Friday, January 27, 2006

Blue Gate Crossing

Blue Gate Crossing (dir. Chin-yen Yee), Taiwanese, 2002 - I'd rate it a 4 out of 5.
Available on
I dislike recapping a movie's premiss, especially, when it's already been written for me.
So...from IMDB,
An is-she-or-isn't-she gay comedy focused on a Taiwanese teen, the boy she might like, and the girl she may love.
I've seen a couple of movies lately that I liked well enough, except for the endings. At Sundance recently, 'In Between Days'(reviewed below), and to a lesser extent 'The Science of Sleep'(Dir. Michel Gondry), and a few months before that it was 'Broken Flowers'(Dir. Jim Jarmusch, starring Bill Murray). I liked all these movies and it wasn't even necessarily that I didn't like their endings as much as I just didn't think there was an ending, that is to say, the conclusion of the film was not different enough from the rest of the film to set it apart. Forget about closure or resolve. I liked each of these movies well enough to forgive it but I still felt less than satisfied after the experience was over. I understand that life doesn't have endings either but is rather a collection of moments. However, we do in retrospect, draw a conclusion to those moments that transitions us from one dispensation to the next in our lives, and I believe good story-telling almost always has some definite conclusion that should likewise be drawn by it's narrative.

Blue Gate Crossing's ending is a perfect ending, in contrast to the films mentioned above. It's the kind of ending that just feels right. Not everything gets resolved and people go on with their lives much like before and the characters don't get what they wanted...but instead of ending with a tone of 'that's the film, and it's all over and done with cause life hurts and it sucks and this is what it's like', it manages to end on a note of optimism about the future, that there unknowns out there that may counter the the griefs of the past. It manages to somehow make, what should not be a happy ending, happy, in a zen-like acceptance kind of way.
Anyway, I didn't mean to spend so much time on endings but the ending in this particular film is crucial because it's the payoff and essentially makes the film work by lending an elegance to a coming of age story moving on...

The rest of the movie carries nicely. It's playful and engrossing for the most part, tinged with a bit of the pain and hurt of love that comes with being a confused high school teen. The main character we follow is Meng Kerou(played by Lun-mei Guey). She's intriguing enough to carry the lead with the help and support of Lin Yuezhen(played by Shu-hui Liang) to bounce off of. The movie is very simplistic and cleanly shot. The setting is Taipei and it looks like a fascinating place which has a distinct character. I don't see many films from Taiwan but knowing there's people like Director Chin-yen Yee making films over there, makes me excited about seeing future productions from the R.O.C.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

In Between Days

'In Between Days' is bare bones story telling – a subtle relationship film told with few words and fewer plot points. The camera is mostly on Aimie (Jiseon Kim), a Korean girl whose unspoken affection for her best friend Tran is the through line for the entire film. Shot almost entirely in close-ups and with flat lighting the film has a rawness that matches its stripped down structure. Being a low budget production it was nice to see that writer/director/editor Kim and the producers knew their limitations and not only stuck to them but embraced them.

I thought that Jiseon Kim (discovered by the director working in a New Jersey coffee shop) was excellent in the role Aimie. She was there at the premier along with the director which was cool. Afterwards I asked her if she was planning to do more films and she said she’d like to if she gets the chance. Hopefully that will happen.

I enjoyed this very minimalist film but it’s definitely not for everyone. If you enjoy basic stories told very subtly then I’d recommend it. I don’t imagine that it will get a major distribution deal though so it might be hard to find.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Match Point

MatchPoint is the new Woody Allen picture starring Scarlet Johanson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Imagine if Hannah and Her Sisters were set in London, without comedy, without Woody Allen, with formal lighting and camera movements, and a thrilling departure (for Allen) in the narrative toward the second half. In other words, imagine a whole new beginning for Allen, or a return to form. In a year full of bad-taste films and liberal envelope pushing, Woody Allen reminds us that storytelling is not about pushing the boundaries. In fact, Hollywood has it backwords, boundaries are what help foster creativity and strengthen good storytelling. His film is based on Doestievsky's Crime and Punishment. Allen's strength is how he gets his characters from point A to point B subtley and naturally. In Match Point he does this exceptionally well and pulls the audience along with the force befitting a wet noodle, never pulling too hard, but never letting up slack either. I don't want to give away too much but one of the stregths of this film is where Allen chooses to end it. Appropriately I will end my blog here as well until more of you have seen it.

Maria Full Of Grace

With “Maria Full of Grace,” Joshua Marston shows us a completely intimate and personal side of the disturbing reality of human drug mules. His muse/mule is portrayed by Catalina Sandino Mareno, who certainly infuses the part full of grace. More than just a sobering ‘drug story,’ the film also follows the conventional tale of the commoner who dreams big and fights against odds to make it – albeit unconventionally.

Maria’s a young woman who feels like there should be more to her existence than what she has. Discontentment with her provincial life is immediately apparent in her interactions with her boyfriend, her family, and especially with her boss at work where she de-thorns roses. But it takes a not quite immaculate conception to finally give her reason to go to the big city looking for work and whatever else Maria thinks she might find in the world.

The stubborn yet admirable ambition that Maria possesses makes her decision to accept a job as a drug-mule feel real and unforced. Thankfully Marston avoids the usual melo-dramatic device of making decisions for his character. In a lesser script, the hapless maiden would be forced at gun point to swallow the 62 packets of latex-wrapped drugs. Here the choice is Maria’s and it’s a burden that she suffers with a paradoxical mix of reluctance and courage. It’s at once a dangerous and shameful decision for Maria to make – especially considering her unborn child, but it’s also an exciting trip to America and a lucrative opportunity to escape her pre-destined life of poverty in Colombia.

Maria shares more with her holy namesake than just the secret of an unborn child. She carries in her body her very salvation – or so she thinks. But from the time she steps on the plane to New York, her cargo causes her nothing but discomfort and danger. Upon arrival in the land of the free home of the brave, the reality and severity of her crime and the danger that she and her two companions are in becomes frighteningly evident. The resulting hasty escape into the vastness of New York City evokes a terrifying feeling of hopelessness in a foreign land as Maria’s dreams become the worst possible nightmare.

At every turn Martson succeeds in creating compelling opportunities for his character to make interesting choices, overcoming the odds and finding hope within.