Archive for September, 2004

The Royal Tenenbaums

Posted By yonghow on September 24th, 2004

Wes Anderson’s audaciously eccentric The Royal Tenenbaums, though clearly not suited for all tastes, joins the ranks of films ( Hu Jinho’s One Fine Spring Day been another ) that when given a second viewing, garners a considerably deeper dimension and quality.

Perhaps upon initial viewing in the theatres during its cinematic run I had yet to acquire a nuanced taste for Anderson’s bizzare narrative style, but this time round the excellent performance of the actors, with their outrageously hilarious dialogues had me laughing out maybe too loudly. Coupled with an eclectic soundtrack, beautifully executed art direction and photography, this is one unforgettable film. With the Criterion edition dvd going for just 16.39, its impossible to pass this up.

Watch out for his next feature, The Life Aquatic.

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Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence

Posted By yonghow on September 19th, 2004

In the climatic showdown from Mamoru Oshii’s original Ghost In The Shell, Major Motoko Kusanagi confronts the cyberhacker Puppetmaster codenamed 2501, under the aegis of a formidable Type X10-er crab tank. This intense and impactful battle within the “floating museum”, coupled with Kenji Kawai’s haunting score is remembered as one of recent anime’s most memorable scenes.

Innocence, though retaining most of the prequel’s characters, embarks on a different storyline, this time told through the travails of Bateau and Togusa, both looking even more stoned than in the original. The film, now augmented with considerably more 3D shots, introduces sleeker mecha designs and stunning sets, while still keeping up with superb 2D animated characters. ( the quality varies at times, one thinks this might have to do with sub-outs for different animation houses ) Though not nearly matching the first film’s brilliance, the weaker finale is alleviated in part by Motoko’s return, whose “ghost” have been drifting in the network eversince her union with the Puppetmaster. Worth a look just for the visuals alone.

Meguro’s Summer Matsuri

Posted By yonghow on September 11th, 2004

Not unlike the Pasar Malam we have at home, Tokyo’s Meguro version of the bazzar ( called Matsuri, ie festival ) substitutes your local Kueh TuTu’s and glassjelly assorted drinks with Takoyaki and Yakiniku stalls. Though missing the accompanying fairground that usually pairs with the Pasar Malam, the Masturi offers Kingyosukui – the goldfish scoop. The workings are austere; you pay 300 yen in exchange for a paper scoop – and you’re free to scoop as many goldfishes as you like off a shallow tray – if you are good enough.

Takeshi and I had a field time watching this small little girl dressed in Yutaka attempting a bountiful catch, where she had 3 sizable goldfishes up against her scoop, her eyes lighting up momentarily till the combined weight tore through the thin paper. Kojima-chan laughs and adds the ambitious girl’s going make it big when she grows up.

House of Flying Daggers

Posted By yonghow on September 5th, 2004

At the outset, Zhang Yimou’s latest wuxia film House of Flying Daggers ( simply named Lovers here in Japan ) is a delightful visual treat – everything is just so beautifully photographed, from the flowy, opulent garbs adorned by the courtesans, with hues so intense the colours threaten to bleed off the screen, the rich, smooth tones of skin worn by the actors, bloodied nose notwithstanding, and the quintessential bamboo forest battle, drapped in a lush, misty green tint, just to name a few hightlights. In fact, one can probably argue that the director and DOP ( Zhang Xiaoding, who also shot the brilliant film Spring Subway ) spent more effort in prettying up the sets and characters than even the last grandiose work Hero.

Having said all these, it becomes all the more painful that the story fails on so many grounds, undermining the fantastic cinematography and what the film could have ultimately been. Perhaps it was a blessing that I was able to watch this amidst the proprieties of the Japanese, for I wager the singapore crowd would have had zero tolerance for any hammy spectacles, filling the cinema with uproarious laughter.

On a side note, my taiwanese friends were quick to quip that Andy Lau has been finding it hard to shake off his undercover woes ever since Infernal Affairs.

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