Saturday, March 24, 2007

Review: Retribution (Sakebi)

There's a kiddy pool at the corner if you want...

For those who is familiar with Kurosawa Kiyoshi's work, you'll not expect a typical horror film. For the uninitiated, the style thats always in favor have a deeper meaning then it seems as in the case of retribution, where Yoshioka, a cop investigating a murdered woman where he realizes a connection to himself that he has no recollection of. What made it worse is the ghostly appearance of the murdered woman hence starting a horror-mystery journey. Intriguing and vastly fascinating, one would would tend to forgive the somehow comedic physicality of the presence that defies all knowledge of what we have come in terms of a ghost in J-Horror. The directors visual sense so far has never failed to amaze me with a backdrop of urban de-construction-construction nicely framing his storytelling that reflects the social breakdown and surrealism in a different representation rendered in a melancholy unstable haunting.

Review: The Yabobian Building (Omaret yakobean)

I know you're in there!

One can never expect such a varied array of an overwrought ensemble drama that opens a fascinating window of life in contemporary Egypt. Immediately after a vivid prologue tracing the building's transformation from 1930s-era luxury residence to its current status as home to rich and poor alike, The Yacoubian Building introduces us to its cast of characters, who represent a cross-section of Egyptian society. From playboy Zaki El Dessouki, the doorman's son who dreams of being a cop, Taha El Shazly, and Fanous and Malaak, who live on the roof in a makeshift hut, their life stories woven together to make an explosive outcome simmering under 172 mins. Thats quite a feat to uphold without the wondrous imagination much like LOTR. But the brewing of every imaginable dispute found clustering throughout this depressing satire, from adultery to homosexuality, certainly makes up for it. It may make out to be a mess from a far, but the flow somehow rooted back to the building itself, making it a life of its own. Well rounded acting to all the actors present, the ever presence of a political message seem to be leaking if dug deep enough. With that said with all the misery surrounding, at least it ended with a rose among the thorns in the bushes.

Review: Tuya's Wedding

What's that burning?

Winning several awards, Wang Quanan's Tuya's Wedding is a refreshing yet simplistic view of a mongolian family turned for the worse when she discovers that she has slipped a disc in her back while helping a friend in need. Aggravating it will only cause her to be paralyzed waist down, just like her husband. So having her being the house bearer ever since then, she has no choice but to listen to his husband's advice to divorce him and get another suitor but under a condition for which her new husband will take him into the household. And so begins the journey of self perseverance and change, fighting among the fire of angst and confusion.

Set in the vast plain grassland/desert of the mongolian/china province, the feeling of loneliness and disconnection was very much a character in itself.

Yu Nan's phenomenal performance as the super-wife was a standing ovation effort, taking note of a scene in the hospital room with her husband and family after he attempted suicide was certainly a tear jerking moment which practically sums up her inner feelings.

Although the ending is much to be a good after taste, one has to acknowledge that this film is only part of the journey and this is one journey you would' t want to miss.

Review: The Bothersome Man (Den Brysomme mannen)

Dinner alone sucks...

Imagine steeping into a new town to start your new career and realizing there's no children, everything is clean and tidy, the food you eat taste bland and that you can't die. Heaven for some but for Andreas, the thought of that missing zest for life and unpredictability bothered him so much that he went on a quest to figure what was going on. With everyone being happy all the time, it sure will creep the hell out of me! Quirky and enigmatic, this Ikea-reflection of life is a comedic comment on social satire on what if life was on a monotone rhythm. One might decipher the whole situation as a dream which would totally be a cop-out or that he had died and gone to the neither-region between heaven and hell (which i though was the case during the opening scene) director Jens Lien had good intuition to leave it to the audience to figure it out, making the film a more flexible embargo of suspended imagination but light enough to flow though without thinking twice of its realism.

The only gripe that i though needed to address was how it was wrapped up. Rooting for the protagonist to solve the mystery, it ended abruptly, leaving us for another adventure to come. Or not...

Review: Sons (Sønner)

Give me back my snicker!

Who is to blame if pleasure overcomes guilt even when you know its wrong? At what limit would it apply to? You would think this would apply to the predator but would the prey be in the same turmoil too or is it just to create predatorial confusion? That was what happened to Lars, a mild mannered man, working for the swimming complex, who decides to take matters in his own hand when he notices a rumored pedophile in the pool. He sets off to prove his find and decides to stake-out, armed with a video camera, to expose the vile. Little did he know (and suspected to us...), his actions triggers a series of deep forgotten realization of everyones common past forcing themselves to face the truth and confronting them. A well rounded drama thriller, this satire is engaging and well paced. With a touchy subject at hand, although nothing absurdly profane, was handled well, even giving the protagonist a say in the matter as well, much like Kevin Bacon's film, The Woodsmen, with the view point of the abused ones and its effect.

Review: Dasepo Naughty Girls (Dasepo Sonyo)

I Want To Take Picture!

The myriad of colours, song and dance all bring about a very madcap feel to Dasepo Naughty Girls, based on an internet comic strip. In essense a series of short stories or skits woven together, it tells the story of the students of No Use High, a multi-religious schools where monks, nuns, priests, and atheists all study common general subjects under one roof.

The opening credits sequence had brought a smile to my face, and throughout the movie, the injection of song and dance made Dasepo Naughty Girls resemble Grease, albeit weaker in the flow of storylines and subplots, and of course not as polished, at times disjointed even with weak transitions.

Other than that, the movie does live up to its being "naughty", and is thoroughly cheeky with its bizzare multitude of characters - like the girl with a "poverty" doll sticking behind her back, an exchange student from Switzerland, the mysterious principal, a one eyed cyclops, a cross dresser, a girl born with a male member, and the list goes on.

Most of the skits had the usual expected punchlines to its scenes, no doubt similar in style and delivery like the 80s Hong Kong "mo-lei-tau" comedies with sexual innuendos. However, it's breezy and light, and without a doubt, it fulfils the goal of being pure entertainment.


Director Lee Je-yong was around to open the screening, and joked that his fourth film has been voted online as the worst movie last year, that the second was I'm a Cyborg but That's OK, and the last was Woman on the Beach. Since all three are featured in this year's HKIFF, unfortunately it brought a little dishonour to the selection. However, there were other better movies which are part of the selection, so it isn't all that bad.