Sunday, February 11, 2007

February 11th Log

2006, Pang Ho Cheung, Hong Kong

1st Viewing, DVD

Isabella works best as a character film. It starts off a bit incoherent but as we learn and discover more about these characters an intimate bound begins to develop and the emotional story effectively moves along. The film is beautifully shot and composed. Sometimes the visual look gives the film an artificial and stagy feeling, but the strength of the characters and the performances really hold it all together. This is the fifth film from director Pang Ho Cheung. I have not seen any of his work, but Pang has won high acclaim and awards in Hong Kong. Here he captures a feeling and mood, while letting the storytelling and drama develop through the characterization of his leads (a suspended police officer and a young girl he picks up one night and later claims to be his daughter). They are portrayed with top-notch performances by Chapman To and Isabella Leung. Despite a seemingly twisted storyline, Isabella is a sweet and touching film that is quite accessible for a wide rage of audiences. Featuring a stunning musical score and cinematography Isabella is a flawed yet engrossing film in portraying the relationship of its characters as well as a spiritual and cultural reflection of Macao.

1949, Otto Preminger, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Directed by a master of noir, Otto Preminger, Whirlpool remains an overlooked film of cinema. Perhaps it's the rather strange plot of psycho analyzing and hypnosis. Sure much of this film has some implausibility to it, however, the strength lies in it's characterization and it's visual or emotional mood. That's the true beauty of noir, capturing a mood or atmosphere through imagery and characters. Visually, much of Whirlpool has a unique noir style (glamorous), yet contains dark human psychological complexities of morals, pressure, and marriage. Preminger's direction perfectly works with Ben Hect's wonderful script. And of course, Gene Tierney (one of my all-time favorite actresses) is a presence to behold. Tierney starred in four films for Preminger (3 of which are noirs), and here she combines her sheer glamorous and stunning beauty with an innocence, confusion, haunting, and hypnotic sense of the character. Preminger is a versatile filmmaker who masters noir. He doesn't make conventional noir films, but defined the style or genre with a rare, and ambitious vision, and for that is ultimately a quintessential noir filmmaker. Because of it's obscurities or improbabilities, Whirlpool will never be mentioned among Preminger's masterpieces, but it remains one of my personal favorites. "Nice to have a wife come home to you."


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