Thursday, November 30, 2006

Watched November 20 - 26, 2006

Jun'ai monogatari / The Story of Pure Love (Tadashi Imai, 1957)

Two teen-aged war orphans (played by Shinjiro Ebara and Hitomi Nakahara) try to survive on the fringes of Tokyo, not surprisingly becoming juvenile delinquents. Nakahara has worked as a pickpocket since her grandparents died (when she was still just a child). Ebara has already been in and out of reform school several times. Nakahara's pickpocketing skills are, somewhat mysteriously, waning -- as she becomes more and more clumsy (aggravating her gang mates). Ebara rescues her from her own gang, but the two fall into trouble with the law again, resulting in their separation. Well-intentioned criminal justice officials try to keep them apart, considering them to be bad influences on each other. Actually, however, each provides an incentive for the other to go straight. As Ebara learns a trade, Nakahara grows increasingly weaker. As it turns out, she had visited Hiroshima with her grandparents just three days after the bomb was dropped there, searching in vain for her missing mother. A very well-done tearjerker that initially got some Western recognition (winning a prize at the Berlin Film Festival) but which was subsequently forgotten. Quite enjoyable overall.

Seung fei / Princess D (Sylvia Chang & Alan Yuen, 2002)

Daniel Wu plays Joker, a computer graphics artist trying to design the perfect animated heroine (for an advertising campaign). By chance, he runs across Ling (Angelica Lee), who (sort of) embodies the characteristics of the character he wants to create. Complications arise from the antics of Joker's good-hearted but not very responsible younger brother Kid (Edison Chen) and Ling's petty hood brother. Ling's life is further burdened by her father (who is in prison for some sort of financial finagling) and mother (who seems to have premature Alzheimer's syndrome). Luckily, The father of Joker and Kid (the marvelous Anthony Wong) provides plenty of sympathy and understanding for all concerned (one of the most loveable cinematic father portrayals ever, I suspect). Fine perfornaces and some cute bits of animation. The plot is interesting, if sometimes just a little cumbersome.

Ye yan / The Banquet (FENG Xiaogang, 2006)

This (very) loose adaptation of Hamlet, transported to ancient China (around 900 A.D.) looks gorgeous and has some fine performances by ZHANG Ziyi, GE You, Daniel Wu and ZHOU Xun. But the film is seriously undermined by the script, both in terms of plot and dialogue.

Hao qi hai shi mao / Curiosity Kills the Cat (ZHANG Yibai, 2006)

Zhang's second film builds on the promise of his first (Spring Subway). Set in Chongqing,it tells the story primarily of a man who married into a well-off family (HU Jun), his wife (Carinna Lau) and his mistress (a manicurist -- played by SONG Jia). Also entangled in this story, a somewhat snoopy young photoshop girl (17 year old LIN Yuan) and a not very worldly-wise security guard (LIAO Fan), who Lin seems to have a crush on. The story in shown from four perspectives in turn -- each moiving the story further ahead and filling in undisclosed information. Generally this works well (but there is one nagging seeming-inconsistency that still bothers me). Good (understated) performances. Definitely worthwhile -- though the mainland DVD is not a state of the art one (but does at least have passable subtitles).


London said...

Watched "Curiosity Kills the Cat" late last night, and it kept me entertained well enough. Not a perfect movie - then, what is? - but a perfectly good one. Some nicely worked twists in the story, the first one coming less then half way through, preparing one for more different aspects to come. Thought Song Jia's performance was good, inasmuch that I found her charachter very annoying. I liked the contrast between the old and the new buildings shown at times.

My DVD was a freebie from YesAsia, bearable to watch with quite good subs. I guess, you saw the same transfer.

Keep on blogging, MK. It's always a pleasure to come here.


Michael Kerpan said...

Check out ZHANG Yibai's section (the concluding third) of the recent omnibus film "About Love". See my remarks from
March 26 - April 1, 2007 and April 23-29, 2007.

Not a perfect film -- but one that shows that ZHANG Yibai may turn out to be an important figure in modern Chinese cinema.