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|SHADOWS ARTHOUSE FILMS ’04
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|BLUE GATE CROSSING
Kerou (Guey) is caught in a tricky love triangle. Her best friend Yuezhen (Liang) is a cute and bubbly hottie who suddenly goes painfully shy around the boy she has a crush on: the athletic swimmer Shihao (Chen). Eventually, Kerou can't take it anymore so she tells Shihao about Yuezhen's crush. But Shihao doesn't know Yuezhen ... and he starts to believe it's actually Kerou who's in love with him. All while he starts falling for her as well! Then finally Kerou confesses her own secret: that she's in love with Yuezhen.
Writer-director Yee captures the rhythms and emotions of being 17 years old. Beautifully filmed with a clever soundtrack and a minimalist screenplay, the film highlights the conflicting emotions--lust and timidity, ambition and anxiety, curiosity and confusion, a fear of intimacy and the even greater fear that we'll never be intimate. The story approaches its central conflict in an elegantly understated way as Kerou struggles with her emerging sexuality--she genuinely likes Zhihao and doesn't want to be attracted to girls, but she feels overwhelmed by it all. This is never remotely preachy or obvious; it offers no simplistic answers besides the wise conclusion that maybe maturity will eventually help us figure these things out (the title refers to the future person we'll become).
Performances are natural as well. Guey brings a nicely enigmatic tone to the reluctant, secretive Kerou. And Chen is a charming bundle of innocent physical energy. Liang has the trickier role as the airhead blind to what's really happening. And as the coach, Ming cleverly represents adult bafflement in the face of authentic teen angst. All of this makes the film sound heavy and over-serious, but it's not at all! This is bright, playful, even cheeky filmmaking that captures the teenager's mantra--"Life is unfair!"--with a rare sensitivity. [12 some themes] 17.May.04
We begin with an image of the earth as a watery planet, where most life exists under the seas. Leaping, racing dolphins serve as a host that connects the film's various segments. We see them diving into schools of fish to eat alongside sharks, birds and other predators. We watch killer whales stalk young seals and a baby grey whale (how politically incorrect are they?), polar bears trying to catch seals and beluga whales, and two coral reefs attacking each other like a scene from The Lord of the Rings. In between there are crabs, penguins, jellyfish and insanely freaky creatures from the deepest ocean depths, all going about the day-to-day business of survival. The only sign of human life is the tiny sub that takes us down into the dark trenches.
All of this is assembled with Gambon's mellifluous narration, which provides just enough background information so we know what we're watching, but not so much that we feel we're in school. And Fenton's accompanying score adds drama to the images (sometimes a bit too much, perhaps). The result is inventive and inspiring, and it really makes the most of amazing cinematography that puts us right into each scenario! There we are swimming with these tiny sardines as the shoal is decimated by predators from every side, we're trapped under the ice with belugas while a polar bear pounces on us from above, we're fighting for our lives when a family of orcas attacks us in the open sea. It's dramatic stuff, and the filmmakers startlingly bring to life the beauty and balance of nature, reminding us how important the ocean is to our survival on earth. [PG animal violence] 27.Apr.04
The first half of the film is lively and enticing, drawing us in with Denis Lenoir's sleek cinematography and Assayas' intriguing storytelling as we gradually learn more about what these people are up to. Then Assayas starts making things darker, more jittery, sexy and grisly, and extremely unsettling. His seductive shooting style shifts with Diane's moods, and Nielsen gives a wrenching performance as a control freak who's slowly being stripped of her ability to manage the world around her. The whole cast is fascinatingly enigmatic, continually surprising us with little (or not-so-little) revelations--a tiny look here, a bold action there. Sevigny and Berling are perfect in extremely tricky roles. Meanwhile, Assayas takes us from Japan to France to Mexico, blending manic action with scenes of mundane life that are almost overpoweringly loaded with subtext. By the end we're completely drained, trying to get to grips with the final truth Diane discovers, as well as the well-aimed gut-punch Assayas saves for the very end. There's not a particularly big twist, and at one point the film gets so confusing and repetitive that we lose the ability to care what's happening, but it's still a bracingly offbeat thriller. [18 strong themes, violence, sex, language] 30.Apr.04
Watching this with several close friends after a few drinks would help. In a normal cinema it's just too close to the bone to really generate laughs, even though it's constantly hilarious. Most of the humour consists of inside jokes about moviemaking and music fanatics, and watching these two losers turn into bad drunks is pretty excruciating! So when it all becomes suddenly very serious, it's quite a jolt ... because the guys don't change their behaviour to reflect their new reality. The performances are extremely clever and very real. Spence and Lawrence are especially good, cleverly bringing tiny shadings to Dean and Terry. Meanwhile, many side characters didn't know the documentary was a fake, and you can't tell who's real and who's acting.
But it's all too close to the bone, really. Generating laughter from alcoholism, wasted lives, terminal illness, fatherless children and sudden tragedy is very tricky business! There's an extremely fine line between bad taste and black satire, and this film pushes us right to the brink, only winning us over with a surprising dose of irony and emotion. But perhaps the real problem is that reality TV shows us people, not actors, saying things that are even more profoundly stupid than these guys! [15 themes, language, vulgarity, violence] 17.May.04
We know something's wrong with mob boss Ozaki (Aikawa) when he orders the assassination of a tiny terrier he's sure must be a "Yakuza attack dog". But when Minami (Hideki Sone) gets the order to "take Ozaki to the dump", he hesitates. The man may be nuts, but he's his mentor! When Minami reaches the town of Nagoya, which feels like the end of the road in more ways than one, things start to get very strange. Ozaki goes missing, Minami meets a series of increasingly offbeat strangers, and then a young woman (Yoshino) shows up claiming to be Ozaki himself.
The strange odyssey Minami takes is like a David Cronenberg movie based on a David Lynch script that's been doctored by the Farrelly brothers! In other words, it's pure Miike. The film is jammed with mind-boggling characters such as a sensitive guy with a half-white face (Hino), a mob boss (Ishibashi) with a thing for ladles, and a brother-sister innkeeper team (Harumi Sone and Tomita) for whom the word eccentric doesn't come close. The film is jammed with touches that are hysterically funny ... as well as gut-wrenchingly yucky. Meanwhile, the overall narrative may only make sense as a exploration of how Minami comes to terms with his sexuality. In this sense, Hideki Sone's performance is subtle and telling, which can't have been easy to do.
At over two hours, the film is far too long, and some of the scenes beyond the limits other directors would set for gruesomeness (the climax is unforgettable!). But this is extremely sure-handed filmmaking that's impossible to watch without squirming in our seats. And after watching all the bland stuff Hollywood cranks out, this is a blast of fresh air. Among other things. Ahem. [18 strong themes and grisliness, language, nudity, sex] 12.May.04
© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows
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