Thursday, September 20, 2018

I Live in Fear (Akira Kurosawa), Europa '51 (Roberto Rossellini)

The impossible dream

(Warning: narrative details and plot twists explicitly discussed

Fantasy double feature: Akira Kurosawa's I Live in Fear (1955) and Roberto Rossellini's Europa '51 (1952) both ask the question: how should we deal with the man who holds extreme views on life? Humor him or condemn him? Or--unsettling thought--listen to what he has to say?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai)

Crazy Rich A**hole

If we're talking lighthearted romantic fare involving insanely prosperous Asians I don't see why we need to go all the way to Hollywood when Hong Kong has been doing fine for years. 

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Loving You (Mou mei san tamm, Johnnie To, 1995)

Bullet in the head

Back in the mid-90s found myself hooked on a particularly intense habit: Johnnie To movies. I'd seen A Hero Never Dies and The Barefoot Kid (his one period martial-arts film) had been digging through various DVDs ever since, hoping to find more. 

Found this: Loving You (Mou mei san taam, 1995) what To considers his first real directing job (he'd made his first feature in 1980; by the time he did this he had some sixteen films under his belt). A crime flick with an inordinate focus on a failing marriage, a marriage melodrama with a terrifically tense confrontation thirty minutes in--I mean how would you handle being pinned in an alleyway by a villain on a fire escape, gun pointed down at you? He'd already fired a shot at your head and in the confusion the bullet had somehow missed its mark. Then your nose starts bleeding. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Last holdout

Paul Schrader's First Reformed--his twenty-third directing job--is a tiny feature shot around Brooklyn and Queens in only twenty days, on a budget of roughly three and a half million dollars. Arguably his best work to date--or if not his best then somewhere up there.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Khavn)

This is Not an Open Letter to the Cinema Evaluation Board (on their decision to give Balangiga: Howling Wilderness a zero rating)

To the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB);

This is not to be an attack on the board members--whoever you may be, as only Doy Del Mundo has actually affixed his name to the summation of comments on the film, for which I salute his candor.

This is not to be a coldly reasoned rigorously logical argument. 

This is not to be an emotional appeal to the better angels of your nature. 

This is not to be a grammatically punctuationally correct think piece. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mamang (Denise O'Hara)

A boy's best friend

Filipino filmmaker Mario O'Hara passed on in 2012. His niece Janice O'Hara chose one of his scripts (rewritten extensively by father Jerry O'Hara) to be her debut feature (Sundalong Kanin (Rice Soldiers) arguably one of the best of 2014). Janice died two years later leaving us the one film, compelling us to ask: is there some kind of curse on this family that blesses them with filmmaking and storytelling talent, but relatively fragile lives?

Now Janice's twin sister Denise--who helped produce Sundalong Kanin--has dared that so-called curse by writing and directing her own debut feature.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

You will never really cohere

Lynne Ramsay's films as narrative features are to put it mildly problematic: they rarely unfold in the approved straightforward manner; are elliptical to the point of obscure; are dark violent disturbing.

And yet and yet and yet