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Friday, October 13, 2006

John Fowles - The French Lieutenant's Woman

Book cover of French Lieutenant's Woman
I'm not a fan of Victorian fiction. I find the obsessive, minute focus on provincial social conventions to be both myopic and irrelevant, the prose ponderous, and the structures pat and formulaic. Some people like this sort of thing; they're often the same sort who think James Ivory was a significant director. I could argue that much modern interest in Victorian fiction is as much a genre-interest as something like Tolkien-derivative fantasy (and indeed, both genres in their prime rely on three-volume works, the Victorian three-decker novel and the modern-fantasy trilogy), but I'll try to stay on topic. So, I have to hand it to John Fowles - in this book, he makes the Victorian era seem interesting and exciting. True, there's the completely idle upper-class toffs, servants and 'upstairs-downstairs' drama, and depressing Anglocentrism that generally produce reader despair, but Fowles looks on all this with a cocked (if often nostalgic) eye. And, his writing is incredibly technically strong - not only in the prose itself, but in his sense of construction, the way he points at the seams of his own novel - but not to excuse any rips in them, rather to keep you paying attention.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Su-Ki-Da 好きだ、

Poster of Su-ki-da

Su-ki-da, directed by Hiroshi Ishikawa, is a slow-paced arthouse romance that I watched with Vivienne and Ayumi on the night of Justin's birthday party, we were reduced to groaning in agony as the film became too slow and, as said by Variety's review, selfishly inert.

Despite being a filmmaker myself, and yes, facing numerous snide accusations of being 'artsy fartsy', I still think of myself to be rather uncultured, I didn't 'get' Godard's 'My Life To Live' (I loved Alphaville though), and I wasn't blown (sorry) away by Antonioni's 'Blow-Up' (... despite the nudity) and his latest short film in Eros (despite even more nudity). I also didn't 'get' many Malaysian indie works that are lauded by film fests around the world. Maybe I am... slow. (but not THAT slow, since I can still enjoy Wong Kar Wai films, haha)

So, for me, sitting through Su-Ki-Da was quite tough (especially during a party!!). Especially with a film filled with jump cuts, cryptic silences, shots of various cloud formations and long takes bereft of movement.

Miyazaki Aoi in Su-Ki-Da

Story's about a pair of 17-year-olds, Yosuke (Eita), who is constantly playing a plaintive, unfinished tune on his guitar, while Yu (Miyazaki Aoi) has the hots for him, but does nothing but hangs around with him, and occasionally confides in older sis (Oyamada Sayuri), who is forever stuck in the kitchen... cooking.

So, the entire first half of the film is like this.

- Yosuke sits at the grassy fields, playing that tune.
- Yu sits there and watch.
- Shots of clouds.
- Shots of scenery.
- Yu goes home and speaks to older sis.
- Shots of clouds.
- Shots of scenery.
- The next day... the cycle repeats.

It's entirely introspective, a mood piece, atmospheric, you are supposed to FEEL the poetry of nothingness, its bland listlessness should be interpreted as well-depicted realism. It is like reading a Haruki Murakami book, but without the annoying surrealism.

Anyway, nothing occurred between the two (BOOOOO!). Seventeen years later, the duo met again, Hidetoshi Nishijima plays the older Yosuke and Hiromi Nagasaku plays the older Yu. Unfortunately for us, things remain just as excruciatingly slow, with a random tragedy that struck in the end.

Miyazaki Aoi and Eita in Su-ki-da

Yeah, Su-ki-da has nice scenery

There is a scene in the middle of the film where there's a really long take of Miyazaki Aoi's Yu shortly after she confessed her love for Yosuke. Yosuke remained offscreen, we see a range of emotions displayed by her throughout the scene, from initial shyness, to barely concealed joy and excitement, to heartbreaking disappointment. Marvellous acting.

The scene would be replicated later by her older counter part Hiromi Nagasaku.

As much as I seem to be complaining about this film. There are moments that linger.

Su-ki-da trailer


Poster of BeerfestA film from Broken Lizard, the comedy group behind films like Super Troopers (saw it once quite a while ago on television, can't remember it much) and Club Dread ( didn't see it), the five members of Broken Lizard are Jay Chandrasekhar (usually the director), Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. They write and star in their films.

I'm lazy to explain the plot, so I'll just copy and paste it from the Beerfest Wikipedia entry:

"The plot begins with two American brothers, Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd (Erik Stolhanske) Wolfhouse, who are mourning the death of their immigrant grandfather Johann Von Wolfhausen (an uncredited Donald Sutherland), founder of the Schitzengiggle German beer hall in the United States. They learn from their great-grandmother (Cloris Leachman) that they have an opportunity to travel to Germany to deliver their grandfather's ashes. Jan and Todd gladly take this opportunity when they learn that Oktoberfest will be occurring at this very same time in Munich, Bavaria.

While in Germany, Jan and Todd find "Beerfest", an underground drinking game tournament run by Baron Wolfgang Von Wolfhausen (Jürgen Prochnow). As the brothers arrive, they witness the German national team defeating the Irish national team and discover that the German Von Wolfhausen competitors are relatives of the American Wolfhouse family. The Germans explain that Jan and Todd's grandfather Johann had stolen a beer recipe decades ago and demand the recipe back from the unknowing brothers. Jan and Todd engage in a drinking contest with the Germans but are soundly defeated. The brothers travel back home and swear to get revenge on the Germans...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kazuo Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go

After finishing Michael Moorcock's The Dancers At The End Of Time (which was a rather sprawling read), I sifted for the number of books which I've bought but haven't read. I needed an easier read, something smaller in scope and scale, can be finished in a shorter time as I was in the midst of preparing for my film shoot. And voila, I picked Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, which I actually bought in '3 for 2' deal earlier this year, along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In The Time of Cholera (OMFG! GREAT BOOK!! MOST ROMANTIC BOOK I'VE EVER READ!) and Ian McEwan's Saturday (currently reading, second chapter, seems promising).

The last Ishiguro book I read was When We Were Orphans, six years ago. Fresh out of high school, I was untrained for something as subtle as that, and even though I remembered being slightly moved by its ending, and raving about it to my indifferent cousin, I cannot remember a single thing about it now. Er, it has to do with a private eye searching for his missing mom, right?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Retro-looking Trains, Ballerinas and Fairy Rabbits. More Production Photos From Girl Disconnected.

My skin is currently peeling after the major sunburns I suffered during last Friday's grueling shoot.

Thankfully, the subsequent shoots for the production were much easier as we were in a more controlled environment. One in the university's TV studio, and one in the Bassendean Railway Museum. The scene with Justin and Grace (the rabbit) was shot during Mooncake Festival two days ago, while the train scene was shot early yesterday.

So here you are, some more production photos from my upcoming short film.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Mars Volta

When I was in my late teens, casting around for new music to listen to (this was the golden age of Napster, when you could find anything, and people's tastes were expanding), I started getting into 70's progressive rock. Now, prog has a bad reputation - it's considered uncool and unlistenable by the mainstream media, appreciable only ironically. But my average mix tape contains Norwegian black metal, Japanese girl-pop, Chinese rap, and underground U.S. noise bands, so I could give a fuck less what the mainstream media thinks. The prog bands looked serious, like they cared enough to give their music unconventional themes, arrangements, time signatures, and song titles. They wrote multi-part suites, invented the concept album (as a distinct entity, not a vague muddle like Sgt. Pepper), brought in orchestras (ELO), dabbled in jazz, maxed out the solos. They had outside influences, like film and literature and fantasy and technology. In short, they were trying to keep it new.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The nihilistic, hardcore DOG BITE DOG 狗咬狗

Sam Lee getting bitten by Edison Chen in Dog Bite Dog poster

Dog Bite Dog (狗咬狗) starring Edison Chen (his first role since last year's Initial D) and Sam Lee (a once-promising actor demoted to appearing in numerous B-grade crap films in recent years) is hardcore. Heck, I can't even think of another word to describe it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Talladega Nights: Ballad of Ricky Bobby

poster of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is funny like hell. It pokes fun at NASCAR racing, and your generic 'rise and fall and rise of hero' in sports film, most plot cliches were included here: the hero's disastrous accident that traumatized him mentally and emotionally, the hero's loved ones talking to him while he lies comatose in the hospital, the hero's best friend who turned against him, the hero who turned from cocky to humble throughout the course of the film, the supportive love interest, the smart mentor with all kinds of unorthodox training methods.

Yeap, all these were there, and hilarious. Gotta love those overacting and crazy melodrama. And as funny as Will Ferrell was as Ricky Bobby, he seemed more like a straight guy compared to the supporting cast like John C. Reilly's Cal Naughton Jr, Gary Cole as Ricky Bobby's estranged dad. But the entire film is definitely stolen by Sasha Baron Cohen (whose Ali G film I've never seen, unfortunately) as the evil gay French driver, Jean Girrard, who plays lite jazz on the jukebox, and reads L'Stranger (The Outsider) by Albert Camus WHILE RACING, oh, and speaks with an over-the-top French accent. (I don't think I can ever look at an Albert Camus book again without thinking of this film.)

It's hard for me to describe about him much, you just have to see the film yourself to know how damned good Sasha Baron Cohen was. For more memorable quotes of the film, check them out here. I'm definitely looking forward to Borat.

"Hakuna Matata, bitches!" - Jean Girrard

Best line ever.

Talladega Nights trailer

THE LAKE HOUSE (Hollywood remake of the Korean film IL MARE)

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in The Lake House

A film that reunited Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock since 1995's awesome SPEED (a film that made me spend most of my childhood and high school years sporting a crew cut just because I wanted to be like Keanu, and then decided to allow my hair to grow longer after the Matrix came out, so I can STILL look like Keanu), and a remake of an okay Korean flick, Il Mare.