Thursday, October 30, 2008

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space is now showing “A Month of Mental Retardation” through the end of November. [In December, they will give you another chance to view Kieslowski’s great Three Colors Trilogy, plus his The Double Life of Veronique.]

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space on November 1, 7 pm: Forrest Gump (1994) by Robert Zemeckis – US Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 142 mins. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82/76 out of 100.

Roger Ebert: Its hero, played by Tom Hanks, is a thoroughly decent man with an IQ of 75, who manages between the 1950s and the 1980s to become involved in every major event in American history. And he survives them all with only honesty and niceness as his shields.

And yet this is not a heartwarming story about a mentally retarded man. That cubbyhole is much too small and limiting for Forrest Gump. The movie is more of a meditation on our times, as seen through the eyes of a man who lacks cynicism and takes things for exactly what they are. Watch him carefully and you will understand why some people are criticized for being "too clever by half." Forrest is clever by just exactly enough.

Tom Hanks may be the only actor who could have played the role.

I can't think of anyone else as Gump, after seeing how Hanks makes him into a person so dignified, so straight-ahead. The performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, in a story rich in big laughs and quiet truths.

At Film Space on November 8, 7 pm: Laundry (2002) by Junichi Mori – Japan Drama/ Romance – 126 mins.

A young man, who's mentally handicapped, meets a young woman, with a great deal of baggage, at the laundry where he works and they fall in love. This is a very quirky love story with very quirky characters, one of them played by the very quirky Japanese actor Yôsuke Kubozuka! To my mind he is a fascinating, even mesmerizing actor.

He’s a bad boy – a very bad boy! – difficult to work with, and in deep trouble with the Japanese establishment for his very vocal support of marijuana use. However, he won Japan’s equivalent of the Oscars for his performance in a Japanese movie called Go in 2001, and I saw him in a fascinating film at last year’s Bangkok International Film Festival: amour-LEGENDE. It was a weird performance in a weird film that haunts me to this day. This movie, Laundry, comes a year after his award-winning film, and between this one and amour-LEGENDE he fell 9 stories from his apartment balcony under strange circumstances; some say he’s been even weirder ever since.

Nevertheless, he’s fascinating to watch.

Japan Times: In Japan, it's hard for an actor to stretch once an image is fixed in the public mind. Thus hot young star Yosuke Kubotsuka (or his agent) was smart to sign for Jun'ichi Mori's Laundry soon after making a big splash in "Go," where he played a quick-fisted Korean kid in a Japanese high school, which earned him a Japan Academy Award.

In Laundry Kubotsuka is Teru, a 20-year-old with a damaged brain (the result, he tells us in a voice-over narration, of an early encounter with an open manhole), who lives with his grandmother and keeps an eye on her laundromat. Planting himself on a chair outside the place, he observes the various eccentrics who flow through, including an old man who mumbles to himself, a housewife who bores him with her endless photos of flowers and a pro boxer who has yet to win a bout in 18 tries and crawls into a dryer to pout all night after his latest loss.

The Japanese affection for the sort of love story seen in Laundry goes back to Chaplin's “City Lights” (which they much prefer to his more satirical "Modern Times"). The Tramp's selfless love for the blind flower girl has inspired countless directors here to produce their own versions of the film's "a smile and a tear" formula. The films mostly range from the insufferable to the exasperating. In Laundry, Mori, an award-winning director of TV commercials making his feature debut, doesn't completely avoid the feyness endemic to these films: Teru wears a conical cap, knitted for him by Granny, that makes him look like a walking, breathing cartoon character. But Mori has a drier, quirkier sensibility than his predecessors -- "Baghdad Cafe" meets "Edward Scissorhands" -- while his script has memorable lines, ingenious twists and an ending that flows from everything that has come before, without being thumpingly obvious.

He also has Kubotsuka, who resists the urge to flaunt his virtuosity. Instead he simplifies, expressing the essence of Teru, including his neediness and hard-headedness, with economy and precision -- and none of the usual bombast and treacle. As Mizue, former model Koyuki may be a bit too much the sensitive wimp, but is a believable kleptomaniac (she has the right hard, glinty eye). Meanwhile, Naito -- a ferociously articulate TV comedian and MC -- provides a refreshing balance to these two unworldly types as the straight-talking, if comically strange, Sari.

Though packaged as an offbeat entertainment for a mainly female audience (two beautiful misfits find each other!), Laundry manages to be something more as well. Even if you don't buy its romance, its view of the world as a place where character and circumstance are not necessarily predestined is a nice counter to the more fashionable fatalism. Laundry is a cleansing film -- but not the same old soap.

At Film Space on November 15, 7 pm: The Eighth Day / Le Huitième jour (1996) by Jaco van Dormael – Belgium/ France/ UK Comedy/ Drama – 118 mins. Mixed or average reviews: 68 out of 100.

Georges has Down syndrome, living at a mental-institution, Harry is a busy businessman, giving lectures for young aspiring salesmen. He is successful in his business life, but his social life is a disaster since his wife left him and took their two children with her. This weekend his children came by train to meet him, but Harry, working as always, forgot to pick them up. Neither his wife nor his children want to see him again and he is driving around on the country roads, anguished and angry. He almost runs over Georges, on the run from the institution since everybody else went home with their parents except him, whose mother is dead. Harry tries to get rid of Georges but he won't leave his new friend. Eventually a special friendship forms between the two of them, a friendship which makes Harry a different person.

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