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Archive for May 8th, 2010

Richard Farnsworth in 'The Straight Story'

 © 2010 by James Clark

      It would be difficult to identify a wider gulf between film casts than that presented by the two David Lynch productions, The Elephant Man (1980) and The Straight Story (1999). In the former, we are treated to blue-chip displays by a roster of British thespian-aristocrats, including, John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Wendy Hiller and John Gielgud, each of whom constitutes an advanced clinic in tradition-buttressed sheen, in sophisticated self-possession. In the latter, there has been raked up a company largely consisting of rural American Midwestern candidates with only their day-to-day personas to offer, headed by an ailing old pro, Richard Farnsworth, pulled out of retirement and headed into suicide soon after the work was done.

    Both casts, as it happens, were letter-perfect to deliver transfixing explorations of the buoying and deflating arena of home turf. Though the latter film was not written by Lynch, he has been able, by dint of expunging any trace of diversity of cultural energies, to provide as sharp and compelling a stimulus for proceeding into the unknown and unusual as he let fly with his experimentally-controlled surrealist shocker, Eraserhead. And so, by reason of, rather than in spite of, production demands that could have been fatal (this was a Disney-managed event), Lynch could, with gusto, see to unfinished business about interpersonal intent, exerting troublesome pressures in the aftermath of Lost Highway (1997). And his most fertile reference-point in this safari would be another atypically mainstream (and likewise showered with lucky stars) entry, the Mel Brooks production of The Elephant Man. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(China 2002 107m) DVD0 (China only, shorter 97m only on DVD1/2)

Aka. Ying Xiong

How swift thy sword

p  Zhang Yimou, William Kong  d  Zhang Yimou  w  Wang Bin, Feng Li, Zhang Yimou  ph  Christopher Doyle, Tong Hou  ed  Angie Lam, Ru Zhai  m  Tan Dun  art  Tingxiao Huo  cos  Emi Wada  ch  Siu Tung Ching

Jet Li (Nameless), Maggie Cheung (Flying Snow), Tony Leung (Broken Sword), Ziyi Zhang (Moon), Donnie Yen (Sky), Daoming Chen (King of Qin),

Throughout 2003, and long into the following year, Hero was a film that brought back an old feeling to British film buffs that they hadn’t felt in several years; the feeling of glimpsing that which few had glimpsed.  For Hero was first whispered of as something special towards the end of 2002, and when DVDs of the Chinese release became available, discerning cineastes lapped them up.  By the time everyone else found out what all the fuss was about and the film was finally released, at 97m, in the US and UK in autumn 2004, it was greeted as yesterday’s news.  Especially by those that now had an even longer 107m cut imported, too.  But for everyone else, was it worth the wait?

            Well, yes…and no.  Depending on your expectations, it was either exhilarating, or slightly disappointing.  Those expecting another Crouching Tiger would be disappointed.  That movie had aimed to bring a little eastern magic to the west and its central romance was purely western in its leanings.  Hero was the real deal, a film whose main interest was not romance, or even action, despite an abundance of the latter, but the ethics behind the emotions that drive our lives.  Swordplay is seen as just another facet of life, its mastery to be ascertained as much from listening to music and learning calligraphy as from actually practising the martial arts.  They are treated as one and the same, a concept that may alienate many western viewers used to their oriental mysticism diluted.  (more…)

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