Thursday, March 8, 2007

March 8th Log

2006, Richard Linklater, United Kingdom / United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Fast Food Nation is an ambitious and thought-provoking film that leaves the viewer with different levels of emotion. It starts off a bit slow, but it builds up facts about the fecal-matter inside the hamburger meat before exploding into a gutsy and enraging look at a country consumed by a corporate world. Politically the film speaks openly and honestly without attacking any of the characters. The enemy here is the system and the machines, and Fast Food Nation is unflinching and angry in its social messages. The film really excels through the second half, particularly beginning with a trademark Richard Linklater moment with Ethan Hawke. By the end, the film raises so much thought and questions to ponder long afterwards, including what is probably the most unforgettable part of the film as we are taken through a tour of the “kill” area leading into a heartbreaking close-up of Catalina Sandino Moreno (the beautiful actress from Maria Full of Grace). Fast Food Nation then leaves us with a bleak after thought as we see the corporate cycle leading us back to the beginning (expressed with a freeze frame shot that connects with the films opening image). While the ending moments are unforgettable, the films most powerful scene may be that of a heard of cows refusing to move at the chance of being set free. Always a terrific filmmaker, Richard Linklater has made a highly ambitious film that takes us through all the aspects (both big and most especially the small usually ignored) of exactly how the fast food is served. It is a film that listens and sympathizes with everyone involved in this corporate process, through wonderfully detailed characters and intelligently written material. Fast Food Nation is a film that takes a look at a nation under a system machine, but it does so with humanity and with important, thought-provoking questions.

2005, Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan / China / France
Repeat Viewing, DVD

The films of Tsai Ming-liang leave me speechless. He is absolutely one of my favorite filmmakers in the world today. I believe all seven of his feature films to be masterpieces, particularly his last two films (Goodbye Dragon Inn and What Time Is It There). His latest film (a follow-up to What Time Is It There and his short film The Skywalk Is Gone), The Wayward Cloud is not quite a masterpiece, but it remains another wonderful film from a visionary filmmaker. The Wayward Cloud is a film that manages to recall the work of Michelangelo Antonioni, Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati, as well as a blend of old Hollywood musicals. This film finds Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) returning home from Paris where she re-meets the former watch seller Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) and the two begin a relationship. Hsiao-kang is no longer selling watches, but he is now an actor in porno films. Tsai's obsession with water continues, as now Taiwan is suffering through a water drought and the government is encouraging people to use watermelon as a substitute. Tsai visual style is evident from the start, as are his reoccurring themes of loneliness, alienation, and lack of communication or connection. Also evident is Tsai's quintessential use of static camera work, extended takes, visual symbolism and slapstick humor, and little very dialogue. As with his brilliant 1998 film Hole, Tsai blends in extravagant, colorful, and strange but beautiful musical sequences to capture some of the internal emotions and thoughts of the characters. The Wayward Cloud may be Tsai's most disturbing film, capped off by an uncomfortable final shot. Many will disregard the film or misjudge it as pornographic, yet this film is far less about pornography then it is about human feelings. Tsai uses the pornography and sex to capture the themes of loneliness, disconnected love, and sexual frustration between the two leads. This may be my least favorite film among Tsai's many masterworks, but the Wayward Cloud is a complex, thought-provoking and quiet work of art from one of cinema's greatest visionary filmmakers.


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