Vive l’amour

Dir. Tsai Ming-Liang
I had to think if this really was the first Tsai Ming-Liang film I’ve seen.
I don’t count the first 10 minutes of The River I caught on The International Channel after I started taping it (I then misplaced the tape, forgetting to label it). And I don’t count the numerous articles I’ve read on him. I think because I’ve seen many a Hou Hsiao Hsien film and a few Edward Yang films, that I knew in advance how to prepare for Tsai’s films. And I was right.
Like Hou and Yang, Tsai believes in long takes, objective views, elliptical storytelling. He gives you just enough info to keep you going, then near the end of the film you realize you’ve been given so much that you know more than you thought about the characters. (Compare this to many a H’wood film where people blather on and on and by the end of the film we still don’t know who these people are).
Vive l’Amour is a film about three alienated characters in a alienating city (Taipei) trying to connect and finding it hard to do so. The film sets up a early dichotomy between sex and death: the lonely Hsiao Kang (Kang-Sheng Lee) sells columbria (spaces in a crematorium) and when we first meet him he tries to commit suicide; May (Kuei-Mei Yang) sells real estate (big boxes for the living) and when we first meet her she meets and shags a night-market salesman, Ah-Jung (Chao-jung Chen). That these three people are all using this empty space (one of her sale properties) as a temporary location (Hsiao-Kang stole a misplaced key to get in) leads to a strange love triangle (Hsiao is gay and unlike May’s relationship, engages in conversation with Ah-Jung). The movie is full of empty spaces, one-sided conversations, hidden emotions, and lonely distances. The film ends on a daring long take, which demonstrates Yang’s talent as an actress, and how much she trusts the director.
Tsai also has a very subtle sense of humor, and in such a sad and lonely film manages to eak out some laughs (Ah-Jung falling on his ass when he hears somebody coming in the apartment, Ah-Jung later crawling out from under the bed, when the camera placement has us focused on the open doorway).
(Jessica was slightly bored by the film, but perked up in a scene where May eats at a “stinky tofu” stall. We had to stop the film and make some late-night snacks due to it.)
The DVD is by those foul anti-movie brigands Fox Lorber who have been producing careless transfers from many years now. How can one company be so consistently crap, I don’t know. No extras, burned in subtitles, less than crisp image, with some murky black and some artifacts. I wonder if an Asian version would be better?
By the way, there’s a nice essay on Tsai over at Senses of Cinema from which I nicked the photo.

Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade

Dir. Hiroyuki Okiura
“From the makers of Ghost in the Shell!” says the DVD box,
but, they don’t mention, not from the mind of Masamune Shirow (the manga creator). What looked to be a tech, sci-fi thing, turns out to be a psychological drama between a sort of Special Ops soldier in a fascist future Japan, the memory of the teenage girl terrorist who blows herself up in front of him, and the living sister who looks like her (a la Vertigo) who may or may not be linked to the underground movement. Apart from the alterna-history design to the film (it’s set in a Tokyo that stopped evolving its architecture and automobiles around the 1950s, and spent all its money on the police force, what with the Nazis pulling out and the country battling terrorists) there wasn’t too much reason for it to be an anime. (My friend Jon says that it’s purely the economics of the Japanese film industry).
It’s a nicely reserved film, and builds to a satisfactory twist ending that only amplifies the despair throughout. Maybe anime is the medium from which to deal with political issues (my fuzzy memory of Patlabor 2 reminds me of how intelligent that film’s politics were, able to deal with sociological issues behind the mask of sci-fi action) and my above statement on shooting in anime is wrong. One thing that lets the film down is its reliance on rotoscoping, which let off the malodorous air of Ralph Bakshi. Tracing the real doesn’t make things look real.

Vegans, Reloaded

A vegan’s response to The Matrix. (The bad guy eats Matrix steak; the good guys eat…what do they eat?)

Animal rights, Ecological Determinism and The Matrix.
As a vegan, I’m often confronted with various versions of this theory nonetheless, and even before the first Matrix movie was made, I used to ask my carnivorous interlocutors if manifestly more intelligent creatures would be justified in eating us. A similar argument is posited on one level by the two opening Matrix films. Presented with a world where humans are controlled by machines that are manifestly more intelligent than us, we are repelled, at least most of us are. It’s a film that strives on one level to put us in the position that we put animals in at the moment.

By way of 24fps

The Most Tedious of Things

You may have noticed a few things changing around the blogs on this site. If not, I’ll point them out anyway. Each blog will have its appropriate links: Spires will feature political links, Stone Cold Pimpin’ will feature links to other blogs of note, including my friends, Recordshelf will have music links, and so on.
I’m also getting all the archives in place, setting up talkbacks and counters for all, and will be throwing out the links page (for obvious reasons). Lastly, I want to get the “writing” page up and running, getting all my writing up online. If only I made enough money from said writing where I could pay someone else to do it!
Stay tuned for changes and possible news of me investigating the white slavery underground, where I may discover some cheap temp workers.

Completely stoopid on several levels

Okay, not as funny as the time I mistook a human head for bacon (though by now I think that particular Denny’s should have gone out of business!), but this is one of the few times that art has made a criminal repent.

BBC NEWS: Bacon mistaken for human head
Police have apologised to an artist after raiding his home when an artwork made out of bacon was mistaken for a human head.
Richard Morrison, 37, of Wavertree, Liverpool, returned home to find his door had been kicked in by police with a search warrant.
They had been acting on a tip off from a criminal who had broken into the artist’s home just days earlier.
He told officer he had seen a human head in Mr Morrison’s house.
But it was in fact a mask made from rashers of bacon, stored in formaldehyde.

By way of Haddock Directory

Lennon vs. Lenin

Oy! Again with the Russians. Here’s an interesting look by historian Mikhail Safanov of how the Beatles brought down the Soviet Union.

Guardian Unlimited: Confessions of a Soviet moptop
During a chess match between Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov in the 1980s, the two grandmasters were each asked to name their favourite composer. The orthodox communist Karpov replied: ‘Alexander Pakhmutov, Laureate of the Lenin Komsomol award’. The freethinking Kasparov answered: ‘John Lennon.’

He Thought He Had It All…

By chance, we continue in our Hollywood theme of unsung heroes, with this feature on Don La Fontaine, the most famous voice-over artist you didn’t know the name of. Don who? you may ask. Three words, baby: “In a world…”

Golden Voice
The lights dim. The trailer begins. “In a world beyond imagination…” No matter what the film, one man is always featured – only one man – alongside Arnold, Bruce and Sly. You never see him. But you know his voice: breathy, deep, sonorous, ominous. Don La Fontaine is the most successful, most ubiquitous voice-over actor working in show business promotion today. And although his agent, Steve Tisherman, is hesitant to reveal Don’s salary, cinema’s golden voice reluctantly admits that he is, in fact, “a millionaire…several times over.”

By way of Creative Generalist


You may think you’ve never heard the Wilhelm Scream but you have: since 1951, when some Hollywood sound engineer recorded an anonymous actor screaming in three different flavors, the “Wilhelm Scream” has been used in movies ever since as everybody’s favorite sound of anonymous death. The Wilhelm Scream site is devoted to cataloging Sir Wilhelm of Scream’s numerous appearances. (Most recent: “Dell Computers – PC Dreams” TV Commercial (May 2003): One of the Dell Interns is repeatedly dropped through a trap door in a dream about how Dell computers are tested.”)
Once you hear it, you’ll keep on hearing it!
By way of J-Walk

Doctor decapitated by faulty elevator at hospital

So this stuff really does happen. I’ve often wondered if it could. Now I just run and jump into elevators when they arrive. Or take the stairs.

Doctor decapitated by faulty elevator at hospital
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Doctor was driven by compassion for indigent
An aspiring missionary doctor, who was voted by medical school classmates as the epitome of a good physician, was killed Saturday at Christus St. Joseph Hospital when an elevator malfunctioned, decapitating him, authorities said.
Hitoshi Nikaidoh, 35, of Dallas, a surgical resident at the hospital at 1919 La Branch, was stepping onto a second-floor elevator in the main building around 9:30 a.m. when the doors closed, pinning his shoulders, said Harold Jordan, an investigator with the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office. The elevator car then moved upward, severing the doctor’s head, Jordan said.

Worse is that his co-worker was inside the elevator when it happened and had to stay in there with the head for an extended period before rescue workers could get her out. Brrrr.