Goodbye, Dragon Inn

I watched Tsai Ming-liang’s 2003 release last night. Anybody into this fellow’s films (a Chinese-Malaysian filmmaker who has lived and worked in Taiwan since his early twenties)? Goodbye, Dragon Inn was stunningly frustrating yet captivating all the same. There are basically two narratives that drive the action. Set in what once was a regal now dilapidated Taipei movie palace (a concrete mausoleum full of ghosts or maybe those mysterious men in the belly of the building are simply cruising for sex, I’m not sure), the film captures the theatre’s final screening before closing its doors and jumps back and forth between the handful of audience members and staff in the cavernous theatre with the 1966 King Hu kung-fu epic Dragon Inn being projected on the screen.

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watched but as yet unblogged

in reverse order of viewing:

1. “the business of fancydancing”–promoted this one after mike’s endorsement. we liked it a lot (maybe sunhee will post her thoughts as well). some of the acting was a little amateurish (a lot of first-time actors apparently) but the lead was great, as was the writing generally. structurally very interesting as well–it felt like what it was: a film based on poems rather than stories or a novel. i also liked how it avoided resolutions, not only of seymour and aristotle’s relationship, but also of the question of seymour’s relationship to the rez (in his life and his art).

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They cut me, man, they cut me

So I had this operation yesterday. Operation’s a fancy word for it–in and out of the clinic in thirty minutes. But I had to lie around the house all day with ice on my scrotum, so I watched a movies.

Recommended, all:
“Songs from the Second Floor”–not really sure how to describe this, and the critics’ quotes on the box are terribly confused (“Short Cuts meets Night of the Living Dead” is one inept [and lousy] attempt). It’s an absurdist existential comedy of despair, by a Swede. The film is gloriously composed–each shot a fixed-cam tableau, the lighting and sky usually artificial. (In contrast to Sky Captain . . . actually I’ll put this in a comment there.) I laughed, I was intrigued, and my scrotum wasn’t hurting while I watched.

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“Troy”. This snuck into my house, disguised as a film by Wolfgang Peterson with Brian Cox and Peter O’Toole in it. I lasted a few minutes longer than I did when I tried to watch “Braveheart.”

If “snuck” is the past tense of “sneak,” do I actually “feak” in the present tense?

TV shows: “Firefly” finally made me understand why people are impressed with Joss Whedon. And tonight I’ve been rewatching episodes of “The Upright Citizens Brigade,” which made me want to shove pennies up my ass. Again.

“In Good Company” was a fine exemplum of the contradictory embodiment of ideology in popular film. Even as they satirize “synergy,” the characters drink absurdly large cans of Diet Pepsi; the critique of globalization and the conglomeration of industry stems from a nostalgia for the good old days when old white guys shook hands in back rooms. And Topher Grace is a hottie. He reminds me of John Bruns, if John were taller and more anorexic.

Time of the Wolf

Saw this last night. I came to it as a general fan of the director Michael Haneke, whose “Funny Games” was a brilliant provocation (and scarily funny) and “Code Inconnu” was smart, complexly attentive to social injustices and personal desires,…. (And, no, I haven’t seen “The Piano Teacher,” about which a bunch of us would surely and with great vigor disagree.) Both films are very smart, and I walked away from ’em thinking myself very smart for having seen them and liked them. I felt nothing, beyond that intellectual engagement.

I wept–like a fucking baby–at the end of “Time of the Wolf.” The story is post-some-vague-apocalypse, and society’s broken down. We follow a few survivors–mostly one family (Isabelle Huppert and two children)–as they get by. And that’s about it; not much momentous happens. It’s beautifully shot, the acting is pitch-perfect, and the scenario seems utterly realist (carefully attentive to the small details, unconcerned with the big picture).

And the emotional wallop of the final two scenes caught me so off-guard I did, literally, break down and cry. I haven’t done that since The Butterfly Effect. Ok, I’m kidding about Butterfly. But has anyone else seen Wolf? Was this just some random emotional charge, brought on by too little sleep and underlying anxiety about my kid growing up? Or was the film as effective as it seemed?

some recent netflix rentals

demme’s remake of the manchurian candidate. why was this necessary? too much fussy, techy stuff; old-fashioned hypnotism with a deck of cards much better.

we don’t live here anymore–good performances, especially from mark ruffalo (mike, what do you make of this character/film vis a vis your irresponsibility thesis?), but the film itself seems less and less interesting the further i get from it. overly obvious use of music. naomi watts excellent; laura dern does her woman on the verge thing, and does it well.

king arthur–no black knight, no constitutional peasant, no killer rabbits, no taunting frenchmen, no knights who say “ni”! instead, a very gloomy arthur, i mean arturius, who seems to see no conflict between his belief that all men (and presumably women) are born free and should remain so and his becoming king at the end. and lancelot lances not at all. some pleasure can be taken, however, from the following: stellan skarsgaard’s performance as a dour saxon; ray winstone chewing what little scenery is visible through the mist and smoke; and some danish star named mads mikkelsen (i think he used to play bass for motley crue) as a particularly fey sir tristram. high unintentional comedy in the dvd extras where jerry bruckheimer leads the stars, director and the screenwriter through a very self-important round-table discussion of the film.

Continue reading some recent netflix rentals