Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Prescription for Cinematic Amnesia

Ever have this experience when you can't remember any movies you've watched in the past few months? Like, someone will ask you if you've seen any good movies recently and you draw a complete blank? Even though you know that you've seen and enjoyed quite a few in that time period?

I hate it when that happens, so perhaps for the sake of my own sanity, I'll periodically just jot down the movies I've watched, here on this blog. The following are the ones that I watched over winter break.

A Man and A Woman (Un Homme et Une Femme)

A movie for the senses. Beautifully shot, especially the blue tones. And the voiceovers sound as though someone is whispering into your ear. A really barebones story, but if you're more into character and atmosphere than plot, this is a good movie, especially since it clocks in at a pretty breezy 102 min. It also has that really famous theme song that you've probably heard but never knew where it came from. I don't really understand why there were those long race car driving sequences though. I know that the guy is professional driver, but some of those sequences seemed gratuitous.

From cool blue wash...

To a nostalgic sepia tone

Strangers on a Train

I've never been a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. Out of all his movies, I think I like The Birds the best because there's not as much hamfisted pop psychology and is just a creepy movie about birds going berserk for some reason. Strangers on a Train was okay, but I thought that the actor who played the good guy was a bad actor. And the villain was perhaps just one prance away from being campy.

Still not a Hitchcock booster.

Brief Encounter

Oh good, after watching this movie, I won't have to think of The Seven Year Itch when I hear Rachmaninoff. As you can probably tell, I didn't like that movie much. Something about having to watch an old guy lust after Marilyn Monroe and feeling manipulated to sympathize with him just wasn't that entertaining.

Anyway though, I liked Brief Encounter though. I loved how painfully ordinary it was. The protagonist is a plain housewife whose highlight of the week is taking the train on Thursdays to go watch movies by herself. The man she meets is a doctor. Neither of them are that wealthy, glamorous, or beautiful. In fact, they're almost your stereotypical dowdy British people. Which is what makes their short-lived romance more affecting. Richard Linklater must've seen this movie before making Before Sunrise. That just goes to show you that no matter if you're repressed post-war British citizens or Gen X drifters, you can always find love on a train.

Kiki's Delivery Service

This movie is similar to Whisper of the Heart and Spirited Away in that it's about a young girl who has to overcome her own fears and insecurities. But what made Whisper of the Heart special to me was how beautifully mundane it was. The story is little more than about a young girl who gets a crush on a fellow student and also tries to write her first story. Yet somehow, the movie makes us invest our feelings and empathy into Shizuku, the heroine. And Spirited Away is its exact opposite in terms of realism, unless you live in a world where talking radishes and giant babies are everyday sights and evil big-headed witches constantly try to enslave you in their bathhouses.

Kiki's Delivery Service sits in between as a fantasy rooted in realism, which didn't work as well for me. Perhaps if those two other movies hadn't existed, I would've liked Kiki's Delivery Service more. And as per Studio Ghibli, the animals are adorable and full of personality.


Blue Marriage

Lee Yeon Hee! Okay, I'll admit that I was really excited about this movie because Lee Yeon Hee was in it and she's #3 on my Korean girl list. Happily, it was watchable and pleasant enough. The story revolves around 4 couples who are all about to get married but face their own issues. One couple has to deal with each others' pasts. Another has issues with routine and boredom. Another has problems because they're actually in a shotgun wedding. And the last one has to come to terms with insecurity.

I found two of the stories to be more compelling than the others. First, Gun Ho and Vika were interesting because it dealt with the issue of foreign brides in Korea (Vika is from Uzbekistan). It also dealt with the story realistically, making Gun Ho deeply worried that he is just being used for citizenship purposes. It didn't just Hollywoodize the story where the middle-aged schlubby guy gets the hot girl just because.

And So Mi's story was good too, and not just because it involves Lee Yeon Hee walking around Jeju Island in a blue dress. Her story deals with the troublesome issue of complacency and stagnation, and how even if a couple is as picturesque as her and her fiance (played by 2PM's Taecyeon), there still needs to be some spark and passion in the relationship.

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