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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Control - he's quite famous - not to me, I still wash his underpants

Control is Joy Division seen from the women's point of view - taken from the book by Ian Curtis's wife Debbie "Touched from a Distance" it is clear that Debbie Curtis had not the foggiest notion of what Joy Division were. Of course, who might blame her - married at 16 in high school, then having to take care of him and their daughter Natalie in a joyless marriage - the mistake of his life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome to Barrow - top of the world ! - bloody brilliance in 30 Days of Night

There's no way out

Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost city in the world - 80 miles away from nowhere - can you say remote and barren? miles and miles away from the closest city.

We live here because we are the only ones who can.

These toughened denizens of this world of cold, snow and ice each year face one month of total dark without a dawn. It is not uncivilized by any means, with a bar, a grocery store, and a power generation station on the edge of town.

30 Days of Night is sheer bloody brilliance - with even more graphic violence that you would expect from a graphic novel [ from Steven Niles ] which is totally shocking in this day and age. Sometimes the sheer violence and the rapidity of it is masked but only sets you up for the next attack. Director David Slade maintains a relentless tension and does not let up on the carnage. The look of the film is surreal with a shaded colour palette which is strong on the red.

It is either get out or stay time as once a year, the 30 days of night approaches, and Melissa George [ as Stella ] is stuck. Trying to get out of Barrow to return home, her car is totalled in an accident. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George as Eben and Stella are the law - they used to be a married couple, but now are on nonspeaking terms in splitsville; but once upon a time they would do anything for each other, and that is the key to the movie. Their thawing iciness towards each other cements the movie and draws the audience into caring what happens to their relationship and the small group of people left trying to stay alive for the duration.

Then there was six

For once Josh Hartnett's closed emotional range was the right tone for the film - just a grim determination to survive 30 days of night until the next dawn against a horde of sharp toothed creatures led by a philosophical speaking fiend who wish to keep their existence a secret and wipe out the town - and Melissa George is cute and tough as all get out [remember her in Alias as Sydney's nemesis? ] - and the story does make you care about the characters so sinking into the bloodfest was as right as a blizzard in Alaska. The band of demonic creatures speak in guttural speech, possessed of sharp teeth, sharp fingernails, and an ungodly speed and strength. The townsfolk become prey and serve as bait for those who lurk and wait.

30 Days of Night is also not just about survival and survival tactics, but about family and friendship, their willingness to sacrifice themselves so that the couple can stay together, that tge others can live while trying to outwait their nemesis and countdown to the last day.

warning: lots of audience participation and shoutouts during the key sacrificial scenes - woohoo!

Monday, October 15, 2007

All you need is love - Across the Universe triumphs

on fifth watch

Across the Universe is Julie Taymor's vibrant and vividly psychedelic travelogue through the '60s American anti-war movement. Unreserved recomeendation for Across The Universe. In what should be the last take on the Beatles in such a manner, Taymor - responsible for the hit musical The Lion King along with Anthony Hopkins' Titus and Salma Hayek's Frida - presents her bold and colourful musical Across the Universe. It could have been sacrilegious to use Beatles lyrics as narrative, but Beatles fans should breathe easily.

Across the Universe is wonderfully nostalgic, leaving a wistfulness for the music, but it is breathes life back into the '60s as seen and experienced by the people of the time. Across the Universe is well-researched and relives '60s era America and watermark moments of the era, dwelling on how Vietnam affected a generation as seen through two youths Jude and Lucy who hail from opposite sides of the ocean and come together.

Setting a youthful and vivacous cast including the stellar Evan Rachel Wood, the lynchpin for the movie as Lucy in her privileged life in private school at Brookline in Massachusetts, and the charmer Jim Sturgess as the "limey" Jude working the shipyards of Liverpool to support himself and his single mom, Across the Universe is an exuberant and vibrant exploration of the United States in the "gory glory days" in the last years of 1960s. The songs are sung by the actors live as often as possible, but the delivered performances and interpretations that can be seen and heard are entirely novel. There is a division between red and blue period with more leaning towards the blue 1967-70 era with a brief smattering of a surprising choice of early Beatles songs. And the list of songs in the film is not a parade of #1 hits by any means.

The tale of Jude and Lucy starts off on the other side of the ocean in Liverpool as Jude sings a solo version of
Is there anybody going to listen to my story
All about the girl who came to stay?
She's the kind of girl you want so much
It makes you sorry
Still you don't regret a single day

which then jumps to Lucy and her girlfriends on a prom night dancefloor at her high school Brookline - Lucy launches into a remarkable "it feels so right" Hold Me Tight - a song of joyous innocence and bliss where the imagery jumps back and forth between the ballroom floor and the packed interior where Jude is with his girlfriend at the Cavern Club with a leather jacketed Beatles band on stage.

The handsome Jude in Liverpool sets out for America to find his father who abandoned his mother after a relationship during the second world war, leaving his girlfriend and mother behind. At Princeton, Jude bumps into Max, a student more dedicated to diversions and fun than books, and Jude finds out his real father instead of being the "next Einstein" actually works as a maintenance person. Jude stays with his father in the basement and become close friends with Max, indulging in a bit of "i get by with a little help from my friends" and partaking in night golf on the roof. Max takes Jude home for Thanksgiving weekend, a tradition not known in England, along the way they pick up Lucy from high school and Jude meets Lucy for the first time. Jude witnesses firsthand at the dinner table the source of familial fighting between Max and his relatives, Max himself, and the proverbial what are you going to do with the rest of your life? whereupon Max announces he is dropping out of school. But on that night, all go out for a spot of fun and bowling during a rousing high-energy I Just Met A Girl routine with Jude singing, and all the others bowling and sliding down the slippery bowling lanes.

Max and Jude set out for New York City that night leaving academia and parents behind.

The irony of nothing's going to change my world is reinforced by the shattering of Lucy's life as her boyfriend Dick is killed heroically in action. Lucy sets out for New York City to stay with her brother for the summer instead of going to Europe with her parents and there she gives Max, no longer a student, the dreaded draft notice. Across the Universe explores the world of Lucy and Jude in New York City, as she becomes increasingly political - joining the anti-war movement Students for Democratic Revolution, while Jude turns his artistic bent to designs for Rat magazine, drawing cartoons and posters, and then a logo for Strawberry Studios.

The anger and violence of the ever increasing radical anti-war movement is the background to Across The Universe - the madness of the war is seen through the eyes of Max while in America there is chaos, the calling out of the National Guard at the race riots in Detroit set to a haunting black choral version of Let It Be where Jojo's brother, a young boy is shot to death, and the references to the Weathermen ...

Max, Lucy and Jude become part of the Village nightlife, their landlord is the sexy Sadie who has a burgeoning career as a club singer - and into town comes JoJo - a Hendrix-style singer and guitarist who prowls the streets of pimps and ladies of the night on his first time in town while Joe Cocker delivers the earthy growls of Come Together. Sly Beatles references abound, for instance, the outsider Dayton Wildcasts high school cheerleader Prudence comes through Sadie's bathroom window one rainy night. The bohemian village holds the Psychedelicatessen which was actually part of Julie Taymor's world and the What, Huh? club where Sadie sings at night. Jojo auditions for her band and becomes the guitarist of Sadie and the Poh Boys.

A protest march down Fifth Avenue brings back the days of the Bread and Puppet theatre and the loud chants.

They are all introduced to the counterculture by Sadie's manager at publisher Luna Park's hosted party for Doctor Robert and his book, the lizardking Bono singing I Am The Walrus and the young kids drink the pink lemonade - and set out Flying on a psychedelic magical mystery tour and wake up to find themselves wondering where they are 3000 miles later to find themsleves somehow at the home of a Doctor Geary and his League of Spiritual Development. Max, Jude and Lucy part ways from the bus as it heads back to California. Then they hear the music in the distance and come face to face with Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite and in turn find Prudence again.

Because which follows is another psychedelic experience taking place underwater as the bodies of Lucy and Max intertwine, and other cast members floast about, the whole of which merges into the experience of Max in the war.

A rift comes between Lucy as she becomes more involved and radicalized with many late nights and Max becomes jealous of Paco, the leader of the Students for Democratic Reform. Unable to cope with Max's disdain for Paco and after a angry tirade of Revolution at the SDR offices, boy loses girl and Lucy packs up and leaves Max. As Sadie's career climbs to the top with a dynamite Janet Joplin style Oh Darlingperformance at the Fillmore East, her own personal life hits the skids when JoJo walks out on her to go solo. Max later returns from the war a shell of what he once was.

The star-crossed story of Lucy and Max is seemingly doomed after Jude trying to rescue Lucy from armed arrest at the Columbia protest is taken to jail as well. While Jude's natural father after a call from Lucy tries to unsuccesffully keep Jude in the country, Jude is deported. Jude finds himself back in the shipyards of Liverpool, while Lucy stays committed with the SDR. She discovers one night the militant nature of the friends as Weathermen style. "I thought the other side were the ones who dropped bombs."

Liverpool newspaper headlines blare the news of the explosion in a apartment building and Jude instantly thinks of Lucy. He returns to New York and again meets up with Max.

The had to be finale of the movie conjures the last nostalgic memory of the Beatles together on that rooftop but Across the Universe demands it and pulls it off with joyous triumph for that last Max and Lucy moment - because as you know All You Need Is Love.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age - I am Queen!

Queen Elizabeth is at the height of her power and the Spanish have launched Holy War.

I am assured that the people of England love their queen. My constant endeavour is to earn that love.
- Elizabeth


Elizabeth : The Golden Age is vivid and bold, a visual feast full of pomp and circumstance, ornate costumes and brilliant colours and characters - yet a world full of darkness and deadly plots - romances and dalliances and the eternal power play. The follow-up to Elizabeth succeeds admirably as an intrigue of espionage and love, set in and around the royal court. The first movie was about power, this movie is about Absolute Power and Divinity.

Ten years after director Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth movie which was seen at Toronto Film Festival 1998, Cate Blanchett is back as the Queen - at the age of 52 and the popular defender of her country. Geoffrey Rush returns as Elizabeth's loyal advisor Sir Francis Walsingham working in the background, now older and in ill-health, still ferreting out the schemes and plots against Elizabeth's life and throne, trying to find out the details about "the enterprise."

Kill a Queen and a Queen is mortal

Spain led by the Catholic King Phillip II is the most powerful nation on Earth and has launched Holy War - only England stands alone led by the Protestant Queen Elizabeth - the threat of the Spanish Armada looms on the distant horizon as Spain levels its forests to build a great fleet. Meanwhile, cousin Mary Queen of Scots, played to the seething hilt by Samantha Morton determined in her mindset that she is the usurped Queen, locked away in prison exile with her maids, is conspiring with Philip to return to the English throne. Phillip holds no affection for England or her Queen, calling her a "whore" and a "bastard queen" leading England into hell.

Elizabeth is surrounded by her ladies in waiting, including her favoured, golden-haired Bess/Elizabeth Throckmorton played by the attractive Abbie Cornish [our favourite actress from TIFF back in the days of 2004, Somersault, then A Good Year [2006] and now Elizabeth: The Golden Age]. Elizabeth lives vicariously through Bess who has the figure and the bosom, the looks and the interesting life that the Queen yearns for, but in her position she cannot, she sets the regal example for the country. From the start, Bess shows a less than disinterested glance towards the "handsome" Drake, and Drake is courting Bess to gain the favour of the Queen, as Elizabeth forewarns her. Drake to paraphrase Lady Catherine in Young Bess, "you are not the first man to be in love with two women at the same time."

While England waits for an heir, Elizabeth's virginity and unmarried state is still a source of attraction for foreign suitors who seek marriage and alliances. She at best tolerates all the pomp and circumstance of court, explaining to the German dignitary that "I pretend there's a panel of glass between myself and the people. They can see me but they cannot touch me." A chivalrous and emboldened Francis Drake impresses himself upon the proceedings and banters with the Queen [ while still maintaining cordial respect and love], having returned from his journeys to the New World bearing gifts such as the potato for eating, tobacco for stimulation, native Indians, naming a parcel of land in the New World after the queen, [ and when I am married will it be called Conjulia? And no doubt you will name a city after yourself, she asks pompously ] and Spanish gold. Drake is not popular with the Spanish ambassadors, who call Drake a pirate. Drake in turn says, the more gold he takes from Spain, the better it is for the Queen. Drake as the ever loyal servant of the Queen - with the toothy grin played almost in caricature by Clive Owen who becomes the apple of the eye of Elizabeth. Cate Blanchett effortlessly sinks again into her role as the Virgin Queen - her inner conflicts as a woman balanced with being the dignified ruler of her country. Drake regales a mesmerized Elizabeth with tales of discovering the New World. Drake longs to sail again with her royal warrant back to Virginia, but with the assassination threat swirling about her, the Queen keeps Drake closeby elevating him to Sir and making him the chief of her security. However much she desires him, the relationship is at best hands off, and thus triggers a suiting between Bess and Raleigh. A dangerous triangle ensues between the three - and is delicately negotiated in the movie. In her private mooning for Drake, Elizabeth is almost reduced in character to a simpering woman with a crush, but when she has to defend her country facing the enemy army, and the Armada, she cries out, "By God, England will not fall while I am queen!" Elizabeth comes across as emotional, marching furiously about with her ladies trailing as she a country away waits out the hour of her cousin's execution, and superstitious, asking the tarot card reader John Dee for some measure of hope about the war.

The constraints of the budget reduce the naval scenes with the Armada which took weeks in history to mere minutes on screen - but the historial truth is maintained. By the end, with Spain fallen with the Armada, she elevated once again is the Queen.

"I am the Virgin Queen, I am unmarried, I am powerless to no man, I am the mother of my country. I am Queen. I am myself."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

/* I am Shiva the god of death ! */ - Michael Clayton - sparring with Tom Wilkinson and George Clooney

Responsible for the screenplays of the Jason Bourne movies, Armageddon and Proof of Life, Michael Clayton is the first directorial effort by Tony Gilroy. Gilroy guides the movie through the morass of Michael Clayton's life, through the minefield of choices he has to make, moral or otherwise.

There's no play here. There's no angle, there's no champagne room. I'm not a miracle worker, I'm a janitor. The math on this is simple, the smaller the mess, the easier it for me to clean up.

Tom Wilkinson has already shown his maniacal self in Batman Returns but sustaining this lunacy as the manic depressive Arthur Edens for a role that is the crux of Michael Clayton is sheer genius. Arthur Edens as part of the lawfirm Kenner, Back and Ledeen's, has been has been consumed by the UNorth class action lawsuit worth $3 billion, litigating it for years and years racking up thousands upon dollars of billable hours, and the case has seemingly driven him over the edge. During a deposition recorded on videotape, Edens doffs his clothes while shouting at the top of his lungs, "I am Shiva, the god of death!" and is subsequently arrested in Atlanta for running naked through a parking lot. His strange actions threaten to jeopardize the defence case presented by Kenner, Back and Ledeen's. Michael Clayton is brought into the case of fix things. Imagine Clayton's surprise that in a sparring confrontation between the two in the jail cell, where Clayton is trying to get through to Edens, reminding him he is famous and works for one of the most famous lawfirms in the world, but has just refused to take his medication, when Clayton says, "You are a manic depressive" and Edens retorns "I am Shiva, the god of death!"

Edens has taken to calling the plaintiffs, including a girl he has taken a fancy to and almost makes the case for them. Edens is crazy but still whip smart. In vying with and against George Clooney in Michael Clayton Wilkinson has given the leverage and support for George Clooney to play his role for real - with the compassion, the concern, yet looking out for number one. There is an obvious bond between Edens and Clayton from their years of being in the firm, his admiration for his career and their friendship, their understanding of their role as the janitors. Clayton tries to save Edens from his derangement shown in his blissful state, yet the brilliance beneath surfaces for a moment.

Tilda Swinton gives another immaculate performace as the agricultural giant UNorth's chief counsel Karen Crowder - the corporation has hired Kenner, Back and Ledeen to settle the civil lawsuit over one of its products which is causing cancer in the farm community - a nervous type who seems way over her head - working and practicing her lines in front of a mirror over and over and definitely way beyond her capacity when she decides upon "the other way" when she panics over Eden's actions. She only meets Michael Clayton twice in the pivotal scenes of the movie, but the power of personality of Michael Clayton sways her to less than wholesome decisions and actions. She sets a trail of investigators to monitor Edens and Clayton.

The other way is the other way.

Michael Clayton with his knowledge of the law can fix situations for clients trying to get out of a sticky situation, but he cannot seem to adjust his own life back on track. George Clooney plays it straight, no swagger, embracing all the weariness of a career that has derailed, but his outward charm and assuredness leads his contacts to help him out in sticky situations, and his clients to feel that he can fix anything. His life has gone nowhere with few redeeming features save for a son he is raising on his own who is into fantasy books including Realm and Conquer whose pages of philosophy assauage Edens. Clayton's own nest egg is gone trying to pay off the debts on a restaurant with his brother Timmy who has gone off the rails, shake off a gambling problem, and the firm that is counting on him to fix the mess takes his request for an eighty thousand dollar loan to clear his financial problem as a shakedown by his boss Marty Bach, played superbly by Academy Award winning director and actor Sidney Sheldon. Clayton has been with the Kenner, Back and Ledeen for years, but never made partner, and has been out of the trial court for years. He bears the burden of being a janitor. In the eyes of the bosses of the firm, fixing is what Michael Clayton does best. When he discovers for himself the documents of Arthur Edens, and a legal document numbered #229 that shows the culpability of UNorth, Michael Clayton has to make a choice.

I am not the guy you kill, I'm the guy you hire. I'm the fixer.

This corporate thriller takes place over the short span of four days, but bears the scars that years of being a janitor has taken on Michael Clayton. Michael Clayton is in a world where there is no room for ambivalence - yet the uncertain ending still portrays an ambiguous future for Michael Clayton.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

in the mood for love with Lust, Caution - second viewing

from Day 4

Sunday, September 9, 2007

9:15 A.M.

Movies are for people with time to kill

I don't like the dark

This is a rewrite based upon seeing Lust, Caution on Day 4 of TIFF07 and a second screening on Wednesday, October 3. Opening at the Varsity on Friday, October 5.
Sia Jye is set in occupied Shanghai 1942 and going back to their student days before the Chinese war with the Japanese and the resistance movement that arose - a group of idealistic university students plot to assassinate a powerful Chinese turncoat. With more time and the release of the movie at hand on Friday, this is a rewrite of the earlier musings from Day 4 at TIFF07

Ang Lee is no stranger to the Toronto International Film Festival going back to 1993 with The Wedding Banquet, then following up in 1994 Eat Man Drink Woman which was followed in 1999 with Ride With the Devil [ Tobey McGuire and Skeet Ulrich and Jewel in her first role onscreen ] and a little film back with which he won the best director Oscar in 2005 called Brokeback Mountain.

For us, Ang Lee first commandeered our attention at the Toronto International Film Festival 2001 with a little film called Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It was one of the hottest tickets of the festival, and we had to hit the ticket office three times in one day to finally secure a ticket. Back on that day, we caught the film's second screening at 9 a.m. at the late lamented Uptown 1 theatre. Even from up in the nosebleed seats, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a true spectacle. The fighting and flying sequences unseen before most North American audiences at the time were breathtaking and dazzling, leading to much applause after many of the scenes came to their finish. Ang Lee was there that morning too, an unexpected event given the time of the morning, very friendly and went on to win the Academy Award afterwards too.

Lust, Caution [ which started off at 9:15 on a Sunday morning !] is an exquisitely beautiful film of intrigue, an audacious, drawn-out affair set in 1942 Occupied Shanghai, which then launches back four years earlier to the impending invasion by the Japanese in 1938 Shanghai and Hong Kong. The music of Lust, Caution is spellbinding - luring the audience into the world of storied espionage, and the singsong cadence of the Chinese language trips lightly on the ear in its many dialects, chiefly Mandarin and Shanghainese.

In Sia Jye, a group of idealistic university students plot to assassinate a powerful Chinese turncoat Mr. Yee played by the meancing Tony Leung [ perhaps best known in Happy Together, 2046 and In The Mood For Love ] who is co-operating and working with the Japanese occupation and the Chinese puppet government.

Lee recreates beautifully the era of the Japanese occupation in 1942 - a subterfuge lies beneath the mannered poise of the leading lady Tang Wei playing the role of Mak Tai Tai [Mrs. Mak], a well-dressed lady who speaks politely and with phrased English asks for "coffee, please' from the English waiter, then asks to use the phone and makes a call.

Time goes back to 1938 and the Chinese army is off to stop the impending Japanese invasion. Wong Chia Chi, a young teen, has been left behind with her mother in China by her father who has escaped to live in England with her brother. Her pleasures are for the movies, watching melodramatic American fare such as Ingrid Bergman in Intermezzo and crying in the dark, or Cary Grant in Penny Serenade. At the university in Hong Kong, Wong Chia Chi with her friend meets up with a idealistic visiting student Kuang Yu Min [ Wang Lee Hom ] who is forming a drama group. Kuang lost a brother to the war and his mother will not let him enlist, but he carries on in his spirit.
The obvious attraction between Wong and Kuang are manifested only through fleeting touches and glances. Instead of bourgeois plays such as Ibsen's A Doll's House the group will present patriotic play, one to stir the hearts of the audience against the Japanese. On opening night, Chia Chi's heartrending performance stirs the audience to repeated cries of "China will never fall!" Wang Chia Chi is now the star of the group who are now fast friends, celebrating by drinking and smoking cigarettes together.

Energized by the reaction from the audience and propelled by the play's success, Kuang proposes taking the drama society where away from just producing plays and setting on actually forming a resistance group. The students plan is to rent a summerhouse in Hong Kong and set up an elaborate ruse to kill a man Mr. Yee [ Tony Leung ] they know is collaborating with the Japanese. Bankrolled by the money from one of the group's father, they propose playing out the roles of an import/exporter and his wife along with a driver and servants from Hong Kong. Wang Chia Chi as Mak Tai Tai strikes up a friendship with the man's wife Mrs Yee [ Joan Chen ] with the aim of getting close to the well-protected Yee, and finding the moment for the group to strike. One night Wang Chia Chi succeeds in getting Yee to go out alone then take her home, but on the pivotal night, the ever cautious Yee refuses to come into the house. Subsequently Yee goes back to the mainland and the opportunity for the group is lost. But Tsao, one of Yee's security intrudes upon the aftermath of their plot and in a bloody struggle he is killed, but it clearly demonstrates the drama group are out of their league, and Chia Chi runs away.

Three years later, Wang Chia Chi is back in Hong Kong, back at university, her father not having the means to reunite her with him and her brother. Kwang who has been searching for her, meets up with her again - and introduces her to an even deeper version of the resistance. The new assignment is extremely dangerous, and the still idealistic Wang accepts her mission. The assignment requires an elaborate cover story requiring memorization of the minutiae of her life, and training in arms and fieldstripping a gun with her eyes blindfolded. Once again her target is Mr Yee.

Ang Lee guides this film with an assuredness and elegance, depicting with accuracy the wanton world of the shrewish sharp-tongued women who have little enough to do but to waste the time of day away upstairs with swiftly played games of mahjong and shopping, clothing. As Mak Tai Tai she is at her actress best - she is the polite and well-mannered friend of Yee's wife and her company, and under her role as wife of the importer/exporter, she is always willing to oblige and find scarce goods for them, including Palmers cigarettes, stockings and Western medicines. But she is notoriously bad at mahjong, constanly losing but as she says to Kuang later in a clandestine meeting, she has a lot on her mind while trying to concentrate on maintaining her guise.

She is once again in the grips of Mr Yee, who has risen in rank and become even more fearsome and powerful with an underground police at his command on the Japanese side of the city. He discovers she has returned from Hong Kong, and he is ensnared by her looks and her body.


Their hearts are intertwined, never to be separated - the forbidden relationship between the two builds, reaching its first consummation in an isolated house in room 2B - as she teasingly begins by taking off her stockings under her blue dress, he cannot wait and roughly throws her against the wall and rips away at her clothing - throwing her to the bed and tying her hands behind her with his belt - the lovescene reflects the intensity, savagery and power at play.

Wang Chia Chi makes the supreme sacrifice of her body in order to help the cause. Yee is sadistic and rough; the love scenes between the couple are long and explicit - which have propelled this movie towards NC-17 territory. They provide the contrast to the last feelings of affection from Kuang for Wong Chia Chi. Too late Kuang who has always kept his feelings for her at a distancekisses her to which Wang replies, "You could have done this three years ago."

I hate you

Wang Chia Chi's personality is totally subjugated in the bedroom as she is engaged in intense love scenes with Yee [ that conjure the scenes of Jane March in L'amant ], further fuelling his feelings of lust/love for her and breaking down the wall of love and hate between them, demonstrable in his more than token of affection : a diamond ring, a six carat quail egg of incredible wealth and beauty. Even though she is waiting for that moment when the act will come to an end, the change in her at the thrust of his power causes her to question her self. Lust, Caution is a play of dominance and control, love and hate - who has the ultimate power? who is the master?

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is a film for the artset who would hardly bat a prurient eye at the gripping lovescenes, but would be in the mood for a beautiful story of intrigue and wiles between two worthy foes.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

from Day 2 at TIFF07 - Love will tear them apart Joy Division

World Premiere
2:45 P.M.
Scotiabank 3

Years ago at at the Rivoli a representative from Factory Records in Manchester U.K. brought over footage - tv and raw live footage - that showed Joy Division in performance as well as New Order and the other Factory labelmates. 24 Hour Party People showed the Manchester scene
that started foremost with the advent of the Sex Pistols and that memorable performance in Manchester in 1976 seen by the future musicians and bands of the Mancunian scene including the Buzzcocks - and Warsaw was born out of the belief that if the Sex Pistols could do it, so could anybody else. Of course 24 Hour Party People was more the story of Granada television personality Tony Wilson and the rise and fall of the Factory scene and the rebirth of Manchester from industrial to modern to the the rave scene cut by the Happy Mondays.

On the other hand, this world premiere documentary is about Manchester and Joy Division itself - which is a good thing. Of course we are watching this with the eye of Joy Division being our favourite band of all time. The author of the movie set out to achieve that for at least 50 minutes that the suicide of Ian Curtis would not be mentioned. And once again the footage is revived, the stark 8 mm concert footage, the Granada tv performances, the two videos, and the music of Joy Division never sounded better than over the massive theatre speakers. All the correct names connected with Joy Division look back at Joy Division and Ian Curtis: the three members of New Order, singer/guitarist Bernard Sumners, bassist Peter Hook, drummer Stephen Morris, the writer Paul Morley who is the Melody Maker journalist and fan from day one; Peter Saville, the influential designer of Joy Division record covers Unknown Pleasures and Closer [ and ultimately become the designer for Manchester the city itself], Ian Curtis's Belgian girlfriend Annik Honore, photographer Anton Corbijn [whose film Control is in TIFF07 as well], P.Orridge from Throbbing Gristle, and others including the early Joy Division managers, and of course, the late Granada Television journalist and entrepreneur Tony Wilson who discovered Joy Division.

Shown singly on screen, the Joy Division mates recount the early stories, where the name came from, the various concert venues and shows, and you cannot talk about Joy Division without talking about the producer Martin Hannett, the smash effect of Unknown Pleasures, the literary influences upon Closer including JG Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition, what sweet Ian was like in the beginning, the epileptic fits that later came on, and those days in May 16th through 18th of 1979, on the eve of the tour of America in 1980 that would have brought Joy Division to The Edge in Toronto on the 25th of May ... and the influence of Joy Division lives on.

Debbie Curtis, Ian's wife is only quoted during the movie because her movie is Closer based upon her book Touching From A Distance, and Joy Division's documenter feels that Debbie did not know Joy Division at all.

Just in passing: while reading the itinerary of the Joy Division tour schedule shown in the documentary, their debut was April 22. A note from the club:

Sun Ra Arkestra 22-Apr-80 Unrelated historical side note: this is the day that Joy Division had been scheduled to make their US debut (at Hurrah on W. 62nd St.). They had to cancel their trip because of Ian Curtis' suicide.

Even more keen is the April 25, 1980 show scheduled at The Edge here in Toronto.

Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division [ remastered ] - Dead Souls brought back to life

And now for something completely different : some musings on music

Photographer and now director Anton Corbijn's film about Joy Division Control and the Russell Gee documentary Joy Division herald the re-release of the original Joy Division discography.

Joy Division, hailing from the industrial heartland of Manchester, were one of the most influential bands of the cutting edge of the late 70s/1980, propelled by the mythos of the singer's Ian Curtis suicide. Their seminal 1979 album produced by the genius Martin Hannett Unknown Pleasures with its trademark cover has been released from its dark murky depths and given a polish that brings it into Closer territory [ which in turn along with Still are getting the remastering treatment. The original mix of Unknown Pleasures is still very listenable by all means - and Robert Palmer of New York Times fame did hail this album]. Along with each of the albums [ Still being a compilation of previously unreleased studio material and live off the floor tracks or soundchecks ] is a bonus concert performance that shows Joy Division at its most powerful and raw, with Unknown Pleasures is a concert from April 1980 at The Factory itself. It is still astounding to hear the power of the band in concert "glory", and makes you wonder after all the other two albums get released how much more material is there still in that Factory vault?

We will leave a note that watch Control and listen to or watch any footage of Joy Division concert recordings [ concerts of Joy Division have been out there in bootleg or domestic release for decades ] the recreated Joy Division in the film does a fine job in their moments onstage.

Disc 1
1. Disorder
2. Day of the Lords
3. Candidate
4. Insight
5. New Dawn Faces
6. She's Lost Control
7. Shadow Play
8. Wilderness
9. Interzone
10. I Remember Nothing

Disc 2
1. Dead Souls [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
2. Only Mistake [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
3. Insight [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
4. Candidate [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
5. Wilderness [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
6. She's Lost Control [Live at the Facory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
7. Shadowplay [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
8. Disorder [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
9. Interzone [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
10. Atrocity Exhibition [Live at the Facory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
11. Novelty [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]
12. Transmission [Live at the Factory, Manchester: April 11, 1980]

Go Ask Alice - hot babes staying alive in Resident Evil Extinction

Staying on the road seemed the only way to stay alive

It feels strange to find oneself back in Resident Evil territory after TIFF - after all Resident Evil is no arty little horror flick with a bunch of unknowns screaming.

Two hot babes kicking butt in the Mexican desert - what is not to like about Resident Evil: Extinction? Milla Jovavich is back as Alice, and Ali Larter is Claire Redfield. Extinction has a more realistic gritty feeling - with less of the slick metallic polish and CGI that pervaded 2 or 1 - which may be ironic given the music video background of director Russell Mulcahy who has directed some of our favourite new romantic videos for Duran Duran, Human League, Spandau Ballet, Buggles and other 80s style bands. Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson [ not the raining frogs director ] writes the script starring his fiancee Milla Jovovich who is back.

Alice? Good luck

As Alice, Jovovich still kicks zombie butt and remains Umbrella Corporation's greatest hope and fear. The ever-shrewd Dr. Isaacs is still experimenting on Alice, her blood holds the antibodies and a cure for giving the zombies their memories back, and making them suitable for domestication.

Resident Evil: Extinction begins with the near naked Alice in the shower wondering where she is. The iconic red dress. Her fighting prowess. The familiar dining room. The hall of mirrors. The lasers deadly cut.

Resident Evil: Extinction is a lively and exciting film that boldly succeeds its predecessor Resident: Evil Apocalypse. The pace leaves little room for breathing, with an awesome soundscape that keeps the tingles ever tingling. And just when you are ready to breathe, the inevitable strikes with an assortment of deadly zombies just waiting to consume the flesh.

Project Alice: the appetite for flesh is what the Umbrella Corp's Doctor Isaac is trying to combat with his experiments - a process of distillating the blood from Alice to come up with some serum that will give the zombies back their memories or brain function - they may never become human as before but they will become suitable for domestication - the next work force. The side effects of zombie mutation still pose a deadly problem for humans.

Meanwhile, the real Alice is still on the run - lying low below the radar and evading detection from satellites, still monitoring radio broadcasts. She crosses the highways on her motorbike, then just on foot. Survival in the post T-virus world means rolling on the road in a convoy with no direction home in the hot desert highways in the South

The T-virus has spread out of control, drying up the world creating a vast wasteland.
Mutated t-virus zombies abound, a constant reminder of the danger surrounding the remaining uninfected human beings.

People have a habit of dying around me

The convoy led by Claire Redfield [ Ali Larter, Niki from Heroes ] with her cohorts Carlos [Oded Fehr back from Apocalypse], LJ, Mikey and Slater and Nurse Betty drive through the roadways of the hot Nevava desert staying on the move and scavenging for supplies in abandoned towns and waystations, and their number one concern is gasoline [ and evading the zombies ] enters Mad Max territory. The schoolbus is filled with about sixty remaining survivors including children with names such as K-Mart. And their number is constantly dwindling. Trying to stay away from infection, they face not only the threat of zombies, but killer mutated birds which unleash a deadly attack.

Alice meets up with the convoy after the attack but life is far from certain. Thanks to a journal that Alice has found, the convoy decides the only way to survive is to get to Alaska where the pages purport that the infection has not reached there and there are survivors. It is their only hope. Gasoline in the trucks is at fume level, and after trying to figure out where to find the next supply, the logical but dangerous destination is Las Vegas where their future awaits.

Resident Evil: Extinction abounds with kick-ass fighting R rated scenes with Alice transcending even Apocalypse, deadly with her knives, and Claire and crew staving off the evermore dangerous zombies with a barrage of guns and incendiary devices, slices and decapitations with blades and blowing off heads with guns that inevitably run out of bullets ...

My father was an exceptional man - no weddings just Death at a Funeral

sneak preview

Death at a Funeral is one of those romps that only the British do well. Despite its funereal pall, Death at a Funeral is a lively farce that takes a while to warm up as the characters get introduced but the twisty tale and plot can leave the audience in stitches. The cast are not topnotch names but all are very adept in going against the grain of the the stiff British upper lip,

Matthew MacFayden [ the most recent Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knighley ] plays the put-upon Daniel and grieving son. Jane, Keeley Smith [from MI-5 and the voice of Lara Croft!], is the insistent wife trying to move out and get a deposit made on a flat for the both of them before it is too late.

While at least trying to maintain dignity and decorum at the funeral, Death at a Funeral delves into some very unlikeable characters, starting with the presence of a lecherous self-centred Ewen Bremner [ from Trainspotting ] trying to rekindle a relationship with Jane and the irritating Troy, a ne-er-do-well drug dealer [ who was the lazeabout son Nick from British tv series My Family with Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wannamaker ] who keeps his hallucinogens in a "valium" bottle he keeps lying about loose or loses, period. His brother Robert - Rupert Graves from 'The Forsyte Saga' and A Room With A View -
is more of the selfish sod who ran off to America to become a successful author, in whose shadow Daniel lives under and tries to follow in his limited way trying to keep family together in England, and write his first novel. Everyone at the funeral is expecting the successful Robert to deliver the eulogy, which gives Daniel no bolster of confidence. As well, Daniel expects Robert to pay for half the funeral expenses, which surprises Robert who despite his success in New York City declares himself skint - [after all Robert has a lifestyle to maintain and flew first-class to get to the funeral].

Peter Vaughan plays Uncle Alfie, the cantankerous old man bound in the wheelchair. However, there are a couple of American turns in the cast with their British accent blending in: Alan Tudyk ['Wash' from Firefly!] and Daisy Donovan [born in New York but with more British background and film/tv roles ] are the couple Simon and Sandra with a huge unexpected turn of events surprising them.

Decorum flies out the window right from the start when the undertaker says "Oh s***, we've taken the wrong one" - they have brought the wrong body to the house for the funeral service to which Daniel understatedly comments: "This is bloody grim."

Zany and indecorous events transpire which lead to a high laughcount, and detailing them would spoil the fun except can you say acid trip, midget and Kensington ? Events finally lead to the heartfelt eulogy that brings off a warm conclusion.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Orange juice and tostitos - the Smiley Face of Anna Faris

How the hell did I end up on a Ferris wheel?

That is the question of Anna Faris's existence in Gregg Araki's latest movie Smiley Face.

After the 1990s My Bloody Valentine laced Mysterious Skin at TIFF 2004[!], Araki just wanted to make a stoner movie. Smiley Face has been making the rounds of the festival movie circuit, debuting at Sundance then SXSW, Cannes, Munich, Deauville amongst others before hitting TIFF07. It's just one of those movies that has to be seen to be believed. Araki dedicated the screening of Smiley Face to Anna Faris, the next Carole Lombard / Veronica Lake of this generation. The dipstick actress in Lost in Translation promoting her new film and singing bad karaoke to Nobody Does It Better, May, Scary Movies galore, but Smiley Face may be her bravest and best performance yet.

Smiley Face is that ubiquitous symbol of happiness, and Jane, our resident stoner, is the epitome of that state of happiness. Always with a smiling face of bliss, Jane is awakened and finds herself on top of a ferris wheel. How did she end up on a ferris wheel ride, how did she get from Point A to Point Z is the question of her existence. The flashback through her day is a hilarious adventure of being high and the low of paranoia. The pace and editing of Smiley Face is fast and furious - zeroing in on Jane's crazed state of mind.

Ultimately Jane has to get herself to the Venice festival in order to payoff her drug dealer, where she finds herself atop the ferris wheel. But before Smiley Face gets rolling, Jane has an acting audition at 11 a.m. her agent had laboured to get for her, so Jane starts her day in the usual way, smoking up. Before that, her roomate [ Danny Masterson ] going out for the day, leaves her with simple instructions to pay the electric bill otherwise he would skull-*** her. However, with a case of the munchies she finds her roommate's icing topped cupcakes clearly labelled "for the convention". Two plus two equals Jane quickly discovers the true nature of the cupcakes.

Then what a long wild journey she goes on. In her wild state, the movie is filled with Jane's mental checklist of things to do and the consequences including the skull***.

She then tries to fix her problems – make more cupcakes but first she has to get drugs which she gets from her dealer, but she has to pay the dealer [ disguised as The O.C.'s dreadlocked Adam Brody ] by 3 pm that day, also pay the electric bill, go to an audition ... Jane is so stoned she cannot even mix the pot into the butter she attempts to melt in order to make the cupcakes and ends up burning the whole mess of butter and pot on the stove. Flash ! To get the money she needs to pay off the dealer by 3 pm that afternoon at the Venice Hemp Festival, Jane goes into her hidden stash of the government weed.

The rest of her day is a nightmare of paranoia making new acquaintances including John Cho the driver of the pork sausage truck she flees in while trying to run away from the many angry men she keeps meeting.

After the long dark journey into the soul that was Mysterious Skin [or Doom Generation or Nowhere for that matter], Gregg Araki in his fifth movie at Toronto International Film Festival, has come up with the perfect laugh-filled escapist movie