Friday, August 28, 2009

CIFF 2009 preview, part III

Asian hat-trick

Call if you need me (2009, Malaysia, James Lee)

A visually sharp film that combines the sensibilities of diverse film-makers such as Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Quentin Tarantino while still retaining a unique Malaysian flavour. Hou Hsiao-Hsien elevated a gangster film to an art form with Goodbye South Goodbye and James Lee does a very job in carrying on that tradition. Call if you Need me is about gangsters and kidnappings but there isn’t a single gun or drop of blood to be found on screen. All the violence is kept out of the frame and we are instead shown events that precede or succeed a violent act. In one instance, the gangsters surround a guy and are ready to beat him up but the next scene shows the victim playing cards with the gangsters. A few moments later, we learn that the guy is kidnapped and can’t go until the money he owes turns up so he is forced to pass the time by playing cards but you can sense his nervousness. Because there is no violence shown on screen, we can instead focus on the characters and their day to day lives, including their love interests and their choice of food and drugs.

The film also maintains a cool look and tempo similar to the cinema of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (especially Invisible Waves) thereby making it a perfect film for a nice summer day. Even though the topic is about gangsters, one never leaves the film with a bad taste and the film does not glorify the gangster’s lifestyle, something that Ram Gopal Varma consistently does in his work.

Rough Cut (2008, Korea, Hun Jang)

Rough Cut has taken some aspects of the extraordinary Korean film Dirty Carnival and gone in a different direction with good effect. Dirty Carnival showed how gangsters complained about movies not having authentic fight scenes and in order to correct things, a local gangster (Byeong-du) helped his old college friend (Min-ho) to make an authentic gangster film by giving pointers to the actors and fight instructors. In Rough Cut, a once popular action star asks a local gangster to play a villain in his movies so that the actor can save his career. The gangster, who always dreamed of being an actor himself, agrees provided that all the fight scenes in the film are real and not staged. The end result is a no holds barred on screen contest where even the film’s director has no idea if the end result would hold true to his original script.

Rough Cut is a very good film that puts a new spin on the traditional gangster genre. Kim Ki-duk's screenplay is different from anything he done before, and that includes the gangster film Bad Guy that he directed early in his career.

Daytime Drinking (2008, Korea, Noh Young-seok)

A delightful film that provides plenty of laughs with its sincere tale of love, friends, alcohol and good food. When I was not busy laughing, I was craving hot ramen noodles with cold beer just like the characters in the film. In recent years, most of the Korean films that have showed at film festivals have been big budget slick productions. So it is great to see an independent Korean film like Daytime Drinking doing the festival rounds.


nitesh said...

Looks like a great lineup of films for CIFF. I'm hopeful of seeing ROUGH CUT at Osian this year.

Pacze Moj said...

I enjoyed Daytime Drinking alot.

It was relaxing in a very non-cheesy kind of way.