Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Three Films Make A Post: Sixgun Sirens Shoot To Thrill!

My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (2002): This is the sort of movie that keeps Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai in enough money for their less marketable films - a quite sentimental romantic comedy with ghosts, as emotionally manipulative as they come. Fortunately, it's also quite funny and honest in its manipulation attempts and its sentimentality, and I for one could never resist honest manipulation.

Additionally, there's the joy of seeing the whole bubble of actors known from every other To and Wai movie with everyone looking in the best of actorly moods. It's also a joy to see a comedy from Hong Kong without rape jokes.


True Legend (2010): So, what happened here? The first 80 minutes of this return of Yuen Wo(o)-Ping to the director's chair after more than a decade are an awe-inspiring mix of classicist yet cleverly updated martial arts, awful but conceptually fantastic CGI and choice (thanks to the performances of Vincent Zhao and Zhou Xun; even Andy On is non-shitty) melodrama taking place in semi-mythic China. After this part of the movie ends rather tragically, writer Christine To decides to repeat the worst parts of her script for Fearless and the film crashes down in historic China, does a few sentimental and dishonest character bits that just don't work and climaxes in one of those crappy drunken boxing versus Western wrestlers sequences that never work because those wrestling types are just too slow to look interesting in a fight against a martial artist. I know, it's all based on the "true story" of Beggar So, but that's no excuse; after all, this isn't supposed to be documentary.

What do I call a film whose beginning two thirds are one of the finest martial arts films made in the last two decades, but whose final third is just utter tripe?


The Cavern (1964): During World War II, a group of men and one woman of various nationalities are trapped in a cave system the Italian military used as a depot. Of course there are the usual tensions among the protagonists. Edgar G. Ulmer's final film, and not his best. The film is well-acted (by actors like a young John Saxon), reasonably well-written and at times tense, but it's also a bit slow and visually not very interesting.


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