It’s only natural that Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day begins with a shot of a barely-lit light bulb. On the set of a movie, a director reprimands an actress for harping on the color of her dress. “This is a black and white film,” he says, one of many references to the symbolic darkness that overshadows the milieu of the film. A Brighter Summer Day is itself in color, but it may as well be monochrome. Much of the film’s action takes place at night or inside dimly lit interiors, and it’s not unusual for the characters to be confronted by light and its almost political implications. Some of the best images in the film (young boys staring at a rehearsal from a theater’s rooftop; a basketball bouncing out of a darkened alleyway) pit light against dark—a fascinating dialectic meant to symbolize a distinctly Taiwanese struggle between past and present. From weapons to watches, objects similarly speak to the present. Like the light, these objects are constant reminders that the past can’t be ignored and must be used to negotiate the present. Continue reading
Few of the characteristics that can be associated with Jean Paul Civyrac can be seen in his first film, a 14 minute short feature. Inevitably, considering its short length, the film is necessarily very much a character study, since there is little room to develop much in the way of a plot. Luc (Jean Descanvelle) is a young man who is determined to do things his own way and consequently conflicts with everyone he meets. He doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks, isn’t interested in any advice they might have to give and is not interested in assistance from friends or family. He is going to do things his way, and do whatever it takes to make money, which is mainly performing sexual favours for any man who is willing to pay for it. Continue reading
In the course of a single day, George Murphy, a youngish out-of-work newspaper reporter, desperately crisscrosses Manhattan in a futile hunt for the $1,200 needed to pay the back rent on his apartment. George is about to be evicted, and his life is collapsing. His wife has left him, taking their child. He’s out of touch with former colleagues.
In his need to find the money, he searches for Tom, a long-lost friend who becomes as elusive as the grail. Many mutual friends have seen Tom recently, but either they have forgotten where, or Tom has departed when George arrives at the place. The search for Tom doesn’t narrow, it widens. It turns into a search for Tom’s apartment superintendent, for his other friends, for his wife. Continue reading
Civeyrac moved to making films in Digital Video in 1999, with Les Solitaires, a small, almost theatrical chamber piece that was well suited to the medium, making the use of one main location and a handful of actors. The film takes place in a small Parisian apartment that Pierre (Jean-Claude Montheil) hasn’t left since the death of his wife Madeleine (Mireille Roussel). Wallowing in his solitary misery, without even a phone in the apartment, Pierre is unable to get thoughts of his wife out of his head, seeing her in his restless dreams, where he contemplates suicide in order to rejoin her. Continue reading
Gabrielle is 14. She struggles to love Gilles but he ceaselessly wrecks his own life along with other people’s. He steals money from Gabrielle and humiliates her so much that she doesn’t want to see him again. At school, he hits his education supervisor. As a result, his father throws him out of the house. Gabrielle refuses to put him up. The families of his friends want nothing to do with him. So Gilles ends up in the street like a stray dog. By causing turmoil, he soon becomes the neighbourhood’s scapegoat… Continue reading
Set in Paris, the plot (despite the title, not even dangerously close to Laclos as has been suggested elsewhere) concerns a low-key private detective agency run by Rie and her buffoonish partner Kishin (ex-rockstar Uchida), two expats who tick along between cases by giving guided tours of the city to busloads of Japanese tourists. After the wealthy Okuyama (Kitano) hires them to trail his French mistress Loren (Galin) whom he believes to be having an affair, the feeble-willed Kishin finds himself seduced by this femme fatale and way out of his depth in a seamy underworld of rich Japanese businessmen, S&M games and huge piles of money. Meanwhile Rie is being wined and dined by Okuyama who seems to have a hidden agenda all of his own. – Continue reading
“The paths of people from various countries cross during the course of one night. They speak different languages, but they are fatefully bound together by the solitary quest for happiness and deliverance. Sloping paths are all that’s left for them in an age of lost perspectives, lost refuges and lost homelands. They sink deeper with every movement that should be liberating them. Every gesture of love becomes a gesture of humiliation. The desperate dance of their life has become a passionate dance of death.
In the centre of this centrifuge at the end of the millennium the Russian emigrant Valery and his lover Ljuba are turning around each other in a nocturnal round dance of desire and pain, hope and violence and the indestructible will to survive.” Continue reading