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8.30.2007

TOKI WO KAKERU SHOUJO (THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME)

Toki Wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda
Written by Okudera Satoko
Based on the Novel by
Tsutsui Yasutaka







Take that title at face value- - -she really does leap through time, backwards, forwards, clumsily, funnily. Time travel tropes gain emotional mileage from the diesel of regret - - - that pang we all feel at some point to go back and redo the fuckups we can't undo. But if you're an impetuous schoolgirl, that could go from yesterday's exam scores to the other day's lab mishap to the boy that gets away because you were too caught up in yourself to notice. And when the power to make clay of reality falls on your lap and you go use it to loop after-school videoke with your boy friends into a perpetual afternoon, it's really the cold feet of growing up, which fades, of course, but until it does, you want to hang on to it as long as you can. Bounce this off Groundhog Day, much as the time travelling there had more to do with Nietzche's theory of eternal recurrence - - - it makes sense. Has the same hedonistic spunk, the same loopy pop spark, the same blissful awareness of where it's head's at - - - a chick-lit universe in which the wonderment of leaping through time is just something to color the drab everyday of high school with and an impossible visitor from another dimension is just another potential boyfriend. Has nothing to say that the subgenre hasn't said over and over and over - - - seize the day, life's too short, action/reaction - - - but a way of saying it that's so dosed up with teenpic endorphin that when the inevitable butterfly effect twists the plot to reveal a tantalizing hidden reality, threatening to swell the ramifications and deepen the aura, you actually dread the moodswing from shojo exuberance to sci-fic gravitas that thankfully never happens. * * * *


8.28.2007

2 DAYS IN PARIS

2 Days In Paris
Directed and Written and Edited
and Produced and Scored by Julie Delpy








Samey backdrop and samey repartee and samey characters - - - but where the conversations in Before Sunrise/Sunset had this evasive meander and nonchalance, the back-and-forth here is full-tilt screwball, playing for laughs that pivot from the kind of mildly farcical chaos every interracial couple - - -and,indeed, every couple - - - go through and that screwballs burn road with. The more crucial dillema here's not how well you know the one you love but how well you should know the one you love. Not too much if you want things to last, is what it's saying. And when the double exposures with Delpy's Celine end at samey precocious temperaments, and the kookiness her Marion here has more of starts to throw fits, not too much is more than enough to make hapless, hypochondriac wreckage of any boyfriend. All over the place, for all its self-contained rom-com minimalism, but that's out of Delpy's sense of rhythm not having sea legs yet. The erratic shambles does meet cute with the nervy confusion, achieving a tonal fit that ,if anything, keeps it honest and not only enlivens the one screwball trope Delpy has down pat - - - her rapidfire banter cracking good funny- - - but makes the virtues of making do with the one you're with swoon full of romantic possibility. * * *

8.22.2007

PARIS JE'TAIME (I LOVE YOU PARIS)

Paris Je'Taime (I Love You Paris)
Directed by Olivier Assayas, Federic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu,
Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan & Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet,
Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravanese,Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydes,
Oliver Schmidt,Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas & Walter Salles,
Tom Tykwer and Gus Van Sant

Written by Olivier Assayas, Gena Rowlands,
Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet,Ethan & Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle & Gabriel Keng & Kathy Li , Richard LaGravanese,Vincenzo Natali, Nadine Eid & Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydes,
Oliver Schmidt,Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas & Walter Salles,
Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant and Tristan Carne











Paris you go to for many things, mostly cultural: wine, cinema, cuisine, art, haute couture. But Paris you go to mostly for l'amour, that's its niche and its cliche, its tourism come-on. Paris as emotional geography,then - - - the effect the city has on you, which, depending on who you ask, could go from high-strung anxiety, in the Coen slapstick, or benign calm, in the touching Payne finale. 18 aspects of love, or what vague membranes of connectivity pass for love these days, attached to an itinerary that quickly becomes immaterial, at roughly 5 minutes apiece. It wobbles and sags in parts, of course, has two spots of profound awfulness- - - Chomet's jailbird mimes and Natali's deo-cologne advert with vampires- - -and indulges a handful of piffles at turns anorexic with barely there payoffs (Podalydes, Chadha) or supercompressed at a loss of nuance (Coixet, Suwa) or fine if underfed (Cuaron, Thomas/Salles). The good will out, though, and funny how the grace notes- - -slight and wary mostly- - -have to do more with the many disguises love puts on. The co-dependency Assayas' drughead actress shares with her dealer. The things lost in translation between Van Sant's possible soulmates. The punchline twisting the buoyant turmoil of Tykwer's hyperballad of blind love. The ghostly whispers keeping words from failing for Craven's bickering sweethearts. The old codes of affection rekindled when Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara finalize their divorce for Auburtin/Depardieu. The cup of coffee that breaks the heart of Schmidt's paramedic - - -as it did mine and most likely yours, too. Handful of piffles notwithstanding, my only real nit is lack of Godard. And more Asians- - - and no, weird Chris Doyle with guerrilla beauticians don't count. * * *

8.16.2007

PLOY

Ploy
Directed and Written by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang







The part of you that comes loose in transit and takes its time catching up, William Gibson says it's your soul and maybe that's what it is and what we have here - - -bodies waiting for missing souls to catch up. The eerie lull of jet lag is the rhythm of its secret heart , that sensation of not being here nor there and having nowhere to hang your hat. Husband and wife here are both homeless in their homeland and neither one wants to be the first to say goodbye. He says they're past their sell-bys. She just wants him to try a little tenderness and a fuck now and then wouldn't hurt either. And the maid and bartender getting nasty somewhere else in the hotel could be their disembodied souls having one last mad go before re-entering their frigid shells or could all be in the dreaming head of the eponymous teenager sleeping on their couch. Jealousies simmer, dire things occur in a roomful of old clocks, youth and obsolescence rub shoulders, someone breaks into song , another declares love and means it and everything is framed sticky and intimate like an eavesdrop. Makes or breaks on aura because Pen-ek's not your go-to man for artfilm languor and it's not even the artfilm languor you're used to that he's trying to nail here but something gauzier, almost spectral - - - the opaque vacuum of hotels. You could feel a little disembodied and lightheaded , too, that's the risk, but for evoking the metaphorical half-sleep of marriages and the hope that you do wake up from it, no other tone will catch. Sometimes being alone together is better than being alone.



8.15.2007

PEN CHOO KAB PEE (THE UNSEEABLE)

Pen Choo Kab Pee(The Unseeable)
Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
Written by Kongkiat Khomsiri









Sedated and dripping with mood because it's a ghost story and ghost stories are supposed to get by on the sedated drip of mood alone, this is atypical Wisit only if you go by the speed at which his candyland visuals used to run riot - - -which was never really his true knack but more the way he twisted environments like balloon animals into weird, offkey shapes with attack. His palette's calmer, yes, but the gorgeous crumble of that countryside manse is as florid an artifice as any he's ever manipulated - - - and pungent with the spooky which makes the turning of architecture into character that every good gothic demands of its edifices enough to subsist on. Oldfangled but thick with feed. * * *

OVERLORD

Overlord (1975)
Directed by Stuart Cooper
Written by Christopher Hudson and Stuart Cooper








There is audacity of process here, intercutting archival wartime footage with a madeup soldier’s story- - - a kind of time travel on one hand, the way it was shot using tech from the era, and a kind of obsessing over the mildew of history on the other, the way it belabors the specific textures for resonance. It’s gimmicky but one with legs to at least stand on if not marathon the distance. You can only go so far before fact starts subduing fiction, after all, but that could be the apex of its slightly pedestrian sentiment - - - war's immensity and how it swallows the people fighting it whole, soldiers as cogs in the machineries of combat. But then the madeup soldier (and John Alcott) starts to fabricate perverse, impressionistic fantasies about his dying in battle that twists everything into an investigation on notions of history as grand, spurious hallucination. * * *


8.13.2007

AIO HARU (BLUE SPRING)

Aio Haru (Blue Spring)
Directed and Written by Toshiaki Toyoda
From the Manga by Taiyo Matsumoto









Schoolboys in revolt - - - it's the same old cruel story of youth that goes back all the way to Vigo but every generation demands a few of these for their own , if only to throw a bone to that hormonal urge to rebel we all phase through. The generation this is meant for already have their Battle Royale but they might find uses still for the cartoony vigor it shares with the Taiyo Matsumoto manga it siphons off - - -the filmmaking has a kooky, propulsive energy. But its cartoony vigor parallels Matsumoto only in terms of form. And Toyoda seems to have confused the way he draws with the tone he aims for. Kinder, gentler then- - -and how can it not be with that benign dwarf botanist? Also more upful and aggro with many liberties taken, not least of which is Toyoda finding deep-seated heartbreak behind the nonchalant anarchy where Matsumoto merely found a black hole of ennui. The manga was corrosive with blank nihilistic chill. Meet its big wussy thaw. * *