Monday, April 26, 2010

Too Many to Remember and One I Won't Forget

Recently, I watched two films that I had previously viewed. I had forgotten that I watched them which isn't surprising given how many films I watch.

I saw:

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (aka Sunrise) with Janet Gaynor and George O'Brien; directed by F.W. Murnau; silent with intertitles; (1927)
The Warlords starring Jet Li, Andy Lau & Takeshi Kaneshiro; Mandarin with subtiles; (2007) - Official Website


The plot to Sunrise started off a little like the middle of An American Tragedy making me wonder if I was confusing the two films. Then Murnau inserted a montage scene as a trolley took an incredible trip from a lake through an industrial area and finally into the heart of a city. I recalled that scene clearly from my previous screening. In addition, I vividly recalled the scenes shot at the World Fair or Expo with the magnificent sets.

I didn't write much about the film the first time I saw it. The massive and stylishly exaggerated sets combined with extensive use of German Expressionism gives the films a unique and still provocative look. Murnau also filmed some extended tracking shots that also caught my eye. Murnau largely eschewed intertitles as well. The total effect is to create a film that is still impressive 83 years after it was released.

Volumes have been written about the film and I can't add anything meaningful to the discussion. I will only say that I was glad that I watched the film a second time at the Castro. The first time I saw it, the film was accompanied by a live musician(s). Unfortunately, I did not record who it was. This time, the film was screened with a musical soundtrack.


I saw The Warlords at the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival. Again, I did not write much about the film. Rather, I digressed by speculating about the circumstances of Takeshi Kaneshiro being from Taiwan.

If I had researched the film a little more, I would have recalled that I didn't enjoy it that much the first time. As I was watching the film, my thought turned from "this reminds me of a disappointing Jet Li film I saw awhile ago" to "this is that Jet Li film" to "I hope this film is better than I remembered it." Unfortunately, it was not. The film was epic in its battle scenes but less so in developing the characters and their motivations. Many Chinese historical epic films fall into this trap. Maybe it's not limited to Chinese epics. Like Red Cliffs, Curse of the Golden Flower and several other films lacked character development and were not quite stylish enough to succeed. That may certainly be a cultural gap meaning what is considered stylish by Western audience may not be by Chinese audiences and vice versa. However, films like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon lead me to believer there is some common ground.


I was able watch The Hurt Locker the day before it ended its marathon engagement at the Landmark Theaters in SF (at least six months I believe). What can I add to a film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture? It was quite deserving in my opinion.

How can one not make a thrilling film about guys that disarm bombs for a living? Was the film factually accurate? Probably not but I was able to suspend disbelief without much trouble. The interplay between actors Jeremy Renner & Anthony Mackie was particularly effective but the scenes where Renner is in that demolition suit disarming IEDs are riveting beyond description.

The Hurt Locker directed by Kathryn Bigelow; (2009) - Official Website


With The Hurt Locker, I've seen seven of the ten nominees for the 2010 Best Picture Award. The three I missed are Avatar, The Blind Side and An Education. Of the seven, two are head and shoulders above the rest in my enjoyment: The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds. A notch below are Precious and A Serious Man.

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