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The Flick Chick Raves
Yeah, yeah, the artsy stuff, but Hollywood's not the only place they make the flickers. Fine films are created all over the world, and much of the best new film and many brilliant oldies are widely available on video. You don't have to be an oldie yourself to enjoy these films. Nope! Just give these film picks a look, and you will see what I mean!
Placed in occupied China: The film is compelling, beautiful, suspenseful, very XXX rated for sexual content, chilling . . . and yet it's also about love as well as lust. It's about betrayal and about the refusal to betray, no matter what the price. Not for the faint of heart, but I was sincerely moved.
Yes, I admit to a weakness for foreign
film. And that I'm partial to films directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
(even, dare I say it, the little-known but ghoulishly hilarious
). And I do love to laugh. Despite all these
admissions, you may trust the Chick's word that this is a thoroughly
delightful film. Audrey Tatou, as the title character, is just as
winsome as one hopes, never descending into kitsch, yet enlisting our
full sympathy with her do-gooding and her mischief-making alike.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Okay: so it was a ninja
Eat, Drink, Man,
A splendid film: Each of the characters is clearly drawn and strongly portrayed. There is a strong overstory with three subplots, all of which are closely interwoven with the main narrative, plus several switchbacks, and a good deal of humor. But the Chick must admit that all her analysis fell by the wayside, as she was completely caught up in the film from the outset through its unexpectedly touching conclusion. If you have not seen this one, you have a banquet awaiting you.
The Emperor and the Assassin,
If you like Oriental flicks, let me mention this visually stimulating film, which is now on tape. Not at all a kung-fu picture, it deals with political murder and betrayal in ancient times, plot and counterplot, secret within secret. Although its pace is a little slow at times, the acting and filming are excellent, and there are several deeply interesting minor characters. At one point, I was so taken with the play of expression on the face of one actor that I had to re-run that segment because I had forgotten to read the subtitles! One of the stars, the very beautiful Gong Li, was also in Farewell My Concubine. (10/00)
Farewell My Concubine.
For some reason, it took a long time for this lovely film to appear on video. There are touching performances by the principals and by the charming children who played their younger selves, but the real power of the story lies in the contrast between the narrowly political world of theater and the frightening violence of Red-Guard China's outer world. A fascinating aspect of the film is its glimpse into the rigorous (not to say cruel) training that groomed performers for Chinese opera. An unexpected side benefit was that, although my ear is completely untrained in the very different tonalities of the Oriental music and singing in the film, by the end of the narrative, I could actually distinguish between the protagonist's voice and the less pleasing singing of the Communist Party patriot who eventually replaced him!
The other night, two
great classic films directed by Federico Fellini (1920-1933) ran
back-to-back on Turner Classic Movies:
and his brilliant
They are arguably among Fellini's greatest, and he
was the top of the tops. Both were shot in B&W, very grainy & w/bad
production values by today's high standards, but they are immensely
It was extremely beautiful, what I saw of it. But the plot kept putting me to sleep, so I may have missed some ugly parts. (2/05)
and . . .
Well, of course Jackie Chan is the best thing since fireworks! Lots of silly action, superb stunts (and he does all his own) and marvelous running around, with the hero usually cast as the fall guy who wins in the end. The more recent films are mostly in English (earlier ones were subtitled only) and the action is smoother, and the plots usually are better. The best of the best, in the Chick's opinion, was the first buddy picture with Owen Wilson . . . but whatever you do, don't leave before the last credits roll. The goofball out-takes are the very best part of these films.
King of Masks ******
Ahhhh! The splendid King of Masks is still available on video! It did not have much play in U.S. theaters when it was here, but it is marvelous and memorable, and as fine a film as Farewell My Concubine, and more approachable to most audiences. Although it's quite different in subject, the storyline also involves characters who work in Chinese opera, and it includes another winning performance by a child. I recently saw it again on video and was as moved and impressed this second time as I had been the first. And that's saying a lot!
Three Kieslowski films, in French
of these films:
Three Colours: Red (French: Trois Couleurs: Rouge,
Polish: Trzy kolory. Czerwony) is a 1994 French-Polish-Swiss
co-production, co-written, produced, and directed by Polish filmmaker
Krzysztof . It is the final film of the Three Colors trilogy, which
examines the French Revolutionary ideals; it is preceded by [the films]
A modified King Lear, in Japanese. Both the similarities and the differences are interesting, and the staging is really powerful. It's more stunningly violent than Shakespeare, but with the same moral: Old man, don't be too ready to step down!
Here is a wonderful film. Exciting, touching, tragic, it is structurally a classic "western," although the Heroes are wielding swords rather than six-shooters. (Even a street-duel between a master and a brash challenger. One of my fave scenes.) And it's neat to learn that the relatively inferior The Magnificent Seven was based on this classic black-and-white Japanese film.
I love to
laugh. and if you say the same, then scour the universe for this
obscure Japanese film. (Also for
Taxing Woman Returns
) What does
the title mean? Is she hard to get along with? Not especially; just
that the diminuitive star is, well, okay, a Japanese tax collector.