Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a few reviews that have come straight from the New York Film Festival. Up first is a look at the newest from Pedro Almodovar called BAD EDUCATION. This flick sounds just as crazy character fucked up fun as I'd expect from Almodovar. Read on, but beware of small-ish spoilers! After this one I got a handful of HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (aka Zhang Ziyi's PANT-PANT YOU FANBOYS)!
Minor Spoilers Down Below
Hey Harry. Just got back from the New York Film Festival screening of Almodovar’s BAD EDUCATION. Before the thing started Pedro said that many people had told him that they were a little stunned after viewing the movie, and he told us that he would understand if we didn’t clap or anything. Well, the second the movie ended there was shitloads of clapping, hollering, and even a bit of the old standing- in-appreciation- a lot warmer reception than the two NYFF films I caught last year (DOGVILLE and ELEPHANT). Everyone really dug the movie- as well they should have. BAD EDUCATION just plain rocks.
Don’t want to give too much away about the plot, because much of what is great about the movie is just being surprised by the whacked-out story. Basically it’s about the relationship between two men (Fele Martinez and Gael Garcia Bernal) who were raped by a priest when they were little kids. Martinez is a film director. Bernal is an actor who has written a script about two little boys who are raped by a priest when they are little kids. You can see where this is heading… well, actually, you can’t.
Almodovar’s script twists and turn and inverts, but is so well written even the most outrageous plot twists seemcompletely possible in the world that’s created. This is probably because in addition to being an AMAZING storyteller, the guy knows how to write a character. These aren’t some bullshit, phony, cardboard stock-characters being manipulated to fit into a cool jigsaw narrative, these are real human beings with feelings and motives that stem from who they are. When a priest molests one of them, do they weep and cry and deliver heartfelt monologues about lost innocence? No. They go and blackmail the fucker for drug money. That’s one of the coolest things about it, too- you got this movie that’s dealing with the nature of homosexuality, priests doing it with kids, drug addiction, murder, but it’s never preachy or whiny. It just wants to tell a kickass story populated by really cool characters. And it succeeds.
So, yeah, Almodovar rules. On top of his writing, his direction is wonderful. The whole thing is done with this film-noir feel (In the post-movie talkback he said MILDRED PIERCE, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and Fritz Lang’s noirs were a big influence, as well as really shitty B-Movies), which is amplified by the awesome score by Alberto Iglesias. It sounds very Bernard Hermann-y, but it’s no rip-off. Truly great stuff (especially the main titles…) Also, Almodovar isn’t afraid to crank up the music once in a while. It’s nice and loud when it need to be- gotta love that. And the whole looks great. The camerawork is awesome- really beautiful (there’s a Hilarious slow motion shot of a priest diving to block a goal during a game of Priests vs. Boys that alone is worth seeing the movie for.)
Much has been written about the performances, which are everything they’ve been made out to be. Everyone in the movie is wonderful, but Bernal really steals the fucker. I’ve never been a huge fan of his but he just blew me away here. (Speaking of which, there also happens to be quite a bit of sex in this movie. Unfortunately, it’s all of the man-on-man, priest-on-boy, boy-on-boy, or drug-addled-tranny-on-everyone-else variety. Ah well.) But, yeah, he’s incredible- really nails his character- never turning him into a cartoon but really reveling in the just-plain-nastiness of the guy. Great, great work. Also, Javier Cammara (from Talk To Her) has a small role in the first half of the movie and is hilarious.
But, yeah. I’m running out of adjectives so I’ll just stop. BAD EDUCATION is an awesome movie and everyone needs to check it out when it comes to a theater by you. Also, I think it’s important to note to this truly is a Movie. Not a film. Not a piece of cinema. A fuckin Movie- totally fun, well made, moving, awesome. Yeah. Rock on.
Thanks for reading and stop buying tickets to that Shark crap and go see fuckin Sky Captain Again,
Yes, SHARK TALE is the most horrendous piece of crap I've seen in a long while. It'd be nice if people stopped giving money to it. Anyhow, here's a few for HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS that go from really liking it to really, really liking it... a lot. I'm sure you can figure which is which. Zhang Ziyi in anything is worth taking a look at in my book. In the words of Garth, she's magically babe-licious! Enjoy!
As promised here is my review from the NY Film Festival screening of "House Of Flying Daggers". Wish you could have been there to see key members of this film in attendance.
I have fond memories of spending many a lazy Saturday afternoon sprawled out on my living room rug watching Channel 5 present their weekly "kung fu theater" program. The swiftness with which they moved, the harrowing "fight to the death" battles between good and evil, and of course the laugh out loud terrible dubbing. I was hooked for life- a confirmed Martial Arts junkie.
The genre has produced many legends. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li to name a few. Bright stars like Phanom Yeerum from "Ong Bak" could truly carry the torch onwards. And then you have Zhang Ziyi, a young woman well on her way to achieving a historic place in asian cinema.
The New York Film Festival this past Saturday held a screening at Lincoln Center of "House of Flying Daggers", starring the beautiful Zhang Ziyi and directed by Yimou Zhang, well known for his epic film "Hero."
Shortly after midnight a representative of the Lincoln Center film society came out and introduced Yimou Zhang who appeared with his interpreter. Zhang spoke about a scene in "House" that takes place in a bamboo forest, and wondered how his set piece would compare with the greatness of Ang Lee's (who was in the audience) Crouching Tiger bamboo forest scene. He said that eventually he managed to find a way to film it.
Zhang then introduced the star of his film, Zhang Ziyi, who came out to thunderous applause. She kept it really simple. "I hope you enjoy the movie." she said, smiling and waving. The lights then dimmed and the film began.
The story centers around the dealings of a corrupt government in the midst of a battle with rebel armies, the largest of which is the "House of Flying Daggers." Two local captains, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are given orders to capture the leader of this shadowy group. After a member of the rebel "daggers" group is captured and sent to prison, Jin rescues her with the deceptive intent of having her lead him to the rebel headquarters. However, it is not long before Jin begins to develop feelings for this stunning revolutionary.
Much like his prior film "Hero", "House of Flying Daggers" is awash in colors. The opening scene is a beautiful palette of pastels depicted through costume and scenery. Zhang Ziyi dances for the Captain and demonstrates a flexibility that would leave any gymnast slack jawed in amazement. The audience I was with delighted in this opening number, as it built to a deafening cacophony, followed by a remarkable action sequence.
The rest of the picture is staged in these absolutely beautiful locales. A forest whose orange leaves litter the ground, another of bamboo that glows a magnificent green. Yimou Zhang blends the costumes of his characters with these settings so effectively that the landscapes seem to breathe right alongside them. These locales are all a backdrop to the martial arts sequences that are plentiful, elaborately staged, and pardon the french, kick serious ass.
The movie is also quite humorous, and I kept thinking of the last "Zatoichi" film and how Yimou Zhang may very well have been inspired by its good natured silliness. Takeshi Kaneshiro (Jin), who you may remember from "The Returner", delivers his "playboy" character to great effect. The other male lead "Andy Lau" (Leo) from "internal affairs" fame, plays a more serious role, and is the perfect foil to Leo's carefree ways.
"House" works when it dazzles you with its stunning cinematography, coupled with its many elaborately staged fight sequences. When Leo battles with his bow and arrow, or when Zhang Ziyi unleases her daggers on the enemy, the camera moves alongside the projectile with a dizzying, hyperkinetic effect, and more then once elicited a "wow" from the audience.
Yet despite all my praise, there is a big problem with the film and it lies towards the end in a scene that had our audience laughing their heads off- completely the opposite of what the director intended. It really started to remind me of an MST3K episode and I was waiting for Joel and the robots to just start ripping away. The SAME reaction is described on IMDB by HOFD audiences in Taiwan. My wife and I both remarked at how it definitely marred the film a little, and judging from the audience's polite but reserved applause at the end, I think they felt the same.
Still, I am going to say this about House Of Flying Daggers. If you asked me to name 3 great wuxia films, I would not hestitate to say Hero, Crouching Tiger, and House of Flying Daggers all in the same breath. House of Flying Daggers is hurt by a ridiculous sequence, but it is not fatal. In the same way that "Legend Of Drunken Master" was a showcase of Jackie Chan's skills, this is the film that makes Zhang Ziyi its focus, and will make her a near superstar.
Yimou Zhang has crafted a film that is beautiful to behold. The costumes, the cinematography, the use of camera, and the fight sequences are plentiful and spectacular. It is wall to wall action and that will appeal to many filmgoers. However, if you are looking for something more epic and sweeping like Crouching Tiger, then you may be dissapointed. The film opens nationwide December 3rd, and it deserves to be seen on the big screen.
And one more!
Hey fellas at AICN,
I've been a huge follower of the site for a couple of years now and have always wanted to write in and give my two cents on something. I attended a midnight screening of Zhang Yimou's latest: "House of Flying Daggers" last night at the New York Film Festival. The screening was held in Alice Tully Hall to a full house. Before the show, Yimou, complete with an interpreter gave some comments to the crowd about his film. Among them was a quip of how he was worried that many people would make fast comparisons between a scene in his film, to a scene in a certain Ang Lee film. Needless to say his worries were unfounded, because as much as he may have been inspired by the scene between Zhang Ziyi and Chow Yun Fat in the Ang Lee film, the scene in his film transcends inspiration and reaches for something even more breathtaking and unbelievably beautiful.
I'll start out my formal breakdown of the film by saying this previously known and commonly stated fact. Zhang Yimou is a genius. He is a master of the cinematic art form, each frame of this film breathes life, no matter how much the laws of space and time are twisted, each frame is truly and utterly exploding with life and a sense of fantastical reality.
MEDIUM LEVEL SPOILER ALERT
The story goes like this, Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau) are two county lawgivers who are trying to track down the leader of the elusive House of Flying Daggers, a dangerous rebel group who oppose the provencial government. They act on a piece of information that Leo procures which tells them that a member of this rebel group might be hiding in disguise as a dancer at a local brothel. Enter the beautiful and amazingly coordinated Zhang Ziyi as Mei, a blind showgirl who dances just as easily as she walks. Leo sends Jin undercover to observe Mei and there ends up being a drunken "altercation" between the two which lead to both Jin and Mei being arrested (Jin of course is not really arrested as the "altercation" is actually a set up just to get Mei arrested so she can be interrogated for information). After this proves to be ineffective, Leo and Jin decide to take advantage of the fact that she is blind by faking her rescue and having her lead them to the hideout of the Flying Daggers.
What follows after that is a series of semi-twists and turns, which I will not give away here, that eventually lead up to a emotionally gut wrenching finale set in the midst of a furious snowstorm.
Now let me say this, I have to hand it to Yimou and his team, for creating an even more wonderful experience than his last film "Hero". Everything I loved about that film has been taken up a notch in this one. Worth noting ecspecially is the cinematography, sound design and some of the most creative fight choreography I have seen in ages.
The scene in the bamboo forest, as well as the final fight at the end were simply amazing and left many in the theater making sounds of wonderment( thats a word right?).
I was also very surprised by the performances from all three leads. While Lau might be the most famous of the three, he delivers probably the weakest performance, which is in no way a complaint as he is only maybe one notch below the level of his powerful performance in the first "Infernal Affair's" film. But Takeshi Kaneshiro as the cocky, and confident Jin literally blew me away. It's so weird to think of him as "that good looking main dude from 'The Returner' or the face of Samanosuke in the "Onimusha" games, because he totally own's the role of Jin. I really wish he were more popular in the states, I think he really has cross-over potential. Then of course, last but not least we have Zhang Ziyi (Who also was at the screening and said a few words before the film started- so cute). Damn, she really is amazing. What can this woman not do? She can act, dance, fight and is ridiculously beautiful! I remember reading somewhere that she uses her training as a dancer to help her throughout her fight scenes. In this film it really shows, I don't think i've ever seen her kick this much ass.
Above all that though, this movie would not be possible without the directing prowess of Zhang Yimou. The way he handles all of his scenes are simply amazing. The way he creates a sense of space with the placement of the camera, and the way he holds an image just long enough to create that extra flush of emotion that is so commonly missing in films of this type these days. This film over anything else he's done, with the exception maybe of "Raise The Red Lantern" shows that he truly is a master when in his element. I truly hope this film is embraced by those who see it when it opens wide in December.