Saturday, March 6, 2010

Recent Cinematic Expulsions

Seen any good films lately?

Of course. There are always good films to see if you can be bothered looking.

What do you mean by that?

People who complain that there are no good films out there are lazy, unadventurous morons. Their perception of cinema starts and stops at the doors of Blockbuster. Fuck 'em!

Alright. Before we get into the obscure stuff --

Excuse me?!

Um, before we get into the stuff nobody's heard of, what English language films have you enjoyed recently?

The Ghost Writer.

Polanksi's new film?


You enjoyed it?

Absolutely. It's an old-fashioned thriller that is extremely well put together. It's not gimmicky and it doesn't try to compete with the ADD-ridden rubbish studios call "thrillers" these days. It is patient, and it allows its audience to warm to it. Even Ewan McGregor is good in it. He's always been a good actor, but his choices generally suck. With Polanksi guiding him, he delivers a terrific performance. It's his best pic in years.

Anything else to recommend in this?

Plenty. Tom Wilkinson, who is good in everything he does, plays a dark, mysterious figure in this film. He only has a few scenes, but one scene, where McGregor visits him at his house, is fantastic.

Anything you didn't like?

Unfortunately, yes. In the last ten minutes, McGregor lets a certain person know that he knows something about them that he shouldn't know. At the time, it made for an entertaining scene -- but as I walked out of the theater, I thought to myself: What a fuckin idiot! Why would he do something so sloppy?

You'll have to see the film to discover this scene for yourself. There is also a much-complained-about final shot. Cinematically, it works, but it breaks the reasonably solid logic of the movie.

So you'd still recommend the movie?

Yes. It has elements of Polanski's other films -- even Bitter Moon, which is a favorite of mine -- and it draws you seductively into its world. That Frenchman knows a thing or two about seduction.

Isn't Pierce Brosnan in this? His singing sucked in Mama Mia.

Everything sucked in Mama Mia. Are you kidding!!!??? Thankfully, he doesn't sing anything here. He's quite engaging as British PM Tony Blair (well, he isn't called that, but nobody's fooled).

So what else have you seen?

Breathless (Ddongpari, 2009). Saw it on Korean DVD and loved it. Pretty much a character study of a debt collector, Sang-Hoon (Yankg Ik-Joop), who forms a very strange friendship with an abused schoolgirl. Sang-Hoon himself is a shockingly violent character who's only known violence all his life; he watched his father murder his mother, and now he lives with the guy (doesn't make for happy families).

Hasn't this been compared to Once Were Warriors?

In some circles, yes. There are tonal similarities, and the violence here is extremely realistic, like it was in Warriors; most of it falls into the domestic abuse category. People get bashed and beaten all over the place and frequently. It's infectious. If you like films like Gary Oldman's Nil By Mouth (which I loved) or Kim ki-Duk's Bad Guy, you'll really appreciate the magic of Breathless.

Ultimately, its strength is its script. It's not fixed to one level. Its lead character does change, but in an unexpected way. The relationship between him and the schoolgirl is beautifully handled, and the cinematography (mostly hand-held, but not annoying hand-held) is perfect. I should also mention the film's vibrant urban setting. It's like a semi-slum of extremely steep streets and dark alleyways. Just fantastic.

Sounds like you REALLY liked it?

Yeah. Loved it. I have a real affection for worlds of relentless brutality contrasted with a tiny speckle of hope. This is the stuff I love as a film viewer and filmmaker.

So that's it? No other recommendations?

I also caught another terrific Korean film called A Dirty Carnival (Biyeolhan geori).

Porn flick?

Sounds like it, but no. I'm a little late discovering this one because it was made in 2006 by director Ha Yu. It's a crime flick with a rags-to-riches character trajectory. Somewhat reminiscent of A Bittersweet Life (great movie!), but not quite as stylized.

Like Breathless, this is incredibly brutal. In fact, there are so many beautifully staged violent sequences, I couldn't believe I hadn't heard more about this flick.

Basic plot?

In-sung Zo (Kim Byung-doo) plays a middle level criminal working for a boss who doesn't acknowledge his hard work and denies him a promotion. When an opportunity to climb higher presents itself, Zo takes it, and forges an uneasy relationship with a crime boss/real estate mogul who promises him the world. There are many complications and levels present in this set-up, and the resulting film is a fuckin knock-out.

Like a Scarface?

Not as operatic and over-the-top as Scarface, which is probably to this film's credit. We relate to Zo because he's not too far removed from the Everyman. There is a strange subplot involving Zo helping out an old school chum who's becoming a film director. At first, I didn't like this addition to the narrative, but it does have an interesting pay-off.

Anything you didn't like?

I'm 50/50 about the film's ending. See it yourself and try making up your mind. I haven't quite reached a decision yet.

This sounds well worth seeing.

Absolutely. It's really bloody in parts and the violence is very impactful. It's a long film (141 mins.), but I never lost interest in wanting to see more.

Anything else?

Yeah, saw Valentine's Day with my gal.

Jesus. Must be love.

So, was it terrible, surprisingly not too bad, or total fuckin shit?

I suffered through every minute. Gary Marshall needs to be shot. The cinematic equivalent of a stinking bowel movement. Even the galfriend despised it. Utter shit heated in a microwave for two hours. Imagine would that would smell like and you'll understand how much this film reeks.

"From the Director of Pretty Woman is a selling point?
As a species, we're doomed!

Final words?

Yes, wash the taste of this crap out of your mouth and the fecal matter from your eyes with Criterion's Nikkatso Noir box set (Eclipse Series 17). Highlights are Suzuki's Take Aim At The Police Van, Cruel Gun Story, and Rusty Knife. I'll blog about some of these in depth at some point, but don't hesitate to snap this set up. These titles are amazing.

I'm heading straight for Blockbuster now...

You're a fuckhead.


  1. Haha, this was entertaining. I'm just added A Dirty Carnival to my queue. Can't wait to check it out. :D

  2. I also liked Dirty Carnival. Have you checked out Shinjuku Incident yet? Was sort of a similar from-the-bottom-to-the-top gangster film.

    I'll definitely check out Breathless.

    Have you seen House of the Devil yet? I'm keen to read what you thought of it.

  3. I've got a UK distributor sending me Breathless -- can't wait to see it. Of the Nikkatsu box films I've seen, I like I Am Waiting the best -- nice to see Yujiro Ishihara and his wife Mie Kitahara together again (after Crazed Fruit). My condolences re: your microwaved shit experience ...