I have to confess, I had not previously seen any examples of Korean cinema. And indeed, had I merely stumbled across Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy blindly, I might have thought the premise sounded moderately interesting, but I may still have passed it by. But blogging can be good for broadening one’s horizons. I had seen Oldboy bandied about the comments sections of some other film blogs, and it was always praised as being a captivating, dark, and “sick” film. I had thought “sick” was simply being used in that odd slang sense of “really cool”, but this wasn’t the case; they actually meant sick as in disturbing. But I’m still glad I took the time to watch it, as it is very well done. Plus, the film is being remade in English by Spike Lee (set to debut this coming October), so the film turning up on my radar now meant it was a convenient time to see it before the remake — and thus before the arguments over whether the remake was as good, better, or an utter travesty.
Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi), a gregarious drunk who one fateful night has to be bailed out of jail for drunk and disorderly charges. But before his friend can take him home, Dae-su is abducted by unknown figures, and finds himself in a rather different prison. An apparently privately-run prison. He is not told why he is there, nor for how long his stay is to be. After fifteen years, he is released, just as suddenly and inexplicably as he was imprisoned. A greatly changed man, Dae-su sets out to find out who was responsible for his imprisonment, and why it was done — and to get his revenge. Continue reading →
I subscribe to Disney Movie Rewards, as a means to ever-so-painfully-slowly work my way towards free movies from buying DVDs and movie tickets, and as part of this they also send me regular emails regarding other Disney related ephemera. Most of this is of little interest to me (I have no desire to throw a Disney Princess birthday party), but every so often something interesting turns up. In this case, that something was a “sneak peek” of a new Mickey Mouse cartoon, Croissant de Triomphe. I put “sneak peek” in quotes because it’s already everywhere on the web and hardly exclusive to people on Disney’s mailing list (you can view it here), but that’s not really important. What is important is that here is something I didn’t expect to see and which was at least potentially interesting. And after watching the short and reading up on it a bit, I have to say that potential interest is more on the lines of actual interest. Continue reading →
When I decided to watch Solaris, I knew only a handful of things about it. I knew that it was from 1972, and had been remade in 2002, as an American film starring George Clooney. I knew that it was science fiction and fairly well regarded. I knew that it was in Russian. And I knew that it was nearly three hours long. Those last two combined to give me some pause for concern, as a three-hour foreign film is not something to be entered into lightly. But I’d already missed an opportunity to see it once before, and I felt that in the interest of being well-informed on classic science fiction films, I could not justify overlooking it a second time.
After watching it, my feelings are still somewhat mixed. There is certainly a lot that is praise-worthy about the film, but there is also a lot that made me feel every one of its 167 minutes. Continue reading →
Even if you have never seen The Seventh Seal, you are familiar with the key scene. It’s been homaged, referenced, and parodied dozens, even hundreds of times since the film came out in 1957. The knight playing chess with Death has become one of those pop-culture touchstones that everybody is familiar with (although the movie itself indicates the idea of playing chess with Death is even older, as the knight brings it up as something he has heard of.) Since Hulu briefly made this Ingmar Bergman classic available for viewing, I thought I would take the opportunity to see the source of all these references for myself.
The knight in question is Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), who has just returned home after ten years in the Crusades. And it is clear from early on that Antonius is a troubled man. If he were alive today, he would no doubt be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; certainly von Sydow has perfected the thousand-yard stare for this role. When Death (Bengt Ekerot) meets him on the beach, Block is unafraid of dying, but is afraid of what comes after — or more precisely, what might not come after. His faith has been shaken, and he desperately wants it restored, but Death is revealing nothing. So Block challenges Death to a game of chess, planning to use the reprieve — the game is to take place intermittently, as both are busy men — to find something to believe in, and to hopefully perform one last, unambiguous good deed before he dies. Continue reading →
Fritz Lang’s 1931 film M is considered by many to be a classic example of film noir. It’s made it into a few top 100 lists (including being #50 on IMDb), and is cited as being a major influence on both the genre and films in general. It was filmed in German, but the Criterion Collection has released a version with deftly-translated subtitles; when I had the opportunity to see that version, I decided to do so.
The film is inspired by various serial killers around Germany at the time that Lang was writing it. It stars Peter Lorre as a disturbed man who has become a serial child killer in a German city, and Lorre’s performance is exceptionally creepy, especially with Lang adding in one of the first leitmotifs in film history, with the killer (actually Lang dubbed in) whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King” whenever he is taken by his compulsion to stalk, kidnap, and murder children. Continue reading →
The Illusionist is a film I’ve been looking forward to seeing since I first heard about it. An animated feature, it was directed by Sylvain Chomet, who also directed The Triplets of Belleville, which I had seen and found hilarious. That The Illusionist was by the same director and was also an animated film with little dialogue was all I knew about it, but I figured the similarities would be enough to ensure an enjoyable experience. Although I was correct in that both are great films, in some ways I might have been better off not knowing the connection, as the two are very different films, and my expectations for the latter film differed from the reality significantly.
Where The Triplets of Belleville is loud, raucous, and wild, and filled with visual gags, The Illusionist is quiet, soft, and very melancholy. The script was written by French actor Jacques Tati and never produced during his life; the main character, the stage magician Tatischeff, is based directly on Tati. And Tatischeff is falling on hard times. The film is set in the late 1950s, and there isn’t much room in the world for a vaudeville entertainer any more. Where Tatischeff once could fill the houses, now he’s lucky to get an audience at all. Continue reading →
There probably aren’t too many French movies that have spawned even a single American or Canadian television series, let alone two. Yet Nikita (released in 1990 in France, and in 1991 as La Femme Nikita in the United States) has done just that. I’ve never seen either of the series in question; to be honest, they came across in promos as having a good premise but low quality. But a good premise is enough to make me curious about the film that they loosely draw from.
Written and directed by Luc Besson, La Femme Nikita is about a young woman who is a petty criminal and drug user. When a robbery goes wrong — largely because her friends were psychotic idiots — she is convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 to life in prison. But prison is not where she ends up… she is recruited into a secret government program as a covert agent: both spy and assassin. Continue reading →
Vampyr is a nearly-silent German film from 1932; director Carl Theodor Dreyer was mostly used to working with silent movies, and while there is a smattering of dialogue (in German, though both subtitled and dubbed versions are available in English), much of the story is told in silent movie fashion, with title cards providing occasional dumps of exposition.
The film has come to be viewed as a classic monster movie, having a 100% among critics rating on RottenTomatoes.com, and it has been released as part of the Criterion Collection of films on DVD. It is not as well known as the 1922 classic Nosferatu (and in my opinion, it’s an inferior film as far as the narrative goes), nor of course the Bela Lugosi classic Dracula, but in some ways it forms the third part of a triumvirate of what forms the modern vampire. (I haven’t seen Dracula in full yet, but I’ve seen bits and pieces, and of course it’s become a staple of pop culture references.) Continue reading →