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Pen-teu-ha-woo-seu ko-kki-ri (2009)
Three lost thirty-somethings try desperately to get a grip on love, life and reality
Director SK Jhung's Searching for the Elephant brandishes bare skin and spews blood with so much gusto that all other considerations seem secondary. The apparent core theme - of people who are lost and spend their lives trying to find their way - seems incidental. Each of the three main characters, childhood friends who are now in their thirties, is struggling with his own particular madness: a photographer battling manic-depression (Jang Hyuk), a sex-addicted plastic surgeon (Jo Dong Hyeok) and a financial trader with a mysterious past (Lee Sang Woo). One reason to watch this film is Jang Hyuk's nuanced and sensitive portrayal of a man with only a tenuous hold on life and reality. His flights to fantasy are given credence by the unexpectedly creative cinematography. In fact, technical coherence is the film's other strength, also evident in seamless jump-cuts through non-linear time phases and across different characters. In the end, I enjoyed the show for what it has to offer - after all, this uneven and quirky film does not seem to take itself seriously.
Un chien andalou (1929)
A captivating slice of unreality
This first effort by Spanish director Luis Bunuel is in a genre of its own. Forget logic and storyline. The 16-minute sequence of black-and-white dream-like images - on scratchy and grainy film from 1929 - are skilfully seamed to suggest passion, fear, envy, violence and, ultimately, beauty. Despite the lack of a plot to hold on to, one never feels lost but is continually engaged, much like witnessing a child's delight in first discovering a playground. Un chien andalou is remarkable for its portrayal of an alternate world where whimsicality and violence coexist without incident. Notwithstanding its Surrealist sensibilities - the film being a collaborative effort by proponents Bunuel and painter Salvador Dali - what ultimately marks it out is its irrepressible humour and ingenuous charm.
Whimsical interlude, purely delightful
Fluffy romances are a dime a dozen, and a story of love found, lost, and that then tries to be found again, is, too, not all that unusual. What lifts Serendipity a little above the run-of-the-mill chick flick, however, is director Peter Chelsom's simple but artful blend of good acting, good chemistry among the leads, dressed with Marc Klein's witty script. John Cusack's jaded sports writer and Kate Beckinsale's new-age trainee psychiatrist make a good-looking and interesting match that would have any audience rooting for them, but no less pleasant to witness is the easy camaraderie between Cusack and real-life buddy, Jeremy Piven, who gets some of the best lines in the film. With the breezy pacing, the film travels effortlessly, providing a whimsical interlude that is delightful from the word go.
Lost in Translation (2003)
I like the understated, quiet feel of the film and the story line, and thought Sophia Coppola did a good job as director. But for me, the film was seriously flawed on 2 counts. One of these is Bill Murray's lacklustre acting. Some people who liked the film saw a middle-aged has-been actor who has nothing to look forward to except waning years of mundane domesticity, but all I saw was someone who fell asleep in his role, a fact that even the technique of the camera zooming in to show disaffectedness couldn't save. To me, his character just did not come through. By contrast, Scarlett Johansson's subtle, textured performance delivered the goods. From her, you do really get the sense of someone who feels lost in her own life, not just in Tokyo. The other problem with the film is the caricaturisation of the Japanese as little people who spoke funny. There's absolutely nothing intelligent about that.