Monday, January 8, 2007

January 8th Log

2005, Mitsuo Yanagimachi, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

Who's Camus Anyway is a joy of a film for film lovers to experience. This is a film that evokes the spirit of maverick filmmaker Robert Altman from the very opening shot. In fact Altman's The Player is verbally and directly referenced in the opening shot, a nearly 7 minute shot over the opening credits that establishes the entire film: we are introduced to the many characters, get an understanding of how they are and what to expect, as well as a feeling for the films tone and setting. Once this moment cuts you've already been won over by the film and are aware of what a special film it is. The film takes place in and around a college film school and we see the early production of the students feature film. The film becomes a reflection on both this film-within-a-film as well as the entire setting of film school. Writer-director Mitsuo Yanagimachi gives as an Altman-esque view of the human interactivity both during and off production. The campus setting always seems alive with activity and life and each of these characters are so well drawn out that we understand them both as a collective group and as individuals. The director of the film in production (entitled The Bored Murderer) seems as lost at directing as he is with his girlfriend, who is constantly bothering him about marriage. His assistant is stuck in a love-hate relationship with him, while being pursued by both the cinematographer and lead actor. The film takes all these characters and complications and relations into contrast with the film that is in production. Ultimately Who's Camus Anyway intertwines the world of art and reality as if they are apart and purpose of one another (this is best expressed in the final moments when the shooting of the film is interchangeably intercut with the cast and crew). Who's Camus Anyway? is a film that is equally fun and charming (the race to the theater), and philosophical and surreal (the orchestra playing throughout the halls during a cigarette break). There is a mysterious undertone that lurks under the quirky surface of this film (and this feeling continues throughout the end credits, in which we see the cast and crew cleaning up the blood from the set).

2005, Wang Xiaoshuai, China
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Shanghai Dreams is a beautiful film. The film is really well made with themes and a simplistic style reminiscent of (at least on the surface) the great Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu in the way detailed compositions and space (through doorways and corridors) is used as an artistic expression of the filmmakers vision. This is the eighth feature film by Chinese filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai, who received international acclaim with his award-winning 2001 film Beijing Bicycle. The film centers around the story of a family from Shanghai that was forced to move out of the big city during the 1960s in order to provide a more vast population control. The emotional core of the film lies in the troubled relationship of a father and his teenage daughter. The daughter is struggling to find an identity and roots in her town because of her fathers dreams of returning to the big city of Shanghai. He regrets his choice to move and it has haunted him and his hopes of giving his family a life of more opportunities. This desire to return and regret of his decision consumes him so much that he doesn't realize the happiness his family holds in their new home. Ultimately these hidden feelings and communication results in tragedy (perhaps the gun shots heard at the end are a metaphor for the deconstruction of the family before entering Shanghai). The film represents a deeply political expression of China, a nation that struggled to find an identity during the 1980s and many families suffered with conflict in a forced area they did not want to be in. Of course, the film implies this political metaphor as a backdrop and in the most simplistic manner. The moving tale of the family is really what makes this such a special film. As does the visual recreation of 1980s Chinese time period. The set details, and costumes give the film a feel of nostalgia and an expression of the rebel without a cause youth atmosphere. Richly layered, subtle, and beautifully created Shanghai Dreams is an incredibly moving and important film.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home