More about movies….

Lately I have been doing more about movies than anything else, I mean things outside my job, not within the scope of my job although the line can be really gray. I am spending a lot of time on Go as well, doing problems and going through some recent game records. I hardly listen to Mahler nowadays, except on Sunday mornings. Talking about Mahler, he is getting more and more popular these days with the creative types. The latest movie, as far as I know, where Mahler was mentioned was in “Melinda and Melinda”, Woody Allen’s flick last year. Interesting movie this, and we see Woody Allen emerging again after a rather dark period.

I am quite proud of Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC), for their effort in promoting non-mainstream films via their International Screens and for their effort in organising and promoting film festivals, such as the current French Film Festival and the coming Japanese Film Festival.

I am looking forward very much to the Japanese Film Festival which will take place from the 16th to the 19th of June 2005 in Kuala Lumpur and from 8th to 10th July in Penang. The programming is good, among the films featured are “Village of Dreams” (1996) that got an award in Berlin, “The Taste of Tea” (2004) (if this reminds you of Ozu’s “Flavour of Green Tea over Rice”, I think it’s probably intended to be so) and above all, Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953). I still believe my friend when he told me many years back, that every citizen of Earth should at least watch “Tokyo Story” once. I watched it more than once on DVD but am dying to watch it on the big screen. This is the second year that GSC held this festival. Last year, they featured Ozu’s “Early Spring” and “Twilight Samurai” , among others. If Roger Ebert is to be believed, he said, sooner or later, all lovers of films will come to Ozu.

Tokyo Story

Besides providing funding to filmakers, I really do think that the government should support the exhibitors who participate in promoting the appreciation of films. The whole equation (borrowing from David Thompson’s book title) involves everything from getting the ideas onto the celluloid/optical disc to showing them to people. Neglecting them and anything else in between, or pouring money on just the origination aspect of it, will not optimise the return on investment for the money the government has put into encouraging and promoting a better film industry and a better film culture.

Movies watched in the past two days:

1. “Memories of Murder” (2003) – Korea. Based on a true event that happened in the late 1980s, this movie is a mix of comedy, suspense-thriller and social document. It tells of a serial murder-rapist in a small rural province in South Korea, who apparently enjoys his evil ways a lot and thinks the police are a dumb bunch. The movie revolves around two cops, a rural cop played excellently by Song Kang-ho (despite his not so “winter-sonata” look, he is an excellent actor, appearing in such good movies as “Joint Security Area” (JSA), “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and more recently, “The President’s Barber”) and a cop from Seoul played equally well by Kim Sang-kyung. The movie began very much like a comedy, with cops picking up all the “wrong” suspects and torturing them into submission but the pace picked up and became more intriguing as the cops struggled to find the suspect, and already 8 girls have became victim. The 9th girl is a victim of the political unrest during that period – militaristic rule, the wiping out of “the enemies of the state”, etc. In one scene, the female police is smart enough to find out what ticks the murderer but the government could not send more police to assist on that fateful night when the crime was anticipated as they were sent to control demonstration crowds. The movie ended without telling us who the murderer is (in real life, the murderer is still at large) but the process of finding that is excellent cinema. The final shot on Song Kang-ho’s face when he chanced upon a small clue, many years after the incident and now a salesman, is worth very much of the price you paid to watch this movie. This is Bong Joon-ho’s second movie.

When released, the movie sold almost 5.3million tickets. This is a lot when the average number of tickets sold nationwide for a Korean movie is about 1.8million in 2003. The best selling foreign movie in 2003 in Korea was “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King” and that sold about 3.9million tickets only.

2. “Love Battlefield” (2004) – Hong Kong. Is this a gangster movie? Is this a romantic drama? Gangster movie yes. Romantic drama also yes. But after Empire magazine (in their May 2005 issue) defined what is meant by gangster, perhaps these few punks cannot be called gangsters. Anyways, I think it is an absolute good investigation on the nature of love. Romantic love that is. I have always felt that romantic love, if you take sex out of the equation, is not very much different from say, brotherly, or filial love. Love is you care very much about the other person although all your physical actions do not cry that out loud. The more true the love, the more quiet it is physically. At least that is what I believe. Ok, ok….enough of what I think although this is my blog, I cannot over-indulge….. coming back to this movie.

Like Song Kang-ho, Eason Chan is not the “winter-sonata”, handsome Daniel Wu, Takeshi Kaneshiro type. But he is a good actor. He is versatile and natural. This movie investigates his love for his girlfriend (played by Niki Chow) and vice versa. The movie started by telling us how they knew each other, and then how time destroys all fun and excitement and fireworks in their life when things became more mundane, more routine. They tried to revitalise the relationship, try to re-create the fireworks by planning for vacations and outings etc. but of course, they can only become worse. Then one fateful morning when they are to board for vacation, Eason lost his car, and found out later that it was stolen by some very fierce and animalistic gangsters from….. well,….. Malaysia. The gangsters kidnapped him and the rest of the movie tells how Niki searched for him. They found each other finally, and rediscovered the stuff love is made of but it was a bit too late……

Not only was the relationship between Eason and Niki examined, so was the relationship between the chief gangster and his wife. Two very different world, but the love is just the same. The director successfully conveyed the small nuances in a relationship, how couples quarrel over very small things and how they made up again and all these are very real, and happens all the time in real life. Not some punk falling in love at first sight and then fireworks and then sink to the bottom of the sea….. hhmmm….. well….. I don’t know about other people, but this I am personally touched. Like after I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, or “Before Sunset”. Something like that…..

Love Battlefield

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