Saturday, May 14, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: The first 11 minutes will absolutely shock you. The last 11 minutes will rivet you to your seat.

The Brothers Bloom (2008): I suspect there's only two ways people can go with this one - either they'll fall in love with Rian Johnson's highly stylized and playful film about lies and stories so good they can become the truth, or they'll call it pretentious and be annoyed by its obvious cleverness. Me, I'll never be found among those saying even a single bad word about a film that can pull off a karaoke version of the Band's "Sleeping".

Man of Vendetta (2010): The directorial debut of Woo Min-ho has most of the qualities I associate with South Korean thrillers: it's as slickly directed as any major Hollywood film, but much more willing to go into really nasty and unpleasant places without needing to wallow in the nastiness more than is necessary. It's acted excellently by a cast that knows the difference between "sparse" and "wooden". It has a script that doesn't feel the need to always add another twist if that twist would be to the detriment of mood and characters, yet still knows and uses all the tricks of its genre.

Still, while I can and do admire these achievements, Man of Vendetta never clicked with me emotionally. It might be that the film's keeping of its child-kidnapping and murdering psycho something of a cipher without backstory makes it difficult for me to be all that frightened of or shocked by him, or just that the "lone civilian fights psycho for his little daughter" format is quite played out, even if its realized this technically proficient. For whatever reason, my admiration never turned into actually caring, and a film that was supposed to have an emotional impact just didn't.

Cyborg Girl (2008): Speaking of movies that don't have the emotional impact their directors seem to want them to have easily leads to this Japanese science fiction comedy romance melodrama (no, really) with Haruka Ayase and Keisuke Koide, directed by South Korean Jae-young Kwak whom you might know from My Sassy Girl. Guy falls in love with a time-travelling android built by his own future self to safe himself from serious bodily harm and a major disaster that is pretty uncomfortable to watch this shortly after the Japanese earthquake. Hilarity, a bit of friendly violence (yay!) and cloying, overly drawn-out sentimentality ensues. And no, there's nothing at all creepy about the film's set-up, at least nothing Kwak (also responsible for the script) knows of. Though the two leads really do their best with what they are given, Cyborg Girl is just too overloaded to get the tears out of me that it wants its audience so badly to cry. I'm perfectly willing to be moved by a weirdly artificial tragedy, but the film's tendency to just wallow in it all the time feels cynical and manipulative where it's supposed to be sad and heart-warming. The here melodrama just feels terribly artificial in all the wrong ways.


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