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Monthly Archives: April 2008

This is too good to be true. I am a late Ebert-explorer, having grown up in parts of the world where he was not known as writer or tv host. So after a couple of months of diving through the regular archives (pleasant enough), but being annoyed at the lack of subscribing in one way or the other to the website, now here comes the Ebert-Blog, opening with the most appropriate things you can expect, a humorous obituary on Arthur C. Clarke, who “died convinced Bill Gates had made a big mistake in not keeping the Cinemania CD-Rom in print.”
This is something to look forward to!

Still maybe my favourite contemporary Chinese filmmaker (auteur? If you please!), Jia ZhangKe’s films are, in his own words, but also quite visibly, about ordinary people in typical Chinese settings. This means the people are usually neither rich nor do they live in the prosperous Eastern cities. If they do (as in Shi Jie – The World), then they are caught in a desolate wasteland from where they can only observe the new wealth puring into the country.
Some interesting bits about this interview with Good magazine: I never knew what it means to be “banned from making film” on a practical level, but Jia mentions it, telling about his experience after being subjected to such a ban in 1999:
“So, when I made Pickpocket, I gave no thought to the censors. We just wanted to make the film the way we wanted. In 1998 it showed at the Berlin film festival, and then in 1999 I was banned from making films. This ban had no expiration date, and it meant that I was on a blacklist at all the postproduction companies in Beijing and Shanghai, saying that I couldn’t borrow equipment or develop film.”

And on the notion of piracy:
“In the context of China, I also think DVD piracy is useful. I went through a long period during which my knowledge of film came from reading scripts, or listening to other people’s descriptions. I knew about Godard, Truffaut, and films like Kramer vs. Kramer and On Golden Pond, but I hadn’t seen any of them. China had these films, but they were locked away in an archive, to be seen by film insiders and people with special privileges.”
The end of the article has a list of his films, useful as a checklist, because I just realise I still have not yet seen “Dong” and “Useless”, his latest documentaries. There is also another list of recommended non-Jia movies, most of which are pretty decent.

These days, it is relatively easy to hype a film to the Internet geeks, make it the talk of the days on the Blogs. Snakes on a Plane, Hulk, Cloverfield – all Internet phenomena that will usually not reflect the internet hype in a real life setting. Cloverfield is, actually, a nice little crappy B movie, with uninspired actors, a lot of helicopters, even more military personnel to shoot the crap out of Godzilla (or not: not the crap out of, and not Godzilla, but some wormy thing), and a monster of appropriate size and desctructive quality with little critters falling off it so it can also reach out to those heroes hidden away within skyscrapers or subway tunnels (always weak points of Godzilla films – even though Roland Emmerich cheated his way into the subway tunnels by alternating monster sizes at his will and really pissing me off with that nonsense).
It is not a real film, of course, no input for the brain, and would be much better had they not chosen the PG strategy – the film could do with some ripped-off heads, chests and clothes. Still entertaining, though, and pleasantly short. But the South Park Episode with Barbara Streisand as Godzilla where she gets thrown into Outer Space by the singer of The Cure is much better, of course.

Even though the guys at “Slate” have a more sober attitude towards Wong’s latest films in particular than I have (Mood for Love, 2046 being repetitive efforts – yes, we knew that, but that was somehow the point, was it not?), they still have the fair point that currently it looks as if this without doubt visionary and visually inspiring director is somehow stalled. Even though I have not seen it yet, My Blueberry Nights does not appear to be the re-invention of Sturm und Drang narration and cinematography, either. However, following his contemplating characters dream around for a while is still among the better movie experiences in any case. Just imagine to would have to spend the same time sitting through a Cheng KaiGe epic…

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