Sunday, September 04, 2005

TFF, Day 2.5: On Chang and Theresa Chan

This is the first chance I've gotten since yesterday morning and there's been a bunch of film watching going on. First, the stuff that didn't thrill me at all. I had to work two films -- The President's Last Bang, about the last hours before the Korean president was assassinated in the 70s, and Lemming, a French thriller-romance-oddity starring festival tributee Charlotte Rampling -- both of which underwhelmed me at best, made me think why some art films are useless at worst. That said, I've had an amazing other experience withfour other films I've seen.

First up, my Kong festival continued with a double feature of Chang and I Am King Kong. The first was a silent film dramatizing the life of a family in Siam, directed by the same pair that directed King Kong. Seeing this earlier film, the character of Carl Denham was obviously close to home for director Mairen Cooper. All the scenes of natives shooting the tigers (and the conspicuous absence of an ASPCA statement saying "no animals were harmed in the making ofthis picture) made me a little queasy; that said, the movie featured some extraordinary filmmaking with wild close-ups of both an elephant stampede and a growling tiger. Plus, it was accompanied by the always amazing Alloy Orchestra, which is why I went in the first place. The rain kept me inside, however, to see the documentary on Cooper that followed and wow, what a lifethat man had. It turns out that indeed Denham's character is all about Cooper, who was Indiana Jones with a camera before there was Indiana Jones. If nothing else, the audio interviews with Cooper provided the most colorful uses of the word "goddamn" (and the most frequent usage) that I've heard since my dad used to hit his head on our low basement when I was a kid. It will accompany the November DVD release of King Kong, so check it out.

This morning, I saw two interesting films. The first was Le monde vivant, part of a three-film retrospective of French director Eugene Green that the festival is putting on. It's very stylized and yet features some simple filmmaking related closely to innocence and myth. I think some of the audience found it silly, but I found it utterly charming. I just got out of an Iranian film called The Iron Island, clearly a parable about hopelessness among the unprivileged in Iran where a rusting ship stands in for the country as a whole. The ending left me a little unsatisfied, but thinking.

Finally -- and this will disappoint Jen Lien, although I'm hoping she will comment on what she knows -- my favorite film of the festival so far was the Singaporean Be with Me that I was hoping to get into when I wrote yesterday. Mesmerizing: so much so that I traded shifts with Angela to ensure that she could see it this morning. With very little dialogue and an almost still camera, the film is a lovely slow boil that becomes totally engrossing when we start putting everything together. It features an amazing performance from Theresa Chan, a blind and deaf woman who nonetheless learned how to speak (speak! audially articulate!) English even after both disabilities developed. It's a heartbreaker -- and you'll be surprised if I say that none of the sad parts involve her, but rather the other three characters that are revolving around one another. Interesting uses of language and just gorgeous cinematography. In my mind, it ranks up in festival fare with 2000's Yi Yi (by Edward Yang) which became a festival favorite by word of mouth. Indeed, I haven't talked to a single person who has seenthe film who didn't totally love it.

On the parental front: yes, I am being a bad father in that I hadthe cell phone all day yesterday and by the time I realized I should call, it was way too late. We called Linda this mroning, however, and the little boy is having the time of his life. We keep seeing lots of babies around here though, which makes us think we should have brought him. We'll see what happens next year.

Up for possibility this afternoon is Brokeback Mountain which, surprisingly, was announced to show in our theater this evening.

1 comment:

Jen L. said...

Hey Jeff, I'm glad you liked it. I haven't seen it, so I really don't know if I'll like it, but Eric Khoo -- the reigning king of Singapore's tiny film community, and my cousin's cousin -- has made some pretty good films. And the reviews have been pretty strong. It's just that the film industry back there sometimes seems so... "wannabe", that I end up rolling my eyes more often than not, and often it's due to reactions one would only have if they were from the same country. That's why I was curious to see if you -- not a Singaporean, and smart about film -- would like it!