Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend Movie-Viewing -- the true love edition




Asian heartbreak and American reconciliations! The stuff of great movies!

First, I've got to say that Korean and Japanese love stories totally believe in that Eros/Thanatos Love/Death thing. Certain kinds of films aren't made in the US anymore and the "I love you and you're dying" movies tend to happen once a year if at all. At least in America. Maybe we're not so focused on the romanticism that comes from death. Heck, with all these healthcare discussions, death only makes us think of money. And obesity. But in Asian flicks...well, heartbreak and bad health go hand-in-hand. Heck, a girl leaves and then you realize you love her (they always realize they're in love way too late) and you're likely to come down with a bad case of fever...even if you aren't the one who dies. American love stories, on the other hand, tend to be about mayhem that brings the should-be-lovers-but-are-too-caught-up-in-the-normalcy-of-life-to-see-clearly feuding lovebirds together. Heavy on the mayhem. 

Tada Kimi wo Aishiteru Just, loving you or Heavenly Forest. Shy guy -- Asian movies abound with shy folks-- is befriended by Shizuru, a girl who seems a bit on the young side. She says she has a growth hormone deficiency but then again, she's in the habit of telling exaggerrated stories, is a total flake, and is more than a bit eccentric. But she loves being with him. They become friends and he teaches her photography. Of course he's in love with gorgeous Miyuki, another college schoolmate. (Triangles just abound in these Asian flicks.) Shiziru goes along with the friendship because he's her friend. But one day after asking him to kiss her  -- the kiss which makes him realize how much he loves her, mind you, the kiss that has to be one of the best kisses every put on the silver screen for its purity, sweetness, poignancy, and all those other lovely love words-- she disappears. Why? Well, he goes to search for her. And, ya know... of course some tragic story awaits. This was the absolute best and sweetest tragic flick. She doesn't die of cancer but one of those illnesses folks die of when they fall in love. LITERALLY! Stuff like this happens in Asian flicks. Reminds me of those Victorian women who got sick on the Moors or fell invalid because of love...or their too-tight corsets. Totally loved this one. 

It's an outsider flick. What I really liked about it also was  how insecure the kids were. Segawa, for instance, thinks he smells (he has had to rub this medicine on his skin from childhood) and so he avoids people. That's why he's shy. Shiziru is allergic and lacks -- she says-- the sense of smell. So of course he figures he can become her friend. He has his moments of being ashamed of her but is still totally in love with the other girl. (one of those beautiful sweet wise girls you can't really find flaws with but would want to.)

When Sizuru (says she) has no home, he asks her to move in with him. Ah, the joys of having a best female friend who is in love with you living in your house taunting you, begging you to sleep with her, and complaining about the girl you love while at the same time reluctantly helping you to win that other girl! This kinda thing is only possible in Asian flicks. If an American director did it, it would lack all sense of fun and believability. But Sizuru is a flake. And also because of him a budding photographer. Anyway, I won't give away the story. Just will say it's beautiful but heartbreaking. 

Favorite lines: 
1) I don't care if you regret'll it. One day you'll say I should've slept with her.
2) I want the one I love to be loved by the one he loves.
3) What if I turn out to be wonderful? What if I turn out to be absolutely incredible?


Then there was Garden of Heaven. In this one a girl is dying of gastric cancer. She meets a gorgeous doctor. Wow, is he ever gorgeous!  He's been forced to take over his deceased dad's hospice hospital. His heart is not in it. In fact, he pretty much says he has no heart and that his heart is crippled. Oh, please! We know better. He just can't deal with all the death he's had to deal with -- like his mom's, like his dad's. Of course, he  falls in love with gorgeous dying girl and gets his heart healed. Okay, I'll admit it. I loved this movie. Who sees movies with hospice patients dying and preparing to die? The thing about seeing a Korean dying movie as opposed to a Japanese dying movie is that the Koreans tend to be Christian so there isn't this part of me saying, "Oh, please Lord! These folks are not saved! Please let there be such a thing as reincarnation!" Which is what I do when watching a movie with folks who talk about reincarnation and ancestor worship. 

Then there is Addicted. Happily married brother Ho-jin and single brother Dae-jin both have car crashes in a single day. Daejin recovers and Ho-jin is brain-dead. But Daejin behaves very much like his brother. Has his brother possessed the body of the younger one so he can continue living in love with his beloved wife? Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I'll just say that M Night Shyamalan has nothing on these Asian films with their twist endings. Twist endings are one thing, but heart-breaking twist-endings...well, that takes the cake. Just sad all around. Is it me but is this a case where honesty at the last minute wouldn't be able to unwind all the mess that had gone before? Why wasn't he honest to begin with? I kinda suspect she could love him...but for two people to continue living with a lie? The woman will know it's a lie...and he will not know that she knows... Ah, gee... won't that cause resentment in her heart? And maybe, there'll be a moment when honesty wins out..and they love each other...as each other. I can't imagine the lie being allowed to go on forever. But then I'm not Asian. 

One really sweet one was Viva Love. Not really a death movie, though. In this, a 40-ish woman is living a life of quiet desperation. Her husband has a mistress and doesn't sleep with her. Her daughter is selfish as heck. The woman takes in boarders from a college some distance away so she's always losing them. Then her daughter gets engaged to a very shy thirty-year-old Chinese guy who runs a laundry. The daughter, however, runs off when she gets a job. This leaves Chinese guy heartbroken and Mom attempting to comfort him because she's so ashamed at daughter's selfishness. Well, next thing you know....as they say...they're in love. Next thing, she's pregnant. (Or so she says, not really sure. Will talk about this later.) And hubby doesn't want the kid because he promised his mistress that he hadn't been sleeping with his wife. Young guy pays money for her to go to the clinic and is kindhearted but hubby keeps pressuring wife to get rid of the baby. Then she tells hubby the baby is the young guy's -- after all, she hasn't slept with her husband in years (and he's been wondering how her pregnancy came about.) Hubby calls daughter who comes back with a vengeance and with a story that she too is pregnant by the Chinese guy. Forgot to say that meanwhile all the older women in this town have been pretty much cast aside. Their husbands are busy drinking in the Karaoke and pay zippo attention to them. Anyways, this movie gave me some trouble at the end and I'm hoping it's not the old "All Asians look a like to me" kinda thing. But honestly, although this film won the Korean versions of best picture or something like that, the ending was confusing. First, at the end, all the older women get babies. Long story but let's just say that the may december love story kinda fuelled all the relationships. But in the last scenes we see a baby lying between a dark-haired woman and a man but honestly from the way the camera angle was shown I didn't know whose baby it was. I didn't even know if the older woman hadn't been pregnant at all. So that was very dissatisfying. 

Then there was Ima Ai ni Yukimasu  which is translated, Right Now, I'm coming back to you, or Be With You. Mom dies and son and father can't deal with it. Son is told that his mom has gone to the Archive Planet and will return one day. One day, they visit the grave and who do they see...a woman who looks like Mom. But who is she? She herself doesn't seem to know. Father and son convince her that she is Mio, the dead mom and she begins to believe them until she finds Mio's diary. Okay, I loved this little flick. A bit paranormal and I won't give away the ending. I'll just say that in Korean movies, comas tend to be on the supernatural side.

Another good little flick was Tokyo Boy. A very shy girl named Minato who works in a convenience store, lives with her grandma, and doesn't talk to anyone except her male pen-pal Night (a boy she's never seen) falls in love with the son of a doctor. He's also shy. But they manage to come together. After a while, though, the doctor's son starts avoiding Minato. Turns out Night is not too thrilled about the relationship. And why should he be? After all, he's the male split personality for Minato who's protected her all his life and who's in love with her. Okay...so split personalities aren't healed as fully and as quickly in real life as it is in this film. Actually, the way the male personality finally goes is a bit more like an exorcism than deep psychology. Not overly so, of course. But the male personality is convinced to leave. The thing that bothered me, though, is that I kinda wanted the two personalities to merge. (Okay, the christian in me kept thinking...this could be a possession instead of a split personality... I had watched a horror film before. But I figured I'd go with the split personality trope.) It just kinda bothered me that a new Minato-Night blend didn't emerge. I mean, Minato got better and all but Night was entirely gone. 

Silk  A group of scientist -- one who is a might extreme-- has discovered a way to see ghosts. They're interested in a little boy who is stuck in a little room and does various things during the day. Who is this kid? Why is he a ghost? And why does the really extreme over-the-top scientist have such a passion for death? In the meantime, there's a detective pulled into this. He's not really interested but his mother is on life support and he refuses to let her go. As the film continues, he also has questions about death and if his mother is alive and angry with him.    Are ghosts here because they are angry or because they love? 

These films were watched on my computer and can be seen via www.iidrama.com   www.mysoju.com and   --if it's horrow-- http://asian-horror-movies.com/

On Sunday I stayed in bed all day. Luckily Starz had a free viewing weekend. Wish I'd known on Saturday but hey, better late than never.

First was  Pyaar Ke Side Effects, a Bollywood comedy about a DJ who doesn't want to deal with one of the side effects of love: marriage. Very funny in the bachelor realizes the girl is his true-love vein. He talks to the camera a lot. Not bad. I have a problem with Bollywood movies, gotta be honest. I keep saying, "But these folks would be prejudice against me." Note, I don't say this about Korean and Japanese movies so I know that I'm probably affected by the Indian father in Kansas who killed his son's African-American bride because, well, she was black. Weird thing is that I had an Indian college friend named who belonged to the Black Students Union. She was the most militant of us all, and I have neighbors and have had co-workers who are Indian who weren't prejudiced but still I get nervous about Bollywood. Except for Aamir Khan, of course. Anyway, am gonna try to watch these films without thinking, "Hey, these folks hate black folks; why should I watch their movie?"

Next up was 30 days of night. Ah, I had totally forgotten how totally hot Josh Hartnett is. Okay, so there is this town in Alaska that experiences 30 days of utter sunlessness annually -- perfect for vampires, uh? Josh's character, Ebon (or is it Evan?) is suffering a separation from his wife. He didn't want kids; she did. Basically. Just when she's supposed to go off on the last plane leaving Barrow for 30 days (and to venture off on her separation) what should happen but she misses the plane and evil philosophical vampires enter town. (Okay, vampires are always evil, but few cackle as evilly as these. And, if I remember correctly, the vampire doing most of the talking is the leader who has a kind of debauched UK goth feel to him.) Anyway, I pretty much watched half of this under the blanket. Not because I was scared --alas, the movie is not really scary-- but because it's so dang gory and cruel AND I really hated seeing folks' necks being bitten. In the end -- I won't spoil it for you-- but most of the folks in the town are destroyed and the lovers are reunited. Bittersweet ending, no?

Then there was Vantage Point with my man Forrest Whitaker. Ah the Rashomon treatment of presidential assassination flicks! The Zapruder conspiracy flicks of Zapruder conspiracy flicks! And Dennis Quaid does the aging, loyal, wounded, self-sacrificing Secret Service Agent proud! I really liked it. I'm not sure why everyone hated it so much when it was in theaters. Towards the end Quaid's Agent grows from trembly recovering traumatized antsy oldster to super-hero but hey, it brought a smile to my face. And once again, the couple with marital trials are reunited through tragedy. May I never be close -- physically, at least-- to a couple undergoing marriage troubles -- the whole world has to be turned around for them to get back together.

I gotta say these last two films were totally exhausting. I tend to watch calm little flicks and watching these I realized how unused to excitement this heart of mine is! Glad I saw them but I was actually breathless watching them. Guess my heart needed a workout.

The last was Beyond the Gates, a film about a priest caught up in the Rwandan civil war between the Hutu and The Tutsi. Really good. Absolutely devastating. Survivors of the genocide helped direct and make this film. Basically, it's about one tribe holding out under a UN protection...until they're not... and another tribe killing them. Lots of anger at the UN for not being able to use the word "genocide." It's just really heartfelt and has all those spiritual questions about man's inhumanity to man and God's being co-sufferer with human pain thrown in. John Hurt plays the priest. I read somewhere that he lives in Kenya. He has been one of my favorite actor of oddball types since I was a kid. I have no doubt I fell into a few odd friendships because of him and his depiction of Quentin Crisp. Hugh Dancy places a teacher who is caught in it. The big question of course is...about love. Will the white folks enter into the pain and suffering of the black folks or will they take the chance they have to leave -- since the UN is only helping whites escape? Well, I'll just say...a priest does what one would expect a priest to do. 

That's about it.
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