Mar 4, 2010

Forward and Upward!

Hello all!
I’m more than happy to say that I have made the move to
Eiga has been and still is amazing but I have so much more to write about so I went ahead and created a space where all of passions reside. Stop by and say hi especially now that I’m working on my 305 days, 305 films project.
Hope to read/see/talk to all of you!


Jan 19, 2010

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Let me tell you about why Lady Vengeance is one of the greatest films ever made. I say this over and over again, something magnificent happens when watching East Asian cinema, especially Korean cinema. Even more specifically are the masterpieces of Chan-wook Park. After all, he is responsible for why this cinematic romance started, when I wrote about Thirst. Film makers in East Asian cinema are able to communicate with me through so many other means than the spoken dialogue. That is exactly it: the films are so much more than just a script that’s being read. It is so beautiful, so inspiring. I wish there were other words that are not so trite for maybe then you might side with me and understand what it’s like to watch a film like Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I feel that now, certain words are used more often which in turns takes away the sincerity of those particular words. Enough about this though. Let me tell you about why Lady Vengeance is one of the greatest films ever made. The moment the opening credits roll, you enter a place where art is created so rapidly you enter a trance, as if you are in a museum where all these pieces are thrown into one place and in a most excellent way! Maybe it’s the whites and reds splattered with the addictive sounds that got me hooked from the very first second.

Revenge is best served very very very (and yes one more) very slowly. It is best you take your time planning it. Thus there is no better place for someone to plan revenge than from prison. We’re introduced to the kind hearted Lee Geum-ja when we see her coming out of prison. You think “she found the light after living the unbearable life behind bars”. After serving her term, she comes out greeted by a singing group organized by a local preacher who helped Geum-ja find God. He is holding a plate of white tofu so she could get the “white” start she deserves and never sin again. You know what, “why don’t you go screw yourself”.

Geum-ja has other plans than the ones people have for her. Her plans involve inflicting unimaginable pain on someone we are introduced to later on. The way we learn her story is done by shifting scenes from her time in prison, meeting fellow inmates that will help her accomplish her plans, to the present time where she’s finally preparing to fulfill her ultimate goal. This is as much as I will tell you about the plot for I do not wish to spoil the fun of this extraordinary story. One more thing, there will be blood. A lot of blood. That, and horror, action, mystery, heartbreak, romance and a delicious dash of comedy.

The soundtrack is nothing short of stunning. It controls the speed that your heart beats. An entire scene might be empty of action but the music is showing you bullets and car chases in landmine-filled war zones.  One thing that I appreciate in music that happens in Lady Vengeance's soundtrack is the repetition of the same notes in different scenes- it allows those scenes to form a relationship with each other.

In many parts of the film, when the characters are talking to Geum-ja they are positioned in a confession style, addressing the camera directly. It enables you to read the honesty in their faces but at the same time unable to solve the mystery of Geum-ja since you are seeing these scenes in the first person perspective, occupying the same space she is. This perspective is reinforced by the constant repetition of  “you’ve changed” being fired to Geum-ja by people who thought they knew her in the past.

Lady Vengeance is done very beautifully. I sometimes forget how gory it is because at the same time it is incredibly beautiful. It’s the white snow, tofu and cake. It’s the red eye shadow, blood and wallpaper.  It’s the black leather trench coat, table and gun. The green desks, the brown walls and the blue clothes. It all comes together and creates this masterpiece that is Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

There’s a film that’s very widely known: The Matrix. In this film people are transformed into a parallel reality by means of a plug in their heads. The moment a thick heavy wire is plugged into someone's head he or she is immediately taken to an alternate reality and able to exist in it. Something similar happens as soon as Lady Vengeance starts- for these two hours I exist in an alternate reality and no other one exists for me.

Unfortunately, there have been talks about possibly making an American remake. That’s extremely disappointing. Now is your chance! Go see it; it’ll do you some good.

Dec 22, 2009

An Education

In life, when you try to take shortcuts it will likely not go well. That's what we learn from watching An Education. This is a story of a master manipulator. A story about being young and wanting to run off with more experience that your young soul can handle. It was painted with lovely music, smiles and giggles. It reminded me of being young and so full of naive love. There is also much betrayal and deceit in this film. Even better, it's filled with the intoxicating voices of Brenda Lee, Beth Rowley and Juliette Greco as the soundtrack. I would have to give my biggest musical mention to Duffy's Smoke Without Fire. It might be one of the best finales of a film I have ever heard.

Peter Sarsgaard has always been a favorite of mine. He is perfect playing the villain. If there were a villain that you feel bad for, it would be David, the character played by Peter Sarsgaard. Many people might think that David is a horrible person, deserveing to rot in his posh car or get arrested for his immoral dealings. I, on the other hand, have surrendered to David's flawless and charismatic manipulation skills and I am ready to defend him against anyone who thinks he should live in misery. You can hate him all you want but deep down you know he has gotten hold of your untouchable insides and can control you any way he pleases. I can't help but laugh at the admiration I came to have for David but that is the appeal of his character. He is really really really good at making the audience think that he is a good man who fell victim to some unlucky misfortunate events. 

You become entrapped in this fairy tail of a young girl played by Carey Mulligan who does a superb job playing Jenny. She teaches us that no matter how smart we think we are, we are never that smart. Jenny is a smart girl who have what appears to be a bright future ahead of her. Until she meets David, the man who promises everything she ever admired in the future. A future that's so far away but is very reachable because of David. He delivers on what he promises. He doesn't fool her into going in a dark dirty room and devour her innocence. At least not until he takes her to fabulous places- the most of fabulous places. Paris.

Jenny's parents demonstrate that the responsibility of raising a child and how incredibly difficult and burdensome it is. You realize that you can't blame them for letting this happen to their daughter. We are all inclinded to make mistakes in life. Even if that mistake is letting Jenny run around with a man more than twice her age while she is still in high-school.

Thanks to the great casting of Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike the story is told with a sophisticated elegance. Along with Sally Hawkins who had a very short yet powerful scene. Can't help but think that Helen, played by Pike, may have been the only one that really understood the rules of engagement. Through out the film she is made fun of by people surrounding her due to her lack of smarts but when it comes down to it, she realizes who she is, who her company is and any consequences resulting from her actions, whether negative or positive. 

At times, An Education feels schizophrenic. So many different aspects of the characters are being buried then resurfaced then buried then resurfaced again. But this is what real people are like. We are continually fighting against our urges,what we think we should do, what we think other people should do and what we think what the right thing is. Go see it, it'll do you some good.

Oct 18, 2009


I believe that most of our lives go on unplanned. As much organizing and effort one puts into having a straight line from point A to point B, most of the time, line has lots of curves and waves. If you did have a straight line, then the points you can stop at between A and B are infinite. Or so my math teacher taught me.

For me, a very important stop happened when I needed an elective and the only class offered was a photography class. What on Earth am I going to learn at a photography class?! I learned things I wish to never forget. My professor once told me, when she was in France, she witnessed something that she did not expect. Artists there are treated like doctors and lawyers. With so much respect and admiration. I was reminded of that by director Nicolas Saada when he said something very similar. He said "by declaring yourself an artist you are removing yourself from the class system".

SPY(ies) (or Espion(s) in French market) tricks you into believing you are going to be watching an action flick. The kind of film with lots of gun shots, Bourne like fighting and blood gushing out of everywhere and everyone. It is certainly not that. It is something so much better.

Just like what I thought about my life, the characters of this film think that the distance from point A to B is limited to the stops they chose to make but realize that things almost always go unplanned.

I am still amazed at the speed my heart was pounding during a scene where Guillaume's character, Vincent, was engaged in nothing but a walk down a well lit and well populated London street. It was as if I was undergoing a magic trick. The tension Saada was able to create without falling into the trap of the "action/thriller" stereotype is a true mark of talented director. I look forward to seeing more of his work.

SPY(ies) essentially starts where every action film does but the more you dive into the story the further you are from where it began. In places here and there you can smell the intoxicating dark scent of film noir.

You are confronted and taken aback by the honesty of the reason Vincent's decisions are being made through out the film. They are not motivated by his greed, his loyalty to his country or even fear of his life's cessation. He does what he does for Claire. For the love he has for a woman. A part very well played by Geraldine Pailhas. I remember watching the first time they kiss and how effortless and cool (for a lack of a better word) the entire sequence looked. There was a type of passion I haven't witnessed before. If there was a comparison to be made it would be a graceful ballerina dancing on an extremely hot bed of coal.

There are "bad guys" in films, that you just hate. After all, they are going after the good guy that you are rooting for. There are ones you love to hate, almost admire secretly; think Hannibal Lecter. Malik, did not seem to fit either category. His honesty about the type of man he is prevents me from showing any hatred towards him. He tells you very soon after you meet him that he "does not know any nice people". He knows who he is and does not care how his actions will affect your opinions of him.

Spy(ies) is about the kind of romantic story that transforms your heart in to a Nascar racing track. The art direction does not disappoint at all either accompanied by a great score. The film ends with the kind of hopeful glimpse into the future that leads to believe that fairy tales do exist. See it, it will do you some good.

Oct 14, 2009

A Place of One's Own

I have two entries, one for Plastic City and another for Raging Sun, Raging Sky. I wrote them, read them and rewrote them again and still was not satisfied for what I have given birth to. Just like any sensible parent would do, I hid them away from the world so no one would be see them. I was not sure why I wasn't happy with the results...until tonight.

Passion did not ignite inside my soul for Plastic and Raging and I concluded that that is the reason that I did not want to celebrate and write about them like I did with Thirst.

Tonight was different. Like going on a first date and not being able to go to bed because of the adrenaline in your bloodstream. I have had the pleasure of witnessing A Place of One's Own. A film about the lives of people struggling to find a place that they can belong to. I believe that I could spend a great deal of time and space writing about each character and the corresponding part of my life to it. Growing up, as most people do, I was never able to look at my parents point of view. How they looked at the world differed greatly than the way I looked at it. One of the things that this film allowed me was to see my entire family's (as well as other people with me) interactions being played out in front of me and appreciate how everything turned out to be because of that difference of thought process.

There is the origami master living on a mountain, creating origami for people to take with to the after life. He is also preparing one to make for himself since he found out he may die soon. Along with him lives his wife, a cemetery keeper with the ability to talk to dead people. There is also the son who looks at the world in a very simple-minded manner; however, that does not prevent him for being caring and reponsible.

A rock star who is struggling to make a comeback return while struggling with the fact that his love interest/former band member is attracting more success than he is.

Two brothers who try to deal with their father's close proximity to death. Their coping mechanisms differ while maintaining the same amount of love and compassion towards their father.

The characters show the kind of genuine personalities often lacking in films. A lot of times actors will fall in the trap of just merely acting out the lines. As good as they may be, they are still just acting. The sincerity these characters displayed made me think that I'm listening to an old man's tale of his pasts and his wisdom.

All of that and add great cinematography and you have A Place of One's Own. I have always admired Asian Cinema when it comes to making visually stunning films. The way they play with colors and ability to transition smoothly from one scene to another always fascinated me. I'm not talking about some cliché adding of red colored walls to symbolize anger. It goes on much deeper and more complex level than that. On some level, this film examined the paradox of people living the majority of their lives preparing for their death.
Good film with the right amount of comic relief. Go see it, it'll do you some good.

Oct 10, 2009

Chicago International Film Fest.

Last night I wondered, decades from now, when I am gone, how will people think of films made during my time. Are people going to look at them the same way I looked at Citizen Kane; “a great movie for its time but it’s a good thing I only had to watch it once and it took me 3 days to watch it”? With a sense of appreciation for what it represented at the time but a sense of relief not to have to talk about what exactly it did represent?

Great cinematography seems to be the common thread, or I hope it is, of the films I have decided to see this year at the Chicago International Film Fest. After seeing Thirst I have come to the conclusion that great cinematography is what draws me more than anything to a certain picture…or one of the most important elements of why I appreciate a film. Because I know that if cinematography is all that mattered, I would have fallen in love with Citizen Kane. Yes, cinematography is important but so are other aspects. Think of it as the cliché example of body systems working together, if you are having a hard time grasping the idea. Better yet, the perfect proportions for ingredients yield the best long island iced tea. Those few drops of that special ingredient make it the last thing you would want to drink before your death bed.

It is no doubt that almost every film screening at the festival is extraordinary. What I am looking for is that extra special thing that will make it a little taller than the other guys standing in a crowded train.

Here are the names of the movies I am attending. I am not including any other information on them. I will try my best to review as I go and provide you my thoughts.I tried to skip any American films knowing that I will have the pleasure of seeing them in few months once they are out in theaters here. It is harder to get hold of a foreign picture.

  • Eastern Plays
  • Plastic City
  • Raging Sun, Raging Sun
  • Give Me Your Hand
  • A Place of One’s Own
  • Claustrophobia
  • Shorts: Escape/Rebellion
  • Spy(ies)
  • Shorts: Animation Nations
  • Air Doll
  • Will Not Stop There
  • Dear Doctor
  • Persecution

Aug 14, 2009

Thirst aka Bakjwi

They say that it is always better in horror movies to leave things to the imagination of the viewer- to hide certain details from the audience in order to tickle their sense of imagination, dip into their fears and let that give birth to their darkest thoughts.

That was not the case when I watched Bakjwi, under the American title Thirst. Now playing at select theaters near you. Seems like the film makers did not want to spare you any details. There WILL be blood in this film and you WILL try to look away.

I have always been a fan of Korean cinema. After all, it did give birth to what may be my favorite film, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Thirst, honorably followed that track of fantastic cinema.

I haven't seen many vampire movies but I can tell you than none of them would have a priest who happens to be a vampire who happens to be in love with a women who happens to be married. I could tell you more about what else other vampire movies lack in relation to Thirst but I would be giving out too many details and I would like not to deprive you of the pleasure of witnessing it first hand. It really does examine the rise and fall of what we call desire/lust/love and it's very comical outcomes. Oddly enough, reminds me of Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I have to say that my favorite actor would have to be Ok Vin Kim. Her portrayal of Tae-joo as, what seems to me, a childish/afraid/happy/adventurer/Sexy/lustful/beautiful/strong/weak/loved/loving woman is just spectacular!

Have I mentioned the great cinematography? At times it honestly felt like the two characters were completely alone in the room. Speed, angles and transition made for an utterly mesmerizing, visually enticing film. Go watch it on the big screen before it's late and you have to wait for DVD release.

Thank you to my younger-than-i-am-senpai for proof reading above. Go check him out, he's got the goods.