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Normality is out of the question.
I give up. After sitting in front of the computer for almost half an hour, tossing and turning thoughts in my head as I try to write something about my latest adventure at the Auckland International Film Festival "Dogtooth", I've decided that it is not possible to do so.
What I will say is this: watching "Dogtooth" was one of the strangest experiences I've ever had. I have honestly never seen any other film like it. Sometimes hysterical, sometimes shockingly intense. It is a hypnotic trip that displays brilliant originality and borderlines pure insanity. In my humble opinion, it is a film that should be watched by every single person, for the experience alone. Sadly, like so many other gems, I'm almost certain that this film will never find a wide release, so, please do seek it out, I beg you all.
I am so glad that I watched the movie cold, as the only things I knew about the movie was a promotional photo and the fact that it's Greek, a decision that I believe made the experience even more powerful for me, and a decision that I advise you all to take.
Aruitemo aruitemo (2008)
Few other nations can capture the beauty of family drama with such subtlety and grace as the Japanese can. Perhaps it is a blessed legacy left behind by the master Yasujiro Ozu who in his lifetime made over 50 films, all of which are family dramas that often dealt with generational gaps. Japan, more than any other nation struggles with the problem of generational gap, being a nation that has continued to endure conflict between the young and the old, the traditional and the modern. Stepping into Ozu's shoes is the acclaimed director Koreeda Hirokazu, whose films "Nobody Knows" and "After Life" has already garnered universal praises.
"Still Walking" begins as a family reunites to commemorate the death of one of its members. With new members joining the family and old wounds resurfacing, everyone tries their best to pass the two day gathering with as little problem as possible. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well, therein lies the plain and subtle beauty of the film. From a few words exchanged between the grandfather and his new grandson to the laughter of three children as they caress a blossoming flower, these simple moments will linger in your mind with tasteful resonance long after the film.
While watching the movie, I found it hard not to be immersed by the beauty of Japanese suburbia. I could picture myself - like the characters, taking a stroll on a simmering summer day with the cool breeze in my hair as the gentle picking of guitar strings play in the background. Or perhaps eating lunch and drinking cold ice tea on tatami mats as the wind-charm tickles with the slightest vibration. "Still Walking" is a meditation on life and death that may just move you to tears...without even trying.
I won't bore you with any synopsis, chances are you already know them. And hopefully you are already familiar with Park Chan-Wook's work.
I STRONGLY disagree with some of the other commentators in saying that "Park has not moved on from the vengeance trilogy blah blah blah." Because you know what? He HAS!!! The vengeance trilogy were different from each other in style to begin with, how can you even compare the sombreness and subtlety of "Sympathy For Mr Vengeance" with the frantic and extravagance of "Oldboy"? Park Chan-Wook has incredible style, but his movies don't all share the SAME style! That has been true and remains true with the release of "Thirst".
"Thirst" is an incredible picture, it literally has EVERYTHING you want in a movie. Jaw-dropping violence, tasteful gore, great humour, incredible suspense and even very realistic sex scenes. The story is so crazy that at no point can you guess what will happen next. I'm so happy to say that Park is back in top form with this fantastic dark-comic-vampire-love-story. Watch it as soon as you can!
Niu pi (2005)
Minimalistic Film-making At It's Best
Liu Jiayin's debut "Niu Pi" aka "Oxhide" is an impressive exercise in minimum and low budget film-making. The young girl made this docu-drama completely on her own, writing, directing and starring in the film. Liu's real life parents and pet cat plays themselves in the film. Set in a tiny cramped apartment in Beijing. And the film is composed of 23 static interior shots. No, it's not a typo, it really only has 23 shots (the longest shot lasting nearly 20 minutes), and the camera never moves. Master filmmaker Tsai Ming-Liang being the clear influence here. Anyone familiar with Tsai's films would know that patience and an open-mind are vital to truly appreciate his films. The same applies to "Oxhide". I'm sorry to say, half the audience I saw this film with, did not have those things. The theatre became half full/empty before the half way point was even reached. What were they expecting? Did they not read the festival guide? It clearly states: "only 23 shots 110 minutes tiny apartment", doesn't take a genius to work out this is not "The Fast and The Furious". Anyway, oh boy, did they miss out.
The film is a rich blend of life and fiction about the importance of family bond, it's a moving social commentary on the economic hardship faced by the lower-class Beijing families to get through each day. It's also a film that has been executed in exquisite style, whether it's the use of awkward framing creating a sense of claustrophobia in the tiny apartment or the magical use of natural lighting. Not to mention the fantastic acting by these non-professionals and the hilarious dialogue (unfortunately some of the humour will be lost in translation for the non-Mandarin speakers). Definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but for those open to something completely differently, this is a must watch. I was lucky enough to see at the local film festival, and I can only hope that this unknown little gem will get a DVD release in the near future.
Dream Come True For Art-House Fans
A dream come true for art-house film buffs, and anyone whose out looking for an interesting way to spend 90 minutes. This is perhaps one of the most amazing collection of short films. The secret lies in the vast variety of genre and style of the films. From pure eye-candy to dramatic documentaries. In a collection like this, there is no such thing as "out of place". I found all the films enjoyable and interesting. For me, the weakest segment was the Wim Wenders film. It felt like an episode of a made-for-TV mini-series-road-movie. Another let down was the Aki Kaurismaki segment, maybe it's because this was my first Kaurismaki experience, I didn't really "get it". The most powerful being Chen Kaige's nostalgiac reflection of the ever-changing city of Beijing.
The segments in order of preference: Chen Kaige, Werner Herzog, Victor Erice, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Aki Kaurismaki.
My preference could change after multiple viewings. I strongly recommend this collection to film-lovers. Can't wait to see the other collection: "The Cello"
Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA (2000)
BSU: Brotherhood Sacrifice Unity
By looking at the other comments on this movie, it must be obvious to you that this film is not one to be missed. Hence the pointlessness of another comment. But one cannot help but to write a few lines when one has discovered something so great.
Probably considered the most mainstream and lacking in style of Park Chan-Wook's films, this is still a great piece of work and is not one bit inferior than any of the director's later (more explosive) Revenge Trilogy films. When compared with "Oldboy" or "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance", the camera work here does lack a bit of artistic quality. One must forgive Park for this as he is simply lending his directorial talents to a studio picture. This is not a "Park Chan-Wook film" in the most strict sense, he didn't even write the script himself. With that said, this is still a very well photographed film compared to most American films. The snow scene in particular was very breath-taking.
In my opinion, this film ties with "Cut" of "Three...Extremes" as Park's funniest effort. The bonding of the "Brothers" are absolutely hilarious and is very engaging. On top of that, we have a powerfully gripping drama reflecting the Korean people's ideal for unity, the importance of friendship/brotherhood plus an intricate storyline (you try and work out why there's 16 bullets!) you've got a real winner.
The only let down was the slightly weak first few minutes of the film and a few horrible English speaking roles. Would have been a 10/10 otherwise. I love Park Chan-Wook :)
Interesting Little Piece of Gem
This half black/white, half coloured short film was 1 of the 3 projects made by acclaimed Korean auteur Park Chan-Wook before his rise to fame with "Joint Security Area". Like the other 2 films - "Moon is the Sun's Dream" and "The Trio", this film is very rare and almost impossible to get hold of. I luckily came across it on the internet and downloaded it.
The film clearly contains hints of Park's dark sense of humour and love for the obscure which he would further display later on in his Revenge Trilogy.
The story is very weird and interesting. A couple came to the morgue to claim their dead daughter's deformed and almost inrecognisable body after she died in a national disaster. However, after looking at the body carefully, the morgue worker begs to differ.
This little piece of gem is an early display of Park's ability to come up with twisted and interesting story lines and is a must watch for any Park fan.
Tonî Takitani (2004)
Simply the most beautiful and poetic film ever made.
Every frame is like a painting. The film is like an art gallery, we walk through each scene with slow-tracking transitions while Sakamoto Ryuichi's hauntingly beautiful piano score plays. The faint colors of Tokyo has never been so breath-taking.
After watching, I felt alone, cold and inspired. Strictly for audiences who are open to new things, because this is likely the first movie you'll see of this kind. Don't expect a complicated storyline, this is an observant piece of cinema focusing on the study of characters. It moves slow but is never boring. Be patient and just enjoy what is shown to you on the screen.
This is how you really tell a great story visually. Mr Ichikawa Jun should be the man to adapt all of Murakami's stories.