Friday, March 6, 2009

Film Space schedule

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm

March is “The Month of Bad Luck Money” at Film Space.

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. Now that the weather is cool, they are resuming their rooftop showings, weather permitting. You might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space Saturday, March 7: 6ixtynin9 / Ruang talok 69 (1999) by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang – 118 mins – Thai, Comedy/ Crime/ Thriller.

In this critically-acclaimed Thai comedy, a young woman named Tum finds a mysterious noodle box full of money on her doorstep, shortly after losing her job. The clever beauty attempts to hold on to the loot and soon finds herself at the center of a thrilling, high-stakes caper between Thai Boxing gangsters, corrupt executives, and the bungling authorities. Rated R in the US for violence, language, and brief sexual humor. Generally favorable reviews: 65/66 out of 100.

Twitch, Todd: Without a doubt one of Thailand’s brightest lights is writer / director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. He exploded onto the international scene with the absolutely stunning Last Life in the Universe. . . . In 1999’s 6ixtynin9, Lalita Panyopas stars as Tum, a low ranking employee in a Bangkok financial services firm – an industry sector that has been hit hard by an economic recession. Tum arrives at work one morning to find an impromptu staff meeting in session. The firm has been forced to lay off three employees and, unwilling to single anyone out for termination, the unlucky trio is decided by drawing lots. Tum, of course, is one of the unlucky three sent packing. This places her in a horrible situation. She has been financially supporting her parents and younger siblings and is now a single woman with no support network and little to no chance of finding legitimate work in the midst of the current hard times. Faced with the real prospect of having to turn to prostitution to make ends meet Tum begins shoplifting and fantasizing about suicide. Until one morning she discovers a box left outside her door, a box full of money, and sees a possible way out for herself. Here enters the continual case of mistaken identity brought on by a faulty apartment door number (the film’s title is a play on this), rival gangs, illegal passports, dope smoking youth, over exuberant police officers, nosy neighbors, an amputation and rather a lot of blood.

The summary makes 6ixtynin9 sound like a fairly busy, high energy film but like all of Ratanaruang’s other films it is actually a very quiet, meditative piece. Much like Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Ratanaruang loves to dress his films up in genre convention when they are actually psychological mood pieces. The gangsters are window dressing, what really matters here is that Tum is a woman in an incredibly difficult situation with some harsh moral decisions to make. How will she bear up under the stress? What path will she choose? The obvious point of comparison is Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave – a film that shares several significant plot points – but where Boyle’s film revolves around issues of greed Ratanaruang’s turns on desperation. How far are you willing to go to survive?

Key to making the film work is Panyopas’ performance as Tum and she does an admirable job charting Tum’s progression from a woman caught up by forces beyond her control into becoming one of those forces herself. She is giving very little dialogue to work with and has to rely on body language, frequently carrying her character entirely through her eyes. She has a quiet sense of grace and strength to her, more than enough to allow you to buy into the wildly excessive situation Ratanaruang drops her in to.

Where the film struggles a little bit is in the balancing of humor with the darker, more serious elements. Ratanaruang has a bit of a dreamer in him, as well as a healthy dose of absurdism, and he struggled to mesh those impulses with the ‘real-world’ feeling he also wants to maintain in his films until he finally struck a perfect balance with Last Life. There are some awkward moments here where you can tell he’s aiming for humor but the situation is paced and played just a little too realistically to laugh, and also some character moments that just don’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the film. Which is not to say that 6ixtynin9 isn’t a good film – it is, very – but fans of Last Life will need to approach this as an example of a master still learning and experimenting with his craft rather than coming in expecting the degree of balance, polish and subtlety of his most recent work.

At Film Space Saturday, March 14: Millions (2004) by Danny Boyle – 98 mins – UK, Comedy/ Crime/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy.

By the director of the currently acclaimed Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, this is an earlier work also dealing with kids, a family film of limitless imagination and surprising joy, as it follows two brothers dealing with a windfall as a bag containing 265,000 British pounds bounces off a train and into their playhouse. Generally favorable reviews: 74/74 out of 100. It is rare that a family film is both visually sophisticated and emotionally nuanced. Millions, the fantastical tale of two British brothers and the large sack of cash literally dropped onto them... It is rare that a family film is both visually sophisticated and emotionally nuanced. Millions, the fantastical tale of two British brothers and the large sack of cash literally dropped onto them from the sky, is just that--a multi-layered, majestic feast for both the eyes and the mind. Young brothers Anthony and Damian Cunninham, whose initial response to their unexpected fortune is a Robin Hood-esque spree of charity, have only one week to spend their 265,000 British pounds before their nation switches over to the Euro. Though the premise may seem trite or predictable, unexpected details--including Damian's ability to see visions of saints and the recent death of the boys' beloved mother--add complexity to the story. As the 7- and 9-year-old Cunningham brothers, lead actors Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon prove to be those exceptional child actors who are appealing without being precious and their understated, mature performances add gravity to a largely whimsical film. Danny Boyle, the director best known for stylishly violent films Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, might seem an odd man to helm this comparatively innocent movie. However, Boyle's visual and narrative gifts turn out to be perfectly suited to this modern day fable, adding much-needed flavor to a genre that is all too often ignored by cinematic talents.

Roger Ebert: Millions was directed by Danny Boyle, who made "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting" and the zombie movie "28 Days Later." Yes, the Danny Boyle. And the original screenplay and novel are by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who wrote "Hilary and Jackie" and "24 Hour Party People." What are these two doing making a sunny film about kids?

I don't require an answer for that, because their delight in the film is so manifest. But they are serious filmmakers who do not know how to talk down to an audience, and although "Millions" uses special effects and materializing saints, it's a film about real ideas, real issues, and real kids. It's not sanitized brainless eye candy. Like all great family movies, it plays equally well for adults -- maybe better, since we know how unusual it is.

One of its secrets is casting. In Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon the film has found two of the most appealing child actors I've ever seen.

At Film Space Saturday, March 21: Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl / Samehada Otoko to Momojiri Onna / 鮫肌男と桃尻女 (1998) by Katsuhito Ishii – 108 mins – Japan, Mystery/ Action/ Thriller/ Comedy.

The film opens in a surrealistic mountain setting as a young, determined Toshiko (Sie Kohinata), executes a daring escape from her sexually abusive, obsessive and oppressive, lunatic uncle Sonezaki (Yohachi Shimada). Speeding away down the road, she notices a man running hastily through the woods, clad in nothing but underwear. Distracted, she does not notice the car from which he is running...until she collides with it head-on. Rated R in the US for violence, sexuality, and brief language. Mixed or average reviews: 44/43 out of 100.

Bruce Fletcher, Hawaii International Film Festival: "...surreal, violent, funny, lovers-on-the-run adventure... striking cinematography, rapid-fire editing and ultra-rich colors that rise from the young director's shooting more than 80 Japanese TV commercials. The colorful cast is clad in a designer style known as hyper fashion gear, except Samehada (Asano) who dons Takeo Kikuchi designer fashions, down to his TK brand underwear...Arguably, the coolest movie of the year."

Janick Neveux, KFC Cinema: "Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl is one hell of a piece of work...[It] contains a rare collection of colorful characters that has yet to be seen in another movie. You have about 20 or so unique characters, each one extremely different and well-drawn. Most...had a pretty cool style while others were plain bizarre."

Dave Kehr, The New York Times: An outlaw-couple-on-the-run story, in a context of harsh social satire and nihilistic despair. Mr. Ishii's background as a hard-working director of television commercials is reflected in his technical facility and flashy compositions, most of which involve gang members dressed in outrageous high-fashion costumes. The adults are rigid, uncool and involved in bizarre sexual practices; the kids are stylish and hot. The picture makes killing look like high-spirited fun and turns violent death into an occasion for giggles and snickers.

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