A dispatch from the first full day of Fantasia 2022, including a zombie comedy remake from an Oscar winner, a celebration of John Woo, and a perverse shorts film block.
An essay about Chungking Express, as excerpted from the latest edition of online magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room.
Lust. Caution. Lust, Caution. Lust...Caution.
The English name of Ang Lee's 2007 film consists of two words. Taken separately, they stand alone as individual concepts: Lust, a primal, human urge; Caution, an evolved, societal tool. Put them side-by-side, and contrast emerges: primal versus evolved, individual versus society, incongruent. Poke a little hole in the membrane that separates the two, and dynamics shift. Lust surges in the face of Caution. Caution stares right back, coolly, unflinching.
Marie writes: Remember Brian Dettmer and his amazing book sculptures? Behold a similar approach courtesy of my pal Siri who told me about Alexander Korzer-Robinson and his sculptural collages made from Antiquarian Books. Artist's statement:"By using pre-existing media as a starting point, certain boundaries are set by the material, which I aim to transform through my process. Thus, an encyclopedia can become a window into an alternate world, much like lived reality becomes its alternate in remembered experience. These books, having been stripped of their utilitarian value by the passage of time, regain new purpose. They are no longer tools to learn about the world, but rather a means to gain insight about oneself."
The Grand Poobah shared the following recently and which struck me as just the thing to put in here - for it amounts to someone inventing a moving still akin to those seen on the front page of Harry Potter's famous newspaper."You know how people sometimes say that jazz is the only truly American art form? Animated GIFs are like the jazz of the internet: they could only exist, and be created and appreciated, online. That said, PopTart Cat is not exactly on par with Thelonious Monk. But photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg may have finally found a way to elevate the animated GIF to a level approaching fine art, with their "cinemagraphs" -- elegant, subtly animated creations that are "something more than a photo but less than a video." - fastcodesignAnd sadly, they won't work in here; Movable Type doesn't like animated gifs. It's easily solved however, just visit Far Better Than 3-D: Animated GIFs That Savor A Passing Moment to see an assortment in play!
The Chicago International Film Festival is celebrating its 45th anniversary in better form than ever, I think. The festival, which opened Thursday, will be presenting 145 films from 45 countries. That's fewer than Toronto or Cannes but more, I believe, than any other American festival -- and besides, can you see 10 films a day?
TORONTO -- If there was ever a director who seems in no danger of repeating himself, that director is Ang Lee. None of his films bears the slightest similarity in subject or tone to any of the others. No doubt there is a subterranean link joining them, but it would take a journey to the center of the earth to find it. And he would be your man to film the journey.
Bad, bad Jack, feasting on food and scenery.
UPDATE: Revisiting "The Departed."
Everybody's saying "The Departed" is Martin Scorsese's best picture since "Casino" -- or even "GoodFellas." And some of the (over-)praise has struck me as pretty condescending to Scorsese: "Good boy. You stick to your mobsters now, won't you?" I'll go out on a limb and say I think it's his best picture since "The Aviator."
Adding almost an hour to the running time of "Infernal Affairs," the film on which it's based, "The Departed" does indeed fill in some of what one critic called the "ellipses" in the plot of the original film (and opens up at least as many other holes in the process). And yet, as others have also observed, Scorsese's movies have never been driven by plot but character -- and, in "The Departed," the characters, performances, moral ambiguities, and even the filmmaking prowess itself (all the things we treasure in A Martin Scorsese Picture) are not as rich or developed as those of its 2000 Hong Kong predecessor, much less Scorsese's own best and most personal work. (And let me add that this is not a knee-jerk response; I'm no big fan of Hong Kong action films. What I liked about "Infernal Affairs" was that there was more going on than in most of the HK crime movies or policiers I've seen, which I thought were bursting with empty action and little else.)
I'm going to write more about "The Departed" next week (to continue what I began in my MSN Movies essay, "GoodFellas and BadFellas", but in the meantime, I've patched together some of the critical observations from others that made me go "Yes! That's it!" -- either because I felt the same way, or because they expressed something I hadn't been able to formulate for myself in my initial thinking about the movie.
Meanwhile, after taking a look at these critical observations, please weigh in with comments of your own. (Just remember, it may take a while for comments to actually show up on the site.)
From Girish Shambu, Buffalo, NY:
"Flowers of Shanghai" (1998), by Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien, has an opening shot that lasts — I kid you not — eight minutes! Jazz bassist Marcus Miller once said about James Brown’s music that no matter how small a piece of it you took, like DNA, it had the “funk in it.��? That’s how I feel about this shot: it contains, in its eight minutes, the entire film.
The camera is an observer at a table in a 19th century Shanghai brothel or “flower house,��? where several clients are playing a drinking game. Most of them are young, dressed in dark and gleaming silk robes. The only light in the shot is provided by a couple of curved lamps. (In fact, we will discover that the film will never venture outdoors.) Next to the patrons, standing, are their “flower girls.��? Every now and then, promptly but gracefully, they light opium pipes or pour wine for their clients. Like a plaintive sigh, a melancholic melody-drone accompanies the shot.
CANNES, France -- The winners of this year's Cannes Film Festival will be announced at a ceremony Saturday night. As I write, the leading contenders for the Palme d'Or are said to be "The Motorcycle Diaries" from Brazil and "Comme Une Image" ("Look at Me") from France, although there are supporters for "2046" (2005) by China's Wong Kar-Wai, a film I found maddening in its mannered repetition of a few worn stylistic and dramatic strategies. And it is said that Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" will win one of the top prizes; it was cheered longer than any other film in festival history.
CANNES, France -- Why did they save the best for last? "Songs From The Second Floor" and "In The Mood For Love," two brilliant final entries in this year's Cannes Film Festival, played over the weekend, as the hotels were emptying and the traffic jams clearing.
CANNES, France -- A Danish film set in America but filmed in Sweden with stars from Iceland, France and the United States won the coveted Palme d'Or here Sunday night, at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival. Lars Von Trier's "Dancer In The Dark" picked up the top prize even though it got the most negative review in the recent history of Variety, the show biz bible. And its star, the Icelandic pop singer Bjork, won as best actress even though von Trier insists she is not an actress at all.