by Joel Bocko
#59 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.
“Again one hand filming the other hand, and more trucks. I’d like to capture them. To retain things passing? No, just to play.”
In Agnes Varda’s documentary The Gleaners & I (a more literal translation from the original French would be “The Gleaners & The Gleaner”, or even “The Gleaneress”) play, investigation, and contemplation are all intricately yet loosely wound together – each element distinct yet forming an unpretentiously ambitious whole, much like the found-object artworks Varda highlights throughout. Her subject, as you might have gathered (no pun intended), is gleaning: in all its forms. We are introduced to the classical gleaners, the peasant women who would follow the harvest by crouching and stooping through the fields, rummaging for leftovers once the more illustrious agricultural bounty was carried off. We see such gleaners in famous French paintings, and meet one or two who reminisce only – it seems that this more traditional form of gleaning has fallen by the wayside: mechanized reaping has become too precise and so few crops are left behind these days. This we learn in the first five minutes of the 90-minute film; what follows is an eager, inquisitive investigation of gleaning in all its latter-day manifestations…
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by Allan Fish
(Taiwan 2007 103m) DVD1
Aka. Bangbang wo ai shen
Betel-nuts for all
p Vincent Wang, Tsai Ming-Liang d/w Lee Kang-Sheng ph Lian Peng-Jun ed Lei Chen-Ching m Fumio Yasuda art Tsai Ming-Liang
Lee Kang-Sheng (Ah Jie), Ivy Yi (Shin), Jane Liao (Chyi), Dennis Nieh (Ah Rong), Tracy Chou, Stacy, Tiffany, Amy, Fanny, 4Girls,
Help Me Eros wasn’t a film I was looking forward too much when I first heard about it. It sounded like a film influenced for the worse by some of Tsai Ming-Liang’s more outré sexual shenanigans in The Wayward Cloud. That’s no surprise really when one considers that Kang-sheng is Tsai’s favourite leading man, and Tsai gave his services as executive producer and art director for Lee’s film. What I saw, however, was something rather different, not afraid to push the envelope in different ways to Tsai.
The director plays Ah Jie, a thirty-something man who loses everything on the stock market. He returns to his apartment, realising that he soon will be in no position to pay for anything, and proceeds to spend his time selling off what possessions he can at second hand shops to feed himself and allow him to look after the marijuana plants in his cupboard that allow him to continue with a marijuana habit. With increasing bouts of desperation he rings up a local suicide counselling line where he speaks to Chyi, a plump woman married to a man who uses her as a front for his homosexual love-life. Ah Jie imagines Chyi a shapely young doll, and begins harassing who he thinks is Chyi for a date. When getting knocked back, he sets his sights on Shin, a girl just moved into the group of betel-nut beauties who work the betel-nut stand below Ah Jie’s apartment. (more…)
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