Thursday, March 24, 2005

Movie mania

So many movies, so little time...(L-R): Appleseed, Cafe Lumiere, Tokyo Godfathers

The S'pore International Fim Fest is back again! I look forward to the filmfest every year. Not only is the movie selection fun, I like going to the movie theatre and spotting old classmates I haven't seen in ages. Events such as these (besides 1-for-1 nights at the Wine Bar) tend to bring them out. I have already gotten my little booklet and pored over all the movies I want to watch. Someone on the committee is obviously an anime freak as the opening and closing movies of this year are both animes. Perhaps anime is becoming mainstream? Unfortunately, at $21 a pop, I'm not shelling out that much money to catch something I can easily get on DVD (or download hurhur) later.

Being the kan cheong people that we are and afraid that they will sell out, my friends and I have already bought tickets to Appleseed and Tokyo Godfathers. So that takes care of our anime fix. These are the other movies I'm interested in catching:

Café Lumiere - Café Lumière is Hou Hsiao-hsien’s beautiful homage to Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story) on the centenary of the Japanese filmmaker’s birth. Freelance writer Yoko (Yo Hitoto, of mixed Taiwanese-Japanese parentage) has returned home to Takasaki from Taiwan and is researching the life of 1930’s Taiwanese singer Jiang Ewn-Ye. She lives with her uncle and maintains a relationship with her divorced father and his new wife. But the real source of comfort and empathy comes from bookstore owner Hajime (Tadanobu Asano, Last Life in the Universe and Vital, featured in SIFF 2004). Hajime and Yoko share a profound, ambiguously defined friendship. Furthermore, Yoko’s father and those around her are taken aback to discover that she is pregnant and quietly attempt to understand her decision to enter motherhood on her own. Naturalistic in its tone and subtly rendered, Hou’s elegiac film is a wonderfully rendered tribute to the Japanese master.

Wilby Wonderful - Featuring a stellar ensemble cast of Canada’s most talented actors including Sandra Oh, James Allodi, Maury Chaykin and Paul Gross, Wilby Wonderful is the tale of an eccentric little community on Wilby island who are threatened by scandals that rock their world to the foundations. Duck MacDonald (Callum Keith Rennie) is the town’s dyslexic sign painter who keeps interrupting the suicide attempts of depressed video store-owner Dan (James Allodi). Meanwhile, Dan has enlisted real-estate agent Carol French (Sandra Oh) with the task of selling his house before his intended “departure”. However, Carol is more preoccupied with selling her recently deceased mother-in-law’s property to Mayor Brent Fisher (Maury Chaykin) to find a way in with the in-crowd. In a town full absorbing troubles, no one is prepared for the discovery of a body in the closet.

Stray Dogs - Set in Afghanistan, ‘Stray Dogs’ concerns brother and sister Zahed and Gol Ghoti who rescue a dog from the clutches of a group of kids bent on killing it on the premise that it belongs to one of their enemies – British, Soviet or American. The Ghoti siblings are virtual orphans, with both parents in jail. While their father was a Taliban fighter, their mother is arrested for remarrying in order to avoid starvation and poverty. As Zahed and Ghoti are homeless, they frequently visit their mother in prison and eventually, one of the guards allows them to spend nights with her. When the warden puts an end to this arrangement, insisting it is not an orphanage, they try their hand at petty crime just to be able to gain entrance into prison and a life off the streets. Ironic, beautifully shot in the characteristic style of the Makhmalbaf Film House and filled with pathos for a struggling people, Meshkini shows herself to be an exquisite filmmaker in her own right.

Soap Opera - Composed of several collected short stories, Wu Er Shan’s Soap Opera is a collection of everyday tales culled from newspapers and daily gossip. Abused and bullied kid Leyi vents his frustrations in a dramatically deathly way. Zhang cannot sleep because of six women who have moved in upstairs and who play loud music, despite his polite pleas for silence, until he too, eventually snaps. Lao Deng persistently fails in his suicide attempts while the son of a successful chef has murderous intents towards his wife. Unflinching in its gaze, Soap Opera plays witness to reality and brings cinema closer to the marrow of life. The film received the FIPRESCI Prize at the Pusan International Film Festival, 2004.

Buffalo Boy - Set in the lowlands of South Vietnam during the French occupation in 1940, Buffalo Boy’s protagonist is the teenager Kim whose father puts him in charge of herding two starving buffaloes towards the mountains and pastures of Ba-thé, outside of the flooded terrain in the lowlands. Through his journey, Kim encounters violence as well as comradeship with other buffalo herders. The voyage itself becomes a metaphor for a rite of passage from the innocence of youth to a world of harshness, alcohol consumption and guarded relationships. Indeed, water itself becomes a metaphor and visual device for life and its particular force. Minh Nguyen-Vo’s debut feature film is a telling example of post-war Vietnamese cinema that is slowly finding a voice in addressing social issues within the country. Winner of the Silver Hugo Award for Best New Director at the 40th Chicago International Film Festival.

Underexposure - Filmmaking and the arts have an arduous journey towards reconstructing itself in post-Baathist Iraq. Whereas an oppressive regime clamped down on expression previously, now Iraqis must contend with looting and a foreign regime that has systematically burnt down or destroyed its museums, galleries and libraries. In this atmosphere, 30-year old Oday Rasheed has crafted a multi-faceted tale following the lives of six characters who wander the city of Baghdad after the war, in search of regeneration. Hassan is making a documentary about Baghdad and fast running out of film. Moataz is a musician dying of cancer. Schizophrenic Nasir determines to take a wounded soldier from southern Iraq to float his dead body down the Tigris homewards. The film’s title speaks on several levels: a reference as much to the reams of outdated film stock that allowed Rasheed to make his film, as it is to the artists who have quietly struggled without notice under the Baathists, Underexposure is brave, exciting and the face of a slowly renewing nation.

The People of Angkor - Rithy Panh (S-21 Khmer Rouge Killing Machine SIFF 2004) continues his exploration of Cambodia – a land devastated by oppression, poverty and war. Here, he focuses on the famous city of Angkor, widely recognised for its bas-reliefs and religious iconography. Panh gleans stories from the inhabitants of the city and their hopes, however slim, for the future. A peddler who has yet to learn to read and cannot afford an education wonders what direction to take. A former peasant who now labours at restoration sites remembers his agrarian days fondly and cherishes his fighting cock named “Lemon Soup”. Through these different stories, both humour and pathos emerge.

Note: all synopses taken from the SIFF website.


Ah 9 said...

ARGHHH!!! i missed the Appleseed screening...oh damn...
excuse me while i go screaming round the office...


JellyGirl said...

Chill, dude! You didn't miss the screening. Appleseed's showing on April 23rd. So it's still not too late to book tickets! hehe.

Ah 9 said...


single tickets for certain movies is allowed right? not the whole package?

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