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San tiao ren (1999)

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The protagonist is Asano who has had an amazing memory since his youth spent in Okinawa. Words have tangible shapes, tastes and colours for him. This goes so far that he is not even able to... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Georgina Hobson
Christa Hughes
Kevin Sherlock ...
Mavis Xu


The protagonist is Asano who has had an amazing memory since his youth spent in Okinawa. Words have tangible shapes, tastes and colours for him. This goes so far that he is not even able to forget words once he has heard them. He travels the seas and because 'Hong Kong' feels wonderful, he goes ashore there. He chances upon the Dive Bar, that soon turns out to be the haven of comfort he has been seeking since his youth. The bar is run by the flamboyant, hospitable Kevin, who is also an alcoholic, eclectic lover and a perfect confidant to Asano. But Kevin keeps forgetting all kinds of things and that gets him into trouble sometimes. Words seem only to stand in the way of the relationship between Asano and Kevin... Written by Bastiaan van Gestel <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

7 August 1999 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Away with Words  »

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Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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User Reviews

Words, not Phrases
2 March 2007 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

Here's the logic you might use to seek this out: To be a lucid life today means you need to understand how you use image to see yourself. That means you will end several important adventures with Kar-Wai Wong. And if you are at all alert, you'll want to explore Chris Doyle, the cinematographer in that collaboration.

Here's Doyle's project where he forms something alone. Seeing the limits of what he can each is as enjoyable as the memory flavors he can deliver.

I've said before that if you get a serious actor, you will find him or her so dedicated to what matters, they'll become incapable of actually making a film as filmmaker. May as well ask a roast to make a meal. The same is true of a cinematographer, I think. Now we're talking real films here, those that matter, those that have some valuable, effective shape as an assembly. These are rare, compared to the larger group of projects that give us pretty things, engaging characters and/or stories that charm. This business of assembly, of making the whole hour and a half or two have being that seems as big as the world, now that's mastery. Kar-Wai Wong can do this in ways that reweave parts of your soul.

The way it works, I think, is KWW intuits the way the world works, and sculpts sharp pieces from that intuition. Doyle then breathes animating magic into those bits, but what he sees is the bits, not the dream of the whole world. He's a souschef. For him to actually dance with my inner self, he needs arms that can surround my imagination whole, not in bites.

Now the fun of this. Three bodies on screen representing three realities of the collaborator Doyle needs. There's a Japanese fellow, who remembers everything, holds those memories as words and transforms each word into a vision. These are nouns not verbs, and the "visions" are all of objects. We see lots of intertitles where words and their visual assignment (denoted by a word!) are shown, sometimes dissolving. This fellow has lots of internal dialogs about the curse of memory.

There's an Australian who owns the bar. He's a promiscuous gay, and a serious beer drunk. (Doyle is Australian. I not know how he shares his body.) He's one who tastes life at the boundaries (preferring policemen), and forgets everything including his address, so he has trouble getting home every night. He openly muses on what he's forgotten

And then there's Susie, the home, the earth. A simple, accepting beauty. Patient. Forgiving. The actress has one of those faces that deeply looks like it merely looks deep. She's a seamstress, a fashion designer of significant talent.

It would be a wonderful construction if it weren't so film-schoolish in its obviousness, and so sophomoric in the way he has to explain it to us.

Never mind; you knew at the beginning of this comment that he would fail in the long form composition.

Its the way he chooses the shape of each scene to explore visual memory that's of interest. You could think of it as a "Marienbad" in small bits, each a camera-centered eye poem. He and Goddard would have eaten each other. He and Wong stream colored ribbons that tie themselves into emotions. Him by himself. Dessert.

There's an interesting insertion at the beginning, an Australian performer/singer whose gimmick is gargle-singing with a mouth full of beer. More of this, which is to say more of Maddin or alternatively Fruit Chan, would work better, would make him by himself a poet that matters.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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