Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sutâfisshu Hoteru(Starfish Hotel)

Hey! It's the rabbit from Donnie Darko! In Japan!

Sutâfisshu Hoteru(Starfish Hotel)

Starring Koichi Sato(Samurai Resurrection), Tae Kimura(The Sinking of Japan), Kiki (Vital), Akira Emoro (Memories of Matsuko)
Director: John Williams (Firefly Dreams)

Emits Donnie Darko freakout , does that rabbit suit ,shapeshifting to slippery aura of Alice when we get to the Wonderland brothel ,as a fictional world bleeds into the real. Uh huh. Like the Lewis Carroll cop-out, it could all be so much headnoise for preoccupied salaryman Koichi Sato. Guilt pangs ,because he's a dork who prefers reading mystery novels over getting it on with hot wife Tae Kimura and who does get it on with hotter stranger Kiki and her mineshaft of skeletons. Then hot wife disappears and - - - curioser and curioser? You wish. Gorgeous, yes. Muted and gauzy and proper, right. None of which computes as the palpable hallucination it's aiming for. Or should, if it isn't. No grasp for confusion,then. The mystery bland where it wants to be viscous. The plot thins rather than thickens. And the tacked-on coda comes too late to up the ambiguity. And doesn't anyway.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bu San (Goodbye Dragon Inn)

The Last Picture Show

Bu San(Goodbye Dragon Inn)

Starring Kang Sheng Lee (What Time Is It There?), Xiangqi Chen (A Brighter Summer Day)
Director: Tsai Ming Liang (What Time Is It There?, The Wayward Cloud)

The architecture has bearing, our elliptical romance with cinema is our elliptical romance with the cinema,too - - - haunted house, repository of stories, cave of dreams, spaces where anything can happen. Not entirely the girftwrapped valentine to the movies Tsai loved that it at first seems to be, but more a soft-spoken elegy to the fading glories of the moviehouses he watched them in. Naturally, nostalgia flavors things. Particularly resonant, though, is how the moviehouse comes off as an ecology ,with its interior sociologies , its modes of conduct. Everything's here, familiar as secret handshakes. There is a thin smattering of people who converge, on this sad and rainy night, at the rundown Taiwanese moviehouse showing King Hu’s Dragon Inn one last time before closing its doors forever. Each has a story to tell. So, too, the ticket booth girl with a game leg and the mysterious projectionist. And in this space where anything can happen, many things do. All bouncing off the movie , the moviehouse and the ramifications of the night , eventually revealing themselves funnily, wistfully, poignantly, beautifully, always deliberately. At just 80 minutes, this is still Tsai’s slowest movie. You know the immersive long take is his discipline, the risking of ennui to tap into epiphanies. Pointlessly argue at this juncture and you’re probably out of his reach. Slowness doesn’t always connote torpor,after all. Sometimes it connotes grace.* * * * *

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chinjeolhan Geumjassi (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Revenge Is A Cake Best Eaten Cold

Chinjeolhan Geumjassi (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Starring Lee Yeong-ae (Jewel In The Palace), Choi Min Sik (Oldboy)
Director: Park Chan Wook (Sympathy For Mr.Vengeance)

Parts of this lose me for want of a hook. The key to confronting Park's specific brand of shock cinema is always that empathic nag that sucks you in - - -the politically corrosive murder in JSA, the kidnapped girl of Sympathy For Mr.Vengeance, the captivity a la Kafka of Oldboy. The hook here's old school Charlie Bronson get-even with not much meat in its spindly bones. Lee Yeong-ae's injured ex-con Geum ja's a cipher. Choi Min Sik’s fuming heavy's a cartoon demon. And the narrative fractures until it breaks down to the emotional consistency of a blackly hilarious sketch comedy. The carpet-bombing of the abstract-expressionist eyecandy and ravishing carnage and absurdist sweeteners Park's getting more and more psycho for counts for visceral joy but it removes me even more. All traumas converge on the overextended schoolhouse finale but has to bristle with it to raise crucial hackles. My heart's not in it by then so it's all so much preening designer ultraviolence to me , like a decapitation under neon.
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