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