Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whats On starting May 28

Slumdog extended again! Frozen Flower heats up Airport Plaza!


Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, May 28, 2009

… through Wednesday, June 3


by Thomas Ohlson


Best BetsSlumdog Millionaire. Star TrekAngels & Demons. A Frozen Flower.


Here is my list of movies playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, May 28, 2009.


There’s also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space.


This year’s Oscar best picture Slumdog Millionaire continues at Vista, and it’s good to see Vista supporting this fine film, despite very disappointing attendance figures. Viewings have been reduced to two a day, in the evening, 7:15 and 9:30 pm. Last days! See it while you can! You really need to see it on a cinema screen with a sound system big enough to bring the brilliant sound track to life!


This is Issue Number 31 of Volume 4 of these listings – halfway through our fourth year!


Now there’s a blog for Pattaya, too, at  



Now playing in Chiang Mai    * = new this week

* A Frozen Flower / Ssang-hwa-jeom /쌍화점:  Korea, Drama/ History/ Romance – 133 mins – Directed by Yu Ha, A Frozen Flower is a visually stunning historical movie set against the last days of Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty (late 14th Century), and deals with the long homosexual love relationship between the king, played by Ju Jin Mo (in the lower half of the picture above), and his chief bodyguard, Hong Lim, played by Jo In Sung, the one with his arm around the king in the picture above. These are Korea’s two top male stars. Definitely not for everyone, as in addition to much beautiful costuming, there is a lot of uncostumed sex – a lot of it! But although the homosexual relationship is at the heart of the film, most of the seemingly endless sex is purely heterosexual. For whatever reason, the film has been a huge hit in Korea. The film is basically a melodrama, with some scenes of epic grandeur, and I found it quite exciting and interesting.

Happily, it’s being shown here with the original Korean soundtrack, and with English and Thai subtitles. That’s great! That’s the way films in a foreign language should be presented, I think.

YesAsia: One of Korea's most talked about films of 2008, A Frozen Flower goes behind the royal curtain to unveil an emotionally charged saga of love, sex, politics, and betrayal during the final days of the Goryeo Dynasty. Like The King and The Clown, A Frozen Flower tore down taboos to blockbuster reception with the depiction of homosexual love between a king and his bodyguard. But A Frozen Flower takes it many steps further on an erotic level, making headlines for its nudity and explicit sex scenes and setting a new box office record for adult-rated films. Teaming up again with A Dirty Carnival director Yu Ha for his last film before entering military service, Jo In Sung delivers the boldest performance of his career as a warrior torn between the bedchambers of the King and Queen. Ju Jin Mo (200 Pounds Beauty) won Best Actor at the 45th Baeksang Arts Awards for his magnificent turn as the King in love with his general, while Song Ji Hyo (Sex is Zero 2, Jumong) makes her big-screen breakthrough as the Queen doomed by her own sexual and romantic awakening.

Under the thumb of the Yuan Dynasty, the Goryeo King (Ju Jin Mo) is pressured to either produce an heir or name his cousin the Crown Prince. The King's true love, however, is his chief bodyguard Hong Lim (Jo In Sung), and he has never so much as touched the Queen (Song Ji Hyo). The King instead asks Hong Lim to sleep with the Queen, believing his problems to be solved as long as a son can be produced. But Hong Lim and the Queen's sexual encounter marks the beginning of a dangerous and passionate triangle of forbidden love, jealous rage, and heartbreaking betrayal.

A Frozen Flower will receive the most attention because of its homosexual angle, but the film contains very little in gay eroticism. There’s one kissing scene between the king and the bodyguard, while the film features numerous graphic sex scenes between the bodyguard and the queen. While the film does open with a prominent gay angle, the film eventually settles on the heterosexual relationship between the bodyguard and queen as the crux of its story.


* Terminator Salvation 4: The Future Begins: US/ Germany/ UK, Action/ Sci-Fi – 130 mins – With Christian Bale, Moon Bloodgood, and Common; directed by McG. In this highly anticipated – in some quarters – fourth installment of The Terminator film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. Plenty of chases, explosions, and great effects. Mixed or average reviews: 51/51 out of 100.


Rotten Tomatoes: With Terminator Salvation, director McG has brought the venerable sci-fi/action series back to the screen, with plenty of chases, explosions, and yes, machines. But critics say he's forgotten the key ingredient that made the originals so compelling – the human factor. Christian Bale is John Connor, leading the human resistance against Skynet, which has conquered our dystopian planet with its armies of Terminators. The reviewers say the action sequences are well handled, but the performances are middling, and the story inspires little emotional investment. Salvation is the worst-reviewed entry in the Terminator franchise.


* 2022 Tsunami: Thai, Action/ Disaster – Here’s the studio synopsis: “Thailand 2022. …All life is swept away in an enormous tidal wave, the land is destroyed, and the only way to survive now is to battle nature itself.” You’ll have to make up your own mind on this one. Shown here in Thai only with no English subtitles.


Night at the Museum 2: Escape from [Battle of] the Smithsonian:  US/ Canada, Action/ Comedy – 105 mins – If you liked the first adventure, you’re sure to like this one even more – bigger, better, and with fantastic special effects. After a wacky night at the New York Museum of Natural History, the perpetually hapless Larry (Ben Stiller) must infiltrate the Smithsonian after some of his resur-rected friends were shipped to Washington for storage. He finds himself in the middle of a vast conflict between many of the mu-seum's most noteworthy historical figures. Mixed or average reviews: 43/50 out of 100.


Slumdog Millionaire: US/UK, Crime/ Drama/ Romance – 120 mins – A cinema is the only place to really appreciate the fantastic images, sounds, and music of this spectacular film, which won Oscar best picture and best director – and awards for adapted screenplay, original score, film editing, original song, sound mixing, and cinematography. Rated R in the US for some violence, disturbing images, and language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 86/82 out of 100. At Vista only. Don’t miss it!


An impoverished Indian teen becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?”, wins, and is then suspected of cheating. Trailer available here, just click.


Roger Ebert: This is a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time, about a Mumbai orphan who rises from rags to riches on the strength of his lively intelligence. It tells the story of an orphan from the slums of Mumbai who is born into a brutal existence. A petty thief, impostor and survivor, mired in dire poverty, he improvises his way up through the world and remembers everything he has learned. High-spirited and defiant in the worst of times, he survives. He scrapes out a living at the Taj Mahal, which he did not know about but discovers by being thrown off a train. He pretends to be a guide, invents "facts" out of thin air, advises tourists to remove their shoes and then steals them. . . . The film uses dazzling cinematography, breathless editing, driving music, and headlong momentum to explode with narrative force, stirring in a romance at the same time. For Danny Boyle, it is a personal triumph.


Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting (1996), The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later (2002), Millions (2004) which was given a showing at Film Space on March 14, Sunshine (2007)).


Angels & Demons: US, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 140 mins – A tight, taut thriller. The team behind the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code returns for the highly anticipated Angels & Demons, based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance their goals. Ron Howard again directs. Mixed or average reviews: 48/50 out of 100.


Star Trek (2009): US/ Germany, Sci-Fi/ Adventure/ Action126 mins – All new! And I think it’s a great deal of fun, for fans of the series, and also for those who are not. This much-anticipated film is a reboot of the series, going back to the series’ ’60s roots by depicting the formative experiences of the legendary heroes Kirk and Spock. The young James Tiberius Kirk is played by Chris Pine as a wild Iowa boy whose father sacrificed himself at the helm of a spaceship at the very moment the child was being born. He is convinced to attend the Starfleet Academy with an eye to joining the crew of the Enterprise.


Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, June 4


Drag Me to Hell: Director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man trilogy, Evil Dead series) returns to the horror genre with this original tale of a young woman's desperate quest to break an evil curse. Surprisingly good reviews. Alison Lohman plays an ambitious L.A. loan officer with a charming boyfriend. Life is good until the mysterious Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) arrives at the bank to beg for an extension on her home loan. Should she follow her instincts and give the old woman a break? Or should she deny the extension to impress her bossand get a leg-up on a promotion? She fatefully chooses the latter, shaming Mrs. Ganush and dispossessing her of her home.In retaliation, the old woman places the powerful curse of the Lamia on her, transforming her life into a living hell.



And looking forward:


Jun 11 – Up: Disney/Pixar animated fantasy.A comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman (voiced by Ed Asner) who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Also starring Christopher Plummer, and a speech-assisted dog.


Jun 18 – State of Play: A thriller about a principled investigative journalist in the midst of a vast conspiracy – engrossing, smart, unnerving, and surprisingly timely, and a tribute to the hardworking reporters that shed light on our political system. Russell Crowe stars as an old-school Washington beat reporter who's had a solid professional rapport with an up-and-coming congressman (Ben Affleck) -- that is, until some of the congressman’s associates turn up dead. Crowe uneasily joins forces with Rachel McAdams, a blogger at the paper, to untangle a sinister web of secrets and lies. The film’s ensemble, which also includes Helen Mirren as an exacting editor, is unimpeachable, as is the immediacy and authenticity of the newsroom setting.


Jul 2 – Public Enemies: With Johnny Depp as Dillinger!Michael Mann’s latest film pits Johnny Depp against Christian Bale as the two star as career criminal John Dillinger and G-man Melvin Purvis, respectively, in Public Enemies, a Great Depression-era drama about the FBI’s attempts to shut down organized crime. The film features a strong supporting cast, including Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard.  


Jul 16Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Latest Harry Potter episode.As the boy wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) enters his sixth year at Hogwart's, danger is afoot thanks to the growing forces of He Who Shall Not Be Named. But that's not the only hazard Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to contend with, as another sort of fickle magic is in the air: teenage hormones. Expect director David Yates to serve up the usual brand of Harry Potter excellence (he directed the last HP film, Order of the Phoenix) although screenwriter Steve Kloves has taken some liberties with the material, so Potterites, beware! Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was.


Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


May is The Month of Eric Rohmer at Alliance Française. And so is the month of June, for the most part. The May 15th program has been rescheduled for June 5.


At Alliance Française on Friday, May 29:  Pauline à la plage / Pauline at the Beach (1983) by Eric Rohmer – 95 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Rated R in the US for nudity and sexual situations.Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88 out of 100.


With Amanda Langlet, Arielle Dombasle, Pascal Greggory, Feodor Atkine.


Pauline a young teenage-girl is being looked after by her cousin Marion, for a couple of days during the summer holidays. On the beach Mario comes across Pierre and old flame of hers whom Henri a friend of his introduces to her. Instead of going with henri. What will Pauline make of all this?

– Alliance description

The Movie Boy: The film takes place during a few weeks of August at the Normandy Coast, and centers on six different characters, primarily Pauline (Amanda Langlet), a wise beyond her years 15-year-old who has come to stay for the summer with her older cousin, Marion (Arielle Dombasle). On the first day at the beach, Marion runs into an old high school flame (Fedoore Atkine), and although he wants to rekindle their relationship, she is more interested in an older, more seductive womanizer (Pascal Greggory), who is also secretly having an affair with a candy vendor (Rosette). While Pauline watches as an outsider at what is happening between all of the adults, she forms a relationship of her own with a young teenage boy (Simon De La Brosse).


Pauline at the Beach is not a film in which big dramatic things occur, and there is not a clear-cut, tidy conclusion to the story. Instead, it is a picture that simply observes its characters in every day life, and the surprises come from little character details. The film is quite talky and slow moving, and so it is pretty safe to say it isn't for those who are only a fan of action movies, but is a treat for those viewers who often like to venture outside of the big-budget genre and see a good art film.


Spirituality and Practice: Eric Fromm wrote: "There is hardly any activity which started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet which fails so regularly, as love." Eric Rohmer, the French director, would probably agree: he is a connoisseur of the amorous interplay of men and women. His new series of films, "Comedies and Proverbs," explores the different expectations individuals have about love. Pauline at the Beach, the latest installment, follows The Aviator's Wife and Le Beau Mariage.


Rohmer stages this intricate and engaging story of love, romance, lust, jealousy, deceit and bittersweet disillusionment in a relaxed summery season. The lovely surroundings and the ensuing misunderstandings provide the perfect milieu for an examination of contrasting attitudes about relationships.


Each of the lead characters — Amanda Langlet as the impressionable Pauline, Arielle Dombasle as the romantic Marion, Pascal Greggory as the moody Pierre, and Feodor Atkine as the narcissistic Henry — present a very different slant on love. To Pauline, it is uncharted territory; to Marion, it is centered around erotic attention; to Henry, it is a playful game detached from intense feelings; to Pierre, it is a mix of devotion and disappointment.


Rohmer's movies are masterpieces on a small scale. He wants us to recognize love as a process — an incessant interrogation of being — not a route to definitive answers but an ever expanding journey. Every filmgoer is sure to see bits and pieces of himself or herself in the words and deeds of these characters. Some artists believe that more revelations about human nature can be found in sentimental relations than in politics or the marketplace. Eric Rohmer inspires belief in that thesis.



At Alliance Française on Friday, June 5:  Four Early Works by Eric Rohmer France. B&W. English subtitles.


A collection of philosophically-oriented early works by French New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer, whose meditative, deliberately-paced romance stories dramatize the inconstant nature of the human heart.


Rescheduled from May 15, whose showing was cancelled due to gremlins (technical problems no sound).

1. Présentation ou Charlotte et son steak / Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (1960) by Eric Rohmer – 12 mins – France, Romance/ Comedy/ Short. B&W. English subtitles.


With Jean-Luc Godard, Andrée Bertrand, Anne Couderet.


Charlotte is leaving. Before catching her train, she goes to her apartment for a quick snack -- a steak, as it happens. Walter accompanies her; the little time Charlotte will take to prepare and eat her steak represents his last opportunity to patch things up with her. A tall order, given the utterly unromantic circumstances...

– Alliance description


2. Nadja à Paris / Nadja in Paris (1964) by Eric Rohmer – 13 mins – France, Short. B&W. English subtitles.


With Nadja Tesich (also the writer).


Nadja, a Yugoslavian-born American student, lives at the Cité Universitaire in Paris, strolls in the city and gives her impressions of the different districts she visits...

– Alliance description


IMDb viewer:tells the story of a Yugoslavian-born girl, who was adopted by an American family, who goes to study at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. The character development, considering the brevity of the film, is pretty good, but overall, the film doesn't pack much of a punch at all. Rohmer's other films tend to have an overlying meaning (or "point"), often in a moral lesson. This short is basically a love letter to Paris. "We'll always have Paris." We've all heard that before, and we accept it. Hearing a student experiencing the joy of Paris for the first time isn't exactly exhilarating.



3. La boulangère de Monceau / The Baker of Monceau / The Girl at the Monceau Bakery (1962) by Eric Rohmer – 23 mins – France, Romance/ Short. B&W. English subtitles.


With Barbet Schroeder, Michéle Girardon, Bertrand Tavernier, Claudine Soubrier, Fred Junk.


In Paris, in June, a young man approaches a girl in the street, but after several days without seeing her again, he becomes involved with the girl in the local bakery. Eventually he has to choose between them when he arranges dates with them on the same day...

– Alliance description


Simple, delicate, and jazzy, the first of the Moral Tales shows the stirrings of what would become the Eric Rohmer style: unfussy naturalistic shooting, ironic first-person voice-over, and the image of the “unknowable” woman. A law student (played by producer and future director Barbet Schroeder) with a roving eye and a large appetite stuffs himself full of sugar cookies and pastries daily in order to garner the attentions of the pretty brunette who works in a quaint Paris bakery. But is he truly interested, or is she just a sweet diversion?


IMDb viewer: The first of Eric Rohmer's six moral tales, The Girl at the Bakery Monceau is probably what newcomers to the unorthodox style film-making Rohmer employs should first be exposed to. Not because they should be seen in order but more or less due to the fact that the film is under thirty minutes. As in all the tales the theme (chauvinist male protagonist conflicted over two women) remains the same and in Monceau you are given a small dose of what will carry over into the full length explorations of men in self righteous struggle with reality and ideals.

Rohmer's literary style can be quite trying and his protagonists obnoxiously condescending. His characters are neither heroic nor noble. Rohmer's narrative style which depends heavily on interior monologue reveals some ugly truths that may not cause catastrophe but offer insightful points of view that makes the audience pause in reflection. We sometimes see ourselves in such reflections as well as friends and acquaintances.

Eugene O'Neil said, "We live in illusion and die in reality." In all of his tales Rohmer narrows that gap, exposing a humdrum reality with a fickle illusion born of self deception. There is a subtle subversive reward to be found in all of the "Moral Tales" and with The Girl at the Bakery Monceau he is off to an excellent start.


IMDb viewer: It's said that a writer tells the same story over and over again. Eric Rohmer during a period spanning some nine years developed an idea in regards to the relationship between a man, the ideal woman he loves, and the alluring temptation that presents itself as an aggressive female. In La boulangère de Monceau, he begins his six-part observation.


4. La carrière de Suzanne / Suzanne's Career (1963) by Eric Rohmer – 54 mins – France, Romance. B&W. English subtitles.


With Catherine Sée, Philippe Beuzen, Jean-Claude Biette, Patrick Bauchau, Christian Charrière, Diane Wilkinson, Pierre Cottrell.


Bertrand, a shy and reserved student, admires the rogue confidence of his best friend Guillaume while he exploit the generosity of the sweetly seductive Suzanne...

– Alliance description


Bertrand bides his time in a casually hostile and envious friendship with college chum Guillaume. But when ladies’ man Guillaume seems to be making a play for the spirited, independent Suzanne, Bertrand watches bitterly with disapproval and jealousy. With its ragged black-and-white 16mm photography and strong sense of 1960s Paris, Rohmer’s second Moral Tale is a wonderfully evocative portrait of youthful naiveté and the complicated bonds of friendship and romance.


IMDb viewer: The MO is the same the usual suspects in place in Erich Rohmer's second of his six moral tales. Lifeless amateur actors, cinematic style sacrificed for literary interior monologues about blasé people leading unremarkable lives. Suzanne is basically a three character story told by Bertrand, a bit of a self righteous twerp who remains conflicted about his feelings for the innocent and gullible Susan and his relationship with the amoral Guillaume who exploits Susan. Both men have a low opinion of Susan who in part brings it on herself by allowing the men to use her for her money and in the case of the rakish Guillaume for sex as well.


More concerned with character than plot, Rohmer gives us healthy servings of pettiness, ego, condescension, and denial served up by a self absorbed threesome blind to every one's view but their own. Less than an hour long (Rohmer time) the pace is still slow and the characters repetitious bad habits irritating but if one remains patient is rewarded with an ending rich in truth.


While the more polished, bigger budgeted and lengthier later tales such as Claire's Knee and Love in the Afternoon have a more professional patina about them Suzanne sans all these trappings is still told in the same Rohmer unique way.


The films of Erich Rohmer are an acquired taste. In Night Moves, a hard boiled private investigator played by Gene Hackman says viewing a Rohmer film is like watching paint dry. For twenty years I agreed with this assessment. I may still, but once dried and finished I now see a work of interesting art that is both challenging and pure.


Suzanne is an interesting sketch but for those unfamiliar with Rohmer, I would recommend any of the last three of the six tales first for their accessibility. Watch one and if it doesn't agree with you, wait ten to twenty years and try again. In Rohmer's case patience is a necessity.

At Alliance Française on Friday, June 12:  Ma nuit chez Maud / My Night at Maud's (1969) by Eric Rohmer – 110 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. Black and white. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.


With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Françoise Fabian, Maris-Christine Barrault, Antoine Vitez.


After spending several years abroad, Jean-Louis, an engineer recently settled in Clermont-Ferrand, longs for some peace and quiet. At the church he attends every Sunday, he notices a young blonde woman he fancies and decides that she will become his wife. Then, while at local restaurant, he meets Vidal, an old-school friend, now a professor of philosophy at Clermont-Ferrand University. Vidal invites him to spend ChristmasEve at Maud's house. A doctor and a divorcee, the dark-haired Maud, a beautiful, fascinating and single woman, is not impervious to Jean-Louis' charms...

– Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: The third film in Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs series, My Night at Maud's is the story of Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an engineer for Michelin who, though a straitlaced, conservative, self-reflective Catholic, is nonetheless swayed by the wiles of the women who surround him. His motives are constantly unclear, and his actions contradict his moral preachings at every turn. As the film begins, Jean-Louis is living in a furnished rented apartment off the beaten path in Ceyrat, outside of a small suburb of Paris called Clermont. He spies a cute blonde in church and feels inspired to pursue her but is too shy. The rest of the film unfolds as a debate about morals, Catholicism vs. atheism, fidelity, and, of course, love. With his old high school friend, philosophy professor Vidal (Antoine Vitez), he passes an evening, then spends the night with the divorced, challenging, rebellious, yet ultimately adorable Maud. Though he is tempted by her provocations, he resists. That is, he resists long enough to go for the young woman he spotted among the pews. (And the earlier church scene is echoed in hilarious fashion with Jean-Louis and the blonde staring bleary-eyed up at an overwhelming sermon from an intimidating priest.) Overall, in classic Rohmer style, My Night at Maud's – which garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplayis a long, looping dialogue that never resolves itself.  


Film Space schedule

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm


May is The Month of Funny Little Things” at Film Space. June “The Month of Cuisine.”


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. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. For the roof, you might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. And, if on the roof, the start might be delayed while everyone waits for it to get darker. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space Saturday, May 30:  My Secret Cache / The Secret Garden / Himitsu no hanazono / ひみつの花園 (1997) by Shinobu Yaguchi – 85 mins – Japan, Comedy/ Crime.


The hilarious comedy of a bank teller who hopes she'll somehow luck into a vast sum of cash - and does, only to have it slip from her fingers. The film evolves into a series of wild adventures as she tries to regain that lost wealth in the face of every conceivable obstacle. By the director of Adrenaline Drive, seen at Film Space on March 28, and the 2001 comedy Waterboys, about a group of teenage boys who seek fame in the world of synchronized swimming, shown here commercially in September 2002.


International Film Festival Berlin: A story about middle-class apathy, obsession with money, and feminist self-discovery in contemporary Japan in a grotesquely hilarious fashion.


As the director of the internationally acclaimed Down the Drain, an upbeat comedy about a somnambulistic high school girl, Shinobu Yaguchi creates in this 35 mm debut film another powerful heroine who recklessly takes any risk to get the money. As in Down the Drain, he uses visual puns and narrative irony exquisitely to turn the heroine's serious efforts into an absurd comedy and transforming her hyperactive obsessiveness into a charming slapstick. Enfant terrible of Japanese independent cinema, Yaguchi refers mockingly to the aerial photography of the wilderness in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and inserts a playful flip cartoon of still images shot by a bank surveillance video. Mixing genres of adventure, crime, and films of self-determined women in a B-picture fashion proves Yaguchi's sheer inventiveness as a genuine auteur.


Since early childhood, Sakiko – the film’s protagonist - was never the kind of a child who would be considered cuteby universal standards. For reasons unknown, even to her family, she loved money. When she graduated from high school, her mother casually suggested working at a bank. "You can count and look at all the money you want," she added. Thus Sakiko becomes a bank teller. But her moments of bliss are short-lived. She soon realizes all the money in front of her belongs to other people.

One day, the bank is robbed, and Sakiko is taken hostage by two armed robbers who grab five hundred million yen. They drive into Aokigahara Jukai (sea of trees), a vast wilderness area at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and accidentally fall into a ravine. Both robbers are killed, but Sakiko is spared.


Rescued, Sakiko becomes an instant media favorite as the courageous bank robbery victim. The press crowd at her door, but only for a month. She later finds out that the money the robbers took off with has not been recovered. She remembers that a suitcase sunk into a pond before she was rescued. Sakiko finally attains her goal in life. She tells her family about the money, and persuades them to go on a picnic in the Jukai so she may be able to locate the pond. The expedition turns out to be futile.


Lady Luck has not forsaken Sakiko. Watching the TV news one day, Sakiko learns that geologist Morita, a professor at Tamagawa University, is a specialist on Aokigahara Jukai. She immediately goes to the university and meets Prof. Morita and his assistant, Edogawa.


Following Edogawa's advice, Sakiko decides to study geology at the university. She quits the bank, cancels all her bank accounts, gets herself an apartment, and begins studying for the entrance exams. She successfully passes the exams, and plunges into the world of geology, purchasing expensive equipment for research. At the same time, she takes courses in scuba-diving and rock climbing. Naturally, she becomes bankrupt, and unable to pay her tuition or rent, she works at a bar. She participates in swimming meets and rock climbing contests for the prize money.


As Edogawa is visiting her apartment one day, the floor caves in because of the heavy equipment. The landlady is furious and orders all the equipment to be removed. Edogawa is kind enough to borrow a truck from the university to transport the equipment to her parents' house. While Edogawa leaves the truck parked, Sakiko steals it, equipment and all, and heads for the Jukai to put her luck to the final test.


Available on DVD from and from HKFlix (and again HKFlix).



June is “The Month of Cuisine at Film Space.


At Film Space Saturday, June 6:  No Reservations (2007) by Scott Hicks – 104 mins – US/ Australia, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. Mixed or average reviews: 50/52 out of 100.


IMDb viewer: More a family drama rather than a romantic comedy. There is lavish bitter dark pathos of death in the beginning of the movie and the more colorful look at restaurant cooking while there are bits of humor scattered like sweets throughout the movie. There are some amazing close up scenes that really grab the attention of the audience with the emotions and captivating context of the scenes, the color motif is brilliant. Overall, the script is basic and mostly predictable with some good tie-ins and closures. It's Catherine Zeta Jones that really makes this movie deliciously sparkle. Entertaining and fun for the summer with good flashes of cooking on par with "Ratatouille" that came out just a little earlier.


NY Times: What’s unexpected and gratifying is the film’s enlightened attitude toward parenthood and work, which the movie’s publicity campaign conspicuously glosses over, even though it’s the story’s driving force.


Scott Hicks, the film's director, is also a wine-maker when he is not making films. The wine mentioned in the film is in fact the director's own wine label from his winery Yacca Paddock Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. (Just thought you’d like to know.)


Available on DVD from


At Film Space Saturday, June 13:  Udon / 饂飩うどん(2006) by Katsuyuki Motohiro – 134 mins – Japan, Comedy/ Drama.


A dramedy about the relationship between an aspiring comic and his stubborn noodlemaker father.


A Nutshell Review: Don't watch Udon on an empty stomach, or you'll be tempted to gorge on those Japanese noodles right after the screening. Despite its simple presentation, watching bowls after bowls of noodles in your face, and the characters slurping them down with gusto, somehow leaves you with an imagined flavor in your mouth as they smack their lips, while you smack at nothing.


The film is as simple as a bowl of udon noodles, with prime ingredients being the fat noodles, the broth, a sprinkle of spring onions, and an egg.


YesAsia: A heartwarming comedy about family, life, and that perfect bowl of Udon. It’s an entire film dedicated to the magic of those chewy wheat noodles.


Kosuke (Yusuke Santamaria), the son of an udon shop owner, is from a tiny rural town in Kagawa prefecture known for its udon noodles. Kosuke, however, is sick of his hometown, and even more sick of udon. He decides to try his luck in New York, only to return six years later in debt-ridden disappointment. Back at home, he meets a flighty food column editor, and the two happen upon a bowl of delicious udon noodles that will change their lives.


An udon enthusiast and Kagawa native himself, Motohiro did extensive field research to find the best shops and recipes to showcase on screen and help spread the love for the noodle. The filmmakers even took their mission abroad by opening an udon stand at the 2006 Cannes film market. An earnest yet tongue-in-cheek celebration of life and food, Udon is a mouth-watering joy to watch.


Available on DVD from YesAsia.