by Jaime Grijalba.
As promised last month, I shall continue with capsule reviews of a group of asian films from 2012 that didn’t caught enough interest or where I’ve already talked about their issues in other films for them to guarantee a full review. So, without further ado, let’s dwell inside the world of asian cinema and look what it’s there for us.
Che sau (2012)
director Pou-Soi Cheang
Hong Kong, 90 min
This has been compared many times, either through reviews, previews, festival summaries and even blurbs about the film itself, to the american film of 2011 named ‘Drive’, one of the most critically acclaimed, and at the same time, polarizing films of the past year (alongside ‘The Tree of Life’, it was surely a year for discussion and debate). There have been articles and reviews that go point by point naming every simmilaritie and even supposed references made by this posterior effort to the earlier film. Now, while I wasn’t one of the hordes of fanatics of ‘Drive’ (I thought that the film was a good piece of filmmaking in the technical sense, and it managed to keep me somewhat interested in what was going on, but the overbearing and awkward silences, the feeling of a plot that was never really put to the ground firmly, really put me at times on the other side of the board, claiming that it wasn’t as good as everyone else was saying that it was), I can honestly say that it was a better movie than this ‘Motorway’ manages to be, mainly because it’s not original at all. ‘Drive’ had some visual and plot wise a general sense of originality (no matter how much it stole from the classic ‘The Driver’) that wasn’t seen in american films in a long time, this movie from Hong Kong just points out every cliché in the book and passes over it, boring us out of our minds, and while the visuals may seem interesting, you can always say that they were rip-offs of the earlier 2011 film (how time and influences pass). This is the story of a rookie cop that was put in the force because of his expertise managing cars, racing them fast to catch the bad guys, and once that the bad guys have escaped even if he was really fast, he has to learn again from a retiring police officer to really ride the streets the right way for him to be able to catch them. It’s so dissapointing, I expected so much more when it was compared to the american film (heck, I even expected to like it more than ‘Drive’) but it was found lacking, just for the visuals, this movie manages to catch some of your attention. (Rating: ***)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
director Lorene Scafaria
USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, 101 min
Why am I reviewing a film that played not so long ago on USA theaters and that ended in one of the top 10 slots of the box office? Well, for one, you can see that the list of producing countries listed up there contains the likes of three asian countries: Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia… not your classic asian countries, but they do count between those like Japan, Thailand, China, South and North Korea, among many many others, so these count. Now, about what is the incidence of these countries into the plot or the production of this movie… I’m not sure either, the action never leaves what seems to be United States (what can I know, maybe its all sets done in those countries, I can never ever be sure), and the actors seem to be american, and the plot, while in some ways original, doesn’t involve anything remotely connected to what these countries represent or are. If anyone knows, please tell me, I haven’t heard any explanation to why all the sites in the internet name those countries. Anyway, the film itself is really interesting and goes into dark places, thanks to a powerful script that aids a good concept of a film: the world is going to end, and there’s nothing we can do about it, what will the humanity do? Well, thanks to our protagonist, played by Steve Carell, we find out of many ways as he tries to maintain his way of life even if he starts to feel how everything around him starts to fall apart. He finds his only solace in the figure of a female neighbour that tries desperately to contact her family, so they drive and travel together, finding about many kinds of people along the way and how they cope with the idea of the world coming to an end. As the movie progresses, the movie deflates, and turns sentimental fluff into sappy unbearable syrup, with pointless scenes, pointless feelings and pointless cameos as we find out how all we need is love… and I already knew that. (Rating: ***1/2)
a.k.a. Love Fiction
director Kye Soo Jeon
South Korea, 121 min
A long movie about a relationship between a novelist that tries to find a new story to tell and a complicated girl that works in the film industry. The two elements of cinema and literature feed the imagination and the writing of the male protagonist as he advances in his relationship with this girl, that has made him discover a new story inside him about the mystery of the girl with the hair in the armpits (as she is always described). The story itself is represented into the film in the form of a noir with a grumpy detective and a femme fatale that is the center of the mystery at hand, and as the mystery progresses, so does the investigations that our writers does regarding the past life of his fiancee, discovering a turbulent and dark past in her relationship with another men either in university, as a child and then in her professional life. He has to confront all this at the same time as his writing gets good once again, even if he is publishing under a seudonym so her fiancee doesn’t know what he’s doing. Obviously all this must come to an end that is climatic, rough and unsatisfying, specially when you take into account that all these plot points come across after the first hour of the film, that is a complete drag! It goes on and on about how he doesn’t like certain kind of women, only to be falling in love with the same kind he doesn’t like, or how he is failing imensely at trying to write about the women he meets. The thing is that the main character isn’t that likeable to make the whole first hour (before he finally starts writing once again) watchable or even guaranting a rewatch to refresh my memory of what it was about. Obviously the noir scenes look great in the sepia tones and the cinematography, and the acting is really good in this one, not one over-the-top exageration, and that’s all I can say about it. (Rating: ***)
Ghost on Air (2012)
director Cheng Ding An
Singapore, 80 min
How can you make a disjointed film that starts out promising and ends up being one of the biggest fiascos out there right now? Well, just pitch your idea on the singapore film commitee, or whoever that greenlights these movies, because this one is a real stinker… a stinker with a personality, but one that still smells. The film first tries to gets through you using jump.scares, and then through the idea of found footage, and finally to become a mess that even right now makes my head spin and totally forgetful of the (awful) experience that I had when I watched this. The protagonist has some past experiences and when he is confronted with the issue of ghosts attacking his work station at a radio, even one possessing his soul and communicating her own story in the radio show regardin the issue of ghosts and other spooky stories. The film feels long and is ridiculous as it approaches it final minutes, teling us who is the guilty nehind the apparitions, ann throwing out of the window all the theories that we once had regarding what was going on. Anyway, the film is, nevertheless, a mess that looks good and that seems to have a certain visual interest in issues of long-shots and how to compose the images. The rest? Pure junk. (Rating: **1/2).
That’s all for this edition, many to come.Thanks for reading!