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My Sister (2004)
Poetic and delicate
It took a few viewings to fully appreciate "My Sister". It's one of those films that gets better and deeper once you let it sink in. The film is breathtakingly beautiful, as far as the cinematography goes. I wouldn't even think about calling this a "great looking short film". It's simply great cinematography, by any standard. It's up there with Bertolucci's great "Last Emperor" and Wong Kar Wai's "In The Mood For Love". If you enjoy lush cinematography, strikingly composed frames and elegant camera moves, this film is for you.
Ironically, the visuals are SO majestic that one is distracted by them upon first viewing the film. Which is why the film deserves multiple viewings.
My only two problems with the film are the music, which I felt was a little weak (both in terms of orchestration/arrangement and simply in terms of variety- the same theme is repeated over and over again) and the Italian butcher who embodies the stereotype a little too enthusiastically.
Other than that it's a wonderful film by a gifted filmmaker who should seriously consider insuring his eyes for a lot of $$$.
Buy It Now (2005)
I saw this film at the Cannes Film Festival. Firstly, I am surprised that the running time here is listed as 60+ minutes. The cut that I saw, and the cut that won the Cinefondation award, was 34 minutes. Perhaps there's an extended version? Anyway. I didn't think the film was great, and I certainly didn't hate it. It was "okay". I usually have a strong opinion about what I watch, but with "Buy It Now" I looked at it more as a technical piece than anything else. Maybe it's because I knew the story that it was based on quite well (UK girl who sells her virginity on Ebay). To me, this adaptation of the real-life incident is joyless and heavy-going. The vertical framing techniques employed are quite good, as is the soft focus used on the mother and the deliberately slow pacing when Chelsea is waiting for "the man". But it all feels a little self-indulgent and pointless. What is the film trying to say? It looks heavy, and it feels heavy, but surprisingly the after-taste is faint and quick to vanish.
Having said that, the performances are excellent, some of the techniques used are interesting and the "direct cinema" photography is inspired. For what it is- a student film- it's strong.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Tarantino's Blue Period is OVER!
Just saw Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and was surprised, to be honest, at how incredibly GOOD this film is. Here is a craftsman (or artist, if you prefer) at the top of his game. Some of the shots are simply incredible; the score is, for the most part, vintage Tarantino selections- and the RZA does a very good job at filling the blanks; Uma Thurman is a great female lead, for sheer presence (and decent acting chops). Even Lucy Liu, who I expected was going to re-hash her Charlie's Angel character, burst on the scene like a flaming nunchuck.
The stringing together of the scenes was impeccable. The transitions, the intercutting between dialogue, the flashbacks... I simply could not get enough. Tarantino IS, indeed, having fun here. He is giving us a film that may not go down as a classic, Pulp Fiction style, but that shows us what is yet to come. I doubt that he's lost his writing talents (as some have claimed), and I actually disagree that the dialogue in the film is "poor", or that there are "no memorable lines" (Empire). The kung-fu genre has never been a particularly good park to display Shakespearean writing virtuosisms. The lines work fine. The plot is simple enough, but Tarantino takes a burger and serves it as "steak tartare with sauce au poivre and asparagus terrine". He basically manages to cram so much information into the film that plot is simply irrelevent. What is relevent is the Bride's thirst for blood, her primal sense of vengeance and our total devotion to her. Bill, of course, is one of the greatest characters to ever NOT appear on screen. Overall, a great movie and an example of how a filmmaker's tool is not his pen: it's his eye.