Category Archives: Movies

Building an Empire

Harry Dean Stanton, Jeremy Irons, Laura Dern, Justin Theroux
After seeing Mulholland Drive, I honestly figured that it would be David Lynch’s final film. It basically synthesized aspects of all of his previous movies into one very bizzare film. I assumed that with the completion of that film, Lynch would spend most of his time and energy on his davidlynch.com website.

Well, I was wrong.

As reported today on Dugpa.com, Lynch has begun work on a new film called Inland Empire. Variety has more information in Lynch invades an ‘Empire’: Digital pic details a mystery, including cast information (mostly previous Lynch collaborators) and technical details (the film will be shot on digital).

The cast includes Harry Dean Stanton (from Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and The Straight Story), Jeremy Irons (a first-time Lynch actor), Laura Dern (from Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart), and Justin Theroux (from Mulholland Drive).

It’ll be interesting to see how this film pans out. Apparently Lynch’s studio wants the film ready for Cannes next year.

To be honest, I’m skeptical that this film will be as good as his other’s. Like I said, I really think that for Mulholland Drive Lynch basically exhausted his creativity, but I could be wrong. We’ll see. I’m excited either way.

1224-1225

2046 movie poster
SIFF has this year’s schedule up, so everyone in Seattle should go see Wong Kar-Wai‘s 2046.

I’m not sure which version this will be. The one that played at Cannes last year has apparently been edited a bit to make it make more sense. The version I got from Netflix lists the running time at 129 min, which is the same running time posted on the SIFF web site. So maybe it’s the version I’ve seen before, maybe not?

One thing I will say is that before seeing it again, I am going to re-watch In the Mood For Love. Not that it is a prerequisite, but I think it would be awesome seeing them back-to-back. (Hey, some people do it with Lord of the Rings, others with Star Wars… I do it with… well, both of those, plus these WKW ones.)

You might always want to checkout my first review of 2046 for my overall (spoiler-free) impressions and then if you are ambitious, check the follow-up review of 2046 for more thematic types of thoughts.

It’s All Lies!

J and Y having sex
I’ve watched some pretty sexual, taboo-breaking movies in my day (The Dreamers, In the Realm of the Senses, Visitor Q, etc.), so I would say that I’m pretty used to explicit and strange sex on film. Now I can add Lies (Korean title: Gojitmal) to my list of sexually-intense movies.

I would also add that all of these movies (in addition to tamer American ones such as 9 1/2 Weeks and Secretary to the list) seem to have the same moral message: If sex becomes the primary focus of your life and you forget about things such as your job and friends, only trouble will come. In the end, it is impossible to sustain a hyper-passionate physical relationship with someone… So while these movies may seem subversive and whatnot on the outside, I think that they ultimately suggest a more conservative message and theme.

That said, on to Lies:

This movie was based on (what is, as far as I can tell) an autobiographical story that takes place in South Korea and is about two lovers involved in an sado-masochistic relationship. The man, J, is 38 years old and married (though his wife is a non-character, as she is off-screen in Paris all the time — except for J’s infrequent visits to her). The woman, Y, is an 18 year old school girl.

The film opens with the director telling (in a documentary-like format) that the film is based on a story and that he wanted to make it into a movie — or something like that. When I first saw this part, I wasn’t sure if it was a making-of before the film started or whether it was part of the movie or a disclaimer. To be honest, it made me uncomfortable — a perfect setup for a movie like Lies.

Y meets J because Y’s friend Woori somehow knows J (it’s never clear how they met, though it is clear that they didn’t have sex). Y speaks to J on the phone and is so enamored by his voice that she tells him that she wants to fuck him. She then takes the train to wherever he lives and they awkwardly meet.

Again, the film cuts-away to a documentary-styled interview with either Y or the actress who plays Y. An off-screen male voice asks her how she feels about doing the film. She says that she doesn’t like to be naked. She also says that regardless of her fears, she will go ahead with the movie because she doesn’t want to let the crew down and ruin the movie.

Then the interview ends and we return to the film.

Back in the motel room, J and Y begin to have sex. When they first kiss, it’s somewhat disgusting and juvenile. J uses way too much tongue and Y obviously doesn’t know what she’s doing (as a virgin, I’m guessing she hasn’t ever kissed, either?) — or maybe they are both uncomfortable? They make it over to the bed quickly. J asks Y if she is sure that she wants to do this, and she says yes — he is making her feel good.

The first time they have sex, he penetrates three holes: first her vagina, then her mouth, and finally her asshole. The sex during the first encounter is the most explicit in the film. There is no background music. All we see and hear is them having sex. He licks her body, he eats her pussy, he licks her ass — we see it all. We even see his penis, which is pretty rare for any movie containing nudity — and we see it often. His penis isn’t present in one dominating and dramatic shot (like penises usually are when they appear in film), but it’s soft and very typical looking. I was, obviously, surprised by this.

Also, at one point during the sex scene, while J is licking Y’s armpit (and he tells her that it doesn’t smell), there is a strange self-aware moment where the director (or someone) says to J: “She doesn’t smell, like the devil. Maybe she is the devil?” The whole thing was very weird, and isn’t really addressed anywhere else in the film. It’s worth mentioning and noticing, though, because I do think that one of the goals of the film was to blur the boundaries between art film, pornographic film, and documentary.

Following the sex, there is an “interview” where J asks Y why she wanted to have sex with him. Her answer was maybe one of the most shocking parts of the movie: she explains that both of her sisters lost their virginity through rape. She reasoned that she didn’t want to lose her virginity by rape, so she would choose her first sexual partner. Wow. Just the reality of thinking that way struck me. What an awful way to decide to have sex for the first time.

After their first encounter, Y returns home and is beat-up by her friend Woori, who is very jealous. Eventually they make up, and Y tells Woori all of the explicit details of her sexual encounter with J.

So turned on by their first meeting, J and Y continue meeting. Eventually, during one of the times J is fucking her up the ass, he slaps her. The narrator (who is sometimes J and sometimes the director [I think?]) notes that J used to slap his wife until she said she had enough of it and moved to Paris. Unlike J’s wife, however, Y seems to take pleasure from J’s slaps.

The slaps quickly escalate to whipping and flagellation. Originally, J always takes the sadist role and Y takes the masochistic one. I guess you could say that the pain inflicted during the sex escalates. Y has some pretty nasty cuts and scars on her ass and thighs. We also learn that J used to whip his wife and ultimately wanted to turn her into a sculpture basically. That is when she left for Paris.

Although their relationship starts with Y always taking the masochistic role, the tables turn and J is eventually the one getting whipped by Y. The switch is prompted by Y making a comment that she doesn’t take pleasure from the whipping, per say, but rather in the fact that it gives J pleasure — giving him pleasure gives her pleasure. When Y whips J, however, it is obvious that receiving the pain gives him pleasure — not the fact that Y enjoys giving him pain.

Their sexual exploits continue until J has to return to Paris to visit his wife. When he returns three months later, Y reveals that while he was away she gave another man a blowjob. When he gets angry, she argues that she missed his cock and that he was fucking his wife anyway so why could he have sex and she couldn’t? Finally, she suggests that he should punish her for her transgressions.

The scene that follows is, I think, the most violent and difficult to watch scene of the film. When she bends over to receive a whipping, J slaps her in a very non-sensual way (yes, there is a difference). He is taking out his anger and frustration — not trying to enjoy pleasure or give her pleasure. Y is privy to this fact. She cries out and falls over and tries to block the whipping with her hands. He continues to beat her despite her pleas for him to stop and her cries of pain.

After beating her, J proceeds to rape her anally. When she begs that he stops and warns that she needs to take a shit, he continues anyway. As warned, she defecates while he’s fucking her. He takes his dick out and tells her to suck it and clean it off. She hesitates, but obliges, fearful, I’m sure, by his new turn toward violence. After giving a blowjob to his shit-cover cock, J tells her not to swallow and to kiss her. A narrator’s voiceover tells us that he (J) realized why shit was disgusting: it didn’t have a taste (sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, etc.).

The next scene finds J and Y in a subway acting flirtatious and lovey with each other again. Y tells J that she now realizes that he truly loves her. In what has to be one of the best lines ever, she says: “I know now you really love me. Who else would eat my shit?” (or something to that effect). So ask yourself, if someone tells you that they love you, can you really be sure until they eat your shit?

From that point on, basically, J and Y tumble into a life of nonstop sex. J looses his house and spends all of his money paying for places for him and Y to fuck. Y drops out of school and abandons her family. The two of them live only to have sex with each other — nothing else matters.

This path, as I mentioned early in this review, is not sustainable, and ultimately things don’t really work out. I won’t go into too much detail since it’s interesting to see what happens (and, really, from the beginning you must know that they can’t spend the rest of their lives fucking without abandon). I will say, however, that the end, for me, was pretty disappointing. In the last scene we find out what the title of the film, Lies, refers to, and it isn’t deep or profound or very meaningful.

Overall, I think Lies is worth watching because it’s so shocking. The first sex scene is like nothing I’ve seen in contemporary film — it is explicit and awkward: not sexy at all. There are also a few intertextual moments (like the interview of the actress playing Y and the director and the “The devil doesn’t smell” comment) that really force the audience to ask whether the movie is exploitative or what.

Who Really Loves Me?

Wong Kar-Wai DVD Collection
So, who really loves me and wants to buy me The Wong Kar-Wai Collection??? Although the retail price is $76.96, it looks like you can find it used on amazon for under $70. I will love you forever and forever.

For real, though, I have to buy this. It contains the following movies:

Although I already own Happy Together, I think it’s worth doubling my efforts in this case. I can give it away as a present or something sometime in the future.

Also, as a bonus, if you really really really love me, you can throw in In the Mood For Love – The Criterion Edition. I want that too.

2047

Android-version of Wang Jing Wen
This a follow-up to my 2046 post. I re-watched the movie and have had more time to process some things. This post may contain spoilers, so if you want some spoiler-free thoughts, checkout the original post.

I wish I could say that the movie made more sense the second time around. Or, wait, no I don’t. The second time around didn’t quite make the movie crystal clear, but it did make me love the movie even more. 2046 is one of those “onion”-type pieces of literature, where there are layers upon layers to peel away — and each time you peel away a layer things are a bit different.

The first time I watched the movie, I admit that the descriptions I read about the movie almost had me more confused than the movie itself. After reading reviews on Netflix and IMDB and whatnot (Netflix: “…Through time travel and parallel worlds…”), I went into it thinking the film was about time travel and alternate universes and what not — well, the movie is strange and has sci-fi elements, but not like that. What made the story confusing was the fact that — and this is my tentative working theory: the movie itself was a story that was mentioned in the movie.

The crux of my understanding comes from a scene early in the film (during whatever year there were major riots in Hong Kong). Chow mentions that he is furiously writing a story called “2046” that is about a place called 2046 that everyone wants to go to and that the story is filled with sex and has a sci-fi plot to it that some people didn’t like where everyone is trying to get to a mysterious place called 2046 — isn’t that pretty much exactly what the film is? As Chow is giving a brief summary of his story, we see futuristic scenes that appear to be depicting the story he describes.

While those could be one way of understanding “2046,” I think the film 2046 is also another way. The movie itself is pretty sexual (take, for instance, the sex scenes between Chow and Bai Ling) and has a strange sci-fi element (the story “2047” that Chow writes for Wang Jen Wen). Furthermore, throughout the film 2046 everyone is trying to get to a 2046 one way or another — either the physical room (e.g. Chow wanting to live in room 2046) or some place where nothing changes (e.g. a stable relationship). So basically what I’m saying is that the interior story of “2046” parallels the larger film of 2046 — the film is itself a metastory.

Anyway, that may be too circular and strange, which is okay. I always make things more confusing that need be, but that’s how I am.

Tak2046
Another thing I was struck by the second time watching was the story of “2047” (see a theme here? me and metastories/intertextualism?). The actress who plays Wang Jen Wen (Faye Wong, who incidentally, I just learned, sang the “love theme song” for Final Fantasy 8 [I knew her name was familiar for some reason]) is phenomenal playing an android. She totally had the jerky movements down and the distant stares that, I would imagine, an android might have. Plus, in the scenes in which Tak asks her to leave with him, when she is pretending to either not listen to not respond to having a delayed response, the “I’m not here”-look she has is great.

Although the movie seems to suggest that Chow’s “true love” was Su Lizhen from In the Mood For Love, I would argue that his best relationship was with Bai Ling. Not only did they seem to have great sex, but they also had a similar history of pushing people away (or so I would assume since she was a prostitute). Also, they seemed to genuinely have fun together. They were playful and joked with each other. I think those types of relationships are probably healthier and have more of a chance to last than those really intense, “I’m so in love with you I could die”-type of relationships (and I think I have some experience here…).

I can’t really tell whether the film (“the film” being, mostly, WKW himself) thinks Chow should go with Bai Ling or move on from Su Lizhen (#1) or give Su Lizhen (#2) a chance or tell Wang Jen Wen that he loves her or what. I want to try to look to “2047” for some help, but I’m still unclear as to what exactly that story is trying to tell us.

Ultimately, despite the fact I’ve tried to do a “close(r) reading” of the film, I think that my first understanding of the overall theme remains the same (and the quote is so lovely it’s worth repeating):

Love is all a matter of timing. It is no good meeting the right person… too soon or too late.

For everything to align correctly so that two people are genuinely 100% in love with each other equally is extremely rare. One person loves the other more than the other (Bai Ling and Chow), one person loves another person but doesn’t know if the love is mutual (Tak and Wang Jen Wen), one person loves the other person at the wrong time (Wang Jen Wen and Tak), one person tries to love someone else who reminds them of someone they used to love (Chow and Su Lizhen #2)… or, who knows what other permutations can exist. I’m sure WKW can show us more.

And for the information-centric readers, here are some other things I’ve learned about the film since my first viewing:

  • 2047 is 50 years after Great Britain returned rule of Hong Kong to China. There was something said by some Chinese leaders about how Hong Kong will remain unchanged (i.e. capitalist) for 50 years. Not sure what this has to do with the movie, but it’s interesting and may give some perspective on the dates 2046 and 2047
  • The version of the film I watched (I’m guessing it’s some sort of “bootleg”) may be the “original cut” of the film that premiered at Cannes. After Cannes WKW decided to edit it a bit and add on five minutes in order to make the film less confusing.
  • It looks like 2046 will be showing at the Seattle Film Festival this year. Although SIFF doesn’t have any information yet, I can’t wait to see 2046 on the big screen.

Where does all of this leave us? I actually plan on going full-on nerd with this film and watching it a couple more times in order to create a timeline or something so that the chronology (there are lots of flashbacks-within-flashbacks going on) is more clear. I think it would make the film more enjoyable and meaningful if I knew exactly what was going on.

You Spun Me Right Round, Baby Right Round

John Leguiazmo in Spun
I’ve been Spun. Jonas Ã…kerlund‘s “ode to crystal meth” (I’m not sure if “ode” is the proper word…), Spun, is the junkiest of all druggie movies I’ve seen (and I consider myself a fan of drug movies…). Not only did the movie totally make me feel like I was on crystal, but it also made me want to be on crystal, which I’m not sure is quite the goal of the movie. (Which is why I initially called the movie an “ode” to the drug.)

Prior to seeing Spun, I only knew of Ã…kerlund due to his music video projects, most notably “Try, Try, Try” by the Smashing Pumpkins (he also did “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera and “American Life” by Madonna [among others] — so it’s safe to say that he’s into controversial videos). On the Smashing Pumpkins’ Greatest Hits Video Collection there is quite a bit about the video. It basically follows two heroin junkies in Amsterdam (or somewhere in Europe). The DVD contains the “music video” version of the song as well as an extended “director’s cut” (or short film version) that goes more in-depth with the couples lives. The video is extremely graphic and realistic — and, as I recall, there were, of coures, issues with it being played on MTV and other music video channels.

While most art relating to drug-use comes off moralistic and very anti-drug, I would have to say that Ã…kerlund’s stuff is rather sympathetic — and I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The “Try, Try, Try” video really captures the genuine love the two addicts have for each other and how scoring becomes about trying to make the other happy and whatnot. One of the scenes from Spun that I found really interesting was toward the end when Ross and Nikki were in the car on some all-night drive and having a meth-induced conversation — they were really connecting at this strange, primal level that I think only comes via drug use. I’ve never really seen anything like that captured on film before because it seems to be one of the most “positive” (eh, again, I hesitate on the word usage, here…) aspects of using drugs.

Another thing I found really interesting about Spun was the white trash aspect. I’ve realized that my perception of crystal meth is rather skewed because I consider it to be a party drug, when it originated as a “blue collar”/”working class” drug, so I wasn’t expecting the movie to be about a bunch of really ugly, nasty looking people using the drug. In most drug movies I’ve seen, the users start off looking really attractive and eventually end up looking gross by the end — but from the very begining, the characters in Spun were nasty.

I also have to comment on the cast of the movie: it was bizzare. First, we have Jason Schwartzman playing Ross. Now I’ve only seen Schwartzman in Rushmore and I Heart Huckabees, where he plays basically the same type of character (nerdy, off-kilter, etc.). Well, he plays the same type of character in Spun, except this time he’s a meth addict… oh, and he likes to have freaky sex with strippers. Seriously: bizzare. Then we have Brittany Murphy playing Nikki. I guess her playing this role isn’t so bizzare because, to me, she looks like some drug addict (all thin, sunken face, etc.): so nevermind the fact she’s in it. But then John Leguizamo player “Spider” Mike. Now the first time I saw him in a movie was Summer of Sam, in which he plays an angry, fucked-up guy. So I’ve always thought he was twisted. But then I saw him in Moulin Rouge and Spawn and realized he was in Super Mario Brothers: The Movie and is basically considered a comedian. Well, to those who consider this guy to be a comic actor: see Spun and Summer of Sam where he plays fucked up funny guys. Anyway, Mena Suvari was also in the cast, and she looked like shit, which I wouldn’t have expected from her. But the real treat was Mickey Rourke who plays The Cook (the guy who makes all the meth). Now I know lots of critics say that ever since Nine 1/2 Weeks he’s gone downhill, but I’m not sure. This dude is deranged and it shows in movies like Spun and Sin City and even, to some extent, Once Upon a Time in Mexico. I really think Rourke has fun acting and likes to take strange roles just for the hell of it. Maybe I’m trying to give him more credit, I dunno. I just know he’s fun to watch.

So those are the “main characters” of the movie. But like any artsy/entertaining movie, this one has some interesting cameos. First we have Debbie Harry of the group Blondie playing the lesbian neighbor of Ross. I’ve only seen Debbie Harry in two roles, and they were both cameos. She also played a minor part in the movie The Fluffer, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. (When Jolie and I saw the movie, I think she was the only non-gay boy in the theatre). In addition to Debbie Harry, Ron Jeremy of pornography (and Surreal Life Season Two) fame plays the bartender at a strip club. Ohh but it gets stranger because Billy Corgan (from the Smashing Pumpkins) plays a doctor. Oh, and Billy also does the music for the film, including a few songs with vocals. I never associate Billy’s soft, feminine voice with crystal meth use, but whatever.

So overall, I think the movie was decent, but I’m not sure about its message — if it even had one. Rather than being grossed out or greatly disturbed, the movie entertained me and sort of made me laugh. The whole cameo-filled thing made the movie a lot less serious than it could have been. The acting was good, but I maybe have issues with fairly well-known actors parodying/playing/pretending to be white trash crystal meth users, but whatever — that’s film for you.

2046

Chow and Bai Ling in 2046
I hate to start ever review of a Wong Kar-Wai movie with something like, “Oh my god, this movie is amazing…” but it’s hard not to.

I watched his most recent (not counting the short “The Hand” from Eros) film, 2046 (Japanese promotional site, American promotional site), which could be described as a “loose” sequel to both In the Mood for Love and Days of Being Wild. I would probably say that it’s 90% sequel to In the Mood and 10% sequel to Days — Lulu/Mimi from Days of Being Wild shows up, and her lover York is refered to as the Chinese Filipino she was in love with, but that’s all. As for 2046‘s connection to In the Mood, Tony Leung reprises his role as Chow and his love interest from In the Mood, Su Lizhen, returns via flashbacks (I think directly from In the Mood, actually) as well as through a new character sharing her name.

I won’t really try to explain the plot, for two reasons: one, it would be a disservice to anyone who wants to go ahead and watch the movie since I want to give away a least as possible; and two, because the movie (like most WKW movies, for me, at least) is rather confusing. I will say that this one is even more confusing because some of the actors play different characters at different types of the film and there is a whole sci-fi and metastory thing going on.

So in lieu of giving away the story, I’ll comment on three aspects of the film that made me love it so much:

One: The sci-fi aspect of the story reminded me of another one of my favorite movies, Vanilla Sky. I love it when movies appear to be rather normal and straightforward for most of the film, and then at some point turn out to be totally different — and it’s even better when they turn out to be totally different in some strange dream/alternate universe/time travel/etc. method. The movie A.I. could be like that too… What I guess I like is when a movie contains an absurd element (cryogenic freezing in Vanilla Sky or an immortal android in A.I.), but at the same time tells an overly touching and emotional story about love or sadness or something. I think 2046 definitely has this aspect.

Two: Like the othe WKW movies, the cinematography is amazing. This one isn’t as shakey and “MTV-like” as Happy Together, but follows a style similar to In the Mood for Love. The camera work is often very slow and calculated. Rather than watching a movie, I often feel like I’m looking at beautifully composed still photographs. WKW also uses a lot of slow motion in his movies, but not in the cheesy violence-capturing or sappyness-extending methods that most Hollywood directors do. In addition to the way he works the camera, the colors are stunning. Most of the movie is very dark and shadowy (lots of dark greens, dark blues, dark reds), but a few times in the film (including the scenes that take place in “2046”), the style changes and really sets a different mood. (In addition to the scenes in “2046,” there is also a scene that shows some shots of a blue sky that is breathtaking — especially the way WKW captures the clouds: it looks like an ocean or something… truly amazing.) And finally, in what I could call another signature element of WKW movies, there is the mysterious and lovely touches of Latin/Spanish music. I’m still not sure what the signifigance of the musical choices indicate, but it works perfectly.

Three: In 2046 WKW really fleshes out the idea of chance encounters and falling in love with the right person at the wrong time, or the wrong person at the right time, or whatever. I won’t go into too many details about that now, but this quote summarizes it perfectly:

Love is all a matter of timing. It is no good meeting the right person… too soon or too late.

All things considered, 2046 may be the first Netflix movie that I watch more than once — that is, if I cannot find somewhere to order it from tonight (it still hasn’t been released to theatres, so any copy I can get probably isn’t the best quality). The movie was remarkable. I’m still not sure whether it beats Happy Together (which I love because of the gay themes and the fact I feel I can relate to the deteriorating and fucked up relationship somewhat), but it easily takes my number two spot.

Troy-Lust

As I’m reading Foucault’s The Use of Pleasure, which is ultimately his analysis of Greek sexuality, I must admit that I’m finding it difficult to really try to visualize (er, not like that, but I mean really try to picture the culture and practices in my head) the society that Foucault presents. The Greeks he is writing about lived and wrote nearly 1,500 years ago — that is a long time. Our current ideas of individuality and politics and whatnot are pretty radically different.

Take the idea of sexual relationships with boys. The way Foucault writes (and I don’t think Foucault is alone in presenting this idea), sex between older men and younger boys was quite normal. Foucault goes a long way to explain how these relationships caused great anxiety for the Greeks and that they weren’t “homosexual” as we understand the concept — it was a matter of desiring a thing of beauty (and young boys were considered beautiful) and a way of combining pleasure and knowledge so that the boys could grow up to be better leaders.

In addition to the sex with boys thing, Foucault also describes marriage relationships. According to Foucault (and, again, many other writers and historians), during the Greek times men in their 30s would marry wives in their late-teens and early-20s. The marriages had more to do with politics and the creation of a household unit than love or anything terribly romantic. The wives had to remain faithful to their husbands while the husbands could find pleasure elsewhere (though it was considered best if the men remained faithful as well — though, as Foucault mentions, it wasn’t even a question about whether women could stray or not — it was assumed and ingrained that they would only have sex with one man). Further, the wives had no autonomy in their life and were mainly around to clean the house and produce children.

So like I said, I was having a difficult time imagining how a society would look with those particular sexual and politics structures. Not that I haven’t seen old movies where women are the property of their husband and whatnot — that I could imagine. I do have a difficult time picturing a society where women had no subjectivity at all.

Orlando Bloom as Paris of Troy
Well, looking to the contemporary film Troy was no help, whatsoever.

I can understand that when someone makes a historical film, they want to make it a bit more contemporary so that the audience doesn’t feel so far removed that they are trying to understand the culture instead of the characters or storyline… but still, I find it a little distressing that the filmmakers failed to even try to problematize some of the more interesting relationships, such as whether Helen choose to was forced to return to Troy with Paris (in the film, it’s obvious that she choose to and that her and Paris have such a passionate relationship in which they are equals and he values her as a person and all that) or even the strange relationship between Hector and Paris.

I should add that I’m not terribly familiar with the story, but I remember that when we read it in high school it wasn’t as idealized as the film version.

And to be honest, I don’t know why I expected more from such a big budget film, but oh well. We all make mistakes. Does anyone have any recommendations of films that actually try to reflect classical times in a more realistic way?

Not as Wild

In my continuing love of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, I watched his 1991 breakthrough Days of Being Wild last night.

First, I will say that Wong Kar-Wai has risen to the status of “one of my favorite directors” faster than anyone else. I saw Happy Together and knew that he was awesome and that I needed to see and learn about as many as his films as possible. Following Happy Together I watched In the Mood for Love and his segment of the recent film Eros. So what I’m trying to preface this with is: 1. I love his films and think he’s an awesome director; 2. I only recently came into love with his films and haven’t seen all that many.

Also, I should add, that it’s been a pain-and-a-half getting this movie. When I first added it to my my Netflix queue, it came pretty quick (unlike Happy Together which had a “Very long wait” and 2046 which has had a “Very long wait” for over a month now). When I got the disc, however, it was cracked. Per the Netflix instructions, I filled out a form on the website and sent it back. I requested that they send a replacement copy. Lucky for me, that replacement came within three days… oh, but it was cracked, also. Oh, and I didn’t realize this until after I invited my friend Troy over to watch it with me. I felt stupid. Anyway, I returned the second broken disc and attached a Post-it that said “This one is broken.” The third time I got the DVD, it was in one piece. Yay.

York and Mimi/Lulu

On to the movie:

Like other Wong Kar-Wai movies, this movie, to some extent, revolves around the ideas of love and chance encounters. The main character, York, seduces and dumps two women: one is the quiet Su Lizhen and the other is the more spunky Lulu (a.k.a. Mimi). Eventually, York’s friend falls for Lulu and a random police office has a chance encounter with Su Lizhen. Neither of the women seem to be enough over York to acknowledge the men who may actually love them… and in the end, of course, it all goes to hell.

Similar to the way relationships develop in Happy Together, we don’t really see how “good” things are during these relationships — there is none of that cheesy spending-every-moment-together and having-super-happy-fun-carefree-times-together stuff that makes me ill in so many American romantic movies (e.g. The Notebook) — instead, we see things when they are bad. We see York reject Su Lizhen’s suggestion that they get married and live together kick Lulu/Mimi out of the apartment they share after she suggests that he might be “her boy.”

Despite these troubled relationships, however, Kar-Wai manages to capture love at it’s purest. I know I’m pretty cynical and jaded when it comes to love, but Kar-Wai seems to agree, somewhat, with my world view. Love is painful and hurtful and insane… it happens when you don’t anticipate it with people from which you don’t expect it.

Like I said, Days of Being Wild definitely touches on themes that I think become much more prominent in Kar-Wai’s later work (well, based on the recent stuff I’ve seen). The ideas of being trapped and isolated (by cramped, hot, sweaty apartments with fans) in life and relationships becomes a major theme in Happy Together, while the strange excitement of relationships that come from nowhere becomes the one of the underlying issues of In the Mood for Love.

Days of Being Wild also contains what I would call (and remember, this is only after seeing four of his movies) “trademarks” of Kar-Wai films: cramped apartment hallways, pouring rain, Latin/Spanish music, missed encounters, chance encounters, and shaky camera work.

So why do I hesitate to rave about this film as much as Happy Together or In the Mood for Love? The primary reason would be super high expectations. Had I seen this film before either of those, I would probably think more highly of it. Nonetheless, it’s exciting to see how far Kar-Wai has come and I genuinely do like it when directors find similar themes that they explore to death. Yeah, it may be a little repetitive and playing it safe, but it also gives one a chance to really explore something interesting and worthwhile. And I think Kar-Wai’s take on the themes of love and chance and fate make for fascinating film.

A Cine-ful city

Jessica Alba in 'Sin City'

So like every other hip and cool person, I saw Sin City and loved it. Ever since I saw Robert Rodriguez‘s Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the special feature where Rodriguez demonstrated how simple it was to do special effects, I figured he was an interesting and smart director.

More than anything, Sin City reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow — both were extremely stylized and had “ironic” acting (which is a term I made up to mean “forced, yet good; cheesy, yet self-aware; overdramatic, yet simple)… plus they both made extensive use of green screen technology and, of course, I loved them both.

I guess a lot has been said about the violence of the film, but honestly, I didn’t think it was too intense. The thing about Sin City is that since it is so stylized, the entire world and situation doesn’t feel real, and I think that made the violence feel less real and less “offensive” or whatever. I mean, the film wasn’t even in color and the blood was often white. Yes, I know I’m already desensitived toward violence, but I don’t think Sin City made things any worse for me.

I also loved the whole film-noir aspect of the film. Maybe it’s from all my psychoanalytic reading, but there is something about shady, tormented characters (i.e. every male character in the film) and sexy femme fatales (i.e. every female character in the film) that totally captures my attention.

If I had to say anything bad about the film (which I don’t, but I will anyway), I will admit that at times it did drag on a little for me. I’m not sure whether it was because there were so many stories or because the movie was in black and white, or what… nonetheless, it did get a bit boring at times. And really, I am almost embarassed to admit that I got bored because, if nothing else, I should’ve been enthralled by the stunning visuals or something. Oh well. It’s more a fault of mine than the movie, I think.