Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dark Knight: Rolling Stone's Pathetic Non-Review

It's been a while since the last update. I've been struggling with a feature script that started off with much gusto, but has since run into a brick wall. At 48 pages now, and with a major plot point event coming up, well frankly I'm stuck. So, here I am back again in the world of the living.

The Net's all abuzz with news of the very first review of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, written by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine. I, of course, also hurriedly went over to read it, excited to know if this will be the ultimate REAL superhero movie that won't dumb us down any further than The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man have.

Well, disappointingly it's a non-review, really. It's more like a fanboy's frothing ranting than anything else. Travers starts off telling us:

"There's something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe. Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension."

But that's about all he tells us. What is it about the gruelling battle between good and evil that's "raw and elemental"? How does Nolan cut through "to a deeper dimension"?

But all Travers tells us are praises laced with superlatives, like how Ledger as the Joker is "mad-crazy-blazing brilliant," and Bale as Batman is "electrifying as a fallibly human crusader."

Ya, sure, thanks a lot. Now I get a better picture.

And we wonder why some lament the loss of film criticism and the depletion of a good pool of critics who will not bend over backwards to fart out fanboy gas. But come to think of it, well it is Rolling Stone magazine after all, that last bastion of great film criticism.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

All-In-One Movie

A few years ago, a bunch of us reviewers excitedly attended the press preview of The Legend Of Zu. Previously we'd seen Tsui Hark's Time And Tide and was duly impressed with the interesting story and nice action. But after just a few minutes of Zu, our jaws dropped; we were simply flabbergasted by the complete incoherence of the story and the extremely messy, overdone action sequences. By the end of the movie we were really wondering what the heck it was that we'd just witnessed.

Like I'd said previously, Tsui Hark is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. When it's all good, you get neat little surprises. When it's bad, you get stuff like The Legend Of Zu. And Missing.

Angelica Lee Sin-jie seems to have been lifted right out of The Eye for this movie. She just simply has to do more of the same for Missing, which also emulates some of the Pang brothers' camerawork. There's also a scene with a ghost in a lift - which, to Tsui Hark's credit, actually works quite well because of the incredible restraint shown, quite the opposite of The Eye's.

But like in Zu, Tsui Hark seems to be throwing in ideas just because he can, to the extent that the movie becomes a complete mess. Instead of a steady mash-up, it's more like the mess you get when you use the blender without putting on the cover first. There's romance, horror, crime, psychological drama, ghosts, ancient underwater cities, headless bodies, archaeological tablets, madmen who see dead people, possessed fish (no, I'm not kidding!), etc. If only there was a coherent story to hold them all together. Ringo Lam attempted the same with Victim, and successfully pulled off a movie that has psychological drama, a haunted house and even a heist.

The biggest problem with Missing is that a large part of it, which is made up of a horror story, is also largely redundant. It's hard to explain without giving away too much, but suffice it to say, the twist towards the end renders everything that went on before null and void. This could have been just a nice psychological romantic thriller, and I have absolutely no idea why Tsui Hark felt the need to have ghosts.

Absolutely baffling.

The Incredibly Boring Movie

I don't quite understand the way some critics and reviewers have defended The Incredible Hulk, by saying that it's a different take on the Hulk story from Ang Lee's. How is that a justification or vindication? Here are two movies about the same subject, a guy suffering from gamma poisoning who turns into an uncontrollable green giant, and Lee did a better job. End of story.

From what I'd read, the new Hulk is the fanboy version, as opposed to the previous version for grown-ups. And so, I had expected lots of exciting action and cool Hulk-smashings. What I didn't expect was to start fidgeting halfway through the movie, impatiently waiting for it to end. I wasn't expecting it to reach the same levels as Ang Lee's version. Let's face it, no one can do what Lee does. But the new Hulk didn't even give me good entertainment. The action was repetitive - hell, the entire movie was repetitive. You can summarise it all into this: Bruce Banner hides, military discovers him, Hulk smash, military bombards, Hulk escapes, Bruce hides, military discovers him, Hulk smash, military bombards, Hulk escapes ... repeat till ad nauseum.

If anything, this new version could actually be seen as a sequel to the first Hulk. At the end of the first movie, Bruce Banner ended up in the Amazon. This new movie rushes through the gamma radiation origin story in the title sequence, then opens with Banner in Brazil. The emotion in The Incredible Hulk runs for about five minutes before it all goes flat for the rest of the movie. The chemistry between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler is almost non-existent.

Ang Lee's Hulk delved into not just the psychological aspects of the Hulk story, but also the relationship between the parents and their children (the Banners and the Rosses). Simply, it's about how parents always want their children to be like them, but their children will always hope to grow up different from their parents. Ang Lee hits all the right notes and adds meat to the story, and even muscle and mood to the action sequences.

All the new Hulk's action sequences will do is to inspire ten-year-olds to go home and smash their Lego sets. A review I read pointed out how aesthetically flat the movie is, compared to Lee's version. Apart from the strong colours and comicbook-like panels, Lee's version was aimed at emulating the kind of classic horror of Universal's Frankenstein or the darkness of it. This latest version seems only interested in bringing stuff from the comicbook onto celluloid to get the fans cheering.

The nicest thing in the film, though, is the tribute to the original Banner, Bill Bixby. Blink and you'll miss it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nothing Nice To Say, Sir?

This post has been a long time coming. I'd put it off until today, when I visited Kaiju Shakedown, and found this. The entertainment press in China, it seems, is getting desperate for news, and so runs some really dumb (as perceived by Grady Hendrix) news items.

Now, if you've been reading Kaiju Shakedown long enough, as long as I have, you'd know that the blog's a great source of film news and other quirky stuff. Grady writes in a humorous and interesting style. But you'd also notice, as I have, judging from the kind of posts about China that appears on the blog, it would seem that China is a really terrible country and many stupid things happen there.

This has been the trend at Kaiju when it comes to writing about China. Almost every post has been negative, always something sarcastic that puts the country in a very bad light. I don't claim to know what Grady and Kaiju's motive is, or if there's any, but there certainly is a negative perception there of China.

I guess the most ridiculous thing yet was when Grady kind of made excuses for Sharon Stone's idiotic, heartless, inconsiderate comment about the Sichuan earthquake. Read this post. It would seem poor Sharon was misunderstood, and we should all beg her forgiveness.

You can read more negative posts about China here, here, here and here.

I mean, what's up, man? Have you got nothing nice to say AT ALL about China? The Olympics get it, the official Olympic cheer gets it, even the kind of jokes they make in China get put down, and that sounds rather desperate on the blog's part, almost as desperate as the entertainment press in China they claim are out of precious "nuggets."

It would seem that there's something about China that gets Grady Hendrix's goat. Every time.

Well, at least we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that the Shanghai International Film Festival has kicked Sharon Stone out. I don't see Stone, Richard Gere, or Steven Spielberg making a big deal or boycotting all American events or stop working in America because of Iraq. Like Stone says: "... I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else."

A commentor on that post on Kaiju succinctly puts it, hypothetically, of course, that what if Stone said this:

"Of cause (sic) I have. You know, it’s very interesting about that since first, I’m not happy about the way USA treats the Iraqis because I think anyone should not be unkind to anyone else. And so I am being very concerned about the election of the next president of the US and A, because we had not being nice to Saddam Hussein, who is a good friend of mine."

I won't reproduce the rest of the comment here, because the rest might be offensive to some, but you can go over to that Kaiju post and read it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kung Fu Tony (Ong Bak 2 Promo Reel)

It's pretty unanimous that Ong Bak brought martial arts movies to a whole new level of brutality and realism. The script was awfully crap, but no one seemed to care once the ass-kicking got started. It's all because of one guy - Tony Jaa. From practically a nobody, or more accurately, just another extra, Jaa achieved grand martial arts status, and the term "international action superstar" became permanently attached to his name.

At the time when a movie could have Tony Jaa playing a character chasing down the bad guys who stole his Tamagochi and I'd still go to see it, his follow-up Tom Yum Goong wasn't as spicy although it was essentially equally brutal and action-packed.

Now the guy has gone and directed an Ong Bak sequel himself. And Ong Bak 2 looks mightily impressive, judging from the promo reel exclusively available at Twitch here. It has nothing to do with the first movie's storyline, and it seems the only things both movies have in common are Tony Jaa and elephants. But it's basically about a young boy rescued by a group of martial artists of different disciplines, and who is destined as The One who will unite all the martial arts of the world. Or something like that.

It does seem to be the trend these days of mixing different forms of fighting in one movie, much like what Donnie Yen has been doing. So in Ong Bak 2, Jaa does muay thai, kung fu, samurai swordfighting, and more.

In case you missed the link above, once again here's the promo reel exclusively at Twitch.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Film As Graphic Design As Film As ...

My initial shock of seeing a photo of Norman Halim of KRU at Variety Asia Online has died down. My initial excitement about The Happening has grown. My curiosity about the new Hulk has died away completely.

So, what else is new?

Well, my admiration for Speed Racer has been rekindled. Jason Morehead of Opus has an interesting review of the film, He says:

There’s a sense of hyperreality to the film—of going so far over the top that the “over the top-ness” itself becomes substantial and “real”. Again, the Wachowskis played with this a bit in the Matrix films, but they’ve really ramped it up for Speed Racer.

That's a nice and interesting way of putting it. Jason also found that the more dramatic, family moments are actually touching, the same thing I encountered, that the Wachowskis at least did not let the blue-screen fervour override their emotional consciousness.

But what the visuals in Speed Racer mean has eluded many of us. I won't be the first to claim that I know, but one night, I was in a car, stuck at a traffic light, and I looked around. The tail-lights, the street-lights, the cars - they all started to imply something. I was reminded of the lens flares, the neons, the works in Speed Racer. There was a speck of the inspiration that gave birth to the manufactured universe of Speed Racer, and I could see it. The world of racing in Speed Racer isn't just a "a super-glossy version of the future as imagined in the 1950s," but it's the sport of racing draped in Las Vegas kitsch and sensibility, minus the vulgarity of excess.

What's even more interesting is the link at the Opus review to Khoi Vinh's analysis of the film's visuals from a graphic-design point of view. Khoi Vinh finds the use of digital images "aggressively abstract." He also says:

The world created by the film’s directors, the Wachowski Brothers, is very much like a post-Photoshop equivalent of an Impressionist masterpiece; the cinematic vision at work here has nearly no truck with reality, only with reinterpeting — often, regurgitating — familiar objects as if experienced from the inside of some sci-fi Chuck E. Cheese.

It's a very interesting read, and eye-opening too. While he was incredibly impressed with the visual design, Khoi Vinh also found the story touching. Mostly, he's hit on something about Speed Racer that I felt but couldn't really express. Hop on over and have a read.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Further Thoughts On The Happening

It's funny that for a film that I found to be rather insubstantial at first, The Happening sure stayed with me a long time and made me think about it a lot. And the more I thought about it, the more interesting the film became.

I've finally come to the conclusion that M. Night Shyamalan has hoodwinked us all. In a good way, that is.

I always thought the scene of people jumping off a building in the trailer was somewhat inspired by Kurosawa Kiyoshi. The apocalyptic angle and the suicides of course, is largely reminiscent o films like Cure and Kairo. But little did I realise just how much The Happening shares with Kurosawa's vision of the world.

Here, I have to warn that this post may contain (very) mild spoilers.

All of the reviews that have come out so far have focused on how little there is in the film in terms of the horror/fantasy/thriller aspect that Shyamalan has come to be known for. These reviews are, of course, early ones probably rushed out to be among the first, including my initial thoughts penned out here on this blog. But perhaps a little later, when reviewers have more time to mull over The Happening, we'd see more probing thoughts on the film.

Although there are some idiotic reviews out there, like this one that tries hard to be sarcastic and funny but trips all over itself in its haste, much of the general consensus cannot be blamed for expecting more of The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable. These are such strong works that I feel because of them, Shyamalan has very much directed himself into a corner. But to go into a Shyamalan film and not see beyond its surface is to be completely misdirected. His films have always been more than just what they're seemingly about.

I've always thought that The Sixth Sense was largely about the communication breakdown between men and women. It is only when the men are able to come to terms with themselves that the walls are broken down. In fact, this has been Shyamalan's preoccupation in every one of his films. In The Happening, this is taken steps further and expanded to include an entire population. This expansion has turned it into the alienation in society, how modern life actually alienates us despite the tools of communication getting more and more efficient. This was at the heart of Kairo, where technology like the Internet that is supposed to bring us closer and make the world a smaller place, has in fact left us little space to breathe.

The modes of communication in the film gets pared down to the barest minimum, the most essential of necessities. It all begins with cellphones, the television and other modern wonders. Then as the situation worsens for the people, these tools start to fail. The trains stop. Mark Wahlberg's character asks the train operators what was wrong, and one of them says, "We've lost contact."

"With whom?" he asks. The reply is: "Everybody."

At one point, Mark Wahlberg's character and friends resort to a transistor radio to try and pick up the latest news about the toxin attacks. And here, something else arises. The static through which a semblance of a voice comes through seems to metaphorically suggest that the real message is always muddled and that it always requires us to negotiate through the noise and static of the world at large to get through to each other.

And as the film progresses, so it empties out, and become less populated by people. The static and noise somewhat clears towards the end. The old woman who lives alone in the forest, encountered by Wahlberg's character and his wife, has lived in years of self-imposed exile from the world she no longer trusts. And she's gone a little kooky. The moral here is that people always need each other, but as we already know, sometimes too many cooks can spoil the broth.

In this respect, The Happening and Kairo share a lot, both films empty themselves of people, in a world that needs to purge itself to be able to hear itself better. But the difference here is that Kurosawa is a much more cynical and pessimistic storyteller, and Shyamalan is a romantic one. The former thinks we're basically doomed, Shyamalan would rather believe that in the silence and solitude of the aftermath, from people communicating via cellphones down to people talking through just holes in a wall, two persons can finally find each other and what really matters the most.

In Shyamalan's films, love always wins in the end.

Ten For The Price Of One

Panic in the streets of London ... panic in the streets of Birmingham ... chaos in the cinemas ... because Dasavatharam has sold out completely ...

Well, there's not really any panic, but it might seem like so. That's why the words to The Smiths' song came to my head. I was on my way to the cinema after failing to book tickets for the latest Kamal Hassan vehicle. I'd tried to get a contact in one of the cinema chains to help me book a ticket, but was told all shows have been fully booked or are sold out. Then the bus passed a cinema in my town and I saw crowds spilling out of the cinema and onto the street. It was amazing.

I managed to get one of those unclaimed bookings at the last minute. Trying to get into the jam-packed house was crazy. It was the first time I had ever had to queue up to GET IN to a cineplex hall. But all the trouble was really worth it.

Dasavatharam is a Kamal Hassan movie for Kamal Hassan fans. He's done some really out-there stuff in his movies, but this one is the ultimate. He takes on prosthetics, special digital composites and effects, and plays 10 different characters with nary a hitch. The astounding effects manage to make him a giant; a frail, short old lady; a paunchy police guy; and a buff, ancient hero. Well, the last one isn't really a special effect but Kamal in his real self. And I haven't mentioned him playing George W. Bush and an assassin who's somewhat of a tribute to Arnie, Stallone and all those American action guys of the 80s.

I don't even want to talk about the story (which spans centuries and continents, but is mainly about a scientist who tries to stop a virus he created from falling into the wrong hands), because there's already so much to talk about Kamal Hassan in this movie. But yes, the story is about how everything in this world is connected in some ways, and presents this in both religious and scientific perspectives.

The use of a real 2004 event in the story may be uncomfortable to some, but hey, we're here to watch Kamal Hassan in action, and he sure delivers. In spades. The movie has everything - action, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, romance, natural disaster, martial arts, car chases, motorbike chases, lorry chases, singing, dancing - and it's hilarious and exhilarating. But the best thing has to be when Kamal Hassan dukes it out with himself.

That has to be worth more than the price of admission.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Ecology Of A Director's Mind

Having seen The Happening, I can almost guarantee that M. Night Shyamalan's next film will be something totally out of character for him, something none of us would expect him to do. I'm saying this because I've noticed this trend among directors, when they display a certain stuck-in-a-rut tendency, as if they've hit a wall. The most telling symptom is when there's a ton of references to their previous films in their latest.

Most recently, it happened with Kurosawa Kiyoshi. His Retribution was like a mish-mash of ideas and elements from his other films. And then he went and made Tokyo Sonata, a family drama. In The Happening, you can spot shots similar to those in The Sixth Sense, or moments when Shyamalan plays up the suspense with sounds, like in Signs. There is also a train sequence.

I see The Happening as a comedy-thriller. You can dispute me on this, but the kind of close-ups Shyamalan uses on his actors, the quirkiness they display (especially Mark Wahlberg who's allowed to be almost hamming it up), the situations they get themselves into - they're all clearly indications of the director either bored out of his mind or having a little fun by derailing his own familiarity to audiences.

The ecological slant of the story can't do much to prop up the film that is really one simple idea stretched to fill in a feature-length running time. The likelihood that ideas were thrown in randomly grows gradually more certain as the situations in the film become increasingly incongruous.

And the ambiguity of the threat of an airborne toxin doesn't quite lend itself to anything in particular. As such, you can't help but feel as if it's lazy writing. Shyamalan prepares us for it early in the film though. As Wahlberg's character addresses his students in class, he tells them that scientists may come up with explanations for things but in the end they're all just theories, and there will always be things about nature that we won't be able to understand.

That's like saying: "In this film, don't try to figure anything out."

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Outlaw And His Minions

When we were young, cowboys and injuns were easy to define. The cowboys were heroes and the injuns were the bad guys. The injuns were a weird and evil lot, or so the TV shows and movies told us. I grew up with a fondness for westerns and all other historical and mythical tales. It's now easy to draw comparisons between westerns and wuxia, or westerns and samurai films. But it's getting even harder to draw the line between good and evil.

I guess ever since the 1950s, things have changed greatly for the western. Films like John Ford's The Searchers gave a human face to the Native American, and brought into focus, and questioned, the racist motives of the cowboy. Since then, and even more lately, we've had revisionist and more politically correct westerns. Films like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven unflinchingly shattered the romantic myth of the gunfighter. No longer was it easy and pleasurable to kill someone, nor can the killer remain unaffected. The old hero myth had become ineffectual in the blurring of morals and natures.

Why am I talking about this? Because I've just seen The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. While Unforgiven basically asks what happens to the gunfighter hero when age catches up with him, TAOJJBTCRF takes a strong, sharp stab at idolisation and the idol.

I'd read Ron Hansen's novel, on which the film is based, but I never finished it on account of it becoming drier towards its second half, although that style of writing I initially found to be rather unique. Andrew Dominik's adaptation is faithful, and captures exactly the feel of the book. It's a newsy account of the last days of the James gang, but it also has a certain poignancy about it, which Dominik managed to create. Roger Deakins' beautiful photography lends much to some of the dream-like sequences, underlining the effect of reality surrounded by myth.

At its heart is the story of one young man's idolisation of his childhood hero and misplaced ambition and how they come to destroy both the mythical figure and his admirer. Meanwhile, the idol himself is the epitome and representation of every pop figure clutching helplessly and desperately to fame and respect. As everything that propped him up starts to slip away, a desperate man resorts to desperate measures in the face of paranoia. Watching his idol fall apart, the admirer gets caught in a web of what he perceives as betrayal. The end result is the tragic titular incident.

TAOJJBTCRF is a film that carries only the most necessary dialogues, preferring to let the stares and glances and the uncomfortable silences between its characters to tell the story. I'd heard much about Casey Affleck's performance as Bob Ford, and it is indeed wondrous to behold, his face conveying so much. Dominik's camera knows just how much and how long to take from and stay on Affleck, sometimes even in blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments. Take for example, the scene where Ford tries to get out of bed and reach for the gun but James who is next to him orders him to stay put. As Ford turns, there's just the momentary glint of a fearful tear running down his face. It's little touches like this that make the film so special.

TAOJJBTCRF is definitely one of the best films last year, and one of the best westerns there is. It's an affecting cautionary tale about the dangers of fame and those who blindly embrace its mythical offerings, clearly a reflection of contemporary pop culture.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fight Club

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but many things distracted me, one of which is Sharon Stone's idiotic comments about the China earthquake. But more on that in another post.

There are at this time two fight-film projects, one from Malaysia and one from Singapore. The Malaysian one has completed shooting and even has a trailer online now. It's called Kinta 1881, and it's touted as Malaysia's very first martial arts movie. It's directed by C.L. Hor, the guy who did The Third Generation, the gorgeously shot but ultimately senseless film with huge arthouse pretensions. We all know how that one went, but hopefully Kinta 1881 is much better. It does look very exciting in its trailer, and definitely hopes are high for our first kungfu movie.

The Singapore one is called Knife. It will start production "soon," although no dates have been announced. But this one sounds interesting on paper. It's about an ex-soldier who returns to a Southeast Asian city to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the biggest gang in the city. It promises a lot of east-meets-west martial arts styles - Muay Thai, streetfighting and Special Forces knife techniques. So far the best knife-fighting we've seen in recent times is between Donnie Yen and Wu Jing in SPL. And that was one hell of a fight.

Knife will be directed by Xie Dong, who was assistant director on many of Zhang Yimou's movies. Sunny Pang, last seen in the Singaporean film Lucky 7, plays the lead. Other confirmed cast include John Lone, Jade Leung and Yasuaki Kurata.

The film's official site is here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Film School Reject Does Good

You know how stuff of legend surrounds Paul Thomas Anderson. It's natural for someone so young and so brilliant. He burst onto the scene with Hard Eight, then really stood out with Boogie Nights. And just by his third film, he'd already made an "epic," the San Fernando valley masterpiece, Magnolia, my favourite of his films. Of course, he's now also made another epic masterpiece, There Will Be Blood.

PTA is infamous for attending New York Film School for only two days. After that he got fed up and found that he could learn much more just by watching movies. Apparently, he once said watching laserdiscs (this was back then) with directors' commentaries is better than anything film school could teach you.

Of course, this bitterness with film school naturally fuelled some interesting speculations, which have reached mythical proportions because of PTA's fame now. One story, which a friend who attended Boston film school told me, was that PTA got kicked out of film school because for his thesis film, he made a porno. But this was probably borne of the fact that he admitted to watching porno from age 10 to 17, and that he once made a mockumentary called The Dirk Diggler Story about a has-been porn star.

Well now, Singapore has its own PTA-type story to boast about. His name is Pearry Reginald Teo, and he is just 29. He was rejected by one of the polytechnics in Singapore when he tried to get into its film and media studies course. He left to study filmmaking in Arizona, and his horror flick, Liberata Me, was screened in Cannes and even won best horror film at the 2002 New York International Independent Film And Video Festival.

And now he has made a sci-fi flick, The Gene Generation, which garnered some deals in Cannes this year. The film stars Bai Ling and Faye Dunaway.

You can read his story here. Watch a trailer of The Gene Generation here.

Those guys at the polytechnic must be kicking themselves now.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The One To Wait For

Here's something to really get excited about. Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (or The Vampyr) will be getting the royal Criterion treatment in a two-disc edition, to be released on July 22. My chin is dripping already just thinking about the goodies in store.

This is the film that I've heard and read so much about. Many, many years ago, when I was still in school, I read about it in a film book at a public library, which had these faded stills from the movie that were appropriately archaic-looking, which added some degree of intrigue. I'd by then read J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, with its shocking final scene of a vampire floating in a casket full of blood. Dreyer's film was reportedly inspired by Le Fanu's novella. It is also a film that is very much steeped in the avant-garde. There's a scene where a policeman's shadow walks away from him. It isn't explained; it just happens. This is a film of incredible mood and atmosphere, a fever dream of image and sounds.

I've been searching high and low for the film ever since. I didn't even know there had been a previous edition of it on DVD. But since Criterion is giving us the motherlode soon, I'll wait another couple of months for it.

The goodies on the Criterion double-disc edition includes:

New restored high-definition digital transfer of the 1998 film restoration by Martin Koerber and the Cineteca di Bologna

Optional all-new English-text version of the film

Audio commentary featuring film scholar Tony Rayns

Carl Th. Dreyer (1966) a documentary by Jorgen Roos chronicling Dreyer's career

Visual essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer's influences in creating Vampyr

A radio broadcast of Dreyer reading an essay about filmmaking

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by Mark Le Fanu and Kim Newman

Martin Koerber on the restoration and an archival interview with producer and star Nicolas de Gunzburg as well as a book featuring Dreyer and Christen Jul's original screenplay and Sheridan Le Fanu 1871 story Carmilla a source for the film

Bloody brilliant. For a collector of vampire films like me, this is a wet dream come true. It hasn't been this good since I finally got Murnau's Nosferatu on DVD some years ago.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Another Black Magic Woman

UPDATE: It seems the trailer for Susuk on YouTube has been made private, and access is now limited. (Thanks to Edmund Yeo, Woo Ming Jin's associate producer in Japan, for pointing that out.) Naughty Amir must have leaked it out!

There's a trailer of Naeim Ghalili and Amir Muhammad's Susuk now at YouTube. It's of quite low resolution, but the movie looks to be more like a slasher flick than an all-out black magic gore-fest like Long Khong.

The strange thing about Susuk is that its release has been delayed for two years. I think hardly anyone remembers that it was supposed to come out in 2006. The novelisation of the movie has sold well, and the TV series has gotten good ratings. So now, instead of it being a movie that inspired a TV series, like Stargate or Terminator, it's now more like The X-Files movies and Sex And The City. Weird.

The movie has been passed with two cuts. The censors took offence with a scene of a woman bathing in the nude and a man's head getting ripped off his shoulders. Amir said the woman was actually wearing a swimsuit that didn't even match her skin colour. But looks like our censors have some overactive imagination as usual.

The movie will be out later this year.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Miscellaneous Miscellany

Dasavatharam opens this Thursday, and it being one of the most highly anticipated Tamil movie releases, also it being a Kamal Haasan movie, you can be sure the cinemas are going to be packed for weeks. I, myself, can't wait to see it ... that is, if I can get tickets.

Also, Tsui Hark's Missing opens June 12. You know, Tsui Hark is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get ... until opening day. We'll see if it does a better job than the disappointing Seven Swords.

Meanwhile, I went to catch Long Khong 2 last Friday evening. And my goodness, it was a full house! I didn't think much of the first Long Khong, but the second one is watchable because Napakpapah Nakprasit is so ultra-hot in it, much more so than in the first one. I don't know why, I couldn't take my eyes off her. Must be that ol' devil called sexy. Evil women are such turn-ons.

Speaking of Thailand, the country's new censorship laws take effect starting today. And the laws are pretty scary. There's one that says producers of films that threaten "national security" can be jailed up to one year.

Wisekwai wonders how the new laws will affect international film festivals and art gallery screenings. He also says:

It is alarming that the people making the films and taking all the risks aren't being given a voice in the process, while various special interest groups like doctors and clergymen will have a major say on whether a film can be shown.

He is, of course, referring to the recent controversy surrounding Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes And A Century, which authorities took issue with its depictions of doctors consuming alcohol and monks playing guitar and with electronic toys. It is indeed worrying when the opinions of those whose work will be directly affected by the new laws are not taken into consideration. I wonder if Apichatpong, who has been very vocal in the movement to "free Thai cinema," has any contingency plans after this.

COPYRIGHT POLICY: It's simple: Steal my stuff and I'll kick you in the nuts