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Dunce Dance in Johnnie To’s Sparrow (2008) October 21, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemanila.

Chinese Title: Man Jeuk
Directed by Johnny To
Cast: Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Ka Tung Lam

Dumbfounded after a film screening can only mean two things, either the film is stupid or you are. Johnny To’s Sparrow is too hypnotic I easily slipped into numbness after the opening scene. The casualness of its treatment, the sublime humor of the pickpockets, the umbrellas and the rain in that beautifully choreographed sequence, the piercing precision of shots, Xavier Jamaux and Fred Avril’s transmogrifying music that defies gravitational pull, the buoyant delivery of minimalist action, the allusion to Melville which Dodo tipped off, even that avian parallelism to Le Samouraï – – everything feels like being trapped in an eighty-seven minute valse – – moody and eclectic, slow and sparingly evocative, driving sideways in deceiving rhythm, paced in what may have been called an assault to nothingness – – watching it is being an assassin of meaningless boredom. Stupefied, there’s no other way to react afterward but appear stupid.



1. dodo dayao - October 22, 2008

Beautifully written, Chard.

After the screening, lumanding ako sa Cubao X at nabanggit sa akin ni Teddy Co na hindi lang kay Melville may allusion, pati pala si Robert Bresson. Shame that I needed reminding specially since the Bresson film alluded to was . . .ehem . . .Pickpocket. Nagmistulang stupid din ako after that. Hehe.

But even for a longtime To fan like me, sequences like the climax in the rain can leave me dumbfounded. (There’s a sequence in his underrated judo movie, Throwdown, that has a similar effect.)

2. Richard Bolisay - October 22, 2008

Thanks do, and thanks for the enlightenment too, haha.

Oh, onga no but I haven’t seen Pickpocket yet so I don’t really know. Jia Zhangke also has one about street thieves, Artisan Pickpocket, which I like but it hinges more on social realism. I want to see more To films too, and Hong Kong action!

P.S. Have you seen Evangelion?

3. dodo dayao - October 25, 2008

Not yet but I have the series on DVD though I haven’t finished it yet. I’d probably (re)watch it when I have the space to marathon.

I haven’t seen the Zhnagke film yet, well, I haven’;t finished it, not out of it being bad but mostly my fault. I’ll give it a spin one of these days. Same with the Bresson.

Sige,Chard, if time allows, I’ll throw some Johnnie Tos your way, both his serious crime stuff and his comedies.

4. Richard Bolisay - October 25, 2008

Thanks do! Good luck with your film!

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