Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Devils, Candy, Unknown & Guilty Pleasures

Devils on the Doorstep (2000, directed by Jiang Wen): Rating 10/10

Vintage cinema! Pure cinematic Pleasure!! Besides the absorbing story, another amazing aspect about the film is its frantic pace. Pace and a Black & White film don’t always go together but in this case, it blends perfectly. It is true that the frantic pace in Godard’s b&w film Breathless was amazing to observe. Godard’s new film technique of jump cuts was revolutionary as it helped accelerate the movie’s action but no jump cuts are used in Jiang Wen’s film. Instead, each frame is jam-packed with so much action that at times, one is left reeling from trying to catch everything (and reading the subtitles at the same time adds another challenge). Also, it is refreshing to see an Asian director make a movie which exploits the fast pace of the Mandarin language as opposed to a recent slate of Asian art movies which skimp on dialogue and slow everything down which is contrary to the Asian pace of life.

The first 15 minutes of the movie are as follows: A villager (Dasan Ma) is passionately making love to his girlfriend when there is a knock on the door. A stranger holds a knife to Dasan’s head and forces him to keep two gunny bags until New Year’s Eve (5 days away). The stranger asks Dasan to interrogate the two hostages inside the bags – a Japanese solider and his Chinese translator. Dasan consults the village elders and friends about what to do with the two men as the fate of the village might depend on the situation.

The film is called a dark comedy and the first hour is indeed funny with some of the humour arising from mistranslation on the Chinese translator’s part to save the Japanese solider from getting killed. It is not hard to guess where this movie is heading and there could not have been any other possible ending even though one may secretly hope for a neutral/happy ending. Overall, this is a marvelous film that deserves to be seen.

Note: I will have to write a separate article praising the high quality of black and white films that I have seen this past year.

Hard Candy (directed by David Slade, written by Brian Nelson): Rating 9/10

It is best to watch this movie not knowing anything about the story, which is something that may be hard to do. Predator & Prey, but who is the prey and who really is the predator? A series of virtual internet meetings between a 14 year old girl and a 32 year old man eventually leads the two to finally hook up face-to-face. Then the fun really starts. A very good screenplay that never slackens and keeps things interesting just with the two actors and a house as a backdrop!

Unknown Pleasures (2002, directed by Jia ZhangKe): Rating 8/10

This is the 3rd Jia ZhangKe film that I have seen in the last month after Still Life and The World. There is no doubt about Jia’s talents as a director and his films are firmly grounded in the Chinese landscape making them a pleasure to watch. A simple story, minimal dialogue, long takes combined with silence are just some of elements which give us a chance to observe the rich characters in ZhangKe’s films. In this case, it is about everyday people going about their lives, trying to make money & find some happiness and pleasure in whatever little is available to them.

On a separate note: Jia ZhangKe’s love of films comes through in his work. In Unknown Pleasures a street thug is influenced by Tarantino’s opening sequence in Pulp Fiction and wants to rob a bank. In Still Life a young villager is influenced by Chow Yun Fat and tries to imitate Fat’s stylistic cinema actions (wearing shades, using burning money to light a cigarette).

And finally, a guilty pleasure….

Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (directed by Justin Lin)

What is the point of rating such a movie? It is a commercial movie through and through. The first film was decent enough to watch and it had Vin Diesel’s perfect attitude. I skipped the second film and was skeptical about the third film. But I have to admit, the third film is indeed fun to watch. There is not much to expect story wise but the ‘drift’ and car sequences are extremely well done (clearly a lot of effort has gone into making the breath taking car scenes). What is the story? Car chases, a young driver with attitude, a villain driver, a girl to win over, plenty of skimpily dressed girls hanging around fast cars! But sometimes, a light hearted fluff movie is needed just to cleanse the cinematic palate.


Reel Fanatic said...

Though it is a bit hard to watch, I enjoyed Hard Candy quite a bit too .. what I really liked was that it managed to be a taut psychological thriller in the vein of Polanski's "Death and the Maiden"

Sachin G. said...

I must admit there are parts of Hard Candy where one would cringe but I was able to watch it without flinching. Not sure how I managed that. I suppose I was preparing for the worst..If you get a chance, check out Takashi Miike's Audition. Some aspects compare to that film..especially the predator & prey flip-side.