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8.22.2005

WILLY WONKA

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by John August


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Directed by Mel Stuart
Written by Roald Dahl




Charlie Bucket's impossible, a false hope in Roald Dahl's working class chestnut about the perfect kid you can never have and the monstrous kids you most likely will and their sadistic, therefore delicious, comeuppance. That this impossible kid is also almost impossibly poor and the monstrous kids impossibly privileged makes obvious the schism that feeds the fairy tale and which side it favors. Song is the one radical liberty, some say mistake, Stuart takes. And without the armor of sentimental value, Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley's showtune mawk is bound to dig fatal cavities in your forebrain. Admittedly, my resistance has been weakened. Treacly pop ick notwithstanding, you can't deny the druggy vibe, the sinister underbubble, and you can't deny Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka like the boogeyman he is: crankily, crazily, creepily. That is, perfectly. * * *


Hand in glove in much the same way his masterpieces Ed Wood and Mars Attacks! weren't, the Burton upgrade is satisfying on one hand for being so inevitable, this is like comfort food for him,but on the other signals a worrying conservatism and predictability as far as the choices he's been making is concerned- - - Ridley Scott has more capacity to go on limbs and throw you for a loop, if not making good shit come from it. All Burton does here to crank up levels is to foreground the freakish that's always been there,ratcheting it a weird notch or two. But it has pull enough to assauge heightened expectations and trump second guesses. Multimillion dollar spit and polish may be all that varies the look but the Oompa Loompas have become set pieces unto themselves. Charlie's still impossible but the kids have gotten more monstrous, as it is in the modern world, and the brat pack ass-whup even more gleefully epic, as it should. Wonka is the one radical liberty, some say mistake, Burton takes, giving him a caramel backstory that dilutes his ambiguity just when it had attained , in Johnny Depp's able clutches, the satanic glimmer the part probably doesn't need but ultimately deserves. * * *

6.03.2005

AMBUSH OF GHOSTS

Goodbye Dragon Inn (Bu San)
Directed and Written by Tsai Ming Liang











The architecture has bearing, Our elliptical romance with cinema is our elliptical romance with the cinema,too - - - haunted house, repository of stories, cave of dreams, spaces where anything can happen. Not entirely the giftwrapped valentine to the movies Tsai loved that it at first seems to be, but more a soft-spoken elegy to the fading glories of the moviehouses he watched them in. Naturally, nostalgia flavors things. Particularly resonant, though, is how the moviehouse comes off as an ecology, with its interior sociologies , its modes of conduct. Everything's here, familiar as secret handshakes. There is a thin smattering of people who converge, on this sad and rainy night, at the rundown Taiwanese moviehouse showing King Hu’s Dragon Inn one last time before closing its doors forever. Each has a story to tell. So, too, the ticket booth girl with a game leg and the mysterious projectionist. And in this space where anything can happen, many things do. All bouncing off the movie , the moviehouse and the ramifications of the night, eventually revealing themselves funnily, wistfully, poignantly, beautifully, always deliberately. At just 80 minutes, this is still Tsai’s slowest movie. You know the immersive long take is his discipline, the risking of ennui to tap into epiphanies. Pointlessly argue at this juncture and you’re probably out of his reach. Slowness doesn’t always connote torpor,after all. Sometimes it connotes grace.



5.08.2005

BATTLE ROYALE

Battle Royale
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kenta Fukasaku




















Fukasaku’s fuck you to Survivor culture is to dress Lord of the Flies up with submachineguns in ko gal uniforms, cranking up the boil of hormonal stress and adolescent rage until it supernovas and suppurates in bright, messy soups of ultraviolence. This is everything we wanted to do to that bully who took our lunch money, to the prom queen who stole the boy we loved, to the jock who gets all the girls. This is the pornography of Reality TV. This is our new sociobiological imperative to make entertainment of other people’s miseries. This is blood and guts in high school. * * * * *

5.07.2005

MEMORIES OF MURDER

Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok)
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Written by Bong Joon-Ho , Kwang Rim Kim and Sung Bo Shim












It’s the Korean Jack the Ripper. Every bit as gruesome, every bit as unsolved. Not that knowing that will muck things up here. City cop and country cop partner to crack the case and it's their story mostly. And the serial killer they dog is like some lash of panic that welts this investigation into smalltown hysteria , this tweaking of odd couple dynamics , this slapstick upending of the police procedural, this many things beyond dull roman a clef , with the throb of sinister goings-on. Scenes tend to achieve grace and some - - - like a set piece in the dead of a rainy night - - - crackle. Soon, delicate balances are struck. Between placid milieu and seething underbubble. Between foreboding creepiness and broad comedy. Between truth and embellishment. Between invisible solution and tantalizing mystery. * * * * *