Sunday, February 29, 2004

With a plot device so slow its almost guaranteed to elicit loud bahs or snores from the average moviegoer, Peter Webber's Girl With A Pearl Earring will no doubt, however, be highly appreciated by fine arts students or anyone who is fairly familiar with Vermeer's artwork. While it is a common affair in films to have allusions to famous art pieces, ( DaVinci's Last Supper, Hopper's Night Hawks and David's Death of Marat, just to name a few ) GWAPE ups the ante with staging of Vermeer's works so pervasively it runs from the first scene of the film until the last, an unabashly esoteric piece of film art. Certainly, a good knowledge of the artist's work is not a prerequisite in appreciating the beauty of this film, but having one puts you on quite a different dimension. DOP Eduardo Serra ( whose much earlier work The King's Trial was also based on Vermeer's paintings ), reconstructs each shot with amazing detail and clarity, especially the artist's working studio.

A painful reminder of my arts theory classes in Victoria school, where more often than not, I opted for an afternoon at the games arcade rather than listening to my lecturer rant on about aloof artists and their movements Romanticism, Neo-classicism, what have you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Giving a short speech at the Takashimaya NAC scholarship inception award. That's the last time you'll catch me in a suit for quite a while.

For the full press release, click here.
Had dinner with 3 of my senbei ( seniors ), folks who have studied in Japan on the same scholarship program. Some quick excerpts :

Cool : I have been checking out this film school in Toyko called Toho Gakuen College, and coincidentally one of my senbei had graduated from there. She told me they had industry/internship links with NHK and Toei, and many students who graduated from there have gone on to become film directors and DPs. Nice.

Not so Cool : Also from the same senbei, movie tickets in Japan cost 1500 yen, STUDENT RATE, ( which comes to about 24 sing dollars ). Now that is just so great, yeah.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Listening now to the OST of exalted Korean film Memories of Murder ( see film review in earlier post below ), scored by Japanese musician Taro Ishiwaro ( he also wrote the music for The Inanimate World ), hauntingly mezmerising. I exhort all to watch this fantastic and disturbing film.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Thailand director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe, an austere and beautifully shot film ( no small thanks to HKSC Christopher Doyle's brilliant photography ) is at its very heart, the simple story of two hopeless souls meeting in tragic serendipity and learning to have hope in their lives again, albeit clumsily. Maximizing the creative cinematographic prowess of Doyle, as well as a refined, minimalistic script, ( both protaganists, especially Kenji, played with relish by Tadanobu Asano , barely speak more than a few lines in every conversation ), Pen-Ek blends the nuanced performances from the 2 actors with the richly designed and detailed production incidentals ( sets, notably Noi's ramshackle home, in all its ransacked glory, music, supporting roles ) with great effect. The result is a highly accomplished film low on flashy visual spectacles ( cept perhaps for the moments when Kenji's Yakuza past is revealed, with much applaud ), high on emotional impact, and very good filmmaking.

On an interesting sidenote, as the credits rolled several loud "huhs" could be heard, a mixture of disdain and bewilderment. Last life, lacking a definite and clearcut ending ( ie Kenji and Noi driving their VW into the sunset ), greatly disturbs the hollywooders.

Sometimes, the journey is indeed the destination.

Monday, February 02, 2004

In an early scene from Sofia Coppola's off-beat romantic comedy Lost in Translation, Charlotte ( Scarlett Johansson ) posts herself at her high-rise hotel window, peering over Tokyo's featureless urban landscape like an angel keeping watch, forever invisible and at once detached from her distant subjects. Later on in the show, she visits a shrine in the old imperial capital of Kyoto and witnesses a traditional Japanese wedding. Sheltering beneath a huge red parasol and garbed in picturesque costume, the two newlyweds link hands. Charlotte looks on quietly. In both instances, no words or maudlin narration were needed to convey the poignant sense of quiet, luscious melancoly so intended, yet the intensity of the final mood expressed was multiplied manifold without. It is exactly with such a cinematic framework of toned down, unobtrusive visual style and quiet narrative treatment that the movie Lost in Translation is built on, something so rarely seen in Hollywood productions and which wholeheartedly won me over.

In light of my approaching journey ( I am set for a 3 year film study course in Tokyo come March, courtesy of the National Arts Council ), watching this film is like a harbinger of solitude, heralding my days of impending loneliness and loss.

Surely this is a film I will not easily forget in my days to come.

*For a more poetic and expressive review of the film, check out the comments box.