American buddy-cop film infused with HK action sensibilities - the hype around this one is largely real! The formal style perfectly encapsulates the ethos of Hong Kong action cinema, delivering a highly dynamic display of kineticism that is inscribed with buddy-cop comedic flourishes that are uniquely American. Structurally a road movie, Drive is just an enjoyable romp that feels far from formulaic due to its proclivities for outre moments along the way - Brittney Murphy's whole character haha, including this characterization is from from structural, bordering on inconsequential, yet it's a irresistibly absurd performance and welcome addition that matches the heightened nature of this film's whole aura. Pre-dating Rush Hour by a year, there are some interesting comparisons to be had, yet they are very different, with Drive being far more attuned to the chaotic energy that makes Hong Kong cinema so irresistible. A lot of fun.
Masahiro Shinoda & Shūji Terayama construct one gonzo experience that is perhaps best described as an elevated, hitman musical infused with dark comedy. Deploying Mod-pop aesthetics, the general conception is simple yet malleable to Shinoda's penchant for formal panache, providing the director with ample opportunities to construct a stylish, striking, singular aesthetic. The pacing of the film is lackadaisical but feels intentionally so, investigating the peculiarities of these characters while building a distinct world. A memorable 60s effort that features some of Shinoda's familiar themes around societal corruption & the youth's rejection of the status quo. I would imagine this one will get better on repeat viewings and honestly, I'm shocked this isn't more of a cult hit. One has gotta love this time in Japanese cinema where filmmakers were effectively given carte blanche. Oh, I also like how the one hit girl has a pet-goat.
An exquisitely crafted familial drama that is economically constructed and extremely efficient in its dramatic resolve. The simplicity of its conception has little bearing on just how immersive this film manages to become, with The Killing of Two Lovers deploying a rigorous cinematic grammar that manages to be extremely effective emotionally yet methodical in the way it constructs and exhibits the interiority of its central protagonist. The formal style deployed here is deeply immersive visual and auditory experience; Tactical in how it elicits the tumultuous state of this man through the use of an aesthetic that is both intimate yet cold, and foreboding. Matching this precise directorial vision is a staggeringly effective lead performance by Clayne Crawford. Emotional distance is palpable, the lack of control one has over something they care so deeply about is utterly devastating and felt in every frame. Oscillating between tight, restrictive visual compositions that enunciate the intimacy of this story with wider compositions that evoke the cold emptiness this man feels deep in his bones, The Killing of Two Lovers is an extremely effective work and for my money, one of the best American films I've seen so far this year.
Tam's Love Massacre is one of the more singular deployments of the horror genre I've ever experienced, infusing European impressionist aesthetic sensibilities - the cold precise aesthetics of Antonioni & the color/vibrancy of Godard - with that lean narrative form of the slasher film to deliver a singular vision ripe for inquiry and interpretation related to the male ego, diaspora, and environment-induced nihilism. A transfixing deconstruction of wealthy, diasporic ennui, Love Massacre is in a sense antithetical to Tam's Nomad in the way violence and destruction feels inevitable - the cold, aesthetic deployed here consistently evoking a sense of detachment and alienation that is palpable and uneasy. Love Massacre is in a sense of a deeply nihilistic film, one in which the dissolution of the male ego towards violence is palpable and even inevitable. In desperate need of restoration, Love Massacre is a bit indiscernible, yet it remains a deeply entrancing experience in which Tam's directorial prowess is on full display and I'd love to see a version of this film in which I could accurately decipher just how good it truly is.
A beautifully constructed character piece full of pensive atmospherics, Wood and Water deploys a formal style deeply rooted in meditative expressivity as it aims to elucidate the sense of existential longing often inflicted on the older generation as they move towards the final stage of their life. Following a woman, as she reflects on her familial past and distorted present after retirement, Wood and Water is a story of identity and the parental void, as it subtly exhibits how in the transnational exchange of commodities and bodies, the old have been devalued, having no prescribed, societal utility after they've retired and fulfilled their social obligation as parents. There are moments in this film I found to be striking and deeply affecting, yet I don't think it quite manages to completely succeed on the emotional level it strives for. Nonetheless, I found myself consistently captivated and enamored by its pensive cinematic grammar and directorial precision. I think it touches on a lot of interesting themes related to modernity, globalism, and how we construct our identities. Wood and Water exhibits the pernicious effects neglect of the old can have on their sense of purpose. Contemporary life devalues them and while Wood and Water is deeply melancholic it ultimately offers a sense of hope related to human consciousness, exhibiting a belief in the human spirit's ability to be malleable and reflexive to external societal forces. It is through intimate social interaction in which learn and forge new paths within our own identity, life being a wonderous but continuous struggle to sculpt ourselves in a way that moves us progressively towards happiness.
Depicts the pervasive effects the proliferation of the online environment has placed on human interaction and adolescent identity formation in a singular construction that subverts any simplistic notions of genre. The interconnectivity of communication brought forth by technology is part genuine, part abstraction - it's not a supplement to in-person social interaction. Dysphoria is investigated through a singular vision. The body and mind, our physical and mental identities, are malleable entities perpetually sculpted by scientific and technological advancement, in which the externalities themselves are not consistently clear.
One of the most mesmerizing distillations of youth ever constructed, and so much more, Patrick Tam's Nomad is a revelatory look at modern society that masterfully wields the right-of-passage motif to deliver a subversive, precisely crafted investigation into existential notions of what it means to live. The foundations of modernity are ones of conditioning, and what Nomad does so effectively and distinctly with the right of passage motif is he posits society itself as the flawed enterprise instead of placing the blame on vague notions of naivety, inexperience, or progressive growth afforded to youth during their transition. The abrupt tonal shift is intentionally disorienting but extremely effective, and in the denouement, Tam's thematic aims come into focus. The problem is structural - society and the way it has been constructed lends itself to pain and conflict and has become far too far removed from our foundational impulse - love/longing/pleasure. Tam's Nomad questions whether subjugation by economic and socially constructed arenas made us lose sight of how we truly want to live. The search for utopia, in a sense. The more films of Patrick Tam I experience, the more I question how a filmmaker this spectacular has largely been forgotten (at best) or ignored.
A social-realist drama that deploys a distinct formal style rooted in movement and observation, Pebbles is an impeccably well-crafted film that traverses a story of familial strife and Internalized anger to deliver a curious and confident work ripe for investigations into the tangled relationship between internal notions of choice and the external conditions which define them. Impeccably crafted, Pebbles is a highly visceral experience that one doesn't tend to see from a film with social realist aims. Its narrative is simple, the familial relations somewhat opaque, yet the formal style deployed here is rigorous, as it attempts to construct a mature story of familial violence purveyed through an expansive lens of understanding in which the personal, social, and environmental are intertwined. The tumultuous relationship between a deeply combustible father and his despondent son detailed here isn't rooted in moral judgment but observation, as if to suggest that while this father's actions are heinous and unjustified, they are not singular or unique but a result of the harsh conditions of this environment -Internalized pain externally expressed through rage and violence. Pebbles is astute in how it navigates such complexities, never justifying this man's rage-filled temperament while simultaneously aiming at grander notions of understanding that go well beyond vague notions of agency and personal responsibility
An appealing conception centered around the mid-life crisis archetype, Vinterberg's Another Round is an intriguing foray into personal stagnation and the ennui associated with diurnal rhythms yet I found its dramatic aims to be ultimately too prescriptive and predictable. Mads Mikkelsen elevates this film substantially and at its best, Another Round captures the importance of seeking pleasure in experience despite the monolithic milieu intrinsic to modern day-to-day life and yet it becomes entangled far too much in a moral dilemma that isn't earned. How the film details the perilous nature of Alcoholism ultimately relies on a level of didactic scolding that just feels unnecessary, coercively grafting hardline dramatics onto a story that would have been better served as an ethereal investigation into the necessity for internal equilibrium between pleasure and responsibility
The existential search for meaning. How we construct notions of truth and conceptualize existence in an attempt to obfuscate our collective anxiety and our utter lack of control over mortality. An end-of-the-world story rarely has such a light, tender touch, as Kurosawa interlays aspects of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Starman into a narrative framework in which the thematic aims are deeply rooted in larger existential concerns. Deploying a bifurcated narrative, Before We Vanish manages to invoke a sense of dread, unease, and danger while still providing existential inquiry and emotional poignancy. Kurosawa's formal mastery is perhaps a bit subdued but still prevalent, and tonally the film just carries a lightness to it that is hard to qualify, intentionally lacking the same sense of dread-induction one tends to expect from the great Japanese filmmaker. Managing to effectively excavate the complexities of living through its end-of-the-world motif, Before We Vanish is a fascinating and singular treatment of a familiar story construct
Love of all things cinema brought me here.