Monthly Archives: May 2015

Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

I guess you could say that Bong Joon-ho and Song Kang-ho led me to Park Chan-wook’s films. After seeing Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013), I looked up Song Kang-ho, who plays the security specialist. His performance led me to Bong Joon-ho’s The Host (2006), then Park Chan-wook’s I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006), and Stoker (2013). Of course, Park’s Oldboy (2003) was in there. Song Kang-ho stars in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Then I found out Oldboy is actually the second film in his Vengeance trilogy. Watched the first in the trilogy yesterday and immediately bumped Sympathy for Lady Vengeance to the top of my queue.

Vengeance Trilogy:

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

Oldboy (2003)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

Song Kang-ho:

Snowpiercer

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

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Fanny and Alexander (1982) 312 minute television version, Ingmar Bergman ★★★★★

AKA Fanny och Alexander. The Criterion Collection dvd box set (5 discs) includes both versions of this film: the cut down 188 minute theatrical version, and the original 312 minute (5.2 hour) 4 part television version, which it is said Bergman preferred. My dvd player showed each episode length to be:

episode 1: 92:32
episode 2: 75:01
episode 3: 56:51
episode 4: 83:43
total………..308+ minutes, 5.1 hours

Easily viewed if you watch an episode a day. I watched them in almost one sitting. I know what my next Barnes & Noble Criterion 50 percent off sale purchase will be!

The blu-ray box set has 3 discs, and you don’t get Bergman’s introduction to 11 of his films, and a selection of Bergman trailers.

From the opening scenes, after an almost Ozu series of outside shots, you are taken into the Ekdahl family home, and follow them through their journey until the final scene.

There are a few detours, many that are thanks to Uncle Isak, and Alexander himself, and later Ismael, Isak’s nephew’s brother.

Fanny and Alexander took 4 Academy Awards: Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, and Best Foreign Language Film.

Last week’s movies

Stoker (2013), Chan-wook Park

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), Olivier Assayas

Ex Machina (2015), Alex Garland

Starlet (2012), Sean Baker

Wild Tales (2014), Damian Szifron

Mommy (2014), Xavier Dolan

Maborosi (1995), Kore-eda Hirokazu

The Threepenny Opera (1931), Georg Wilhelm Pabst

The Threepenny Opera (1931), directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Criterion Collection two disc dvd from the local library. From the opening scene with the Mac the Knife song sung by the narrator, this was full of surprises for me. Each character is memorable, with easy to follow plot and motivation, regardless of having to read the subtitles. And the film is full of them. Suki Tawdry, Mackie Messer, even Jackie Brown! Lucy Brown didn’t make it from the play to the film. You get a Fritz Lang M feeling with the two factions tied by former WWI buddies. One of the best play to film translations. Supplements: The history and timeline behind how this film was made turned out to be fascinating.

Maborosi (1995), directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu

I have now seen all of Kore-eda Hirokazu’s feature films. It hasn’t been easy. Maborosi and Distance were particularly hard to find. Quite a few were non-region 1 dvds from Amazon.uk, and a couple from Amazon.jp. Maborosi Bandai region 2 was purchased used. Every one of them were 4 out of 5 stars or greater. I cannot wait for his latest, Our Little Sister (2015) aka Umimachi Diary (a Japanese josei manga (manga for women)), which I had just heard about today, and is selected for the Palme d’Or at 2015 Cannes. If I’m lucky enough to catch a limited release showing, this would be my first Kore-eda seen on the big screen.

Maborosi is easily recognizable as a Kore-eda Hirokazu film. One of his best, chock full of beautifully shot scenes and moments in time important only to those who live in his film. You see a bicycle being painted green, after he brings it home bragging about it’s acquisition, and she comes home with the paint. Much later, [spoiler]the boy runs off to see the bicycles and a neighbor says to her, does he remember his father much, how old was he? She replies, he was only 3 months old – cut to the bike he’s looking at and it’s green. [/ spoiler].

Mommy (2014), directed by Xavier Dolan

Received this on it’s dvd release date from netflix, brand new unused disc. I had seen this on many top 10 lists, and seeing it I can see why. There’s a feeling of watching a Dardenne brothers film, or Gus Van Sant. These are every day people who work, deal with problems, interact with neighbors and whatever agency whose radar they happen to fall under. The opening title card sets the tone of what is to follow. One of the scenes has no dialogue, just a succession of facial expressions, very reminiscent of Bob Hoskins’ final scene in the back of the car in The Long Good Friday, with a close up of his face, and the flood of emotions and recognition of every thing that has come to pass. Characters interacting with each other, with the world, within the confines of new laws, and their impact on them.

Wild Tales (2014), directed by Damian Szifron
Just happened to see this playing after checking ggl movies. Lucked out. One theater limited release, across town – I was there in 35 minutes. A series of 6 stories, none of which are connected that I could see. The first will be instantly recognizable due to recent events, unless you live under a rock. [spoiler]A quick check of dates shows Wild Tales was released in German January 8, 2015, and the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash was a couple months later on 24 March, 2015 [/ spoiler]. And that’s the first story. All of them are excellent.

Starlet (2012), directed by Sean Baker

Added to my queue after seeing it on a few top ten lists. Stars Dree Hemingway (daughter of Mariel Hemingway).

I like films following the working stiffs of the world. A few directors excel at this – definitely Aki Kaurismaki, The Dardenne brothers, of course, and Yasujiro Ozu, to name just a few.

The film opens on an image. You’re trying to make sense of it, and when it’s revealed, slowly but surely you’re introduced to the space and the situation. You follow the protagonist through her day and it’s not until later that you even learn what she does for a living. And you get a title sequence. I highly recommend going in to this film blind. I did recall one word on the netflix dvd sleeve – slacker. One of my favorite themes, for some odd reason.

[spoiler]There is one memorable scene where Jane’s clueless roommate tries to sabotage her relationship with Sadie, and the look that she gets is just perfect. [/ spoiler]

I’ll say one thing, this film is not for kids! But that is just a small part of the narrative, which fascinated me with each moment, each scene, every plot twist where you’re inwardly groaning and hoping and praying for a positive outcome. All the way to the end. After which I watched it again.

Ex Machina (2015), directed by Alex Garland

I initially wasn’t going to see this. I did my usual Ex Machina Ebert search and saw that Matt Zoller Seitz gave it 4 stars. Then it hit a few top 10 lists, and I was off to the movies. Ex Machina does not fit into the Marvel universe, nor was it advertised to. The plot gets going fast enough and from then on it builds to the conclusion. The process of how we get from here to there is what’s fascinating. A few flashbacks are seen by all characters in the form of security camera footage. There are a few distracting cgi scenes that are easily overlooked and ignored. The one scene to see comes toward the end, [spoiler]when you see the shadows of people waking. Then you realize after a second or two, you’re upside down, which is what she is, in the sun, outside of her womb, experiencing life amongst the living.[/ spoiler]. I would highly recommend seeing this for that scene alone.

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), directed by Olivier Assayas

Thanks to ggl movies once again, I knew that this opened in town on May 1 (about a couple weeks prior). What drew me to it was mostly the director, Olivier Assayas. I had recently seen a few of his films (Summer Hours (2008), and Cold Water (1994)). Clouds of Sils Maria reminded me more of his film Summer Hours, in which you follow members of a family through their life, where ever the story takes you – not to a mystery or waiting drama with life lessons or a moral tale – you see the story. His focus on the natural beauty of the journey is worth the price of the ticket. All you have to do is reflect on the titles of each film. When I saw Angela Winkler, who plays Rosa Melchior, I knew I saw her somewhere and then it hit me, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975).

Stoker (2013), directed by Chan-wook Park

Bumped this up my dvd queue after checking Chan-wook Park’s filmography after watching his 2006 film I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK. So I knew of his love of the use of cgi, and it’s less bothersome if it’s expected, I guess. Stars Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman. After Maps to the Stars, I find myself adding Mia films to my queue instead of the normal director driven additions. I had no idea where this film was going, and the mysterious opening scene is echoed at the end. Matthew Goode’s (The Immitation Game) character almost steals the show from the two female headliners. I still have to complete his Vengence trilogy, and will probably do so within the next week or so.

Starlet (2012), Sean Baker ★★★★

I think I added this to the queue after seeing it on a few top ten lists. Stars Dree Hemingway (daughter of Mariel Hemingway).

I like films following the working stiffs of the world. A few directors excel at this – definitely Aki Kaurismaki, The Dardenne brothers, of course, and Yasujiro Ozu, to name just a few.

The film opens on an image. You’re trying to make sense of it, and when it’s revealed, slowly but surely you’re introduced to the space and the situation. You follow the protagonist through her day and it’s not until later that you even learn what she does for a living. And you get a title sequence. I highly recommend going in to this film blind. I did recall one word on the netflix dvd sleeve – slacker. One of my favorite themes, for some odd reason.

[SPOILER]There is one memorable scene where Jane’s clueless roommate tries to sabotage her relationship with Sadie, and the look that she gets is just perfect.[/SPOILER]

I’ll say one thing, this film is not for kids! But that is just a small part of the narrative, which fascinated me with each moment, each scene, every plot twist where you’re inwardly groaning and hoping and praying for a positive outcome. All the way to the end. After which I watched it again.

I will be following Sean Baker’s films.

edit: Tangerine (2015) red band trailer, July 10, 2015 U.S.A. limited release…

An Autumn Afternoon, 1962, Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu? I just dropped everything to read this! Excellent review. I just watched this a couple Fridays ago – my log entry: 04.24.15 – An Autumn Afternoon (1962), Yasujiro Ozu 113 N (113 minutes, netflix dvd). iirc, I bumped it up my queue just for the fact that it had David Bordwell’s commentary. One of the best! I like recognizing actors from previous Ozu films (and Kurosawa’s!).

Criterion Close-Up

An Autumn Afternoon ended up being Ozu’s last film. While it is a shame we don’t have a few more Ozu films in color, this was a solid ending to a legendary and masterful career.

For those who have seen Ozu films, the style is completely familiar. It focuses on domestic issues, is shot from a low angle with a camera that never moves, has a somewhat slower pace, and speaks solemnly on the intricacies of life and relationships.

This transition shows an interior with signage in the exterior. This transition shows an interior with signage in the exterior.

transition 2

transition 3

Ozu has plenty to say about the contrast between modernity, technology, commercialism, and a nostalgic fondness for the way things were. This is mostly established by his clever use of transition shots. The character scenes take place almost exclusively on interior sets. The transitions between these scenes show both a commercially vibrant Tokyo with elaborate signage, and also a worn down…

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