Attica! Attica! Top Films of 2009! (Part 1) March 4, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Music, Noypi, Yearender.
Honorable Mention Part 1
Those that didn’t make the cut but are still worth checking out:
THIRST (Park Chan-wook)
For a perv vampire movie that lifts its plot from Emile Zola, Thirst is everything but strange. As with all Park’s movies, the introduction confounds expectations but halfway through the mood becomes intense. Intense in such a way that you start to pretend to like it, then after a while, when you see that scene when the lady enjoys herself being flown by the vampire up in the air you realize that you really like it, liking it like it deserves to be liked, likening it to the perversity of Park’s previous films, a touch of vengeance and cyborgs left and right, and the dry humor and stylish dream sequences here and there.
Again, it’s style over substance, but style is the substance; style is Park’s amphibian quality. Thirst is no True Blood, or Let the Right One In, or Twilight, or Yanggaw, or Shake Rattle and Roll. Park gets rid of the clichés of the vampire story (crosses, garlic, expressionist lighting, glistening fangs, attractive men and too-stupid-to-live women) and creates his own (vampires moving around a brightly-lit apartment, vampires using the Internet to look for prey, vampires understanding and commiserating with the suicidal folk, and vampires doing the Crouching Tiger-flying). Park’s absurdity goes overboard that it starts to make sense, that it makes all the significant sense, that even the blinking act near the end feels so diligent and forceful. In all its messy details, not to mention the visual fest of awkward sadism, Thirst has teeth; and those teeth, albeit crooked, chew very hard.
Bing Lao’s debut is markedly literary with just the right mix of blemish and confidence for us to await his next directorial work. After Doy and Bing, should we egg on Ricky to now do his own?
NYMPH (Pen-ek Ratanaruang)
Ratanaruang is always out looking for trouble, and that trouble in Nymph involves a woman having an extramarital affair with her boss. She goes to the forest with her husband on a camping trip, and he goes missing, only to return to their home afterward, mysteriously. He vanishes again—and his wife’s lover shows up on the sofa where he is supposed to be lying. She goes back to the forest and finds the tree that her husband is drawn to on their first visit, hitting it until the “nymph” is shown covered in blood. He appears again, talks to his wife’s lover, and his wife and her lover return to the city, the husband left in the forest.
The void in Nymph seems to tell a lot of things, but somehow in its vagueness it is difficult to figure out what it really is. The film has this needling dichotomy between the relationship of nature and man, the dysfunctional nature of human relationships as opposed to the unconditional contact between man and his surroundings, the forest as a strong yet passive character to represent it. The seven-minute long opening take is of such power that the remaining part of the story dissolves around the narrative. The intimate shots of the trees, the smooth movement of the camera, not to mention the seeming impossibility of its glide, and the vile scenery it captures keep the mystery, but when it shifts to the marital conflict of the couple, it loses some grip. That, I argue, may be intentional; that although it’s supposed to complement the mood of the story, it also presents a stark contrast between this dual relationship, that human affairs are not productive and are more concerned with the mundane, contrary to the benevolent acts of nature. The man who falls in love with a tree is a wild premise, but Ratanaruang projects himself at ease.
It’s a weak Vilma Santos character but she still pulls it off, though it is really the gay John Lloyd we guiltily submit to. By virtue of diminishing returns, this one from Star Cinema is tolerably good.
THE BOAT THAT ROCKED (Richard Curtis)
What’s rather surprising is that people complain about The Boat that Rocked being too long while in fact it is that quality that makes me like it, how in its length it remains entertaining and cool without being too tasteful. Richard Curtis isn’t known to be curt; he likes indulging, and here, the indulgence rewards fun and nostalgia. It’s an honest remembrance of the times, the great music of the 60s, and the effect it had on everyone. There are splendid moments, especially when the music being played works through the scene, how carefree everything is, how the characters thrive in fun, and how they live for the music that makes them happy. Sex. Music. Friends. And booze! Wooot!
►► Next: Honorable Mention Part 2