A deeply sensual melodrama that pulsates with affect and burns with unbridled desire until the aesthetics of violence and conflict take hold. Social constructs and material realities of the flesh have no bearing on the heart despite the material threat they present. What Ratnam achieves with Bombay is just masterful, managing to be deeply affecting and endearing in its melodrama while elucidating the sheer scale of destruction reaped by intolerance. The film's constructions of violence are just as expressive and affecting as its sensual love story, the diametrically opposed nature of love and hate has perhaps never been so poignantly expressed. At its core, Bombay is a film that believes in humankind's proclivities towards empathy and understanding - this is surely a film that is a potent reminder of how great Melodrama can be, a bonafide masterpiece as far as I'm concerned.
At its onset The Deserted City is imbued with an ethereal beauty, the idyllic "Venice of Japan" feels deeply pure and warm. The romanticism slowly fades away, the facade reveals itself, and the deep-seated trauma begins to come into focus. Obayashi's The Deserted City is like walking into a ghost story halfway through; An elegy of rural life and a pensive study of memory that delivers an emotional wallop through a tonal framework built more around mystery than melodrama. A truly haunting experience that slowly and methodically reveals itself, The Deserted City beautifully juxtaposes the spatiality of the rural environment and the interiority of small-town dynamics against the externality of modernity and permanence and unequivocal power of time itself. Sometimes our memories are not deceptive but informative documents towards our past failings, transgressions, triumphs - Obayashi's film itself offers a curious and considered evocation on just that.
Feels like a dream, or better yet, a vivid nightmare. The high contrast black and white aesthetic projects a myriad of lucid imagery which at times borders on otherworldly. The formal style is as precise and accomplished as one would expect, crafting a truly unique vision from a general conception that is familiar. A seedy, impressionistic crime thriller that lives in the dirt, dealing with themes related to the fine-line between order and chaos, the aesthetics of violence as it pertains to retributive justice, and the malleability of the human psyche when confronted with abject depravity in a cruel and unforgiving world. This is one mean thriller that manages to be emotionally effective due in large part to its distinct characterizations and how it exhibits their interconnectivity. The serial killer is merely a device deployed to elucidate such themes, a manifestation of evil which is largely faceless yet it is suggested that he too perhaps is sculpted by his experience which drove him towards such unrestrained violence. No character goes unscathed, and ultimately Limbo suggests in a sense that we as people are all just victims of the cruelty of our environment, some are just more malleable than others, and yet it ultimately we as individuals are autonomous and have the freedom to choice to be better and it is never too late to do so. Forgiveness is the path to righteousness and living an morally and ethically just life. I don't know, this film is richer than some seem to suggest and perhaps in time I'll form more clear and concise thoughts on this one.
Exudes an ethereal quality that fully embraces the nostalgia-infused euphoria of post-war Americana often recalled in modern times. The film's formal style is playful, exuding the pastiche of post-war consumerism/advertising and embracing, unequivocally, the optimism of the American dream only to reveal it as a deception over the course of its narrative - a façade in a sense to indoctrinate the American public to believe what they are told and stay in line with the interests of the industrialists. The synthesis of the state and capital, a symbiotic relationship built around power that suppresses innovation and entrepreneurship unless it suits their interests is rather explicitly expressed. The story of Preston Tucker feels personal to Coppola, one which he probably finds somewhat relatable given his struggles in the studio system. Vittorio Storaro's cinematography is stunning. A very accessible film that ends in a jovial fashion but under this façade is a biting subtext. Don't consider this a lesser Coppola but one that deserves more attention.
A harrowing familial drama with allegorical intentions about the collective identity of Hong Kong post-1997 handover. There are a lot of ways to interpret this film, and the text itself is an effective drama that is wonderfully rendered, but subtextually it is so ripe for investigation, being in my eyes a commentary on the people of Hong Kong themselves as they attempt to find a new identity, between their familiar, colonial past and their foreign, PRC present. Perhaps a little long in the tooth, but it's a strikingly effective work that deploys anachronistic editing to perfection, accentuating the ontological struggle within that is beautifully matched by the expressivity of the performances, particularly by Aaron Kwok who delivers a truly wonderful and layered performance.
"People nowadays are opportunities". A stark, sprawling portrait of Manila that draws a strict dichotomy between what individuals say and what they do. An amorphous plot exhibits the socially ingrained nature of the big city, where deception is commonplace, born out of desperation or conditioning due, in part, to its diasporic origins. Perpetual stagnation, souls adrift, a film ripe with melodrama that doesn't quite form a cohesive experience but one which exudes a panoply of emotions that never shows disdain for its depraved characters, in part recognizing they are victims of their environment and the larger socio-political forces at play that make deception a necessity for survival. Somehow, in the end, the film, despite its proclivities towards portraying the stark conditions, remains hopeful that individuals can forge their own, virtuous path. Also, a worthy addition to "all men are pigs" canon lol
"That peasant has gone mad" A Tsui Hark film that feels very much like an extension of some of the Hui brothers' work. Extremely political but not in a way that is didactic or forceful, Working Class instead utilizes farce to elucidate the absurdities of this system and its false promises towards labor; serfdom hasn't been abolished by merely repositioned - sworn loyalty to a lord is merely replaced by the same expectations from the managerial class in a rapidly booming Hong Kong. The anarchical nature of our main protagonists, their actions represent an implicit refusal to conform to the social order presented in front of them, is not a rejection of labor or hard work but a rejection of the inequalities and subjugation which the newly formed managerial class wields. In many ways, Samuel Hui's character intro says so much about the film's intentions in the opening few minutes. Arriving to be the hero at a competitive soccer game in the streets of Hong Kong, His chiseled physique illustrating his life is one of constant action, movement, and work; The vast skyscrapers brought by capital in a booming economy lurk in the background, hanging over the workers as they compete. I know a lot of people consider this to be a lesser Tsui Hark, and perhaps it does feel out of character in some ways for the filmmaker, but Working Class really does align with the filmmaker's familiar conceptions related to the anarchism intrinsic to living and rejection of the status quo or social order defined through authority, Tsui just deploys farce to make his point this time around.
Evokes the pervasiveness of American culture and transnational consumerism through immersion. A film about cultural identity and societal dissonance told through a working-class prism, Chilsu and Mansu is a rich work that uses a charming and seemingly free-flowing narrative - one that effectively lulls the viewer to sleep early on with its charm only to ultimately deliver a powerful ode to the people of Korea in a time when cultural homogeneity was performatively projected and cultural identity was becoming analogous to that of American culture. Revealing the deceptive facade of social harmony in South Korea during the epoch, Chilsu and Mansu is a rally-cry in its denouement, and in retrospect, the film feels very strategic in how it begins tonally, almost as if to suggest the filmmakers knew they had to indoctrinate the audience before delivering their biting social-political critique. Deploying an almost operatic approach in which romance feels within reach and odd couple type sensitivities between Chilsu and Mansu provide lots of charm, Chilsu and Mansu creeps towards its more heavy ideals, though one thing that remains consistent from beginning to end is how American culture both through imagery and diegetic sound is embedded throughout the film's formal design.
A cleverly constructed crime romp. The screenplay is what really stands out here, being complex but never convoluted, as it interweaves multiple characters into a familiar but distinct tale. Oscillating between gnarly violence, farcical humor, and dramatic resolve, Beasts Clawing at Straws' script is wonderfully assured and quite efficient. The directorial vision aims for aesthetic vibrancy, deploying a neon-soaked color palette that is clean, and colorful. It's far from distinctive visually but the aesthetic ultimately serves the tonal and thematic elements of the film well. Money corrupts; Every character in this film is effectively out for themselves and attempting to escape their world through the promise of what money can grant them. Far from an overt social critique, Beast's primary intent rests in delivering an engaging narrative but given the film's farcical elements and jovial attentiveness for abject violence, there is little doubt about its thematic subtextual intent related to the pervasive effect the economic-political apparatus has on the social.
Featuring a rich, layered text, Koji Fukada The Real Thing delivers a singular and subversive love story that offers a lively and biting critique of the repression intrinsic to Japanese social order and the pernicious effects it can place on the individual and collective psyche. Wonderfully unraveling with a sense of unease and emotional effectiveness at how it captures affection and longing, The Real Thing exhibits an acute understanding of the pervasive nature repression has placed on the collective identity of Japan, subtle in the way it details the strife it causes as it permeates throughout various facets of society. What begins as what almost amounts to a quirky love story about a boy seeking a sense of adventure and the oddball woman he can't seem to forget quickly transforms into a layered story of trauma, one that offers a grandiose, provocative critique of Japanese society and its inability to confront the toxicity it creates through its avoidance of social conflict, personal pain, and emotional honesty. The Social performance intrinsic to Japanese society, the external persona vs. the internal struggle - This obfuscation of pain or trauma feels very much a central theme of The Real Thing. Whether it be general mental health, the subservience of femininity to masculine desire, or how fragility itself is perceived as pejorative, the repression of trauma both physical and mental is of major significance throughout The Real Thing which elucidates how this order and stability projected by collective expectation is largely a mirage that restricts social healing and the acceptance of the struggle that is day-to-day living. Neglect of feeling for the sake of production. Emotions can often be illogical, affect painfully unquantifiable, yet they are paramount to our sense of being. The tropes of the modern romance film are repositioned and wielded with great utility, suggesting that the impulse towards love, the self-sacrifice it entails is by definition illogical, being in a sense at odds with the Japanese expectation of stoic production but absolute paramount to our internal desire for connection. A complex, wonderfully distinctive work that is masterfully told, The Real Thing is emotionally resonant and intellectually rigorous, a film which I can't imagine I won't return to repeatedly as it's ripe with subtext worthy of continuous investigation.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.