Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird - N.A. Premiere

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird made its North American premiere in Toronto last night. Playing at the Roy Thompson Hall, a friend and I got our tickets and headed for the screening. Not a regular screening, but they call it an "Opening Night Gala" (I think), with some of the cast and crew present. Director Kim Ji-woon (whose only film I've seen was A Bittersweet Life), Lee Byung-hun (who was also in A Bittersweet Life, and plays "The Bad"), and Jung Woo-sung (which I've not seen any films he's in, plays "The Good"). So where the heck was "The Weird"? Yeah, busy filming his new film, Thirst, where he plays a vampire.

Jung Woo-sung and Lee Byung-hun on stage

It was mostly a Korean audience (the movie had English subs btw), and as expected, tons of screaming Korean girls when the "The Good" and "The Bad" appeared on stage. I just wanted to see the movie, but having the cast and director in the audience was nice too, lol.

Director, Kim Ji-woon addressing the audience

"The Bad" (Lee Byung-hun)

"The Good" (Jung Woo-sung)

Friday, September 7, 2007

if you were me

If You Were Me (various directors, 2003)

If You Were Me is comprised of six short films by different directors. Each segment tackles the subject of human rights. The Human Rights Commission in Korea had asked for a film to be made regarding the issues, and If You Were Me is the first of an ongoing series (If You Were Me 2 and I read a third is being made).

The Weight of Her (Im Sun-Rye)

The Man with an Affair (Jeong Jae-Eun)

Crossing (Yeo Gyun-Dong)

Tongue Tie (Park Jin-Pyo)

Face Value (Park Gwang-Su)

Never Ending Peace and Love (Park Chan-Wook)

Stories of self-image, disability, embarrassment, identity, are societal problems covered in the segments.
If You Were the saying "put yourself in someone else's shoe," and how would you react or not react?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

i'm a cyborg, but that's ok

I'm a Cyborg, But That's Ok (Park Chan-Wook, 2006) - 8/10

"Sympathy is the worst of the 7 deadly sins.
For your reference, the following 6 are as follows.

Being sad.


Hesitating about anything.

Useless daydreaming.

Feeling guilty.


The above was in the order of evilness.

Useless daydreaming about whether the white 'uns have grannies, too...
Sympathy about their grannies if the white 'uns died...
And hesitating about killing them, you must forego these sins."

Friday, July 6, 2007

café lumière

Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2003) - 8.5/10

After watching Café Lumière, my third film from Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien (Three Times, and Millennium Mambo), I realize the patience his films require.

When watching Millennium Mambo I was put off by the long takes of the characters doing the most ordinary and mundane actions. Such as a one minute take (might be a little off) of Shu Qi's character lighting and smoking a cigarette. Or a character walking in and out of the kitchen pouring a drink.

Café Lumière is the slowest of the three films I've seen from Hsiao-hsien. I have no problems with this. In fact, Café Lumière is the one I love most. The movie is constructed in a way where you feel like an observer. From the train ride scenes, where it seems the viewer is settled inside the train accompanying/observing the character of Yôko (played by Jpop artist, Yo Hitoto, in her first film acting role). Yôko is a freelance writer content on being independent. She has a place of her own, and feels no desire to marry the guy whom she is pregnant with, wanting to bring up the child on her own. It may seem from an outer layer that her relationship with her parents is close, but far from it. As far as them struggling to communicate with one another.

Tadanobu Asano (Ichi The Killer) is Hajime, a book store owner and a very close friend to Yôko. Hajime comes off as carefree and laid-back, and acts as a support to Yôko's problems. But maybe deep inside Hajime is isolation. Something curled up, like the digital artwork he created of a fetus enclosed between multiple trains. When Yôko tells Hajime about her pregnancy, there is only a quiet response from Hajime.

The everyday existence of these characters are portrayed with ordinary actions from the characters, little dialogue, and a serene and quiet paced film that maybe mimics the existence of our ordinary beings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

millennium mambo

Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001) - 6/10

As she jogs through a blue lit tunnel with a captivating soundtrack playing in the background, the presence of Shu Qi, may compel you from the start. However, it's scenes like this which helps make Millennium Mambo watchable. What this film lacks is any real closure between scenes. Instead, director Hsiao-hsien, crafts his scenes to make them overly long. Characters performing the most mundane actions and daily routines taking up a lot of run time. Three Times, his only other movie I've seen contain elements of this, yet that movie manages to evoke wonder from those scenes. Millennium Mambo, almost feels rugged and raw (yet wonderfully shot), not surprising, considering the content the movie brings. The radiant and bright lights, seen illuminating the screen from Taiwan's underground night life, strikes a balance of tone in colour.

Shu Qi plays Vicky, a women who's life has been torn and somewhat wasted caused by a relationship gone wrong. An abusive, manipulative, and jealous boyfriend, Hao-hao, who deliberately ruined Vicky's education prospects. Fearing she would move on without him, both live together unemployed, and are frequent visitors of a nightclub, and inhabit the world of drugs. The depressing nature of their relationship heightened in a couple scenes, may make it hard to witness for some. Like the way Hao-hao scrutinizes Vicky in an attempt to uncover if she's cheated, by sniffing all over her, with her feeble attempt at annoyance. The anger that may evoke from viewers towards Hao-hao is another strong point the movie delivers.

Narrated by Shu Qi's character herself, in a third person point of view -- 10 years after the fact -- we at least sense some closure and contentment into her distraught life.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

the road home

The Road Home (Zhang Yimou, 1999) - 8/10

Why not take that one last path to the road home? Another beautifully told dramatic tale from Zhang Yimou. Opening with black and white moving visuals, The Road Home glances back to the life of a young Di (played by Zhang Ziyi), into a luscious and colourful landscape enveloping a small village. Before elaborating into the past life of Di, we first learn of her husband's passing. Yusheng, Di's son, is realyed the news of the passing, where he leaves the city for the village where Di resdies. By Di's request, she envisions a long tradition of the funeral procession being carried along a road that connect the city to the village. For one last moment, she wants to walk side by side with her husband to the road home.

The story of Di is narrated by her son, Yusheng, as he tries to uncover why fulfilling his mother's request would mean everything to her. The simplicity of Yimou's film -- witnessed in his other poignant film, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles -- uses beautiful imagery to help capture the emotions of the characters and mood. Zhang Ziyi, as the young Di, endures a graceful and innocent look, painted on her face, making it easy for us to care for her character.

Di and Changyu are 18 and 20 years old respectively. Yimou doesn’t forget they are 18 and 20 years old, young and ambitious. Like school kids in love. When Di fetches water from a well, she glances below to see Changyu reaching for the well. Her bucket already filled with water is dumped back into the well. And how does Yimou capture our interest when an elderly man puts together pieces of a broken bowl? The imagery to capture emotion, as we realize the emotional connectivity the bowl has for Di, and her devotion and care into making the perfect meal for Changyu.

The expansion into the character of Changyu could have gone further. After 40 years, what is it about Changyu that has made Di love him after all these years. Is it just the pleasure of hearing his voice? Or the young, blind love that has carried on for 40 years? Di’s devotion to Changyu, who has been strayed away from her in the beginning, makes her character ever more fragile. As the funeral procession to the road home commences, we may not feel emotion for Changyu, but I would think Yimou would like us to sympathize for Changyu through Di.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

memories of matsuko

Memories of Matsuko (Tetsuya Nakashima, 2006) - 10/10

Director, Tetsuya Nakashima brought you Kamikaze Girls previously. A movie boasting two female characters struggling to find common ground in their friendship. My first glance into Nakashima's work, his film-making style hit me from the start. Memories of Matsuko opens almost fairytale-like. The opening underwater sequence reminded my of the sequence in Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid. In fact, Nakashima manages to combine numerous fantasy/fairytale elements and elements from famous films. An example include The Wizard of Oz, where we experience a scene reminiscent to the yellow brick road. Aside from the beautifully stunning scenes of bright and luscious colours, Japanese pop music (Jpop) vibe, and bits of animation, therein lies a beautiful and tragic story of Matsuko.

Told through flashbacks (memories) into the life of Matsuko, Matsuko's nephew attempts to unearth why she was murdered, and any traces of memories others and him might have of Matsuko. We realize through these memories, that love and loneliness played opposing forces throughout Matsuko's life. Love she seeked, loneliness she avoided. But through avoiding loneliness, love avoided her. From the two films I've enjoyed in Nakashima's work, he creates female character roles with strong development and personalities, and with their own set of misguided opportunities in life. What is life if you don't live it to the fullest? Its no wonder the resemblance to the yellow brick road recognizes the road leading to one's path in life, no matter how difficult or tragic.