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