Thursday, March 31, 2022

La Vida Rosa (The Life of Rosa, Chito Rono, 2001)

Everything coming up roses

Hollywood's on hold at the moment, trying to retool its production line to create gentler more sensitive films, with nary a mention of the words 'bomb,' 'terrorist' or 'World Trade Center.' The cineplexes have been forced to keep movies playing three, four weeks at a time, for want of anything new to show-- I've been seeing the ads for Bridget Jones' Diary and The Princess Diaries practically forever, though I haven't been able to (and possibly never will) see them.

Enter by sheer blind luck (I hardly call it design) Chito Rono's La Vida Rosa (The Life of Rosa), a noir crime thriller about con artist Rosa (Rosanna Roces) and her lockpicking boyfriend Dado (Diether Ocampo). Rosa and Dado keep half a dozen schemes juggling in the air, anything from carnapping to blackmail to stealing gifts from a wedding reception; their main source of income, however, are the smuggling and housebreaking operations led by Tsong, a crime boss, and his right-hand man Lupo (Pen Medina). Dado and Rosa have a love-hate relationship with Tsong: they depend on him for jobs and protection, yet at the same time feel an irresistible need to 'sideline'-- commit freelance crimes-- behind his back.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Batman (Matt Reeves, 2022)

Batman returns

Dear diary

6:10 PM

Fear is a tool. When light hits the screen it's not just the movie's start, it's a warning. Only who's being warned-- the bad guys on the big screen or us sitting here? Maybe you, reading this? Confused now. 

Sat down to watch Matt Reeves' The Batman. A hundred and seventy-six minutes to go.


Moving on. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)

The dark knight deflates

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is a lot like the car featured so prominently in the trailers: muscular, oversized, not particularly imaginative (it's been called "a Humvee on steroids"-- basically Arnold Schwarzenegger on four wheels).

The movie borrows heavily from Frank Miller's Batman: Year One so heavily it's possible to call this an adaptation of Miller. I'd say it's the best to date, Robert Rodriguez's Sin City notwithstanding, which in my book is faint praise: judging from his printwork (the abovementioned plus his best-known The Dark Knight Returns) Miller's is a rather narrowly focused sensibility, bleak romanticism draped with exaggerated noir. If I prefer Nolan's picture over Rodriguez's that's because Nolan isn't as faithful; as an adaptation, Sin City is perfect-- black and white, louder than life, dreary as hell.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)

Scribbled on the wind

(Warning: narrative discussed in explicit detail)

Film starts with pedal literally to the metal: Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) hurtling across town past oil fields, sucking from a bottle as he swings his roadster round a sharp curve to roar up the Hadley Estate driveway.

As the Four Aces croon on the soundtrack we see the words 'Rock Hudson' fade onto the screen, right next to-- Rock Hudson. The words 'Lauren Bacall' appear as Bacall struggles to get up from bed (A hangover? A bad trip?); Stack climbs out of his car, pauses in mid-stagger to smash his bottle against the Hadley mansion ('Robert Stack'); Dorothy Malone poses perfectly framed by a window ('Dorothy Malone'). Sirk directed Bertolt Brecht's plays on the German stage; wonder if anyone has ever had as much fun applying Brecht to a film's opening credits.