Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Another Pandora's Box (2009)

Just Another Pandora's Box (2009)

March 31st, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

When a fairy in ancient China decides to go in search of a popular hero, she instead misidentifies a unscrupulous bandit as the man. Faced with her attentions he makes use of magic to escape into the distant past, and the era of the Three Kingdoms.

Although relatively unknown in the west, director Jeffery Lau has a three decade record of producing popular Hong Kong comedies. One sub-type that he essentially created is a kind of outlandish fantasy film based upon and satirizing traditional Chinese legends. These include the Chinese Odyssey series (1995) in which Stephen Chow starred in a time traveling, irreverent prequel to the novel A Journey to the West about the journey of the Monkey King to help a holy monk retrieve Buddhist scrolls. This film is something of a loose sequel both in tone and the inclusion of several secondary characters.

While Jeffery Lau is not well known in the West, he has a nearly three decade record of hit comedies and it a longtime collaborator of director Wong Kar Wai. His style in this kind of film is similar to the Zucker Brother’s style of American comedies, that is, a dozen jokes a minute and a eye toward popular culture. In this case parodying many of the biggest Chinese films of the last fifteen years.

The most gratuitous subject of parody would have to be John Woo’s two part Red Cliff (2008) film series. While generally popular in the west, there is some sentiment that it takes an overly serious and melodramatic tone, which Lau is quick to parody. The film also includes a wide range of cameos including but not limited to Li Yixiao, Alex Fong, Yuen Biao, Kenny Bee, Cory Yuen, Stephy Tang and Sandra Ng. This helps to maintain the light atmosphere that is the secret of Lau’s popular comedies.

Hong Kong, Director Jeffery Lau, Cast Ronald Cheng, Sun Li, Huang Bo, Eric Tsang, Patrick Tam and Gillian Chung, 96 minutes, in Cantonese with English subtitles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

GHAJINI (2008)

GHAJINI (2008)

March 17th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

For those not accustomed to Indian cinema, GHAJINI is a film that really tests perceptions and prejudices. The masala style that became incredibly popular in the 1980's and has been a dominant force ever since is an old if not alien idea to most other cinemas. In basic terms this broad genre seeks to mix a range of genre and emotions into one grand show, which is typically a minimum of three hours long. This is similar to American cinema of the 1930's which would include shorts, news reels and or a cartoon, a B-picture and the main feature all as part of one big show. In the case of India it is encompassed into a single feature. Because of this, strict notions of narrative logic are sometimes tested in order to give everyone what they want.
GHAJINI is a remake of a Tamil film of the same name with the tittle referring to a King who continued to do battle even though he continually lost. Besides that both films are loose remakes of the American film Memento (2000) about a man with no short term memory who is driven to find a murderer. While this basic plot point is identical, the film quickly journeys very far afield.
India, Director A. R. Murugadoss, Cast Aamir Khan, Asin Thottumkal, Jiah Khan and Pradeep Rawat, 183 minutes, in Hindi with English subtitles

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prince of Tears (2009)

Prince of Tears (2009)

March 10th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

This recent film by the director of Bishonen (1998) focuses on the so called White Terror of the late 1940's and 50's. During which thousands of Taiwanese were executed or imprisoned by the KMT government. It also marks the beginning of the long standing period of martial law.
These events are set in a small village and seen through the eyes of an Air Force officer and his family. While not the first Taiwanese film to deal with this subject matter, that would be City of Sadness (1989,) it has never the less acquired a degree of controversy of its own.
This controversy principally deals with the striking cinematography which is a trademark of the director. But some prominent critics have stated that the exquisite beauty and perfect composition found in nearly every shot takes away from the emotional impact of the film and its subject matter. In any case it is a provocative entry into recent Taiwanese cinema.

Taiwan, Director Yon Fan, Cast Fan Chih Wei, Terri Kwan, Joseph Chang, Jack Kao, Lin Yo Wei and Oceane Zhu, 123 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles