A documentary on the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien that explores the complexities of political and social life in Asia and how it affects his films. Hou returns to the setting of his youth to talk to childhood friends and discuss his films. He visits old neighborhoods, film locations, and favorite haunts. Clips from the director’s work are interspersed with colleagues’ comments on Taiwan’s new wave film history and the famed director’s place in it. Continue reading
Defying by his parents, Hsiao Kang drops out of the local crammer to head for the bright lights of downtown Taipei. He falls in with Ah Tze, a pretty hood and their relationships is a confused mixture of hero-worship and rivalry that soon leads to trouble.
When the young Jeanne finds out that she could have mistakenly been exchanged, from her cradle, with another newborn (the son of a famous piano player), she decides to contact this family, not really thinking that this could be the truth. After she tells this to the presumed father and the rest of the family, even the son of the piano player starts having more than one doubt about his origins, and all this will lead to the discovery of a murder committed many years before by the second wife of the musician. The story is a pretext to dramatize the misdeeds and the hypocrisy of the French upper class members, shown without pity: the coldness between the family members, hidden by a false happiness; the lack of real feelings; the unbearable ‘bon ton’ of the mother, and so on. (IMDb) Continue reading
In this elliptical ensemble piece, which marks the directorial debut of indie bad boy Harmony Korine, the teens of tornado-scarred Xenia, OH, kill cats, tape their boobies, arm-wrestle, bathe, cross-dress, huff glue, avoid perverts, pay to have sex with retarded girls, lift makeshift dumbbells to the strains of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” fight, cuss, shave their eyebrows, undergo cancer treatment, euthanize senior citizens, and pee on passing cars. A hallucinatory barrage of images and scenarios with little in the way of traditional plot, Gummo has been variously described as a surrealist joke, a visual poem, and a worm’s-eye view of white-trash suffering. The main characters include Solomon (Jacob Reynolds), who sells cat carcasses to a middleman who procures them for use at a local Chinese restaurant; his mother (Linda Manz), who teaches him to tap dance while reminiscing about her dead husband; Tummler (Nick Sutton), a mullet-haired local sex symbol; a midget (Bryant L. Crenshaw); a pair of boy-crazy, bleach-blond sisters named Dot (Chloe Sevigny) and Helen (Carisa Bara); a slut with a lump in her breast (Lara Tosh); a group of drunken louts; and Bunny Boy (Jacob Sewell), who wanders the town enigmatically in a pair of long pink ears. In between scenes of these characters enacting their bizarre routines, Korine intersperses impressionistic and quasi-documentary scenes with voice-over narration that ranges from incest memoirs to arty dialogue along the lines of “He’s got what it takes to be a legend: He’s got a marvelous persona.” Shot just outside Nashville, TN, Gummo includes costume designs by Korine’s then-girlfriend, Chloe Sevigny, who also plays Dot and who previously starred in the Korine-scipted, Larry Clark-directed Kids. Jacob Reynolds would go on to appear in Getting to Know You, though few of the director’s other discoveries have appeared on film since.___by Brian J. Dillard Continue reading
Teenage angst was never this heartwarming., 13 October 2004
Author: el-p from The North East, England
Having just recently seen director Lukas Moodysson’s teen prostitution exposé, Lilja 4-ever, I was expecting a similarly bleak film in Fucking Åmål. Not so. This is the story of two teenage girls who find each other, against peer and family pressure, and their own insecurities.
It is the differences between the two girls that initially make their relationship so touching. Agnes is a loner, with only a girl in a wheelchair for a friend, who she soon insults and alienates. Before she meets Erin, we rarely see her without tears in her eyes. On the surface, Erin couldn’t be more different. She can pick and choose boyfriends and has dozens of friends. However, she is disillusioned with this life. She fights constantly with her sister, has falsely been given a reputation as a slut by those in her school, and, unlike Agnes, does not have a stable family. So, when she discovers that Erin is a lesbian, she is intrigued, if a little insensitive at first.
The bulk of the narrative concerns Erin’s attempts at coping with her homosexuality, but Moodysson also provides us with a snapshot of smalltown teenage ennui. The teens have nothing better to do than to sit around, waiting for night to come so they can get drunk, and/or have sex. This obviously leaves a lot of time for petty insults and peer pressure to build, which is the dominant them of the film, or rather, accepting difference, and not caving in to peer pressure. Continue reading
Richard Harris stars as a foreign entrepreneur, who ventures to Russia in 1885 with dreams of selling a new, experimental steam-driven timber harvester in the wilds of Siberia. Julia Ormond portrays his assistant, who falls in love with a young Russian officer, played by Russian star Oleg Menshikov, and spends the next 10 years perfecting the harvester and pursuing her love, who has been exiled to Siberia.
Europa (retitled Zentropa for the American release) is an hallucinatory Danish film set in postwar Germany. Jean-Marc Barr plays a young German who aspires for a job as a street conductor. But this is no mere “Joe Job;” Barr’s adventures on the line are designed as a metaphor for the emergence of the “New Europe” following the war. Barbara Sukowa costars as the daughter of a railroad magnate–and possible Nazi sympathizer. Many of the special-effects sequences are computer enhanced, but even the “live” scenes have an unsettling, surreal quality to them (colors changing abruptly, backgrounds shifting without warning, etc.) This experimental film left some viewers confused, which may be why English-language prints of Zentropa are narrated by Max Von Sydow. Continue reading