« April 2005 »
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
View Profile
Film Dribble
Tuesday, 12 April 2005
24 1/2 Hours That Rocked My World
Now Playing: MILLIONS, KUNG FU HUSTLE, and DOWNFALL (all 2004)
It can be a frustrating life, the life of a film nerd. One sees one movie after another, observing those around him enjoying the action onscreen, only to be the killjoy when it's over when he proclaims "it was OK, but..." or something like that. Still, the true believers press on, and occasionally are rewarded by an unlikely run of awesomeness, which reaffirms their faith even while serving as the exception that proves the rule (the rule being that most movies aren't all that good). Well, let me say that this happened to me over the course of the last day or so- three films that ranged in quality from wonderful to astounding, leaving me (pardon the pun) reeling.

It began last night, at the end of a rough day in which I was sick to my stomach and spent most of my time in bed. Finally feeling better, I decided to catch Danny Boyle's MILLIONS, which was playing a few blocks from my house. The film ended up being exactly what I needed, a refreshing tonic to cutesy children's fare from a filmmaker generally associated with more adult-oriented work. MILLIONS is a lovely film about youthful idealism untainted by the compromises and pragmatic decisions that adults have to make. Damien (Alex Etel) is a good kid who idolizes the saints much like his classmates look up to football stars (he knows their dates of birth and death, as well as what they're the patron saints of), and when a bag of money falls seemingly from the sky, he takes this as a sign that God intends for him to work miracles. Some of the film's plot elements feel a little off-the-rack (such as the robber subplot) but the film is effective and moving as the portrait of a boy whose innocence and innate goodness are at odds with the world around him. Boyle's direction is stellar here, with some creative sequences (the building of the house sticks out in my mind), and the cinematography by the sinner Anthony Dod Mantle is shimmering, a 180-degree turn from his work with Lars Von Trier.

Now get this- of the films I've seen since last night, MILLIONS is my LEAST favorite.

This morning I had the pleasure of screening Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE, an uproarious martial arts comedy that's leaps and bounds over Chow's last work, the diverting but somewhat uninspired SHAOLIN SOCCER. With KUNG FU HUSTLE, Chow pulls off an extremely delicate balancing act- he manages to make a film that pokes fun at the martial arts genre while also working as an exciting kickass action flick. That it works is all the more startling since the film is basically a live-action cartoon- the action scenes are heavily augmented with CGI to the point where the kung fu "masters" onscreen are capable of anatomically and physically impossible feats. The story begins as a war between an all-powerful gang and a slum ruled by martial arts masters in hiding, but it quickly becomes a riff on the "tournament" films like Bruce Lee made, in which great martial artists from all around face off for ever-rising stakes. Chow gives himself less of a central role this time out, and his direction here is a revelation, turning on a dime from broad parody to minute plot-oriented detail at the edge of the frame, sometimes within the same shot (for example, during the scene where he rescues "The Beast"). I won't say much more, since this film is best experienced without knowing much beforehand, but let me say this- about half an hour in, after the coolie, the noodle maker, and the sissy tailor fight off the gang, I thought there was no way the movie could get any better. And oh man, was I wrong.

The last awesome movie I caught couldn't be more different from KUNG FU HUSTLE. That film was DOWNFALL, a harrowing re-creation of the final days of the Third Reich. The film is anchored by a tour de force performance by Bruno Ganz, who plays- nay, embodies- Adolf Hitler with such conviction and skill that he disappears completely into the role (he's the first actor that I've seen who didn't play the role as a stunt). Ganz's Hitler is a man at the end of his tether, alcoholic, delusional, screaming at his officers, and the characters in the film can be divided into two camps- those who abandon Hitler to save their own hide, and the true believers in National Socialism, who stick by their leader and would commit suicide rather than betray him. The story is seen largely through the eyes of Hitler's personal secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), and director Oliver Hirschbiegel uses her and several other supporting characters as audience surrogates in order to navigate through the chaotic surroundings- a seemingly endless parade of advisors and generals, an ever growing number of soldiers getting drunk off the Fuhrer's booze, and various other characters who appear on the scene and disappear almost as quickly. It's an incredibly ambitious work, and a stunning achievement, with a number of scenes that linger in the memory- Hitler pinning medals on a group of heroic soldiers comprised largely of middle-school-aged teens, Speer's admission of disobeying orders, Hitler's divulging of his final plans to the soldier guarding his bedroom, and many more. Who knows what cinematic marvels tomorrow might bring?

DOWNFALL: ***1/2.

Posted by hkoreeda at 12:21 AM EDT

View Latest Entries