12 Reviews
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Hoy y mañana (2003)
Entitled plain Jane "actress" on first night of street hooking & cheating men
3 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I gave this film as high as a 4 mostly because it does bring a certain fascination in watching such a self entitled and deluded feminist snot get a real street life comeuppance. There is some verite in that.

To call the lead actress, who turns street / club hooker "beautiful" as a couple of reviewers do must be a joke. Or else plugs by female or male friends of hers. She's a 5 at best on a 10 scale, particularly by Argentine standards (where she may be a 4). She also has a boyish body and an utterly apparent heavily feminist, resentful attitude towards men. The sole thing she has going for her is being in her 20s.

She does the opposite of exude sexiness. Instead she exudes a sense of entitlement for being a 20 something girl and a self identifying actress, though not at all a successful one. Frankly I was amazed and non believing that she could be at all successful as anything but a bottom of the price ladder street hooker not to mention club hooker, with her non looks, non body and non sexiness, and radiating hostile resentment. I'd never pick her, no matter how thin the competition. This was in other words an entirely feminist entitled and angry look at prostitution, from the frame among many other clichéd things you can guess and be right, of believing absolutely any 20 something girl can demand and get top street dollar as a hooker. Well at least if she isn't obese.

She richly deserves to be sacked at her waitressing job which she takes utterly for granted despite the fact her rent is way overdue and she has no money for food or anything else, and even though she's obviously just barely not already been sacked for repeated prior lateness etc., at the time when she actually is. She's utterly alienated and exasperated her comfortable but not rich professional father and it seems the rest of her family, which she's long stopped communicating with. She also has "too much pride" to really tell him the dire straights she's in. In fact she proclaims to him "I do have a job" when she's just been sacked from it earlier that day.

What is there to like about this girl? I found absolutely nothing. I couldn't stand her in any way.

I found myself practically cheering when after repeatedly trying to cheat men by giving them less than they'd paid for in every encounter, the last man of her night forcibly takes what he paid for. After giving her 200 pesos (which by then we know is high dollar for full on sex over a good long time period in a room), and she then tries to immediately bolt the room after giving him a preliminary blowjob that maybe took all of five minutes if that, he forcibly stops her from leaving and forcibly takes the full on sex with her he'd paid for, while angrily telling her street slags are plentiful, and she moans back, "I am not a puta" (whore). Not only is she one, but a plain Jane, highly unpleasant cheating puta who's totally not worth bottom peso. Hooray, she was forcibly made to provide what the customer she solicited paid high pesos for.

All you rad feminists and manginas can get outraged all you want. To call what happens to her in the end rape as one user reviewer did is ridiculous. Sure you can rape prostitutes but he paid top dollar and she tried to run out with just a five minute blow job, which clearly wasn't what he paid for. He forced her to give him what he did pay for. That isn't rape. If she'd offered him back all but 50 pesos, maybe, but she hardly did that. The self styled entitled serial thief. Just like she tried to steal from the guy she rather liked but didn't want to, who paid her 300 pesos to spend the night. And then ran off after one shag and his dozing off – until he caught her and took back most (but not all, he probably took back 200 pesos it seemed) of what he'd paid her, saying, rightly "that's all you're worth").

She richly deserved it and I hope she was taught a lesson. Beautiful young girl? Not by the furthest stretch, in any way whatsoever. She's horrid. But perhaps no longer feeling so invulnerable nor entitled. Which would be a good thing.
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La Dolce Vita (1960)
Historical context
12 October 2009
I'd like to make a comment of limited scope, that does not purport to be in any way a review of this classic and essential film.

I think La Dolce Vita was important in many ways in Europe reasserting itself against the United States, in the wake of WWII, the Marshall Plan, and the overwhelmingly impressive and dominant American economy at the time. At that time (made 1959, released 1960) it seemed that all the new money was being made in America; all the hottest stars and starlet girls were in Hollywood; all the technology and new invention was in America (but Sputnik), and so on.

However, America still did seem to be sexually uptight. As well there did remain and there was rebuilding, old and new wealth in Europe.

La Dolce Vita was all about old money and Euro libertine/decadent ways reasserting themselves, in many ways as an exaggeration to find a way to counter American "mindspace" supremacy at the time.

That of course made it very popular among American intellectuals who were themselves looking for ways to counter (and individual more brainy than rich or connected men to be alpha to girls in doing so) the American establishment.
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The O.C.: The Distance (2004)
Season 2, Episode 1
Season 4 is the dregs. Don't watch.
3 February 2009
OK, episode 1 is sorta interesting, in a very un The OC sort of way. It scores on being (non sexually) shocking re Ryan, I guess. It's well written. But it definitely feels alien and like it's trying too hard to be different. The rest of the season is similar with much, and then very much less interest.

I'll admit that I'm a big fan of Mischa Barton on The OC, maybe even more than I realized before her death at the end of Season 3 (classic long run TV series actor move on, of course). And I would miss her and prob. like the series less w/out her regardless, but it's not just that. Her Taylor substitute is just plain annoying. OK funny in small doses, but we get huge ones in Season 4 and I want an END to her. But no. She's a keeper, throughout. There are in fact no hot chicks at all in Season 4. Please don't tell me the youngest Cooper, Kaitlain is hot. Not. Yeah I'm making allowances for 15. Marissa (Mischa) was only 16 when SHE started this gig.

All soaps including night time ones, and to some extent all romantic (and most overall) TV series are heavily female oriented and pitched, because of 1) the viewer demographics and 2) even more the advertiser calculation of likely purchaser decision making. OK, I know this, which doesn't mean I have to like it, or think it might not suggest some redress/balance. But Season 4 was pure Gothic romance novel female wish fullfillment, with the desires and males not considered at all, except as they ideally should be to fulfill some female or other. E.g. when Kirsten get's clearly accidentally and very surprisingly pregnant at 40, 18 years after her last kid with her husband, she feels no need to even ask her husband Sandy whether he wants to have this baby, she just assumes as her feminist lefty given right that it's all entirely up to her, and that he'll fall slavishly into adoring line. Which of course he does. Disgusting. And so on. I could go on and on.
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Fastlane: Simone Says (2003)
Season 1, Episode 17
One of Mischa Barton's first screen appearances.
3 February 2009
I went back and pulled this episode off the net after going through the complete first three seasons of The O.C., originally because Olivia Wilde, who I love from House MD, had one of her few earlier major appearances in most of the first half of season 2 on The OC, but then because I also fell in love/lust with Mischa Barton in that series. So I had to then go back and watch it via web downloads from S01E01. The extras on The OC season one mention Mischa's appearance here as one of the things that lead them to cast her as primary teen hottie in the OC.

Mischa Barton is truly hot in an elegant, utterly feminine, feisty but ultimately sexually submissive, captivating way. And smart too.

This was one of her debut screen roles -- and as a middle teen (16) pulled off a girl two years older than herself -- a real rarity in Hollywood (where teen hottie and/or real acting roles are nearly always played by girls at least two years older than the role). She's great in it, in a spoiled but not deep inside ingenue sort of way.

As for the series itself - ehh. Mischa though I'm gonna follow.
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Proof (1991)
Fundamentally false attractions
9 November 2008
I was interested in seeing this movie when it appeared on cable, and it's principally interesting, as one of the first bits of work of Russell Crowe which are widely available. He does a fine job. Unfortunately I really can't recommend it. Whoever did the casting did a dreadful and fundamentally false job. Yes it's slow paced but it also has low intellectual density. There just isn't enough going on in this narrow little world. Worse a good lot of what is going on rings fundamentally false.

There certainly could be a great deal interesting about a blind man, Martin, and his long time faithful housekeeper (played by Picot), who's sexually and emotionally obsessed with him even though or maybe partly because he treats her coldly and even semi cruelly, while never acceding to her desires for intimate relations. Martin too has a twisted attraction to Picot, primarily because he can deny her, and yet she keeps coming back to him. We learn it all goes back to some lies Martin's convinced his mother repeatedly told him as a child, and related things. Into all this twisted pair comes the early twenties Russell Crowe, working for the moment as a restaurant kitchen worker, who surprisingly accedes to the blind man's at first very hesitant efforts to befriend him. Increasingly they do become genuine if strange friends, around the conceit of Martin's use of picture taking as "proof" that he's experiencing the world, and his need for someone to describe the pictures back to him "so he can label them". The housekeeper Picot finds this sunny friendship threatens her psychological pas de deux with Martin, and so a dark psychological triangle ensues.

A story like this lives or dies according to it's artistic understanding of human character dynamics and psychological forces. This Martin would simply not attract or hold Picot's interest. I get the mutual masochism/sadism going on, but those things require a sufficiently worthy subject to become darkly obsessed with to begin with. I see why Martin might be to Picot, but not at all why Picot would. That simply doesn't work. Martin doesn't have the female sexual attraction chops sufficient for a Picot. It's false.

OK she's a few years (about five) older (though she doesn't look it) though both are in their thirties, but she is good if not spectacular looking, thin and even has a rather naturally elegant and intelligent air about her. He's good enough looking but hardly suffused with charisma or edgie energy. Instead he's at least fairly nerdy looking, with absolutely nothing going on in his life, socially or achievement wise. He does essentially nothing.

For her to be obsessively attracted to a blind man is hardly impossible. If he were accomplished in some way, especially artistically, or rich or socially connected, or very intelligent and intellectually interesting, or at least had compelling and believable ambitions, then it could be believable. If he had a truly magnetic personality others, a number of others, would be attracted to him too. They aren't. Here he's not even in any social network. He lives a tiny almost hermit life.

Meanwhile, it's unbelievable enough that a woman of Pico's age (mid thirties), looks and intelligence, with no immigrant language challenges, would remain a long term housekeeper, much less one to a blind man in a pokey little flat, for little money.

Her obsessive attraction to him just doesn't work for fundamental reasons of female sexual dynamics. The mutual orphans at a young age thing and duet of dependent cruelness could well juice up and twist an initial sexual attraction based on a lot more than we have here, but as it is, it just doesn't compute. And so it tells us false things about people, and women.

I could say similar things about Crowe being attracted to Martin as a friend he spends lots of time with. Now if Martin were rich or well connected, or had knowledge of or entre into some other world that Crowe felt shut out of, that would be something else. But the Crowe of this film, though believably enough a "black sheep" who's irresponsible and has gone from job to job, is obviously a high testosterone stud of a guy. Crowe can play the introvert and often has, and does here as well, in addition to the tough "bad boy" side to him. It's not impossible that his character would accept the friend overtures of someone with Martin's personality. But it does seem will nigh impossible to me that he'd spent lots of time with this Martin who has so little to offer – i.e. inhabited such a tiny, do nothing and know no one world as Martin does here.

If dark psychological dramas aren't based on true character dynamics, then really what are they worth? False insights are worse than useless.
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She got the store???!!!
9 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Heartbreak Kid is a mildly amusing offbeat romantic comedy that's at least a tad outside the usual mold of such fare. As many others have noted it's not anywhere near as funny or engaging as the Farrelly brothers' best work, such as "There's Something About Mary", but it does retain some of that taboo breaking humor.

On a side note though I feel I've got to comment on one bit of social reflection that emerges in the last few moments of the film. In the divorce "she got the store"???!!!!! WHAT!!!!??? Why did she get anything for that 1 week marriage, much less his livelihood to that point??

Romantic comedies always contain a fair amount of background on the state of play between the sexes. It's generally a female centric one, since after all it's a genre pitched squarely and unambiguously at a female audience. Yeah you want to offer something for the guys, who are generally either in dating or wife/gf pleasing mode, but that's secondary. So OK there's always a slant.

Nonetheless I thought it remarkable that after a disastrous honeymoon only length marriage lasting maybe a week before separation, that Stiller would off handedly mention, as though it's a matter of unquestionable course, that in the divorce his ex wife "got the store". The store that he acquired prior to the micro length marriage or even before meeting his momentary wife, that was his only livelihood to that point. Not a bad two weeks work for her! Fair? Something to just accept as the normal course of American life?

Even in Cali this would be an unlikely result even now, but my point is that it's treated here as a given in our "romantic" culture at this point. WHAT AN OUTRAGE – especially since a somewhat less exaggerated version of the same all too often is a given. And then people suppose it's mere age old "fear of commitment" that's causing so many of the more in demand men to delay marriage so long, or increasingly to avoid it completely, in favor of cohabitation etc.

(Yeah I know it's a plot device but it's note remotely necessary - he could just as easily have sold it himself.)
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Moll Flanders (1996)
The 1725 novel's Moll Flanders is MUCH more interesting
16 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's perfectly apparent reading though a number of these user comments that almost none of those reviewers have read the novel. I share with another reviewer the view that a movie need not necessarily stick closely to the text that originally inspired it, and sometimes with some novels almost cannot and remain coherent or at all tight. Some movies are better than the novels their based on and others although they stray quite far afield are comparably good.

There was no necessity to junk the original here though, and what's much more important, the result is FAR, FAR less interesting than the original, even considering just the story itself and not so much language, etc.

Though this is I think quite a good movie, with strong acting, it's also a thoroughly conventional story. OK it's still somewhat unusual (though hardly unique) for the feminist heroine to have done considerable time as a prostitute (calling her a whore is entirely within the sense of the novel but seems contrary to the ultimately squeaky clean feminist spirit of the movie) but she was after all an orphaned little girls escaping clerical rape and pedophilia in the movie version, had few options, and didn't know what she was getting into (that last does mirror the book). But otherwise it's a thoroughly conventional tale that hardly strains our sympathies for Moll or makes us wonder how she kept or ever rediscovered her heart and soul – as the book most certainly does do.

You see my problem is that not only could a movie have closely followed the plot and events of the novel (chopping some side stories of course), but it would have been a FAR, FAR more interesting film if had. Defoe's (he also wrote Robinson Crusoe) famous subtitle may give you some flavor: "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, &c. Who Was Born in Newgate, and During a Life of Continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, Besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife (Whereof Once to her Own Brother) Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at Last Grew Rich, Liv'd Honest, and Died a Penitent." The novel's Moll wasn't just a whore, but determined to become a damn good and successful one. She threw herself into her work unreservedly – unlike in the movie. She was an enthusiastic thief, with her own rationale and justification. She married five times, often with a gold diggers purpose. She ended up in colonial Virginia in its early days, when fortunes could and were being made by all kinds of clever people (though almost always by men), and made hers from a beginning there as an indentured servant (as a judicial punishment), that is, a quasi slave for a period of a few years.

The Moll of the novel was a true female adventurer. Like most males who have been through and seen so much, and who had risen based on her cold calculations about people and by using people and their weaknesses, we wonder if she can ever really feel again, but she can and does, when she gets some security. The real Moll Flanders is a fascinating female figure, and to write so sympathetically (though not without some deprecating and ironic asides from time to time) was truly revolutionary in the early 18th century. History of literature aside, she remains a fascinating character – much more so than this movie's rather Disney feminist heroine, who never wants to do any of the bad things she does and stops doing them as soon as she possibly can, consistent with her love commitment, etc., etc.

Interestingly when a movie was done of Tom Jones, who was in some ways a rather similar if a bit less sympathy challenging male character living in more or less the same time period, the movie stuck much more closely to the original story - and that film was done some thirty-five years earlier. Those two characters, Moll Flanders and Tom Jones were perhaps the two most notorious sexual rakes of the highly popular early English novel. Too bad the even more interesting female rake is so toned down for full or facile feminist hagiography purposes, I suppose – that is to say, for full enthusiastic acceptance by the widest possible contemporary female and other audience.

I only hope someone will do a movie that is or could be entitled "The Real Moll Flanders".
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Babel (I) (2006)
Greatly overrated for quasi political reasons; Japanese segment excellent and by far best
9 March 2008
Greatly overrated film by the Woody Allen set, (I like/love many Woody Allen films btw.) First of all it's slow paced, and not visually or intellectually / dialogue rich enough to justify that, in either of which case I'm often a very happy camper.

But next I just have to get to it's utterly self absorbed politicized mindset, as opposed to e.g. really getting deeply into individual charters as lived in an individual culture. Yeah there's some of the later, but a lot of the former. The MESSAGE is 1) we are all connected, even from far away, much more closely than you think, six degrees of separation taken international yada yada yada (but it's basically bs); 2) the US is way too hung up on terrorism and that wasn't what was behind the crime / recklessness gone way wrong at all; 3) to return to 1 in another guise, we are all one, kumbaya, kumbaya.

There are three segments to this film, which are inter-cut and increasingly and sometimes surprisingly interwoven. The surprises are actually the chief thing that recommends this film, and I won't reveal them. The Japanese one, which has by far the least air time, is also by far the best. Actually, this part expanded would have made one hell of a good movie. It does have a surprising plot connection to the rest of the film, but it's otherwise just about completely disconnected and separate (and better) in profundity of concerns, style, and even execution and economy. These segments never dawdle. Oh, and the lead actress here, and yeah her friend too, is hot - and very sympathetic. This is actually one of the best modern themed and set Japanese film segments I've seen.

The Moroccan one, which seems dominant but which may be equal or only slightly ahead in air time compared to the SoCal/Mexico one, is intermediate in quality and interest. It's decent, and has a bit (but not so much really) interesting local Moroccan color, but it's way too slow, and well just dull.

The SoCal / Mexican segment is just dreck, heavily messaged with anti immigration law enforcement message, and cultural embarrassing messages. In fact the illegal Mexican immigrant nanny makes utterly appalling decisions, though yes under the pressure of the ethically worse (but more successful) decisions of her nephew, whom she continues to embrace despite all (disgustingly to me and my moral universe), and in fact criminal ones: such as, leaving aside immigration issues, child endangerment, criminal neglect (yeah she had a duty and position of trust, until she resigned), and the like.

I watched this film because of it's ratings and the buzz, though I expected I'd probably be disappointed. I was, massively. Would I recommend you viewing it? Not unless you watch one hell of a lot of movies (which I do), and then, well, judge for yourself after reading my review.
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Queen Margot (1994)
Gorgeous and smoking Adjani in a sumptuous historical drama -- but an invented heroine.
11 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I love well done historical fiction and films. This one is excellently done, in it's acting, sumptuous sets, costumes, lively pace and adventure and occasional high violence. It's also sensually smoking, with the gorgeous and intensely passionate and feminine Adjani holding nothing back. She even manages at twice the age to look almost young enough to play 19 year old Margot at her wedding.

It's a fairly easy film to enjoy if you don't worry too much about the plot turns and detailed historical machinations, and even more rewarding to watch several times or more seriously, especially if you do some background reading at Wikipedia or elsewhere.

Its historical accuracy is however a decidedly mixed picture. The sense of 16th century French court life, the major historical events including the massacre, and almost all the major figures are quite accurately portrayed. Even such figures as the Protestant Admiral Coligny and Guise, Margot's principal lover at the time of her arranged marriage, are accurately portrayed. De la Mole seems to be either wholly or largely invented, but it's common for more wholly personal charters to be in historical fiction and that's generally fine with me. So too is it here, except in essence it portrays him as the love of her life – whereas she doesn't seem to really have had one.

The film though seeks not merely to view Queen Margot and her voluminous affairs sympathetically, but to entirely lionize her for invented reasons. Given that she's the principal character in the film and not a trivial historical figure, that's not unimportant. While not hiding the fact that she never loved her husband and had many lovers, it did soft peddle her pronounced and highly indiscrete promiscuity, and largely invented both her "sisterly" loyalty to her husband, and tolerant and humanitarian heroic acts on behalf of him and the Protestant Huguenots more generally.

Following Dumas it seeks to portray her as a woman who loyally and enduringly loved a man through thick and thin, just not the man she was forced to marry, but instead the minor Huguenot la Mole. In fact Margot's relationships seemed to have been if often passionate, also often simultaneous, overlapping, in quick succession, and not especially marked by enduring loyalty. If the contemporary portraits at Wikipedia can be believed, she while attractive was also not the transcendent beauty that is Adjani, though I hardly complain that Adjani was chosen. I'm not condemning Margot's sexual voraciousness but I am saying that the whitewashed, false and sanitized view of it here is rather in the nature of propaganda or myth. At one point for example la Mole says she's been fated to have lovers who die off on her, which seems to have had little basis.

It was not unaccepted at the time for queens or female aristocrats in passionless arranged marriages to have lovers, but they were generally supposed to do so discretely, in a way that did not bring ridicule or dishonor to their husband, if honorable. Husbands too, though admittedly more universally tolerated in having affairs, were supposed to honor their wives. Both were also expected to try for some sort of marital love or at least a kind of intimate respect, and to attempt to produce legitimate heirs. Queen Margot seems to have never done any of this, or certainly not much. Most unreformed male libertines who accomplish little aren't so loved either.

It's not clear she ever accomplished much, including having any children, not to mention any heir to the French throne – which she could have done (unless as seems likely she was, or became, barren - STD's?).

More important though is the way the film seeks to portray Margot as a heroine to the persecuted Huguenots, not because she believed in their religious cause, but because she was a firm believer in tolerance and humanitarianism, or became both after witnessing the massacre. Both were true of her husband Henri, who acted upon them especially after becoming "the Good" King Henri of France, but I see little evidence they were of Margot. Instead I strongly suspect she was lionized by Alexandre Dumas, and likely by earlier Huguenot tales, traditions and perhaps lesser novels, in aide of gallantry, the Huguenot and liberal cause and their integration into French national affection. (There was after all, they said, at least one good French royal at the time of the St. Bartholomew's massacre.) This seems built largely on Queen Margot's being the one member of the French royal family who wasn't intent on persecuting the Huguenots, since her interests were rather elsewhere than religion, politics or idealism.

As well her close personal, "sisterly", relationship with her husband seems to be almost or entirely invented by Dumas, in service of our sympathy for her. Instead Henri several times provided sanctuary to her when she had nowhere else to go, despite their at best strained and tempestuous and thereafter icy relationship. Henri did not in fact seek to bring Margot to Navarre with him when he fled Paris nor did she want to go, with or without her lover(s). Instead several years later she partly fled there from her brother King Henry III of France (who takes power as the film ends) and was partly banished due to her increasingly scandalous and heedless behavior. Again much later, when she had long been divorced from Henri and grown old, isolated and nearly penniless, in an act which speaks much more about Henri's character than their relationship, Henri brought her back to the French court, where she eventually had some role in helping care for his children by his second wife. I've also seen no evidence she helped Henri escape to Navarre or before that convinced him to convert to Catholicism to save his life.

I can see much reason to understand and have some sympathy for Queen Margot, but little reason to view her as a heroine.
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Word of Mouth (1999)
Highly erotic. With someone this special, could we handle mutual love if she ended up wanting to continue?
25 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
No spoilers in first three paragraphs. I for one would love to read a review such as this to get a better idea of whether this bit of soft core is really all that special in a way that appeals to me, or not.

Catalina Larranaga does indeed have the attractions ascribed to her by the two previous reviewers. I for one don't think she's stunningly beautiful, though she is very attractive in an adult stylishly very cute, flirty sort of way. What's more, she adds up to utterly stunning in her own way. Very intelligent, wonderfully coquettish, always in control but in a playful, beguiling, "having fun together" sort of way. She acts quite French in the sense of that most attractive subset of French coquettes. She knows how to make men's fantasies happen in ways that leave her on top and both sides happy. Does she always want to be a little on top, though not meanly, or is that how she knows it's best to do her highly skilled work? Will she ever release?

The erotic works on several different levels in this film. And it's VERY erotic. First it's just wonderfully teasing. It does indeed help get any self pleasuring job done. It is great couples erotica as well. Her body is all natural, and the sex isn't freakish in any way, nor highly athletic. We can all do what she does physically. But it's really hot, not only because she has a fine body, but more because she is a great mental sexual performer. Most of what's especially hot is what she's putting in our heads.

Beyond that though it's also a fairly subtle, but also right there in front of us, exploration of the role of control, light but real control and sexual power skillfully exercised, in many sexual fantasies. Here as in so much American erotica, particularly of the soft porn variety, it's the woman who's really in control, while she sometimes makes the man feel he is. But here it is done really engagingly. It's not so bad to have this woman in control. It looks pretty wonderful.

Part of how she manages to have such a female fantasy sort of call girl lifestyle, is by being extremely selective in her client base. Every one of her clients whom we see (except one) is someone who looks and acts like an intelligent stud. She is at such a rarefied level of her profession that she can manage to be so choosy and still charge top dollar and get apparently all the business she wants. Well, in real life she probably couldn't demand absolute top dollar and be so tightly filtering, but she probably could get fairly close to it. Part of how she manages to be so selective is by getting a really good crowd trying to get in. She does that by limiting her clientèle to "word of mouth" referrals. Start with a smart high earning stud or two (perhaps with freebies or big discounts first time or two or upon referrals that both meet her standards and become new regulars. All this makes sense - pretty smart way to go, any would be call girls out there. ;-) The movie doesn't actually say all this, but there are hints.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is the exploration of the budding infatuation the starting out documentary filmmaker is feeling for her, and which she first claims to be feeling for him – but we're never entirely sure if it's not another act, or partial act. Probably partly true and partly acting, like the rest of how she's arranged her sex life. Like her feelings for clients she kisses warmly and has orgasms with and whose company she enjoys – but never allows herself to feel any clingy attachment. She never allows herself to be swept away.

She once was swept away in a marriage to a former client, and it ended in divorce we learn, when he couldn't handle her profession after loving the world traveling high life the two shared apparently as she classily hooked, before their child was born, and then taken from her. We can feel through her playful seduction of the filmmaker (a seduction it appears she can take or leave but would rather take) that she's so special that maybe one could live with her having done this work, especially when she says that this time she'd quit if someone like him helped her leave the life for something else like legit movies that was attractive. But then we wonder if she really would leave it, or anyway having multiple liaisons. She evidently loves the playful power trip and also the sexual variety, if not having no one to truly love or be loved by in her life.

And yet we've been induced to feel great attraction for this woman, who is not mean or thoughtlessly hurtful, and we even wonder if we could deal with her work or its less frequent analog without pay continuing to some extent, after we'd fallen mutually in love and moved in together. He evidently decides he couldn't, and that he can't be at all sure she'd really stop. But how much is he still fantasizing about her? His film asks him and he says he isn't, but it's hard to believe. Perhaps WE'LL go on fantasizing about her? No doubt he made the right decision, especially for him, but would everybody? Especially with someone like her who is not going to be submissive to him, though PERHAPS not really dominant either? Just able to get it all while we probably couldn't, really. Not so much anyway, as a beautiful woman always easily can, if she wants to and her mate will let her.

It's all pretty intriguing erotic stuff. And VASTLY more intriguing than 90% of the rest of the porn, soft and hard, that's out there.
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Very moving, starts one way, ends another. Not a cliché by end.
24 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Only the final short paragraph has spoilers.

I found this movie to be greatly moving. I'm not such an easy sell on those sorts of emotions in films. I love films, all sorts of films. It's not so hard for me to like a movie for something (yeaah Pauline Kael). But deeply moving? I don't say or feel that so often.

It starts oh so differently than it end.

We begin with a beautiful but aging in her line of work (mid 40s) and clearly the worse for wear lower end prostitute (but not lowest) being roughed up, though mostly threatened, by a pimp over a large debt, perhaps money stolen from him, which we are lead to believe he thinks she really does owe. Aside from our natural sympathy for beautiful women being roughed up by brutish men, she also seems brave but overwhelmed. However, we also think given her former and to a degree present beauty she must be a woman of base instincts (probably sex and thrill submission addicted) and little to no self control, who has been bottom feeding for a long time. So one settles into the likely somewhat lurid tale of a woman being taken advantage of, who though she shouldn't be brutalized, maybe is more interesting as an object of pretty base lust, who we can hope will clean up enough to be more inspiring in that regard.

As I said it transitions into something very different.

We end up learning that while all our first impressions were probably more or less true, it came about for reasons very different than we thought, given the standard range of cinematic scenarios for this plight -- overwhelming drug addition, childhood and continuing thereafter abuse at the hands of controlling males, or blackmail inducing submission to sexual debasement, and then once barriers have been crossed and self image destroyed, descent into hopelessly self destructive thrills of the moment. And yes there are signs that some of these things (not saying which to avoid spoilers here) may have been part of her story. But not the crucial, breaking part. It was something else that caused the initial descent, or rather initiated two or more lengthy descents. Once we realize that and what it was, it has real plausibility and becomes an aaah-hah - there may be quite a few, maybe pretty many, cases like hers out there.

The ending is a sort of French Hollywood ending. More reasonable and settling than the prototypical Hollywood ending, but just right and hopeful and plausible. None of us can be sure it will work out but who among us doesn't hope that it will?

Oh – and most of the on screen men, after the initial scenes, are good guys with the power and moxie to be otherwise to this vulnerable and once (and possibly once again) beautiful woman. Which is refreshing.

BIG SPOILERS-DON'T READ IF HAVEN'T SEEN: One last thing. Well more than half the user reviewers don't seem to realize that she's intermittently SERIOUSLY mentally ill. Schizophrenic episodes with memory loss I'd guess. Is she on prescribed psychotropic pills otherwise to stay in remission? We aren't shown. The director may be vague or wrong about the exact science, but that's the MESSAGE! Geeezee.
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War particularly civil war has a terrible cost but is sometimes still necessary.
27 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
(No spoilers until after the all caps word "spoilers:" below.) Those writing comments here, and there are many, who say this is an anti-war movie simply didn't understand it. Try watching it again with an open mind.

It is not, any more than Saving Private Ryan is, an anti-war movie. What both movies do is make viscerally and unforgettably real the horrible costs of war. They celebrate the sacrifices of fallen comrades even while they note that sometimes unwise actions on their part, sometimes inept decisions above, and sometimes partly unfathomable altruism was directly responsible.

They are both absolutely at their core movies about not taking a decision to enter war at all lightly. (Which can of course mean they inform a view that wars are often not worth their cost, such as many reasonably feel, the present one in Iraq.) However in both movies the director is plainly and unmistakably saying, for those with any ability to see things outside their own ideological prism, that the wars that each were portraying (WWII and the Korean war) were for their country's and their citizens' well being, unquestionably necessary and worth it.

The title is brilliant and couldn't have been better chosen. In addition to, as I understand it, making reference to the S. Korean national flag, it sums up after you've seen the movie, both the reasons for fighting, and the tragedy of the divided brother nations that resulted.

While S. Korean fanatics both within the army ranks and outside of it are shown as sometimes acting as unnecessarily brutally to civilians as the Communist north, there is no question that the director's overriding message is that fascistic brutality is systematic and pervasive on the Communist side, while more episodic and triggered by rages of revenge for the most part on the Southern one. SPOILERS: The truly lunatic extremes to which the older brother is given once he has crossed over to the N.Korean side in the belief that both his brother and fiancé have been killed by anti-Communist fanatics in the South, is a nice allegory for the then and still now fanaticism of many citizens of the Communist north. His final flipping to fight against the soldiers of the North in his dying moments is clearly an emotional expression of the Southern hope and belief that at some point and somehow their brothers to the North can and will regain their sanity – even many of the lunatic true believers among them.

What this movie clearly does is take the anti-war sentiment that is and especially at the time of the film's release was gripping the young in the South, acknowledges the partial validity of the sentiment, but then moves to show why their fathers were heroes in fighting back against the invading totalitarian North, and why despite the terrible costs it was nonetheless worth it. It's easy to see why it's the most viewed movie in S. Korea ever. It's a moving and fascinating film for non Korean Americans as well. It's an intimate look at people who we see as both similar to us in many essentials, and quite different as well in some others.
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