It was only yesterday did I discover that the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park houses a most impressive collection of paintings running the gamut from movements like Romanticism, Post-Impressionism, Dada to Pointilism. ( Being able to recall these semantics, admittedly, credit must go to my Victoria School AEP teacher, who tormented us with lengthy essay assignments on art movements. ) Some noteworthy names included Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Tiepolo, Pollock, Rosetti, heck, they even had an El Greco. But certainly the highlight had to be the Delacroix ( housed in a quaint, original Delacroic frame ) even though the painting on display was a lesser known work I couldn’t remember, but standing in its presence where the master had worked his magic some 200 years ago still gives one considerable kick. Now all that’s left to do is to see Liberty Leading The People in Louvre.

Nov 6th 2004

As visual echoes of the lusciously photographed 2046 continue to course unbridled through my brain, threatening to inundate and flood out lesser, perceived inferior imagery, one lucid observation comes quickly to mind – Doyle and WKW have once again topped their personal standards of the brillant marriage of visuals and content. Pausing momentarily to evaluate recent chinese film history, with the exception of perhaps John Woo, ( with his gun totting, slow mo antics ) no director and DP have created film images so strong and intense in personal style that they are almost instantly recognizable as such. As Tony Leung converses with a character we could never see, often hidden behind a door or out of frame, we are at once cut off and unable to assert our presence, lessening the experience more akin to that of a voyeur. This motif continues from In The Mood and becomes ever more pervasive here, alienating our role as an unobtrusive, obscured viewer.

Watching 2046 gives the attuned moviegoer a collective chance of appreciating the best work of 3 masterful auteurs – Doyle, WKW and Tony Leung, all in excellent form, with the sum of their respective creative inputs culminating into a portmanteau work that is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Nov 1st 2004
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There’s an extraordinarily electrifying and exhilarating scene in Kazuaki Kiriya’s live action rendition of the anime Casshan: Robot Hunter, where the protaganist Tetsuya, having realized that he is the reborn warrior Casshern, lays complete and utter waste to an impending army of invasion robots without so much as breaking a sweat, in between looking devastating stylish and with his affection Luna tucked safely in his arms. The adrenaline rush can be likened to watching the finer moments of those antiquated Hong Kong kungfu flicks where the hero finally learns his skills and starts to kick some, only this is shot with tons more style and coupled with excellent music.

Having raised the bar to its apex hitherto however, the plot starts its descent into sanitized morality issues and lengthy, philosophical ramblings on the ravages of war, but with a fairly disjointed and convoluted narrative so far, one finds it hard to relate to any of the characters, much less their idealistic musings. My take would be to sit in for the stunning visuals, but leave the human ethics lessons at home.

Oct 23rd 2004

” How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d. ” — Alexander Pope

Not enough praises can be sung of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, indeed, though filmlovers familiar with screenwriter Kaufman’s work have come to expect much from his writings, the basis of which gave birth to bold and inventive works like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, none of them exhibits the sensitivity and romantic longing that envelops Eternal Sunshine “like a soft blanket on a chilly night”, quoting BFI’s Sight and Sound. This added emotional element raises the film to a higher plane where, bar entities devoid of feelings, makes anyone wonder about their memory backlogs and if Lacuna( really such a good idea.

Michel Gondry makes up a third of the triumvirate of genius minds, along with Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham, whom with their pool of vastly influential MTVs have undeniable shaped the look of the industry. Come the day when Cunningham embarks on his feature, the creative circle would then be complete.

Oct 13th 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.

Sep 24th 2004
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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.

Sep 19th 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.

Sep 11th 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.

Sep 5th 2004
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Sometimes there are moments in the course of one’s languid mundane life when a piece of music playing off the radio or amps immortalizes a particular, brief span of one’s life past, dizzying memories spinning back into your psyche, the zeitgeist rekindled. For filmmakers, animators and individuals working with moving visuals, the experience comes in the form of an unborn but lucid mise-en-scene, as yet defined but flushed with creative possibilites, its mood utterly defined by the music coursing through one’s consciousness. Track number 3 on the Nouvelle Vague CD is the latest additional to this family.

Now whatever filmwork that may be spurred on by this music is too early to say, but its definitely caught the attention. And if not, well, its still some great Bossanova music.

Aug 29th 2004
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I’m starting to get quite numb to the mini quakes that come and go every few other week, nasty little critters that start by rocking the foundations and then everything else begins shaking in tandem motion, pretty much like a wasted you on a swell PVD night at the disco, only more real. These days I keep telling myself if its not capable of dethroning my stopclock off the top of my monitor there’s no immediate need to evacuate. Takeshi+Kojima ups the ante by saying if it doesn’t wake them up ( the last one, most powerful to date, came on a morning about 3, with only me still awake but they were obviously unperturbed, ), its trivial. For someone who usually doesn’t rouse from my sleep unless I’m stabbed in the heart, that’s so very comforting.

Anyway, a planned trip to the sea today with Takeshi+Kojima was thwarted by an impending typhoon, Takeshi conjuring up vivid and graphic descriptions of my gaunt and frail figure getting carried away by the gales and my molecular structure getting re-arranged in the process. Maybe next time. We ended up hanging around Ebisu, Shibuya and Ueno. Click here for Takeshi+Kojima’s post.

Aug 27th 2004
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Kickstarting the 2nd installment of the Spiderman series with a montage of comic panels by the great artist Alex Ross was certainly a welcoming way to setup the right mood, prepping the audience for the story ahead, and despite in my opinion, parts of the film that suffered from a rather awkward pace of editing and several repetitive scenes that didn’t quite add additional value to the narrative, Spiderman 2 still scores pretty well with fantastically choreographed action sequences ( those who are somewhat familiar with CG, compositing and rotoscoping will have an idea just how much work was needed for the seamless integrated movement of Dr Oct’s tentacles ) and the ever enjoyable J.Jameson, Parker’s Daily Bugle boss spewing note-perfect, rapidfire caustic. Of course, “drowning” out a mini sun in the city’s river depths was laughably ridiculous.

Aug 16th 2004
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A night’s out cycling trip with Takeshi+Kojima had me realize that Tokyo Towers ( made notably famous by the serial OverTime ) was but a mere 30 minutes cycle away, which makes it nearer than Shinjuku from our place. Anyway we were enroute to a bookstore in Roppongi Hills, your posh, up culture living district of Tokyo where seemingly everything is wafted with a palpable feel of swank. Washed in inadequency I sank into the comfort of books, the joint a classy 24 hr Basheer+borders, only cooler, but the price of this boon is levied in the cost of the books. Next we walked over to Roppongi Hills Mori Towers, where the Japan Premiere of The Last Samurai was held. Here a 5 star-ish cinema stands and heck, if I am to pay 25 dollars for a movie, let it be here, not so much for its posh deco and feel but because I at least get to choose where I sit.

Oh and, Steam boy is showing right here.

Aug 15th 2004
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