Sunday, July 23, 2006

Movie Reviews

With a film festival, there will always come reflection on films, their qualities, the thoughts they inspire, as well, as well as reconsidering the reasons we choose particular movies, or watch movies at all.

Thus, here are my reviews and reflections on the three movies I have watched in the 2005 Auckland Film Festival.

Sympathy for Lady Vengence

This is the third in the Revenge trilogy, three independent movies based on retribution. After watching the previous two (Old Boy and Cut) I was awaiting another dose of plot trickery, kinetic action and general sadism. Regrettably, having such high expectations can lead to disappointment and regrettably this was the case here.

A woman is released after her 13 year prison sentence for the crime of kidnapping and murdering a young boy. The film sets out exactly how it was that her though innocent, was convicted and how she set about in her plans for vengence on the true perpetrator of the crime. Needless to say, a lot happens in between, it is rather tiring to decipher the relevance of it all.

Park Chanwook, the director, built on the bag of tricks used in the previous movies thatching together a complex cohesion of segments into this film. The time line, even more than ever, is shattered and we are given fragments from various times, while the main segment proceeds.

Amelie-esque whimsy is often used frequently with daydreams, fantasies, and general trickery used within the general flow. At times, this is a pleasant break, at other times it is disorienting, not knowing what is really true. Did it happen? We might never know.

The ending was the weakest point, lengthy and removing the significance from the preceding journey. She discovers vengence is not hers to deliver, and this is drawn out further and further. And then in an ambiguous segment (is it true or is it fantasy), the film ends.

The Science of Sleep

Stephane is a wildly creative person, a dreamer, if you will. But dreams, and their separation from reality can make life difficult, especially for a fool in love, and even more so for the object of his affection. This film is one of the most amazingly creative movies I have seen. Almost half of it is conducted in the confines of Stephane's imaginative brain revealing his desires and doubts. He is plagued mercilessly by his suspicions that Stephanie, whom he was besotted, really loves him and is not attracted to another.

Strangely, a lot of my criticisms for the last movie are strong points of this movie, showing it is delivery rather than the tools itself. The jumps from fact to fantasy could have been confusing, but we grasp the frustrations of Stephane even more strongly - this was clearly intended. The trickery too is the nature of the film.

I'm quite familiar with work of the director, Michael Gondry. He has done several movies notably The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and memorable for me is the Bjork music videos he has done (Bachelorette, Human Behaviour, Army of Me). Some scenes even directly recall them to mind. He has even done an acclaimed music video for the NZ band Stereogram.

In many ways, the dreams sequences are realisations of a wickedly kinetic music video. The soundtrack often kicks in during the dreams too complementing the weirdness of the dreams. The effects are eyepopping. Huge hands, cardboard cars, an antique toy horse charging around a field. The dialogues are littered with wordplay and language fun (done in three different languages, but mostly English). Almost the whole cast are oddballs, with the exception of Stephane's mother and housekeeper.

Overall, it was a ball. Highly recommended by me. A review of Drawing Restraint 9 will follow my viewing of it on Monday.

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