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Monthly Archives: August 2006

The image that I will remember is the face. The face of the political magazine presenter Ed Murrow (David Strathairn). This is such an impressively wasted, used, tired, but still agile, fighting and no-surrender kind of face that I am very surprised that I have never seen Strathairn before (or if I have, I don’t remember). He is compensating for the gaps in the script, to be honest. The atmosphere of the whole film meets the expectation, but for some reason that must have to do with the writing, tension never really builds up. Might also have to do with the ever-problematic situation of filming a more or less real story, knowing that life does not always provide for the most dramatic structures, even if the case itself has big potential. I am quite sure that a regular script writer would not have been satisfied with McCarthy sending a pre-recorded tv statement when his clash with the tv programme escalated. Nobody would dare to start a drama with the story about a sacked army employee, only to kind of drop the topic as soon as possible and not mention it again before salvation comes near the end. But life produces this kind of more-boring-than-necessary situation, and you have to give it to Clooney and his co-writer Heslov for sticking rather to facts than to Holywood narration necessities. It makes the film (in particular because of the exciting acting) a most interesting, but maybe not the most exciting movie experience.

Biiiig story about Spike Lee and his wife Tonya Lewis in the NewYork
Magazine. It’s called “The Angriest Auteur” and can be found here:
http://newyorkmetro.com/movies/profiles/19144/index.html. It comes just in
time to remind us all of the “Hurricane Katrina” docu Lee has produced for
HBO and which will was screened Aug 17th for the first time (in New Orleans,
of course). Hopefully soon to be seen in other places, too. But praise for
Spike Lee can already be found everywhere.
IMDB link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0783612/,
reviews:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/17/AR2006081700
330.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/katrina/story/0,,1851742,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12

I liked that article in the seattlepi: “Fewer movies are being prescreened
for critics — and that’s a good thing” by WILLIAM ARNOLD. He is basically
interpreting the hesitation of some distributors to offer previews for
journalists and introduces his vision of what movies will receive what form
of media attention in the future. I have to say: I almost completely agree
with his notion that reserving all this newspaper space for reviews of films
you will either see anyway or that you won’t see anyway is “a waste of ink”
and that the other films – those where reviews actually make a difference –
are strangulated by this (in the US) Friday morning mayhem.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/movies/281456_snakes17.html

It is apparently one of the great contemporary stories around, definitely one of the great tales of China  – one of atrocity and heroism, of cruelty and the human touch. I reckon every Chinese knows one version or the other about how the Japanese "raped Nanking" in 1937, killing thousands (or hundreds of thousands, rather) of citizens. This will surely be among the most visible Chinese film projects of all times: it has international co-producers (Gerald Green, anybody knows whether this is the same who wrote the "Holocaust" mini?), supposedly an internationally reputed cast (the inevitable Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh, rumor has it), and it has that sideline of the hero who stands up against his own history and his country, namely John Rabe, the "Schindler of Nanking", who saved many by providing shelter in his Siemens factory. No news so far on director, schedule, etc., but apparently the script will be based on Iris Chang’s "The Rape of Nanking" book, and there is a good chance that it will be out in time for the massacre’s 70th anniversary.

News stories on this:
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article1219244.ece
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0815/p06s02-woap.html
And this is the site of Ms Chang, with information on the book: http://www.irischang.net/
 

Isabellas are abound, the one I saw was this one, made in Honkgkong by Ho-Cheung Pang: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0499141/.

Admittedly, given the rather crappy and uncomfortable "cinematic" environment, I found it rather hard to start into the film with the relevant concentration, so I was more irritated rather than amazed by the montage and the use of Kar-Wai’isms. And equally admittedly, I did not expect to see a film of such dramatic and aesthetic professionalism, as most Chinese films you get to see these days are poor if not pathetic in both respects. Next time I first read the description – the film is from Hong Kong, after all, which in cinematic terms is some two centuries ahead of the mainland. Never heard of the director, never realised that the film actually won him some prices (at Berlin, for instance, so no petty stuff, if "only" for the music). This may actually be the best form of savouring a movie: not knowing anything about it, allowing it to unfold it in front of your eyes, ears and mind(s). You usually don’t get this, because I actually do believe there are very few "auteurs" who (1) are completely unknown and (2) can create a great film. Happens occasionally, but it is very much the exemtion. Which means that you usually know quite a bit about the good films you will see, because the papers will have taken it up and will have pointed you to see the remarkabilities, and will have given you a preconception and expectations, like it or not.

All the more interesting it was to see this one develop, see the slightly pathetic use of "Madredeus"-like music fall together with the (to me) completely odd setting of pre-handover Macao. A very intimate atmosphere is dominating, mainly through the density of the place and the fusion of cultures that have little to do with each other, but are still squeezed together like too many family members in a Chinese apartment. They hate the Portuguese as all colonies hate their imperial parents, but – again, as always – the cultural clash is a very stable and very cozy situation, where everybody has his or her role to play. The film’s story tries to link the loss of cozyness for the protagonists to the imminent handover to China, but that link is weak for me. It allows for some text inserts, but the change cannot be felt in the story. Those people’s (the police offer and his "daughter") fate has little do with other developments, and the script doctors would have been well advised to leave it at that: a little love story in a setting that apparently is not only hard to comprehend for a lao wai…

I’ve seen that one when it hit the screen, but it was worth seeing a second time. Espacially with my super-short memory, it was worth the second try. I forgot about the dog, to begin with, and I forgot about the cute wife, and I did not forget, of course, that Ed Norton is still among the best – even at a time when he was only not starring in those films that he directed himself… A very melancholic film at times, and one that can be very stylish (in the club where the farewell party takes place, but the whole production design and the clothes do fit in well). P.S. Hofmann, again, at his best, even though it is a part he has played already a couple of times (at least he saved the time for rehearsals). Whether the final twist holds tight and prison rules follow the logic of the script may be questioned, but I guess the makers got a bit scared about letting the film end without the slightest bit of excitement. It would have been even more beautiful.

Ah well… no, not a good film, I think that can be said even though I only watched the edited version (minus 6 minutes of inappropriate material – mostly laundry hanging around in Shanghai and Tom Cruise chatting with a Chinese, I read). No problem to watch that kind of thing, but very hard to remember it three days later. Was that red Lamorghini in MI-3 or Ocean’s Twelve? And who invented that cool "cut a face out of jelly in a minute"-laser thing? Should be a rich man by now, especially as you can apply it and it looks so real – as if there are two P.S. Hofmanns playing in the same film. Iiiiincredible! Speaking of Hofmann: he is worth watching, again, even though a bit one-dimensional, but he gives a certain air of sophistication to this very uncompromising character. He also would have deserved a more inspired end than he got. Ran out of money and saved it on the script side? Just kidding, there is no script, of course, just gadgets… loud gadgets.

Das ist sicher ein Thema, das einmal aufgegriffen werden musste, und wat mut dat mut… Der deutsche erweiterte Fernsehfilm hat eine sehr eindeutige Weise, mit politischen Themen aus der deutschen Vergangenheit umzugehen. Die Optik ist immer angenehm pastellig, der Zeit angemessen, wie man vermuten darf. Der Ton hat immer etwas hartes, die Absaetze klappern lauter, die Jacken rascheln staerker als in anderen Genres. Es gibt mehr stille Momente, und es gibt mehr ausdruckslos starrende Menschen, denen im leben irgenetwas abhanden gekommen zu sein scheint.
In dieser Tradition spielt “Das Leben der Anderen” nicht die schlechteste Rolle. Obwohl der Regisseur jung ist, ist er schon einigermassen routiniert und hat sich gluecklicherweise von seinem gruseligen – nein, das koennte missverstaendlich sein – von seinem grottenschlechten Abschlussfilm “Templer” ausreichend weit entfernt, um wieder ernst genommen zu werden. Ein Meisterwerk ist “Das Leben der Anderen” meiner Meinung nach dennoch nicht. Dafuer ist das Drehbuch zu wenig inspiriert und zu sehr einer einzigen zentralen Idee untergeordnet (“Der gute Stasi”) – und diese Idee selbst hat in ihrer Durchfuehrung (wie kann man so viele Fakten so lange geheim halten, wenn lange Zeit noch ein zweiter Kollege mithoert?) so viele Luecken, dass selbst einem Continuity-Gleichgueltler wie mir immer wieder die Traenen in den Augen standen.
Immerhin, es wurde ein Anfang gemacht, das Stasi-Kapitel filmisch aufzuarbeiten. Das ist erstens gut und wichtig und gibt – das sieht man diesem Film schon an – auch kinematographisch etwas her. Hoffentlich bedeutet das jetzt nicht, dass der Weg damit fuer geschicktere und subtilere Drehbuecher versperrt ist und es bei dem einen Werk bleibt.

On the decision of the Chinese authorities not to let the (first) sequel to "Pirates of the Carribean" play in mainland China, there is a commentary at Bloomberg News:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&sid=aufhA7AxUHfU&refer=columnist_pesek. It’s old, I know, but I just stumbled across it. It’s also a bit odd, because I am not sure whether the transfer between one branch of the administration (which is in charge of film imports approval) and another (which is trying to ensure that China will become a sustainable economic success story) ist valid – but it’s worth reading it and finding your own opinion. The comment is also linking to the recent (6 minutes of) cuts made to MI-3 and the withdrawal of the "da Vinci Code". The other thing about pirates is, of course: they don’t give a damn. The street pirates offer all these films in full integrity in front of the cinemas that don’t show them. The shame about it is that China manages to keep cinemas from being great places to have a great time out. Initentionally or not, this seems very odd. Chinese cinemas are ridiculously over-priced, and they are not allowed to show interesting movies.

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