Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's On starting September 11

Zohan crassly funny!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, September 11

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: WALL•E. Mamma Mia!

To avoid like the plague: Death Race.

Of special note: Starts this week – Trois Couleurs / Three Colors on Fridays September 12, 19, and 26 at Alliance Française.

Trois Couleurs / Three Colors by Krzysztof Kieslowski – This is a major film event in Chiang Mai, starting Friday (tomorrow), and should merit your consideration. The three films that make up this trilogy are being shown on the next three Fridays evenings at the Alliance Française (on the 12th, 19th, and 26th), and on three successive Saturdays at Film Space in December.

These are quite amazing films, and you owe it to yourself to begin your acquaintance with them, if you haven’t already. You will want to return to them again and again to savor their richness, as they do not give up their secrets easily. More details can be found under the Alliance Française section below.

Here are my comments on the movies playing at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, September 11, 2008. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space. This is Issue Number 46 of Volume 3 of these listings.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* You Don't Mess with the Zohan: US Action/Comedy – 113 mins – Starring Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, and Rob Schneider. Zohan is an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. It’s an Adam Sandler comedy, and if you like his kind of low and crass comedy, you should like this one very much. Here he plays the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for laughs. I laughed. A lot. And cringed. A lot.

Roger Ebert: Adam Sandler's new comedy is shameless in its eagerness to extract laughs from every possible breach of taste or decorum, and why am I even mentioning taste and decorum in this context? This is a mighty hymn of and to vulgarity, and either you enjoy it, or you don't. I found myself enjoying it a surprising amount of the time, even though I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. . . . No thinking adult should get within a mile of this film. I must not have been thinking.

Has been banned by censors in Egypt, Lebanon, and the U.A.E., and "is 99% likely that the film will be banned in all Arab countries.” But a huge hit in Israel ("Israelis like to laugh at themselves," says the Israeli distributor). Mixed or average reviews: 54/53 out of 100.

* Burn / Kon Fai Look / คนไฟลุก: Thai Thriller – 90 mins – All you ever wanted to know about “SHC” – Spontaneous Human Combustion. As you certainly know, that’s the familiar medical condition wherein a living human being suddenly bursts into flames. Director Peter Manus examines this serious human malady, and perhaps will show how you can innoculate yourself against this happening to you. Maybe diet can help.

Movieseer: Burn circles around the mystery of Spontaneous human combustion (SHC), the belief that the human body sometimes burns without an external source of ignition. The story follows the investigation of a female victim’s mysterious death caused by SHC. Mona, the daughter of the victim, is an ambitious lawyer who accidentally involves in the crime. She regrets the unfinished reconciliation between her and her mother. The incident brings her to Ploy, a nurse whose mother passed from SHC as well. Both girls seek to find the truth behind their mother’s death. Kwan, a diehard journalist, follows her instinct to unveil the evil force behind the case.

Can this be suicide, murder, accident, or a secretly religious sacrifice? The mystery behind “deadly fire” needs to be revealed before fire erupts.

Bangkok Dangerous: US Action/Drama – 100 mins – Directing twins Danny and Oxide Pang return to remake their popular 1999 thriller about a ruthless hitman (this time Nicolas Cage) who travels to Bangkok in order to carry out four crucial (for him) murders. During the course of his jobs, the triggerman falls in love with a pretty local girl (Hong Kong actress and pop singer Charlie Yeung [or Young] in a quite affecting performance) while also forming a friendly bond with his young errand boy (nicely played by Thai actor Shahkrit Yamnarm, seen at right).

A fairly decent, if cliché ridden and predictable, action flick, shot in some mildly interesting locations in Bangkok. You should be happy with it if you like a somewhat low-powered shoot-em up action picture. And/or are a fan of Nicolas Cage.

Makers of the movie are saying that they were shooting the film in Bangkok during the 19th of September coup d'état two years ago. Filming stopped, but only for six hours. They are fond of claiming that they fired the only shots in the coup.

Rated R in the US for violence, language, and some sexuality. Generally negative reviews: 24/33 out of 100.

Tevada Tokmun / Te-wa-da / เทวดาตกมันส์: Thai Comedy – 90 mins – Some Academy Fantasia 4 winners from the hit TV reality show in a comedy about the misadventures of an angel and a monk.

Mamma Mia!: US/UK/Germany Comedy/ Musical/ Romance – 108 mins – Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth. Donna, an independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited daughter she's raised alone. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, Sophie invites to the wedding three men from Donna's past, all possibly her father. Popular ABBA music that I find horrifyingly infectious and which I can’t get rid of. Extraordinarily vivacious and energetic musical that is bound and determined to make you sing and dance and feel good about marriage and things like that. Mixed or average reviews: 51/53 out of 100.

Boonchu 9 / Boon-Choo / บุญชู 9: Thai Comedy – 90 mins – A continuation of this popular Thai comedy series. The son of the original Boonchu is a happy monk who is defrocked by his mother and sent to university in Bangkok. There he meets up with new “friends” – two tiny homeless girls – who drug him and mug him. But it all turns out all right eventually because it is foremost a feel-good movie for Thais from start to finish. It’s the gentlest of comedies and family drama, with the sweetest of characters and the homiest of situations. The Thais I saw it with were thrilled with it every moment, and laughed and worried and got upset ever the slightest at the plot complications. They had a thoroughly good time, but I think you need Thai sensibilities to enjoy it, at least to that extent. Has some appealing young stars and well-established older comedians.

Boys Over Flowers: Final / Flower 4 (F4) Final: Japan Romance/Comedy – 130 mins – Wildly popular film in Japan, based on a top selling manga, featuring five popular Japanese idols, following the travails of a working-class girl at an elite prep school who must contend with a four-man clique (the “Flower 4”) of “rich, gorgeous guys” from extremely powerful families. Thai dubbed with no English subtitles.

WALL•E: US Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Romance/ Sci-Fi – 98 mins – It’s a work of genius from the first frame to the last! Robot love on a dead Earth, and the cutest love story in years. There's virtually no dialogue for the first 40 minutes; you’ll be enthralled. And the brilliant animation continues throughout the closing credits. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93/85 out of 100. There’s a terrific Pixar cartoon before the feature.

The Coffin / Longtorai / Long Dtor Dtai / Lhong Tor Tai / โลงต่อตาย: Thai Horror – 90 mins – Ananda Everingham as a claustrophobic architect who participates in coffin rituals to gain a new lease on life. It has much going for it, with a stellar cast and a fine director, but I was mightily confused. It didn’t seem to be the movie that director Ekachai Uekrongtham set out to make. The script won a prestigious prize from the Rotterdam Festival, but the movie hadn’t been made yet, and to get the necessary funding he had to change it into a horror flick, making compromises along the way. The beautifully shot opening sequence of the burial ritual at the temple gives an idea of what the film could have been. And although this is the director’s first English language film, it is shown in Thailand only in a Thai-dubbed version, with English subtitles which don’t jibe with the movement of the lips. The result for me is simply awkward.

Made of Honor: US Comedy – 101 mins – A piece of fluff about, what else, love problems, with the appealing stars Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan. Generally negative reviews: 37/39 out of 100.

Death Race: US Action/Thriller – 90 mins – The most twisted spectator sport on earth as violent criminals vie for freedom by winning a race driving monster cars outfitted with machine guns, flamethrowers, and grenade launchers. The previews are the most repulsive imaginable, and have convinced me I don’t wish to see it. The consensus: Little more than an empty action romp – mindless, violent, and lightning-paced. Rated R in the US for strong violence (mauling, maiming, bruising, beating, impalement, immolation, detonation, decapitation) and language. Mixed or average reviews: 42/48 out of 100.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, September 18

My Best Friend’s Girl: US Romance/Comedy – 101 mins – Dustin (Jason Biggs) is dumped by smart, beautiful, and headstrong Alexis (Kate Hudson). Devastated and desperate to get her back, Dustin turns to his best friend, Tank (Dane Cook), the rebound specialist. A master at seducing – and offending – women, Tank offers to help out by to taking her out on a lousy date in order to make her realize how great her former boyfriend was, but he ends up meeting the challenge of a lifetime. Alexis is the first girl he’s met who knows how to call his bluff, and Tank soon finds himself torn between his loyalty to Dustin and a strange new attraction to his best friend's girl.

Also with Alec Baldwin. Rated R in the US for strong language and sexual content throughout, including graphic dialogue and some nudity.

Cyborg She / Cyborg Girl: Japan Romance/Sci-Fi – 120 mins – A touching time-spanning sci-fi romance/comedy that borrows a lot from the Terminator and Back to the Future movies. It’s a love story between a high-tech cyborg from the future and her inventor, the kindly, frail, and physically handicapped Jiro. In the year 2070, Jiro builds a female cyborg as a personal aide to assist him in his daily life. Equipped with a time travel device, Jiro sends the cyborg back to 2007 in an attempt to prevent the incident that crippled him. Directed by Korean Kwak Jae-Young, responsible for the popular 2001 hit My Sassy Girl.

Baan Phee Phop 2008 / บ้านผีปอบ 2008: Thai Horror/Comedy – At least the 11th installment of this popular ghost/ horror/ comedy series. Porp/Pop/Phop seems to be a traditional form of ghost in Thailand, though she is normally depicted as an old hag. There was apparently a glut of really bad “Phop” movies in the 1990s - there have been at least ten films in the Baan Phee Phop series of horror anthologies - so the word has come to mean a generic Z-grade film among Thai film fans.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, September 25

Dive!: Japan Drama – 115 mins – MovieSeer:Dive takes you to falling over adventure in summer with new-coming young actors of Japan's Entertainment who rival beneath the swimming pool of dream.

When an outsider diving league struggling to survive, new generation of divers are challenged and intensively compete to be the best of the divers. Their only goal is to be the one who partakes in Olympic Games. The competition brings them the meaning of love, friendship, devotion and a big challenge of their life in the final.

More succeintly, Dive! is a teen sports flick based on a best-selling Japanese novel, and follows the diving dreams of three teenagers, played by Ikematsu Sosuke (left), Mizobata Junpei (right), and Hayashi Kento (center), who won Best Newcomer at the 31st Japan Academy Awards. The three young stars underwent diving training for three months in order to convincingly portray their characters onscreen.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Alliance schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

Trois Couleurs / Three Colors by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A major film event begins in Chiang Mai tomorrow (Friday, September 12) at the Alliance Française, and merits your consideration. The three films that make up this Three Colors trilogy are being shown on the next three Fridays evenings at the Alliance (on the 12th, 19th, and 26th). (They will be shown again on three successive Saturdays in December at Film Space.)

These are quite amazing films, and you owe it to yourself to begin your acquaintance with them, if you haven’t already. You will want to return to them again and again to savor their richness, as they do not give up their secrets easily.

Friday, September 12: Trois Couleurs: Bleu / Three Colors: Blue (1993) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 100 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.

With Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Véry, Hélène Vincent, Philippe Volter, Claude Duneton, Hugues Quester, Emmanuelle Riva.

Three Colors: Blue is the first part of Kieslowski's trilogy on France's national motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Blue is the story of Julie who loses her husband, an acclaimed European composer, and her young daughter in a car accident. The film's theme of liberty is manifested in Julie's attempt to start a new life free of personal commitments, belongings, grief, and love. She intends to spiritually commit suicide by withdrawing from the world and live completely independently, anonymously and in solitude in the Parisian metropolis. Despite her intentions, people from her former and present life intrude with their own needs. However...”

Alliance description

Friday, September 19: Trois Couleurs: Blanc / Three Colors: White (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 91 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.

With Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr, Aleksander Bardini, Grzegorz Warchol.

This is the second of the "Three Colors" trilogy Red, White, and Blue: the colors symbolizing liberty, equality, and fraternity. White, therefore, was written around the destructive dynamics of a relationship based upon great inequality. Karol is a Polish hairdresser working in France. He has a beautiful wife, Dominique, whom he loves to obsession, and who is in the process of divorcing him for his inability to "consummate the marriage.” Karol loses all of his earthly possessions and is literally driven out of France by his estranged wife. Karol decides to fight back...”

Alliance description

Friday, September 26: Trois Couleurs: Rouge / Three Colors: Red (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 99 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.

With Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Samuel Le Bihan, Marion Stalens.

Third and last part of Kieslowski's trilogy . . . Valentine is a young model living in Geneva. Because of a dog she ran over, she meets a retired judge who spies his neighbors' phone calls, not for money but to feed his cynicism…”

Alliance description

More on the first one, Blue:

Review by Bryant Frazer, at


It's hard to defend the artiness of BLUE. With a Kieslowski movie (maybe with all Kieslowski movies), either you get it or you don't. If you get it, you're a fan. The movie becomes a mystical, dream-like experience. You recall the most indulgent camera angles and close-ups at the oddest moments of your day. Perhaps you hum a few bars of Zbigniew Preisner's formidable score as you drink your coffee in the morning, or you have a nightmare about the kind of car crash that sets this story in motion. And when a friend doesn't appreciate the film -- in fact, they think it's a dull, pretentious throwback to the French New Wave or somesuch -- you find yourself speechless. It's hard to use words to explain the cinema's moments of great beauty, and you may as well give up before you begin.

THREE COLORS: BLUE is the first film in Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy built around the precious themes of liberty, equality, and fratenity (the second and third films are WHITE and RED, respectively). The concepts correspond to the three colors of the French flag, and the conceit is actually less a stricture than a simple excuse for Kieslowski to make a set of movies that meditate on love, loss, and our essential humanity. Liberty is personified in the newly-widowed Julie (Binoche), who survives the automobile accident that kills her husband Patrice (a famous composer) and daughter Anna. This sea change in her life drives her to divorce herself from familiar people and surroundings, but she's dogged by an unwelcome artifact from her husband's life. His unfinished composition, Song for the Unification of Europe, is the subject of intense interest, and although Julie disposes of Patrice's notes for the piece (and tries to dispose of all her own memories), it continues to insinuate itself into her life until she confronts the music as well as her own devastated psyche.

It sounds very color-by-numbers, but the film is actually anything but. Kieslowski is a bold filmmaker, with a knack for hypnotizing an audience. As much as Kieslowski's THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE seemed concerned with lenses, this one dwells on reflections -- Julie's face reflected on the curve of a spoon, a doctor's face reflected in the iris of her eye, filling the screen. The richness of imagery occasionally rivals that of a novel (Julie touches a sugar cube to coffee; as we watch, the sugar turns the luminous color of her own skin). And Kieslowski works at capturing the essence of memory and the passage of time. At four moments during the film, the screen fades completely and music swells Patrice's unfinished piece and then the music cuts, and the scene fades back in at exactly the moment where it faded out. It's part of the mystery of the film that a viewer can have an immediate and intuitive grasp on such an abstract device.

Intuition, indeed, is the driving force behind Kieslowski's films. The relationships and imagery are drawn so intricately that the pictures reward repeated viewing, and it's only on the second or third time around that the whole power of one of these films really becomes apparent. It's easy to belittle a film like this, with its languid pace, elliptical dialog, and propensity for introspection (navel-gazing?). Don't these somber sequences substitute a content New Age-ism for any real statements in response to the questions they pose? Isn't Kieslowski living in a blithe, egocentric dream world? How can we be expected to identify with the rich widow of a French composer as she mourns her way through Paris?

Yet through Binoche's performance and Kieslowski's guidance, we do identify. We feel Julie's aloneness even as we understand her resolve to cast off her sentiment and distance herself from the inexorable sadness. At the end of BLUE, as Preisner's music swells up on the soundtrack, all of the disparate characters and situations that make up Julie's story finally come together. Pictures recall pictures as Julie is finally reflected in the eyes of another, and the delicate shape of another character is traced on a video monitor, echoed in shades of blue. These final moments articulate character and contradictory emotion in one crystalline, irrefutable passage of images, absolutely wordless -- the very definition of great cinema. If you're asking the same questions as our director, the simple clarity of such images provides answers enough.

What to watch for:

In Blue, you will be struck by the powerful performance of Juliette Binoche in what is basically a solo performance. It has been said that her face shows clearly what she is thinking all the time. Well, not all the time for me. Most of the time, yes, but at a couple of key points I was suddenly at a complete loss as to what was going on in her mind, and it was a puzzle that I needed to figure out.

Kieslowski obviously wants to key these three films and their themes in some way to the French flag and the French motto of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity: blue, white, and red are continually referred to in the film, as well as in the titles. At one point in the first film, we see the protagonist Julie carrying a box which, as a close-up shows, has prominently written across it the word "blanco", Spanish for white; in the next shot we are looking at her from behind, and she pauses in the street as a man in blue passes her on her left and a woman in red passes her on her right. This is a not-so-subtle reference to the structure of the Three Colors trilogy - blue, white, red, in that order, mirroring the French flag.

And then again, During one swimming scene in the blue pool, children in red and white bathing suits run out and jump in the water -- another reference to the trilogy (blue, white, and red).

And in the first film, Blue, there is blue all over the place; in addition to blue filters and blue lighting, any number of prominent objects are blue - a foil balloon, a tinted window, awnings, a folder, the walls of a room, coats, skirts, scarves, blouses, jeans, shirts, trash bags, crystals, a lollypop and its wrapper, binders, graffiti, a pool, a van, and a pen.

Blue, supposedly standing for Liberty. Does this help? Well, for sure, it can get you thinking, trying to make connections. You could say that this woman is on a campaign to be completely independent (at liberty, I suppose) with nothing to tie her down, and no alliances which might become entangling. She says at one point, “Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing. I don't want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps.”

Is this a cautionary tale? Liberty being taken to a ridiculous extreme? What precisely is the film trying to say? If one takes this as being an example of “liberty” then what about it’s unity with another part of the flag, the red, “fraternity” (or “brotherhood”)? This woman is about as opposite to “fraternal” as you can get! In fact, she’s basically an extremely unsympathetic and unpalatable character, cold, and selfish.

So the blue, white, and red of the French flag, and Liberté, égalité, fraternité, may seem like a help, our window to a grand scheme, but is it really? I rather think it only seems to be a help, on first glance, but really isn’t. If it’s purpose is just to get you to think about it, it certainly succeeds. Maybe something along the line of, “You can’t have all three!” Not at the same time.

Juliette Binoche, in what amounts to a one-woman show, turns in a mesmerizing and accomplished performance. She manages to bring an element of humanity and sympathy to a basically unsympathetic character – there is little in Julie, as written, for the audience to latch onto, but Ms. Binoche provides the emotional link to the story.

Blue is a powerful motion picture - both in terms of its dramatic impact and in its method of presentation, and it is an adventure to be prized highly.

What do you think?:

There’s considerable difference of opinion about who wrote the music in the story told in the film. Supposedly the woman’s husband wrote it, and he is shown as a fairly famous composer. But there are a number of indications in the film that the music was actually written by the wife, the one main character in the film. I’m quite convinced it was all hers.

Some people call the music pretentious. I think it is, but the same could be said of a number of composers, if you’re in the mood for name-calling. The film itself could be considered pretentious. I think you just have to accept that as a fact of life with Kieslowski, and go on from there to appreciate the film’s richness.

The famous last five minutes of Blue are truly extraordinary and are considered by some to be the finest wedding of sight and sound to be seen in film. I think it may be, but it certainly takes a number of viewings to catch the subtleties.

About the director:

Krzysztof Kieslowski was born June 27, 1941 in Warsaw, Poland, and died 13 March 13, 1996 in Warsaw, Poland, from cardiac arrest during heart surgery.

A distinctive voice in Polish cinema, known for his uncompromising moral stance, Kieslowski first came to attention in the early 1970s for his incisive (often shelved) documentaries and shorts on the political reality of life in Poland. His features of the late 1970s explored the relationship between the personal and the political with style, directness and a raw edge of realism, making him a key figure in the 'cinema of moral unrest'.

Although the authorities banned Przypadek/Blind Chance (1981), Kieslowski was undeterred and made Bez Konca/No End in 1984. In the late 1980s he turned to television, directing Dekalog, a series of ten films thematically inspired by the Ten Commandments. The international release of one of these, Krotki Film o Zabijaniu/A Short Film About Killing (1988), and the subsequent massive success of the whole series, was greeted with surprise by Polish critics, who compared Dekalog unfavorably with Kieslowski's earlier work.

His next feature, Podwojne Zycie Weroniki/The Double Life of Veronique (1992), was a co-production between the Tor Film Unit and French producers; it enjoyed critical and commercial success, especially in France.

Kieslowski's next work was a trilogy based on the French flag: 'liberty' (Trois couleurs Bleu/Three Colors: Blue, 1993), 'equality' (Trois couleurs Blanc/Three Colors: White, 1993) and 'fraternity' (Trois couleurs: Rouge/Three Colors: Red, 1994). They secured for Kieslowski - hailed as 'the most truly European director' - a place in the pantheon of European art cinema.

Announced his retirement from film-making after completing Trois couleurs: Rouge/Three Colors: Red.

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Note: Film Space has postponed their previously scheduled September showings of the “Colors” trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski to December, in order not to conflict with the showings of these same three films by the Alliance Française in September. Film Space is now showing “A Month of Asian Films” throughout September. October will offer “A Month of Alcoholism.”

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 September 13, 7 pm: Eat Drink Man Woman / Yin shi nan nu (1994) by Ang Lee – Taiwan/US Comedy/ Romance/ Drama – 123 mins. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 75 out of 100.

Review by James Berardinelli:

"Everything is much different in Eat Drink Man Woman than the other films I've made. It has a bigger cast and a lot more complex story line... I started thinking about families and how they communicate. Sometimes the things children need to hear most are often the things that parents find hardest to say, and vice versa. When that happens, we resort to ritual. For the Chu family, the ritual is the Sunday dinner... At each dinner the family comes together and then something happens that pushes them farther apart."

- Ang Lee, writer/director of Eat Drink Man Woman

Who said foreign films can't be fun? Ang Lee's follow-up to his internationally successful The Wedding Banquet is a delicious examination of the relationship between aging Chinese master chef Tao Chu (Sihung Lung) and his three daughters. The oldest, Jia-Jen (Kuei-Mei-Yang), is an unmarried school teacher in her late twenties. The middle daughter, Jia-Chen (Chien-Lien Wu), is a thriving corporate airline executive whose career comes before all else. The youngest, Jia-Ning (Yu-Wen Wang), is a twenty year old romantic who works at a Wendy's fast food joint.

Eat Drink Man Woman is a more accomplished motion picture than its predecessor - and The Wedding Banquet was good enough in its own right. The comedy is spontaneous and relaxed, the drama is finely-tuned, and the plot is seasoned with unexpected little twists. The script delights in occasional forays just beyond the typical bounds of a screenplay.

Though filmed entirely in Taiwan (Lee's first film not to examine cross-cultural issues), the themes of Eat Drink Man Woman are universal. The problems faced by the Chu family happen all around the world, and the difficulty of communicating across the generation gap is something almost everyone has experienced at one time or another. Love, especially that of Chu for his daughters, often goes unspoken, for to express emotion is to admit vulnerability.

With an ease that marks the true craftsman, Ang Lee develops a rapport between his characters and the audience. These people have a richness, texture, and depth that no stereotype could hope to match, and which a film like Wayne Wang's The Joy Luck Club was grasping for. The perfectly-proportioned measures of comedy and drama emerge through character interaction, not as a result of contrived situations and silly one-liners.

For his cast, Lee has chosen a mixture of actors he has and has not previously worked with. The role of Chu was written with veteran performer Sihung Lung in mind. The actor appeared in a similar patriarchal capacity in the director's Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet. Also returning from The Wedding Banquet are Winston Chao (the reluctant bridegroom then and a co-worker of Jia-Chen's now) and Ah-Leh Gua (the mother then and the obnoxious Mrs. Liang now).

Food is as much a backdrop as a recurring symbol. Chu's failing taste buds parallel his loss for the zest for life. Jia-Chen's love of cooking harkens back to a frustrated childhood desire, and Jia-Ning's work at a Wendy's makes a statement about the infusion of Western culture into modern-day China. Nevertheless, as with The Age of Innocence, which displayed countless dishes guaranteed to whet the appetite, Eat Drink Man Woman could perhaps be frustrating to any who view it on an empty stomach.

About the director: Ang Lee

A New York-based, Taiwan-born independent producer, director, and screenwriter, Ang Lee gained international attention with his second feature, "The Wedding Banquet" (1993). Described by one of its producers as "a cross-cultural, gay 'Green Card', comedy of errors," this gentle, observant comedy strove to recreate the plot structure of an old Hollywood screwball comedy while confronting issues of Taiwanese identity. "The Wedding Banquet" became a huge international success: Variety deemed it the most profitable film of 1993 as it yielded a 4,000 percent return on investment. Lee helped put Taiwanese cinema on the international map, especially as "The Wedding Banquet" became the first movie from that country to earn an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign-Language Film.

After Lee's paternal grandparents were executed for being landowners during the Communist revolution in mainland China, his father, a scholar and school principal, fled to Taiwan. In 1973, Lee surprised his family by heading to Taipei to study acting. Five years later, he moved to the USA to pursue further studies. Following his graduation from the University of Illinois, he headed east to NYU's film school, where he began his moviemaking career. Lee worked in production capacities on student like Spike Lee's "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barber Shop: We Cut Heads" (1982, as assistant to cinematographer Ernest Dickerson). His own shorts, "Dim Lake" (1983) and "Fine Line" (1984) earned prizes and led to representation by the esteemed William Morris Agency. Yet Lee was caught in what can only be termed as "development hell.” For five years, he struggled to get various projects off the ground, all the while playing househusband to his two sons while his wife, microbiologist Janice Lin, was the breadwinner. While he became an accomplished cook of rich Chinese cuisine, his mate researched how such foods contributed to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

In 1990, Lee saw a turning point in his career. He entered two scripts into a national competition in Taiwan and amazingly placed first and second with "Pushing Hands" and "The Wedding Banquet.” Both films, along with "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994), find their central metaphor in food. Taken together, these movies which feature actor Sihung Lung as a patriarch, form what Lee has called his "Father Knows Best" trilogy. 1991's "Pushing Hands" examined the clash of cultures when the father comes to live with his son in America and takes a shine to a Chinese cooking instructor. "The Wedding Banquet" was about a marriage of convenience between a gay man and a Chinese immigrant that was arranged in part to please the man's elderly parents. "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994), which also picked up an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign-Language Film, told the story of a father—a renowned Taiwanese cook—and his three daughters as they strive to concoct a recipe for harmonious living. Boasting a more complex screenplay and polished performances, "Eat Drink Man Woman" opened to laudatory reviews and robust box office.

A seemingly unlikely choice to film a classic British novel, Lee was hired to direct "Sense and Sensibility" (1995), his first English-language movie. Adapted from Jane Austen's classic novel and starring Emma Thompson, it earned rave reviews, many of which singled out Lee's nuanced approach to this comedy of manners. In many ways. the film was similar to his earlier work, in that the motion pictures all studies of mores unique to a time and place, the effect of a patriarch on his family and miscommunication. Although the film received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, Lee surprisingly did not make the final cut in the Best Director category.

"The Ice Storm" (1997) revolved around a father who watches the collapse of a patriarchal society. Adapted from Rick Moody's novel, the film focused on the societal upheavals in the 1970s (from Nixonian politics to wife-swapping to the burgeoning women's movement), with particular attention to how the interpersonal codes were becoming inverted. With meticulous detail to period, "The Ice Storm" looked at events from the perspectives of both the adults and the teenagers. Featuring a superb ensemble, this mood piece played as a modern Greek tragedy. Lee next undertook perhaps his most ambitious film yet, "Ride With the Devil" (1999), an action-packed post-Civil War-era epic about renegade Confederate soldiers set on the Missouri-Kansas borders. Although based on a Daniel Woodrell's novel "Woe to Love On", the story had its roots in history. To realize the project, the director assembled a cast drawn from a who's who of rising stars, including Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jewel, Skeet Ulrich, and James Caviezel, but its execution provoked a mostly dispassionate response from audiences.

In 2000, Ang Lee saw the realization of a dream project. He had long harbored the desire to make a film similar to those on which he had been raised while growing up in Taiwan. Returning to his roots, he made his first Chinese-language project in years, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which married two genres—historical romance and martial arts -- into an exciting blend. Teaming Hong Kong stars Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh as mature lovers, utilizing action star Cheng Pei-Pei as a villain, and teaming newcomers Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen as a younger couple, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" had elements to appeal to a mass audience—action for the guys, romance for the gals. Already a hit in Asia when it was released in the USA in late 2000, the movie earned mostly raves and earned a spot on many a critic's Ten Best list, as well as ten Academy Award nominations and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Lee's next major film was directing the highly anticipated comic adaptation "The Hulk" (2003) which starred Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly. The high-profile film was met with mixed but generally appreciative responses, with many quarters praising the dark psychological underpinnings of the story while others decried the CGI-created Hulk as too unrealistic and cartoony-looking.

If "The Hulk" was largely viewed as a disappointment, Lee certainly redeemed himself thoroughly with his next film, the haunting, sensitive drama "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), an adaptation and expansion of E. Annie Proulx's revered story (screenplay by Western master Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) which cast Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, respectively, a pair of rugged ranch hands who, while driving sheep through a mountain range in the 1960s, engage in a homosexual affair and struggle through a painful, heart-wrenching love affair that spans several decades—a relationship complicated by Ennis' need to be closeted and their mutual heterosexual relationships with women. Lee won several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture and the top honors at the Directors Guild Awards. As predicted, Lee won an Academy Award for a Best Director, but his film’s anticipated Best Picture Oscar surprisingly went to “Crash” instead.

From Yahoo

After Brokeback Mountain, Lee returned to a Chinese topic. His next film was Lust, Caution, which was adapted from a short novel by the Chinese author Eileen Chang. The story was written in 1950, and was loosely based on an actual event that took place in 1939-1940 in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China, during World War II. Similar to Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee adapted and expanded a short, simple story into a featured film in a way that allows individual figures to develop sophisticated layers of reserved emotions, without being sidetracked by complicated plots or overstuffed materials.

Lust, Caution is being distributed by Focus Features and premiered at international film festivals in the summer and early fall of 2007. In the US, the movie received a NC-17 rating (no one 17 and under admitted) from the MPAA mainly due to several strongly explicit sex scenes. This was a challenge to the film's distribution because many theater chains in the United States refuse to show NC-17 films. The director and film studio have decided not to appeal the decision. In order to be permitted to show Lust, Caution in mainland China, however, Lee removed 9 minutes from the film to make the content suitable for minor audiences, according to government restrictions.

Lust, Caution won the Golden Lion from 2007 Biennale Venice Film Festival, making Lee awarded the highest prize for the second time in three years. The critics in the US, however, were not all positive. When Lust, Caution was played in Lee's native Taiwan in its original full-length edition, it was very well received. Staying in Taiwan to promote the film and to participate in a traditional Chinese holiday, Lee got emotional when he found that his work was widely applauded by fellow Chinese. Lee admitted that he had low expectations for this film from the US audience since "its pace, its film language — it's all very Chinese."

From Wikipedia

At Film Space on September 20, 7 pm: Be With Me (2005) by Eric Khoo – Singapore Drama/ Romance – 93 mins. In Cantonese, English, Hokkien, and Mandarin with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 67/ 69 out of 100.

Be With Me consists of three stories of love vs. solitude: 1) An aging, lonesome shopkeeper doesn't believe in life any more since his wife died. But he is saved from desperation by reading an autobiographical book and meeting its author, a deaf and dumb lady of his own age. 2) Fatty, a security guard in his fifties, lives for two things: good food and love for a pretty executive living in his block of flats. But, if it is easy to satisfy his first need, winning the heart of the distant belle is a horse of another color. 3) Two teenage schoolgirls get to know each other on the Internet. Soon they fall in love.

NYTimes: Although four stories, three fictional and one real, are folded together in Eric Khoo’s elliptical film Be With Me, the tale that gives this delicate, melancholic movie its backbone is the true one of its courageous central character, Theresa Chan. A deaf and blind Singaporean woman in her early 60’s who plays herself in the movie, Ms. Chan is an indomitable life force and charismatic screen presence. Even after she concludes her account of transcending the “silent, dark prison” of her disabilities with the help of gifted teachers, you are left wondering how she did it.