There’re Crazies out there!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 22, 2010
… through Wednesday, April 28
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Agora. The Princess and the Frog.
The 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14, 2010.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: sometime in November also, exact date uncertain.
At right, from The Crazies
Note about this blog: The movie times will only be updated once a week for now. Times subsequent to those listed hereplease get from the cinema websites, or by phone. Or by just going to the cinemas and looking.
Schedules will change Thursday, April 29.
This is Issue Number 25 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Crazies: US/ United Arab Emirates, Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 100 mins – A remake or reimagining of George Romero’s 1973 film, by director Breck Eisner, the son of Disney’s Michael Eisner. A husband and wife in a small Midwestern town find themselves battling for survival as their friends and family descend into madness in The Crazies. A mysterious toxin in the water supply turns everyone exposed to it into mindless killers and the authorities leave the uninfected to their certain doom. Rated R in the US for bloody violence and language; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 55/61 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Tense, nicely shot, and uncommonly intelligent, The Crazies is the rare horror remake that works.
The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Rechtshaffen: Part zombie movie, part apocalyptic bioterror, part military conspiracy thriller, the refit hybrid doesn't stint on the visceral kicks demanded by contemporary audiences while remaining reasonably true to those Romero roots.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: The Crazies, which is based on the 1973 George A. Romero film of the same name (Romero gets an Executive Producer credit for this one), continues the trend of recent films to delve into apocalyptic scenarios. Granted, in this case, it's just a small town in Iowa that faces Armageddon but, with a situation similar to the one represented in 28 Days Later, it's not hard to imagine the pandemic going global after the end credits roll. In tone, if not in specifics, The Crazies shares similarities with any of the countless "zombie" movies (especially those helmed by Romero) and a little-known, little-seen 2009 B-movie called Carriers. In short, The Crazies is about as derivative as it can be but, despite that, the fast pace and generally sympathetic characters will keep most viewers interested, at least until the final 30 minutes when it begins to wear out its reputation through a combination of repetition and inane plot contrivances.
From a FEARnet interview with Breck Eisner
FEARnet: Do you consider The Crazies to be a zombie film?
Breck Eisner: It’s definitely not a zombie film. That’s one of the things I like about it. Obviously, when you say “Romero,” you associate his name with zombies. When you see the TV ads, it feels like a zombie movie, if only due to the pure power of montage. But zombies are - in theory - undead human beings who are decaying. They all have a collective conscious. They all want to eat brains or infect, and they all act as one. The concept of the infected in The Crazies is that they all maintain some sense of their deep psyche. They all act differently, and they may act out based on their own deep-seated desires. That is what keeps it distinctly different from zombies.
There was a sort of “shuffling” quality to The Crazies in the original. It feels a little dated today, but it didn’t in 1973. The challenge of watching a horror movie made in the 1970s or something is you have to try to watch it with the eyes of the audience of the day. What really emboldened my thought on remaking The Crazies - the audience is totally different today. It’s a movie that still exists under the shadow of war - Vietnam for the original, Iraq for the current audience. You have to make a movie that is true to the original but also true to the audience.
I just hope that clears up the burning question of whether this is a true zombie movie or not.
Kick-Ass: US/ UK, Action/ Comedy/ Drama – 117 mins – An unnoticed high school student and comic book fan decides one day to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. It’s been hailed as a rollicking, virtuoso comic-book adaptation that fizzes with originality, feisty wit, and an unexpected degree of heart. With Nicolas Cage. Rated R in the US for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use - some involving children. Generally favorable reviews: 66/67 out of 100.
ReelViews James Berardinelli: The best superhero movie since The Dark Knight (and far less serious in tone or approach), Kick-Ass earns its name in every way..
Variety, Joe Leydon: Equal parts audacious dark comedy, wish-fulfillment fantasy, and over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek action-adventure.
Empire, Chris Hewitt: A ridiculously entertaining, perfectly paced, ultra-violent cinematic rush that kicks the places other movies struggle to reach.
Secret Sunday / 9 Wat / 9วัด / Number 9: Thai, Suspense/ Horror – 120 mins – At his mother’s request, a young architect unwillingly takes a journey to visit nine different temples in seven days in order to clean up his bad karma. He is accompanied by his beauty-columnist girlfriend, and a young monk to do the chanting. But horrifying acts done in their previous lives reveal themselves as the journey goes on, and the more they try to clean up the bad karma by making merit, the closer they get to "THEM."
Wise Kwai: Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5 Great!
Everyone and everything has its own karmic cycle, according to the Buddhist-themed thriller 9 Wat (9วัด).
Throwing a rock at a bird to keep it from eating a worm is one way to interfere with a karmic cycle you are not part of. In other words, mind your own business.
Altering the karmic cycle of another human being opens up a whole can of worms, as the characters in 9 Wat discover. On a road trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, they experience increasingly horrifying visions the closer they get to their destination. Final destination?
Not a boring Buddhist thriller, Saranyoo Jiralak's debut feature starts off with a bang, when the special-events-lighting designer Nat played by James Alexander Mackie finds himself in a terrifying situation, with grey ghosts, ghouls, and crawlie things coming out of the woodwork.
Later he dresses up as a vampire in an effort to scare his girlfriend Pun, played by "Noon" Siriphun Wattanajinda.
They head out for a night of hedonism, drinking, dancing, and smoking cigarettes in a flashy Bangkok nightclub. A chat with a friend in the women's room reveals a secret about Noon's character, who dresses in contemporary fashions and has dyed blond hair.
And, horror of horrors, she wears a revealing two-piece bathing suit when she goes swimming in her apartment building's pool. No good Thai girl would ever do that.
Left alone in the pool -- perhaps the other residents are frightened of so much flesh being exposed -- she has an unsettling feeling, like something is lurking or she's being watched. And doesn't that kid know he's supposed to shower before he enters the pool?
Pun and Nat are planning a road trip up to Chiang Mai. They've been together a year, but suddenly Pun wants to meet Nat's mother (Penpak Sirikul). She lives is Uthai Thani, which is on the way.
Mum is a devout Buddhist, and her family business is making Buddha statues. She frowns when she goes to wake the couple up in the morning, and finds them sleeping in the same bed. She says Nat has bad karma and urges him to visit nine temples to clear things up. . . . Throwing a rock at a bird to keep the bird from getting a worm, a young monk (Pharadorn Sirakovit) reprimands Nat, and tells him it’s bad to interfere in the karmic cycle of other living things.
Turns out Nat knows this monk, who's an old childhood friend. Just by chance, the monk has his prayer mat all packed and is about to embark on a pilgrimage to Nan Province. And he would accept a ride. Gosh, what a coincidence. Not. There are no coincidences.
Nat, speeding along behind the wheel of his Jeep Cherokee, stops at temples here and there. But only so Pun can use the toilet. He doesn't bother praying. Other temples, he drives by and honks. The monk looks on knowingly and smugly. He knows something.
Like Nat is going to burn in hell.
Or maybe it's something else... something having to do with karma. The fright-meter amps up little by little. A headless dog here, a rock thrown by motorbikers and a broken windshield there. A funeral and more monks. A blood-covered calf. Zombie worshippers.
There is no escape. Because it is their karma.
But what's cool about 9 Wat (Kao Wat) -- also called for reasons unknown Secret Sunday -- is that the bad stuff that's happening to the characters isn't necessarily because of how much they drink or smoke or how they dress or because they have sex or are faithless.
The Princess and the Frog: US, Animation/ Family/ Fantasy/ Musical/ Romance – 97 mins – A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again. Nominated for 3 Oscars. I think Walt Disney has much to atone for in its presentation of blacks over the years, and this has pretty much done the trick. After a few squeamish moments at the start, the old Disney magic takes over, and you’re treated to classic 2D animation in the venerable Disney style, done to perfection. In my opinion, a brilliant animated film in the tradition of the great Disney fairy-tale films. Generally favorable reviews: 73/74 out of 100.
Legion: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 100 mins – In the first minute, the angel Michael falls to earth and then cuts off his wings. It goes on from there with, I must admit, a certain amount of evocative style. First 40 minutes are terrific; then I suggest you leave. Here’s how they describe it: “After a terrifying biblical apocalypse descends upon the world, a group of strangers stranded in a remote truck stop diner in the US Southwest unwittingly become humanity's last line of defense when they discover the diner's young waitress is pregnant with the messiah.” With Paul Bettany. Generally unfavorable reviews: 32/37 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Despite a solid cast and intermittent thrills, Legion suffers from a curiously languid pace, confused plot, and an excess of dialogue.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore: Profane, profanely silly, and blasphemous to beat the band, Legion begins well before plunging into the abyss of tedium.
Agora: Spain, Adventure/ Drama/ History/ Romance – 127 mins – Alejandro Amenábardirects Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz in this historical drama set in fourth-century Alexandria, Egypt. It chronicles both a historical uprising, and a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hopes of pursuing freedom while also falling in love with his master, the famous female philosophy professor and atheist Hypatia of Alexandria.Mixed or average reviews: 49 out of 100 – but I highly recommend it; I think it’s a truly well-done epic/ spectacle in the old style of Cecil B. DeMille, but with a lot more thought. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this beautiful and provocative film to Chiang Mai.
Date Night: US, Action/ Comedy/ Romance – 88 mins – In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple's attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous. Starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg. Mixed or average reviews: 56/61 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: An uneasy blend of action and comedy, Date Night doesn't quite live up to the talents of its two leads, but Steve Carell and Tina Fey still manage to shine through most of the movie's flaws.
USA Today, Claudia Puig: This is the rare screwball comedy that is superbly paced, cleverly plotted and hilarious from start to finish
Big Boy / บิ๊กบอย: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – An awkward teenager from the country [picture right] moves to Bangkok, under the premise of taking care of his ailing grandfather, to pursue his dream of becoming a popular B-Boy dancer (breakdancer). It turns out his grandfather at one time pursued dancing himself, but failed to achieve his dreams. The young man and his grandfather always had a love-hate relationship, but it turns out his grandfather manages in the end to push the young man to finally attain his dreams.
Wise Kwai: Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5 Just okay.
Breakin' meets Strictly Ballroom in Big Boy (บิ๊กบอย), a mostly energetic and slick look at the Thai b-boy scene.
Toni Rakkaen, the Australian-schooled former hairdresser son of morlam singer Banyen Rakkaen, stars as a Chiang Mai rich kid who never found an interest to hold him for long. But after seeing breakdancers in front of Tae Pae Gate and making an attempt to moonwalk and show off for his girlfriend, the teenager Po becomes obsessed with breakdancing. He sees a video on YouTube of Bangkok b-boys and suddenly decides he wants to go to the capital to visit his grandfather, who he hasn't seen since he was perhaps four years old.
Granddad, played by veteran entertainer Setha Sirachaya, is an old smoothie with the charm of Lando Calrissian. When the sportscar-driving senior meets his grandson at the airport, he's waiting out front by his car, with a bevy of red-clad Thai AirAsia flight attendants gathered around, and he introduces the kid as his younger brother.
After a race back to the hyper-competitive granddad's swinging architectural wonder of a bachelor pad and a break to have granddad beat the grandson in video games and swimming, the pair then head to Bangkok's city center to hunt for breakdancers. They find them, including the flashy male dancer who caught Po's eye in the YouTube video. He dials the phone number included with the video's description but it's answered by a young woman (Rattanarat Eertaweekul). Eventually the two come face to face. It was the woman New who posted the video, and it is she who gives the breakdancing lessons, not the show-off guy.
Po isn't interested in being taught by a girl, because it'll cramp his style. He attempts to ask Mr. Show-Off to give him lessons, which immediately eliminates any street cred he might have had. That isn't how it works, Po's told. Rich kids can't just buy the mad skillz they need to be b-boys.
Po tries to dance anyway, and is pushed out of the circle. Then granddad gets in on the action, and immediately he's moonwalking, popping, locking and spinning around on the ground. Po is shown up by an old man, who, as it turns out, was the tango king of Thailand in his youth. . . . The story's arc wavers, beginning with an ending and then flashing back to show how the characters got there. It hits slow spots here and there. . . . The dark side of the b-boy scene, involving gangsta drug dealers and an underground rave club, offers a chance for a bit of action and even a car chase through the suspiciously uncongested streets of Siam Square (must have been filmed around 3 or 4 am). . . . Bangkok shines, as the story takes in such locations as Siam Square's art-deco Scala Theatre, where the first big dance face-off takes place, as well as actual b-boy haunts, such as the MBK skywalk and on a piece of linoleum down by the river. . . .
Clash of the Titans (3D & 2D): UK/ US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Fantasy– 118 mins – I didn’t find this film any sillier for our time than the 1981 Ray Harryhausen adventure starring Laurence Olivier was for its time. I guess it depends on the mood you’re in. The mortal son of the god Zeus embarks on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading their evil to Earth as well as the heavens. Starring Sam Worthington (the hero of Avatar) as Perseus, Liam Neeson as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, and I found it fun to see what these actors did when let loose on these parts. Likely to be the first chapter in a trilogy based on Greek mythology. It is one of an increasing number of films being distributed in 3D – but as a result of the sort of fake 2D to 3D conversion process, and not originally shot in 3D. In 3D at Airport Plaza;; 2D at Vista. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/44 out of 100.
The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: The 3D in the Clash of the Titans remake, which was added after it was shot, has none of the immersive quality of Avatar and instead segments the image into discrete planes, bringing to mind the unintegrated levels of a pop-up book. As it turns out, this Clash of the Titans was dated before it opened.
Variety, Brian Lowry: Even more haphazardly plotted than the original, Clash of the Titans boasts 3D imagery and kinetic action that can't obscure a movie that is, finally, pretty flat.
Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt: A fun digital ride through Greek mythology as humans clash with gods and monsters.
The major drawback, especially now, when 3D is all the rage, is its feeble effort in that department. Added as an afterthought in postproduction, the 3D barely registers. Few moviegoers will think it's worth the extra bucks.
It's a pity the idea didn't occur in preproduction, as the opportunities for real 3D excitement exist in virtually every frame. The film's mythological world has rugged scenery -- shot in Tenerife (a resort island off the coast of Africa), Wales, and Ethiopia -- and otherworldly battles between men and beasts that fill the screen with a mosaic of unbridled action.
Saranae Sib Lor / สาระแนสิบล้อ: Thai, Adventure/ Comedy – 115 mins – With Mario Maurer of Love of Siam fame, playing a young man whose father suspects he's gay. A film by the team from the Saranae TV series.
Wise Kwai: Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5 Just okay.
Attention Michael Bay: The Thai film industry is capable of making Transformers for a fraction of the cost, with giant robots that exude more emotions and are more vividly memorable in a short segment than yours were in two overly long, way-too-costly feature films.
It's a brilliant Transformers parody that comes at the climax of the slightly too-long Saranae Siblor(สาระแนสิบล้อ), the latest everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink Thai comedy. Instead of a flashy new General Motors model, it's the humble antique workhorse of Thailand's highways, a rickety utilitarian Isuzu 10-wheel truck -- the "siblor" of the title -- that changes into a giant robot and goes tearing through rice paddies, looking for the film's heroes.
The "Thai transformer" is part of a plot twist that's the high point of this otherwise average comedy featuring the usual comedians riffing on their usual scatological jokes, gross sight gags and double-entendre wordplay.
It's produced by the Lucks Film crew from the Saranae reality-TV prank show that last year had the big-screen hit Saranae the Movie (Saranae Hao Peng). But unlike last year's effort, Saranae Siblor is a fictional tale.
Heartthrob young leading man Mario Maurer stars in this road-trip farce. The filmmakers capitalize on the cultural perception that because a guy "looks" gay he must be gay, which is reinforced in this case by Mario's having starred in the gay teen romance Love of Siam (Rak Haeng Siam). He plays Ake, a weak-wristed high-school kid who favors pastel-shaded shirts and is the captain of the cheerleading team. His schoolmaster father thinks the boy could use some manning up, so he packs him off during a school break to visit his Uncle Che.
If being a man means driving your 10-wheel truck through a crowded market, living in pigsty-like conditions, not wearing clean clothes, paying no attention to personal grooming and boozing and whoring the night away, then Uncle Che is the example you want to live by.
With a patchy growth of whiskers, jaunty beret and aviator shades, Che, as played by Saranae co-host Nakorn "Ple" Silachai, appears as the spitting image of the iconic Latin American communist leader. But instead of leading revolutions, this Che stays behind the wheel, guiding his old 10-wheel truck on the highways and byways of Thailand, delivering who knows what.
He has two helpers, the twin brothers Add and Ood, portrayed by Saranae cast member Sena Hoi and the cherubic comic Kohtee Aramboy, who was pranked in the first Saranae movie. ..The foursome hits the road with no clear purpose stated. They are truckers and they must drive. What is that truck hauling anyway?
Turns out it's loaded with the jokes. Whatever's needed, the Saranae crew will pull it out of the back. Ghosts? There's a dozen or so in there, under the tarp. Zombie bikers? Why yes, they've got that covered too. Haunting memories of a fatal traffic wreck? How could there be a movie without them? ...
The movie dazzles the eye with its 1960s fashions and color palette but the jokes seem even older, falling back on the usual rhythms of Thai horror-comedies of folks running around screaming even though things don't seem that scary.
Until that Isuzu truck turns into a robot.
And Mario finally proves he's a man. By picking up a gun.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, April 29, 2010
Apr 29 - Iron Man 2: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 124 mins – Directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Glwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Garry Shandling, Paul Bettany (fresh from Legion), Samuel L. Jackson, and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury once again, and was promised that Nick Fury would be given more screen time this time by director Jon Favreau. Jackson almost didn't return to play Fury, due to problems with contract negotiations, but eventually he got a landmark nine-picture deal to play Nick Fury not only in this film but in many other Marvel Studio productions. The previews I’ve seen of this film indicate to me a wild, lavish, and expensive film that’s a lot of fun. The wonderful actor Robert Downey Jr. again, of course, plays the role of Tony Stark, the wealthy playboy whose exploits as Iron Man are now public knowledge after his admission at the close of the first film. Tony is under pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military, but he is unwilling to give away too much.
At the CMU Open-air Cinema this Saturday and Sunday, April 24 and 25
In cooperation with the terrific and cutting-edge House Cinema in Bangkok, the Chiang Mai University Film Space group is presenting four films this coming weekend, outdoors, in an area between the Clock Tower and the Canteen on the university campus. Times are 7 pm and 9 pm on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
They have dubbed the showings หนังกลางมอ. We’ll translate that as “Open-air Cinema.”
The schedule is as follows:
7 pm Saturday, April 24: Persepolis (2007) by Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud -- France/ US, Animation/ Biography/ Drama/ War – 96 mins – A famous and notorious animation about the poignant coming-of-age of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl during the Islamic Revolution. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 90/82 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes:Persepolis is an emotionally powerful, dramatically enthralling autobiographical gem, and the film's simple black-and-white images are effective and bold.
9 pm Saturday, April 24: Hana & Alice (2004) written and directed by Shunji Iwai – Japan, Drama/ Comedy -- 135 mins -- Shunji Iwai's lovely and dreamy film about two Japanese high-school girls. Best friends Hana and Alice are both smitten with the same boy, Miyamoto, whom they glimpse at a train station. Things get bizarre when Miyamoto hits his head, and Hana convinces him he has... Best friends Hana and Alice are both smitten with the same boy, Miyamoto, whom they glimpse at a train station. Things get bizarre when Miyamoto hits his head, and Hana convinces him he has amnesia--and that she is his girlfriend. As a confused Miyamoto struggles to regain his memory, the two girls' friendship nears a breaking point. Shunji is also the writer and director of All About Lily Chou-Chou being shown at Film Space tonight (April 24).
7 pm Sunday, April 25: Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) by Miranda July –US/ UK, Comedy/ Drama – 91 mins -- A lonely shoe salesman and an eccentric performance artist struggle to connect in this unique take on contemporary life. Rated R in the US for disturbing sexual content involving children, and for language. Generally favorable reviews: 76/76 out of 100.
Roger Ebert: A film that with quiet confidence creates a fragile magic.
9 pm Sunday, April 25: Taxidermia (2006) by György Pálfi – Hungary/ Austria/ France, Comedy/ Drama/ Horror – 91 mins -- Grotesque tale of three generations of men, including an obese speed eater, an embalmer of gigantic cats, and a man who shoots fire out of his penis. By the director of the inimitable Hukkle, one of my favorite of all films shown at our own EU Film Festival, in 2006. In Magyar and Russian, with English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/78 out of 100.
IMDb message board: Do NOT eat before watching this film!!!!!
Film Threat, Matthew Sorrento: Taxidermia is only for fans of the bizarre and certainly not for those with even a faintly weak stomach. But for those meeting both qualifications: Welcome to a devious little nightmare.
Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas: György Pálfi's Taxidermia is a brilliant, often grotesquely bizarre allegory on life in Hungary from World War II to the present, a surrealist fantasy exploring the limits of the body and its desires and altogether a darkly funny comedy on the human condition in extremis. It is permeated with that highly developed Eastern European sense of absurd but is not for the faint of heart: There's much that is exuberantly gross, including some sexual imagery, but there are also images of startling beauty -- and horror. (In the film's most poignant sequence, Pálfi evokes the eternal cycle of life with only an old wooden bathtub as a prop -- a place for lovemaking, baptism, the laying out of a corpse, etc.)
Pálfi focuses on three generations. A grandfather, an orderly at a remote World War II military outpost, is consumed with sexual frustration and a longing for love. The orderly's son -- the product of the orderly's tryst with his nitpicking lieutenant's fat wife -- grows up to be a bulky speed-eating contestant at the height of the Communist era. The grandson is a scrawny, unhandsome taxidermist who cares for his now immobile father who has proudly become surely the fattest man in the world.
With a horrific power that goes beyond Italian horrormeister Dario Argento at his most inspired -- and perhaps even David Cronenberg -- Pálfi gradually reveals the grandson's inexorable passion to create the most perfect work of art ever, an act that is as grotesque as it is oddly redemptive. Indeed, Pálfi leaves us with the sense that he strikes the right note in regard to Hungary's past decades of hardship and oppression, yet he also suggests that the artist's essence is ultimately elusive, literally buried deep within himself.
The New York Times, Stephen Holden: Among the grotesque images paraded through Gyorgy Palfi’s film Taxidermia, the most indelible are neither the graphic depiction of an obsessive voyeur masturbating with fire nor the shearing of a pig’s tail attached to a newborn baby. They are found in its extended scenes of sport-eating competitions by a Hungarian team of gourmands during the Communist era. Seated in a row of troughs, the contestants, who have the pillowy bodies of sumo wrestlers, shovel slop down their throats as fast as they can swallow it in a race against the clock. During the breaks between rounds they regurgitate torrents of vomit, while comparing techniques of “cross-swallowing.” If Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia is an irresistible invitation to dine, Taxidermia is an equally compelling one to fast.
A meditation on the bestial appetites of humanity by the Hungarian director who made his 2002 debut with the much-admired, nearly silent Hukkle, Taxidermia relentlessly focuses on sex, food and innards. It might also be an allegory about repression and Hungarian national identity over the last 70 years. Beautifully lighted, with elegant, fluid cinematography, it includes some stunning, magic-realist flourishes.
The revolving image of a wooden bathtub finds its function changing with each revolution. A stuffed human body with the head removed and a stitched torso, exhibited in a museum, suggests a Dadaist parody of Michelangelo’s David.
Taxidermia belongs to a school of Central European surrealism that marries nightmarish horror with formal beauty. Two masters of a style that is visually spellbinding but that can be physically nauseating to behold are the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer and the Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew.
Directors who borrow from the aesthetic include David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam, and, in its cruder expressions, the practitioners of torture porn. But Mr. Palfi’s film aspires to high art. In his director’s note he states, “My aim was to create not just an auteur film but an enduring, personal auteur film.” He might have added “in the European tradition.” The message is a brutal reminder that beneath a thin veneer of civilization we are animals who kill and torture one another and who devour other animals.
Free for all film admirers. And a mini-market starts at 5pm. See you around :)
Map to the mid-summer night open-air cinema at CMU.
At the CMU Japanese Studies Center next Wednesday, April 28, at 1:30 pm
The Japanese Studies Center at CMU will be showing the excellent Japanese film Departures next Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 pm at the Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University, 239 Huay Kaew Rd. For further information, call 053 943-284. This is a part of their monthly lectures series. The film won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2009.
1:30 pm Wednesday, April 28: Departures / Okuribito / おくりびと ,(2008) by Yôjirô Takita -- Japan, Drama/ Music – 130 mins – A delightful journey into the heartland of Japan as well as an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of Japan's cultural heritage. Generally favorable reviews: 68/70 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Departures follows Daigo Kobayashi, a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and who is suddenly left without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled Departures thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of “Nokanshi,” acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.
At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon." A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 23, 8 pm: Le couperet / The Ax (2005) by Costa-Gavras – 122 mins – Belgium/ France/ Spain, Comedy/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. English subtitles.
With José Garcia, Karin Viard, Geordy Monfils, Christa Theret, Ulrich Tuku, Olivier Gourmet.
A business executive, who was fired by his company after it underwent restructuring, is ready to do anything to get his job back - even if it means killing his rivals.
– Alliance description
filmsdefrance.com, James Travers: Costa-Gavras, renowned for an impressive series of political thriller-dramas in the ’70s and ’80s, makes a rare excursion into black comedy with this inspired adaptation of a popular novel by American writer Donald E. Westlake. It’s a slick social satire with a razor sharp edge, in which the murderous antics of a psychopathic family man take on a disturbing banality when set in the context of the harsh dog-eat-dog world of soulless, profit-obsessed corporations.
Easily Costa-Gavras’s most enjoyable and socially relevant film for well over a decade, Le Couperet is every bit as compelling as Westlake’s novel, skillfully combining Hitchcockian suspense, human interest drama and some great, side-splitting comedy. The characters are well-drawn and well-played, the plot ingenious and satisfying, whilst the underlying social themes are apparent without being over-labored. It’s meaty, thought-provoking, and fun. You’d expect nothing less of one of French cinema’s most admired film directors.
The star of the film is José Garcia, a popular actor who - unfortunately – is still very much associated with low-brow crowd-pulling comedies, in spite of the fact that his talents clearly out-class such mediocre fare. In what is almost certainly his best screen performance to date, Garcia brings a dark intensity and realism to his portrayal that makes his character genuinely disturbing and yet also thoroughly likeable. You want him to succeed so that he can win back his self-esteem and save his family – even if this means literally butchering his rivals. What does this say about the kind of world we now live in, where in order to survive, we must eliminate the opposition? What will you do – when the axe falls? A spot of D.I.Y. head-hunting, perhaps?
Synopsis: When dedicated company man Bruno Davert loses his job in a corporate reorganization, he comes close to losing his self-respect and his family. After two years of futile job-hunting, he hits on a brilliant scheme to win a senior post with another company. By advertising a bogus job vacancy, he gets potential rivals in his field to send him their CVs – with personal details which enable him to find them – and kill them...
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 30, 8 pm: L'Homme du train / Man on the Train (2002) by Patrice Leconte – 90 mins – Comedy/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 75/75 out of 100.
With Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday, Jean-François Stévenin, Charlie Nelson, Pascal Parmentier, Isabelle Petit-Jacques, Edith Scob.
At a deserted train station, a teacher and a gangster meet and realize that each might have been better suited to the other man's way of life. As a friendship of sorts develops between these opposite personalities, each starts to envy the other and by the week's end, everything will change for both of them...
– Alliance description
RottenTomatoes: In a sleepy French backwater, a train pulls into a deserted station, depositing a lone passenger: a grizzled man in a fringed leather jacket. He looks like a criminal, albeit an aging criminal, a man who has never before asked questions of life or made deep connections with anybody, arriving for a final showdown, and he is. But, within minutes, he bumps into a local retired poetry teacher in dapper clothes, a man who looks like someone waiting for something exciting to happen, who appears perfectly settled in his life, and he was…until now.
Suddenly, these two disparate men are about to find, at the very end of the line, an unexpected friendship, an opportunity to look back on their dashed hopes, and a magical, momentary chance to explore the road not taken.
Patrice Leconte's award-winning Man on the Train is a simple, humor-filled tale that resonates with deeper themes of friendship and fate, of longing and regret and most of all, of the passage of time and the choices we make. It is the story of two men who might never have met but for an accident, who appear to have nothing in common, yet who change each other's view of life at the last possible moment.
When the criminal Milan (French rock icon Johnny Hallyday) rolls into town planning to knock off the local bank on Saturday, he assumes it will go off without a hitch. Then he encounters Manesquier (leading French actor Jean Rochefort). A retired poetry teacher whose sedentary lifestyle bores even himself, Manesquier offers Milan a much-needed drink of water in his musty old chateau. The only thing they seem to share is that Manesquier, too, has an important date on Saturday; but his is for open-heart surgery. From the start, the two men are equally wary of the other. Manesquier senses that Milan is up to no good, while Milan is driven crazy by Manesquier's incessant talking. But, when Milan is forced to hole up in Manesquier's mansion until the robbery, the distance between them begins to disappear. Suddenly, Manesquier wonders what it would be like to trade his books and art for Milan's gun and life of adventure. Meanwhile, Milan covets Manesquier's bedroom slippers and cozy life of stability.
As their friendship develops, surprising moments of humor and tenderness emerge, as each seemingly defies his personality to explore his yearning for the life of the other.
Saturday arrives. Milan and Manesquier have no choice but to part ways and head towards their different destinies. But even their destinies are no longer the same, for their very dreams have become intertwined.
– from RottenTomatoes
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is “The Month of Feel Out of Place” at Film Space. May, “The Month of Surreal.”
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. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, April 24, 7 pm: All About Lily Chou-Chou / Riri Shushu no subete / リリイ・シュシュのすべて ,(2001) by Shunji Iwai– 146 mins – Japan/ Crime/ Drama/ Music/ Thriller. The film follows two childhood friends from the end of their junior high school run until the beginning of high school. The film has a discontinuous storyline, starting midway through the story, just after high school begins, then flashes back to junior high and summer vacation, and then skips back to the present. In junior high, Hoshino was the best student in school, but was picked on by his classmates. He was skilled at kendo, and had a good-looking young mom. Yuichi, on the other hand, was a quieter boy who fell in love with the music of the odd musician Lily Chou-Chou. During a group trip to Okinawa, Hoshino had a traumatic near-death experience and his personality changed from good-natured to dangerous and manipulative. In high school, he takes his place as class bully and shows his newfound power by ruining the lives of his classmates. Generally favorable reviews: 65 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Ah, to be young again and experience anew the horror show that is youth. In Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou-Chou there is nothing redeeming about the adolescent years. It's an out-and-out war among teen peers. If viewers were shocked at the frank depiction of sexuality and violence in Larry Clark's Kids, then they'll flip over All About Lily Chou-Chou, which is just as gritty and twice as rough. Yuichi Hasumi (Hayato Ichihara), Shusuke Hoshino (Shugo Oshinari), and their cohorts artfully dodge a string of life-threatening nightmares and seek release through overactive involvement in cyber culture, pop music, and celebrity. Hasumi plods through junior high school guarded and mostly mute, but in the soft cocoon of cyberspace he proves to be ravenous for joyful expression. He and his classmates abide by an unwritten code that these impulses are voiced only in the stunted dialogue of a chat room dedicated to the fictitious pop star, Lily Chou-Chou. Meanwhile, the same kids spend their days sitting in classrooms run by bullies and are fed a regular diet of public humiliation, petty thievery, and straight violence. Iwai has established himself in Japan with such films as April Story, Swallowtail Butterfly, and Picnic, and is known for "cool" subject matter. It’s obvious in seeing All About Lily Chou-Chou that he is a clear barometer of pop trends. The ecstatic compositions and ample palette of shockingly lush colors provide a unique, private, happy ending.
Spike Marshall: For anyone who had to deal with bullying, or knew a victim of bullying, All About Lily Chou-Chou will probably be an ordeal. Its lucid, vivid, and repellently uncompromising look at social isolation and bullying would probably cut a little too close to the bone. Not that Lily Chou-Chou is the first film to deal with such issues (bullying is after all a fairly generic cinematic trope), but it is rare that the issue is dealt with in a way that is both lyrical and incredibly visceral. Whilst most other films offer a buffer zone of detachment Lily Chou-Chou forces the viewers to feel and relate to its young stars through its near documentary style of film making.
Despite this documentary stylization film is stunning to look at, its color palette and design ethos giving vibrancy to an altogether rather bleak film. Shot entirely on DV cameras the film has a sort of ethereal quality, a point reinforced by the hazy and often dreamlike narrative. If anything Lily Chou-Chou feels like a film which is suffering from post traumatic stress, its recollection of scenes hazy and confused, events cutting off and merging haphazardly. As such we are largely only offered glimpses of the story; key events delivered without context which all build up to create the central arc of the film. A contributing factor to this haphazardness is the way the chronology in the film works, or to be more honest doesn’t.
All About Lily Chou-Chou follows two Japanese schoolboys as they leave Junior School, go on a summer vacation, and attend the first year of High School. Yuichi is something of an introvert, devoting his time to the running of his fansite and listening to the music of Lily Chou-Chou. He has a few friends at school which is more than can be said for Hoshino, the academic star of his year whose success has ostracized him from the rest of his peers. The film opens in high school with Hoshino having already turned on all around him and set himself up as a vicious and brutal bully. His relationship with Yuichi is never fully explained until about thirty minutes into the film when the narrative doubles back on itself to examine the previous year’s events.
In a lot of other films the boys bonding and eventual trip to a sunny locale (in this case Okinawa) would be handled with a light and breezy touch, the sleight of hand to prepare you for the sucker punch of the next two acts. What Lily Chou-Chou does is cast a shadow over these moments of exuberance; we know that Hoshino is going to turn out bad. But by looking at these happier times with foreknowledge of his present situation everything becomes a little darker, a pall is cast over every event and the viewer finds themselves searching for links as to Hoshino’s change in behavior.
Our first encounter with Yuichi is as a miscreant and then as a victim, our first encounter with Hoshino is as a victim and then a miscreant. The establishing moment for Hoshino is a speech he is forced to read on behalf of his classmates explaining their hopes and aspirations for high school. You can see the duality immediately, the pride at being chosen for this honor conflicting with his persistent knowledge of his classmate’s hatred.
This trip to Okinawa during the school holidays is funded by the aftermath of a petty theft, the boys descending on a robbery and sprinting away with the loot they find. It is Hoshino who makes the first move and invariably secures the money for the boys and it is another layer added to the character. He is already acting out by this point, but without the context of the schoolyard or his later violence. It is only during the trip to Okinawa and a series of near fatal accidents that Hoshino truly withdraws from the group. His near Shakespearean fall into isolation and near madness is juxtaposed against the stories of those whom he abuses and allows to be abused. Indeed, the last hour of the film is so shocking because of the fact that Hoshino is so calculating. His actions are carried out with a cool, detached, malice and his crimes become more and more unspeakable.
A film which started off as an average treatise on school life suddenly descending into a brutal, nihilistic, vision of a schoolboy kingpin who blackmails his schoolmates into prostitution, organizes a brutal gang rape and ritually humiliates one of his closest friends. Indeed Hoshino’s first two acts aren’t particularly violent but demonstrate a cruelty and malice that is utterly disturbing. We first see him betray Yuichi (setting his gang on his former friend and destroying his prized CD and CD player) and then we see him assert dominance over the school bully by stripping him of his pride. He doesn’t particularly harm the bully; he just makes a mockery of him in a detached and sociopathic way.
His snapping of Yuichi’s copy of the new Lily Chou-Chou CD is perhaps far more significant than any other action in the film. It’s a severance of ties between him and his old friend and also a pollution of the ‘ether’ a spiritual energy which Yuichi and Hoshino talk about on their website. The major indication of the extent of this action is the fact that the near continuous soundtrack is ominously missing for a few minutes after this action. In fact it doesn’t return until the film goes back into itself for the flashback. Music plays such a large and vital part of the film that its sudden absence feels almost like an assault and its conspicuous absence suggests the destruction of purity far better than anything else in the film.
At its core All About Lily Chou-Chou plays broadly with the corruption of innocence idea. The corruption of the Ether (a term used several times in the film) a pretty apt metaphor for the corruption of innocence taking place within the children’s lives. Music is the only escape Yuichi has from his tormentors and the only way he can truly connect with his fellow victims. The text message excerpts from his website explain how easily people fall into the lure and escape of the Ether and the final scenes go a long way to corrupting even this last bastion. Indeed Yuichi is not really a victim in a traditional sense, only suffering one physical abuse at the hands of Hoshino’s gang. More than anything else the damage is done by how he is forced to integrate into Hoshino’s ever expanding gang, given the menial task of watching over the schoolgirl Hoshino has turned into a prostitute.
The film offers no real answers to the problems of bullying and to expect it to would be rather moronic. What it does is paint a real picture of what it is like to be a victim of a bully and how innocuous and random their dislike can be. The overall message is rather distressing; the film seems to revel in unilateral action as the only way to fight against bullying. As such suicide, self sacrifice, and murder are the only solutions the victims are left with. Whilst the film seems to drift toward melodrama at points, the rape scene and the fate of a girl doomed to be a child escort both feel perhaps a little detached from the general narrative, the effect of the Digital Photography always grounds it at least in a facsimile of reality.
That is the odd dichotomy at work in All About Lily Chou-Chou its ethereal elegance matched with material that is indicting in its reality. It is a tale that is both supremely stylized and at times hyper real. It is a film that is utterly shocking and morally depressing but that is also lyrically beautiful and bursting with color and vitality. Every technical aspect is remarkably polished even the fictional score by Lily Chou-Chou is the kind of music that is enrapturing and alluring and it all works to make the impact of the film even more brutal.
May is “The Month of Surreal” at Film Space.
At Film Space Saturday, May 1, 7 pm: The Wayward Cloud / Tian bian yi duo yun / 天邊一朵雲 (2005) by Tsai Ming-Liang – 114 mins – France/ Taiwan, Comedy/ Drama/ Musical/ Sci-Fi. The film was Taiwan's official entry for the 78th Academy Awards in the foreign-language category. There is extensive male and female nudity, although not full-frontal. It grossed more than million Taiwan dollars in its theatrical release in Taiwan, which was an amazing commercial achievement for the Taiwan film industry, more than twenty times the usual Taiwan films. Generally favorable reviews: 66-71 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: As the people of Taipei face a lack of water, some turn to watermelons for their succulent fruit juices. Meanwhile, a young woman falls for a man without realizing he is a porn star. Surreal and... As the people of Taipei face a lack of water, some turn to watermelons for their succulent fruit juices. Meanwhile, a young woman falls for a man without realizing he is a porn star. Surreal and fantastical, The Wayward Cloud tells its story slowly and with style, often breaking out into charming musical sequences.
Independent, Anthony Quinn:Features the most explicit use of a watermelon ever filmed.
BBC, Jonathan Trout: As the people of Taipei face a lack of water, some turn to watermelons for their succulent fruit juices. Meanwhile, a young woman falls for a man without realizing he is a porn star. Surreal and... On one hand, The Wayward Cloud is a tender urban romance, punctuated with vibrant 50s-style song and dance numbers. On the other, it features extended bouts of unflinchingly simulated pornography, sudden injections of black physical humor, and nary a word of script. It's the madcap finale to a loose trilogy from Taiwanese director Tsi Ming-Liang, and whilst emphatically not to all tastes, fans of the obscene, the experimental, and the outrageous should make every effort to get along.
Set in a modern city against a major drought and a national obsession with watermelons – bear with me – it's the story of a quiet girl, Shiang-Chyi, who meets a boy, Hsiao-Kang, in a park outside her high-rise apartment block. With the only line in the movie, she recognizes that he once sold her a watch, from which a gentle intimacy grows. Unknown to her, though, he is now working, only a few floors up, as a porn star – a secret that cannot stay hidden forever.
Relentless nudity, interminable faux-porn gruntings, and that striking muteness combine for a pervasive sense of voyeurism. We watch entranced as the characters tiptoe through one another's lonely lives – until we are shunted awake by the musical interludes. Comic and lavishly produced, these sequences – one featuring giant dancing penises, another sees Hsaio-Kang as a merman – shatter the dingy, dramatic dripfeed, give voice to the characters' inner feelings, and keep things impressively weird right up to the eye-watering climax.