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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
An Absence of Light. I love this film very much. (spoilers), 30 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

`The Policewoman' is a perfect companion-piece to `Gloria' (1999, Manuela Viegas). Both Portuguese films deal with troubled childhood, cruelty, tragedy, and premature death. Both films have some memorable scenes in which a body is dragged through a dark forest, and have wonderful endings. Both films are atmospheric, and feelings and emotions in both films are conveyed through silence. It seems like `The Policewoman' is another part of `Gloria', and that is because both films are made by Joaquim Sapinho and Manuela Viegas. Sapinho directed `The Policewoman' and co-wrote `Gloria', while Viegas directed `Gloria' and co-edited `The Policewoman'.

However, though I like `The Policewoman' very much, I feel this film is not as daring and uncompromising as `Gloria'. The storyline of `The Policewoman' is much easier to follow, and the ending of `The Policewoman', though as abrupt as `Gloria', is not as enigmatic.

What makes me fall in love with `The Policewoman' is not the plot, but its obsession with dark forests and darkness. While I was watching `The Policewoman', I felt the sunlight in some scenes in this film was too strong. It was so strong that it irritated my eyes. I realized later that the sunlight in some scenes in this film was not too strong, but the viewers felt the sunlight was unbearable because this film left the viewers in darkness for such a long time that the viewers' eyes cannot adapt to bright light suddenly. I once had this kind of experience while I was watching `Zmej' (2002, Aleksai Muradov). When a character in `Zmej' switched on the light to drive away the darkness, I felt the light was too strong and very unwelcome. Both `Zmej' and `The Policewoman' belong to a wonderful kind of cinema-a cinema which makes your eyes hate sunlight and daytime.

Another thing that I like very much is the role of the policewoman in this film. The policewoman in this film behaves like an angel, but what I like very much is that the viewers rarely have a chance to look at her face clearly. The face of the policewoman was shown clearly on the screen for about one minute. She mostly stays in the darkness. Her face is hidden or half-hidden for most of the time. Yet, she has a very strong presence and an important role in this film. Her character, along with the character of the truck driver who plays football with Rato, give hope to the cruel world portrayed in this film. Though her character stays in the darkness physically, her character is really the bright light of hope, mercy, kindness and understanding.

I also like many other scenes in this film, including the scenes which show nearly empty roads and nearly empty landscapes. I also love the beginning of this film very much. This film starts with shots of beautiful landscapes, of a tree with a heart carved into it, of a hand caressing that tree, of a woman leaning on that tree, of the woman picking flowers, of the woman with the flower in a cemetery. All these scenes are wordless, yet can tell the story effectively. The sad feeling in these scenes are so strong. This film uses minimal expressions to convey maximal feelings.

Scenes that I like include every scene which shows the strong tension between Tania and Liliana, especially the scene in which Tania visits Liliana at the shop, and the scene in which Tania walks in front, Rato walks in the middle, and Liliana walks behind them. One can sense how much Tania and Liliana distrust each other. But the tension between them is conveyed very beautifully and in a restrained way.

Other scenes which are so deeply ingrained in my mind are the scene of Tania when she heard the news about her son, and the scene of Tania in front of a fireplace. These scenes are very sad and heartbreaking. And Tania is such a wonderful character. She may love her son too much and does too many stupid things for him, and it may be because she is just a human being--a human being who is prone to make mistakes, make bad choices, a victim of their own stupidity and stubbornness, a human being whose flame of hope won't die out easily during the downpour of bad lucks. Her character shares the same weakness with ‘Margaret Hall' (Tilda Swinton) in `The Deep End'. These women endanger themselves because they love their sons.

The eyes of Rato is another thing that I like. His eyes make his character more enigmatic. He is not a kid who wants his audience to feel pity for him, especially by the way he behaves near the end of the movie. Some viewers might feel both sad and relieved with the fate of Rato at the end of the film.

Other performers in the film don't have many chances to show their talents, but their scenes are memorable, thanks to the director. The scene of Liliana which I like very much is the scene in which she has some kind of reaction when she sees her uncle enters her cell in the prison. And the benign truck driver provides the warmest scene in this film. He plays football with Rato in the dark, using only lights from the truck. However, in this film, warm feelings can appear only briefly. Rato follows the football and disappears into the dark. That moment is unforgettable.

Joaquim Sapinho, together with Manuela Viegas, Manoel de Oliveira, Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Fernando Matos Silva, and Manuel Mozos, really makes me feel very enthusiastic for Portuguese cinema. I can't wait to see other films of all these directors.

12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
The unexpected calmness of Werner Herzog, 28 March 2004

`Wheel of Time' is a very good film, but I admit that it is different from what I expected from Herzog. He is still very talented, but I doubt if the subject matter is best suited to him. `Wheel of Time' concerns many things, including religion, virtue, and faith, which in this case may not be the best subjects for Herzog. But when `Wheel of Time' deals with some strange and crazy rituals, political oppression, and rugged landscapes, these parts of the film are very satisfying.

Some scenes in `Wheel of Time' are magical, especially the scenes which show vast landscapes and people performing strange rituals. Those scenes are Herzogian, I think. Nobody does this kind of thing better than Herzog. If a cinephile watches these scenes, not knowing who shot them, he or she will guess correctly that they were shot by Herzog. These scenes make `Wheel of Time' rise way above television documentaries.

But other scenes are not as magical as I expect from Herzog's films. I think that maybe the religious subject matter of this film doesn't allow Herzog to be as playful in directing as he was in other films. It is very difficult for any filmmaker, including Herzog, to make an interesting documentary about something virtuous like this. It would be much easier to make an interesting film if the film is about `good vs. evil', or about some strange rituals in which people walk on fire and pierce themselves horrifically.

I think Herzog is like a wizard, and one can hardly makes a more magical film than him if the film is about nature-made or man-made madness, brutality, or suffering in life. But because of the subject matter of `Wheel of Time', this film is not my most favorite of Herzog's. I like `Wheel of Time' as much as Herzog's `How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck' (1976) and `The Flying Doctors of East Africa' (1969). I think these three films are very good films, but because the people portrayed in these films are not `very' strange nor `very' crazy, these three films lack some kind of excitement I found in other films by Herzog, especially when compared to Herzog's `Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices' (1995), `My Best Fiend' (1999), `The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner' (1974), and `Land of Silence and Darkness' (1971), which is my most favorite of Herzog's films.

Some parts of Herzog's `Lessons of Darkness' (1992) deal with political madness, and I think Herzog is good at this subject, too. In one scene in `Wheel of Time', a former political prisoner gave an interview about the brutality of the Chinese rule. This scene is very simple. It is just a normal interview. But for me the power of this scene is much more stronger than most scenes in `Wheel of Time'. And it also reminds me of some great scenes in `Lessons of Darkness' in which some people gave their own testimonies to what happened when Saddam invaded Kuwait. I think one thing that makes the scene about the former prisoner stand apart from other scenes in `Wheel of Time' is because this scene talks about `evil forces', while other scenes in `Wheel of Time' are about some kind of virtuous power.

12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Heartbreakingly sad thriller (spoilers), 28 April 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***spoilers***spoilers***Some movies can make you cry while you're watching them, but few of them can even make you cry every time you think of them. For me, 'Before the Storm' belongs to the latter category. Yet, this heartbreakingly sad movie has one scene that is much more thrilling than most thrillers, and the joke about 'Kurosawa' is one of the most memorable lines in my memory.

'Before the Storm' poses very interesting questions about violence and moral dilemmas. Many characters in this film seem to do something wrong, but apart from Danne, can we actually call what Ali, Leo, the Courier, and Johan Sander do as totally wrong? They might do wrong things, but they have their own reasons. This movie seems to ask the viewers that if were put into these four characters' shoes, what would we decide to do? Would we decide to act differently if we were in the same dire situations as them? Ali and Leo face one of the most difficult choices in the world. If a young boy as Leo hadn't done what he did in this movie, the other choice he might have resorted to is committing suicide. It's up to each audience to decide for themselves if what Ali does is wrong or right. What this movie perfectly achieves is to make us understand very well why these characters do such a thing.

Not only the 'decision-making' of the characters that is worth pondering, some scenes also leave interesting questions in our mind. For example, the scene when the father and mother of Leo teach Leo about violence. Yet, Leo's father works in the truck plant. Does he know that he might be responsible for mass violence? From the conversation between the Courier and Ali, we can assume that her organization used to distribute leaflets about the military use of the trucks to the public, but that method couldn't stop Sander. That leads to another interesting question in the movie: if the converting of the trucks is no secret, why are the public only concerned about the loss of their jobs? Why are they not concerned about the loss of people's lives in other countries? Are we too interested in earning money for our families that we try to forget or ignore the fact about our 'indirect' roles in this kind of cruelty?

Another great thing about 'Before the Storm' is that it shows us the consequences of characters' actions. And consequences often come as a surprise to the characters. After Leo forced Danne to say an obscene word, Sara uses that exact word to call Leo. After Ali told Leo some sentences that influence Leo's decision, Leo repeats those sentences to Ali at the exact moment that would affect Ali's decision. Ali makes an arguably noble decision in the hospital, but considering the consequences, is his noble decision the right decision? 'Before the Storm' reflects the real world where the most villainous characters (Danne and Sander) are the survivors, and the most innocent characters (Ali's ex-wife and son) suffer the most.

In my opinion, the hospital scene and the ending scene are truly classic. During the thrilling hospital scene, I forget breathing and my heart pounds heavily. The thrill comes partly because of the music, and because we somehow identify ourselves with Ali in this extremely dangerous situation. We can't help imagining we were Ali, and asking ourselves what exactly we should do to Sander, to the bodyguard, to the Courier, to her grandchild, and most importantly, to Sander's father?

Because we feel so much involved in Ali's decision-making, the thrill comes not only because we fear that Ali might be in danger, but also because we fear that Ali might decide to bring danger to other characters. Thrilling scenes are effective if they can make the viewers feel as if they are not only the 'observers' of the scene, but also the 'participants' in the scene. Most thriller movies are not as thrilling as this scene in 'Before the Storm', because in most thrillers' climax scenes, we know exactly who is the villain and who is the innocent, who should be punished and who should be rewarded. The villains in other movies are so bad that the hero (and the viewers) never has any doubt in his (or our) mind(s) whether the hero should do the killing or not.(It is worth noting that Arnold Schwarzenegger is mentioned in 'Before the Storm'.) In those movies, the viewers can be sure that the hero will do only good things and we can decide very easily that the villains should be killed. Thus, the thrill in other movies relies on what the hero will do to get rid of the villains, whereas the thrill in 'Before the Storm' relies on whether the hero will kill or help the so-called villains, which villain he should help, and whether the hero is as evil as the villains and the villains are as innocent and pitiable as the hero. These questions apply to the conflict between Danne and Leo, too. This movie might be one of the most difficult movies for the viewers to decide whether the child protagonist (Leo) should be punished or rewarded. It's not the physical action, but it's the moral ambiguity behind the physical action that makes the hospital scene in 'Before the Storm' the most thrilling scene in my memory. Moreover, this scene might be the only thrilling scene that can make me cry at the same time. And I cry because of that face--the face of Sander's father lying on the floor, begging for his son's life. I even cry as I'm writing this down. This face will keep on haunting me for a long time.

The ending scene confirms this film as one of my most favorite films of all time. The strength of the ending scene relies on its marvelous editing, and I'm not even sure that what I saw in the ending scene is what really happens in the story or a part of it is a dream. In the ending scene, the narrative style differs a lot from the preceding scenes. There is no continuity of time and place. Fragments of various characters' lives are mixed and edited in such a way that has a tremendous impact on my emotion. Moreover, this ending scene can manage to tell the conclusion of so many characters' lives in very few minutes, and a lot of twists are in this scene. I cry a lot when the camera focuses on the hand of Ali's wife and hands of other characters, when I see Danne is alive, when Leo departs from his family, and particularly, when the bodyguard discovers that the Courier's grandchild is alive. How can Reza Parsa come up with a scene so emotionally powerful like this? I have never seen a scene like this in other movies before. This is a perfect ending, narratively and emotionally.

Minor characters also lend great charm to the movie, including Sara and Leo's mother, and particularly the Courier and the anti-Kurosawa little girl. Tintin Anderzon is perfect as Leo's mother. Sasha Becker can show how much Sara likes Danne by just using a glimpse from her meaningful eyes. The Courier surprises me with her talent as a spy. She can appear any minute, without warning, in any place or any situation. This character wouldn't look out of place at all if she appears in superb spy action/drama films such as 'La Femme Nikita'. My only disappointment is that she is defeated too easily, considering her great spying talent. One thing worth noting is that one fast-food chain plays an indirect part in her demise. Is the director trying to say that the Courier's mistake is letting her grandchild too immersed in consumerism? The little girl is an unforgettable character even though she might be on screen less than 5 minutes. She is not involved in the main plot, but in an interesting subplot concerning chains of unrequited love. Her role might be small, but poignant. Her happiness when she is together with Leo lasts very briefly. Something she says indicates that she hopes to be with Leo again, but she might have to wait forever, as the ending song suggests.

It's hard to find other movies to compare with such a superior film as 'Before the Storm'. The only one I can think about is Antonia Bird's 'Priest'. While these two movies are totally different in many ways, they are as moving and bring as many tears to my eyes. More importantly, the understanding and sympathy between Ali and the harassed boy in the bus scene reminds me of the understanding and sympathy between Father Greg and the harassed girl in 'Priest'.

Lime (2001)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Irresistibly colorful dream world, 20 April 2002

The world portrayed in 'Lime' is too beautiful to be real, yet it is too beautiful for me to resist. I give this movie 10/10 mostly because of its choice of music, and also because of its beautiful colors, its haunting black and white scenes, its cinematography, its editing, the performance of Rita Kvist, and its tremendous impact on my emotions.

There are many scenes that I like in 'Lime', including the scenes when the camera focuses on an insect at the window, when Tanja makes her own dress, when she imagines her mother dancing hauntingly, the scene in the forest, and the scene about a wolf. These scenes are not only beautifully shot, but they are also strangely powerful. The heightened colors, the contrast between color scenes and black-and-white scenes, and the appropriate pace of editing lend this movie great excitement, while the story itself is not as exciting.

Giving it 10/10 means I love it so much though I think it still has some flaws. While the role of Tanja is so impressive and gives Kvist a great chance to show her talent, the supporting characters are somehow not fully developed, including her friend, her ex-boyfriend, her new boyfriend, her little brother, her new stepfather, and particularly her mother. 'Lime' chooses to focus only on Tanja, and that makes it different from other recent movies about single mother-teenage daughter in countryside, including 'Tumbleweeds' and 'La Spagnola'.

The second half of this movie is not as intense as the first half, and I have to admit I'm not satisfied with this kind of ending. Thanks to its music, 'Lime' is now one of my most favorite films about teenagers, but because of its possible-but-lackluster resolution, the place for my most favorite teenage film still belongs to 'Busu' by Jun Ichikawa. Though both two films are about troubled teenage girls and are tremendously powerful, 'Busu' gives a feeling of a 'real world', while 'Lime' gives a vividly colorful picture of a 'dream world'. 'Lime', for me, is perfect as a way to escape from reality. Yes, I'm one of those people who wish our own life should have been like Tanja's.

Judex (1963)
12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A marvellous film for those who love supervillainess (spoilers), 19 February 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***spoilers***spoilers***Deceptively titled Judex, the heart of the film actually belongs to the arch elegant enemy of the title character. This film shows many obstacles the supervillainess must overcome in order to get what she wants, instead of showing the obstacles the superhero must overcome. Thus, it's one of those rare films of which some audience will find themselves drawn to and siding with the villainess, cheering for her, and secretly praying that she would escape, survive, or win in most situations, and these audience will also ask themselves time and again while watching this film, 'Why is the boring heroine still alive? She should have been dead already.'

While the hero seems to have no trouble doing anything he wants especially in the first half of the movie, the villainess gets into tight and dangerous situations many times. Her clever plans always run into trouble, and she must improvise solutions to her problems. Though the villainess is punished in the end, those audience who cheer for her should still be satisfied, because she is not punished by the unimpressive hero, but by a character who is no less charming than her. The final fighting scene is very exciting, because it is not only about the hero versus the evil, but it involves some other characters who aren't exactly good or evil, thus the audience cannot guess the fate of these characters. While the audience can predict the fate of the hero, they are still thrilled to find out if other supporting characters will survive or not.

Many scenes are weirdly beautiful and unforgettable, including the mask party scene, the strange dance scene between the villainess and her lover, the scene when the villainess reveals what she wears inside the nun clothes, the scene when the heroine floats down the river, the scene when the detective reads a book about fighting nuns, and most importantly, the moment when the acrobat girl shows her delight in saying that her uncle was eaten by a lion.

I love this film very much, or to be exact, love the villainess and the last person she fights with. After watching 'Charlie's Angels' and 'The Heroic Trio', starring Maggie Cheung, I think some studios should consider making a new film inspired by the plot of 'Judex' with the help of some Hong Kong kung fu choreographers. If a new version is to be made, please let the villainess fly high and don't make the heroine helpless.

13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
What an exciting story!, 31 January 2002

Ninja Bugei-cho is a very exciting film, and its excitement, for me, relies solely on its powerful story. It is also a very strange film because it consists of only still cartoon-drawings with voice-over and sound effects. Seeing this film is somehow similar to reading a fascinating comic book or storyboard. While the pictures on the screen are not moving, this film, similar to any comic book, gives freedom to our imagination to move the pictures in our mind.

I'm very impressed with its fast pace. The story is very dense. What is told in its 131-minute length can be told easily in 30-hour-long tv series. Imagine all the excitement in 30-hour-long tv series being compressed into 2-hour movie. There are many climaxes, and I think even the story of each member of the Kage family has the climax of its own.

But while the story is full of interesting characters, it lacks deep characterizations. Most characters are as flat as its material, but I don't think that is a flaw of this movie. It's just a style usually found in this type of story. For a story like this, the movie must last much longer than 2 hours so that each character can be given 'real flesh and blood' or 'real subtle feelings and emotions'. I think its excitement much more than compensates for its lack of 'real life'. What this movie really does best is giving each character different fighting skill, and explaining how each of them acquires that special skill. The story of each supporting character is so interesting that each of them should be expanded into a 2-hour movie.

The two main female characters impress me a lot with their expertise in fighting. I will never forget one fighting scene in this movie which involves one pregnant character. Even a small character such as the lady bandit is very fascinating. Oshima's female characters in this movie are as charming and charismatic as in his other movies. Oshima's female characters are not the type usually found in mainstream Japanese cinema. His female characters are as physically strong, determined, bold, and fatally alluring as Paul Verhoeven's female characters.

There's one scene in this film which is very scary. It's the scene of the 'running earth'. It frightens me so much and makes me feel as if I witnessed the real event and was running away from 'them'. If this movie is a live-action, this scene might cost a lot to make it look real. But this film proves that in order to scare the audience effectively, money is not as necessary as the audience's own imagination. There are also many brutal, gruesome, and gory scenes in this movie, and they make me feel very grateful that this movie is not a live-action. Sketches of blood are much more tolerable than real-looking blood.

The ultimate pleasure and excitement I gain from watching this film are somehow similar to the ones I get from watching 'X-Men' or 'Lord of the Rings'. Each of them has a story full of cartoon-style fighting and many interesting supporting characters. However, 'Ninja Bugei-cho' doesn't give you only excitement. It also lets you exercise your imaginative power. This film is highly recommended for those who don't care if there are 'moving pictures' on the screen as long as they can create their own 'moving pictures' in their mental projections.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Brimful of feelings (spoilers), 25 January 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** I love every character in this film, and I rarely feel like this. I love them because they are so real. These are characters with imperfection and small details of characteristics that make them truly come alive. Every main character in this film seems to have their own interesting past, and though they don't talk much about it, they can make the audience feel it. Some of them seem to hide their own feelings or don't express them clearly. They seem to think about something that they don't fully speak out, but they can make the audience sense their hidden and fluctuating feelings and their hidden thoughts. These characters do everything as real human beings do, and that's one of the most difficult goals any filmmaker can ever achieve.

I also love nearly every detail in this film. These details seem to possess some special power inside: the power of real life. I love the blurred lights at the end of the film, the haunting piano score, very brief glimpses of an old woman who tries to search for something in her bag on a train or glimpses of some women who wait for someone or think about something, Stephanie's face when she says she's happy that William is out, her face when she lies that she's surprised at what Gregoire says, her bright smile outside the elevator, Madame Guerin's commercial smile, the living place of Agnes which feels so cold (though some rooms are painted in yellow with bright light) and alienating (Is that a part of the reasons why Gregoire decides to move to a small room?), the moment when the nun and Veronique nearly quarrel, the moment when William and Barbara nearly quarrel over cigarettes (and we learn later how William treasures his cigarettes), the moment when Gregoire stands near someone crazier than him in a bar, the discussion of the policy of forgetfulness, the moment when Agnes tells her little son everybody must die, the moment when Agnes remembers that she is boiling milk (some other instances also imply she is forgetful, but as forgetful as some normal human beings), and the moment when Gregoire refuses to talk. But what I like the most of all is the moment when Agnes changes her mind on an eclair and when she suddenly stops talking to think about something. (Is she thinking about a secret? Because Gregoire later says she is very secretive.)

The characters and the relationships in this film are very interesting and intriguing. Do they love each other or just don't know how to express their love? They don't clearly show that they hate each other, but they often show some signs of detachment (one good example is the glasses Louis wears when he is with Veronique), discontentment, anger, or irritation towards their loved ones, sometimes with many possible reasons. They often show some signs that they feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Maybe the word 'love' or 'hate' or any word in general are actually inadequate to describe what these characters or real human beings feel towards each other. There characters, as real human beings, and their feelings and emotions are too complicated to be defined by any word, their moods are in constant changing, and they and their reasons shouldn't be judged. I believe there are not many films that can portray these aspects of human beings as excellent as 'Pas de scandale'.

Jealousy or something close to jealousy is portrayed very well in this film. Apart from the envy that Louis, as famous as he is, might have towards his brother, it is very interesting that many characters seem to be frustrated when their loved one pay interest to unloved ones. While other films often portray jealousy between rivals in romantic relationship, 'Pas de scandale' chooses to explore other feelings that exist in everyday life but are hardly explored in other films. Does Louis feel bad that Gregoire leave their country house to the godmother's family? Why does William suddenly leave the restaurant? Is it because he doesn't like the presence of Barbara or Louis, both are outsiders to the love relationship between him and Stephanie? Why does Stephanie suddenly leave the bar? Is it because the presence of two women (also outsiders or unloved ones) or something William says? Why does Stephanie seem to be upset when she sees William and his male friend watching TV together? Both the friend and TV are unloved ones or outsiders to her relationship with William. Maybe she just feels bad about her 'adultery', or about the failure of her 'date'. I put these sentences into questions or use the word 'may' because there seem to be many possible reasons for these characters, as for real human beings, to act or feel like this. There is also a very interesting exception. While the presence of Louis (now unloved one to Laure) causes the male friend (or boyfriend?) of Laure to leave the room, it is very clear that he leaves voluntarily with no anger or frustration. That makes this very small character very special in this film.

However, it is noteworthy that not only the presence of an unloved one that can cause irritation, the presence of the loved one can also cause irritation in some cases. Agnes complains that she cannot play piano when Gregoire is near, and she complains to Stephanie that Gregoire likes to stay in too much. Agnes seems to be more at ease with Stephanie and Louis than with her husband. Does she still love her husband or not? Maybe she just requires a psychological space as other human beings do. And irritation sometimes is just a change of mood: Stephanie seems to be briefly disturbed by Barbara's question about last night, and her hostile reaction towards Gregoire lasts briefly too.

Gregoire is a very interesting character. He is not only different from the time before he was jailed, but what he does now is also different in each situation. He doesn't say anything on TV, but he tells strangers that he's out of jail and confesses about his kissing to everybody in front of Agnes. He moves to sleep in a small room, but seems to be disturbed when he was stuck in his car. Is he really claustrophobic or is it just an excuse to chat with Stephanie? He says he is guilty but not responsible for the crime. What does it mean? Does he really feel guilty for whatever he does, especially when he doesn't keep promises he gave to Louis and William? He sometimes gives interesting comments, particularly the one about people who don't need to be loved. But does he really fall in love with Stephanie? What does he really feel about William? It is worth noticing how he treats William in the morning and in the evening, the difference between the meeting of people from different class and the meeting of people in the same class, and how similarly or differently those two meetings end.

Luchini and Lindon have a great chance to shine in this film. Huppert and Giocante also give great performances. Aubry, Liotard, and Bas also show that they have talents to spare if they were allowed more screen time. After all, Benoit Jacquot deserves the most credit. He's a real wonder.

24 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Is this a movie? Or something much better?, 22 January 2002

There are many great things about 'La Chinoise', including its political and historical importance, which have been elaborately discussed by film enthusiasts all over the world, so I'd like to add only my very personal thoughts about this film. Personally, 'La Chinoise' stands very much apart from, if not above, all of the films I've seen. While other films of Godard make me feel they are great movies, 'La Chinoise' doesn't make me feel like that. It makes me feel as if I hadn't seen a film, as if I'd just had a very nice and exciting conversation with friends, as if I'd just had a very lively discussion with them, as if I'd just participated in a hot debate, as if I'd just quarreled with some people. No film ever made me feel like this.

Scenes and dialogues worthy of remembering in 'La Chinoise' are as innumerable as in other films of Godard. Forever imprinted on my memory are the scenes when Leaud can't understand what his girlfriend says without the help of music, the droll assassination scene, and most important of all, the discussion on the train. This train scene looks so simple, yet it is very subtle and powerful. I saw 'La Chinoise' the first time four years ago, and I felt very detached from the movie. Seeing it again, I think it is one of my most favorite now.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Exciting and entertaining (spoilers), 15 December 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are many reasons why I like this film very much. Firstly, the heroine (Kiberlain) is a very interesting character. She's not an ordinary heroine. She's not entirely virtuous nor evil. While she tries to protect herself from those greedy guys, she also does a very cruel thing to the pitiful Comtesse. However ruthless she is, I can't help cheering for her when she deals with those cunning guys with her quick wit.

Secondly, I think this movie is tremendously exciting. It moves with a relentlessly energetic pace. The excitement I get from this movie is as much as, if not more than, what I get from horror films. This movie makes me feel as if I am watching a horror film in which the heroine has to think fast, move fast, and act fast in order to survive. Instead of using murderous situations and physical fighting, False Servant uses love situations and verbal weapons. The heroine lives in a very risky situation, but her weapon here is her words, and sometimes her money. She must use her words or her lies to seduce, to convince, to persuade, or to cheat others, so that she can survive, or to be the last winner of this game.

I also like very much that the situations in this movie change very rapidly. Every time I think the heroine is safe and can control the game, the situation reverses. There are many times she nearly gets caught or unmasked by other characters, but she still outwits them time and again by creating new elaborate and convincing lies instantaneously. Moreover, the characters she deals with are not easy to cheat. They all have their own clever plans.

Another thing I like very much is the beauty of the dialogue. Most sentences said in this movie are very pretty and witty, and that quality is hard to find in other movies. I saw this movie 3 times, and I find that the more I see it, the more I adore its flowery dialogue and admire the person who translated it from French to English. I wonder how beautiful the original French dialogue is, because the dialogue in the English subtitle makes me feel overjoyed.

I also like that this movie doesn't try to be romantic. There are too many movies about a girl dressed as a boy and then falling in love with a boy. But in False Servant, the heroine doesn't disguise herself and fall in love. She does it in order to destroy the guy. Her disguise doesn't lead her to discover how nice the man is, but leads her to discover how crooked, untrustworthy, heartless, selfish, and greedy the man is. That's quite different from other movies, and that can relate very well to modern audience, I think.

Another thing that I like is that the movie relies solely on the power of its dialogue. The dialogue alone can make this movie much more entertaining than those movies with luxurious settings and costumes. I also like that this movie doesn't hide its fictitiousness. I think that quality goes very well with its insincere characters.

One technique used in this film is quite funny. It's when the characters turn their faces away from other characters and speak out what they think to the audience or the camera. One scene in this movie is also worth mentioning. It's the scene when Trivelin tells Lelio about what happens between the heroine and la Comtesse in the garden. I like that this movie doesn't have to show the garden scene to the audience directly. The audience can visualize that garden scene clearly just by listening to the words of Trivelin. This movie may be made with a very low budget, but it is really rich.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
This movie is a "must-see-at-least-twice", 4 December 2001

The opening scene of this movie can tell you how the whole film will be like: strange, hypnotic, visually stunning, sometimes disturbing, and powerful. This film is about gangsters in Berlin after WWII. It is mesmerizing, and makes me want to see it again and again after it ends. Though I cannot quite understand the whole story of this movie after viewing it for only one time, its atmosphere really entrances me. The atmosphere is strange and has something undescribable about it, something which is unfamiliar and really makes this movie stand out from other movies. And I think its atmosphere corresponds very well with the mental state of the characters. Besides its superb visual quality, the use of plane noises in this movie is quite interesting and very effective. Moreover, there is a sense of discontinuity running throughout the whole film. It seems like some scenes which might have been important to other mainstream films are deemed unnecessary here, and they are indeed unnecessary. To make a movie full of discontinuities might not be difficult, but in this movie, the feeling of discontinuity seems to fit in very well, seems very appropriate, seems so right, and I think to make a movie like this requires a real great talent. The feeling of discontinuity strongly enhances that undescribable atmosphere and makes the movie much more exciting to watch. Furthermore, it is worth noticing that not only some scenes are appropriately left out, but something which would normally have been the focus of the scene is sometimes curiously missing.

As for the performance, Katharina Thalbach has a suitable and memorable role here. The actor who plays Gladow also gives a stunning performance. I have heard that the film is based on a true story, but I think its style, feelings, and power are unique, and quite different from other movies based on a true story. In my opinion, this movie is not only a `must-see', but a `must-see-at-least-twice.'

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