Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009
Dir: Wes Anderson
November 27, 2009

So I'm thinking that this was a really good idea for Anderson. It takes a story that is a proven winner and let's Anderson put his visual stamp on it as well as some stop-motion flair, which meshes well with the Roald Dalh vibe, at least better than some other adaptations that I've seen. Sure, it can be a little too Wes Anderson at times, but the script was well written and all the voice actors lends their talent. It has enough moments to keep the kids interested, and is also funny. The moments when characters reflect on themselves aren't awkward, and can be poignant in a way that doesn't make your eyes roll. I'm generally a Wes Anderson fan, but, to me, he had most definitely got stuck in a rut. Here, he seems to have got out of it.

Mr. Fox is sympathetic and likable, but he is not a good guy. He is a thief, he lies to his wife, and, while he loves his son, he can't help but be disappointed in him for being "different" and constantly makes this known, especially when a cousin, Kristofferson, comes and makes it plain that he is a model fox. In contrast, the farmers aren't likable, but seem justified in their quest to get rid of thieving animals. You are always rooting for this charmer and his friends, hoping that they can get away with cussing up some mean ol' farmers. His journey is one of self-reflection, which I'm thinking is why all the yoga jokes are in there. His quips about existentialism aren't over the top, and seem to me a sincere attempt by a fox who wears a tie (even in the absurdness of that) at wondering how he should behave: as a civilized being or as a wild animal (losing his tail bit, figuratively and literally). In the end, he realizes that he can only be himself, which is as Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Fantastic Mr. Fox really brings one back (or puts one back, rather) to a sense of awkward and wide-eyed childhood amazement. Times when grand adventures popped up at every corner, yet with those came insecurities, sadness, the mopes; all indicative of something bigger than you, with some future lesson. Wes Anderson has captured this in a colorful, intimately-animated, tiny little world, one that’s difficult to leave. Absurdly (and dryly) hilarious, melancholy, and constantly delightful.

Oh yeah, the soundtrack? Awesome. "Let Her Dance" by The Bobby Fuller Four is one of the forgotten pop gems of the 60s.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Fallen Angels

Duo luo tian shi (Fallen Angels), 1995
Dir: Wong Kar-wai
November 19, 2009

So, this is good. But I kept wanting something else most of the time, and as it is sort of a sequel to Chungking Express (1994), there were parts that I just didn't want. Of course, that's my opinion, and there are tons of other stuff that I really dug, especially Leon Lai, who plays a killer trying to reform his life while dealing with the barely-alive relationships that he has. The ending also had me thinking about what exactly happened in regards to Wong Chi-Ming, Lai's character.

The film is not really about one character in particular, but revolves around different ones coming into contact with one another and then breaking apart again. So, instead of missed connections maybe broken connections? Similar themes, and just as sad. Wong Chi-Ming is a hired gun who has a partner, a beautiful young woman (Michelle Reis) who does his scouting and gives him his assignments. He sums up their relationship by saying, "The best thing about my profession is that there's no need to make any decision. Who's to die... when... where... it's all been planned by others. I'm a lazy person. I like people to arrange things for me. That's why I need a partner." He has feelings for her, but thinks it is improper to have a relationship with your partner. Little does he know that his partner is also secretly jonezing for him, and Wong Kar-wai throws in the masturbation/crying scenes to prove it. All of Wong Chi-Ming's hits are rad, the music, color and pace blending to absorb you in to the scene and force you stop analyzing what you are watching, which is what the best films do. At a certain point, Wong Chi-Ming decides that he's had enough of killing, and starts to think about terminating his relationship with his partner.

Back for more bizarreness is He Zhiwu ( Takeshi Kaneshiro), who before was a cop but now is some mute wandering vagrant who does strange things to get noticed in his own way. Here he has lost his ability to speak after eating a can of expired pineapples, a nod back to Chungking. I still have problems with his character, but it's hard not to laugh when he's forcing a guy to eat all of "his" ice cream (and then giving ice cream to his whole family) or pressing a woman to buy "his" vegetables. I suppose the way I feel about He in this film is the exact same way that his father (Man-Lei Chan) does, which is unbearable frustration at the things he is doing, but looking back on them with fondness and tolerance in the bigger picture, or a recording he made of it. He meets a woman named Charlie (Charlie Yeung), who is looking for a woman named Blondie, and he joins her in the quest to find her and they get up to crazy antics. He starts to fall in love with her, and his hair starts to turn blonde, possibly in hopes that she will notice. When she stops using his help, his hair goes back to normal.

While pondering his future, WCM meets a woman with blond hair (the Blondie?) (Karen Mok), who is another free spirit/quirk machine that just comes off as retarded to me. Lonely people trying to get noticed I suppose. I don't know, maybe I'm missing some other point, but I can't get into it. WCM's need for some closeness leads to a one night stand with Blondie, and later as the partner walks by Blondie, she catches a whif of WCM's scent on her. WCM and his partner finally meet and he tells her he wants to terminate their relationship. As a favor, she asks for one more hit, which he agrees to. Once he gets there, he is faced with overwhelming odds and is killed easily. A set-up? Was the partner jealous of Blondie? Angry that their relationship, which barely existed, was being terminated? It's all very ambiguous, and that makes it all the more disturbing to me.

After WCM is dead, He ends up eating in a restaurant where the partner is also eating, and gets into a fight with some other people there. He gets the shit beaten out of him, but still offers a lift on his motorbike when the melancholy partner asks for one. They zip through Hong Kong, possibly starting another relationship, or it could just be another one-off destined to end.

In the end, all individual scenes are composed as microcosms emphasizing Wong's primary themes, which are about loneliness and how people's inability to communicate with each other is the cause of that. People occupy the same space and yet never connect. Each character’s actions and language (or lack) are almost undecipherable to those they wish to communicate with. Distance is emphasized by showing the actors through windows, mirrors, TV monitors, and even a decorative waterfall. Other noticeable motifs starting to show up throughout his films are clocks/time and stairs and escalators/distance. Christopher Doyle's cinematography is just plain awesome as usual, with the wide lenses, reflections, and odd angles really adding to Wong's urban malaise and neon pulse that is his Hong Kong. The one thing that I really enjoyed was that the visual effect employed in Chungking and Ashes of Time (1994) is slowed down to a sumptuous WKW pace, and it really, really works. You can see what is happening and it looks as if the camera is shooting an expressionist painting, the flashes of color seeming to be the strokes of a paint brush. For me the manic improvised scenes don’t quite work, but it's overall a beautiful, funny and sad film which most definitely is worth watching.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Barbary Coast

Barbary Coast, 1935
Dir: Howard Hawks
November 15, 2009

A pretty minor Hawks, certainly not the "must-see classic" that Netflix claims it is. However, it is surprisingly risque in its' details which surround a pretty standard story, which could have branched off into much more interesting things if it wanted to. Mary Rutlidge (Miriam Hopkins) arrives in San Francisco during the Gold Rush as a mail-order bride, expecting to become the wife of a wealthy rancher. He is dead by the time she arrives though, and her bitterness is apparent. From there she falls in with Loius Chimalis (Edward G. Robinson) a gangster casino owner who tussled with Mary's husband-to-be, and who has taken it upon himself to run the city. Mary's character is interesting in the fact that she is cleary the protagonist of the story, and yet she is immediately portrayed as someone who was getting married only for money, and then immediately got in with a gangster who could provide lavishly for her. Hopkins does an OK job, which is basically what all the acting is in this film. There can also be lots of enjoyment taken away just from the atmosphere of the film, which like I said, for a film that was released a year after the Production Code went into effect, has lots of touchy stuff. There are drugs, booze and prostitutes suggested and seen in the background, and tons of characters are either drunk or say racists things. The way the men on the docks react when they find out that a new white woman has come to the city is pretty hilarious. There is nothing remarkable about any of the supporting characters, pretty much all supplying a standard role (moralist, comic relief, crony). Mary soon starts to learn that her own moral failings aren't nearly as bad as Louis', who will do anything to keep power, and his attraction to her isn't helping things. The film starts to lose steam when Jim (Joel McCrea) is introduced, Mary's real love interest, who also just happens to be a lonely poet prospector. It doesn't play out exactly the way you'd think, but in the end it gets there. This film certainly never really gets a great Hawks feel to it, but it is at it's best in expressionist moments when the town's seemingly constant coating of fog lends it some Gothic atmosphere to elevate its conventional melodrama.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Fourth Kind

The Fourth Kind, 2009
Dir: Olatunde Osunsanmi
November 8, 2009

So, I was out eating fajitas and drinking margaritas with some buddies when one of them asked if we wanted to go to the movies. The Fourth Kind was universally approved of, even by me, because I hadn't been to the "movies" in a while, and I was also shitfaced. There is nothing that will sober you up quite like a steaming pile of visual turd. After I realized I wasn't going to be moderately impressed or invested in the story, I was hoping it would eventually get hilarious like The Happening (2008), or maybe there would be a crazy pay-off at the end like in Fire in the Sky (1993). I remember that that movie was not that good, but I do remember being really scared, in a mesmerized sort of way, of the beginning and the ending when I first saw it, and being flummoxed by how boring the middle is. But no, this has absolutely nothing.

The "true" story is made to seem more legit by first having Milla Jovovich talk directly to the audience, saying it is up to us to "believe what we want to believe." OK Milla, I believe I'd rather watch you in The Fifth Element (1997) a million times before I'd watch this again. Then, there is the "real" archival video footage of psycho-therapy sessions and the tapes of the "real" Abigail Watson, pale and fleshless, talking about her experiences. I'm pretty sure that this "real" person is actually some shitty B-actor, but hey, it could be real, right? All of the people that may have been involved in the story are turned into safe movie stereotypes, from the blind daughter to the disgruntled son, even to the angry, "I'm not gonna believe this shit" sheriff.

Those things can be overlooked if you actually get scared, and maybe some people did, but I just couldn't get past the Youtube sensibilities and no-attention span techniques. Floating cameras, split-screen for no reason, introductory titles; this movie was made for the dumbest people in America. The technique aside, aliens, in their way, can be very frightening. Here, they make video footage distort and they show up in people's minds in the form of an owl. An owl? Now, when talking about fear, it is interesting to listen to what people have to say. Do they find a visceral experience more frightening, or something less tangible; something they can not understand. I tend to fall in the latter category myself, and this tried really hard to do that, but really just fell off the back of the retard truck first. There are some jolting moments for sure, but there are better vids on Youtube about this shit, which is, it seems to me, exactly what it was trying to be.

Chungking Express

Chong qing sen ling (Chungking Express), 1994
Dir: Wong Kar-wai
November 7, 2009

I can't really think of a bigger recent film-watching let down than this. After watching Days of Being Wild (1990), I was all psyched on Wong Kar-wai again after forgetting about him for a while, but this was just not what I wanted at all. It's basically an art-house Desperately Seeking Susan (1985). It's OK in terms of continuing Wong's themes and his overall romantic oeuvre that he had started to build, but the techniques he used to convey them reminded me really just of early 90s music videos.

The film can be broken into two parts, of people who make loose connections to each other while the effects of loneliness and falling in love with the wrong person are observed. The first story involves a lonely detective (He Qiwu, Cop 223) (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who had been dumped on April 1 by his girlfriend May. His quirky view on life makes him believe that he will wait until his birthday on May 1 to see whether they will be rejoined or if it time to move on. He buys lots of cans of pineapples that expire on May 1 to that effect. Meanwhile, a woman in a blonde wig (Brigitte Lin) tries to survive in the drug underworld after a smuggling operation goes sour. She ends up in a bar on May 1 in a world of trouble, and there, a romantically desperate Qiwu tries to make a connection with her. She is at first stand-offish, just wanting to be left alone, but then relents "just to find a place to rest." They go to a hotel room where she just sleeps while he watches movies. He leaves before day break. She leaves in the morning and shoots the drug baron who had set her up. Qiwu goes jogging and receives a message from her on his pager wishing him a happy birthday. He then visits his usual snack food store where he collides with a new staff member, Faye (Canto-pop beauty Faye Wong). At this point, a new story begins.

Takeshi's cop has the kind of quirkiness that just bugs me, and the desperation and occasional playfulness that he exuded in the performance almost seemed fake. Lin's drug smuggler is far more subtle, but maybe that's just because she has far fewer lines and doesn't have the intrusive observational voice-over. My biggest problem of this part was the blurry visual effects and break-neck pace of the editing, which completely threw me for a loop in terms of Wong's usual sumptuous images and meandering pace. It is meant to correspond to the hustle and bustle of urban life, but it just pissed me off. I wanted to see what was going on, to feel the film like the best of Wong's films let you. The sequence in the bar has the lounge music and romantic/pop-art neon-vibe that Wong and DP C. Doyle are known for, and it works pretty well. The "story" is alright, could have been used better though. The "missed connection" theme that was in Days just didn't have the same effect on me, which just goes to show you how much technique/style can be important in a film (for those who like to argue about style/substance issues).

The next part involves that quirky girl Faye, who becomes obsessed with beat-cop 633 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who is also going through a break-up. After acquiring a key that 633's ex-girlfriend left with a letter at the snack bar, she frequently breaks into his apartment during the day to redecorate and "improve" his living situation. Gradually, her ploys help Cop 663 to cheer up and he realizes what she is doing, arranging a date at the restaurant "California." However, Faye stands him up after a last-minute decision to see the world before settling down; she leaves him a fake boarding pass with a date a year from now. In the last scene, Faye arrives back in Hong Kong, now a flight attendant; she finds that Cop 633 has bought the snack bar and is converting it into a restaurant. Their future however always remains ambiguous, like most Wong films.

Faye is pretty much adorable, but her dancing around 633's apartment to her own cover of "Dreams" by The Cranberries got on my nerves a little bit, as the quirkiness thing came back as if it was some repetitive theme. She was better off being nonchalant in the snack bar, repetitively listening to "California Dreaming" by The Mommas and the Poppas as loud as possible, a repetitive theme that works for me referencing the date and Faye's eventual departure. Tony Leung is the man, and cannot really be faulted for anything, his beat-cop throwing out longing looks as he tries to figure things out. The story here lacks the first part's bite, but I think it was executed better. The visual effect of slowing down the two main characters while speeding up everything else in a few scenes was effective if obvious. The voice-over was used way too much, but it's hard to fault the last scene, which will probably be hated by those who hated the last scene in Days, but it's probably the only great thing in this film if you ask me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Weekend, 1967
Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
November 7, 2009

Weekend is a deliberately designed random fest of indifferent characters thrown into Godard’s most violent, caustic story of a civilization close to apocalypse where rape, murder, slaughter, guns, accidents, cannibals, radicals, imaginary and surreal characters ("Is this a film or reality?") are thrown in that become devices and will help a viewer (supposedly) comprehend the ubiquitous evil and suffering lurking around. A lot of the stuff that happened just made me laugh though, especially all the silly fights that people get into. It is not a parable, there is no moral, neither is it didactic in a literal sense, it is like no other film about a political future where Freedom will kill freedom as Godard saw it from the 60’s in a way that only Godard could have dreamed of and created, which is why it's a "film lost in the cosmos" or a "film found on a garbage heap." Though of course, this shit never really happened in anyway that Godard preached (though I'm sure he'd say that it is still coming or point out all the injustices left in the world). It is a bare-bones deconstruction of a film, which is why people claim it is his best (even fatso Ebert goes nutzoid over this). It's probably right behind 2 or 3 Things (1967) in quality late 60s Godard. "End of Cinema," though? How douchey and pompous can you get? Fuck you, Godard. I'm glad you joined some pointless socialist film collective at this point. I'm done.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Twentieth Century

Twentieth Century, 1934
Dir: Howard Hawks
November 6, 2009

Oh, it's so screwy! This is considered one of the founding films that kick started the "screwball" comedy sub-genre that lasted from the mid 30s until WWII. Hawks' no nonsense direction let's you take in all the witty dialogue and hammy acting, but finding something more meaningful in the film is pretty pointless. I mean, it's funny sometimes, which is of course good. It's OK for what it is, but it didn't blow me away, and not because it was dated or anything like that, but I really didn't find myself that engaged at all.

The basic story of Twentieth Century is that Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) creates a star in Lily Garland (Carole Lombard), and the two become a couple. Jaffe keeps close tabs on Lily, but pushes too far when he sets a private eye loose to spy on her. Lily leaves not only Jaffe, but Broadway, which she had conquered, for Hollywood. Jaffe attempts to create a new Lily Garland, but fails miserably and finds himself in such debt that he has to wear a disguise to escape Chicago bill collectors to the train of the title. Lily Garland, freshly off conquering Hollywood, boards the same train soonafter. Jaffe plots to recapture Lily throughout the rest of the movie, eventually gaining a backer and a large check from Matthew J. Clark (Etienne Giradot), who we've seen throughout the train ride spreading doomsday stickers around and have heard through a telegram has a habit of writing bad checks. Jaffe appeals to Clark after meeting with some wierd bearded friends who give Jaffe the idea of putting the Passion Play on Broadway. Jaffe does his best to sell Lily on an extravagant production of the Passion Play, but right at the peak of his pitch she bursts out laughing at him and the two are as far apart as ever before. Jaffe, upon finding out he has a bum check, erupts into histrionics, pulls a gun, threatens suicide and is eventually shot at by his supposed benefactor Clark. This gives Jaffe the grand idea of winning back Lily by pretending he's near death, with pals Oliver and Owen hovering over him and helping to sell it to Lily. Of course Jaffe gets Lily to sign right as Max Jacobs bursts into the scene pleading with her not to do anything. Our story ends back where it started, when Jaffe directing Lily as though she were an amateur, even though she's a seasoned actress by this point.

John Barrymore is phenomenal here and carries the movie, and in the first film I have ever seen him in has already produced a better performance than his granddaughter Drew has ever done. Barrymore is actually the reason I wasn't absolutely bored throughout. While I also think Walter Connolly as Webb and especially Roscoe Karns as Owen with his zingers are entertaining here as sidekicks and occasional drunks, I believe that there wouldn't be a lot here without Barrymore hamming it up with his wild gesticulations and often frenzied speech throughout. Everyone else is pretty forgettable, with Giradot's character not resonating at all and just seeming an uninteresting sidetrack. My biggest problem is Lombard. Her voice comes across as inauthentic, and while I realize this is a comedy and her character is written to reek of inauthenticity, what I mean is I'm left feeling like I'm watching Carole Lombard trying too hard to be funny. Yes, Barrymore's Jaffe is just as unrealistic a character, but he puts such flourishes onto Jaffe that any lack of reality is outweighed by his own very natural zaniness. Lombard is zany, yes, but in a look at me I'm acting sort of way that some older screen performances fall victim to. And yes, I also know that the film is about actors and the "Thee-ayter," but it just bugged me. Oh, and she whines a ton in an annoying way and has the worst fake laugh ever. It just completely works against Hawks' fluid naturalism.

Lombard could have killed this film with another director, but Hawks reels her in enough to get the job done. I think maybe though, some of that acting shines through a little bit too much and disrupts the movie for me. His medium/medium close only shots are kept spare to let the scenes play out, and the seamless pacing and brisk transitions of fades and wipes let the film move along nicely even when some acting might be jarring it. Twentieth Century is littered with great lines throughout, not unexpected from the great writing team, an uncredited Hawks involved, with Jaffe's constant closing of the iron door and references to Webb as a grey rat, to pretty much everything Owen says. So I think in a way, I can only say that I kinda liked this. I'm guessing their are some better screwball comedies out there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

La Chinoise

La Chinoise, 1967
Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
November 2, 2009

I suppose there are a few nuggets of information that you can take away from this concerning the differences in socialist dogma, but unlike the saving grace for a lot of other Godard (at least for me), this film is far more interested in it's "philosophy" than it is in anything visually interesting, which is why this, at 99 minutes, was still pretty tough to get through. Some of the title screen-shots and back-and-forth camera movements are seen in the Wes Anderson book, so I bet he thought this film was swell. Visually, it's still discernibly Godard in it non-linear sequences and semi-playful structural tone, but most of the time you are trying not to turn the film off to really care.

Set in a Maoist terrorist cell of students who have just read him, it’s all about the irony and hypocrisy of being a bourgeois "activist" rather than preaching or doing something sensible. The most glaring joke being the collective taking place in an upper-class apartment loaned to them by a relative. Each of the four main characters is slightly different: Guillaume (Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud) is the artist, Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky, Godard's not-so-hot new wife) is the radical intellectual, Henry (Michel Semeniako) is the rational one, and Yvonne (Juliet Berto) seems to represent the lower-class swept up in the excitement. It’s activism without action; these four only fight with other people’s words and thoughts, and even then with each other. They are all pretty retarded, with Henri the only one who ever says anything reasonable, eventually getting kicked out for liking an American movie, Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954) and his eventual realization that a peaceable solution is the only way for their ideas (or Mao's) to make any real progress in France. There is another character who hangs about, Kirilov (Lex de Bruijin), whose name and eventual suicide over failed ideas is supposed to clue you in to the fact that the film is loosely based on Dostoyevsky's novel 'The Possessed,' a novel that I have not read, so only until reading some other stuff on this did I find out. I suppose it's all clever and ironic, and Godard's sneer at the ineptness of some Communists who have no backbone is evident, but he is clearly on the students' side despite their hypocrisy, which is absolutely baffling to me. I don't know. I just don't give a shit anymore. It's a bit like Maculin Feminin (1966) in some regards, except what the people are saying makes you want stab their vocal chords all the time instead of some of the time.

* Check out swingin' 60s garage stomp "Mao Mao" by Claude Chennes, which is in the film. Also notice the title card at the end, reading something like, "The imperialists are still alive blah blah blah I'm inane." I dig the song, not so much the title card.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Days of Being Wild

A Fei Zheng Chuan (Days of Being Wild), 1990
Dir: Wong Kar-wai
November 1, 2009

This film has everything that I love about Wong Kar-wai, and none of the nonsense that makes 2046 (2004) or My Blueberry Nights (2007) slightly inferior to something like this or In the Mood for Love (2000). Wong eschews a normal plot for really strong moments and mesmerizing atmosphere and colors, along with his trademark slo-mo tracking shots to swanky 60s lounge music, which completely makes this film move from good to favorite.

The film is vaguely about unrequited love and how people deal with rejection, but, as the title suggests, it follows the nonchalant, wild days of Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), whose good looks let him manipulate the women who come into his life in 1960s Hong Kong. The film starts out with Yuddy going to a sports arena where Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) works, shooting one-liners ("You're gonna dream about me tonight.") at her until she falls for his cool demeanor. They have a passionate relationship until Maggie says that she needs a new place to stay, and asks Yuddy if she can stay with him. He's cool with that, but when she mentions the connotations of marriage that it implies, he gets cold, and it seems like the relationship is over. From there we are introduced to Yuddy's "mother" (Rebbecca Pan), a drunken ex-prostitute who is having a relationship with a younger man, much to Yuddy's chagrin. At some point, Yuddy found out that he is adopted, and he desperately wants to know who his parents are. She won't tell him for fear that he will leave her life. He sticks around and looks out for her, but he is always brooding about the information that she refuses to indulge, which sort of acts a an indicator on why he acts the way he does.

Yuddy beats the shit out of his mom's boyfriend one night at a sleazy club where a wanna-be glitzy showgirl (Carina Lau) Mimi/Lulu witnesses. Yuddy deftly sets her up as well, getting her to come home with him, and his "I don't care" passive attitude gets her to move from "I'm not that type of girl" to staying the night. She becomes hopelessly devoted to him despite his occasional cold shoulder, and the relationship comes to a boil when Su comes back to get some stuff while Mimi is there. Both women have a hard time dealing with Yuddy's indifference at the meeting, with Su wondering why she still has feeling for Yuddy while Mimi is extremely jealous.

Su is out in the rain crying when beat-cop Tide (Andy Lau) offers her some money to get home, and the she agrees until she realizes that she needs to talk to someone. They walk around all night, a relationship developing that is nipped in the bud. Tide always wanted to be a sailor, but had stayed at home because of an ailing mother. As they leave each other, we learn that soon after the mother dies, and Tide starts his new life as a sailor.

Yuddy eventually twists his mom into telling her about his biological mother, saying that he hated her for never telling him. She tells him that his mother is a Filipino aristocrat, and Yuddy starts to make plans to head to the Philippines. Earlier in the film, Yuddy's buddy Zeb is introduced to Mimi, and he falls for her. Yuddy doesn't really tell anyone that he is leaving except for Zeb (Jacky Cheung), and Mimi goes crazy with grief when she can't find him, even going to confront Su, who only feels sorry for her. Jacky tries to comfort Mimi and look out for her, but her grief is too much, causing her to yell, "I told you not to fall in love with me!" This sparks a "nice-guys-finish-last" rage in Zeb, where he strikes her hard twice. Later, in guilt, Zeb seeks out Mimi again to give her money to get to the Philippines, saying that if she doesn't find what she is looking for there to come back to him. You never know if she goes or what becomes of Zeb.

The last act of the film is Yuddy's wild days going absolutely feral. Rejected by his biological mother who refuses to see him, Yuddy goes on a bender and picks up a prostitute but passes out in the gutter before he can get back to his hotel room. Sailor Tide, on leave, picks him up and brings him back to his room where they sort of bond. Later, the two men meet at a train station where Yuddy goes into the bathroom to get a fake American passport. He refuses to pay for it and shoots the gangster selling it to him. A huge fight breaks out in the station, with Yuddy doing some awesome out-of-nowhere martial arts kicks, and Tide gets shot in the shoulder before they get away. They get on a train where an angry Tide yells at Yuddy for the way he lives his life, which seems to make no difference. Frustrated, Tide get up to find out how long the trip will last. While up, gangsters who must have sneaked on the train shoot Yuddy. When Tide gets back, they talk for a bit while Yuddy is dying, and Tide figures out that Yuddy was Su's lover. Yuddy tells him to go back to her, but Tide doesn't know if he'll ever see her again. What sets in is the achingly poignant realization that all connections have been missed, and all the characters are adrift. In the last scene, a new young man (a cameo by Tony Leung Chiu Wai) moves about a small room on the train, combing his hair the same way Yuddy did and getting ready to gamble, saying to me that there are always going to be heart-breakers out there living wild.

Wong Kar-wai and DP Christopher Doyle together are everything I could want. Days of Being Wild finds Wong weaving his characters’ longings both visually and textually. Objects and people sometimes float in and out of focus or frame during dialogue, creating the illusion of distance or forcing the viewer to recognize how little space there can be between two people. Life can be wonderful and life can be cruel. People are always going to act the way they are going to act. Sometimes it's the little moments that can be emotionally overpowering, and Wong's unbridled romanticism really get through to me. This is a must see because no one does melancholy like Wong Kar-wai.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Lolita, 1962
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
November 1, 2009

This film is way more interesting to me than than anything else Kubrick did around this period, even the (in my opinion) overrated Dr. Strangelove (1964). I'm sure that this film (considering it's a Kubrick) has been fawned over and analyzed thoroughly, so I'll keep this short. Lolita (the film, possibly not the book) is really about the depravity of two men, Humbert Humbert (James Mason) and Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers). Mason really has one of the greatest performances ever, his cultured professor descending into perverseness and jealousy over jailbait Lolita (Sue Lyons). Lyons is pretty good for such a young actress who flirts a lot and can be quite bratty, but her crazy/lonely/man hungry mother Charlotte (Shelley Winters) really steals a bunch of scenes in the first part of the film just being off her rocker. Lots of people talk about Peter Sellers and how great he is, and all I can say is that he is on another planet while acting in this film. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but I'll always think about ping-pong a little differently now, that's for sure. Watching him dance at the beginning is mesmerizing if only because you are not really sure what the fuck is up with him. What his game is all about? Art films? Judo? Just to knock Humbert off his high perch? Why does he do any of it? Quilty is really one of the most frustratingly amazing characters ever put to screen, and Sellers performance equals that.

Kubrick said afterward that had he known the severe limitations he would have in making the film because of censorship, he probably would never had agreed to make it. For my part, I'm glad he did, because it forced him to be far more creative in deciding exactly what to shoot and how he was going to shoot it. Lots of people have this near the bottom of their Kubrick lists, and I'm not sure why. This is a great film, mostly for it's characters, none of which have any real moral compass.