A drama based on an ancient Chinese proverb that breaks life down into four emotional cornerstones: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. A businessman bets his life on a horse race; a gangster sees the future; a pop star falls prey to a crime boss; a doctor must save the love of his life.
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A frustrated and clumsy bank clerk overhears the conversation of three coworkers in the toilet about a fix in a horse race, and bets a large amount. He loses the bet and owes the money to the dangerous and powerful mobster Fingers. A gangster who works for Fingers has the ability of foreseeing pieces of the future; he is assigned to collect money for the boss, with his troublemaker nephew Tony, and is beaten up by a gang. The manager of pop-star Trista loses her contract to Fingers without her agreement and she is threatened by the gangster. A dedicated doctor seeks a blood donor that might have a rare blood type to save the life of his secret and unrequited passion, a beautiful epidemiologist who's married to a friend. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Kinetic Pretentiousness from the word go. Lee has some directorial skills, but its painfully obvious that he thinks The Air I Breathe is some kind of ultra important and transcendental masterpiece. Its not. Now pretentious movies are occasionally fine, and can sometimes be even good. But when such a movie thinks its so great, well that is just a deadly recipe.
There is nothing in The Air I Breathe that you can't find in a run of the mill after school special. Its not nearly as intelligent as it would have you believe, and far more shallow than it even realizes. The film is fairly well made, as far as physically putting a picture together, but in terms of writing, this thing is a mess. Its only half decent line shows up on the opening title card, credited to 19th century American clergyman Henry Ward Beecher. Even it comes off heavy handed, especially as the film goes on. The first line of actual dialogue comes soon after, spoken by Happiness (Forrest Whitaker), pondering whether or not a caterpillar realizes how beautiful it becomes when it morphs into a butterfly. Its a cringe-worthy line that may have sounded good on paper in a second rate poem, but heard aloud its nearly almost laughable. There are a number of such lines scattered throughout the film.
There are also scenes of the same nature - i.e. a laughing and camera spinning Forrest Whitaker after he's cornered for robbing a bank. Or maybe a scene thats meant for laughs in which Andy Garcia's Finger's (You should ask him why he's called that) and a partner groove to Trista's new track (Aka Sorrow, aka Sarah Michelle Gellar). These kinds of scenes are rarely funny, and there is no exception here.
The film's saving grace (if it can be called that) is that it is broken down into 4 segments, based on a Chinese proverb regarding the emotions happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and love. The first, happiness, is Whitaker as a pencil pusher who gets in deep with mobster Fingers. Second is pleasure, following Finger's enforcer and seer of the future Brendan Fraser. He's put in task of taking care of Fingers' trouble prone nephew Tony (Emile Hirsch). This segment is the best, and probably the only one I would give a pass. Third, Sorrow follows new pop sensation and her relationship with Fraser's mob enforcer, and the trouble their relationship brings. Finally, love follows a doctor trying to save a friend he loves deeply. Given that Happiness and Love begin and end the film, their serious weaknesses damage the film. I was looking to come around after Pleasure, but was only slowly let down by Sorrow, and slammed into the ground by Love.
Lee may have an interesting future ahead of him, maybe. His direction is physically solid, even if it is nothing unique and thematically so-so. He's clearly a product of modern film-making, which I must say is becoming rather boring in all of its hyperness. This is not a lazy film, nor is it without ambition. But that is no excuse for its pretentiousness or its bad writing. I hope that Lee can make something better in the future. His direction suggests he can make good - not great - but good films given the right script. That is, if he can get over his own back patting stage to realize what he thinks is profound is actually rather banal.
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