Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tonari No Totoro

Yummy fur.

Tonari No Totoro
Directed by : Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away)

The whimsy's there if that's your thing and there are days this is like a down blanket for me, something to keep warm in - - -that bus stop vignette and my wanting to play it over and over again as if looping would somehow enable me to cross over, there's no way you can break that down to a science, no way to peg why it works in the way it does, no way to do it again, not even Miyazaki himself tried. Could be the wet, shimmery palette's what makes it - - -and the whole piece ,really - - - so immersive, a kind of hush. Also the absence of anything going on in the usual sense of anything going on - - -two sisters billeted in a country house, their mother in a hospital and oh, next door lives a family of snuggly tree spirits that help them plant a tree, take them on a bus ride and later flying through the night. It's ambient, almost. The magic circle aura holds until you get the sense that the supernatural never overwhelms the natural, that there's a certainty to the creeping uncertainty in its peripheries- - -and you get it. Miyazaki would go on to do more ornate work - - - wiser, prettier,better. But what he nailed here that he won't nail again to such a degree is what Erice nailed in El Espiritu De La Colmena : that blinding headrush of what it's like to be a kid - - - and the sense of wonder and threat that come with it. And he nails it not because the magic he taps into makes those wisps of foreboding go away, like they do in neo-Disney mollycoddle. But precisely because it doesn't. * * * * *

Post Written for the Ghiblogathon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Saibogujiman kwenchana

Crazy in love

(Saibogujiman kwenchana) I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
Director Park Chan-wook
Stars Rain (Full House) / Lim Soo-jung (Tale of Two Sisters)

Not entirely a surprise for PCW. Lady Vengeance already had the funnies, Old Boy the fantastic. But I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK doesn't have the cohesive narrative of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Understandably so, the movie is about a girl who has delusions that she is a cyborg, Terminator-lite with machine gun for fingers, built to decimate the Initiative, well, the home, who took her grandmother. In the institution, Young-goon (Lim) refuses to eat human food and she is dying. Il-soon (Rain) who "steals" itches, ping-pong tricks and memories from the other crazy folks makes it his mission to help Young-goon eat. And this is where PCW takes his time to animate the sagging middle with explosions of surreal quirkiness. Booster socks. Sing-along mirrors. A whole bunch of crazies. I had fun with these, but I did hit the pause button a couple of times to make a sandwich and grab a drink. This is a long movie with a thin plot with too many detours. Still, there are scenes that remind you what PCW is all about. In this movie's case, it's the quiet ones. That bit at the basement, where Il-soon carefully upgrades Young-goon, the confusion of the trembling touch. Love at first byte. ***
Two By Pen-Ek

Last Life In The Universe (Ruang Rak Noi Nid Mahasan )

Director: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Ploy, Invisible Waves)
Starring: Tadanobu Asano (Ichi The Killer, Cafe Lumiere), Sinitta Boonyasak (Bite of Love)

Boiled down, this is about opposites attracting - - - chaos and order, scatterbrained and anal, free spirit and suicide fetishist. The arcane physics of desire. Also, the milk of every other hackneyed formula love story. It pushes the same buttons: the soft electricity of attraction, the sweet endorphin of emotional rescue, the wistful possibilities of happiness. But the (mis)matching of Tadanobu Asano’s bookish nerd and Sinitta Boonyasak's flighty hostess is bonded more by ghosts of shared regret than anything sexual (but we get there eventually) or romantic, stranding them in a hermetic world of their own design , speaking in fractured tongues as they fumble to master that inarticulate speech of the heart, the last lives in an impossible universe that isn't forever but, for a brief shining moment ,is magic. * * * * *

Mon-rak Transistor
Director: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Fun Bar Karaoke, 6ixtynin9)
Starring: Supakorn Kitsuwon
(Tears of the Black Tiger, Suriyothai), Siriyakorn Pukkavesh (Adventures of Iron Pussy)

Village kid meets village girl, they fall in love, she gets pregnant, he gets drafted, she gives birth, he deserts the army and becomes a pop star. Then their troubles begin. Screwball for the way it crams surfeits of melodramatic incident that could bloat two telenovela seasons then plays them for absurdist pleasure. Satiric for the way it harbors a nostalgic fondness for such overwrought soap opera tropes at the same time appearing to take affectionate digs at them. But there are genuine emotions fueling these soap opera tropes we malign. It's what makes them persist. Those flitty-tatty feelings we're all oh-so ironic ,or probably just too chickenshit, to express. And later, all artifice and agenda is dropped. A picture on the wall speaks volumes of regret. A damburst of tears and a tentative hug speak of a love that's too scared to come out of hiding. And the climactic ,inevitable reunion disarms then stabs me with the flitty and the tatty, full-on, guard down, right through the heart. Pow. And I'm a mass of blubber. Nice trick, Pen-Ek. Crafty bastard.
* * * *