Archive for Oldboy

How Are We Doing?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2020 by dcairns

oldboy

Checking in with you guys. How’s lockdown treating you?

I can’t complain. A bunch of work has been coming in, which I’ll tell you about nearer release time, so I’ve been oddly busy, and Fiona’s joining in on a forthcoming one so, having finished her work for Edinburgh Film Festival, she’s got a new project to occupy her.

I hadn’t mentioned the appearance of Masters of Cinema’s Buster Keaton, 3 Films, Vol 2. (featuring BATTLING BUTLER, THE NAVIGATOR, SEVEN CHANCES) mostly because I don’t have a copy yet and forgot it was out. I did a video essay for this with Stephen Horne and Imogen Smith which is getting nice reviews. I’m very pleased with it myself.

Also out this week, KWAIDAN features Shadowings, a collaboration between myself, Fiona and Timo Langer, a 35-min video essay burrowing into the film’s origins and creation. If you liked Golem Time… you’ll also like Shadowings. Lots of research for Fiona on this one, and my friend Kiyoyuki Murakami provided invaluable background long-distance from Tokyo so the piece should break new ground in what’s known about Masaki Kobayashi’s masterpiece in the west.

I think both sets are pretty well compulsory viewing and owning for cinephages, or those who have the loot, anyway.

Buster Keaton: 3 Films (Volume 2) (The Navigator, Seven Chances, Battling Butler) Limited Edition Blu-ray

Kwaidan (Masters of Cinema) Limited Edition Blu-ray

Lez Diaboliques

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on May 17, 2017 by dcairns

THE HANDMAIDEN is a good night out — looks beautiful, twisty plot is just logical enough (though the crazy sexual mannequin shenanigans clue us in that plausibility may not by high on the agenda).

Fiona was a little dismayed by the wanton destruction of pornography which plays a key role in the plot. What amounts to book-burning sits oddly in a film which itself delights in explicit “scenes of a sexual nature.” It’s almost like there’s a fuzzy line being drawn between bad erotica (here, written works and readings for the benefit of men) and good erotica (here, sex between two women, as presented to us by a male filmmaker). This might have made more sense in Sarah Walters’ original novel Fingersmith, where the two kinds of erotica would both be literary, and the women’s stuff would actually be written by a woman.

But we enjoyed it — my God, the design is fantastic. I skipped out on Chan-Wook Park’s work after finding THIRST a let-down in emotional/narrative terms (still looked nice). OLDBOY is still his most satisfying work.

Best part of the cinema experience was overhearing two women (I think a mother and daughter) in hysterics, staggering into the loo. “Sixty-six years old,” gasped the elder, “but I learned a few things this evening!”

Put it on the poster!

Episode 3.5: An Old Hope

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2017 by dcairns

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Spoilers in this one — don’t read it if you’re ever planning to see ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

THE FORCE AWAKENS had some kind of vestigial appeal for me because I was ten when STAR WARS came out. But it was also frustrating because, like most JJ Abrams joints, it was just a remake and remix of its original. Another, even bigger Death Star? Again? Are ideas so scarce?

This new one didn’t awaken the same sentimental warmth in me because there were fewer of the original actors and less of the original John Williams leitmotifs. I enjoyed all the design and the environments (though two rocky planets in the first act was a mistake: should’ve differentiated them more). They picked up the best designs elements of the Lucas-Kirschner-Marquand trilogy, ditched the dodgy bits, added a bunch more that were stylistically in keeping and of a high standard. But the characters and plot and dialogue — ugh. OK, dialogue was never the series’ strong suit, but one does remember a few lines. There’s basically one good line in this, from the blind guy.

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Just one of the many exciting action sequences in ROGUE ONE.

I think it’s maybe a good thing that this one was less good vs. evil, black-and-white. There’s more conflict within the Rebel Alliance. But the story is very fragmented. After the first sequence we flash forward fifteen years or so. Then we start following several plotlines at once — quite different from the neat, WIZARD OF OZ like linearity of Lucas’ first effort. We meet the hero quite late in that one, because Lucas realized he had to use the robots to guide us through the story — as memory serves: when the droids meet Princess Fisher, we can then follow her and meet Grand Moff Cushing, and from then on we can intercut between droids, Fisher and Cushing. Then the droids meet Luke Hammillwalker, and we can intercut between his POV and the others (but sparingly). Luke meets Alec Kenobi, and then they meet Harrison Solo and Mayhewbacca. We don’t meet anyone before the droids meet them, except the baddies, who we meet via a kind of relay with the Princess.

Here, we just meet people all the time, whenever the committee in charge of the film feel like it, so it’s a jumble. And though the threads do intertwine more tightly to bring us to a climax on one planet, it still results in one of those horrible intercutty all-at-once climaxes that became a problem around RETURN OF THE JEDI. (STAR WARS has one climax, EMPIRE has two, JEDI has three). And it features the most ludicrous data retrieval system ever conceived, basically based on that arcade game with the claw where you try to pick up gifts.

(I think the awful inefficiency of the filing system must be why the cloned Cushing blows up the Empire’s entire records office at the end, along with the planet it’s on. There is no other possible explanation. I mean, it can’t have been in order to get the two surviving rebels, can it?)

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WARS and TREK both tend to deal in a mixture of one-dimensional and two-dimensional characters. Monsters and robots are mostly one-dimensional. C-3PO has one characteristic, he’s prissy. Chewbacca is large. Yoda is wise. The flesh-and-blood actors who show their own face-skin have slightly more facets, partly because Lucas realized they needed more, but also just because human beings tend to bring additional messiness to anything they play. Harrison Ford tends to sound bored, so his character becomes cynical and also crooked but also bored. Luke is noble and naive but also shrill and whiny.

In ROGUE ONE, the blind guy believes in the force and his pal is defined entirely by his faithfulness to the blind guy. The actors bring a little more to the table with individual line readings, but really that’s all they get to work with. It’s hard to say what makes the nice English girl in this different from the nice English girl in FORCE AWAKENS, other than backstory. The robot sounds like C-3PO only an octave lower, to which is added Chewie’s signature character trait of largeness. I can’t put any names to any characteristics of Diego Luna except he’s brave and a little ruthless. Riz Ahmed gives the best performance but it’s a miracle, since he has almost nothing to work with. Fairly early on, his brain gets tentacle-raped by Forrest Whitaker’s fat squid, and he’s a bit traumatized for the duration of a scene. Letting his combat shock last throughout the movie would have actually given him a part to play. What we get in the end is a pretty magnificent example of an actor bringing an empty outline to life by sheer force of commitment to inhabiting it with his humanity.

And then there’s Forrest Whitaker’s cyborg guy — a one-dimensional character with a two-dimensional head.

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Elsewhere we have the CGI Carrie Fisher about which all one can say is it doesn’t work, and the CGI Peter Cushing which doesn’t work and is an insult to a fine actor’s memory. I don’t care that his secretary gave permission. The idea that a bunch of nerds at computers are going to turn another thin actor into Cushing is preposterous and offensive and the results bear that out. Martin Scorsese said that as a kid seeing Hammer movies, he admired Cushing and “the precision of his movements within the frame.” The clone version certainly moves precisely — but the result is just “cut scenes” from vidgames only with a more detailed complexion.

So, my question is — given the movie’s commendably bold decision to basically kill all its characters, did someone say, “Better not make them too appealing, or people will be upset?” That doesn’t seem likely, but it’s what it felt like when I watched the film.

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Toallow a positive note — when Brian DePalma saw a rough cut of STAR WARS, the ever-obnoxious auteur sneered, “THAT’S your bad guy’s entrance?” as Dave Prowse in a plastic hat stepped into view at the end of a long corridor. This movie does give Darth Vader a much better entrance. First there’s a teaser of some guy living in a glass of milk in a big lava tower — Who lives in a house like this? The lava tower is actually an early Lucas idea for EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and the partially-glimpsed, helmetless figure is actually a swipe from EMPIRE. A couple more bits. And then he gets a great action sequence at the end which sadly involves to actual characters but is very well staged, although not as good as the comparable fight in OLDBOY. But if you graft this one onto STAR WARS, Darth finally has a really strong, hissable entrance.

Did that make it worth twenty quid of our money? Hell no.