Monday, April 30, 2007

The curse of the golden flower: Beautiful images terrible film

The new film of Yimou Zhang (The Hero) continues the tradition of the Chinese
films with the beautiful and well organised scenes. One could say that
in this particular film the richness of the colors and the balance of
the image is more prominent than ever. On the other hand, the film has
no meaning and no story. It seems that the director just needed an excuse to create an epic series of beautiful pictures. When however the pictures have nothing but boredom to convey eventually they loose their appeal and become a mere extravagance. When the film ends you have like when you eat too much junk food or too much sweets. You are discussed by yourself for having stayed in the theatre for almost three hours.
OK some might accuse me of being too tough on it (even if i dont think so)
but lets compare this film to some of his previous creations like the House of Flying Daggers or even better the Hero. Especially in the Hero case the director has managed not only to create astonishing pictures but also to use the colors and the images in order to convey a meaning.
In this case beauty serves a purpose as the colors -for example- have a
symbolic meaning.The problem is -I suspect- that Yimou Zhang has probably discovered that his pictures sell well in the west. As a result he reached a maniera where the richness of colors and the epic images serve nothing.
The script of The curse of the golden flower has nothing to offer. Intricate relationships and corruption withing the royal family is often demonstrated in films in various and more sophisticated and well though methods. The twists and turns of the plot are rather obvious and do not manage to surprise or get the spectator interested. The pace of the film is slow and tiring. The only remotely interesting idea is the one of the long term poison. The wife of the emperor is poisoned by
her husband. Even though she knows it she is forced to swallow the medicine-poison every few hours. The servants bring her the supposed medicine -in reality
the poison- with an extreme ceremony and watch her drink it. The film begins with this scene. It is a good example of how a simple event can change meaning and connotations according to the feelings of the spectator. What in the begging of the film is simple and trivia becomes sinister and tragic when the information on the true nature of the medicine is revealed. Besides that little drop of some
interest the film is completely dreadful. I will probably have to watch The Hero one more time just in order to wash the experience of The curse of the Golden flower out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

And a comment on Greek Film Theatre Reality

Those who frequent my blog know that not only do I do my phd on David Lynch but i also have a passion for the particular director. Therefor ever since I have heard that his new film was completed and and this year would be releasedI have been wainting with a proper extend of anxiety. I have made plans with which friend i am going to see the film in order not to spoil the experience and have someone fairly educated on Lynch's whims to discuss it afterwards. Most importantly i have resisted the temptation to down load it from some place on inetrnet and see it at home at my TV. A David Lynch film should be watched on big screen and advanced technologially sound equipment a theatre can only provide. The images and the sounds of Lynch's films are so intentionally intense that in order to understand the full impact you have to have your first at least viewing in a theatre. So, the film was presented at the Thessaloniki film festival but unfortunately i live in Athens 500kilometres souther. I thought of travelling just for the film but since i have been playing the adult the recent years and I work and have I a week schedule well i just couldn't make it. As a result i have been waiting for the film to come out at the Greek theatres and believe me in Athens we have plenty of those.
The problem is that even if the cinema magazines have made their announcements and the presentation of the film an ugly rumor has been circulation among the cinephills. It seems that no company will take the risk of launching the newest David Lynch film to the Greek cinema market. Unbelievable! Even if the film has taken contradictory reviews form the Venice and N.York Festival David Lynch is hardly a new or a an unknown director. Many- I believe- would at least be curious if not anxious like me to see his film. So Inland Empire will come out directly on dvd like some second class b-movie? while films like Fly Boys that Hollywood sells will have an official premiere? Not even small central theatres that usually play the independent films wont be able to present the Inland Empire?
I demand Inland Empire on a theatre screen. Otherwise i will be heavily disappointed. I might make jokes on this subject but this example is just a symptom of a bigger and uglier situation.
Unfortunately even in the capital of Greece, in Athens rarely do we have the chance to see something other than Hollywood or English speaking film.Until very recently Japanese Chinese Korean films were never shown even if there is a strong cinematic current in these countries. In a city of millions not even a small theatre does take the risk to make a difference and present an alternative film program. Do they really
think that in a city of millions a central alternative theatre wouldn't gain it's own faithfull audience? After so many years of film attending this lack of initiative never fails to amaze me. Therefore I am forced to conclude for another time yet : Greece is a fucking suburb

Today 30 0f April I heard the good news: It is official Lynchs' new film will be out on the 10th of May. My own interpretation of it will be posted on the blog soon!

The Good Shepherd: a complex slow film with no meaning

Robert De Niro has made a film about the foundation and the history of the CIA. He creates a fantastic character in order to tell a true story. Great and famous actors play all the roles, small and big ones of this film. De Niro in one of his first attempts as director he does the required job adequately but without creating a personal style or something unique.
Mat Damon is represented as a humble unknown American hero. He sacrifices the love of his family, his need of human contact and even his humanity in order to protect his country. His efforts are never recognized. He is a good shepherd because for De Niro it is more important to take care of your country and of society than to take care of your family. It seems that he declares that even if CIA has done unforgivable things, it is the necessary evil for America and America’s culture to prevail. Therefore the meaning of the film is rather conservative and patriotic.
Besides its meaning the film is not even that well made. The history of the CIA is complex. One has to have an adequate knowledge of contemporary history and politics in order to be able to understand the historic references. To make things worse De Niro has also chosen an intricate narrative. Instead of the usual linear story line in this film we have two plots. The first one refers to the past and the other to the somewhat present. As the film progresses the two diverse story lines meet and eventually move further together. Moreover, Mat Demon in the central role is the only actor who doesn’t age along with the others. He has exactly the same face, hair style and everything from his student days up to his middle age. Even if this not aging of the central character is an interesting and apparently a symbolic choice it makes the situation even more impossible. It is rather difficult for the spectator to decipher when the film refers to the past and when to the present. This intricate montage and narrative has no special meaning that would at least partly justify the confusion that is created. As I said before even if De Niro is doing an adequate job as a director the result is rather flat and mediocre. Great actors have been used for all the roles. They manage to give great performances. I am rather impressed by Angelina Jolie in the role of the neglected wife. On the other hand choosing the beautiful and sexy Angelina for this role is probably bad casting. I don’t many would believe that a woman so beautiful would be someone that her husband never loved or never desired.
The Good shepherd is a three hour almost long film with slow pace difficult to follow script that even if you can watch it with some interest in the end you have to wonder why it was made. I was definitely not made for entertaining reason because in that case it would include action scenes and rapid pace. It is a film made for thinking, but it offers nothing to contemplate on.