Heroes, angels, and frogs!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Tuesday, April 13, 2010
… through Wednesday, April 21
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.
Note about this blog: The movie times will only be updated once a week for now. Times subsequent to those listed here please get from the cinema websites, or by phone. Or by just going to the cinemas and looking.
Schedules will change Thursday of next week, April 22.
This is Issue Number 24 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 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.
Boxoffice Magazine Pete Hammond: Essentially a B-movie dressed up with A-level special effects, Legion looks spiffy but sounds bad with a lot of overwritten dialogue scenes and predictable action.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore: Profane, profanely silly, and blasphemous to beat the band, Legion begins well before plunging into the abyss of tedium.
* Kick-Ass: Due to open Thursday, April 15 – US/ UK, Action/ Comedy/ Drama – 117 mins – Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. With Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage. Rated R in the US for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use - some involving children. Early reviews: Generally favorable: 72 out of 100.
Daily Express, Henry Fitzherbert: A rollicking, virtuoso comic-book adaptation that fizzes with originality, feisty wit, and an unexpected degree of heart. It is also a revenge saga with all the impact of a bullet between the eyes.
* 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 who takes care of the chants to chase away the bad karma. But horrifying acts done in their previous lives reveal themselves as the journey goes on. The more they try to clean up the bad karma by making merit, the closer they get to "THEM."
Agora: Spain, Adventure/ Drama/ History/ Romance – 127 mins – Alejandro Amenábar directs 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.
Variety, Todd McCarthy: The mother of all secular humanists fights a losing battle against freshly minted religious zealots in Agora, a visually imposing, high-minded epic that ambitiously puts one of the pivotal moments in Western history onscreen for the first time. Alejandro Amenábar's first feature since The Sea Inside five years ago foreshadows the transformation of the Roman-dominated ancient world into Christian medieval times through the story of the much-celebrated astronomer and mathematician Hypatia in 4th-century Alexandria. This elaborately produced English-language Spanish production is consistently spectacular and features enough conflict and action to make it marketable, but a certain heaviness of style and lack of an emotional pulse could pose problems for mass audience acceptance, at least in the U.S.
Agora has more on its mind than most costume pictures, and most other films, for that matter -- mankind’s place in the universe, the human need to understand the cosmos and the debate over the existence of a single deity. The central dramatic event is the sacking of Alexandria’s fabled library, the repository of “all the knowledge of the world” up to that time, and the parallel drawn between early-day Christian fundamentalists, who have just been legalized by the Roman Empire at the story’s start, and a certain other religion’s present-day fanatics is entirely clear. These issues and more echo throughout the story, which unfolds in a physical rendering of Alexandria that is vivid and extensive in its display of fabulous architecture, divide between the haves and have-nots and polyglot nature of one of the ancient world’s great melting pots.
The rational eye of this intellectual and religious hurricane is Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), who, as the daughter of the library’s head Theon (Michael Lonsdale), is permitted to teach an elite class of students. Devoting herself entirely to brainy pursuits, the serious beauty has sworn off men, although there are two young fellows who crave her, student Oreste (Oscar Isaac) and her personal slave Davus (Max Minghella), a closet Christian with a bright mind. Hypatia stiff-arms her admirers’ advances in no uncertain terms, which pushes Davus definitively into the arms of the believers.
At tale’s launch in 391 A.D., the most conspicuous Christians are the firebrand Parabolani cult, who rant in the public squares and even burn a prominent Roman. Led by the articulate, charismatic Ammonius (Ashraf Barhom), they in time become the faith’s enforcers, intimidating regular citizens and converting the disenfranchised until they greatly outnumber their Roman rulers. Costumers have done a good job distinguishing this mob from everyone else by dressing them in gray-blue robes, and their group-think m.o. is at one point even made to resemble the behavior of ants.
Hypatia prefers to spend her time in the library, where scrolls of parchment are stuffed onto racks in a magnificent chamber, and pondering such matters as the movement of the Earth and the planets and whether or not the Earth is flat or round.
Throughout the film, Amenábar pulls back from worldly pursuits to gaze upon the cosmos, and Alexandria’s and the world’s meager place within it. Still, two or three such visualizations would probably be enough, as the repetition weighs things down.
Strife between the Parabolani and the Jews is used as an excuse by rising cleric Cyril (Sammy Samir) to slaughter and drive out the Jews, and film’s midway climax sees the Christian hordes overcoming Roman resistance to take the library and destroy its contents. This profoundly depressing development is tough to get over, but Hypatia, having made off with a few documents, persists in her research in more cloistered circumstances.
While the dramatic sweep of events gives Agora a natural momentum -- under the increasingly dictatorial hand of Cyril, the Christians won’t give up until all the Romans are converted and opposition is erased -- the personal dramas never really connect with the desired force. Partly, it’s because the two younger men proposed as potential matches for Hypatia aren’t remotely in her league; more so, however, it’s because Hypatia is pretty remote herself, with her head in the intellectual clouds and oblivious to the political realities thrashing beneath her feet. Weisz goes a long way to drawing the viewer to her, but Amenábar and co-scenarist Mateo Gil haven’t entirely cracked her dramatization.
Minghella, whose character retreats far into the shadows during most of the second half, and Isaac, whose Oreste eventually becomes Roman prelate of Alexandria, have trouble emerging as strong figures. The actors playing heavies enjoy far greater opportunities, so the male cast standouts are Barhom as rabble-rouser Ammonius and Samir as the dictatorial head of the Alexandrian church.
Dramaturgical shortcomings aside, there is much in the picture to sustain sympathetic interest, including its dedicated historical perspective, intellectual seriousness and credible presentation of epic film elements that have often tripped up filmmakers in the past. Then there is the physical side of the production, which is genuinely impressive. Lensing entirely in Malta, Amenábar has fleshed out real locations with extensive sets and helpful (and largely undetectable) CGI extensions to provide a striking impression of a legendary ancient city. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas has mixed traditional Greco-Roman style buildings with Egyptian motifs and various interior decorative influences to palpably evoke a Mediterranean port city where many cultures convened. Gabriella Pescucci’s costumes colorfully support this approach, and Xavi Gimenez’s widescreen lensing captures it all with colorful mobility. Dario Marianelli’s score is rich, with occasional swells into the bombastic.
IMDb viewer: Alejandro Amenábar's masterpiece is a breathtaking excursion into religious fascism and misogynistic tyranny made special by Rachel Weisz, who probably gives one of the best female acting performances in years as a scientist who was light years beyond her generation. Weisz is amazing and her performance is the show and then some.
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.
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: 57/62 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.
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. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/43 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.
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: US, Drama – As the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster, a young Wall Street trader partners with a disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider on a two-tiered mission: To alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of a young trader.
... and looking forward:
Apr 29 - Iron Man 2: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – Strikes me as being wild, lavish, and expensive. With Robert Downey Jr. again, of course, reprising 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.
Apr 29 - The Edge of the Empire / Kon Thai Tin Pandin / คนไท ทิ้งแผ่นดิน: Thai, Action/ Drama – Wise Kwai: More than three years in production, this historical battle epic is set in 8th century southern China, and depicts the six ancient tribes of the Tai people failing to pull together so they could defeat the invading Han forces. According to legend, the Tais eventually migrated south from China to the land we know today as Thailand.
May 5 - A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010): US, Horror/ Thriller – Freddy Krueger returns in "A Nightmare on Elm Street," a contemporary re-imagining of the horror classic. A group of suburban teenagers share one common bond: they are all being stalked by Freddy Krueger, a horribly disfigured killer who hunts them in their dreams. As long as they stay awake, they’re okay.
May 5 – Ong Bak 3 / องค์บาก3: Thai, Action/ Drama – The legend of Ong Bak 3 begins after Tien (Tony Jaa) has lost his fighting skills as well as his beloved step-father.
May 5 - I Love You Phillip Morris: France/ US, Comedy/ Drama – On his second go-round behind bars, scam artist Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) commits the ultimate con in order to break out and win back the heart of Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), with whom he fell in love during his first prison sentence. One of the best performances of Jim Carrey's career. Rated R in the US for sexual content including strong dialogue, and language. Generally favorable reviews: 66 out of 100.
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 16, 8 pm: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud / Frantic / Elevator to the Gallows (1958) by Louis Malle – 92 mins – France, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. English subtitles. B&W. Music by Miles Davis. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93/81 out of 100. Louis Malle's 1957 masterpiece of suspense and film noir starring Jeanne Moreau, in the role that catapulted her to international stardom.
With Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Lino Ventura, Georges Poujouly.
An industrialist is assassinated but an elevator breakdown prevents a perfect crime.
– Alliance description
RottenTomatoes:This psychological thriller is imbued with a wonderful Parisian atmosphere and a moody, improvisational score by legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. A beautiful woman, Florence, and her lover,...This psychological thriller is imbued with a wonderful Parisian atmosphere and a moody, improvisational score by legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. A beautiful woman, Florence, and her lover, Julien, plan to murder her husband (who happens to be Julien's boss as well), so they can be together. After carefully carrying out the crime, Julien gets stuck inside the elevator when the power is turned off. The film takes off in a number of surprising twists and turns, one of which includes a young couple who steal Julien's car. They take a ride outside the city and kill a German couple in a hotel, a crime the police eventually pin on Julien. However, Jeanne Moreau's performance as Florence wandering around nighttime Paris in a sad, desperate search for her missing lover, with Davis' haunting score in the background, heightens the tension and suspense of the film and reveals the story's emotional core.
Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan: As beautifully fatalistic as its title, the classic thriller Elevator to the Gallows is a consummate entertainment rich with the romantic atmosphere of Paris in the 1950s. Coming at a turning point in French cinematic history, it drew upon several major talents — director Louis Malle, star Jeanne Moreau, cinematographer Henri Decaë, musician Miles Davis — and achieved near-legendary results with all of them.
Made in 1957, when first-time director Malle was only 24 years old, Elevator(Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud) has the brisk craftsmanship and efficiency of classic French cinema and a breathless hint of the energy of the New Wave that was but a few years away.
It made a major film star of Moreau, whose work remains completely bewitching. ... Adapted by Malle and Roger Nimier from a pulp novel by Noël Calef, Elevator has one of those twisty plots that, as typified by films like Clouzot's Les Diabolique and the Boileau-Narcejac novel that was the basis of Hitchcock's Vertigo, was very much of a French taste.
It starts with what has the look of a perfect crime. Cool customer Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet, later the star of Malle's The Fire Within), a case-hardened former paratrooper, is planning a murder. The victim is to be his boss, who also happens to be the wealthy husband of his mistress Florence, played by Moreau.
Things do not, needless to say, go exactly as planned, and Elevator ends up following the separate destinies of Julien, Florence and a pair of delinquent teenage lovers (who prefigure the Jean-Paul Belmondo-Jean Seberg couple of 1959's Breathless) who go for an impulsive joyride in Julien's convertible.
From Elevator's opening shot, a super-tight close-up of Moreau, the great skill of cinematographer Decaë, who also shot the debut films of Truffaut and Chabrol, is very much in evidence. Decaë was a master at working with available light, a technique considered daring at the time. It is especially effective in the film's signature sequence, shot with the camera in a baby carriage, of Moreau's Florence searching for Julien on the streets of Paris.
"She was lit only by the windows of the Champs-Elysees, that had never been done," the director recalled in "Malle on Malle." "That first week there was a rebellion of the technicians at the lab after they had seen the dailies. They went to the producer and said, 'You must not let Malle and Decaë destroy Jeanne Moreau.' They were horrified."
Rather than destroy Moreau, who was already the top stage actress of her generation, Elevator was the platform for her further ascent. The desperate urgency and ethereal despair of Florence's quest for Julien, which one critic has likened to Eurydice in the Underworld, remains completely compelling and underscores the actress' unsurpassed ability to subtly convey complex emotions on screen.
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 Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is “The Month of Feel Out of Place” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. 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 17, 7 pm: Red Desert / Il deserto rosso (1964) by Michelangelo Antonioni– 120 mins – Italy/ France, Drama. Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris. Cold, rain, and fog surround a plant in Ravenna. Factory waste pollutes local lakes; hulking anonymous ships pass or dock and raise quarantine flags. Giuliana, a housewife married to the plant manager, Ugo, is mentally ill, hiding it from her husband as best she can. She meets Zeller, an engineer en route to Patagonia to set up a factory. He pursues her, they join friends for a dinner party of sexual play, then, while Ugo is away on business, she fears that her son has polio. When she discovers the boy is faking, she goes to Zeller, panicked that no one needs her. He takes advantage of her distress, and she is again alone and ill. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: A post-industrialist masterpiece from director Michelangelo Antonioni, his first film in color, stars Monica Vitti as Giuliana, the disturbed wife of a factory owner, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti). Antonioni creates a bleak environment of the Italian countryside, where the natural landscape surrounding Ugo's factory is clouded in fog and covered in black pollution. The low scratching and churning sound of the factory machines is a constant throughout the film, set off by the electronic beeps and strange female singing that Giuliana--who is losing her mind--hears in her head. Supposedly recovering from shock after a minor car accident, Giuliana's dementia isn't getting any better; new developments in technology, production, and industry, which fascinate Ugo and his business associate, Corrado (Richard Harris), are foreign and threatening to Giuliana. However, Ugo is gentle and loving to Giuliana, giving her the freedom to wander wherever her fragile psyche leads her. Corrado is inexplicably drawn to Giuliana, and he develops a desperate, awkward friendship with her that eventually leads to a small affair. In the end, the dank monotony of the port where they live only alienates Giuliana further, sending her deeper into her delirium. A cold and haunting film with grating sound effects and odd visuals that illustrate Giuliana's psychosis, Red Desert is an Antonioni standout that stays in the viewer's mind long after the movie ends.
Chiang Mai Mail, Mark Whitman: See Antonioni’s Red Desert. Made in 1964 this is the oldest film in the season and still one of the most intriguing and ‘modern’.
Movie Mail, Michael Brooke: Embarking upon his first color feature, Michelangelo Antonioni said “I want to paint the film as one paints the canvas”. And he was true to his word, literally painting trees, grass and even a fruit stall’s contents dull grey while highlighting other objects in vivid reds, the better to render the disturbed mental state of Giuliana (Monica Vitti) in visually tangible form.
Aside from a fantasy interlude in a shockingly azure sea, the film is largely set against the decaying industrial landscape of Ravenna, yellow flames belching from chimneys that tower over greenish-grey polluted lakes. Cargo ships pass in the distance, often emerging out of thick fog, and images are often deliberately blurred, reduced to shapeless blobs of color, with natural sounds subjected to electronic distortion. “There’s something terrible in reality, and I don’t know what it is”, says Giuliana, and it’s her lack of this knowledge and growing awareness of the impermanence of life that gives the film its constant psychological tension. She’s been hospitalized after a car crash, and her husband doesn’t understand that this has left her with as many lasting mental scars as physical ones, her suicide attempt notwithstanding. However, a brief liaison with her husband’s industrialist colleague Corrado (Richard Harris) proves just as unfulfilling, as does what must be the least erotic ‘orgy’ ever committed to film: Giuliana’s problems are too deep-seated for that kind of easy release. Vitti’s extraordinary performance in an almost impossibly difficult part prevents the film from becoming a mere aesthetic exercise, though even on this score the film is riveting. No-one has ever looked at the world quite like this, and it’s easy to believe Antonioni when he denied that Red Desert was a condemnation of industrial decay and its dehumanizing side-effects: his images have a weird beauty that’s quite at odds with their content.
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.