Archive for October, 2009

The Proposal

Friday, October 30th, 2009

proposalSandra Bullock plays boss-from-hell Margaret Tate, the ferocious senior editor at a New York publishing company, who terrorises her colleagues, sacks her employees on a whim and will go to any measure to secure an Oprah interview for one of her colleagues. But there’s one stumbling block to her success. She’s Canadian, and having neglected to sign some immigration papers, finds herself on the brink of deportation.

Fumbling for a solution, Margaret has a brainwave: marry an American, and the coveted green card is hers for the taking. Since all the men she knows are far too scared of her to consider a romantic attachment, let alone matrimony, she blackmails her underling Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her, and he in turn demands a promotion and the publication of his first novel.

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In the Mood for Love (Fa yeung nin wa)

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

mood1More serene than the films that shaped Wong Kar-Wai’s early career, such as Chungking Express and Ashes of Time, this is an exquisite paean to the agony of repressed emotions and unrequited love. In the Mood for Love forms the second part of a loose trilogy, together with Days of Being Wild, and 2046, released in 2004. Set in the straight laced society of 1960s Hong Kong, the film focuses on two neighbours whose friendship deepens when they suspect their respective partners of having an extra-marital affair.

His name is Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung). Hers is Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung). He is a journalist for one of the Hong Kong papers, she’s an executive assistant. Neither is wanting for money, as evinced by their elegant attire, but they frequently find themselves alone, despite living in a shared building where the neighbours play majong and gossip late into the night. Looking for company during the lonely evenings, the two of them meet for noodles at a local café. When they discover their partners are cheating on them, Mr Chow and Ms Su vow to keep their own friendship pure. Interestingly, Wong chooses to keep the cheating couple off screen. Their adultery is tawdry and commonplace, while the reticence of the two leads lends their growing love for each other a sort of quixotic nobility.

Christopher Doyle’s camerawork is breathtaking. Featuring the lush, saturated colour palette of film noir, each shot becomes a work of art. The camera acts as a voyeur, capturing scenes through doors, windows, swirling cigarette smoke and the heavy monsoon rains. (more…)

Skin

Monday, October 19th, 2009

sandra-laingThis sensitive drama from Anthony Fabian tells the remarkable true story of Sandra Laing, a black girl who was born to white Afrikaner parents in 1950’s South Africa. Due to a genetic throwback, Sandra’s hair is frizzier than that of her parents, and her skin darker. As her conservative father seeks to defend her mother from persistent accusations of infidelity, Sandra becomes embroiled in a series of legal battles to classify her race. Amazingly, The Laings’ campaign is successful and the dark-skinned Sarah is officially classified as white. She is legally entitled to attend a “white” school, sit in the “white” section in waiting rooms and dine in “white” restaurants. Her parents blankly ignore the stares from racist onlookers, and their policy of “reclassifying” their daughter appears to work, for a while.

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Tokyo Sonata

Friday, October 9th, 2009

MegumiDeparting from the horror films that made his name, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa tells the story of an unemployed salaryman in this intricate family melodrama.

The film centres around a traditional Japanese family whose lives are defined by routine and custom. When the father, Ryuhei (Teruyuki Kagawa), loses his well-paid job at a medical equipment company to cheaper Chinese workers, his pride prevents him from admitting this to his wife and children. Instead, suited and booted with briefcase in hand, he makes a pretence of leaving for the office each day, whiling away his hours at the local library and queuing for free food at the soup kitchen. His demure wife, Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), soon guesses at the truth but, so as not to undermine her husband’s authority in the household, pretends not to know.

Although his children are not aware of his redundancy, the longer Ryuhei lives a lie, the less respect they have for his authority. In a spirit of rebellion his elder son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) signs up for the US Army, while his younger son Kenji (Inowaki Kai) uses his school lunch money to pay for piano lessons, after Ryuhei point blank refuses to pay for them himself.

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Les Destinées Sentimentales

Monday, October 5th, 2009

destineesBased on the epic novel by Jacques Chardonne, Les Destinées Sentimentales charts thirty years of French history through the eyes of two star-crossed lovers.

Set among the bourgeois protestant families of the Limoges region of France, Les Destinées follows the career of Jean Barnery (Charles Berling), the reluctant heir of a traditional porcelain business who must learn to steer his way through the frantic beginnings of the 20th century.

Barnery starts out as a minister in the small Protestant community of Barbazac, but after a scandalous divorce leaves his vocation and young daughter and embarks on a passionate romance with the orphaned Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart), a headstrong atheist whom he will later marry. The two wives are polar opposites, and tap into different areas of Barnery’s character. The first Mme Barnery, played by an icy Isabelle Huppert, exemplifies religious stricture; Pauline’s wide eyes and welcoming smile suggest a warm, open sexuality.

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