… but I swear I won’t rent anything more today. I’m returning my last DVD tonight.
In the last few days I’ve seen three films that were all quite different. The best of them all was definitely Donnie Darko, though I must say that they were all interesting.
The House of Flying Daggers is a Chinese kung-fu film set towards the collapse of the T’ang Dynasty (though it could well have been any dynasty, if you ask me, and Western viewers are extremely unlikely to care about this bit of the film’s context). Well, if you’ve already seen Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and you still aren’t sated on the old-China-kung-fu movie genre, then I suppose you could go for this one. The story isn’t as elaborate as the latter, and the visuals aren’t anywhere near as beautiful as in either of the other two films (especially the former, which was brilliantly filmed), but it’s definitely more than watchable. I didn’t find I had a lot of sympathy for any of the characters, but it was nice to get a look at how Chinese cinema depicts the era when secret societies riddled the Qing Dynasty, bringing about the only resistance they could. It’s funny to me that now, as the Chinese populace finds more and more disparity between the rich and the poor, that there isn’t more of this kind of thing going on. Or maybe there is, and too few people know about it yet. I mean, these societies were huge at one point… and it’s a well-known fact such things have survived modernization in parts of Africa, so it’s not quite impossible. Though I think the Cultural Revolution probably would have made it hard. Ah well… this film was, well, okay.
Next was a very strange movie I watched with Lime last night called 아는여자 (English title: Someone Special, though the title really means, in the context of the way the phrase is used in the film, “Just Some Girl [I Know]”). This movie struck me as a kind of halfway-attempt to create an Amelie-like film in Korean. It’s a comedy, but one of the more unusual comedies you’ll ever see in Korean cinema. It has some wonderful things, including a very messed-up doctor, a sequence mocking all that is mockable about Korean (and foreign) melodrama in romance movies, some hilarious supporting characters, and a pretty realistic portrayal of a man who’s been told he has only a few months to live. It’s about as different from the Korean cinematic mainstream as Save The Green Planet though in quite another way. I recommend it rather enthusiastically, but bear in mind a couple of the jokes may not make sense if you don’t understand the Koreanthe subtitles, Lime tells me, were sometimes good and sometimes all wrong. Still, it’s a wonderfully strange film with good acting, some honest questions about love (and a lot of skepticism, albeit gentle and hopeful skepticism) that the answers can be found in popular melodrama, and some really big laughs. I agree with the interviewer I linked to above, the scene with the sarcastic narration over the awful Korean romance film is the best part of the whole movie. Lime and I were in stitches during that part.
Finally, the last film I watched was Donnie Darko. I watched it alone, last night, and boy, what spooky fun it was. This movie is a hundred times better than The Butterfly Effect, and yet it got so much less attention. That’s unfortunate, because it was a lot more imaginatively scripted. Now, I discovered something interesting when I went through the deleted scenes, which was that I’d actually seen the director’s cut the first time through, because some of those cut scenes were actually included in the director’s cut. I have to say the Director’s Cut is the superior version of the movie, but even the theatrical release was pretty good. A lot of what remained cut in both versions was comedic banter between characters, and I found myself thankful than a lot of it had been left out of both versions. I was surprised to discover, when I listened to the first few minutes of commentary, that the director had such a liking for Stephen King, since I find his books unreadable, myself. But anyway, it was enjoyable, and even brilliant. The scenes lampooning the self-help guru and the school caught in his clutches were absolutely perfect, the family is well portrayed”VOTE DUKAKIS”and Donnie’s relatinship with Gretchen is just right… though, I have to admit, I was wondering why she shows up less and less toward the end. Apparently, in the script, they had a few arguments and were beginning to grow apart somewhat more severely than I imagined, something that eventually got left out of both versions of the movie, I believe.
I think I’ll listen to the commentary track for the movie this afternoon as I tidy up and go through some folders full of old writing on my PC, as I’m curious what the director has to say about certain parts of the movie. Anyway, I highly recommend the Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko, if you can get your hands on it.