6. Victoria (directed by Sebastian Schipper, 2015)
Creating a film with one single continuous shot is a gimmick. Hitchcock tried to fake one with Rope many moons ago by zooming into an actor’s back every time there is a cut—a laughable attempt to say the least (but I do think the film itself is underappreciated). Sokurov’s historical epic Russian Ark is probably the most revered film truly consisted of one continuous take. But that should have been the end of it. I’ll say it again: shooting a movie in one uninterrupted take is a fucking gimmick, and nothing more. Birdman needlessly pretends to do so. Ooh-la-la, big fucking deal. Technical marvels should serve some sort of aesthetic or narrative purpose. But such needless gimmick often adds little value to the film, and more often than not, becomes a distracting weakness. Victoria is a textbook example. Clocking in at two hours and twenty minutes, this quasi-thriller of a young woman’s night gone wrong could really use some heavy editing. The first 45 minutes of her meeting four dubious guys for some beer on a rooftop does not have to last all that long if we do not have to follow them on every street corner and every elevator ride. Glossing the scenes over with some Nils Frahm music does not make them any more tolerable. Due to uninterrupted shooting, the filmmakers are obligated to fill the screen with unnecessary actions and half-baked characterizations. Okay, I get it. Victoria is a failed conservatory student in a foreign city (Berlin). So she might as well go rob a bank with some dudes she just met. You think that’s incredibly stupid? Do it in one single shot so the focus will not be on all that is wrong with the film.
Since I’m trying to report on every film I watched as the month goes by, I’ll have to keep it brief.
4. The Witch (directed by Robert Eggers, 2016)
End of the year also means catching up with films I’ve missed from the previous months. There are quite a few that never played in Hong Kong. The Witch is one of them. Hailed as the breakout horror of the year (like last year’s It Follows), this “New England folklore” is touted as a piece of astute filmmaking that exceeds the expectations of its genre. And speaking as a person with no particular interest in horror films, I am pleasantly amused by this 17th century tale of a Puritan family fending for their lives and sanity in face of a mysterious evil force. The film sets its creepy tone right from the beginning with a witch making bloody body lotion out of a goddamn baby (though the goriest details are omitted from the screen). The casting is on point, featuring The Office’s Finchy (Ralph Ineson) as the father who tries to keep it together and Game of Thrones’ Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) as the mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the oldest daughter, is the real revelation here. Not only does she possess the face of waning naiveté, the young actress also embodies the repressed rage of a woman coming of age. Continue reading “30 Films in 31 Days (2)”
My quest to watch 30 films in the month of December got off a slow start, which was caused by my sister’s wedding and post-America illness (at least these are my excuses). I didn’t watch my first film of the month until December 6, and I’ve been playing catch-up since then. By December 11, I’m at eight films. While averaging one film per day is really nothing for a full-time critic, the same cannot be said for an average dude who has other priorities in life. At least, I’m free enough to give this a go in December. For those who are interested, here are the snippets of my thoughts on the films I’ve watched so far.
1. Breaking the Waves (directed by Lars Von Trier, 1996)
I watched this for the 20th anniversary of Broadway Cinematheque, which got me all excited about seeing it in 35mm. Okay, I get that any old print is going to have some signs of wear and tear but this print they were showing is beyond watchable. I’ve seen my fair share of damaged prints (most were way older than 1996) during my days working at the Hong Kong Film Archive, but this print’s color is absolutely unrecognizable and the flickering in the first reel is out of control. The only reason that stopped me from making a formal complaint is the low admission price of HK$20 but I still consider it to be highly irresponsible for the cinema to have the audience endure 2 hours and 39 minutes of such quality. It definitely gave 35mm a bad name for those who were uninitiated.
But thank goodness I’ve seen this Lars Von Trier classic before and am a big fan of it. This film does not cease to move me. It is still mind-blowing how a film about a woman misguidedly sacrifices herself for her paralyzed husband by fucking random gross men is one of the greatest stories about love and faith. Transcending and demolishing Continue reading “30 Films in 31 Days (1)”