Archive for the ‘TITLE W’ Category

DREAM HOME [WAI DOR LEI AH YUT HO | 维多利亚一号]

2010/12/11

http://www.dreamhome.asia/

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Pang Ho-Cheung Written by: Pang Ho-Cheung, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Wan Chi-Man Produced by: Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Subi Liang, Pang Ho-Cheung  Cinematography by: Nelson Yu Lik-Wai  Editing by: Wenders Li  Music by: Gabriele Roberto  Cast: Josie Ho, Anthony Wong, Michelle Ye, Norman Chu, Lawrence Chou, Eason Chan, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Hee Ching Paw, Hoi-Pang Lo, Ching Wong, Ying Kwan Lok, Juno Mak, Lap-Man Sin, Wai Hung Chan, Chu-Chu Zhou, Juan Song

In order to afford her dream home a woman, Cheng Li-Sheung, goes to great lengths, applying very drastic measures to make her dying father happy with a sea view apartment: once she has identified the property of choice, she begins to kill her neighbors one by one so that the value drops dramatically, bringing the price down into a range she can afford. But despite her will to inflict utmost brutality on her victims, she also seems to be just an ordinary girl pursuing a dream – and inevitably heading for trouble the longer she plays this vicious game.

DREAM HOME boasts a very fine and complex script that provides plenty of reasons for the main character to act the way she does: we learn a lot about her through her childhood memories, especially how the difficult relationship with her father has formed her personality, as well as it explains her dependency on her dad’s affection and motivation behind the need to buy that apartment. Her mother’s and brother’s roles are equally important, laying out a precise, psychological and believable cause-and-result pattern – DREAM HOME isn’t absurd, but an intense study of an unstable personality spiraling out of control.

Cheng Li-Sheung’s dull, monotone and difficult working life adds another interesting component, turning her into someone who is used to rejection, used to the harsh reality out there that is best dealt with in raw fashion. Ultimately, Cheng separates her gentle and fragile side from the side that shows no mercy, no morals and no guilt, and she develops into a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of character who puts her dream above anything else, even human life, in a delusion that fulfilling that dream could lead to salvation and a redefined relationship with her father.

It has been noted that DREAM HOME lacks coherence, but after studying the history of serial killers in-depth you will realize that schizophrenia doesn’t need a reason. People have been killed under far more random circumstances, so Cheng Li-Sheung’s motivation seems fairly reasonable after all. But you will have to understand that she is in fact not a girl next door anymore when the film starts, but that at this point she has crossed the line and changed into a deviant psychopath. She is leading a double life, and her measures are completely out of proportion – there is no turning back for her, she has lost it completely. There is only black and white, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that she is a sadistic killer, as she derives no pleasure from the violence, but sees it as a necessary means to an end. She is committing horrible crimes, but always looks beyond the here and now, hence never actually feels anything about what happens.

There are many other ways looking at DREAM HOME besides watching it as a slasher: the movie first and foremost is a very black comedy, a sarcastic comment on Hong Kong’s money-driven culture and inflated real estate market, and an essay on what values in life really matter. Mr. Pang is taking things to the edge, so that the most violent moments border on the hilarious, but never turn into slapstick: the line between laughter and shock maybe thin, but it’s always there. DREAM HOME remains a gut-wrenching flick at all times, and is probably one of the most violent movies of the year, yet it is also one of the most intelligent films of the year, telling a story that is painfully real and intense like few other films that were released in 2010.

The ending is, quite as expected, less coincidental but most of all consequential, a reductio ad absurdum, leaving Cheng and the audience speechless in view of what just happened. It’s the to-the-point conclusion of a great, condensed film that deserves to be praised – it’s a truly accomplished work.

With DREAM HOME Mr. Pang proves once again to be one of Hong Kong’s most versatile filmmakers and a brilliant observer who likes to dismantle reality and bring its essence to the screen, concerned most of all with what moves the ordinary citizen amid an ever-changing world. I recommend watching his previous film LOVE IN A PUFF back to back with DREAM HOME, and you will come to the conclusion that Mr. Pang’s films are wonderful, contemporary works from Hong Kong that shouldn’t be missed.

Whatever’s next, I bet on Mr. Pang to excite the audience with another surprising, and surprisingly good, film. I’d kill to see it today.

J.

 

 

 

 


Advertisements

WANGAN MIDNIGHT – THE MOVIE [WANGAN MIDDONAITO THE MOVIE | 湾岸ミッドナイト THE MOVIE]

2010/12/04

http://www.wangan-movie.com/

JAPAN 2009  Directed by: Atsushi Muroga Written by: Atsushi Muroga, Yasutoshi Murakawa Manga by: Michiharu Kusunoki Cast: Yuichi Nakamura, Ryoko Kobayashi, Kazuki Kato, Kosuke Yonehara, Masaki Sada, Shun Sugata, Maimi Okuwa, Rio Matsumoto, Yoshihiko Hakamada

I consider it an art form to make a movie work despite a) cars being the real heroes b) stiff, artificial actors c) loads of cheap CG effects. Atsushi Muroga, director of genre flicks like BLOWBACK 2, SCORE and JUNK has come a long way helming the movie adaptation of successful manga WANGAN MIDNIGHT and is to be credited for making the best out of it for the silver screen adaptation.

Of course, the result is debatable. It’s a film that will divide the audience, but in view of the FAST AND FURIOUS movies it must be said that WANGAN MIDNIGHT – THE MOVIE proves that a movie about street racing doesn’t have to be loud or simple-minded, but can actually be imaginative, lyrical and elegant. WANGAN MIDNIGHT is almost esoteric, a beautiful, melancholic movie adding an element of fantasy / supernatural horror through the diabolical Nissan Z, a car with lethal superpower.

Most of the movie concentrates on the duel between Black Bird and Devil Z, with Devil Z being resurrected by a high school student, Akio Asakura, after it was almost scrapped by Tatsuya Shima, a doctor driving Black Bird (a Porsche). He knows that no one can control Devil Z, the car that has killed his previous owner, brother of the movie’s love interest Reina Akikawa. Tatsuya warns Akio not to restore and drive the Nissan, but Akio doesn’t listen and challenges Tatsuya, who in return has no other choice than to accept and hope to destroy Devil Z once and for all in the race.

What I found striking is that WANGAN MIDNIGHT is not relying on effects at all. It rather focuses on the relationship between human and car, as well as the relationships between the main characters and their past. Not everything may be explained sufficiently, and not everything makes perfectly sense, but Mr. Muroga has chosen a very subtle approach to the topic, delivering the most restrained and aesthetical street racing movie to date. Actually, it’s not really a racing movie after all: it’s a sensitive and mystical urban drama that is highly emotional, touching and yet powerful.

There are flaws aplenty and I would have chosen a different cast (except for the irresistible Ryoko Kobayashi), but nevertheless WANGAN MIDNIGHT has more charm, esprit and brains than all FAST AND FURIOUS movies accumulated. Everything falls into place: WANGAN MIDNIGHT – THE MOVIE may not be a brilliant film, but it’s fascinating and exhilarating from beginning to end.

J.

 

 

 


WIND BLAST [XI FENG LIE | 西風烈]

2010/11/29

 

http://xifenglie.ent.sina.com.cn/main.html

CHINA 2010  Directed by: Gao Qunshu Cinematography: Du Jie Cast: Francis Ng, Xia Yu, Charlie Yeung, Duan Yihong, Wu Jing, Ni Dahong, Zhang Li

Four detectives are assigned to track down a murder suspect who has fled with his girlfriend, but not without taking a photo of the one who hired him beforehand. They follow him into a vast desert where they run into two top assassins who turn the manhunt into a high-octane cat-and-mouse game, reversing the roles of the hunters and the hunted.

It’s a bit like watching the finale of THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY for about two hours. Then again, nothing compares to Leone’s original. WIND BLAST, Gao Qunshu’s Neo-Western, is as hard to grab – and as fast-moving – as quicksand. There is no story, and the film concentrates entirely on the duel between the various parties. And even then, the action creates spikes and not a consistent flow of events. Somewhere between the landscape and the shootouts time stands still – despite the breakneck pace, the movie keeps circling without ever getting out of the treadmill.

There are relationships, maybe even loyalties, but there are no real reasons why everyone is doing what he or she is doing. Apart from the thrills the film is mostly contemplating, filled with thoughts, reflections, and a few insights shared by the characters, yet this doesn’t make WIND BLAST the next CHUNGKING EXPRESS. Not that Gao Qunshu is trying: WIND BLAST is an exercise in action choreography, and as the film is a western movie homage it seems more concerned with replacing horses with cars, the Grand Canyon with the Gobi desert and John Wayne with Francis Ng than with telling a story. WIND BLAST is a fair attempt to join the club of new school western films made in Asia, but where the western genre will never be out of fashion, everything that possibly can be said has been said this way or another. WIND BLAST is kind of late even by Asian standards, bearing in mind that filmmakers like Johnnie To, John Woo or Wai Ka-Fai toyed around with the western and its ingredients already decades ago.

So it all comes down to the question if you fancy a film with a whole lot of formidable action but no plot, no point, not even a plot point. WIND BLAST may feature eye-popping visuals, excellent choreography and some fine performances, but we never care about any of the characters who stay strangers to the audience from beginning to end. As for the action, it tends to get tiring after a while, and I have seen other directors making more out of a location like that. The scenery may be impressive, but it isn’t put to good use as there is no orientation point for the viewer and therefore dramatization falls short.

WIND BLAST will entertain you for a while, and it definitely has its moments, but very little about the movie is genuine or interesting. Watching it once isn’t a waste of time, but it certainly is more than enough. Once the dust settles it becomes clear that WIND BLAST isn’t much of a blast, but rather gone with the wind indeed.

J.