Wall Street comes to Chiang Mai!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, September 23, 2010
… through Wednesday, September 29
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The last of Three Colors [at AF]. Eternity. Wall Street 2.
This is Issue Number 47 of Volume 5 of these listings.
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Oct 21 to 31.
1st Doi Saket International Film Festival: Oct 23 to 30. Film list now available: http://dsiff.tumblr.com/films
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14.
Bangkok International Film Festival: Nov 19 to 29.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Early November.
Luang Prabang Film Festival in Luang Prabang: Dec 4 to 11. Open air, free, 30 films. www.lpfilmfest.org
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: US, Drama – 2 hrs 13 mins – Oliver Stone directs Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Frank Langella, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach, Charlie Sheen, and Vanessa Ferlito in this scathing follow-up to the acclaimed 1987 film – 23 years later. Here the disgraced Wall Street corporate raider imprisoned in the first movie is released, and as the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster he partners with a young Wall Street trader on a two-part mission: To alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of the young trader's mentor. Early reviews: Mixed or average: 58/66 out of 100.
Note: Major Cineplex is offering group rates for this film – 100 baht a seat. For info, contact Salilla Hongnakorn [สลิลลา หงษ์นคร], Local Area Marketing, Up Country North Zone, Major Cineplex Group PLC., Mobile : 08 4438 5924, E-mail : email@example.com.
Box Office, Pete Hammond: With the woes of Wall Street constantly in the headlines, Oliver Stone could not have picked a better time to reignite Wall Street. The 1987 original starred Charlie Sheen (who has an amusing cameo in this version) as the hotshot protégé of Michael Douglas in his Oscar winning turn as the slippery and shrewd stock wizard, Gordon Gekko. In this revamp, Gekko turns up harried and grayer but still hunting for a way back into the "game" after serving eight years in prison for his bad trading habits. He's now gotten involved with another young hotshot (Shia LaBeouf), who happens to be engaged to Gekko's estranged daughter. Combining a strong family story with Stone's precise and knowledgeable insights about the way the finance industry works – or doesn't work, as the case may be – this 2010 update is worth its weight in gold futures.
Much like Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money (1986), which updated Paul Newman's Fast Eddie Felson character from the 1961 film The Hustler, Stone and his screenwriters Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff are skillfully using the long period between original and sequel to allow the "reformed" veteran to show the ropes to the eager young player before letting that old itch to be back in the "game" take over.
This version opens with Gekko freed from prison, alone and broke with basically just an Edsel-old cell phone that's (comically) returned to him on his release. He's estranged from his daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who wants nothing to do with him, and in fact blames her father for the drug overdose death of her brother (it's an eerily uncomfortable connection to Douglas' own real life situation with son Cameron). Despite her disdain for Wall Street, she is engaged to idealistic investment banker Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) who is being mentored by an old lion investment firm head, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). When tragedy strikes and Zabel's firm collapses, arrogant Wall Street manipulator, Bretton James (Josh Brolin) buys the firm for virtually nothing and recruits the promising Jake, who wrongly sees this as a chance to show his stuff. Jake tries to assist some reconciliation between Winnie and her dad but actually ends up covertly teaming up with Gekko, who has written a bestselling expose of Wall Street and spends most of his time giving lectures or attending his book signings. Through Jake, Gordon sees a way in against his nemesis James ("You stop telling lies about me and I'll stop telling the truth about you," Gekko memorably utters to the hard-nosed trader). Jake makes some bad decisions that power the second half of the film, during which Douglas' character becomes a lethal player once more, forsaking whatever familial ties that bind.
Brilliantly cast, Wall Street 2 is a crackerjack powerhouse of a movie that shines a light on the financial machinations described by Warren Buffet as "an economic Pearl Harbor." Douglas is once again superb, getting most of his action in the last hour but not losing any of the luster of his Oscar-winning role. LaBeouf is solid and engaging and Mulligan is wonderful as the moral center of the movie. Brolin is great but not overbearing as the main villain of the piece and Susan Sarandon has some nice, if brief, scenes as Jake's money-grubbing mom. Langella proves integral in the first part of the film while another veteran, 93 year old Eli Wallach playing a feisty company patriarch, steals every scene he's in.
IMDb viewer: Shia LaBeouf, stop, just stop! Stop ruining movie after movie with your deadly charisma. This guy has been saved by scripts like Holes and Disturbia. He's also been the nail in the coffin in films like I, Robot and Constantine. Now he's advanced to ruining popular franchises. First it was Indiana Jones, then Transformers (which suck enough anyway) and now Wall Street. Give this twat a coloring book and stop spending millions to have him poison the screen. It's PAINFUL!!!
IMDb viewer: Shia Lebouf... WHY?! As soon as I saw the title pic with Shia and Michael Douglas, I had a bad feeling about this film... WHY is Shia in it? Couldn't they have picked a slightly more mature actor who still is young, kind of the same age Charlie Sheen was in 1987? In other words, why did they pick Shia, who looks like he is 12? Couldn't they have picked another actor who at least resembles a grown-up? Ridiculous casting in that part if u ask me...
According to IMDb: In preparation for his role, Shia LaBeouf worked extensively with traders and researchers on the world of finance and economy. He even invested 20,000 dollars, and ended up making more than 400,000 dollars.
According to IMDb: The first Oliver Stone film to appear at Cannes. After the screening, Stone responded to the reception by making some changes to the ending.
Films in Review, Victoria Alexander: LaBeouf, who looks good in his custom-made suits, has no “killer instinct.” LaBeouf is being groomed to be the next Harrison Ford but he lacks sex appeal. Who is forcing him on us? He has absolutely no chemistry with sad-eyed Mulligan.
Watching Michael Douglas act should be the total curriculum total of an acting course. He knows how to make love to the camera and seduce an audience with his charm. He effortlessly steals every scene he is in. He uses his smile to crush his co-stars. As W.C. Fields famously said: “Never work with children, animals, or Michael Douglas.”
NY Magazine, David Edelstein: This is the rare sequel that has a good reason to exist. In Wall Street (1987), Stone came up with a brilliant trick, putting lefty critiques of capitalism into the mouth of his Über-capitalist villain—as boasts. And lo, impressionable young people loved Gekko’s ease with his vast wealth, his lack of shame. Stone and Douglas were reportedly surprised they’d created not just a monster but a role model. So bringing Gekko back makes all kinds of sense: Let’s see what he makes of an even more evolved, more insidious breed of predators. Will he fight them or join them or find some other path to the mother lode? ...
As with many recent Stone projects, it’s hard to tell what the focus is supposed to be. Stone has said he wanted to prove definitively that Gekko’s “greed is good” speech was wrong, but Douglas is nowhere near as devilish (or as vivid) this time around. ... For all Stone’s vaunted political commitment, does he believe in anything beside the infinite corruptibility of humankind?
* Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen: Hong Kong, Action/ Drama/ History – 1 hr 45 mins – Set in the 1920s during the Second Sino-Japanese War in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, this Hong Kong martial arts film stars Donnie Yen as a local resistance fighter who had been taken for dead after a bloody skirmish. After an absence of seven years he returns in disguise to uncover a plot linking the triads and the Japanese. The film is a continuation of the 1995 television series Fist of Fury, with Donnie Yen reprising his role as Chen Zhen, a role made famous by Bruce Lee in the 1972 film Fist of Fury. This film, directed by Andrew Lau, takes place seven years after the events of the TV series, and comes direct from an out of competition showing during the opening night of this year’s Venice Film Festival and the just concluded Toronto Film Festival. Shown in a Thai-dubbed version only, and only at Airport Plaza.
* The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec / Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec / พลัง อะเดล ข้ามขอบฟ้า โค่น 5 มหาภัย: France, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – 1 hr 45 mins – An adventure written and directed by Luc Besson set in the early part of the 20th century, and focused on a popular novelist and her dealings with would-be suitors, the cops, monsters, and other distractions. Adapted from a comic adventure series written and illustrated by French comics’ artist Jacques Tardi, the film is set in the carefree world before World War I, where Adèle Blanc-Sec, an intrepid young reporter, will go to great lengths to achieve her goals, even sailing to Egypt to tackle mummies of all shapes. At Airport Plaza only.
One Metal.com, Dave Convery: Love or loathe him, Luc Besson is a difficult director to pigeonhole. A man who spent the early nineties making darkly comedic crime thrillers before making the leap to the ultra-camp sci-fi of The Fifth Element, disappearing for years at a time while seemingly writing and producing around 50% of all action movies. For anyone who caught Leon at an impressionable age, his name was a shortcut for ‘This film is going to be brilliant’, but recently his output has been sparse, and his last film, the sub-par kids animation Arthur and the Invisibles hardly set the world alight. At first glance, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec looked like a return to the epic scale of The Fifth Element but in truth it’s something stranger and just far more French than that.
Based on Tardi’s popular (in France) graphic novels, Adèle Blanc-Sec is a bestselling travel writer whose tales of strange lands and derring-do have made her a minor celebrity, but her expeditions are merely a cover for more philanthropic pursuits. If that leaves you thinking ‘Female Indiana Jones’ then you’re near the mark, but The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is closer to a cozy parlor comedy than the fast-paced action of the Indiana Jones series. There are tombs and traps aplenty, not to mention sinister opponents clad in trenchcoats, but the style of the film is very different. With actors clad in latex and makeup to better resemble their comic book counterparts, it’s almost as though Besson set out to make a Gallic Dick Tracy, though sadly the finished result is not as exciting as the images that notion conjures.
Mathieu Amalric is unrecognizable under latex
as the villainous Dieuleveult.
Setting out to save her sister from a mystery ailment, Adèle sets out to recover the mummy of an Egyptian Doctor, believing he has the knowledge required to restore the ailing sibling. Of course, the mummy in turn needs someone to resurrect him, and a supernatural comedy of errors ensues as Adèle races against the clock to break an aging scientist from prison before her sister shuffles off this mortal coil. Oh, and there’s a Pterodactyl. And an incompetent police force. And a bizarre big game hunter. There’s also some stuff with a dog. And a comedy drunk. So yes, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is an incredibly silly film, and it’s also a very funny one, albeit more persistent light chuckling than busting a gut.
There are a few moments were sub-par CGI lets the film down, but for the most part the action zips along at a fair pace and unhindered. There’s nothing that stands out as a huge Hollywood-standard set-piece, but this doesn’t really diminish the film. Rather it helps it stand out in a sea of bloated clones and while action is definitely subservient to story here, Adèle occupies a world of grotesques and incompetents. While this serves the frothy comedy at the heart of the film well, there is very little by way of character to be had. Even Adèle herself, as the only thing like a developed character, has only 2 settings -- frustrated action heroine and tearful grieving sister. It leaves the film with a very disjointed tone -- neither comic book come to life or naturalistic take. Ultimately such quibbles are moot, because this is not a film that seeks to match the Indiana Jones films or escape its comic book origins. It is what it is, something lightweight but hugely enjoyable.
* The Snow White / Tai Tang Glom / ตายทั้งกลม: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – 1 hr 30 mins – Two students stealthily dissect the dead body of a pregnant woman just to get the dead infant in her belly to do black magic. But the magic doesn't work, and they're hunted by the ghost of the dead woman. Rated 18+ in Thailand. At Airport Plaza only.
Wise Kwai: The Snow White and no seven dwarves!
Gross-out horror, comedy, and even a bit of nudity combine for Golden A Entertainment's The Snow White (ตายทั้งกลม, Tai Tang Klom), in which two students undertake the secret dissection of a pregnant woman's corpse to get the dead infant for black-magic spells. But instead of gaining any powers, the students [are] hunted by the vengeful ghost of the dead woman. Their only hope is a kind-hearted nurse who tries to stop the ghost.
The nurse is played by "Nannie" Pattaranan Deeratsamee (ภัทรนันท์ ดีรัศมี) from the pop group Girly Berry, making her movie debut. She follows in the footsteps of bandmates "Giftza" Piya Pongkulapa and Nymph star "Gybzy" Wanida Ternthanaporn in making the shift from the music business to film.
Sarawut Intaraprom (สราวุธ อินทรพรหม), who previously did the indie romantic comedy Boring Love, directs.
Eternity / Chua Fah Din Salai / ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย: Thai, Drama/ Romance – A class act in many ways, and always solid Thai filmmaking. It’s one of the most interesting Thai movies to come along in some time, for a number of reasons. Based on a revered and classic Thai novel of 1943, the film depicts a forbidden love story in which adulterous lovers are physically chained together for all eternity. It’s also gotten some controversy because of lots of nudity of the couple. But for me, I’m mostly interested in what the director has done. His name is ML Pandevanop Devakul, better known as Mom Noi, and he’s an interesting guy. He’s an acting teacher, arguably the best acting teacher in Thailand, the mentor of Ananda Everingham among others. He comes from a classical theatrical background. As a director he has presented some of the most severe examples of Western drama in Thai adaptations over the years, including Greek drama, Shakespeare, Chekhov, and modern American drama. Starring Ananda Everingham and Chermal Boonyasak. Apparently in a Thai version only at Vista this week; no English subtitles.
Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee: Eternity, as the 2010 movie version is called, is Mom Noi's first film in 13 years. Bewitched by the complexity of the characters and their motives, the veteran director has probed the psychology of the three protagonists – Pabo, the uncle; Yupadee, his young wife; Sangmong, the nephew – adding scenes, dialogue, politics, and Khalil Gibran's poetry to give us a faithful recreation that's also reinforced by his own interpretation of the text. The result is classical, erudite, slightly old-fashioned; the work of a sophisticated dramatist who has given every detail a good, long thought.
But I have a warning! Those who are bothered by the Thai style of acting, featuring long pauses between sentences in a conversation to the point of distraction to Western ears, will find this in abundance here. When I was taking acting and directing classes in college we were taught the American/ British way of acting, where the lines of dialogue were bounced back and forth without pause, much like a game of ;tennis. In fact, we trained by actually tossing tennis balls to each other as we were saying our lines, the idea being to “keep the ball going and not drop.” In Thailand, the style is to drop the ball after each line, wait up to seven seconds of supposedly pregnant pauses, and then say the line. Common on stage, in movies, in soap operas, and it drives Farangs wild. But it’s the style, and it’s much in evidence here, be warned. If you can set that aside, you will find much to appreciate here, including some fine acting by the two principals and the two secondary leads. It’s nicely handled, and has much resonance and reverberation. Surely a Thai film to prize.
Resident Evil: Afterlife: UK/ Germany/ US, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 37 mins – The series continues. This time, in a world ravaged by a virus infection turning its victims into the Undead (in other words, Zombies), Alice (Milla Jovovich), continues on her journey to find survivors and lead them to safety. Her deadly battle with the Umbrella Corporation reaches new heights, but Alice gets a new lead that promises a safe haven from the Undead takes which takes them to Los Angeles, but when they arrive they find the city is overrun by thousands of Undead. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence and language. Generally unfavorable reviews: 37/39 out of 100. Shown in both 3D and 2D versions at Airport Plaza (and the 3D version is for a change real 3D); in 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista.
In regards to the 3D process used, I want to emphasize that the Airport Plaza 3D version is real 3D, in fact using Pace Fusion 3-D cameras, the same cameras James Cameron created with Vince Pace for a number of Cameron’s documentaries, as well as his feature Avatar. These systems and cameras remain at the cutting edge of 3D technology. Now, why they would want to use all this marvelous technology for a zombie flic is another question entirely. But I want to do my bit to clear up the confusion as to what kind of 3D is actually being used under the generic and often misleading label of “3D” by places like Major Cineplex. They charge the same price for genuine 3D like this film as for rip-off cheapie post-production 3D, which takes a 2D film and adds some 3D feel to it. And they never let on. Shame!
Guardian.co.uk, Phelim O'Neill: The fourth Resident Evil movie has 3D as its main selling point, and without doubt the 3D is of a very high quality. There are plenty of visually impressive scenes, with planes skimming over glaciers or examining the inside of huge, expansive white hangars. But as we have come to expect from this series, and this director, the films always look good and have well-staged action, but they don't have one iota of originality or imagination – to the extent of virtually recreating key scenes from The Matrix, Die Hard and The Descent. It matters not, though; if you've seen the previous three RE films, you'll know not to expect any surprises. Milla Jovovich is relaxed and at ease in her role; another dozen or so Resident Evil films and she might even be quite good.
BrianOrndorf.com, Brian Orndorf: It’s a polished effort, but astoundingly joyless and deathly dull, which seems par for the course when it comes to the “Resident Evil” movies.
Hello Stranger / Kuan Muen Ho / กวน มึน โฮ: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 2 hrs 15 mins – Riding the local wave of fascination in all things Korean (but especially the teen and tiny boy-band, pop-star craze), another director tries his hand at a rom-com about Thais in that mesmerizing country that seems to breed only cute muppets. In Thai only at Vista, with English subtitles at Airport Plaza. Still a huge hit.
From Pakse with Love / Sabaidee 2: Mai Me Kamtob Jak Pakse / สะบายดี 2: ไม่มีคำตอบจาก…ปากเซ: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 1 hr 40 mins – A follow-up sweet picture postcard from Laos following the first sweet picture postcard from Laos, 2008’s Sabaidee Luang Prabang. That movie starred Ananda Everingham, and was the first feature film made in Laos in 20 years. This one, the second of a planned trilogy, stars Ray Macdonald and Laotian beauty queen Khamly Philavong, reprising her role from the first film as a charming tour guide. At Vista only.
The Back-up Plan: US, Comedy, Romance – 1 hr 46 mins – Jennifer Lopez is a pleasure to the eyes, and I did get a grand laugh from the film – but only one! Beyond that, those who are expectant mothers should love it, as well as those who expect to be expectant some day. Or who were expectant mothers at one time. I found it pretty unrealistic, but I think that’s a part of what charm it has. See it if you’re desperate for a middling rom-com. The plot: After years of dating, Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) has decided waiting for the right man is taking too long. Determined to become a mother, she decides to go it alone, commits to a plan, and makes the necessary appointment. On the day of her artificial insemination, she meets a man with real possibilities of being her dream man come true, wouldn’t you know! Generally unfavorable reviews: 34/36 out of 100.
USA Today, Claudia Puig: This sitcom style exercise in planned parenthood is blandly predictable. If it were a cheese, it would be Velveeta.
Roger Ebert: Jennifer Lopez has never looked better. That's about all she does here, is look better. She is talented and deserves more than this bird-brained plot about characters who have no relationship to life as it is lived by, you know, actual people.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: The Back-Up Plan is soft and squishy ... It's dramatically vanilla, ... lacks a compelling romance, and struggles to find a convincing performance.
Scheduled for September 30
Devil: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 20 mins – A group of people trapped in a elevator realize that the devil is among them. Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, which the directors and crew are desperately trying to live down, being that his name, post-Airbender, is as welcome as the devil himself. Mixed or average reviews: 46/45 out of 100.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: Devil will do little to dispel the growing belief that Shyamalan is a one-trick pony whose horse has keeled over. The laughter during the trailer was sadly prescient; the film is a joke.
Chicago Reader, Ben Sachs: The great cinematographer Tak Fujimoto has the time of his life on this low-budget horror feature, playing with dolly shots, abrupt zooms, and negative space inside the widescreen frame, and the fun is infectious.
The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis: A serviceable burst of high-end hokum, Devil classes up a flimsy, religion-themed plot (by M. Night Shyamalan) with the kind of limber cinematography only someone like Tak Fujimoto can deliver.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore: Devil is the sort of story Rod Serling would have taken for a spin in "The Twilight Zone," back in the day. Shyamalan came up with the idea, produced it and got others to script and direct this 76 minute exercise in movie minimalism.
Detective Dee / Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / D-Project / Di Renjie / 狄仁杰之通天帝国: China/ Hong Kong, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – When the mysterious deaths of a series of loyal subjects threaten to delay the 690 A.D. inauguration of Empress Wu Zetian, she summons the infamous Detective Dee back from an exile into which she cast him eight years earlier. She appoints him Chief Judge of the Empire, a prestigious position that he had declined when she had offered it to him eight years ago. Starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung Ka Fai. Based on the Chinese folk hero Di Renjie, who was one of the most celebrated officials of the Tang Dynasty, and popularized in the West by a series of detective novels written by Robert Van Gulik, who called him "Judge Dee". A co-production between China and Hong Kong, the film was directed by Tsui Hark, and nominated for the Golden Lion at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.
Slant, Fernando F. Croce: Decades after reinvigorating Hong Kong's martial-arts market, Tsui Hark has lost none of his flair for genre spectacle in this elaborate, breathlessly paced Wuxia whodunit. Something of a political fairy tale (as in Tsui's earlier films, it could easily open with "Once upon a time in China..."), the story is set in 687 A.D. as the emperor's widow (Carina Lau) is about to become the country's first female ruler. With her coronation and the construction of a towering Buddha statue in her honor drawing near, court officials begin to inexplicably and horribly burst into flames. Divine intervention or seditious conspiracy? Detective Dee (Andy Lau) is recruited to find out, with a beautiful warrior (Li Bingbing) by his side and hordes of kung fu foes before him. Sammo Hung's choreography, with fight scenes shot as cartwheeling flurries of gold, blue, and crimson, is just one of the pleasures in a film that also includes shapeshifting heroines, talking stags, a toppling colossus, cheesy digital compositions, and wacky exchanges ("What's a Phantom Bazaar?" "It's a spooky pandemonium!"). Ripping fun.
Saturday Killer / มือปืน ดาว พระ เสาร์: Thai, Action/ Comedy – The film revolves around Tee Rifle, a troublesome gunman who kills for money to cure his impotence, and Chris Styer, a mysterious girl that Tee has a crush on but whose heart he can never seem to win. This is the middle film in a trilogy of crime films, Friday Killer, Saturday Killer, and Sunday Killer, all with well-known comics paired up with leading ladies. Saturday Killer is being released first because Friday Killer was deemed too downbeat to start off with. With Choosak "Nong Cha Cha Cha" Iamsuk and Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story star Cris Horwang. The trilogy marks a return to the hitman genre for Yuthlert, a prolific genre-hopping filmmaker who made his debut with 2000's comedy-action-drama Killer Tattoo.
Wise Kwai: It appears the dramatic Friday Killer is too downbeat for Yuthlert's producers at Phranakorn Film, who will likely release the more comedy-oriented Saturday Killer and Sunday Killer first with Friday Killer coming out sometime next year. The films all pair veteran comic actors with starlets in a mash-up of genres that include crime drama, romance, and comedy. Friday Killer stars Thep Po-ngam as an ageing gunman who's released from prison to discover he has a daughter, and she's a policewoman gunning for him. Saturday Killer (มือปืน ดาวพระเสาร์) stars Choosak "Nong Chachacha" Iamsuk and Cris Horwang while Sunday Killer (มือปืนพระอาทิตย์) pairs Kotee Aramboy with May Pitchanart Sakhakorn.
Yuthlert Sippapak's Friday Killer was given the top prize, the International Break-out Award, at this year’s Phuket Film Festival, with the prediction that the prolific genre-hopping director will have "great success with his trilogy of hitman films (Friday Killer, Saturday Killer, Sunday Killer) but will go on to break-out of directing domestic Thai films and pick-up a wider regional and international audience."
* = Coming soon
AF = Alliance Française; FS = Film Space
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.
On Friday, September 24, 8 pm: Trois Couleurs: Rouge / Three Colors: Red (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 99 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles. My favorite of the great Three Colors Trilogy of Kieslowski, bringing to a close this film event for Chiang Mai for this cycle. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.
With Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Samuel Le Bihan, Marion Stalens.
Third and last part of Kieslowski's trilogy, Rouge refers to "Egualité". Valentine is a young model living in Geneva. Because of a dog she ran over, she meets a retired judge who spies his neighbors’ phone calls, not for money but to feed his cynicism…
– Alliance Française description
This is the series’ third and final offering this time around of the Alliance’s presentation of the three extraordinary films that make up the “Colors” trilogy of Krzysztof Kieslowski. This is my favorite of the three Color films. The craftsmanship astounds me, and I am deeply moved by the story.
Sometimes it seems very strange to me how films end up in their final shape, much of it due not to the original artistic impulse, but develops as the film is taking life. In Red, much of the background of the protagonist played by Irène Jacob – the ever-absent boyfriend who only talks on the telephone, continually berating her, bossing her about, demanding she performs certain actions, and in general being thoroughly disagreeable; the mother in England she doesn’t talk to; the brother she can’t connect with, his picture in a newspaper after a drug bust – all unreal relationships – all of this was not even in the script when it was first given to Ms. Jacob, according to what she said in an interview on the DVD disk of the film. She says she complained to Kieslowski that in the part of the old judge he seemed to pour a great deal of himself and he was thus a vital complete character, while her character was unformed. She said Kieslowski listened to her, and then went off and rewrote her part. I find it hard to believe all that wasn’t a part of the original conception, but apparently not.
However it happened, it did turn out to be a masterpiece in my view, and nicely rounds off and completes the trilogy. I’m amazed at how powerful the work is and how much we care about the character of the judge after having been thoroughly put off by him when we first encounter him. We think he is a despicable human being, and really don’t want to have anything to do with him. Yet, in the end we care very much.
James Berardinelli, Reel Views: Red, the final chapter of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy, is a subtle masterpiece. With its satisfying exploration of such complex and diverse themes as destiny and platonic love, Red is not only a self-contained motion picture, but a fitting conclusion to the series. Through one brief-but-important scene, this movie adds closure to both Blue and White, tying both to each other and to Red, and thereby reinforcing the commonality of ideas threaded through all three.
DVDLaser, Douglas Pratt: The narrative seems delicate but precise, and it is difficult to say why the story and the images are so captivating, except that the film’s modulation of revelation, beauty and anticipation is exquisite.
James Berardinelli, Reel Views: "Blue, liberty; White, equality; Red, fraternity... We looked very closely at these three ideas, how they functioned in everyday life, but from an individual's point of view. These ideals are contradictory with human nature. When you deal with them practically, you do not know how to live with them. Do people really want liberty, equality, fraternity?"
Writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski
Red, the final chapter of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, is a subtle masterpiece. With its satisfying exploration of such complex and diverse themes as destiny and platonic love, Red is not only a self-contained motion picture, but a fitting conclusion to the series. Through one brief-but-important scene, this movie adds closure to both Blue and White, tying both to each other and to Red, and thereby reinforcing the commonality of ideas threaded through all three.
This time around, the protagonists are a young woman named Valentine (Irene Jacob, who starred in Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique) and a crotchety retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Valentine, a fashion model, meets the judge after running down his dog in the street and taking the injured animal to the address listed on the collar. Kern is initially indifferent to his pet's predicament, telling Valentine to keep the dog if that's what she wants. She does; however, the animal eventually runs away and finds its way back to the judge's. When Valentine goes searching, she inadvertently learns Kern's secret - he enjoys spying on people by illegally tapping into their phone conversations. Told in parallel with the chronicle of the unusual friendship between Valentine and the judge is the story of two lovers that Kern spies upon. Auguste and Karin seem devoted to each other, but fate has already cast its die against them. For Auguste's life is eerily similar to that of Kern thirty years ago and, like the older man, he is drawn by forces beyond his control towards Valentine.
Thematically, Red is the strongest of the three films. Its construction allows hardly a moment to pass when the viewer isn't considering how fate manipulates the lives of Valentine, Auguste, Kern, and Karin - not to mention the characters from Blue and White (reprised oh-so-briefly by Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Zbigniew Zamachowski, and Julie Delpy). Then there's the meaning of platonic love (or "fraternity") - friendship completely divorced from sexual overtones. Kieslowski shows exactly how multi-faceted any relationship can be, and what occasionally must be sacrificed to the basic human need of finding a kindred spirit.
Red also toys with foreshadowing in a very literal sense. A shot of Valentine used for a billboard ad presages something that later happens to her in real life. It is this moment, more than any other, which crystallizes everything that the Three Colors trilogy is attempting to convey about life and destiny. While Red lacks the emotional depth of Blue and the dark humor of White, it more than makes up for these with its textual and stylistic richness. The red-saturated visuals by Polish cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski are crisp and consistently atmospheric, and the score by Zbigniew Preisner is at full power (after being shunted into the background in White).
The performances are without flaw. Irene Jacob is mesmerizing as Valentine, a woman unknowingly trapped in fate's web. As is true of the other female leads in the Three Colors trilogy, her acting ability matches her screen luminance. Jean-Louis Trintignant presents a multi-layered character whose final secrets are not revealed until late in the film.
Red virtually demands more than one viewing for an appreciation of the picture's ambitious scope. Repeated examination of Red's narrative and thematic structure makes it apparent what Kieslowski has accomplished not only here, but through his entire trilogy. This is one of 1994's exceptional motion pictures.
Roger Ebert: One of the opening images in Red is of telephone lines, crossing. It is the same in life. We are connected with some people and never meet others, but it could easily have happened otherwise.
Looking back over a lifetime, we describe what happened as if it had a plan. To fully understand how accidental and random life is - how vast the odds are against any single event taking place - would be humbling.
That is the truth that Kieslowski keeps returning to in his work. In The Double Life of Veronique, there is even a moment when, if the heroine had looked out of a bus window, she might have seen herself on the street; it's as if fate allowed her to continue on one lifeline after choosing another. In Red, none of the major characters knows each other at the beginning of the movie, and there is no reason they should meet. Exactly.
The film opens in Geneva, in an apartment occupied by a model named Valentine (Irene Jacob). She makes a telephone call, and the phone rings at the same time in an apartment just across the street, occupied by Auguste, a law student. But she is not calling him. Her call is to her boyfriend, who is in England, and whom she rarely sees. As far as we know, Valentine and Auguste have never met. And may never meet. Or perhaps they will.
One day Valentine's car strikes a dog, and she takes it to the home of its owner, a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant). He hardly seems to care for the dog, or for her. He spends his days in an elaborate spying scheme, using wiretaps to monitor an affair being carried on by a neighbor. There is an instant spark that strikes between the old man and the young woman - a contact, a recognition of similarity, or sympathy - but they are 40 years apart in age, strangers to one another, and have met by accident, and . . .
The story becomes completely fascinating. We have no idea where it is going, where it could possibly go. There is no plot to reassure us. No goal that the characters hope to attain. Will the young woman and the judge ever meet again? What will come of that? Does it matter? Would it be good, or bad? Such questions, in Red, become infinitely more interesting than the questions in simple-minded commercial movies, about whether the hero will kill the bad guys, and drive his car fast, and blow things up, or whether his girlfriend will take off her clothes.
Seeing a movie like Red, we are reminded that watching many commercial films is the cinematic equivalent of reading Dick and Jane. The mysteries of everyday life are so much deeper and more exciting than the contrivances of plots.
We learn something about Auguste, the law student who lives across the way. He has a girlfriend named Karin. She specializes in "personal weather reports" for her clients, which sounds reasonable, like having a personal trainer or astrologer, until we reflect that the weather is more or less the same for everybody. But perhaps her clients live in such tight boxes of their own construction that each one has different weather.
Valentine talks to her boyfriend. They are rarely together. He is someone on the phone. Perhaps she "stays" with him to save herself the trouble of a lover whose life she would actually share.
She goes back out to the house of the old judge, and talks to him some more. We learn more about the lives he is eavesdropping on. There are melodramatic developments, but no one seems to feel strongly about them.
And Valentine and Auguste. What a good couple they would make! Perhaps. If they ever meet. And if, in the endless reaches of cosmic time, there had been the smallest shift in the lifetimes of Valentine and the Judge, they could have been the same age. Or another infinitesimal shift, and they would have lived a century apart. Or never lived at all. Or if the dog had wandered somewhere else, Valentine would not have struck him, and met the judge. Or if the judge had had a cat . . .
Think about these things, reader. Don't sigh and turn the page. Think that I have written them and you have read them, and the odds against either of us ever having existed are greater by far than one to all of the atoms in creation.
Red is the conclusion of Kieslowski's masterful trilogy, after Blue and White, named for the colors in the French flag. He says he will retire now, at 53, and make no more films. At the end of Red, the major characters from all three films meet - through a coincidence, naturally. This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you're watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with. Whoever that happens to be.
On Friday, October 1, 8 pm: Coup de torchon / Clean Up / Clean Slate (1981) by Bertrand Tavernier – 128 mins – France, Comedy/ Crime/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 72 out of 100.
With Philippe Noiret, Isabelle Huppert, Guy Marchand, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Stéphane Audran.
“A bid for survival” located in Bourkassa, a small village in French Eastern Africa, Lucien is a policeman embroiled in a series of murders. Ridiculed by his fellow whites, he is going to take revenge… in his own way..
– Alliance Française description
Roger Ebert / April 6, 1983: Bertrand Tavernier's Coup de Torchon is a cruel intellectual joke played on its characters -- who endure boredom, self-contempt, hate, dust, flies, and sometimes even death without being allowed to know they're only part of an existential parable. Tavernier's film is about poor white trash in Africa in 1938, and there are times when they seem almost real -- but they're never allowed the pulse or the stubborn indomitability of their slovenly cousins, William Faulkner's Snopes family.
The movie is set in a small Senegalese village, on the eve of World War II. Tavernier shot on the actual location, and he achieves an absolutely convincing reality, right down to the reddish mud that has been splashed by the rain onto the yellowing stucco walls of the village sheds. His village is populated by lazy, corrupt French colonials, and by a supporting cast of Africans who drift through the background, unconcerned with the lives of the whites except when they have the misfortune to incur their wrath.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
September is “The Month of Sleepwalker” at Film Space. October, “The Month of Undead Returns.”
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. All films not in English are shown with English subtitles.
At Film Space Saturday, September 25, 7 pm: The Science of Sleep / La science des rêves (2006) written and directed by Michel Gondry – 1 hr 45 mins – France/ Italy, Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles as needed. A man whose dreams constantly invade his waking life is lovestruck with a French woman and feels he can show her his world. Rated R in the US for language, some sexual content, and nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 70/66 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Lovely and diffuse, Sleep isn't as immediately absorbing as Gondry's previous work, but its messy beauty is its own reward.
Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov: I think it's a mess, but - and this is a major caveat - an endearing, beautiful, hopelessly honest mess that's supported by a pair of performances so unnaturally natural that they draw you in and clutch you, struggling, to their flipping, flopping hearts.
Rolling Stone, Peter Travers: Fusing animation and live action with a series of outrageous props, Gondry veers dangerously close to being precious. But make no mistake: Gondry's hallucinatory brilliance holds you in thrall.
October is “The Month of Undead Returns” at Film Space.
At Film Space Saturday, October 2, 7 pm: They Came Back (2004) directed by Robin Campillo – 1 hr 36 mins – Norway, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller– In Norwegian and Swedish, with English subtitles. Two criminal investigators arrive in a town in the north of Norway to help the local police solve the murder of a young girl. Generally favorable reviews: 78 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: Sent to a Norwegian town to help with a homicide investigation, tenacious detective Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgård) and his partner set a trap for the suspect. But the fog-shrouded stakeout goes awry: Engström mistakenly shoots his partner, then covers his tracks -- forgetting that the suspect witnessed the killing. Soon, Engström's guilty conscience and insomnia in the land of the midnight sun lead to a downward spiral into chaos.
At the Gay Film Series
Films with a gay theme shown every two weeks, with very limited seating, in a private home. Reservations a must to attend films in this series. To reserve: send email to: Chiangmai.firstname.lastname@example.org, mark in subject area “reserve” with the number in your party. For example, “Re: reserve 2.” To be placed on the mailing list for advance notice of movies just put in the subject line: “mailing list.”
Only one seat left for this first showing; email to be put on the mailing list for the next offering.
Sunday, September 26, 7 pm: Total Eclipse (1997) directed by Agnieszka Holland – 1 hr 51 mins – UK/ France/ Belgium, Biography/ Drama/ Romance – In English, with English subtitles. Starring Leonardo Caprio and David Thewlis. Director Agnieszka Holland also directed The Secret Garden and one of my favorite of all movies, Olivier, Olivier. She also collaborated with Krzysztof Kieslowski on the scenario of two of his Colors films, White and Blue. Mixed or average reviews: 49 out of 100. Reservations a must.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: The self-destructive relationship between 19th-century teenage French poet Arthur Rimbaud and his older mentor Paul Verlaine.