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Monthly Archives: March 2006

After heaving read "Trier about von Trier", an interview also conducted by Stig Bjoerkman, it became unavoidable to read the Bergman book, too. So many references to Bergman’s films, so huge a relevance he has for today’s film-makers not just in Scandinavia, but all over the world. The Interview was conducted quite late, I think 1990, so many films are far and lost in the momories of an old man. He is also very humble about many films, pretending not to remember them propoerly or waving them off as unimportant. Those where he accepts the discussion must be wort seeing, however, and the comments by the two interview partners give you some exciting insight in what it must be like to experience them for the first time (in some repsect, this means, I can be glad that I have hardly seen any Bergman film so far, only "Snake’s Egg", I think, and he does not seem to like that one). In particular, I think, the following ones should be on the shelf soon (and maybe seen in the order of initial release): (not sure about the respective English titles): "The Summer with Monika", "For one Summer", Wild Strawberries”, “Scenes of a Marriage”, "The Silence", "The Face","Hour of the Wolf:, "Light in Winter"  "Persona", "Shame", "7th Seal", "Fanny and Alexander". And so on… There’s a task at hand!

The book:
Bergman’s Auto-Biography “Laterna Magica”:

The films he directed:

Good stuff, no more than that.

Promised as the "director’s cut", it turned out to be just the very version that came to the movies some ten or so years ago – and from what you read in the reviews, that was good luck. Laughing at the same moments as always, tears at the same moments as always, and one of the most beautiful endings ever. Kitsch? Of course!

The only reason why I would watch a film about three soldiers going a bit aloft in the Iraqi desert is… no: NOT George Clooney, but the fact that the film and its director David O. Russell were mentioned enthusiastically and repeatedly by Peter Biskind in his wonderful "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls". Alright, I thought, let’s go for it – and indeed, there is something about the fillm that makes it a different piece of entertainment than the other "Nice War, isn’t it?" flics. Maybe it’s one of the films where it’s of benefit to know in advance that it’s something special (most markedly; I remember this verhoeven science fiction thing, what’s it called again? With the giant bugs on some Godforsaken planet?? Getting old…ah: Starship Troopers!). What is remarkable is, apprently, the camera, which uses very interesting speeds and objectives and filters. The gold story serves as a nice McGuffin, but the story never gets enough drive to distract you and draw you away from thoughts of logic and reason.

So is Three Kings the subversive move of an indy film-maker on Holywood? Maybe by attitude, not really by result. But a good watch.

So muss Frankfurt / Oder aussehen… This is in some ways a very depressing film, because its sole topic is the fact that as hard as you may try, you won’t be able to cross the borders that are not meant for you to cross. The Mexican/American border in this case, symbol of hope for a better life for all these hundreds or thousands of people who virtually live at the border, wtaching it and watching their fellows who try to cross it one way or the other. Now and again they try themselves, with usually desolate results. But that’s allright, because it’s desolate place, and promised something? Noone did, and noone will keep any promises.

On the other hand, there are really nice people around, and you start wondering at one point whether they would not be much better off if this US promise (and the Americans that come along with it – these very very annoying American just disappeared into oblivion. The Mexican side of the border is the much better one in many respects, and it takes the main characters in this film 90 minutes to find out. At the end, a new balance of longing and unfullfilled desires is established, with not much more hope included, but with a couple of additional scars and sores to remind them of the hopelessness.

Quite a good entertaining evening session, this "Tarantino" film, even if directed by Tony Scott. But the script and (unavoidable) THE DIALOGUES make it, one could say, a true Tarantino, still. Patricia A. is unquestionably most formidable (to just look at AND to watch playing, don’t get me wrong), with the nicest pair of talents around. That red dress she’s wearing the night she meets her True Love… charming. And with this hell of a cast, the film is great fun on the "now where do I know that guy" front, too. Not much more to say, but that the best single scene is probably played by Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, and Patricia Arquette looked even more lovely after being on the receiving end of a serious beat-up. Lovely. And in case one wonders what the next real Tarantino film will be: a double feature horror flick called "Grind House", with Rodriguez. 

I decided to get rid of the blog dedicated to Chinese cinema in particular,
partly because Chinese cinema is in dire straits at the moment, and it hurts
reading about it. No, really, I just got confused with too many of thes
things, so I moved the small number of entries to this place (this explains
why the last five entries refer to things that are months old), which is now
the one and only place to look for comprehensive, intelligent, thoughtful,
outstanding comments on cinema and related issues.

2006-02-18 07:24:14
The Berlin International Film Festival is providing a snapshot of the
changes in Asian cinema, as China seeks to emerge as a new movie
powerhouse while Hong Kong struggles to keep up with its reputation.

Once known as the Hollywood of the East, Hong Kong’s previously prolific
film industry has watched its market in Southeast Asia shrink following
a run of badly received films and due to competition notably from the
real Hollywood but also …

Peking – Die staatliche chinesische Fernsehaufsichtsbehörde hat
Animationsfilme, in denen menschliche Schauspieler mit animierten
Charakteren interagieren, verboten. Als Begründung verkündete die
Behörde, dass “Zuschauer durch die Filme fehlgeleitet” werden könnten.
Bereits vor wenigen Wochen war der Film Ein Schweinchen namens Babe mit
der Begründung, dass “Tiere nicht reden könnten” in China verboten
worden. Die Behörden befürchteten, dass Kinogänger durch den Film
“verwirrt” werden könnten

Very funny to read this after having seen this disaster of a movie

ChinaDaily has a nice interview online with Chen Kaige, whose “The
Promise” opened recently in Chinese theaters and has already pushd Harry
Potter off the big screens:
“A contender for Oscar glory in 1994 with “Farewell My Concubine,” Chen
Kaige again is representing mainland China’s hopes in the best foreign
film race with “The Promise,” a $35 million film that ranks as the
biggest ever made in China. Chen recently spoke about his film and the
future of Chinese cinema.”

From Yahoo News: By MIN LEE and BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writers
Wed Dec 7, 6:11 PM ET
HONG KONG – The makers of “Memoirs of a Geisha” expected to be lauded
for creating the first big-budget Hollywood movie with Asian actors in
every leading role. Instead, they find themselves defending casting
decisions that have inflamed historical tensions between Japan and

On Nov 23, 2005, the Asia Times Online has published an article under the headline “Slouching dragon, hidden camcorder” (by Anastasia Liu). It carries a rather pessimistic view on the future of the market, with theater infarstructrure underdeveloped and production industry rather clueless.

“Oscar for Best Banned Picture”
“AFTER Ang Lee accepted his Oscar as best director for “Brokeback Mountain,” he was hailed by fellow Chinese in Hong Kong and his native Taiwan. Here in mainland China, the government-controlled English-language daily newspaper went so far as to call him the “pride of Chinese people all over the world” and the “glory of Chinese cinematic talent.”

New York Times through:

Another one of these films where outside inspiration was responsible for watching it more than inside desire. Outside inspration in this case means basically Oscar mayhem – which usually is a bad reason for picking a film.

My first reaction after an hour or so was: "Hang on, last time I saw this film the guy was blind and black. And the music was better." When I realised that this time Ray’s brother miraculously did not drown and we would be spared 25 flashbacks on this specific subject matter, my attitude turned to postivie immediately. Howver: 10 minutes later I realised that artist biographies tend to be boring if you have not been a great fan to begin with. Repeated conumption of illegal substances may be unhealthy – it is definitely not exciting to watch. Country-Western-Rock’n’Roll may be very influential for what the Americans call history, but not everything America is influenced by is very interesting. On the contrary: in 52 per cent of all cases, things that are relevant to most Americans do not interest me (that, by the way, includes all made-for-tv content with the exemption of "Twin Peaks", "X Files" as long as the cast was complete and "24" and most fast food produce with the exemption of milk shakes). Country music and rock’n’roll music, for example. People falling over on stage because they took a wrong turn at some stage in their lives would bother me if I had paid money for a ticket to that concert – a couple of decades later, it’s by no means more interesting than the news that somebody kicked somebody else in the Jerry Springer Show. It’s what you are expected to do when involved in a certain form of entertainment. I hear there was a phase in Johnny Cash’s when he was considered to be a wise old man of almost Jimmy Carterish dimensions. Shame: 1) a look at Jimmy Carter’s political career tells a lot about this compliment, 2) the film ended some thirty years before this. I am now looking forward top Scorsese’s Bob Dylan film. At least in that case, I like a lot of the cover versions others did on his compositions.

Trash at last! After hunting down all the Oscar nominees and conceding that most of the "best film" and "Achievement in directing" nominess were damned good, it was about time for some blockbuster amusement. Unfortunately, the local cinemas are currently restricted to "Narnia" (or does anybody want to spent money on "The Transporter II"?), which means that the local DVD supplier was the choice  of the day – and it could not offer anything better than HP4. Having just finished listening to Stephen Fry’s amazing reading performance of HP6, I was actually looking forward at least to Severus Snape’s nice pronounciation of "Potttaaa". The problem with Potter films, of course, is that (1) the books are too well-known, (2) the imagination is stronger than any art director, (3) films thend to be too short.

Still, some interesting aspects:
– the kids are getting too old. Instead of a certain amount of snogging and shagging, as could be expected by the size, looks and relationships of the film characters, apparently noone has any hormones in his/her blood. Ah, right, they are only 14… well, they don’t look 14. Change of actors recommended. I want a more sexy Ginny when part 6 comes to the theaters. And I don’t want Hermione to look like 25 (because she is at least 27), when in part 7 she finally ends up in bed with Harry. I want her to look fresh and 19, at the most!

– why not leave out the annoying parts of the books and use the interesting bits. Like: why include Rita Skeeter (whom the book could do without, and the film, too), but reduce Hagrid’s and Madame whatever’s relationship to one of careful romance? There’s better stuff going on between these two? And if you take up the Skeeter story, why not resolve it?

I had the impression that the film falls back to its part 1 problems: Warner Bros proudly presents some arbitrarily chosen bits and pieces from a popular book. Not very impressive indeed, and visually not as interesting by far than part 3, where Alfonso Cuaron (aha, interesting: I recently watched Y tu mama… for the first time) could give unique visuals to the story, hope they can find a similar visionary for "Order of the Phoenix", more important there than ever.

Too late for a recommendation, but still: why did they not use this load of money and make a reeeeally (!) expensive tv miniseries out of it. There you have enough time to tell the story. You can dwell in the narration. You can elaborate on these caharcters! Well, never mind… chance foregone…

Back reference to what I wrote about “Brokeback Mountain”: Crash is among the best films I have seen over the last years, and I am glad it received the honours of the Academy Award, if only because this will make more people see it (I guess everybody who wanted to see the gay cowbpys had a chance to do so in the meantime). The script is friggin’ excellent, learning the lessons of the Altman-Anderson school, avoiding heroism, showcasing disgusting normality (the most appalling character to me, by the way, was the freaked-out Sandra Bullock person – I could not feel the slightest bit of sympathy. The lady characters had a bit of a sympathy problem in general, I would say…). The script also offers (1) some of the best dialogues I have seen in the movies recently (eg in the opening sequence, when the two black boys keep discussing racial discrimination and suspicion – until they draw their guns) (eg when Don Cheadle tells his mother that he cannot talk on the phone, because he was about to screw a white woman, the annoyance hitting on the mother and the screwed Puerto-Rican chick alike [was that Jenifer Esposito? Oh yes!]). (2) a mastership in anti-climax that is very refreshing after years of permanent climaxes (cinematic, I mean…), the best example to me is the continued effort of the racist white cop trying to play the racist black card with the hospital administrator, where you expect something to explode at some point – or the lady to give in, prove her empathy and give him what he wants. It just won’t happen, people do not win their battles in this film, they also do not lose them. People also don’t resolve their marriage or their family problems (violent brothers, imbecile mothers, hysterical wifes, ignorant husbands). They just live with it (again: see Brokeback… unfortunately, there must be some truth to it). Maybe the movie is about the desperation ongoing battles causes in people, and what side effects this can have. I also do not really think that this is a film about racism in Los Angeles. Most of the cast gets into misery by trying to avoid being racist, and the effort to behave “normal” or “fair” in a neighborhood that has the stench of PC bullshit all over. I admit it: I love that kind of depression. Especially when other people drown in it. I love watching films that show the arbitrariness of being. Sure life can be fun, and can be worth the effort, and can be inspriring. But it can be a useless pain, too. And the only hope is that you can get the balance between the two sorted out.


Firstly, there is the film, secondly, there is the fact that the film did not win the Best Movie Oscar 2006, thirdly, there are the actors. It seems necessary to distinguish the three, because it appears to me that at the moment people tend to talk only about the second aspect. While we (the Europeans) usually do not hold the Oscars in such high esteem and would prefer to see our favourite films to win a Palme d’Or or at least a Golden Bear, this quality control attitude is completely forgotten once February is there and the race for Academy Award trophies culminates.

Never mind most of the Academy members never go to the movies, never mind no more than 15 per cent of them have ever appeared in a film of more than average quality, and never mind that these people (like everybody) have a memory that stretches exactly to the last big billboard ad or to the little present that was in the mail last week. Oscar is currency, and even those films who would deny having anything to do with currency long for it. And Brokeback did not get the one that everybody expected.

Why did everybody expect it? Not because of the undeniable quality of the movie, but because of the undeniable quality of the movie plus the fact that it was perceived to be somehow scandalous to give the award to a movie about gay cowboys. Surprisingly, the Academy members appear to be rather indifferent about the latter fact, and how can you find any homo-erotic story scandalous if you are an actor living in L.A., as the majority of Academy members. Brokeback Mountain is a very good film about a desperate love story without a happy ending. I don’t like films too much where the love story is all there is, but if the love fails, that’s usually something of an advantage with respect to drama.

That’s why I liked the film a lot. Not as much as I liked most previous films of the same director (does not mean much, as most of his previous films are just hilariously good), and not as much as other films I have seen this last year. One of the films I’ve seen last years which grabbed me more was “Crash” – and I wonder why the mere fact that for some people’s taste, “Crash”‘s story is more appealing, the camera more aggressive, the script more interesting, the dialogues more intelligent, the direction more thrilling and the cast more exciting – why this fact is so intensively ignored in all the reviews that keep on bitching about a homophobic Hollywood mafia…

Never mind: Brokeback Mountain is touching in many ways, in particular when it comes to the lack of ability to articulate one’s feelings, and the everyday solitude man (and woman) can experience in the own artificial shelter called a family – if the family is the wrong one. In adorable consequence, Ang Lee rejects his protagonists the way out of misery. If you are unable to choose your side, he seems to tell them, you deserve every calamity you can possibly get. You have to go down the same ugly path as every drug junkie, because being a lover junkie is by no means better. You will start lying to your wife, even though you must know she will know the truth. You will lie to yourself even though admitting the truth about whom you love would be the first step to opening the door onto the life that you need for survival. But you keep on lying and betraying. Because that’s the way it has always been. And if you can’t change it, you have to stand it. Great cinema. Excellent photography. Beautiful acting.
German review: 

Sollte man auch nicht vergessen zu erwaehnen: ein Roadmovie mit einer ganz
huebschen Frau und zwei halbwegs huebschen Jungs, die es mit ihr und
miteinander treiben. Teilweise auch schoene Landschaft. Ich kann aber
ehrlich gesagt Bernal nicht mehr leiden, bin wohl ein wenig ueberschaut an
ihm – ungerecht, ich weiss, wenn ich ihm das ausgerechnet bei einem seiner
ersten Filme ankreide… Nett sind die ein wenig unbeholfenen (und nicht
immer mit Happy End versehenen) Begattungsversuche der juengeren an den
aelteren Protagonist(inn)en.


Es ist ja so mit diesem Film, dass er weniger gesehen als vielmehr zitiert
wird: Roberto Benginis Ice Cream Song oder Tom Waits Meisterstuck der
Beziehungs-Psychologie: “Nicht die Stiefel!”. Schaut man sich das heute
nochmal an, dann ist es viel beschaulicher und behaebiger als man es in
Erinnerung hat (bei mir jedenfalls). Das ist nicht schlecht, es ist nur
weniger lustig, fiel mir auf, wie der Film ueberhaupt eigentlich nicht
lustig, sondern grundtief melancholisch ist. Die wunderbare Fotografie passt
da ausgezeichnet dazu. It’s a sad and beautiful world…

It is interesting to wonder why Spielberg has taken up the subject, and what he was expecting from it. If the plot actually goes along the lines of real events, then the usually dull drama of real life promises to make a dull film. Even with the event having a dramatic political dimension, a couple of people chasing a couple of other people through the world with the aim of killing them is not yet a good plot. It is just a good starting point. I say this because surprisingly enough, I found the film is just as life: sometimes boring, sometimes sad, only very rarely thrilling. Had the script doctor had the liberty of leaving reality behind, what twists would he have included? Maybe something about the team leader (Eric Bana) having doubts about his mission so serious that he actually would appear to be a real person? Or a strike back from the other side more serious than just through a hooker-killer kind of person (admittedly with a pretty face)? The strong passages are those outside the plot – with Papa’s family coming in like a small-scale reference to the Godfather, or where good reasons were given for never working with or against governments. Fact seems to be that Spielberg’s “serious” features don’t get better than this: very professional, but not very good narration.

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