Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Terrorizers (Yang, 1986): Mini-Film Review

Edward Yang's 楊德昌 masterpiece The Terrorizers (1986) 恐怖分子 is one of the few films that I find impossible to praise too highly. I recently re-watched it for the umpteenth time and remain astounded by its opening act which, as a definitive postmodern work, anticipates the multimedia, multi-soundscape, multi-layered editing techniques often attributed to more well-known world cinema films of the 1990s and early 2000s, such as the intro. to Stone's 1991 film JFK--although Yang's technique is methodical and less dramatized, it is more than equal in terms of technique and affect.

Moreover, Yang's narrative style, which interconnects the lives of multiple urban residents of mid-1980s Taipei, perfects this narrative form well before films such as Amores Perros (Iñárritu, 2000), 21 Grams (Iñárritu, 2003), Crash (Haggis, 2004), and Babel (Iñárritu, 2006).

In addition to it's landmark qualities within film history in general, it is equally significant as an unparalleled snapshot of Taiwan in the mid-1980s as the nation transitioned into a new era in terms of its postcolonial condition. I elaborate further on this film, its critical reception, and its representation of this important juncture in Taiwan history in the conclusion of my book on Taiwan film, Transnational Representations (HKUP, 2014).

#stilllife shots: various long takes

Long takes in film, in which the camera does not move, are my favorite. I think of them as moving still life images--it's as if a painting started to move. Some of my favorite directors of the long take include Ozu, HHH, and Fassbinder.

Here are a few very brief videos I shot on my S7 for no other reason than the spirit of the still life and the pleasure of the image.

Water wheel, National Folk Museum of Korea, Seoul 2017

Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul 2017

Starfish at low tide, Bandon OR, 2017

Low tide, Bandon OR, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Italian for Beginners (Scherfig, 2000): Mini-Film Review

Italian for Beginners (2000), directed by Lone Scherfig, is a Dogme 95 film produced in Denmark. Viewers unfamiliar with the stripped down aesthetic inherent to the movement, which lasted from 1995 to 2005 (notable Dogme 95 films are listed here), will be surprised by, among other possibilities, how stark the film appears in contrast to Hollywood production values, how ubiquitous this aesthetic approach has become in the mainstream since Dogme 95 (considering shows like The Office), and, regarding the narrative itself, how surprisingly easy it is to find oneself absorbed in the lives of multiple Danish characters from various backgrounds who are united by attending a beginners Italian course in this brief (90 minute) film.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Baby Driver is Guardians of the Galaxy

Really enjoyed Baby Driver (Wright, 2017). It begins with a car chase that puts the opening car chase in Drive (Refn, 2011) to shame, then puts Drive in its entirety in the rear view mirror after that.

But I keep coming back to the connections between Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy though (both vols, Gunn, 2014 & 2017). Ok, they're not exactly the same, but:


A young protagonist who lost his mother at a young age...
absorbs himself in music (fortunately we can hear what's playing through those earphones)...
works on the wrong side of the law...
but has a noble heart and purpose...
as he pursues the love of this life.

Not complaining, just saying!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Beguiled (Coppola, 2017): Mini-Film Review

The film that captures the ethos of the United States right now more than any film in 2017 is, to me, The Beguiled. Sophia Coppola's film presents an injured AWOL Union soldier during the Civil War who finds himself in an all-women's seminary in the south. When grateful, he is full of praise towards the women and girls there; when distressed, he is as ugly as he was magnanimous.

Sophia Coppola is a master of making movies that have absolutely nothing at their core, which makes them nearly impossible to duplicate or replicate. Although Lost in Translation is an exception, because a certain atmosphere imbues the entire film, I love Coppola's movies for this reason. The Beguiled begins in this "nothing at the center" fashion, then stuff goes awry in a though-provoking way--at first, it reminded me of The Hateful Eight but that comparison doesn't really work. Here, violence is always lurking in the background.

YouTube Lecture: CSUSB Modern China Lecture Series

My lecture by invitation, “Sympathetic Views of Japan in Café Lumière & Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles,” is below. It was delivered on April 20th, 2017 at California State University, San Bernardino.

You can access the conclusion of the paper first by clicking the link here.

Via the YouTube channel: CSUSB Modern China Lecture Series

A couple stills from the lecture: