I have seen Rebels Of The Neon God (1992), Vive L’Amour (1994), The River (1997), What Time Is It There? (2001), Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), and I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone (2006). I still plan to see The Wayward Cloud (2005), but at this point I can say definitively that I don’t like this man’s movies. I remember in Night Moves (1975) Gene Hackman described Eric Rohmer’s films like watching paint dry. He was wrong. Rohmer’s films are extremely lively compared to Tsai’s films. He is clearly trying to follow in the tradition of Italian Neorealism and Yasujiro Ozu like Hou Hsiao-Hsien, but he just bores me to death. Water is clearly a dominate theme, but I don’t know why. All you do is watch people do nothing or have anonymous sexual encounters. Don’t bother with this director.
Another Wong Kar-Wai film, another trip through the twilight of Hong Kong. Yes the movie is ripped from the French New Wave in terms of its cinematography, acting, ok the whole thing. There is probably something to be gleamed from the characters and plot, but really you need to keep in mind the death of Hong Kong when watching this film. That is the part I got and for that alone it’s worth a look.
So I just went through the latest iteration of TSPDT’s top 1000 and I actually picked up four films. Now I haven’t seen 169 of the films rather than 173 films. Some of the changes concerning the last decade surprise me
-I am happy that the whole Lord Of The Rings trilogy is on the list.
-I was surprised that Pan’s Labyrinth and The Lives Of Others made it onto the list since I didn’t think either was that good.
-Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is getting drastically overrated.
-I don’t think The Dark Knight is going to last.
-Can’t we just agree that by the late-1960’s Godard went from being a pretentious ass who made good movies to just being a pretentious ass and pretend like he stopped making movies and died. Why did we need to add In Praise Of Love, now I have to suffer through it.
-Elephant, really? Also My Own Private Idaho? When did Gus Van Sant become such a hot property?
-Hopefully The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu won’t be as lousy as 4 Months, 3 Weeks, And 2 Days.
-Million Dollar Baby?
No Children Of Men or The Wrestler? I guess it will take some time before the movies from the last decade settle.
So since my last post I have seen 12 more East Asian films. The ones to talk about are the Zhang Ke Jia films, Lino Brocka’s films, and the Thai film Syndromes And A Century.
Zhang Ke Jia
Great stuff on the people of China who aren’t benefiting from the economic boom. Those who still live in poverty. Who have to resort to crime. And all the people who are spinning their wheels under a totalitarian government going nowhere. Zhang follows in the tradition of Italian neorealism. Think Angelopoulos and Hsaio-Hsien. I don’t know how stuff like this is getting through the censors, but I am grateful since directors like Zhang Yimou are making stuff like Not One Less (1999). Not to mention propaganda like The Founding Of A Republic (2009).
So far I have seen 5 of his films: Xiao Wu (1997), Platform (2000), Unknown Pleasures (2002), The World (2004), and Still Life (2006). I am going to see 24 City (2008) and if I can track it down I plan to see Useless (2007).
Manila: In The Claws Of Neon (1975)
My first two Filipino films are by a director named Lino Brocka. At times he reminds me of Almodovar in terms of it’s use of noir and homosexuality. However, there is a definite strain of social realism in his work. The current screenshot is from the end of his film Manila: In The Claws Of Neon (1975). I am excited to see more by Brocka and other Filipino filmmakers.
This film was voted the best film of the decade at the Toronto International Film Festival. Although I was happy to see a Thai film that wasn’t Tears Of The Black Tiger (2000) this film doesn’t live up to the hype. With still images, objects, and landscapes it’s beautiful, but whenever there are people or emotions the film doesn’t hold up. What a shame. I would like to see some more Thai films, but I don’t plan to see anymore of the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Onward to more East Asian Cinema. I still have to see a film from Mongolia, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
I have taken a break from doing the list. I have been going on an East Asian cinema binge. My main goal is to get out of Japan cinematically and see what else is out there.
So far I have watched 4 Chinese films, 1 Korean, 3 Vietnamese, 1 Singaporean, and 6 more Japanese ones.
Chinese: I watched one of Ruan Lingyu’s films: The Goddess. I had seen one before and this one wasn’t that great either, but her acting was. She was something special. It’s a shame she killed herself at 24 after her husband started claiming she had cheated on him. 2 more films were from the 5th generation: Horse Thief and The Story Of Qiu Ju. The last one was a surprise. I thought the Chinese government backing out of it’s national cinema was a death knell. Looking at what Zhang Yimou has been reduced to confirmed that for me: communist propaganda film Hero and having a moratorium put on his career via a lifetime achievement award. Imagine my surprise when I watched Unknown Pleasures by Zhang Ke Jia. It has teeth in it. How this film got by Chinese censors I don’t know. Probably the same censors who work for the Iranian government.
Korean: I watched Chunhyang by Kwon-taek Im. I know the story is a Korean classic and I know that it is being told in the traditional Korean way, but it was lousy. I wanted to shoot the screaming Korean narrator. The only other Korean film I have seen is Oldboy, which was great minus the tongue cutting out sequence. Hopefully, I can find something good.
Vietnamese: I watched Cyclo, Buffalo Boy, and Three Seasons. The last two were run of the mill give me a best picture Oscar films. The first was something special. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any other films by Anh Hung Tran and it looks like his career has tanked since the mid-90’s.
Singaporean: It’s in English! What a pleasant surprise to find another nation outside of the US that makes English films. I watched a fun movie called That’s The Way I Like It. Basic story about a Bruce Lee fanatic who thinks John Travolta is coming out of Saturday Night Fever to help him win a dance contest so that he can buy a motorcycle, but ends up using the money to get his brother a sex change. Very conventional. Was it great, no. Was it fun, yes.
Japanese: I am trying to stay away from the typical here. I watched Cruel Story Of Youth, Crazed Fruit, and Intentions Of Murder: Japanese New Wave. A recent film called Nobody Knows, which redefined free range parenting. Wife To Be Sacrificed, a wonderful Nikkatsu Roman Porno with Naomi Tani. Finally, a Hiroshi Shimizu film called Japanese Girls At The Harbor. I didn’t know there were prewar Japanese directors who were at the height of the their craft.
I am looking forward to some more Shimizu, Nikkatsu Noir, 6th generation Chinese cinema, 5th generation Chinese cinema, a Filipino film called Insiang, and films from the rest of East Asia that I can get my hands on.