Archive for July, 2002

Spring Subway

Posted By yonghow on July 14th, 2002

Talk about serendipity. This evening me and evil rei meet for a China film festival show at GV Grand ( review below ). Upon reaching the ticketing booth, we meet our ex coursemates Dajie and Mak, who coincidentally were there for the same show too. But the fortuity didn’t end there. It was upon collecting of the tickets did we all realize that I had been the person who had phone ordered the tickets just before they did ( bearing consecutive order numbers ) and even more surprisely, that their seats were just next to ours. phew.

I must admit; I really had reservations about watching China films – granted all the propaganda shows that dealt with revolutionary ideas and insidious, subverting ideals of social echelon. Besides, other than the noted Zhang Yimou, my lexicon of China movies is incredibly limited, which may also be the cause of my bias. But all these seemed to have been erased overnight with the viewing of the stylistically filmed Spring Subway by Zhang Yibai. Not only was the plotline concerned with the most comtemporary of social issues, which immediately relates itself to the modern population and audience, but the most striking note was that it didn’t even feel like a China made movie : indeed; only when the narration of the protaganists starts, that unmistakable Beijing accent seeping in do you realize that hey, China films have a brand new look. Whilst the main storyline is simply enough – the plotline revolves around the strained relationship of a young couple whom first arrived on the shores of Beijing via the Subway ( which is also where many of the scenes will take place ), their isolated lifes are juxtaposed by the foibles of other subway denizens met by Jian Bin, the male lead, culmulating in a sorta haphazard, mosiac-styled visual narrative that is sometimes a little hard to follow, yet quaintly refreshing. What is ultimately more important ( and impressive ) is how this simple story is told by the most beautiful cinematic devices, with tight, unobtrusive editing, judiciously framed shots that accentuated the feel of each scene, plus extremely neat camera work and lighting. The memorable soundtrack wrapped up everything into a neat package that i’ve never once experienced in a China film. If this calibre of work is the look and feel of China movies, bring them on.

Spring Subway is still screening at the China film festival till the 19th of July. Go to http://www.chinafilmfest.com for screening dates.

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Musa

Posted By yonghow on July 4th, 2002

The Korean epic period film Musa was reputed to be the single most expensive domestic release ever made. It had just the right elements for a grand epic – the right settings; hauntingly beautiful expanses of pastel deserts and whirling sandstorms, stellar casts; ie Zhang Ziyi and dashing korean actors. However as the film progressed slowly it soon became clear that the massive budget seemed to have been split entirely on the gorgeously designed costumes worn by the cast, ( which the least to say seemed historically accurate and extremely pretty ), and the extraneous amounts of red dye shipped in for the excessive bloodletting that the camera somehow had an extreme predilection for. Sure, ancient battles were waged with metal against metal, and when the honed blades found raw flesh, bloodshedding inevitable occurs, but once past 20 minutes into the show you’ve seen it all, yet the camera relentlessly centres on severed limbs and gorged torsos that very much got in the way of decent story telling.

Not that there was much of a story to begin with. The plot stood so weak it could well have faded without trace into the sand dunes of the sets. A group of diplomatic envoys escorted by dozen Koryo warriors from Korea was dispatched to China to clear the misunderstanding when a Ming official was killed in korea, where the ramifications could be catastro…blah blah blah. However the envoys were very quickly decimated mistakenly by either marauding Yuan troops bent on reviving their dynasty or by equally unreasonable Mongolian tribes that had a clear disdain for the Han folks. Inconsequential so far ? Rope in a Han princess in distress saved by the remaining Koryo warriors bent on escorting her to safety and it crashes the already absymal plot. Far removed from her butt kicking moves in CTHD, Zhang barely irritates her assailants with rude stares and harsh language, with zero opportunity for any display of her laudable thespian skills. Coupled with the male Korean lead that maintains a deadpan expression throughout the entire movie ( albeit with a fanciful spear stance that fails completely to awe after 2 repetitions ), the only redeemable acting was by a veteran Koryo archer that mediated internal conflicts with tacit, wise words and took out enemies with his all powerful shooting. I hadn’t the foggies idea why Straits Times gave it four stars, to me it didn’t deserve any more than 2. This is one Korean movie that will be swept into obscurity as quickly as the countless warriors that lay motionless in the transient sands of the desert.

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