Author Topic: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 297159 times)

maŮana

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 20867
  • Check your public library
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1510 on: January 20, 2011, 01:40:36 PM »
Nice work with each of the last 3 verdicts. Of those 6, I've only seen Ju Dou and I'm happy to see it advance.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2011, 01:47:27 PM by matt tmw »
There's no deceit in the cauliflower.

roujin

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 15453
  • it's all research
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1511 on: January 22, 2011, 03:08:35 PM »
roujin's song of the exile... or his 16th verdict

Musuko vs. Nabbie's Love

Musuko Yoji Yamada, 1991

The film stars the Japanese Carl Perkins fan from Mystery Train as he fights off the pressure from his family to grow up and stuff. The film has three sections. The first is when all the family goes to Iwate prefecture to where their father lives to honor the anniversary of the mom's death. This is where the issue of what will happen to Dad as he gets older is brought up. Everyone pays their respects and then leaves after a while. The second part has to do with the young son's struggles to survive in Tokyo. He's quit this other job and taken up residence working for some kinda steel place. Soon he grows infatuated with a girl he meets, but she never responds to him. The third part has the Father taking a trip to the big city. Oh oh, too much plot. Must recover! The good news is that all of this is done in a reserved and carefully realized way. While the plot threatens saccharine nonsense, it (mostly) sidesteps those pitfalls, and delivers a surprising emotional punch. The brow is right in the middle, but I didn't mind. For once.

Nabbie's Love Yuji Nakae, 1999

Nanako returns to the island where her grandparents live. She's moved on to Tokyo, but she's in kinda of a transitional period and has gone back to regroup. A few others have also returned to the island: a random dude who wears bad shirts, and an older man who has seen the world and seems to know his way around. This is a much more eccentric film; or, rather, one that's much more full of local color than Musuko. It seems that in this island pretty much everyone sings. As Nanako spends time with her grandparents, she visits some random dude named the patriarch who sings to them and plays that cool instruments, she bumps into some fat lady who likes to sing opera all while her Irish boyfriend (from I-love-you land or something) plays the violin and everyone bursts into music. It could be considered a quasi-musical, that's how many numbers there are. The film's story has to do with the mysterious old dude who apparently back in the day had the hots for Nanako's grandma and has come back to fulfill the promise of 50 years ago. Meanwhile, the grandpa talks about how he likes big tits, plays his little instrument with the guy with the bad shirts, while Japanese silent film is evoked in flashback, more singing goes on, and old youthful passions are rekindled. It's definitely a charming film. Not quite the vacation I've always wanted, but good enough. My main problem had to do with the lead actress' performance because it just often reduced itself to just making faces or speaking like she had just come from doing anime voiceovers. Not that you would understand that, but I certainly would. The resolution (again thru song) is wonderful though, if completely perfunctory. Now that I have seen love, I know what it is. Now we can sing.

Both are interesting and wonderful in their own peculiar ways, but I think there's a higher chance of someone liking Musuko in the next round. Plus, it does not feature Ashley MacIsaac.\



oh, FEB, I have missed you in these cold nights.

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 24235
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1512 on: January 22, 2011, 06:48:21 PM »
Both do sound interesting. One from the beginning of the decade one from the end. I don't imagine you can tell that from watching it though, can you? Good write up.

Only 28 films left to be matched up this round!

Melvil

  • Godfather
  • ******
  • Posts: 9978
  • Eek
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1513 on: January 22, 2011, 07:05:15 PM »
Hooray! Musuko really impressed me. "Surprising emotional punch" sounds about right. Glad to see it stick around!

pixote

  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 32632
  • Up with generosity!
    • yet more inanities!
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1514 on: January 22, 2011, 08:22:45 PM »
Only 28 films left to be matched up this round!

Potentially plus another thirty (resurrected films), once my fever subsides.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Bill Thompson

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 17562
  • DOOM!!!!
    • Bill's Movie Emporium
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1515 on: February 17, 2011, 12:12:21 AM »
Lan Feng Zheng (The Blue Kite, 1993)

Taking on Communist China is no small task. The Communist movement within China is a topic all unto itself. From there you encounter a waterfall of topics that all deserve a movie of their own, or even a series of movies. The exploits of countless families once China became a Communist nation would be worth telling. Even something like the change that takes place at a factory could make a great movie. Trying to take a broad look at life under the Communist Mao regime in China seems daunting and ends up being one of the things that holds Lan Feng Zheng back.

The director of Lan Feng Zheng, Zhuangzhuang Tian, wants the simple day to day life of his characters to be the focus. In this regard spending time with Tietou, his mother Chen Shujuan and the revolving door of father figures that pass through his life is certainly an interesting experience. But, it is also in this realm that the film begins to stretch itself too thin. We see too much of this family, the tendrils of the story of the family spread so far out that at times it is confusing what is happening to whom and why. Many times I found myself interested in what new calamity was befalling Shujuan. But, at the same time I often found myself wondering who this character was, or why we were now so far away from the family unit in an unknown factory. Eventually I was able to deduce what was going on, I would never say I was lost. But, Lan Feng Zheng assumes a bit too much about the knowledge its viewer will have in every scene.

These assumptions do not stop at something as subjective as narrative flow. Mr. Tian has crafted a film that expects its audience to know a lot about Chinese history. Obviously this will not always be the case. Iím not an expert on Chinese history, but I did know enough to understand what was happening politically at all times during the film. Still, I can see the political and historical knowledge aspect of the film presenting a huge barrier to many a viewer. However, I am asking a lot of a movie about Chinese history made in China for a Chinese audience to be accessible to someone far removed from that culture and history. The knowledge needed to understand Lan Feng Zheng is a barrier to enjoying the film, but it is not something I can hold against the film.

To get back on track letís tackle the idea of time in Lan Feng Zheng. The one area where I feel the film excels is in the way it handles the passage of time. Years pass in this story, and if not for Tietou slightly aging it would be near impossible to know that any time has passed. By allowing the film to start in 1953 and look like 1953 when so many years have passed Mr. Tian has made his most provocative statement against the Communism of China. We hear so much about the Rectification Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and so on. Yet, time stands still in China. Years pass us by, and none of these great movements bring about any sort of change. The die hard Communists can march through the street all they want. They can yell as loud as they want. They can declare their efforts a success until they can speak no longer. But time does not lie, and the lack of progression that China makes as a nation during the time period of Lan Feng Zheng is right there on screen for all to see.
Lan Feng Zheng is well acted and I like the minimalist style employed by Mr. Tian. I can see why this film has been banned in China, and I can also understand why some people from outside of China will never be able to get into it. But, I was always interested in what I was seeing and I was amazed with how the film used the passage of time as an attack on Communism. But, I didnít find Lan Feng Zheng to be the great work of art that it has been lauded as by many a critic. Lan Feng Zheng is a good piece of art with something interesting to say. But Mr. Tian, and the writer Xiao Mao, have tackled a large subject and spread themselves too thin in trying to cover it. With a bit of tightening up and a more reigned in focus Lan Feng Zheng could have been the master work most label it as. But I canít go that far, that would be spreading myself too thin.

Vs.

Gorok Mulkogi (Green Fish, 1997)

I like when films come across as fresh or different. That isnít enough for me to like a film mind you. But, I like it when I come away from a film with thoughts in my head centered around how what I just saw was quite unique. Chorok Mulkogi is not without its flaws, but if nothing else it is a unique film. The director and writer, Chang-dong Lee, takes what could have been a very pedestrian and well traveled story and adds some flavor to it in the form of the choices his characters make.

The main character in Chorok Mulkogi, Makdong, wants a simple life for his entire family. The problem is that Makdong and his entire family have more than a few screws loose. Virtually every choice they make is the wrong one. Sometimes sadness results, sometimes hilarity results (a chase scene involving an egg truck and a cop car is perhaps one of the funniest scenes Iíve seen in a bit), but no matter what this family does nothing seems to go right for them. I say that having spent very little time with Makdongís family, but in the little we see of them they make pretty bad decisions. When you add those to the constant stream of bad decisions from Makdong, well, you end up with a family where nothing ever goes right. Of course, none of the decisions in the movie hold a candle to Makdongís worst decision.

All for a girl, and for his family, Makdong takes on the life of a gangster. This is the part of the story that weíve seen before. I know Iíve seen my share of gangster movies centered around the former soldier who becomes a gangster. The difference in what Mr. Lee does with his soldier is startling. Makdong isnít crazy in a scary way as much as he is crazy in an idiotic way. Heís also almost always getting his ass kicked, he isnít your typical tough guy soldier turned gangster. But, thereís still more to Makdong, he doesnít really want to be a gangster. He shows remorse in the actions he takes, he doesnít quite understand what it means to be a gangster. There isnít a moment in Chorok Mulkogi where I honestly thought Makdong was happy being a gangster. This is where Mr. Lee takes a story weíve seen before to a fresh place.

The character of Mi-ae isnít so lucky. She fits the bill for the classic gangsterís girlfriend to a T. But, even with that being the case she has a few delightfully awkward scenes with Makdong that make her character interesting. Mi-ae also owns the final scene in Chorok Mulkogi, and I means owns it. One of the films flaws brings us to that moment, but when we do get there the acting displayed by Hye-jin Shim is pure, raw emotion. Seong-kun Mun is also quite good as Bae Tae-kon, a mob boss who doesnít really want to be a mob boss.

Chorok Mulkogi falters in the thirty minutes before its final act and in a stream of constant luck and happenstance that surrounds the picture. With about a half an hour left in the film Mr. Lee makes a curious decision to push Makdong into the background. Bae is an interesting character no doubt, but it wasnít his picture and by all of a sudden thrusting him into the lead those final thirty minutes feel disjointed. The luck and happenstance I spoke of earlier comes across like lazy writing. Maybe it isnít, but I felt there were far too many instances of blind luck or coincidence leading to something happening on screen.

Like I said earlier, Chorok Mulkogi is a flawed film. But, at the same time it is a unique experience. (At least it was for me, I was surprised to find out after I had written this that others felt it was a story told many times over. Maybe there are gangster films that cover the same territory and I have yet to get to them, but for the time being Chorok Mulkogi provided a unique take on the soldier becoming a gangster as far as I am concerned). Chorok Mulkogi isnít a movie that will set your world on fire, even if that screenshot I grabbed is some piece of hot fire. Chorok Mulkogi is a competently made gangster tale, with some family drama and some comedy thrown into the mix. It doesnít always work, but it often does, and those moments where it does work far outweigh the moments where it doesnít work.

Verdict:

These two movies are very different but they ended up being very similar in how I felt about them. As surprising as it may be I'm going to move Gorok Mulkogi on to the next round because it interested me just a tad more and was the more unique experience of the two.

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 24235
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1516 on: February 18, 2011, 11:30:09 AM »
Ah, didn't realize Green Fish got resurrected. And how about that, it moves on to round 3.

Good writeup, Bill.

ProperCharlie

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 252
  • Am I right sir? Ithangyou.
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1517 on: February 20, 2011, 03:39:19 AM »
Ji Sor (Chi Leung ĎJacobí Cheung, 1999) aka Intimates




In modern day China a young architect is love.  Very much so.  However, before some wanton debauchery with her boyfriend, family duty takes precedence.  She has to attend to the needs of an elderly servant of her father with a cavalier approach to personal space and privacy who has occasional pensive moments of soft-focus reflection...  Previously in China (in the 1930s) a young woman refuses her arranged marriage and flees to the protection of a group of women called Ji Sor who are possibly nuns but probably arenít*.  While staying with them she falls for a young man who carries a large fish around on a stick. She simultaneously develops a deep devoted relationship with the most recent and most troublesome mistress of the owner of the silk factory where she works.  Over the years the fondness and closeness of the this latter relationship grows, whilst in the present day the aunt gets increasingly pensive and keener than ever to get to the railway station to meet someone sheís expecting.

First the good.  This film handles a developing emotional intimacy well.  The events in the world maybe dramatic, but the way in which the reactions to these is acted by the two leads is perfect.  And while a lesbian relationship may be hinted at, itís very chaste.  This isnít about sexual attraction or the erotic at all.  Itís about emotional dependence and love.  Their love and shared pain is clear and you feel it.  Itís easy to sympathise and admire their resolve, standing up for themselves in the face a male, conformist society.  For that I applaud it.  The acting of those leads in the earlier settings is the best thing in this film.

But...

There is so much wrong.  The score sounds like it was written by someone whoíd just seen Love Story and had access to the cheapest of Casio keyboards.  The editing has left huge chunks of the story on the cutting room floor.  There are cuts between scenes that leave you floundering over a narrative cliff, scrabbling desperately to make sense of it or face plummeting into incomprehension.  The ADR is awful.  I watched a subtitled version, and even knowing no Cantonese at all, itís obvious that the acoustically flat words donít match the action and were recorded in a studio rather than in situ.  The acting outside the leads isnít good, especially the characters in the modern day.  The cinematography is uninteresting.  The direction felt like someone learning on the job or by a committee with several internal disagreements as to how to proceed.  This is the directorís 10th film.

The well-handled emotions and well-acted leads arenít enough to lift this out of TV movie territory.

*Iíve now found out that a Ji Sor is a woman who has decided to take her affairs into her own hands - it means something along the lines of to comb oneís own hair.  So not nuns.  Definitely not nuns.


The Scent of Green Papaya (Anh Hung Tran, 1993)




A synopsis for this film is irrelevant.  Itís been made, youíre watching it.  Whatís that experience like?

I came into this film knowing only two things about it.  It was slow and it was arty.  Very slow and very arty.  It is both of those things.  But itís also something else more profound...

This is a film about sensation.  Taste, smell, form, touch, experience, connection entirely without commentary.  The little dialogue there is, isnít really essential except to show how unnecessary it is.  Watching this can be unnerving.  Thereís no context and precious little in the way of a score to tell you how to feel about something or what to make of whatís going on.  There is no narrative - itís akin to a Terrence Davies film except with all of the nostalgia liposuctioned out.  There might be some polemic about the right way to live.  But thereís not narrative. 

Itís a Buddhist, mindful, meditation on living in the moment.  If you donít like the sound of that or would find it hard to go with it, youíre going to think this is the epitome of artifartfulness.  If you can subtract your concerns from your mind and empty of it of thought, itís 104 minutes of calm stillness that can, perversely, take you away from the cinema or sofa youíre watching it from. 

There is a metaphorical conflict of sorts.  Between a Western way of being and an Eastern way.  Different schools of thoughts.  That the Eastern way is portrayed so sensitively and thoughtfully while the Western way is a pastiche is perhaps unfair - but for a Western mind it can be good to try to put your mind onto a different track every now and again.  Itís the difference between living for the moment and living in the moment.  Free yourself of your worries and be here, now.

The Scent of Green Papaya is going through to the next round.  I want to see how someone else reacts to it.  Thanks pix for resurrecting it - Iím truly glad I got the chance to see it.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 06:44:19 AM by ProperCharlie »

pixote

  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 32632
  • Up with generosity!
    • yet more inanities!
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1518 on: February 20, 2011, 05:42:45 AM »
The score sounds like it was written by someone whoíd just seen Love Story and had access to the cheapest of Casio keyboards.

Ha, awesome.

Resurrected films are now 3-1 against non-resurrected films. I finally feel like an important part of this bracket! I should probably go watch Spring and Chaos now or something.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 20133
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1519 on: February 20, 2011, 09:09:22 AM »
Sleeping Man (Kohei Oguri, 1996)

So the research I did in picking this pair was based on film summaries and screencaps and not round 1 reviews. This may have been an oversight as looking over Edgarís discussion of slow pacing, this wouldnít naturally be my type of film. Of course, this hasnít proven a prohibitive barrier, just a challenging one. Unfortunately, Sleeping Man doesnít really meet that challenge. I donít need high dramatics or plot twists but Iíd like at least some sense of dramatic tension. Trying to find the ties between the various conversations besides the titular man was a task I largely failed at.

It is a visually peaceful film and offers a certain meditative value but I didnít find it intellectually or emotionally stimulating enough to really enjoy.

Art Museum By The Zoo (Jeong-hyang Lee, 1998)

This is certainly a more conventionally paced and structured film. A military man comes home to what he thinks is his girlfriend only to find sheís moved out. In true romantic comedy fashion he is at odds with the new tenant but you get the sense that things are going to thaw as they spend more time together. In this case, they work together on a script for a contest she is entering, based on their respective unreciprocated loves.

He is too mean-spirited through the bulk of the film for my tastes, like irrationally so, and it makes it a bit harder to believe that they stick together for so long. The visualization of the script tends toward the ponderous and overwrought. Kind of turgid on the whole.

Verdict: I got the point of Art Museum By The Zoo and still was largely unimpressed. I may not have gotten Sleeping Manís purpose but at least there I can imagine that someone else will and find it a bit more worthy so it is the one that moves on.