Sunday, March 18, 2007

Watched March 12-18 2007

Gan / Wild Geese / The Mistress (Shiro Toyoda, 1953)

Not quite the equal of Ozu, Naruse, Mizoguchi -- but well-acted and generally well-made. Hideko Takamine is wonderful (of course) as the deceived heroine.

Nagareru / Flowing (Mikio Naruse, 1956)

One of Naruse's most wonderful films -- with one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled -- a virtual who's who of Japan's greatest actresses: Isuzu Yamada, Kinuyo Tanaka, Hideko Takamine, Haruko Sugimura, Mariko Okada and Sumiko Kurishima (among others).

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Joze to tora to sakana tachi / Josee, the Tiger and the Fish (Inudo Isshin, 2003)

A sort of off-beat romance -- between college student Tsuneo (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and girl with cerebral palsy. Unable to walk -- and kept more or less hidden away by a rather loony grandmother, Josee (Chizuru Ikewaki) has educated herself by studying cast-off school books scavenged by her grandmother from the trash over the years. Tsuneo's course intersects accidentally with the that of the girl and her grandmother, and then becomes entangled in Josee's situation. Ikewaki is really excellent here. Definitely worth seeing.

Always san-chôme no yûhi / Always - Sunset on Third Street (Takashi Yamazaki, 2005)

Largely ersatz family drama -- set in the 50s, an era well-documented contemporaneously by Ozu and Naruse and their every fine peers. Some good actors (especially Hiroko Yakushimaru and Koyuki) -- but a somewhat mediocre script and quite mediocre direction. The viewpoint character of sort (a country girl moving to Tokyo to find a job), 16 year-old Maki Horikita shows promise -- but is required to do much. This film walked away with most of the awards at the Japanese Oscars during its release year. Not worthless -- but pretty unnecessary.

Dong (JIA Zhang-ke)

Made (more or less) along side "Still LIfe", this is a documentary about a painter working in the Three Gorges reservoir area (who also makes a vist to Thailand). At least for me, not quite so interesting as its companion work. More screen shots:

Muk gong / Battle of Wits (Jacob CHEUNG Chi Leung)

Intriguing situation -- the small kingdom of Liang is beset by the invading army of a much larger neighbor, which is mainly interested in fighting a biger and more important neighbor. The city is on the verge of surrendering when a warrior/philospher of the Mozi Clan (Andy Lau) appears -- and convinces the King to defend his town. Despite being outnumbered, the town proves to be an obstacle to the would-be conquering army. As Liang's situation improves, it's king (and his court) become less and less grateful. The direction is passable -- but only fitfully inspired. I suspect this could have been a better film -- but it is still worth watching.

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