Monday, 22 November 2010

country for sale 2

anderman (labri)

For the discussion of this short, chaired by Jaap, we were kept to the principle that if one must talk of film at all, one should restrict oneself to less than its run time – a profitable maxim. So briefly, we were given a snapshot into his life and relationship with Per Anderman who is a rich seam of idiosyncrasy and fascination by himself, this film's character study is rich also by its playfully affected form which reflects something of his condition, and also there is richness in the collaboration obvious in its production.

Story-telling. Rather as I found Tetro's therapy of story-telling good, true and beautiful, albeit in a fictional setting, this film plays this out with a real individual: in taking Anderman's broadcast snippets of life to a wider audience it enriches and humanises (and heals?) both the one giving his testimony and his audience.

Architecture. It is interesting to compare Jos' apartment in Ooit, Ivan's office and environs in Win/Win, and then the estate where Anderman lives. In using architectural photography to compliment or illustrate their mental state we are gently prompted to ask what qualities of an 'abnormal' mind find their parallels in 20th century architecture and then to question what environments are conducive to mental health.

Extending from architecture in an moment of hyperactive syllogising, I would venture of Win/Win, that modernity detaches fact from meaning, autism detaches fact from meaning, modernity is autistic. Or equally of Ooit, modernity profits from an obsessive, compulsive, forgetful people. Downs Syndrome here makes such of Jos, so modernity. Or of Anderman, modernity reduces conversation to soundbites, time to snapshots, other people to a background blur. This presentation of Alzheimer's shows a stutter of sounds, photos and blurs, ergo modernity is Alzheimic. I am being crude to abbreviate a question on these films' observances on mental health and their relevance, appeal and application to wider cultural memes. As we endeavour to enter the real, to see rightly and to live well, what can we learn from that which we see of ourselves and our culture in these characters - what cause, what cure to their condition?

We also see in this piece beautifully, the power of art, even a saving power in these three works, tactile, colourful, emersive, handmade, personal. Coming to its climax at Corb's chapel, we slip subtly into motion picture, as the Hand of Rob (ref) in Flatland (ref). Are we moderns proverbially trapped in 3d, without time?

doubt (labri)

“What do you do when you don't know?” What do you do? At the centre of this bleak film the lived-out theological answers of Aloysius/Flynn are set against one another, in a portrayal that some found more balanced than I would give it credit for. Father Flynn venturing a salvation by sympathy, Sister Aloysius salvation by structures.

The film is made gripping in its tension and tragedy by the present very public reality of Catholic child-abuse scandals which are in the invisible foreground of this film throughout. Lending another dimension to the question, “What do you do when you don't know [if Flynn did it]”, we see this answered in Sister James' uncritical optimism, and in Mrs Miller's mercenary stoicism. What do you do when you don't know?

So, of the two theologies of Flynn and Aloysius, is humanism's self-help more stable, or indeed more humanising, than the power games of the vertical hierarchies of an aloof and off-kilter Catholicism which it bids to replace? Flynn's opening sermon hopes in a horizontal Christianity, a reductive coping mechanism that bids us cling to one another in the dark of a locked closed universe. And in preaching “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty..” he opposes a very particular definition of 'certainty' via a very particular understanding of powerful. The straw-man of certainty as an unswerving allegiance to an arbitrary, subjective and judgemental absolute? And powerful: there is an irony in holding up something so potentially manipulative as a virtue.

'Certainty', the straw-man which Sister Aloysius embodies, even parodies, is made clear to be of an insubstantial nature by the exaggerated use of force she employs to defend it, making all the more frustratingly redundant her final closing concession. This force used is the fear of, as well as the imitation of, an all-powerful but unloving God, the panopticon God, punitive and unapproachable - due a comparison to The Return's God? It is a loveless God who gives no sleep “Maybe we weren't meant to sleep so well” (vs) Her's is a view of the world which again and again closes the window to the wind, in a picture which lingered with me, a potent metaphor for a zeal for order excluding chaos and chance and the reality of a real beyond the self. (vs)

I did enjoy this film's performance, the tension of the questions did hold me, and Sister James' and Mrs Miller's laissez-faire complicity did convict me. The film asks whys and hows of schooling, disadvantage and institution, as Cracks. And the film asks, at what cost child protection, it manages to ask it without appearing to have asked it. In all a demanding film.

win/win (labri)

There are no spoiler warnings, as my hope is not selling teasers to the casually interested but rather appealing for help with questions from those already familiar with these. But, I am going to betray this film's surprise, go and see it first.

This is a film made by L'Abri for L'Abri, I would enjoy to hear an other perspective, a broker's perspective, an accidental viewer's, a perspective from one for whom the issues here are not games and metaphors. Seldom one to spill sentimental and exaggerated adjective-of-the-year superlatives, and this has been a year richer than ever in my filmic education, but Win/Win is certainly in my unmissables for 2010.

The real. If we can speak of it, this is a concept, realm or substance that is laboured and layered into this film with every sense, in every sense. The real is emphasised justaposed with its antithesis in hollow tertiary financial abstractions, the machined interiors of corporate hospitality and mediated therapeutic community. By contrast we are shown the real expressed in touch, in relationship, in the fickle and organic realities of a bodily real; the real is spoken in the wordless groans of a phenomenological world that bodies over us by-passing abstractions. The real flickers in a human colour, where the film is of a cool to cold pallor, it warms pointedly for moments of connection, with his call to his grandmother, with the nest of mice, the intercity fellowship, Deniz' shoes, the cake. And the real emerges in the music, I enjoyed particularly the womb of warm noise as he runs his toes into the depth of carpet. And the playful jazz click a clack of his kitchen to train composition of found sounds; that is the real, when the world is our playpen.

Masculinity. This is a man's film about men doing silly things with money, young men, too young to remember the last recession, young men still competitively high on hormones and adrenaline. In the context and apprenticeship Ivan enters here much is worthy of comparison to The Social Network's portrayal of autistic machismo let loose on money, sex and power, a portrayal akin but totally different, why? And what can we say of these fatherless strivers, how might they be other, how indeed might they be and be employed in a world more real?

Nudity. Twice in the film: first as sold in strip clubs, manageable, reductive, shallow sex symbols, signs signifying nothing; the second, the overwhelming glory of I-Thou, a glory which resists image-making, the glory in and of otherness. The second is framed as being a 'favour', that is χαρις, a grace or a gift, an un-market-able transaction, this is the truer nudity, and totally unravelling to behold. We could attribute Ivan's collapse to the bends of decompressed repression, as nudity is a relative thing, a cultural thing, a learnt tolerance positioned between our taboos and our sexual liberation? Or is there something more, as we enter the real, is our sensitivity to the spiritual power of the naked form heightened?

Genius. “Walk the wire on high..” As in Man on Wire, we see a man fully alive, dazzling in their gifted giftedness. These brokers are the gods of our age, with the power to create out of nothing, with the vision to read the signs of the times, to predict, profit, prosper. In his research interviews Jaap extracted from brokers their sense of what secret they had of success, some trusted technical, some social, some psychic-intuitive means of taking the pulse of a share's future rise and fall; ultimately it is their genius, and this is what makes their game so fascinating, so ripe for a film such as this. We are a cinema audience of committee members and anonymous cogs in mundane conglomerates, we want a protagonist operating within a world consistent with the one we experience, so believable, but powerful and free, and yet loveable. Jaap spoke of van Rompay as an actor who “moved like there was a crazy jazz record playing inside him”, and he is and brilliantly able, by the idiosyncrasies he conjures, to create a character whom we can believe might make a million by accident, we are instantly sympathetic to this savant frog-boned weirdo, this child-like holy fool, why?

Sympathy. Ivan is a melancholy character, detached, dis-integrated and yet without cause or motive for his condition. It was my feeling that those quite explicit references to Blue, in the here resurrected mice and in his solitary sleepless swimming pool meditations, we have a borrowing of another's grief, by suggestion to give us cause to empathise, to provoke by association an imagined previous Ivan before he started on the road into his current abstraction. Anyone?

Survival and solitude. Such was the even-handedness of Jaap's handling of this material that bankers have expressed at screenings that Ivan did not have to become sad, and that Stef is in fact the winner in this story, as the one who survives. There is something in this, the strength to carry on in the face of complexity, the single-minded application to a given task, these are virtues. What gives us the right, what gives us the liberty to judge characters like Stef? We side with the underdog, we question power, we affirm bowing out, we advocate the small, the slow and the local, we presume to know, we christians, we presume essentially that sin that is slower and locally grown, is in some way inherently less grievous. A provocation on: sin, scale and technology in a global age, anyone?

Luck. What is luck? What is at the root of the belief in auspicious numbers, ties, orientations, animals, manners and such? Set beside this film's Korean character, can we discuss what Western culture deems lucky by another name?

Feet. Taking off one's shoes is an act of spiritual significance that I feel I can only be crudely reductive in putting words to. Moses takes off his sandals on Holy ground, eastern culture removes its shoes on entering a home in respect, Big Fish shows the flinging-off of shoes up over onto wires as the adventure of the fairytale begins. Taking off shoes brings one's skin into touch with the earth, grounding your being, submitting one to contours of the real, and declaring it more, other and sacred. Taking one's shoes off as one enters the world, the street and the city is to name each and every particular place as particularly sacred, an act anathema to the abstracting, globalising, homogenising, reletivising whims of that banking which begat our present recession?


(Q&A) In brief, some approximated snippets for those absent. British hooligans? Yes, please stage stags elsewhere. What is your message? I am a projector, this may be a postmodernistic idea but a story only becomes a story in its reception, it would be strange to alter the reception or to convince you to see things you didn't see. Why does the poster shot not appear in the film? ABN bank from the poster is one that collapsed which we weren't allowed to film inside. Race of servant characters, a commentary? Yes. Sex on film and christianity, what is your framework? Tricky, the ethics of this, and the double standard of advertising Ooit to church teenagers, but not this. Swearing? Yes, the language of stockbrokers is amazing, rhythmed entirely differently for example: 'the fucking door of the fucking bank..' this is part of their culture.

Monday, 15 November 2010

secret of kells

This film bubbles over with its zany freedom to paint people as their spirits are, here extravagantly layered with a million gems, humorous human observations, little gargoyle character one-liners carved in corners of this a cathedral of animation – all playful as the sheep tender's beard and other joys. And all in this seemingly effortless sketchy flourish, one has the feel of dancing through pages of manuscript, swirling through a world of geometries where nature reveals her strange but legible, fractal symmetries and centres and ordered, alternated, empatterned glory. I will go on, this film is exceedingly beautiful, scenes set sumptuously in watercolour splashes, the form of nature brought to wonder-full excellence in an act of splendid dominion, all as if seen sketched through the eyes of the heart of the dreaming mind of this emerging young illuminator who receives with such a simple but compelling curiosity all those gifts which nature gifts.

Is this a film about God, or even about faith? A 'God'-less exploration of God? Panentheistically maybe, with such appeals to that longing to know and be known unto our environment, it is paganism at its most attractive, or, thanking J, “Avatar with a heart”. Yet there is such a wealth of goodness to affirm, goodness hanging on the fine line of the tweaking of a definition, where does nature end and God begin?

Is this film about religion? To parallel it with Jesus of Montreal in our accidentally apt double bill, both feature centrally the creation of religious art, both feature a tired establishment using the abstracted and supposed vulnerable masses as an excuse to fortify the status quo at the eventually regretted expense of the liveliness of art, here expelling illuminated manuscripts, there quashing a passion play. What say we of these bricks versus books, power versus play, security or delight, of chaos, order, fight, flight, and faithful folly, this is a film by its medium and message, urgently able to speak to a generation who has forgotten the why and how of ornament. Where are our suffering illuminators today, where our walls, who our vikings?
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Charmingly British British comedy enjoying itself, relishing its knowing surrealism, it felt excited to have been allowed onto a big screen, in a happy way a happy film.

Magic works well drawn as being of a non-specific time, and there is a skill in conjuring such time-less-ness, relying on the vagueries of nostalgia, the handmade, the worn, the ruined and the rural. Magic's portrayal also profits from facial hair (theologise that) and allusions to an unseen geography.

This film is a challenge to those inclined to a supernatural worldview, questioning how far one suspends disbelief to enter the main premise of this film. It also portrays an attractively redemptive use of the occult. Stripped of it's candles and steam punk paraphernalia, this is treasure hunting - to use St Mary's particular idiom, here we see holy fools sent out in pairs to speak seemingly pointless prophetic words from the beyond for the reconciliation of the present.


Films featuring a certain learnt homelessness find a special place in my estimation, so this, like Persepolis, casts stones in my little lake of melancholy. This film appeals at other levels less obtusely TCK, it is a film which spreads itself into a chiaroscuric wealth of excessive or pleasantly indulgent photography. And there is this thorough father/brother parallel, what if our Father were our brother, what then, how then, and why does this appeal? We could try a strained extension, that this film displays us reading our Father's story and writing our final chapter. But such theological extrapolations are better left ununpacked.

The genius. Assumed in this film and so crucially unanswered: what is genius and what is its value? Do we believe people are geniuses, do we believe people have geniuses, is either a helpful concept in bringing gifting's fruit to fruition? Does society sacrifice the concept of genius in fear on the altar of egalitarianism's necessary 'normal'? Is genius sacrificed to spite the giver? Wherefore a celebration of the anti-hero in our age, why a fascination with the failures of the walking wounded and the wasted potential of the promising procrastinator? Can we navigate the tensions of genius with a joy imperative such as would mitigate the moralisms of propriety? Little of this is in Tetro.

Redemption and its difficulties are given some space, particularly I enjoyed the sequence where Angelo is brought back from a brink by being given space to tell his story, and the whole dignifying love that that gives, story-telling rather as Jaap talks of the Andermann film being. The resistance to salvation, “Am I not ok the way I am..” speaks a little of the anti-hero's allure, maybe?

Black and white and colour and time. To compare this with another recent viewing, City of Life and Death, where after a colourful death, heaven is shown in black and white, what is the motive, what the effect of choosing to remove colour? Does it serve to make a portrait more authoritative, more epic, more of a time when-cathedrals-were-white (?). On leaving the primary school of primary colours we graduate to the sophistication and sophistry of desaturated maturity, why is this? Colour is so particular, a pigment so absolutely chosen, naively and exclusively that which it is, it is none of the hedged bets of white minimalism. Colour, thanking Sarah, is irreducible. Colour is the crude, the kitsch, the creative of the delightfully fully present. And also, as opened up in Bothersome Man's 'azure vs cool coral' discussion, colour can yet be but branding and power play, subjective and fleeting, shallow. Where, by contrast, black and white generates eternal forms, unfading, unerring, like dinosaur bones and the Acropolis. Not sure. But colour reminiscences here are well crafted to emphasise the absurdity of memory, and the exaggerated histories which define us.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

other films

I will plug Emirates, who have carried me to and fro so comfortably so efficiently. They are rightly the carrier I was recommended most by most for the UK-SEA route. Being bafflingly cheap for the service and conducting themselves with exceeding grace and professionalism, as all others on the flight were spilling coffee down my leg and finding cause to make their voice heard over some unmet extraneous expectation. So, I lost myself inside their bottomless selection of films, albethey a little re-editted and de-nuded (oh words).

men who stare at goats

Examining the conflict between the military and spirituality, rather like Avatar. Here we see an active passive resistance playing with new spiritual disciplines. Could we, should we train our prophets this way?

Placing a Vietnam vet in the context of our Vietnam, Iraq, emphasised how much has changed in the spirit of public opinion on illegal wars, we are now dulled to the sloganised and bebannered cries of non-violence, immune to the suggestion that peace is possible. Accordingly, the comedy on this is a painful irony, that our generation no longer has the optimism of the hippies – we know that the hippie movement only ends in tears and we know that war is inevitable. So, having failed to invent a new non-violence, we can only revisit past hopes with irony.

We also see here that image of animals wandering the ruins of empire, always a powerful image. Is.

the lovely bones

Harrowing, made bludgeoningly so by obvious metaphors. Miniature ships in the glass bottle of your immaculate suburban life crash smashed on the rocky shore of calamity. Some of the landscapes feel as if they began life ambitiously aiming for a dreamlike middle-earth quality, but had to settle for an over-coloured collage. The sum is visually rich and immersive, as a child's imagination, as scrap book of memories, but.

Photography and innocence - with all of its spontaneity and reckless abandon and unselfconscious self-portraiture. Further, both issues of cost and delay are visited in this depiction of a happy analogue age, would the magic be the same with a digital camera? Why not?

The portrayal of evil in this film is a similar evil to that which sells the Daily Mail – pervasive, active, other, uncaused, unredeemable. How should we speak of evil? How should we portray evil, how in fiction, how in documentary? Are there of portrayals of evil, which by omission, increase a sense of fatalism and hopelessness? Of this film, is there a pleasure in being scandalised?

Here we also see home and home-coming's homeness, as well as intergenerational homeness and its tensions. Importantly the film stands as a criticism of suburbia, but it was all a bit difficult, tangled and emotional.

lost in translation
A meditation on Scarlett Johansen in soft hues and soft focus, comfort viewing for the far flung. bookending my little filmic adventure in south east Asia, concluding that which aptly began with Up! on my way out in January. I haven't enumerated a top ten, but this film is in there. It sympathises with any experience of disorientation locally or abroad. If this film is self-pitying, it manages it at least elegantly. We see the superficiality of globalisation's breadth at the expense of depth and the cost of crossing cultures compensated in alcohol's consolation, the film offers some illustration of all that is concealed in saying, I've been in Singapore.

cloudy with a chance of meatballs
Upon return to England and here following swiftly a coffee's conversation on greed, gluttony and a theology of food, James and I enjoyed this computer generated caper. It is a story beautifully told.

Are we more tolerant of moralism in animated films? What makes a children's film a children's film? To come as children, is to remain teachable, maintain a delight in colour and to affirm those dreamt dreams of the why not. Insert Madeleine L'Engle quote here.

Fat on film. As in Wall-E, obesity is emphasised as inconvenient, rather than unhealthy or unattractive, in a tangle of mixed moral messages. But as a warning against the danger of the remoteness of food production, this film is fairly unambiguous.

wristcutters: a love story

The Swedenborg Society offered this as a theology of Hell for the unconcluded as Sarah and I. Who was Swedenborg, and what must a philosopher do to so inspire so pleasant a society headquarters in Bloomsbury? A happy, slightly cultic, free Friday evening's screening, with free wine. Join us next week for other afterlife films.

Anyways. This is another film shocking by how easily Hell can be portrayed in the familiar. Desaturated as Bothersome Man, and similarly relishing the hellishness of the daily grind. Here we differ from Bothersome's view of the afterlife, there being ruled by a regime of fastidious tidiness, here we see the entropy of apathy played out in all things abandoned, rusting and exhausted. I found the palette over-processed, dialogue unclear and the characters hard to care about. It is a worthy film, but too self-consciously indie, too knowingly bleak, too nonchalantly suicidal. It is saved largely by Tom Waits, and some of its questions and landscapes.

the book of eli

That someone made this film. Even if we finally see the Bible taking its place alongside other apparently legitimate holy texts and the Da Vinci Code, this film is still a long study on a particular interest in the Bible. We can explain this away by the Bible Belt's paying cinema audience? Maybe, or perhaps because we are all looking to find a power of ideas in a text, any text? Or because we want to be affirmed in our defining ourselves by fear of those who justify violence by zeal for a text? Either way, this film was made.

Preppers and scripture memorisation. The printing press and end of faith. That there is technology we take for granted in not committing to memory those histories and philosophies on which we predicate our lives is interesting - the filmic device of the post-apocalypse gives emphasis to those things we take for granted before an epic technological failure, and here, the social-moral collapse is framed by illiteracy and the apparent destruction of Bibles. Can we say Christianity is dependently technological? Are we ready for such a collapse?

Interpretation. We still hold a nostalgic sympathy for the idea that a text can possess saving truth, however, the film offers little by way of help for interpretation. Eli's hermeneutic consists in a mystical experience of God and carrying a sharp sword. A gentle affirmation of just war, a gentle poke relativising the missional confidences of those who claim the precedence of their interpretation?

Preaching and race. If Eli had been white, what would change? It is racist to say that one distrusts white religious characters more than black? What structure of stereotypes gives Eli currency? I can think of Samuel L. Jackson's Ezekiel-misquoting character in Pulp Fiction, which possibly doesn't help this question, but I would be interested to discuss what other plausible heroes have been shown using the bible on film, and on what basis they are popularly considered legitimate.

Blindness and the end of order. As more bluntly shown in Blindness, could we discuss the device as used in House of Flying Daggers and King Lear. What can we affirm in Eli's blind faith? Will we yet wish we were blind, both for the horror of the visual world and, following collapse, a better dependence on such hopes as are unseen?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Monday, 6 September 2010


**15.10.10 + 18.10.10 showing at the London Film Festival

To that degree to which Singapore has attained the 'ideal city', and it has like almost no other, it bears a burden of angst to that same degree. And this social existentialism has born fruit of naval gazingly melancholic films. This film functions as an older brother to I No Stupid, and in that function I would recommend it to anyone looking to understand Singapore.

Singapore is the sandcastle. A metaphor that functions at a number of levels: most literally we are here living in castles built on reclaimed land of borrowed sand, dredged from Indonesia. Really however, the title is more concerned for the sense in which Singapore is a sandcastle in the imagination of its elders who, as the tide turns, have their precious childhood project now threatened by a wave of sexually liberal youth. Approximately.

Coming of age. Apt then that this film about Singapore's love-affair with itself should begin with porn. Evoking also Singapore's self-understanding as being an adolescent nation, and here En, embodying Singapore (rather as Tsotsi for South Africa), goes through the motions coming of age, and we see him mature: in his beginning of a relationship with Ying, an objective other; in his learning to drive, a skill of independence; and in his making peace with his dead father in Malaysia, symbolic of many things, up to and including Singapore's collective sense of fatherlessness?

Crosses and Christianity. After 8 months here, I have not yet fathomed what happened on this island a generation ago that accounts for the accumulation of cultural christianisms, particularly among the Chinese middle classes. Twice, in the slightly laboured poetic shots this film intersperses, we linger on the crucifix hung from his mother's rear-view mirror. Suggesting the religious tension hanging in air of a silent car journey? My sense is that Boo Junfeng aligns that generation's nostalgia for a golden age of emerging Singaporean Christianity (?1960s), with a parallel belief in a golden age of heroic Singaporean independence. The baton that the government wants passed on at NDP is a sort of moral character, vision and allegiance to the divinised city Singapore, a baton which cultural Christians raising Christian kids perhaps struggle to distinguish from their faith's morality, hope and security? Anyone?

Much is unsaid, we do see some conflict over baptising the grandmother, where a nominal-secular-gen-x would take offence at a born-again-boomer attempting to convert a traditionally-buddhist-interwar-generation. And at a stretch we could draw something out of 'crossing' the mosquito bites, as a picture of wisdom reduced to superstition and self-medication for life's woes. And at a stretch further we could draw on biblical sandcastle parables Mt Lk.

Boo Junfeng's presentation treads lightly around religion in what is an already understated (and censor-aware) film, to a certain extent he offers these volumes of silence as a canvas for our own judgement on these issues. However, the mother, an already maligned type in comparable narratives, is constructed here as forceful and hypocritical, racist regarding Chinese immigrants in food courts, and hypocritical in her presumably sexual affair with Wilson. That relationship between Christian mother and this military character is the film's most biting critique. For Christians listening, you are here being called to account for your complicity.

The city leaves no place for old people. Illustrated by their alienation in a number of ways, old people are those least able to resist the mechanisation and impersonalisation of all things by the city, least able to escape, least able to make their voice heard. Accordingly the portrayal of the nursing home is suitably hard: a sterile box, possibly made the more cruel by its view of the sea and the distance from it. The PCK movie illustrates the challenge of this question also, in its own humourous way, the speed of Asian urbanisation and the former strength of the Chinese family, seem to make this dilemma acute, in its pain and humour. And against this En's deepening relationship with his grandmother is a beautiful unfolding, being believeable and enviable.

The city forgets old people. It is interesting to set the difficulties-to-keep-up for old people, shown in the dialogue about dial up and why En's iMac needed a telephone cable, to set this beside the difficulties-to-go-back for the team making the film in 2009 showing a Singapore in 1999, Singapore where there are no cars old enough for such historical reconstruction - Ref. So I enjoyed that reality of the city's amnesia being played out. And amnesia finds various metaphors in damaged hard-drives, burnt prints and the piecing together of a jigsaw – they didn't feel disproportionately forced.

Photography and the nation. Into this amnesia, we have photography, which, as well as making this a film about film, a history of history, it also offers us a possible window into the whys of a Singaporean obsession. More than half of bus ads, constant colour supplements and event sponsorship, acres of mall space, all serve and reflect this preoccupation as a nation for holding power over time, eternalising the ephemeral, mediating a present, flattening the complexities of a now. So here, the role of photography in the narrative, the role of photographing in En's character formation and the self-conscious photography of the director's art direction should each offer some clue to this nation and the question of why Singapore photographs.

Willing propaganda and music. In making a film about Singapore, a director is looking to give a buying public the Singapore they want, give the censoring (?funding) government the Singapore they want, and express some little part of the Singapore the director wants to see emerge out of the tangle in future. Where in these do we place the soundtrack's use of the NDP national songs, songs which are in their original tuneful and here are reworked not unpleasingly as slower acoustic numbers? A vision for that same Home ideal the government sells but achieved in a more understated, personal and unplugged manner?

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other films

avatar se 3d
Paradigm establishing as the most ridiculously highest grossing movie ever, ever. Is there anything yet unsaid about this faith-gender-empire movie? That popular paganism is predicated on an alarming, childless, individualist, disembodied androgeny? Perhaps. That a concern for complex and vulnerable ecology constitutes a superlative satanism, however, is a polemic too far and my long flirtation with Driscollian theology, for all its strengths, wanes from here. The film's forest's aesthetic draws notably on that relationship between the luminous and the numinous, seen in fairy lit prayer rooms. Anyone on this ~ worship, pointillism, and the spirit, glitter, fireflies and the glory of God? The film also appeals to that universal: if we could we would, live in a tree. My chief pleasure in this film was the trees, heroically alive.

phua chu kang

Apparently, this is the dying franchise of a sitcom spin-off, now more popular in Malaysia than it own Singapore, the film is sponsored by paint brand Nippon. Make of that what you will, I enjoyed it. The film relishes those ambiguities inherent in the finances associated with old age care, an increasing source of angst in an emerging, increasingly individualist Asian urban culture. Also represented is the national myth of the happy kampong, a rural idyll crucial to understanding the Malay identity, as captured and established as the anchor of their pained nostalgia by cartoonists like Lat.
no imdb (?) 1 2 3

liar game
This films begins as pure economics, it becomes a little convoluted, or I got tired, or it drew too heavily on prequels I had missed. Avant-garde Japanese cinema drawing on Genesis to examine total depravity. Recommended, some what.

villon's wife
The Japanese make dark cinema. A pleasingly paced, textured and decorated period piece, but dry and without hope. We see an impossibly resilient, radiant Sachi making her way in a sea of cowards – is this Love? And her husband, gifted and selfish and aphoristic and unrepentant. “Women know neither joy nor grief, but men know only grief because they are always fighting fear.” A cruel film.


Sunday, 5 September 2010

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Friday, 3 September 2010

Monday, 23 August 2010

diary of a shinjuku thief (jff)

Seriously? I can't muster the energy to interact with a film so unrewarding, elsewhere called imprecise, this film was an exercise in contempt for the audience. I would happily be culturally ignorant of all things New Wave.. even as a commentary on the depravity of man and the absurdity of postmodernism, even as a frank portrayal of the emasculation of the late boomer male, even for its documentary realism as a portal into Japanese identity, even for its asking what is love? Don't waste your life.

blood thirsty (jff)

Another sex and death number from Japan, as I make my home in the NMS's basement. This was the blackest comedy I've possibly ever seen, it asks, with ironic humour, if we may yet come to a point in culture where we will market insurance by commodifying failed suicide? An elegant construction, pitting Japan's historic concept of honourable death against the contemporary reign of simulation and media and capitalism, which feed on such virtue in fabricating advertising's heroic narratives. I don't think the film goes so far as to explicitly ask, if whether, mediated consumer society is inherently suicidal, but at a jump.

Early on, in a cruel reversal, Kiguchi's wife challenges him to profit from his recent media-worthiness, suggesting that to deny such opportunistic materialism is cowardly. Cowardly, as the antithesis of all that is heroic, aspirational and marketable. Thus abetted, Kiguchi, and all of Japan's honour he embodied in his restraint, subjects himself to a gradually total prostitution. In stages we are shown the way the media adopts a certain embodiment of virtue and hollows it out to be injected with a brand, our protagonist, however, was fairly hollow to begin with – as hollow as this notion of 'meaningful death' is considered by the Yoshida as bankrupt perhaps.

In this tragic character transformation, I don't believe he simply becomes one who believes his own hype. I think we can observe these two: 1. When a cynical media makes out that all virtue by public figures is contrived, self-fulfilledly these figures will lose nothing by playing to our low expectations. 2. Equally, when a shepherdless public invest saving hope in the infallibility of public figures, that is an impossible burden of trust and moral responsibility which can only be borne by illusion. So, Kiguchi is shot from both sides, and we see the man-eating dynamic of marketing at work.

So, he who began in innocence as a 'modern miracle' for simply 'saying what he thought', allows himself to be sold into a landscape 'surrounded by mirrors', which gradually by impatience beats out of him any Hamletian critical reflection as 'out of style' to leave a man so parasitically dependent on the supposed trust of an abstraction, 'my public', as to kill himself a second time for lack of it. A thoroughly modern moral tale. It is a concisely cut, closely shot film, with a number of frames delighting in that strength of singular lighting made excellent in black and white. Recommended highly.

sing a song of sex (jff)

I can't bear to enter a film late, I did, by 10 minutes, it was free, as Singapore gifts me strange graces daily. But I was left never knowing the precise genesis of Oshima's picture of four young men in Tokyo. In all, a rewarding picture, not only for its rich, and now nostalgic, palette and its simply captured sea shanty acapella. But mostly those.

The films bears some comparison to A Clockwork Orange, both films prompted by sexual violence question what strength holds in place an emerging society's bounds of sexual propriety; both films concern men and the measures employed for their sexual restraint, and consequent repression. In Clockwork the strength of the state is called to restrain sexual desire of youth run amok, in Sing a Song, we see the fantasies of four such youth who would, were it not for the weight of tradition, education and class (?). Accordingly, we see these frustrated imaginations play out in Freudian gardens, locked manor houses, examination halls and coal mines.

Into all this, enter music, hence the title, and here used in a way quite other to Clockwork's Ludwig van therapy. Here music calls them out of captivity 'Youngsters can't even tell they are oppressed, this is why we sing songs.' Music assuages 'their misery'. And here where music is the food of free love, where 'love is the only behaviour of resistance', we see a confluence of imported Vietnam protest and Japanese New Wave sexual liberation.

Music brings meaning to death: 'His death isn't meaningful' … 'Yes it is, it is our duty to prove it.' Music seduces mischief's would-be widow, music hypnotises and kindles unity, music portrayed in such unadorned recording here celebrates thatcertain strength of spirit manifest in both sexual rebellion and political protest.

Monday, 16 August 2010


Oh genre movies and America's mythology. “We kill nine million people and anger billions of Muslims, and America suffers a painful death.” Seriously? Here the rather anachronistic Russian enemy gains post-Cold War relevance by wielding Muslim believers as his weapon of mass destruction. There are between 1.2billion and 1.5billion Muslims, 'billions' connotes 2 or more, to meet Noyce's scaremongering with pedantry to make a point. Interesting that Muslims are referred to as a threat by their global total (exaggerated) volume, rather than, as Russia might be, by its particular equipment of nuclear weaponry. The new paranoia fears less the professional mole but rather the civilian mole majority demonstrating the new power of ideas, belief and guerilla aggression in an age of cloud networks and radical islam?

Orphans and Superheroes. Salt is an orphan, joining a long list of Spidermen and Howard Roarks and Harry Potters before her. These orphan Types are not merely incidentally so for the convenience of concise casting, rather it is almost crucial to their superness: “The loner, cut loose from family responsibilities, is an inherent part of the romance of America, the myth of eternal fresh starts..” (Wirth-Nester).(via McWilliams) Protagonists command our attention and affection for reflecting the person we find ourselves to be, and, at the same time, embodying that person we would like to be. We find ourselves fatherless, practically, biologically and metaphysically, and from this conception, we aspire to the self-made independence and the unrestrained heroic of these orphans we would be. That is to say, we do not want a Father to the fatherless, we want to be Evelyn Salt, prodigally unobliged to none in no gift economy of upbringing, inheritance or apprenticeship. It will be interesting to see as this trilogy (?) plays out, how they account for her defection from her surrogate family of communism, where Winter etc do not. Relatedly, what is it of parents that Jesus would have us hate in his call to orphan heroism in Luke14?

Who is salt and why 'salt'? What's in a name? Salt in a wound, salt of the earth, assaulted and desalinated, short enough to be an acronym or an ICAO phonetic, the punning potential for flavouring review titles is endless. Interesting that a few verses after orphans we get salt in Luke14. Salt, like Bourne, is a pregnant word, catchy and allusive.

The female James Bond. So this part was written for Tom Cruise and then changed, what changed? Salt cross-dresses as a man to gain access the White House, is there a reciprocal to this anywhere in Bond?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


be the Christ's love enfleshed to Budapest
for her homeless seeking homeness, lest
unblessed, you know never life's zest
travelling life's mess with her best guests.