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Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2001 2:08 pm
by acquarello
firetree65, I do have "La Dolce Vita" on pre-order in Region 2 (I also have a region free DVD player), but I'm holding off on "8 1/2" because at one point, it was in the rumor mill for DVD release in Region 1 this year.

As for the Anchor Bay/Werner Herzog DVDs, I had checked the OAR for "Aguirre: Wrath of God", and it was indeed 1.33 (full frame). However, on the "My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski" Herzog documentary, "Aguirre is also presented in widescreen. This topic came up on another forum (Home Theater Forum), and the consensus was that the documentary footage was actually matted for widescreen presentation. Given that Herzog is personally involved with Anchor Bay on the releases of his films (he provided the source materials), the DVDs actually reflect "director's intent".

acquarello
www.filmref.com

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2001 9:36 pm
by firetree65
Finally, I watched my first Hou Hsiao-Hsien film - "Flowers of Shanghai". What a film! A visual feast whose settings are the mere interiors of a chinese brothel. It's also probably the most boring film I've seen, bar none. And yet when I held through the end, the images, mood, ambience still lingers in my mind. Ozu is the closest director I can compare Hsien with yet I find Hsien more skillful in holding a narrative, or one like that of "Flowers..." if you can call that a narrative. Not a few (in fact, very rarely) can a director get away well with flying colors in directing a film like this. Well, that's just like saying that no director would care to make such a film if he hadn't the talent of HSH. As I was watching it, I kept saying to myself, when is this gonna end, for Pete's sake? and yet I relished every scene that was confronted to me. I had to watch it twice because the English subtitles were clashing with the Chinese characters and although I realized later on that I could go on without even reading the subtitles, the dialogue was where the thrust was although I didn't even have to be interested in it. The DVD transfer could use more detail since it suffers a bit in softness. What a great experience to discover "excitement" in a superlatively boring film! This is a first for me. At least, Ozu never bored me. Can't wait for my next HSH film. What's out on DVD? I checked Amazon.com and can't find it there.

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2001 10:52 pm
by acquarello
Unfortunately, that's it for Hou on DVD. I was able to pick up "City of Sadness" on PAL VHS before it went out of print, but could no longer find "The Puppetmaster". In the US, Facets carries "A Time to Live and a Time to Die", which along with "City of Sadness" is considered his masterwork. They also carry "Dust in the Wind".

As for "The Flowers of Shanghai", "hermetic" probably best describes the film. There is literally no interaction with the outside world, although external events clearly affect the existence of the "flower girls". What struck me most in the film was the recurring image of the amber glow of the oil lamp on the table. Visually, it was as if the lighting of the lamp brought the characters to life, and the characters ceased to exist when the fire died out.

"The Flowers of Shanghai" is a transitional film for Hou, so it is not necessarily indicative of all his work. His earlier films are historical, and often dealt with the turmoil and lost identity of Taiwanese Chinese. Currently, he is working on a contemporary film about the Taipei nightlife. However, his use of ellipsis, long takes, and largely static camera (although, unlike Ozu, his angle varies slightly with each repeated perspective shot) are beautifully showcased in the film.

acquarello
www.filmref.com

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2001 5:38 am
by katsuben
Okay, my favourite topic, Hou Hsiao-hsien. Cool. I have not seen 'Flowers of Shanghai'. It has not been released in Australia but I must purchase it on Region 1 pronto. Not to be too aggressive with the common opinion, but I disagree that 'A Time to Live and a Time to Die' is Hou's masterpiece. Why? 'Time to Live' does not exemplify the mature HSH style, the aesthetics of which are alluded to by acquarello. In addition to this list, I must include: the foregrounding of space; cutting on axis (quite a rare device in contemporary cinema); off-screen sounds and voice-overs; entrances and exits on axis (most especially in 'City of Sadness'); the use of colour filters (especially 'Goodbye South, Goodbye'); framing through doorways, screens, windows, archways; and obviously the utilisation of narrative techniques that seem to centre on a precise interest in tempo and the revealing of information made deliberately obscure in order to challenge the spectator. 'Time to Live' has some very un-Hou like moments that seem quite jarring and ugly in light of his more recent work. Imagine the shock of seeing 'Good Men, Good Women' or 'The Puppetmasters' and then noticing the use of close-ups in Hou's earlier work! 'Time to Live' is wonderful cinema but it is not Hou at his peak. He seems to be in complete restraint/control of mise-en-scene in 'The Puppetmasters'. I would guess that the attention he received for 'City of Sadness' in particular led to this exploration into a distancing style. Because he could get away with it. (Where else are these long-take, slow rhythm, deeply intricate narrative films being made? A director such as Hou can take a week or more to shoot one sequence-shot from his films. Within the various movie bureaucracies he would never be allowed such a luxury. Regardless of the fact that after such a week he would have just as much in the can as any other continuity filmmaker. I doubt if there'd be much toom in a HSH film for the producer to re-cut!) My two favourite HSH films are 'Good Men, Good Women' and 'Goodbye South, Goodbye'. 'GMGW' is possibly his most accessible film in that it has a clear emotional impact. The story is brilliantly unwound so that the final truth is not revealed until the final scene (sans coda). 'GSG' utilises colour more than other HSH films. It has scenes of interludic grace. The acting and art direction is undeniably realistic, more so than his other films (which is saying a lot). The view of contemporary Taiwan in both these films is perhaps another reason why I place them above the traditional works (although 'GMGW' incorporates both times into the story). It is exceedingly difficult to follow the political and socio-cultural considerations of 'City of Sadness'. And yet, I feel that if I was so worthy (some research is perhaps needed), 'CoS' would hold a myriad of desires until now unknown. The back-lighting is not usually a HSH formal property but I like it enormously. And the arrangement of figures in the setting is the most precise of all his works. I feel like I'm going too far because if you've read to here you must be wondering where some of these statements are coming from or indeed where they could possibly lead. I too am frowning beacuse I feel that any summary such as this of the great man's artworks is barely the (insert your chosen metaphor for the tiny merging with the large, here). Probably the grandest feeling of all when watching a movie for formal passion is the joy of knowing you are in the safe hands of a talented director. This is the warm fuzzy glow I get when watching Hou. Even the mistakes (yes, there are plenty - mostly to do with non-professional actors and HSH likes the errors because they provide realism) are enjoyable. If I was ever going to put a person on a pedastal it would probably be Hou. But I never will. That way I shan't be too disappointed if he ever decides to make an action blockbuster sequel in La La Land. Gee, here's hoping. . . :-/

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2001 5:48 am
by katsuben
I alluded to where the Hou-type of films are allowed (by film committees and investors) to be made in the world. At the moment all I can think of is Taiwan and Hungary. Edward Yang and Hou are the 2 names most commonly associated with Taiwanese cinema. In Hungary I believe Miklos Jancso is still making films and there is a new guy in town by the name of Bela Tarr whose most recent film was lost at Cannes when some kind of bungle occurred. I believe they had to re-edit before striking a new print. Amazing that this can still happen today. Tarr's most well-known film is 'Damnation' which I haven't seen. 'Satan's Tango' is a 7-hour long long-tape epic. I am exceedingly interested in seeing his films if anyone knows where they are available. Oh, I shouldn't forget Greece and Theo Angelopoulos. Perhaps even Argentina and Fernando Ezekiel Solanas. Anyone else?

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2001 12:12 pm
by acquarello
funkyduck, since you're from Australia, are you familiar with Melbourne-based independent filmmaker, Bill Mousoulis, and the Senses of Cinema journal? (http://www.sensesofcinema.com) I'm an occassional contributor to it (the Naruse article is mine), and they currently have an interesting article on Bela Tarr.

The only Miklos Jancso film that I've seen is "The Red and the White", and I didn't particularly find it memorable.

Is Jerzy Kawalerowicz still active? I was greatly impressed with his work in the 1970s-1980s, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see some of his earlier films, but I have yet to find any of his films on home video, at least in the US.

Bruno Dumont is also carving out quite a name for himself with "Life of Jesus" and "L'Humanite". His works strike me as a more carnal, unnerving Bresson. From Belgium, there is also Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who made the eviscerating "Rosetta" and "La Promesse". "Rosetta" was my choice for top film of 1999, succeeded by Kiarostami's "The Wind Will Carry Us" and Dumont's "L'Humanite".

acquarello
www.filmref.com

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2001 8:20 am
by katsuben
thanks, i'll have to look that up. by the way, i re-watched 'City of Sadness' today for just the 2nd time. it's such a chellenge narratively that i often find it difficult to get into the mood to watch. of course it's a great great film and certainly as much a favourite (now!) as the contemporarily set films i mentioned. now i'll have another look at 'The Puppetmasters'. has anyone seen 'Daughter of the Nile', 'Dust in the Wind', 'Cute Girls', The Boys from Fengkuei' 'Growing Up', 'Summer at Grandpa's' or 'The Sandwich Man'? (sorry that wasn't in chronological order.)

Re: challenge to initiate discussion/evaluation

PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2001 11:11 am
by acquarello
I've only seen "Dust in the Wind" from the list, and it is a very understated and compelling film on the passage of time. Despite its simplicity, the film is visually rich and the narrative structure is quite complex, but not abstruse. Highly recommended.

acquarello
www.filmref.com