Category Archives: Reviews and Criticism

“Of Love and Honor” (Bushi no Ichibun) (2006)

High production values. Fits the genre to a T: melodramatic and predictable, with overwrought weather elements and even a cameo by Ogata Ken as an Obi-wan Kenobi figure (the facetiousness of such an analogy is fully warranted imho). In other words, dull viewing.

At one point, the movie presents a possibility that it could transcend its banality: the lead Mimura has divorced his wife for sleeping with another man in order to keep him fed, and modern audiences would no doubt be ambivalent about Mimura. Hence watching him seek revenge would have been interesting. But it’s soon revealed that the other man had lied. The wife Kayo reverts to being a cardboard Oshin, the other man is suddenly just another stock villain, and Mimura has an empty, heroic, crowd-pleasing gloss. Naturally, the film winds up with a wholly unrealistic ending, stopping along the way for the obligatory fight scene.

Director Yamada Yoji is best suited to mining humour from scenes of humdrum existence, and the early scenes with the low-ranking samurai food tasters are the best. As a whole though, this movie is cinematically insipid.

Advertisements

SIFF – Quick Cuts – 8 April 2008

(Cross-posted on the SFS blog.)

Yep, got a lot to catch up on. I’ll be working backwards from my most recent viewings. Hopefully I can get to NTU’s Perspectives Film Festival (31 Mar – 4 Apr 2008) before too long.

(Darn it Stefan, don’t you sleep? 😀 )

—–

Vivid
Singapore / 2007 / 30 mins
dir. Sam Loh

Another example of a short film based on an idea rather than a story, the idea here being two strangers connecting with each other via personal items left behind in a hotel room.

(compare with: Il Mare (시월애, Siworae) (2000) and its American remake The Lake House (2006))

The material is clumsily handled though, and ends up a string of romance cliches. For instance the actors fade in and out of scenes to suggest presence, and recognise each other right away when they meet for the first time.

The sensual possibilities of the items – a shawl, cigarettes, lipstick – through which the protagonists build their imagined connection, is never fully, intimately explored. Vivid is coy to the point of emptiness. A bit odd coming from Sam Loh, who’s perhaps best known for Outsiders. This was his debut feature film, about two detectives after a necrophiliac serial killer, and was withdrawn from SIFF 2005 after MDA insisted on cuts.

—–

Diminishing Memories II
Singapore / 2007 / 60 min
dir. Eng Yee Peng

The follow up to Diminishing Memories (2005) by Eng Yee Ping, and really a study of her quixotic obsession with her own imagined idea of Lim Chu Kang.

I don’t know whether this was deliberate or not – Eng is not only the director but also appears as herself in the documentary, talking and interviewing people – but there are moments when she realises that she might simply be pursuing a falsehood. For instance, she asks a developer of a agri-tourist attraction if he was planning to dig a well, then later wonders why she asked that question when there was no well to begin with. Eng also includes an interview with her mother who, close to tears, exhorts her to stop being so obsessed with the past. However, at the end of the documentary Eng does not seem to have reached any reconciliation between her ideas of Lim Chu Kang and the present.

Eng’s techniques need more sophistication too. Diminishing Memories II looks and feels much better suited for television rather than a cinema (perhaps due to her previous working experience in a Current Affairs Unit at Mediacorp). Eng also often falls back on verbal and visual cliches, most notably in a scene at the end where she stands, looking offscreen into the distance, sunset behind her, camera angled up at her from a low position while her voiceover decribes her feelings. Eng’s singular obsession is the main attraction in this naive, melodramatic work.