Monday, January 1, 2007

January 1st Log

2002, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

I decided to start the year off with one of my favorite films: Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away!! I absolutely love this film and repeat viewings only add to the pleasures this film brings to both cinema and life. I can’t justify my love for this film in words as I certainly rate it among the very greatest ever made (animation or otherwise). To me, this is absolutely one of the most perfect films ever made. Spirited Away is a rare film experience of creativity, imagination, thought-provoking storytelling, spiritual connection, and above all: art!

2005, Eric Khoo, Singapore
1st Viewing, DVD

I deeply applaud the minimalist nature of the filmmaking style and approach, however, ultimately this film is a bit disappointing simply because it’s emotional core is forced and often contrived. The minimalist style (featuring almost no dialogue) is presented with contradictive filmmaking. Also, director Eric Khoo weaves together three parallel stories with an uneven sense of narrative rhythm. I really like the themes and general idea behind the film, but it is made here with filmmaking that comes across rather inexperienced. There are moments of beauty and sadness as the film follows three separate stories of connection and loneliness: “Mean To Be” (which to me is the most effective of the three stories) about an old man who is alone after the death of his wife until he reads the autobiography of a deaf and blind woman; “Finding Love” which follows a lonely security guard who is in love with a woman in his building that does not know him; and “So In Love”, which follows the relationship of two teenage girls that meet online. The minimal dialogue helps express the loneliness and isolation of these stories and Be With Me is absorbing in that sense. Maybe I’m being unfair by thinking the film could have been better because (even if occasionally contrived) this film does have its moments. The “Meant To Be” story is really the one that is most involving and moving, and ultimately is the least forced.

1935, Busby Berkeley, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

The Gold Diggers of 1935 is the first film Busby Berkeley made as a director. Of course Berkeley’s involvement in choreographer and musical dance sequences date back to as early as 1930. Not only his first film as lone director, The Gold Diggers of 1935 may also stand as the darkest film Berkeley was ever associated with (at least of his celebrated musicals). Though hardly a sequel, The Gold Diggers of 1935 works like a follow-up to The Gold Diggers of 1933. While an inferior film to The Gold Diggers of 1993 (which I’d rate among the very best of its kind), this film does share its dazzlingly visuals and musical designs. Trademark Berkeley production numbers highlight the film (including the Oscar-winning climax sequence ‘Lullaby of Broadway’). This film is more cynical and probably heavy-handed then Berkeley’s earlier classics (The Gold Diggers of 1933, and 42nd Street), but the extravagance we’d expect is never lost. Berkeley never loses sight of the escapist quality of his most beloved work, and leaves a hopeful and happy ending for Depression-era audiences. With The Gold Diggers of 1935 Berkeley’s blends personal expression and cynical social satire with his quintessential dazzlingly dream-like escapist cinema to form another influential classic of 1930’s American film history. His filmmaking is a lost treasure in contemporary cinema and it remains a privilege to preserve and revisit Berkeley’s landmark impact of Hollywood filmmaking.


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