are two separate beds. What is unusual here is that the two beds, instead of being parallel with several feet between them, have the two headrests against each other, with Millie and her husband facing opposite directions in their respective beds. This unusual bedroom setup provides enough clues about the state of a marriage as well as the differing viewpoints of Florence's parents.

A nice visual touch is when Florence has won the match that has in turn got her set up for a tour of Europe and newly established celebrity. The camera pulls back so that we see Florence in the distance behind some grillwork in a fancy restaurant. The shot suggests that of someone behind bars, in this case Florence, about to be a prisoner of her own fame.

Some of the concerns in Hard, Fast and Beautiful show, between sleazy promoters, merchandising, and the interest people have based on rankings or celebrity, a world that has become arguably more corrupt, exploitive and public in the past sixty years.

Posted by peter at 08:43 AM

March 11, 2012

Coffee Break

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Tomas Milian in El precio de un hombre (Eugenio Martin - 1967)

Posted by peter at 08:49 AM

March 08, 2012

Blood Rain

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Hyeolui Nu
Kim Dae-seung - 2005
Pathfinder Home Entertainment Region 1 DVD

What sets Blood Rain immediately apart from other South Korean thrillers is that it is set in 1808. In and of itself, the film is of interest simply because it is not the usual era associated with detective stories. Part of the work of Lee Won-Kyu is simply to provide scientific explanations to a series of mysterious and violent deaths attributed to a vengeful ghost. In his investigations, Lee uncovers family secrets that tie everyone on the island together in one form or another, with guilt shared by an entire community.

Even though Lee Won-Kyu is modern in his investigations of crime, feudal attitudes still dominate the thinking of most people. What Blood Rain looks at is how rules regarding class, culture and religion caused escalations of tragedy in this remote location. Punishment, usually death, is meted out for being Catholic or even being accused of being Catholic. Aside from the possession of guns, western culture is viewed as unwanted and a possible act of treason. Arcane rules apply to those who are considered part of the aristocracy. A so-called commoner with great wealth is still a commoner.

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The mystery kicks off with a female shaman seemingly possessed by the spirit of a murdered man. At the same time, a fire spontaneously erupts on a boat stocked with paper. The paper is the special product produced on the island, and the stock in question was intended for trade with China. The political intrigues that cause an emissary and Lee to come from the mainland prove to hide more personal vendettas. As in any reasonably good mystery, nothing is quite what it seems. Even the shaman, who holds a certain amount of influence regarding spiritual beliefs on the island, is revealed to be Lee's most reliable ally.

Kim Dae-seung's reliance on cross cutting between past and present sometimes makes the film difficult to follow in some scenes. Also problematic are some of the cultural aspects, although one can see parallels between Joseon era Korea and Shogunate Japan. While not overly graphic, the onscreen deaths are violent, although I suspect more people would be upset by the decapitation of several live chickens. Blood Rain has been cited for its costume and production design. The costumes especially are notable for clearly signifying class and rankings. Remarkable also is the paper mill, showing industry in early 19th Century Korea.

Kim Dae-seung began his filmmaking career as an assistant to Im Kwok-taek. As Im's most famous films were about artists and Korean culture, this feeling would informs Kim's towards the island inhabitants, who are first seen in community celebration. One of the major characters is a young artist who hopes that his ability at portraiture would enable him to overcome the stigma of his humble origins. While peripheral to the main narrative, the moments devoted to art and the artist allow some visual beauty into an otherwise grim story.

There's a blogathon devoted to Korean cinema this week with the main links over at CineAwsome and New Korean Cinema.

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Posted by peter at 08:48 AM

March 06, 2012

Blade of Kings

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Chin gei bin 2: Fa dou daai jin / The Twins Effect II
Corey Yuen & Patrick Leung - 2004
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Blade of Kings is full of mystery, beginning with why is this eight year old film getting a U.S DVD release now? I had to check my Netflix queue to remind myself that, yes, I did see the first film, with the English language title of Vampire Effect at about the same time this film was originally released for Chinese language audiences. What I can assure everyone is that seeing that first film will neither help nor hinder any enjoyment out one might get here.

The rather elaborate story involves a kingdom ruled by a woman unhappy in love, where women rule, and men are shackled slaves called "dumbells". There is also a prophesy that a young man is going to find the sword, Excalibur, and make things right in the world. The evil queen will have none of that and sends a spy to try and stop a pair of young men who have a map that's suppose to lead them to the sword. The spy competes with another young woman who is out to kidnap one of the young men, to be the personal slave for her boss, a woman of great power and heft. This is a movie with characters named 13th Young Master, Blue Bird, Red Vulture (a too briefly seen Fan Bingbing), Block Head, and Charcoal Head, with Donnie Yen as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

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There are lots of special effects and lots of wire work. The film came out at a time when Chinese producers were certain that the way to world wide success was with lots of CGI and wire work. And some of the films were better than others, but the response was generally indifference here is the U.S.

The best part of Blade of Kings is watching Charlene Choi mugging, whining, laughing, fighting and kicking her way through the story. She's got a roundish face, and is not as conventionally pretty as Gillian Chung. Nonetheless, she is the one who grabs the attention here with her animated facial expressions. What should be explained, for those unaware, is that Choi and Chung are part of a Cantopop duo called Twins. They play rivals here, and one wishes that if the two are going to do any more films together, that they team up with Jeffrey Lau, possibly the best purveyor of nonsense films around, to do something like a distaff version of the old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" movies. For those less familiar with Choi, I recommend the film, Diary by Oxide Pang.

The best scene in the film is near the beginning when Choi and Chung first encounter each other. Bickering leads to a duel involving swords, fists, feet, and yards of cloth. Sure, there is a heavy reliance on special effects, but still . . . watching the two encounter, evade, and move around each other is like watching ballet as imagined by action choreographer extraordinaire Corey Yuen. I am less familiar with co-director Patrick Leung, but he had his hand in the very funny La Brassiere, a film I'd recommend to anyone who loves the classic comedies of Frank Tashlin. For some people, the selling points pf Blade of Kings are seeing Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan, who also have a scene where they duel each other with swords and spears. For myself, Blade of Kings would have been much better if everyone involved allowed the presence of Choi and Chung to firmly be the point of the film. The assumed extra star power here is unneeded baggage for two young women who do best when they're the only ones on the screen.

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Posted by peter at 08:17 AM

March 04, 2012

Coffee Break

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Park Eun-hye and Kim Yeong-ho in Night and Day (Hong Sang-soo - 2008)

Posted by peter at 08:59 AM

March 01, 2012

Let the Bullets Fly

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Rang zidan fei
Jiang Wen - 2010
Well Go USA Entertainment / Variance Films

It's not just the bullets that fly here. There's also a train's passenger car, an alarm clock, and several bodies. This article from the Los Angeles Times would have you believe that Let the Bullets Fly would be difficult viewing. It's not. The film is only a challenge if your idea of movies is dumbed down entertainment that's easy to describe and categorize. There is indeed a story about three men, a bandit, a crooked government official, and a town boss alternately conspiring with and against each other. The film itself might be described as a sometimes violent action adventure film with the anarchy and humor of a Marx Brothers movie. This is Duck Soup with blood and bullets.

Jiang Wen co-wrote, directed and stars in the film. As the bandit chief, Pocky Zhang, Jiang pretty much owns Let the Bullets Fly, with Ge You and Chow Yun-Fat going along for the ride. Taking place in 1919, the film starts out with the ambush of a train carrying a government official, Tang, with his wife, on their way to an assigned posting. Zhang learns from Tang that there's money to be made in government service, without the hard work of banditry, and arranges to pose as the governor of Goose Town. It is in this remote village that Zhang matches wits with the wealthy town boss, Huang.

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And yes, there are cultural references that might not be understood. But there is also some spectacular action as when the passenger car flies through the air and into a lake, or when a giant drum is loosened and rolls down the main street of Goose Town, terrorizing anyone in its path. There is also humor with the scenes between Jiang and Carina Lau, posing as his wife, with a very funny scene of seduction, as well as the use of bird whistles used by Zhang's gang to communicate with each other, with subtitles explaining the meanings of the various tweets, the original twitter network.

The spirit of the Marx Brothers is in a story chock full of impersonations, impostors, doubles, con games, and everything blowing up in the end. A clash between two rival gangs gets stymied when everyone is wearing identical masks. Even when some of the characters admit to their real identities, they are not believed. What finally motivates Zhang is an overriding sense of fairness for the citizens he's suppose to govern, at the expense of everything he has.

There are moments to savor just for their own sake, as when Zhang and company are greeted by a group of young women on taiko drums, led by the gorgeous Zhou Yun, or when Zhang is greeted by Huang, not in person, but by Huang's hat being carted in a luxurious litter. There is a sense of absurdity that is both unexpected and simultaneously an organic part of the narrative. This is the first of Jiang Wen's films as both actor and filmmaker to get a theatrical release in the United States, and as such is a terrific introduction.

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Stills courtesy of Well Go USA / Variance Films

Posted by peter at 08:00 AM | Comments (2)