10/12/2010 4 Comments
Despite having watched all the films—and it was truly a fun experience—I have to admit that it is a massive struggle trying to juggle the impending examinations whilst doing adequate research, analyzing key scenes and drawing frequent parallels between films, as well as maintaining the stamina of the standards of the write-ups that I have set myself since Day One.
Alas, the deadline of the project is coming right up, and I still have six films that I have yet to do a proper write-up for (the dates I’ve back-posted to the date I watched the film). I am not about to make excuses for myself; I have to admit that I got lost midway through the project with all the other assignments and readings that were piling up as well.
Yet whilst I was straddling the pros and cons between running the risk of not being able to finish on time versus sacrificing the consistency of quality of the report (at least, I would like to think that they are pretty good) I write for each film, I opted to go with the former instead, creating pieces that are on average 800 words long each (35,200 words *gasps*)
Hopefully this blog will be the start of something special, and will not die off after the conclusion of the FIL230 Asian Film History module, that indeed has taught me a lot about Asian films, their value and their innate quality, as well as the skill sets required to analyze a film, whether for aesthetic/cultural/historical context. For that, thank you Bee Thiam for your patient guidance throughout the length of the course, and I apologize if I have not been a good student in any way. I have tried to include as much as what I’ve learnt as I can, and I certainly do hope that it has been a fun read.
I would like to hereby apologize once again for not being to keep up with the work I have done on the blog so far. But for now, here is a brief summary of the six films that I have not touched on, including a short analysis of the pertinent aesthetic style and my reflections upon watching the film. And no promises – but I’ll try to relook at this after my examinations end.
Blissfully Yours (2004, Thailand)
- Thai film directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
- Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival
- A believable experimental film (no, that is not an irony) set in a jungle near the Thai-Burmese border
- You suspect that there is more to the jungle than meets the eye in this deadpan funny film
- A lot of full-frontal nudity occurs in this movie. And sex. But it is admirable that Apichatpong Weerasethakul approaches the taboo head-on rather than shy away from it by creating shots that obscure the gist of the action. Reality has always been in your face, and when you’re out in the woods in the middle of nowhere there shouldn’t be anything to hide.
- The opening credits only appear 45 minutes into the film, and that took me by surprise.
- Rather than scrutinize the film for any political innuendoes that many online critics have done (I’ve read some that proposes connections to the shaky Thai economy, the Burmese military junta causing the collapse of the Burmese economy, which from the rather hilarious and tragic hyperlink it is easy to draw a correlation why), I much preferred to appreciate the film for its simplicity, and the rawness of the desire and longing for love.
- Ultimately the film meanders but it is ultimately akin to listening to a jazz piece play on the stereo, ethereal and romantic.
Jellyfish (2007, Israel)
- Israeli film directed by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen
- Winner of the Camera d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and was part of the official selection at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival and 2008 Telluride Film Festival.
- The cinematography is stunning little wonder it clinched the Camera d’Or prize, with poetic images cast against the emptiness of the sea.
- “Life Stings” as the movie tagline perhaps the only connection between the title to the film, the allegory being quite an intangible one unless you consider how the jellyfish has no control over its movements – somewhat akin to the lack of direction of the characters in the film who opt to go with the tide rather than yield control over their lives.
- Happenstance and chance occurrences are favored in a zero-sum game that gives perhaps just too much emphasis on fate.
- An arthouse film that packs a punch in its very abstract yet ultimately haunting tale weaving the narrative threads of the three interconnected women together.
- Some have even termed this film “spiritual”.
Shutter (2004, Thailand)
- Thai film directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom
- One of the most genuinely creepy horror movies of all time, and it has also cemented Thailand’s reputation in producing scary horror movies.
- Rather than adopt cheap in-your-face thrills like—for the lack of my ability to conjure Asian examples at the moment—the American Saw franchise or a complete psychological affair like Paranormal Activity, Shutter is successful in being, simply, a marriage of both horror techniques. It eats into you, it toys into your psyche, and it leaves you scared.
- Adding to its weight is how it revolves around analog photography – one of the most leisurely and common hobbies today – and how the darkroom scenes are at once creepy because there is no option of flicking a light switch on. Circumstances force the room to be dark, and the protagonist’s job as a photographer forces him to be in the darkroom. It is not like some B-grade horror flick like The Human Centipede that has the victims luring the killer to their doorstep themselves.
- As in a horror movie, it is worth contemplating the elements of sound effects that can really add to the atmosphere of the film. By far one of the best elements of the film, it literally jolts you at the sudden moments, and pre-empts you in the scariest moments. The funny thing is, the sound usually precedes the imagery, but no matter how mentally prepared you are, you still get taken aback.
- And no, do not bother with the remake. At all.
Nobody Knows (2004, Japan)
- Japanese film directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
- Yuya Yagira won the Best Actor award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, while the film was also nominated for the Palme d’Or.
- This is an emotionally affecting film based on a 1988 real-life event that is known as the “Affair of the four abandoned children of Sugamo”
- A mother has four children, but each fathered by a different man. Abandoned, they are left to fend for themselves.
- There is no need to wring about any lengthy ethical discussion about the moral righteousness of the mother, who is plain in the wrong. But at least she had the decency to turn herself in.
- Critics have lambasted the film for not being true to the original story and for painting the children in a more positive light as compared to their real trials and tribulations, but I find this necessary for the movie to be taken seriously. Any further sensationalization and it would have been degraded into a major sob story.
- The stoic resilience of childhood is paralleled against the aloof nature of the big major city, pretending that everything is okay so as to escape the purview of the social welfare system.
- There is hardly any dialogue in this sentimental tragic masterpiece that has evoked plenty of visceral emotions that are admittedly hard to grapple with – the senseless cruelty the root of it all.
Rashomon (1950, Japan)
- Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa
- Clinched the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival as well as an Academy Honorary Award at the 24th Academy Awards.
- Minimalist sets convey Akira Kurosawa’s love of silent film and modern art.
- The crime/murder mystery unfolds in flashback sequence as the four characters, also involving the raped wife and the murdered husband, each respectively recount the events one fateful afternoon in a grove.
- The audience is tempted into becoming the judge, the determinant of who is right and who’s wrong as the movie unfolds. Kurosawa dangles the carrot of taking sides, of forming judgment in such a cinematic arrangement.
- This is perceptual cinema as its best, casting light on the respective characters and their different perceptions of the same event.
- Lighting is an aspect of the film that has garnered plenty of accolades, with the clever use of natural lighting, albeit reflected by a mirror that creates a dappling effect that creates beautiful shadows amid the trees and branches, while the rain was tainted with black ink so as to appear visible on film.
- But is there really a resolution to what must definitely be Kurosawa’s most defining film?
Eros Plus Massacre (1969, Japan)
- Japanese film directed by Yoshishige Yoshida
- Black-and-white film that contravenes the color technology that was already available at that point of time. Why? Could it be because of the need to create a more realistic flashback of 1923 Japan, that would otherwise only be seen in black & white sequences on film?
- The story is a biography of an anarchist, Sakae Osugi, who was assassinated by the military in 1923, and the story of the relationship with three women, while two students research on and discuss the ideologies of love that he upheld.
- Moulds time and space within the confined edges of narrative cinema to create a world where the characters are real. It does not attempt to conform at all – as seen from the color choice. It is simply different from all the cookie-cutter biographical films out there. The movie doesn’t seek to solve questions and conjure answers, but to encourage more questions to be asked, thus is the elusive nature and ephemeral quality of the expressionistic scenes.
- Could there have been an influence from Japanese theatre given the narrative devices used?
- A cinematic classic, and a milestone in Japanese cinema for sure.