Reviews written by registered user
|61 reviews in total|
This was an unexpected surprise on a long bus trip out of Bangkok. The
four Thai guys are NOT in Africa; they are in Thailand. The bus driver
calls out implausible Thai locations, but the locale changes into
Africa, then into the American Wild West, then back into Thailand. All
the Africans (and the American cowboys) speak Thai, and the ghosts are
Thai, Chinese, British and African. One of the African "cannibals"
tells them that he used to work as a comedian in Bangkok.
The movie is loaded with pop culture jokes, including references to The Wild Bunch, Tsui Hark movies, a cameo by a Charles Bronson look-alike and tons of jokes about those brain-numbing ghost comedies. There are also many movie-within-a-movie frame changes and a cool ending where they go over the script of the movie we just saw.
Recommended ONLY if you already have seen some of those Thai comedies -- most of the jokes would otherwise be over your head.
There is a good premise here, that someone brought into a Taliban-like
group may have misgivings when pressured to do objectionable things.
Further, the interaction with the foreign hostage may trigger these
doubts. This was one of the themes of "The Crying Game", among others.
But this movie makes so many foolish decisions and has its characters behaving so implausibly, it just smells like Hollywood in the mix.
We can see how ridiculous this movie has become when we compare the movie's journalist with actual journalists who were captured. There are clear ways that informants on the other side are protected, and that protection is part of the returnee's debriefing. The setup we are given here, of a journalist fearing that her lies would be disclosed, is so preposterous, it is clear that no real journalist was shown a script.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, let me say that the low score of 8 is only because of an
improbable plot point near the end.More on that later.
The rekindled grief of the survivors is the whole point of the movie. Watching the anguish as it goes through stages is utterly gripping, especially seeing how the parents of the little boy go through such dissimilar reactions.
The "pieces of the puzzle" method of telling the tale is also gripping. We see the peculiarities of the returned and cannot fully understand it. Then, when our puzzlement is at its height, a researcher explains what we had observed but couldn't understand.
****SPOILERS**** Two things marred this for me. One was the stalking doctor. His presence made little sense to me, other than as a stand-in for the director. The other was the bit about the sabotage and the exploding sleep medication. Just silly. You could just as easily had the dead gather, and then spontaneously collapse in exhaustion. Then, the stunningly lovely ending would have made more sense. Had it stayed at the level of parable, it would earn a 10 for sure.
First, we should all applaud any popular entertainment that takes on
the crimes of the recent American past. Here is a (largely worthwhile)
Indian effort that is too far to the implausible end of the spectrum
for my tastes. But it also has a political blind spot that makes it
troubling and not only a bit foolish.
The part I found troubling is the way the US is defended. The filmmaker succeeds in making terrorist sympathizers of the audience, then lamely states the US case with totally unconvincing platitudes. The US government relentlessly behaves in a brutal and unapologetic manner throughout the film, and is then defended with a line like, "People make mistakes. Countries do, too." Well, if my wife made a mistake as severe as the US makes in this movie (drawn heavily from the headlines), she darn well better apologize or I'm gone! But do the Americans apologize? Have Americans ever apologized, i.e. the way Kevin Rudd did recently? There are MANY films that deal with these moral/political issues far better. The Bollywood epic "Mission Kashmir," for all its Bollywood silliness, does a far better job. The outstanding Indo-American film "The War Within" is my favorite of these issue films. And any of the movies of Mani Ratnam show how a popular entertainment can also be smart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, I consider myself a fan of Majidi. His "Baran" is possibly my
favorite film from Iran. I bought it based on his name, so it is only
reluctantly that I post these comments.
The idea of the conflict between the son and his step-father is great, and certainly a well-known story. This one carries with it the tarnished dignity and lessened honor felt by Mehrollah.
But in order to set up the moral conflict Mehrollah faces at the end, the story takes some directions that are painfully implausible and ultimately destroy the ending.
****MAJOR SPOILER HERE**** The idea that a police officer would take a motorcycle so far away to get his wayward stepson is implausible. The idea that it might break down and he would just abandon it is ridiculous. The notion that he would start walking into the desert is just preposterous; any cagey guy like that would know to stay on the main road. So the setup that has him die is impossible. If Majidi wanted Mehrollah to confront a moral dilemma, having the two of them ambushed by bandits would do the job as well. I also longed to hear the stepfather show respect for Mehrollah's love for his mother and sister. That did not come.
First, I want to gently contradict one statement, often made of this
film and repeated here. There ARE other movies like this. If you want
to see a reasonable model of what Garin Nugroho has done, I would
direct you to the work of Carlos Saura, especially "El Amor Brujo." But
that being said, the stunning richness of this movie far eclipses Saura
at his best. There are visuals both large and small, dances both grand
and intimate, songs both poetic and profane, and story-telling elements
both epic and contemporary. The frame shifts rapidly between modern and
ancient, between emotional and refined, and on and on.
Now, permit me to ask a question of any Indonesian readers. Who was the intended audience for this film? I ask because I am far more familiar with Javanese culture than most Americans, but found the cultural references and symbolism far deeper than I could catch. It made me think that this was created for a strictly Indonesian and a predominantly artistic/intellectual audience. But with its extensive European connections, is that right? Did he create it for people like me, educated artsy types the world over?
It is clear that the stage play must have been a searingly powerful
experience. There are numerous metaphors proceeding simultaneously, and
most of them are pointedly identifying sins of modern politics. It
makes me wish I could have been there.
In an attempt to translate this to the screen, the artifice that comes natural to the stage feels awkward. The photography and the staging try to appear at least somewhat realistic. As a result, characters come across as one-dimensional instead of being archetypes. The acting seems wooden at times rather than being larger than life. The violence that would never be realistic on stage cannot make up its mind here.
But in all, it is still a wonderful document. There is a powerful punchline at the very end (last 10 seconds) that is not to be missed, and it pushed this up to a 7 for me.
I have now seen three of Apichatpong's films (Mysterious Objects,
Blissfully Yours and now this). It finally occurred to me what is going
on and why so many people, already enamored of offbeat, experimental
and artsy films, still find his work difficult.
I really got into "Mysterious Objects" at first, the "exquisite corpse" method and the way a simple story got embellished as he went along. But Apichatpong seemed to lose interest in the narrative, so the film became a static slide show of his travels, losing all of its narrative energy.
"Sud Saneha" (Blissfully Yours) never got me engaged. It was an agonizing experience in lost opportunity and self-indulgent amateurism.
So now, I can say that "Syndromes and a Century" is by far the best of the three. I gave it 6 out of 10.
I finally understood that Apichatpong is an artist of still images. He has no idea what to do with emotions or the people who feel them. He just allows them to populate his canvas, and pays no attention to what they do. In fact, if they do nothing and stay still, that's even better.
The camera moves from time to time, but that is clearly just giving better depth to his still images. He has no skills in using images that move, other than to take them in in a decidedly passive way. There are times in this movie when it is effective (the steam entering the pipe, for example), but most of the time, it underscores his discomfort with the moving image.
I really want to like his films, mostly because here in Thailand, popular culture is so crushing and stifling, anything artistic is like drops of water in a desert. But I can only cut so much slack.
This is a story right out of the "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!"
cliché. One implausibility piled on top of another in a "feel
good"/"right will triumph" pattern that is SO OVERWHELMINGLY dominant
in American movies. John Sayles has long been one of my favorite
directors/screenwriters, so the foolishness of this movie came as a
What happened? Where has the creator of "Casa de los Babys" and "Lone Star" gone? What happened to the creator of such exhilarating plots as "Limbo" and "Passion Fish"? I can only guess that he farmed it out to one of his kids, or an intern, or something like that. This movie fits in more with the rush job of the Scorcese-produced blues films than with a Sayles project.
Here is my "disclosure" statement. I have been a working musician and have spent most of my adult life in the company of musicians. This movie reveals some of the biggest complaints musicians have about their portrayal by non-musicians. The biggest is that non-musicians don't understand the role of rehearsals, individual practice and the huge amount of work and effort it takes to seem "talented." This movie is another example, and a rather extreme case at that.
I also have a question for Keb Mo. Why do you sign on to so many projects that undervalue your efforts? I am thinking of the NPR Blues History radio series and now this. Don't you have more leverage than that?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, let me say I have read several of the comments. Even though I
gave it 3 out of 10, I mostly agree with the people who loved it. The
acting was superb, the concept (Four archetypal emotions) is very good,
the way Jieho Lee applies these to a modern situation is very clever
etc etc. But I give it the low score I did because I found the plot
preposterous, the plot twists ridiculous and the unattended plot
inconsistencies utterly childish. To me, this looks and feels like a
vanity project, where Jieho Lee seems to be the precocious child of
Hollywood moguls. He had a great idea in film school, got his family to
fund it with big-name stars, and will be ashamed of this movie when he
finally becomes a mature artist. I do not know how far off the mark I
am, but I hope he continues to grow.
If I were his adviser, I would suggest that the same basic movie could be made without any of the brutality, none of the killing, and none of the histrionic over-acting.
1. Happiness should have been portrayed by an elderly man, whose failures would have formed his subtext. He need not have robbed a bank -- losing it all on a horse race would have been more than enough to make the point.
2. Pleasure, the best section, need never have beaten anybody to make the point. The main plot point (losing his vision) could have happened at any step of the way. No need for the bit with the rival gang.
3. Sorrow was too filled with sex to be persuasive. No need to have the manager changed. She could have simply been an artist struggling to be an artist in the face of the Music Biz. And when asked "Why are you deserving?", why could she not have simply said "Effort"? It is the natural response of all artists. No need for the entire ridiculous stuff with Fingers. The whole movie would have been far better off without this character at all.
4. I turned the movie off when I saw this bit about the rare blood type. Didn't anyone do any fact-checking? Blood types are registered when you are born. If someone had such a rare blood type, she would have been on an official register. All the doctor would have to do is call the Health Department. The "Love" theme could have been done as a kind of "Killing Fields" drama, being unable to live up to your promises.
In sum, I wish Jieho Lee could study Kieslowski's Dekalog to get pointers on how to make movies. He didn't have to make such a "high school" style of gangster tale masquerading as something meaningful.
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