1// "康城/ 颐和园/ Luxury Car/马天尼"
Critical Narration: "Cannes/ Summer Palace/ Luxury Car/ Martini";
published by City Magazine of Hong Kong; July 2006
2// Film Criticism in English Online :: Digital Communities : Gather
1 The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
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2 Cannes 2006
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Movies & Film Writing Sample - New York+Paris, NY
I have never liked Jim Carrey as an actor, not so much because of his acting, but because of the roles that he played. I appreciate his corporal expressions and the difficulties and talents that’s required to play the stand up slapstick comic roles that has always been his roles; so when Kate Winslet mentions in an Actors Studio presentation - thanks to YouTube - that Jim plays another kind of role in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, and that it was a special film for Jim, I decided to see whats Jim like when he plays a straight character?
Surprise, not only was Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirstin Dunst, but all the players in the movie were really good! And what a well constructed story! From the inventive premise to the details, the actors skills, economy of expressions – and the director’s attention to consistencies in intriques when one hint has been launched it would be recalled and reinforced later in the story; we remember oh, yes, that happened back at the beginning, yes, that’s why… Many subtle weaving in and out of a story that play on several levels. The story was not only built on the fantasy of scientific erasure of memory, but echoed real life, don’t we all erase as we go along? The film is poetic as it builds on the narrative and maintains a leg on a philosophical level.
The Dunst character had playful sex with her co-worker the technician, who was in love with her and just finished having sex with her at the patient’s (Jim) home during his session of erasure in state of sleep. Something went wrong, the doctor had to come personally in the middle of the night to straighten out the mess. The technician had to witness her two timing him! While the doc tried to make emergency fixes at the patients house, I found it odd why the technician decided to just go outside– when he sensed an intimacy developing between the doc and Dunst (he should have been jealous if he cared about Dunst, but strangely, he was shown more like, being delicate; the script was so smart here, ... it left the trace of a little tail…)
The seduction scene between Dunst and the Doc was very well scripted –while Jim was sleeping and getting his memory erased. So natural, but suddenly we realised something : that for the Dunst character, it’s a second take, the doctor was sheepish because he knew something that Dunst didnt – we could erase the memory of a person, but our character, who we fall for remains the same. The Dunst character fell in love with the doctor because she adored intelligent people as she herself aspired to becoming intelligent. As the wife arrived outside just in time to see them kissing framed in the window in full view from the street… the doctor tried to explain and to stop his wife from driving away, the Dunst character frantically apologised to the angry wife that… sorry…she's just a stupid girl, it's just a one time mistake. Then the wife glared at her and said, no, I give him back to you!! Even as an angry wife – she had to resign to reality – Dunst couldn’t help herself…Dunst already had her memory erased but the situation was still the same.
Revelation, even if our memory had been erased, our character remained. Given favorable circumstances, we would still fall for the same person as our character determined our fate. The theme of the movie thunders here and smartly straight to the heart through the side characters who were graced with critical turning point moments.
Kirsten Dunst was very natural and lovely as a contemporary woman in love with her boss. Her elegant slim body, not anorexic, but svelt ... and dreamy soft expressions had been cast perfectly – we all love to have such a girl friend, pretty, kind, uncomplicated, easy going, contemporary : she liked to relax, get stoned and also aspired to be intelligent- positive light character. The Dunst character contrasted with the Kate Winslet character; a wilder sensual, also not anorexic woman with no self censorships, maybe she doesn’t exactly “fucks her way” with everyone but she had no problem with going after what her heart told her- did what she liked and erased her memory on impulse. Saying goodbye abruptly. Whereas the Dunst character had her memory erased to make it easier for her to continue working within proximity of the source of her love and pain.
The rest of the story are variations of how the two : Jim and Kate character meet again, the acceptance or non acceptance… as time, memories unfold.
Jim Carrey played his role well, unreproachable, but there is something in his presentation that made him not quite a memorable low key nervous type – even when he stayed quiet, eyes down, arms folded inwards, his presence is loud. Not that of a soft spoken insecure person. How could he have played this type of withdrawn introvert dramatic role? I have no answer.
Lets say if I had never seen any Jim Carrey movies, I wouldn’t have been wowed by his screen presence in this movie. He’s a very good actor and very professional. There must be a role that lets him play other roles aside from slap sticks – if he had wanted to - and at the same time deploy his range of dramatic talents.
As for Kate Winslet, she was superbly cast, human, not made up too beautifully like a star. A man would fall in love with her character – because she was not a feigning-to-be-weak woman, but she was really someone a little broken, someone who needed a man– more sentimental than practical needs: just opposite sex tender loving care, not super-man Man – when she’s gone overboard, depleted by her own unruly energy. Winslet was alive and kicking, yummy in her role.
Movies & Film Writing Sample - New York+Paris, NY
:: 9 June 2006 :: sg Chow
A finely controlled performance by the star – she managed to be both the bar hostess and good daughter without hiding either side of her at the same time. Very well paced and the father, the boyfriend, the police, all very experienced and acted well.
The thuggery scheme to attack a driver to rob and steal a luxury car seems almost too simple – but believable - this is a land of pioneers, people are out to grab what they could in anyway they could think of – including sacrificing one member of the thugster team – simplicity, and ruthlessness in petty crime.
A very pungent humoured, well executed to millimeter precision Hungarian film – well orchestrated, witty, well acted, superbly casted in everyway.
The story of a three generation family with the focus on the grandfather/father/son, lineage of male figures. In each generation, the Man, has to deal with his destiny in the best way he knows how. Very sharp witted and special communist/socialist film from the Eastern Block. Absolutely marvellous. The story has scenes of exaggeration, simultaneous double message in all the scenes –revelations of the mishaps and injustice of the one in power with concrete evidence, and at the same time presented as a farce, a comical pastiche of unending moments of absurdity of life, we could not help laughing at the predicament of the heros – very rich with macabre humour, and soft happy scenes too, comic book flippancy, and irony mocking high culture spiels.
The film is a rich embodiment of entertainment with serious messages at every turn. A film worthy of collection in personal archive of film.
Digital animation about animals stealing food from a suburban house. Fun.
Volevo solo vivere(***)(holocaust victims who lived to tell the experience)
The testimony of victims of concentration camps. The details revealed told by people in their 80's crying, remembering the suffering that they had to endure for no reason other than racism. And people acting on orders of their boss, the bourreau does not feel personally responsible for their acts, when its over, they just drop their guns and go home to their wives and children as if its just a job which ended.
The victim said, she just thought, what if I just pick up this gun and shoot him right now for all the sufferings that he caused me… but she said, it only lasted a short moment, because the difference between her and these bourreaus is that they are able to execute without any reflexion whereas she could not. That is the difference between a human being and a bourreau.
This film lets the victim speak to us, that strange things are able to happen due to people following orders without critical judgements – as they feel that they are not responsible for the idea – they are just the machine of executioners. However, as an independent person with individual brains; if you were an underling just following orders, doing a dirty job, would you be exempt, clear in your conscience, from responsibility of atrocities done to others ?
Babel (****)Very moving picture.
The opening is natural, dry, desert, how a sheep herder got a rifle – modernity in this arid dry place – jealousy between the older brother and the smarter younger brother – just a hint, naturally played and story details well constructed. Brotherly love and competition, innocent child’s play with a new toy this rifle that shoots 3 miles range – to test it, they aim for moving targets, like hyenas, and a bus – without considering the dangerous consequences as children do – it turns into an international terrorist fears, governments are geared into actions, causing humongous after effects for the villages –
And the Americans tourists couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blancett) with couples problems, the two have different priorities: the man always needing to explore away-from home challenges, dragging his wife to his explorations as an attempt to reconciliation who is a bourgeois woman, who fears backward country’s (she brings her own knife and fork and forbids use of ice cubes to cool a warm coca cola) two people traveling in time with different life style issues – she was in the bus and got shot from the rifle testing game by the shepherds son; she risks bleeding to death, this fearful ordeal brings the two people closer together –
meanwhile, their house keeper nanny a Mexican woman who lived in USA for 14 years wants to attend her sons wedding in Mexico (from San Diego, just a few hours drive away), because of the accident of her employers, she had to find a solution – in the end, she took the risk of bringing the two white children to the Mexican party crossing the border, and long stretches of desert land with cactus – the children learns about Mexican children’s games, twisting a live chickens head off and seeing it run, at first foreboding to such games then truly enjoying the party too, chasing the chickens etc. – visual richness and sharp comparison of cultures, between the rich (protected soft games) and the poor (direct live action with real blood, killing of animals ), who’s got the power, the customs officers grilling the Nanny at the end, a severe no non-sense hardness, punishment of no re-entry to her existing job – she lost her dreams the things she worked for since 14 years for one evening of attendance to her sons wedding – very realistic and totally believable strongly constructed story.
The Japanese part is set in Tokyo – linked to the Moroccan part via the rifle - a well to do business man who gave his rifle to his Moroccan guide during his hunting trip – he has existential problems, his wife committed suicide with a gun, this trauma is passed onto his mute/deaf teenage girl - the social problems of this rich handicapped pretty young girl, through her attempts to be accepted by young men, we see the games Tokyo youths play, drugs, whiskey, sex plays – loneliness, repeated innocent rejections which cumulatively becomes very hurtful – the family lives in a penthouse Tokyo chic high rise tower environment, cold luxury apartment with starkly designed sleekness, the masculine powerful man’s home without any sign of feminine touches, he has no wife –– compared to the Marocan shepherds home, arid, tough, dry, mud sheds with holes and wife and teenage daughter who consents to peeping tom brothers… family values, love and attention –
Mexican vibrancy, drinking, music, party dancing, renewal of older peoples romance, mother and son, hopes for a better future in America – American efficiency, kindness, lost, problem in couples relations due to differing needs in existents – Home life is a standard cushioned well to do surroundings with family helper – the whole movie is a rich tapestry well mastered and convincing in everyway. Four existences, four home lives, and styles of living, concerns in their daily existences – these issues drive the stories forward revealing a contemporary world in its larger political clout distribution and in the smaller personal qualities of life, from the material to the spiritual. Something for everyone with humanity at it’s heart.
a short film by Francois Ozon (***)
Stylised and v gd Dramatic philosophic discourse of love by a young man facing his girl friend who is always late for meetings. How the guy sees it and how the girl sees it and their rupture and how sorry the guy feels – all due to an exaggerated sense of pride. Marvelous elocution, handsomely shot, the text /script is by a famous writer. Very finely crafted.
Marie Antoinette (**+half)
I really enjoyed “Lost in Translation” for its imprecise ambiance, and the nuance of being lost, therefore I prepared with great expectations for Marie Antoinette.
I accept Americans having visions that are not-native French, not focused on French history, choosing to tell a personal view about a famous Queen and all – however, the movie is truly disappointing. I enjoy lush operas, beautiful cakes, shoes, fancy dinners, glossy court decors, artifice in playfulness, mondanity exchanges, so on so forth, but this film shows all of these as a series of quick flashes like so many flat flashing postcards – it is not sumptuous, not delicious as decadent people in their playful frivolity do when they enjoy these things, nor the dialogues any different from American teenagers! But these are King and Queen – how could they speak in such an unlikely tongue, without any royalty feelings with believable conduct matching to their privilege positions? (For example, two teenagers, say one from a middleclass merchants home and another from a middle class professors home, and another from a working class new immigrant – wouldn’t they speak differently from their respective positions? As teenagers carry over the speech patterns from their family, they are a miniature of their family - how come the King and Queen talks like they are at a backyard barbecue? They might not necessarily talk authentic royalty talk, but there should be some sort of pride in their bearing etc. vis-a-vis their servants, and to each other, so on so forth)
We could say Sophia Coppola has poetic license to do whatever she wants to – but having made so much effort to acquire all the settings, and the audience really didn’t get that much out of the finesse promised from the title – maybe this is fast food royalty. We show you the labels and that’s enough.
This film is a giant size wasted opportunity. To show the elements that Sophia wants to show, she doesn’t really need the authentic setting – why insist on shooting on real grounds, having the “setting” doesn’t a king and queen made, I think. Why do this story? When the reality swerves so much away from the original track, it is as if Sophia wants to borrow the fame of the defunct Antoinette to boost up the credibility of an adolescent queen story. If the central character is not named Marie Antoinette – but say, a fairy queen from some fable land - would it have changed the validity of the movie?
The part at the Trianon, where Marie-Antoinette has to strip herself totally – including ridding herself of her pet dog… in history there was a confirmation of such an event, but would it have been shown like this – to us the audience? After all she is the dauphine… we as audience couldn’t have seen her naked like this fully in display from a distance – I have trouble getting any sense of feeling of being privileged like the royalties that they were, I am not even talking about authenticity to the French original, but just as a fictive constructed feeling of royalty… it doesn’t have to be authentic, but if we were to believe in “court” manners, stuffiness, hostility, etc. There should be more tension and oppression in a natural flow, nuances in the story line. But we were simply told directly that “this is ridiculous” (uttered by Kristen Dunst), and the King similarly without any sense of kingliness – he might have been an adolescent interested only in locks – but he is a king, a pampered privilege king who should conduct himself with something kingly and not simply like a spoilt taciturn American Youth.
The film is shallow, little story tension, even the puffy pastry, the visual candies were not exploited fully – as this was THE film that the French allowed for filming at Versailles we wait for great privileged views of special Royalty details (authentic or fictive but we knew Sophia Coppola was not going to make a historically correct film so we waited for the fictive fun filled royalty) – but Sophia seems to be not that interested. Its like the joke of an American visiting the Louvre in 15mn because he has a taxi waiting for him outside… he’s not interested but he wants to say yes, he has factually visited the Louvre.
Sketches of Frank Gehry (***)
V gd, aside from creativity process in architecture which I am familiar with nothing new here, whats interesting is that it reveals Gehry had been seeing a psychoanalyst for over 20 yrs to help cope w uncertainties of his life, failure in marriage and profession, etc. humanly presented – yes, its alright if you need to talk to a specialists, people are stressed out in the contemporary world.
Gehry talked about how he stopped doing work “just for make a living” and began his own style – even though he had a hard time to make ends meet, he was so relieved once the decision was made – message: if you are true to yourself you come through the tunnel in the end)
The Mountain of the Scribes (***)
During Spanish colonial domination power struggle between the administrator and a Francisan Bishop who wanted to build a university in the Andes –story of the history of a famous university, the scene of the central character a yg talented scribe, a monk, peeping over the monastery wall at yg girls going to the wash is just right in the right tone, the internal power struggle within the Franciscan Bishop is subtly revealed, just right, dialogue is v gd. A historical epic film, story well told and details of lives in a closed milieu.
Southland tales (**+ bonus half)for the visual richness in spite of, or, because of an unusual messiness
The settings looks very expensive and stylized, but the story is very messy – set in some strange future time with pop comic type of evil characters and women who uses voice transformers for extorsion, porn stars world view and business sense, phony deaths… mess of threads going in different directions; the film is like a train crash dragging all kinds of non-sense marvel comic type of secondary events, drawn out very long, felt like wasted 3 hrs watching it. However, after viewing the chaotic constructions in the end, we remember it being very strange, with a lot of details of all sorts. I wouldn’t exactly call it a good film, but something stayed, we don’t forget certain scenes of the film. Like a race horse that's gone out of control, I wonder just why was this movie made?
Bai Ling plays a dark Asian mysterious erotic side kick to the evil one, very well acted, good body language, dancing and vamping, and dialogue (none of the stilted unnatural phonetically instructed speech tones that I have seen in recent films such as in Memoire of a Geisha). I have watched Bai Ling in various movies from straight roles to vamps, she is v talented and always expressive and alive - in speech, body language and her interviews are always intelligent with a level of human common sense. An attractive mix of intelligence and natural physical gifts, this is an Asian actress who merits more roles in different settings to fully deploy her talents.