onderhond blog - onderhond.com http://www.onderhond.com/blog/onderhond The onderhond blog is a collection of gathered thoughts about my work and my personal life. Find out about what drives me as a person and how I get about in my professional life. en-us underdog@operamail.com (Niels Matthijs) <![CDATA[sam raimi/x10]]>http://www.onderhond.com/features/focus-on-directors/sam-raimi-x10
Sam Raimi

Between Raimi's enormous cult status and my girlfriend's interest in superhero films, it's almost impossible to ignore the career of Sam Raimi. He made himself immortal with his first film, reinvented himself halfway through and even though he's somewhat meandering now, I wouldn't be surprised if Raimi surfaced a third time.

The Evil Dead is a cult favorite, no two ways about it. Not only did it launch Raimi's own career, the film also marked Bruce Campbell as an instant cult figure. I never really saw the appeal though, as for me the horrendous acting and some rotten special effects killed the film. Its two sequels are more comedy-oriented, a smart move as there clearly wasn't enough budget (or skill) to make a decent horror flick. Still not what I'd call great films, but at least a step up from the first one.

During that same period Raimi already dabbled his feet in the superhero pool. Darkman is a pretty poor (and cheap) attempt to make a darker superhero film. With all its 80s influences, it's a film that will keep a faithful audience for years to come, but this kind of cheesy nonsense is completely wasted on me. Needless to say, I'm far from impressed by Raimi's career start.

Raimi finally surprised me when he released A Simple Plan. A dark, dry comedy played out in a remote and snowy setting. Somewhat low-key and pretty different from the loud, attention-whoring films he made before, but really all the better for it. With commendable roles for Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton and a strong, uneasy atmosphere, it's by far the best thing Raimi has ever accomplished. It was little more than a quick diversion though, as he would gear up to tackle the superhero genre for a second time.

Even though I'm in complete awe of the grandness of Marvel's movie emporium (they created something truly special these past 10 years), there aren't many Marvel films I actually like. Spider-Man is one of the worst offenders and Raimi's version is a blueprint of why I don't like these superhero films. Flimsy bad guys, silly dress ups and some poorly executed drama make for overly long and pointless films. Not that Raimi should care what I think, all three films were a major success and gave his career a second life.

With Drag Me To Hell and Oz the Great and Powerful Raimi tried to keep the momentum going, but with little success. Even though I liked these films a lot better than the Spider-Man trilogy, audiences weren't so kind to them. Currently there are no new projects lined up for Raimi, though he keeps busy producing films like Possession and the upcoming Poltergeist remake. I'm fine with that to be honest, I don't think I'm missing out on much without Raimi around.

Best film: A Simple Plan (4.0*)
Worst film: Spider-Man (0.5*)
Average rating: 1.60 (out of 5)

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:33:56 +0200
<![CDATA[las brujas de zugarramurdi/alex de la iglesia]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/brujas-zugarramurdi-review-iglesia

Spanish director de la Iglesia returns with his spiritual follow-up to Balada Triste de Trompeta. Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi (Witching and Bitching) is clearly from the same man who brought us the Spanish clown genre masher. While de la Iglesia does his best to explore some different themes this time around, fans of Balada Triste de Trompeta would do good to seek out his latest film, as it's every bit as spectacular.

screen capture of Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi

Looking at Balada Triste and Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi,I think it would be fair to call de la Iglesia the Spanish Guillermo del Toro. Both directors have a very colorful style, a knack for cooking up solid amusement and a pretty unique way of bringing elements from different genres together. But where del Toro is often held back by budgetary restraints (as in large budgets limit the input of a director), de la Iglesia has more freedom to go wild.

Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi is a pretty outrageous and fast-paced film. It starts off with a violent robbery on a gold shop, it goes on to become a crime comedy and ends up as a demented occult horror. All the while de la Iglesia juggles different genres cliché around as if it's the most normal thing in the world. It's as if you're watching a completely different film every 20 minutes, only the cast and setting remain constant.

The film follows a duo of first-time robbers (José and Antonio) who got hold of a bag full of abandoned wedding rings at a Madrilenian gold shop. They hijack a taxi and flee the scene. Besides the driver and a passenger, there's also a fifth person in the taxi: José's kid, who gladly participated in the robbery. On their way to Disneyland, ┬ĘParis, they pass by Zugarramurdi, a small village known for its history with witches. Needless to say, leaving the village will be a lot harder than expected.

screen capture of Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi

Kiko de la Rica, one of Spain's most talented cinematographers, is back to handle the visuals, and it shows. From start to finish Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi is a pleasure to behold. Bold and strong colors, slick camera work, superb settings and sublime play of light make for a luscious visual spectacle. The CG isn't always top notch (even though de la Iglesia had more money to spend this time around), but it's functional and whenever used it adds a lot of extra fun to the film.

The soundtrack is a little less attractive, though there are a few scenes where it is used to good effect. By itself it's a little too generic, but the music succeeds at supporting the fast-paced atmosphere and all in all it keeps the blood pumping. It's not memorable in any way and there's clearly potential to improve things the next time around, but for a film like this it suffices.

The acting too is a bit hit and miss. While the cast is clearly in on the joke, the comedy bits aren't always as funny as they could've been. Some actors are a little too hyperactive and overdone to be truly amusing, even for a film of this calibre. Then again, these moments pass as quickly as they are introduced and they are just as easily forgotten. The cast as a whole does a pretty good job and makes sure the film never becomes too heavy-handed, even during its darker moments.

screen capture of Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi

Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi isn't necessarily suited for die-hard genre aficionados, as the film hardly manages to be consistent for longer than 10 minutes at at time. If you're a fan of witches and the occult, the comedy and action bits might put you off, if you're watching for a good laugh you might be caught off-guard by the action and fantasy bits. Instead de la Iglesia aims to make a film that is simply fun, freed from genre boundaries and people's expectations. And boy does he succeed.

The film knows a few lesser moments and compared to Balada Triste de Trompeta it doesn't quite match the genius of the former, but whatever complaints I had, they always passed quickly and they were easy enough to forgive when de la Iglesia surprised me with another one of his mad ideas. On top of that, Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi is a true visual orgasm, a film that looks amazing from the very first to the very last frame. I'm still a bit hesitant to look up de la Iglesia's earlier films, but I wouldn't miss his next one for all the money in the world. If only more directors had the balls to go beyond genre limitations to make a film that is fun from the ground up.

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Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:56:36 +0200
<![CDATA[kashikoi inu wa hoezuni warau/ryohei watanabe]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/shady-review-ryohei-watanabe

While Japan's pool of yesterday's cinematic wonder boys is slowly drying up, there's a frighteningly low influx of younger talent. So imagine people's relief when they bumped into Ryohei Watanabe's Kashikoi Inu wa Hoezuni Warau (Shady). The film may not be up there with the very best, but at the very least it's a hopeful sign that the healing process has started. On top of that, it's just a very good film with Watanabe's talent shining through every frame of the film.

screen capture of Kashikoi Inu Wa Hoezuni Warau

Japan is still making amazing films. Just last year alone we saw the release of Jigoku de Naze Warui (Sono), Kaze Tachinu (Miyazaki), Kotonoha no Niwa (Shinkai), Miss Zombie (Tanaka) and Petaru Dansu (Ishikawa). All great films (and personal favorites), but also made by people who've been in the business for a while now. To survive the next 20 years, Japan needs the voice of a younger generation and currently that is lacking.

Watanabe's film isn't a major departure from traditional Japanese cinema. In fact, there are so many familiar element that at first glance you might mistake it for just another Japanese drama. A Hana to Arisu for a new generation, if you want. But slowly the discrepancies start to surface. Small changes, different accents that may not look like much on paper, but make a big difference in the final product. I think I was about halfway through when it started to dawn on me that Watanabe houses an enormous talent.

The film follows Misa, a rather unfortunate student who has a difficult time bonding with her classmates. Misa has no real friends and struggles with her loneliness. Until one day, when she is approached by Izumi. Izumi is the type who has everything going for her, an archetypical popular student. But she too gets bullied in class. The two hit it off and begin a rewarding friendship. Everything goes well, until the bond between the two becomes a bit too intense for Misa.

screen capture of Kashikoi Inu Wa Hoezuni Warau

While the indoor scenes can come off a bit murky, Watanabe has a good eye for composition. The outdoor scenes in particular are well-framed and feature some pretty impressive shots. The true beauty of the film lies in the editing and pacing though. Sharp, often somewhat strange and surprising cuts (somewhat reminiscent of Takeshi Kitano's older work) give Kashikoi Inu wa Hoezuni Warau a very unique tempo and feel.

The soundtrack has similar qualities. At first you might mistake it for a typical Japanese drama soundtrack, but the music itself is absolutely top notch and the way Watanabe applies it throughout his film is nothing short of amazing. He plays with atmosphere, sometimes highlighting certain emotions, at other times contrasting the music and the on-screen events. Add to that some well-timed voice-overs and you have all the signs of a director who understand the impact sound has on the overall atmosphere.

Finishing things off are two leads who deserve all the praise they can get. Misa (played by a girl only known as mimpi*β) is the toughest character of the two, grasping for the audience's compassion with what is essentially a pretty passive role. Okamura's character (Izumi) is more outgoing and mysterious, yet she has to balance some rather cartoonesque behavior without hurting the grim atmosphere of the film. The both of them do a tremendous job and carry the film with ease.

screen capture of Kashikoi Inu Wa Hoezuni Warau

Even though the first half of the film has all the characteristics of a regular drama, there's a strong feeling of unease running underneath. A smart combination of editing and music make for a disconcerting feeling that signals the second half of the film without spoiling too much of what will happen. Not that there are many twists here, Watanabe isn't playing a game of hide and seek with his audience, but he makes sure to insert some doubt in the viewer's minds before opening up the real story.

Kashikoi Inu wa Hoezuni Warau is a film that takes a bunch of familiar elements, rearranges them slightly but deliberately and adds a dash of its own uniqueness. It's a film that leaves room for progression, but does so without ever coming off as sub-par. Instead it highlights Watanabe's talent and vision. Give his a little room, some money and a couple more years to experiment and he could become one of the cornerstones of Japan's cinematic future. Kashikoi Inu wa Hoezuni Warau is a great film in its own right, but at the same time it feels like a promise of even better things to come.

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Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:00:26 +0200
<![CDATA[bu san /ming-liang tsai]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/bu-san-review-tsai-ming-liang

Ming-liang Tsai is one of the two directors (the other one being Hsiao-hsien Hou) who introduced me to Taiwanese cinema. It's been a while since I watched his films, but back in the day I considered Bu San (Goodbye, Dragon Inn) to be his best work. I looked forward to watching it again and even though it didn't hold up quite as well as I expected, Bu San is still a small gem that deserves some extra attention.

screen capture of Bu San

Bu San has always felt like a mid-career finale for Tsai. A film he built up to from the first film he directed, like a craftsman honing his skill with each new product he makes. The combination of absurd, almost impossible comedy and stilted, long-winding scenes really reached a high here. After Bu San Tsai would start to play around and adjust his style, resulting in films like Tian Bian Yi Dyo Yun, I Don't Want To Sleep Alone and Face, taking his trademark elements into a different direction.

If you're looking for a plot or a story to hold on to, Bu San isn't the film for you. There are some threads that run through the film, but nothing coherent or conclusive. At most you can say it's a film about the declining interest in old-fashioned movie theaters. Not just about the people visiting but also about the people working there. Bu San delivers an impression, a final peek into the world hidden behind the doors of small movie theaters. It's not much, but sometimes that's all it takes for a good film.

There's one plot line following a Japanese tourist who ventures into the theater to hide from the rain. Tsai uses him to illustrate a couple of common movie theater experiences and irritations. People sitting too close when there's plenty of room, chips crunching, people moving around, feet appearing on the seat next to you ... if you've visited a theater yourself I'm sure you can relate. The other thread follows a cripple concierge who wanders through the building, selling tickets, checking up on the projectionist and eating a bite. The things you do when running a beat-down theater like this.

screen capture of Bu San

Bu San can be a little dark at times, but apart from that it's one of Tsai's most visually impressive films. The camera is either completely static or moves around slowly yet deliberately, but the lighting and framing are exquisite, which makes for some perfect shots. It's far from the colorful world of Tian Bian Yi Dyo Yun and the editing seems completely dormant at times (I'm sure the empty theater scene is going to put off a lot of people), but Tsai's eye for angles and composition is simply astounding.

As for the soundtrack, there's not much to tell really. The films is void of music, there's hardly even any dialogue. What you get is background sounds (the grating sounds of chips) and the sound of the film playing in the theater. It does heighten the desolate atmosphere of the place and even though the soundtrack itself is pretty much non-existent Tsai makes good use of ambient sounds and times them well to either make a point or add to the overall atmosphere of the film.

With only three actors and a few extras Tsai manages to get through the entire film. Kiyonobu Mitamura's character is a little awkward at first but Mitamura has great comedic timing, Shiang-chyi Chen and long time Tsai regular Kang-sheng Lee are clearly more at ease doing very little for long stretches of time. With so little to do it's hard to really judge the individual performances apart from how at ease the actors are in front of the camera, but they suit the film and make the most of what they are given.

screen capture of Bu San

Watching these older Tsai film, I'm always amazed at the subtlety of the comedy Tsai applies, to the point where I'm not even sure if certain things were actually intended to be funny. Bu San contains some obvious moment, like the peanut woman and the toilet scene, but there are also some tougher calls. The best joke of the film is the cripple concierge (who gives Tsai a perfect alibi to slow down Bu San even more than usually the case - she just walks very slow), but to this day I'm still not certain if it was done intentionally or if I just see too much in it.

Bu San is some pretty hardcore arthouse fare. The pacing is incredibly slow, the deadpan comedy will pass many people by and the little plot there is serves little purpose beyond fleshing out the overarching theme just a tiny bit. Still the film puts you in a pleasant trance. It allows you to slow down along with it, transporting you to a wet and distant place where you can enjoy the final day of a local movie theater. The film lost a little of its charm over the years and it can be bit too slow at times, but it's still a testament of Tsai's incredible skill and unique voice.

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Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:47:35 +0200
<![CDATA[jigoku de naze warui/sion sono]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/why-dont-you-play-in-hell-review-sion-sono

Sion Sono is currently Japan's finest cinematic bad boy. His excruciating pace of filming and his exuberant style may be somewhat reminiscent of Takashi Miike, but throughout the years Sono crafted a unique style that's very much his own. Jigoku de Naze Warui (Why Don't You Play In Hell?) is his latest feature film and gives us a small glimpse of Sono's motivations for becoming a director, amidst one of the most insane blood baths in recent years.

screen capture of Jigoku de Naze Warui

Sono (Kimyo na Sakasu, Koi no Tsumi, Love Exposure, Ekusute, Tsumetai Nettaigyo) wrote the script for Jigoku de Naze Warui almost 20 years ago, which goes a long way in explaining the dreams and motivations of Hirata, an aspiring director who's desperately searching for a masterpiece to amaze the world. In this character lies a lot of Sono's former self, though that's probably where any ties with reality start to fade.

Many critics have been keen to highlight some similarities between Kill Bill and Jigoku de Naze Warui's finale, but Sono has been equally eager to point out that these are merely coincidental and that the appearance of Bruce Lee's yellow suit (probably the most eye-popping and most talked about link) is an actual Bruce Lee reference, not an ode to Tarantino. While you could find more ties to Tarantino's martial arts geekfest, I feel more comfortable seeing Jigoku's film's sprawling finale as an example of how it should be done rather than an ode to mediocrity.

The story of Jigoku de Naze Warui is pretty manga-esque. It follows the escapades of a young director (Hirata) looking for a subject to film. When, by chance, he ends up in the middle of a Yakuza gang war, he is confident that he was put on this earth to document the showdown between the two clans. Surprisingly both Yakuza clans are okay with Hirata filming everything, and so they start preparing for their final battle.

screen capture of Jigoku de Naze Warui

On the visual side of things, this film is vintage Sono. An agile camera races through the sets, there's an arsenal of little visual tricks to keep things interesting and from time to time Sono slows down just enough to pick and frame a superb shot. It doesn't always look as coherent as I would've liked, but the pacing is snappy, there's plenty to see and the style goes well with the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the film.

The soundtrack too is typical Sono fare. He doesn't shy away from bombast and mixes an eclectic selection of tracks (ranging from classical to regular film music) to create a bold yet light-hearted atmosphere. The soundtrack is never too serious and mainly used to brighten the mood, but it is effective and it takes center stage on more than one occasion. Pretty much what I've come to expect from a Sono soundtrack.

Fumi Nikaido (from Sono's own Himizu) is given room to flourish. Sono is great in drawing that extra something from his actors and even though the characters in this film are pretty big caricatures the cast does manage to add some humanity to the chaos. Jun Kunimura and Shin'ichi Tsutsumi shine as the Yakuza bosses while Tak Sakaguchi probably has the funniest role in the film, playing a mix between himself and a bad Bruce Lee imitator.

screen capture of Jigoku de Naze Warui

It's not that Jigoku de Naze Warui is particularly tame or boring during the first 90 minutes (there are plenty of memorable scenes), it's just that it doesn't really rise above Sono's other films. It's great fun mind, a project ripe with juvenile influences yet nourished and expanded on by a veteran director. But then Sono goes in overdrive, the entire 20-minute finale is an over-the-top feast of blood, action and comedy that stands as one of the most entertaining and insanely cool things he's done so far. It's a dazzling experience that left me gasping for air, a lesson in letting go and embracing the lack of limitations that is known as the magical world of cinema.

Watching Jigoku de Naze Warui will tell you a few things about Sono's dreams and aspirations as a young director. It may sound self-indulgent, but looking at the pleasantly twisted chunk of entertainment that resulted from it you can hardly hold it against him. It's no doubt one of the least serious films Sono has made so far, but there's so much vigor and energy here that only the most hardened stiffs would mind. Sono reaffirms his position as one of the top Japanese directors of this current generation and with a new film coming up he certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

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Wed, 02 Apr 2014 11:57:22 +0200
<![CDATA[gordon chan/x20]]>http://www.onderhond.com/features/focus-on-directors/gordon-chan-x20
Gordon Chan

Gordon Chan is one of those Hong Kong directors who made it to Hollywood. Not just once, but twice. But like all the others, he quickly returned to Hong Kong to wash away the bitter taste. Not that his Hong Kong work is absolute bliss, but it is at least a few steps up from the drab he directed in America.

Gordon Chan's fame rose together with Stephen Chow's. In the early 90s Chan released two Tao Xue Wei Long (Fight Back to School) films next to Mo Jong Yuen So Hak-Yi (King Of Beggars), fine examples of action films with a strong focus on comedy. It was the start of a period when anything touched by Chow would turn into gold and Chan was there to benefit from it.

Chan reschooled himself to action and martial cinema, once again attracting the biggest names in the genre. Pik Lik For (Thunderbolt) is Chan's collaboration with Jackie Chan, Fei Hu (The First Option) and more notably Jing Wu Jing Xiong (Fist of Legend) see Chan team up with Jet Li. When the rest of the Hong Kong movie industry started to crumble mid 90s, Chan was one of the few to keep on releasing decent action films, with Yeshou Xingjing (Beast Cops - a team effort with Dante Lam) as my personal favorite.

In 2003 Chan took his first trip to Hollywood. The result was The Medallion, a pretty mediocre action film starring Jackie Chan in the lead. It marked the start of a pretty rough period for Gordon Chan, with clunkers like A1 Tou Tiao (A-1: Headline) and The King of Fighters further watering down his oeuvre. The only bright spot during this period is Ji Jern Mo Lai (Undercover Hidden Dragon), another collaboration with Dante Lam.

After recovering from The King of Fighters, his worst release to date, Chan moved back to Hong Kong and rebooted his career. Hua Bi (Mural) was a little shaky, but Si Da Ming Bu (The Four) put Chan back on track. The follow-up was as grand as Hong Kong spectacles get and Chan's entry in the Tales from the Dark 2 anthology shows a director who matured enough to create a strong, creditable and stylish horror film.

Gordon Chan isn't the director to create big, sprawling masterpieces, but he released quite a few enjoyable action flicks and comedies throughout the years. The quality varies, but there are only a few films that aren't worth the trouble. If you're looking for a filler director with a vast and amusing oeuvre, Gordon Chan should be high on your list.

Best film: Tales from the Dark 2 (4.0*)
Worst film: The King of Fighters (1.0*)
Reviewed film(s): Tales from the Dark 2

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Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:41:08 +0200
<![CDATA[rip comments/the end of an era]]>http://www.onderhond.com/features/blog-updates/rip-comments

Yesterday I took one of the hardest decisions in my six years running this blog. Even though I'm a big supporter of commenting and I still stand by every word I wrote back then, I killed off my comment system. Here's why.

The problems arose a few months back. Due to a changes in Mollom's API (a system to block spam messages) there was a sudden increase in spam comments that were slipping through my filters. The spam bots picked it up right away and they started to target my blog. This resulted in some server trouble, which prompted the server admins to disable comments on their side of the fence.

We invested a little time in the problem but weren't able to solve it right away. I would've been glad to put in some extra effort but there's also another reality I had to face. I don't mind the 1000 spam comments fired at my blog every day, most are stopped by the spam filters anyway, the real problem is the lack of actual comments being made.

Unless you implement systems like Facebook comments or Disqus, people are less inclined to comment nowadays. And even then you need a pretty popular site to generate even a little buzz in the comment section. I could've given it a try, but I'd rather not have these crappy systems on my blog. So that left me with only one option: remove the comment section.

I went for the cold turkey option and removed all traces of comments on my blog, even on older articles. While they still live in the database (so they could be revived at a later time), I chose to remove them everywhere to improve page load and general performance (less css, less html, less database calls).

I would like to give a final thanks to all the people who commented here over the years. It's sad to see this functionality go as I still consider interaction to be one of the most important cornerstones of the web, but you can't fight reality forever. At least I'm still here on my own blog platform (another thing that's dying quickly these days), something I plan to keep on doing for a long time to come.

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Thu, 27 Mar 2014 11:26:21 +0100
<![CDATA[kaze tachinu/hayao miyazaki]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/wind-rises-review-hayao-miyazaki

Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is not just Hayao Miyazaki's latest, but also his last film as a director. It's his entire career, all rolled up in one final burst of energy, tailored to leave an impression long after he's condemned to sit at home regretting his retirement. It's been a long and somewhat disappointing wait, but I was finally able to see the film in theaters last week. A rare chance I wasn't going to pass up on no matter what.

screen capture of Kaze Tachinu

And in this case, "no matter what" meant taking off two hours from work in the middle of the day. The film was playing at 13:45 with a Rio 2 trailer slotted in before the start of the film. With a schedule like that, you know it's not going to last very long in theaters. For some reason Kaze Tachinu is being marketed as a kid's film over here, even though your average kid will probably be dozing off 5 minutes into the film. But such is the destiny of animation films in Belgium.

Even though it's not the first time Hayao Miyazaki (Tonari no Totoro, Ponyo) announced his retirement, this time he seems to be more serious than ever (going by the official statement and press conference that was held after the release of Kazu Tachinu). It's hard to believe he's truly quitting, most people seem to suspect he'll be walking the Ghibli grounds for some time to come, but as a director it's safe to consider this his final film.

Kazu Tachinu is loosely based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the main engineer of the A6M Zero fighter jet used by the Japanese forces during WWII. It's not a traditional biopic in the sense that Miyazaki didn't want to limit himself to what truly happened, instead he fictionalizes Jiro's persona in order to try and capture his spirit rather than retell the course of Jiro's life. It's a daring choice that earned him quite a lot of critique, though most of it unjustified.

screen capture of Kaze Tachinu

Studio Ghibli has always been a shrine for quality animation and Kaze Tachinu is no different. With a minimal of CG and a strong focus on traditional animation Miyazaki paints a beautiful world. The animation is rich and abundant, no background is ever lifeless and the character animation is spot on. Maybe the flying scenes aren't quite up to the standards of someone like Mamoru Oshii, but they are liberating and carry a sense of wonder unique to Ghibli. Miyazaki is still a master animator and it shines through in every frame of the film.

The film clearly isn't lacking in the sound department either. Joe Hisaishi is back to score Miyazaki's final film and delivers one of his best collaborations. Personally I prefer Hisaishi's work when teamed up with Kitano, but the Kaze Tachinu score contains just the right amount of epic and beauty without becoming obnoxious and/or overdone. But it's the sound design that really blew me away here, the alien sounds of the earthquake in particular are haunting, even terrifying. It's almost as if Gojira himself turned up for a vocal cameo.

If you're going for the American dub you can expect some star power to be thrown your way, though Touchstone did seem to have done their best, finding at least some decent actors for the job (not sure how well their actual voice acting skills hold up though). With the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt and William H. Macy you could at least fill a decent poster. Then again, with Hideaki Anno (director of Shiki-jitsu and Evangelion) helming the Japanese dub there is little room for doubt which version to pick.

screen capture of Kaze Tachinu

There's been some controversy surrounding Kaze Tachinu, something Miyazaki clearly expected as he did his best to explain his motives when the film was first released. This hasn't stopped people from claiming the spotlights to vent their own frustrations, sadly most of the critique seems incredibly off-topic. The fact that WWII plays a part in the film has clearly unearthed some unresolved hurt and misguided expectations, instead Miyazaki constructed the film around the following moral dilemma:

Do you prefer a world with pyramids, or with no pyramids?

Caproni - Kazu Tachinu

Jiro's dilemma is a tough one. He is passionate about building planes, but with war imminent he realizes that he'll need the military funds and support to realize his dream. He's not out to build tools of war, he just wants to create the most beautiful plane ever made. That's really what Caproni (Jiro's muse) refers to when he asks him about a world with or without pyramids (considered one of the seven wonders of the world but constructed upon the lives of countless slaves). It's an interesting dilemma that has quite a few implications, marking one of the rare occasions where a film has lingered long after the end credits because its thematic content.

Kaze Tachinu is more than worthy closing act. It's one of Miyazaki's best films, a stunning ode to passion and perseverance in the face of a looming war. While not a true recounting of Jiro's life, the film perfectly captures the man's spirit, focusing on the positive rather than overloading the film with drama and struggles. In a way it's sad to see a director like Miyazaki go, on the other hand it's fitting to see him quit at the top of his game. Do yourself a favor and watch this film, it's absolutely worth it.

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Wed, 26 Mar 2014 11:55:05 +0100
<![CDATA[the grand budapest hotel/wes anderson]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/grand-budapest-hotel-review-anderson

Take heed, Wes Anderson is back in town. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest entry in his by now impressive oeuvre. His latest film is a culmination and extrapolation of everything that makes Wes Anderson great, which, at least for some, will probably also be the film's downfall. Not for me though, I thoroughly enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel from start to finish, making it without a single shred of doubt my favorite Anderson film so far.

screen capture of The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is one of those rare directors who seem to get better which each film. Notwithstanding a few minor setbacks (Moonrise Kingdom was a small step back from Fantastic Mr Fox) Anderson has been refining his style with each new film he releases. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a comprehensive collection of everything that makes Anderson's films worthwhile, in exchange for a little less drama and a slightly more cartoonesque storyline.

One of the stand-out elements of The Grand Budapest Hotel is the use of animation. It's not the first time Anderson uses miniature/puppet animation in his live action films, but never before did he tie the two so tightly together. The miniature sets look incredibly life-like, while the live-action sequences look almost as if they were made using stop-motion animation. It's a rich visual treat that makes the film even more cartoonesque, yet it also feels as if Anderson finally reached the point in his career where he wanted to be all along. It suits him (and his films) so well that it's hard to imagine him ever doing anything different again.

The plot is a pretty convoluted piece of storytelling that is slightly reminiscent of something like Allo Allo. The European war setting, the story of a stolen painting and a cast of half-dimwitted characters make for a valid comparison, but luckily that's where the comparison ends. While The Grand Budapest Hotel's plot isn't going to win it any big prizes (it's merely a hook for Anderson's unique style and sense of humor), there is a vividness that keeps its momentum going.

screen capture of The Grand Budapest Hotel

Visually it's by far his best film to date. From the very beginning it's obvious that Anderson put a lot of time and effort into even the smallest of details. The use of a smaller screen ratio during the flashback scenes may have been a little unnecessary (and a small hindrance for the many magnificent symmetric shots), but that's my only complaint really. Superb camera work, charming visual effects and amazing use of color make for a visual marvel.

The soundtrack too is perfectly tailored to Anderson's vision. It's an upbeat, at times almost fairytale-like collection of songs, underlining the light-hearted and loosely structured nature of the film, edited with minute perfection. The one scene that stands out is the museum chase, where the soundtrack becomes full part of the movie to create one of the funniest scenes in the film. Outside the context of The Grand Budapest Hotel the music might be considered tame, but it is applied with such stunning perfection that it brings the film to life.

Anderson reduces most of his regular cast to cameos and picks a few fresh faces to work his magic on. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori shine as the film's central duo, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe (him in particular) are splendid in their secondary roles. Apart from the regular cameos (Murray, Wilson, Schwartzman) extra credit goes to Tilda Swinton (almost didn't recognize her) and Harvey Keitel for their nitfy performances. Everybody's clearly in on the joke and, as is often the case, that translates well to the screen.

screen capture of The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a full-blown comedy that grows more silly and grotesque by the minute. The hike up the mountain and the Winter Games descent belong to the strangest scenes Anderson ever directed, but at the same time they're also some of the best moments of his career. It will leave certain people craving for a little more humanity and realism in this film, others will wallow in its outrageous sense of joy and wonder. It's a clear trade-off, but one that was necessary for Anderson to truly flourish.

The Grand Budapest Hotel may not be laugh out loud funny for the most part of its running time, it left me with a big, wide grin on my face afterwards. There are many priceless moments, many memorable scenes and plenty of amazing details that make the film that much better. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson at his very best. You can only wonder where he goes from here, but those are worries for later. For now, it's enough to savour this little gem and to make sure enough people so it so Anderson can spend another three years tinkering away on his next one.

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Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:32:32 +0100
<![CDATA[component complexity pt2/html variants]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/component-complexity-pt2-html-variants

After last week's short introduction on component complexity, it's time to get down to business. First off, I'll give a quick run-down of the example I'll be using throughout the rest of the series, after that I'll be looking at the way html can vary within the scope of a single component. To keep things sane I'll try to keep my examples as clear and concise as possible, though I'll be hinting at some additional real-world variations that will only add to the complexity.

example component: the article

I'm going to make it easy on myself and just refer to the Smashing Magazine article I've written back in 2012. It gives a perfect run-down of the component we'll be using here. In short: the article component is a typical (and common) content type, used for displaying articles, blog posts, news items and whatnot. Typical for content types is that they appear in several different guises. Usually there's a detail page with the full article, but you'll also find smaller teasers throughout the website linking through to the detail page. From an html perspective it's all the same component though.

html variants

There is no straight mapping between a single html component and its html output. All variations of an html component will be built from the same html structure, but actual html output may differ depending on several factors. These variations are important as they will impact design, css and possibly even javascript, so it's important to be aware of all the different possibilities.

Just imagine a pager. Some pagers feature prev/next links, some feature first/last links, others feature no extra navigation links at all. All these instances are variations of the same component, but the html output will different (the first/prev/next/last links will no doubt feature different classes and the html will either be there or will be completely absent). Some other examples include headings (ranging from h1 to h6), navigation lists (either marked up with the nav or div element) or input fields (with or without informative text), but the list is virtually endless.

Not all changes in the html output are html variations though. When the difference is an additional (existing) html structure initiated by content (just think of an extra item in a navigation list) this does nothing to change the structure of the output. It simply represents a loop of a specific html structure within the component.

Html variations are pretty common and you should expect each component to have at least a couple of them.

html variations for article

Two main variations exist. First of all you have the views. On the detail page you'll find the full view of the article, but on higher-level pages you'll find various teaser views. These views can range from heading-only to semi-expanded views with a teaser image and abstract. For this article's sake, we'll stick to two views only (detail and teaser).

/* detail view */ <article class="article detail"> <header> <h1>article heading</h1> <div class="meta">...</div> </header> <div class="main">...</div> <footer> <div class="share">...</div> </footer> </article> /* teaser view */ <article class="article teaser"> <header> <h1>article heading</h1> <div class="meta">...</div> <div class="abstract">...</div> </header> </article>

The detail view has a main and footer section for body text and sharing options, the teaser view obviously lacks these elements, but features an abstract text section in the header of the component. But that's not all, the teaser view as it is written now lacks a link (as that's its sole purpose of existence: linking through to the detail view).

There are two options there, either we use a block level link (so the entire teaser is linked), or we just link the heading of the view. Both options yield different html

/* block-linked teaser */ <article class="article teaser"> <a href="#"> <header>...</header> </a> </article> /* heading-linked teaser*/ <article class="article teaser"> <header> <h1><a href="#">article heading</a></h1> ... </header> </article>

so why is this important

The problem with these structural html changes is that they impact css and javascript work and they might even carry some design impact too (in case of the different link options). A block-linked view has different hover and focus states compared to the heading-linked view, the block-linked view impacts the use of child selectors and the styling of the different base views might be wildly different, so all these different variations will impact the work needed to style and design them.

Looking back, this gives us three different variations: one detail view, one block-linked teaser view and one heading-linked teaser view.

conclusion

In real life, there are usually four to five different views per content type (one detail and three or four teaser views). Combined with the link options this can lead to up to nine different variations already, and we've just started this series. It's important to limit the views to an acceptable minimum and pick one single link method from the start. Leaving the option open will have a disastrous impact on the amount of use cases you'll have to cater for in a later stadium.

Next up: the visual and functional variations of components.

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Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:26:20 +0100
<![CDATA[wai-keung lau/x30]]>http://www.onderhond.com/features/focus-on-directors/wai-keung-lau-x30
Wai-keung Lau

Wai-keung Lau (often credited as Andrew Lau) is not only one of Hong Kong's most prolific directors, he's also one of the most versatile ones. Lau has had a pretty rich and varied career so far and shows no signs of stopping just yet. But it must be said, it cost Lau quite a lot of effort to get where he is today and he had to fight his way back into the game more than once.

The first few years of his career Lau struggled to get a foot between the door. His very first director credit was for Lian Ai De Tian Kong, an anthology project helmed by Jing Wong, his subsequent projects didn't fare much better. Not that they were terrible films (apart from Xiang Gang Qi An: Zhi Qiang Jian, which was pretty disastrous), they just didn't leave much of an impression.

In 1996, while the entire Hong Kong movie scene was drowning in sorrow, Lau rose to the occasion and released Gu Huo Zi: Zhi Ren Zai Jiang Hu (Young And Dangerous), the first part of what was to become an incredibly popular crime series, spouting five official sequels and at least as many spin-offs. In its wake stars like Francis Ng, Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan rose to fame. This series is probably the perfect starting point if you're interesting in Lau's earlier work (or Hong Kong Triad films in general).

Lau continued to release solid films, most notably Fung Wan: Hung Ba Tin Ha (The Storm Riders) and Kuet Chin Chi Gam Ji Din (The Duel), sticking to a close crew of actors who were all more than happy to return to Lau's projects. Ekin Cheng in particular owes a lot to the success of Lau's films. But as most Hong Kong directors around that time, Lau wasn't able to escape the occasional dud. Oi Gwan Yue Mung (Dance of a Dream) and Wai See Lee Ji Lam Huet Yan (The Wesley Mysterious File) rank amongst the absolute worst films in Lau's entire oeuvre.

But Lau picked himself up again, and how. I admit I'm not the biggest fan myself, but Lau's Mou Gaan Dou (Infernal Affairs) trilogy travelled the world and would end up in the hands of Scorsese. The films are slick police thrillers, featuring some of Hong Kong's best actors and spanning a wide era of Triad activity. The success allowed Lau to travel abroad. First somewhat tentatively, taking a group of Korean actors and a Japanese composer to The Netherlands to direct Daisy, soon after he'd make the trip to Hollywood to direct The Flock. But like most travelling directors, the jump to Hollywood was little more than a failed adventure.

Back in Hong Kong Lau started over once more and came out with Jing Wu Feng Yun: Chen Zhen (The Legend of Chen Zhen), my favorite Lau film so far. With Xue Di Zi (The Guillotines) he repeated that success, earning him a second chance to make the trip to America. Revenge of the Green Dragons is set to be released later this year, featuring Ray Liotta as a potential crowd puller.

From crime to martial arts, from comedy to thriller, Wai-keung Lau has tried many genres and played around in many different corners of the movie business (not just as a director either, Lau also has cinematography, production and even some acting credits to his name). While his truly great films are few and far between, most of his oeuvre is filled with solid, fun-filled entertainment. If you're not a big fan of Asian cinema Mou Gaan Dou is probably the best place to start, if you're familiar with Hong Kong's genre cinema then the Gu Huo Zi: Zhi Ren Zai Jiang Hu is a must-see.

Best film: Jing Wu Feng Yun: Chen Zhen (The Legend of Chen Zhen) (4.0*)
Worst film: Wai See Lee Ji Lam Huet Yan (The Wesley's Mysterious File) (1.0*)
Reviewed film(s): The Legend of Chen Zhen

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Tue, 18 Mar 2014 11:47:51 +0100
<![CDATA[fung bou/alan yuen]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/firestorm-review-alan-yuen

Fung Bou (Firestorm) is the kind of genre film Hong Kong has been yearning for a long time. A true revival of the police/action action flick, low on artistic merits but delivering in spades when it comes to explosive, gun-toting entertainment. Alan Yuen helms the film like a true veteran, hopefully launching his career as a director for real. Hong Kong action fans, rejoice!

screen capture of Firestorm

Alan Yuen has been around for a while now, writing/adapting screenplays and directing the odd film when the opportunity presented itself. Back in 2002 he wrote/directed Seung Fei (Princess D), a brave and laudable little sci-fi romance which sadly failed to find an international audience. Yuen worked with Benny Chan on Shaolin and Rob-B-Hood and finally got a new break with Fung Bou. And it seems that, at least for Yuen, three time's a charm.

It's not like there haven't been good police (action/)thrillers coming out of Hong Kong in the past few years (think For Lung, Du Zhan or Gun Chung), but these were films that aimed a bit higher than the mere genre tropes they represented. Fung Bou is little more than a rock solid police thriller that isn't too preoccupied with showing off the director's skills, instead putting its genre clichés front and center and polishing them to meet modern standards. At least, that goes for the first 90 minutes.

The film follows Lui, a dedicated police officer who prefers to do things by the book. Until one day he gets assigned to the case of Cao, the leader of a violent gang of cash truck robbers. When a first attempt at arrest fails and shortly after Lui's mole in discovered by Cao, Lui slowly crosses over to the dark side, jeopardizing his own career together with the well-being of the people around him.

screen capture of Firestorm

Fung Bou is a fine-looking film without being too obvious about it. The muted color palette definitely helps, the fact that most of the CG is pretty convincing (a few moments excluded) didn't hurt either. There are a few great effect shots, the editing is snappy and the camera work sufficiently dynamic, yet the overall impression is one of visual modesty. Yuen strikes a good balance here, though a little extra visual polish wouldn't have hurt.

The soundtrack is pretty generic action stuff. Some crescendos, a little extra pathos and lots of music that does little more than trade silence for noise. It's not a bad soundtrack in itself, but chances are you can't remember a single note once the film's done. The sound effects do stand out though, the explosions and gun rattlings in particular are a true treat to the ear.

While the cast in its entirety is decent enough, this is really an Andy Lau solo show. Lui's character is practically tailored to Lau's persona. The man is well over 50 by now but still has plenty of charisma to pull off the stunts and police work with convincing flair. Ka Tung Lam and Jun Hu are solid in their supporting roles, Michael Wong also turned up for a minor cameo.

screen capture of Firestorm

The first 90 minutes are good, old-fashioned police fun. Some nice action scenes, a few solid chases and a fair amount of double-crossing would've made Fung Bou the perfect candidate for my prime movie filler series. The finale is something else though. A 30-minute thrill of a ride, the perfect build-up of violence, explosions and gunfire. Fifteen minutes in I felt this was something special, but it just kept getting better and better.

Yuen clearly saved the best for last here and it paid off. The film has no apparent lows, but it has one sprawling high at the very end which left me quite impressed. It's been a while since I saw such an enthralling action scene, perfectly introduced by the 90 minutes that came before. Yuen has talent and with the right people surrounding him this could be the start of an interesting career. If you don't like police/action thrillers there's probably little here for you, but if you do this is a prime example of Hong Kong mastery of the genre.

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Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:50:36 +0100
<![CDATA[fa yeung nin wa/wong kar wai]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/fa-yeung-nin-wa-review-wong-kar-wai

Fa Yeung Nin Wa (In The Mood For Love) is undoubtedly one of the best regarded films of the 21st century. Together with A Fei Jingjyuhn (Days of Being Wild) and 2046 it forms Kar Wai's unofficial romance trilogy, a set of films he will be remembered by long after he gives up on film making. It's also the film that got me hooked on Kar Wai, so I wondered how well it had survived since I last watched it more than 10 years ago.

screen capture of In The Mood For Love

The first few Kar Wai films I watched didn't go down too well. I was less than convinced of Christopher Doyle's cinematography and Kar Wai's choice of music bothered me. It wasn't until I saw Fa Yeung Nin Wa that everything finally fit together. I've been a fan ever since (even though I haven't changed my opinion about some of Kar Wai's older films), yet I also believe Kar Wai has kept improving himself afterwards. For many people Fa Yeung Nin Wa is his undisputed masterpiece, to me it is just a landmark moment in a, to this day, ongoing process.

I remembered Fa Yeung Nin Wa as a stylish, subtle and introverted romance. With that in mind, the opening sequence came as quite a surprise, as it features some ever-blabbering Chinese neighbors, occupying the entire scene with their noisy presence. Immediately after, the focus shifts to the main characters and peace returns quickly to the film. It's the start of a complex romance that never really blossoms yet thrives right below the surface.

Chow and Chan move in next to each other on the exact same day. At first they ignore each other's presence, but as they spend more and more time alone (they both struggle with their relationships) they begin to appreciate each other's company. When one day they find out that their partners are cheating behind their backs, they decide to engage in a fake relationship in the hope of finding out what drove their partners away.

screen capture of In The Mood For Love

Visually there are two sides to Fa Yeung Nin Wa. Doyle's work is absolutely impressive, with superb slow-motion sequences and inspiring camera angles. But the colors are a bit too muted for my taste and even though it might have been the DVD transfer (Tartan edition), the images lack a certain clarity. Then again, it could just as well be the film's age shining through. Compare it to 2046 and Fa Yeung Nin Wa comes off just a little lacking, even though it's still a beautiful film to look at.

The soundtrack is suffering a similar problem. Umebayashi's Yumeshi's Theme is a stunning piece of music that gets better every time it pops up, the Spanish-language track isn't so much. Both themes have a tremendous influence on the atmosphere, which keeps rocking back and forth depending on the music that accompanies a certain scene. Overall the soundtrack works for the film, but the quality between individual tracks varies a little too much.

As for the actors, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung play the parts of their lives. Leung (Chiu Wai) owes a lot to Kar Wai and portrays his characters with style and dignity, but it's Cheung that deserves the most credit I think. She is otherworldly, a weird, at times even unpretty, yet oddly mesmerizing creature that draws all the attention towards her. As a couple they are amazing, drifting on subliminal urges that surface in their body language but never quite make it across.

screen capture of In The Mood For Love

As the film progresses the relationship between Chow and Chan starts to simmer, but Kar Wai never allows us the pleasure of release. Before the couple is allowed to blossom their ways part and they disappear from each other's lives entirely. The ending is beautiful in a dramatic sense, but might leave some people disappointed. Romances in Asian films are far less rosy than their Hollywood counterparts, which can be a little hard to swallow if you prefer wet kisses, passionate sex and a happy ending.

Fa Yeung Nin Wa is a great film, but it's ageing quite rapidly. Doyle and Umebayashi do a great job, Leung and Cheung are stellar, but they cannot hide the fact that Kar Wai grew even more skilled after completing this film. I think Yi Dai Zong Shi, 2046 and My Blueberry Nights are all better films, even though that's probably considered sacrilege in certain circles. Still, Fa Yeung Nin Wa remains a great film only bested by Kar Wai's own body of work, so it's definitely a must-see for everyone who hasn't seen it yet.

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Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:14:45 +0100
<![CDATA[in fear/jeremy lovering]]>http://www.onderhond.com/features/movie-filler/in-fear-review-jeremy-lovering
In Fear poster

In Fear is the kind of genre film making that you don't see too often. It's one thing to want and make a pure genre film, it's something entirely different to make a good one. Genre films have a bad name because of the many terrible, lazy and amateurish attempts of untalented directors hoping for a break, yet Lovering demonstrates that there is still a lot that can be done even when working exclusively with genre clichés.

The premise is the same one as hundreds of like-minded films. It starts with a car, two young kids and a journey to a festival. And of course they're taking a detour, of course they end up lost and of course someone is after them. That's what a true genre film is, a collection of clich&eactue;s that is known to work. In the end, the execution is what really matters with these kind of films.

From the start it's clear that Lovering's direction is a little out of the ordinary. The combination of the dark cinematography, quick and sharp editing and brooding soundtrack make for an eerie atmosphere that transcends the clichés and puts them back in working order. The first 45 minutes of the film are gripping, even when there isn't anything new or original to be seen.

Once Lovering starts to reveal parts of the mystery the film inevitably loses some of its charm, as is often the case with these kind of films, but there are some neat twists that keep the atmosphere tense and chilling. Lovering doesn't try to explain too much, leaving a lot to the imagination of the audience, but it's safe to say that most of the mystery is resolved during the second part of the film.

If you're in a "well, that's a silly thing to do" know-it-all mood it's probably best to avoid this film altogether, but if you're looking for a genre film that cherishes the genre clichés yet moulds them in a gripping and effective way then In Fear is a pretty safe bet. Looking forward to Lovering's next film.

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Mon, 10 Mar 2014 13:18:02 +0100
<![CDATA[moi-bi-woo-seu /kim ki-duk]]>http://www.onderhond.com/blog/moebius-review-kim-ki-duk

It was only last week that I reviewed Bin-jip, arguably Kim Ki-duk's most gentle-hearted film to date. This week I got to watch Moi-bi-woo-seu (Moebius), Ki-duk's latest offering and quite possibly the angriest film he's made so far. The contrast between the two is staggering, but at the same time there is an undeniable core that links the two together. Moi-bi-woo-seu is destined to become a divisive film even amongst Ki-duk fans, then again the film's a clear sign that Ki-duk still has the power to surprise and move his audience.

screen capture of Moebius

In between the release of Bi-mong and Arirang, Ki-duk (Hwal, Breath) crashed hard. His descent into depression is documented quite well in Arirang, but it's safe to say Ki-duk still harbours a lot of leftover anger. His films have always had a darker side, but since his return the balance has clearly shifted to rawer and more edgier films. If you thought Pieta crossed a few too many lines, Moi-bi-woo-seu probably isn't for you.

Thematically Moi-bi-woo-seu is an interesting film, the problem is that interpretations might vary wildly between people. Thanks to its harsh and uncompromising nature many see a negative message in the film, I beg to differ. The characters in Moi-bi-woo-seu seem to act irrationally, primordially even. As if their actions are free from social consequences and stigmas. The fact that they remain completely silent throughout is another strong indication of their uncultivated being. But as they spiral completely out of control, you could argue that Ki-duk's world is purely hypothetical, depicting a society without any norms or rules. Whether Ki-duk states this as a confirmation or as a looming reality is uncertain, fact is that Ki-duk seems to be reaffirming the importance of our human values as dictated by human society.

The story in which this all manifests itself is quite grotesque. Moi-bi-woo-seu follows a family of three. When the mother finds out about her husband's unfaithful behavior, she plans revenge. Unable to dismember her husband, she trots to her son's room and cuts off his penis instead. The mother takes off in shock, while dad and son rush off to the hospital to try and save whatever there is left to save. From there on things become only stranger and more grotesque, building up to a maddening and sickening final 30 minutes.

screen capture of Moebius

Even though Ki-duk is a festival regular (and winner), he still has trouble securing the proper funds for his films. Moi-bi-woo-seu suffers slightly from these budgetary restraints, though Ki-duk is talented enough to work around them for the larger part of the film. The night scenes in particular look great, the scenes indoor can be a bit murky and the hand-held camera work can look a bit unfinished at times. Still, overall this isn't a bad-looking film.

As always, the soundtrack in one of the stronger points of his films. Ki-duk has a way of picking remarkable themes that grow more intense with each time they return. Chilling, wordless vocals and minimal yet evocative melodies give the film that extra edge, pressing you deeper inside your chair and forcing you to fully take in the drama. Or how just one track can have a lasting impression and affect the mood of an entire film.

Ki-duk relies on a trio of actors to fill in the four lead roles. The mother and the mistress are played by one and the same person, which adds another layer of intrigue (even though they are made to not resemble each other directly). Acting in a Ki-duk film is never easy, but never before has he pushed his actors this far. Still they do a tremendous job conveying their actions and emotions without the help of a single line of dialogue. Not even one single word is uttered in these 90 minutes. The only minor (but very personal) quibble I had was with the father, who, from certain angles, reminded me of Jackie Chan. Enough to detract me just a little, but hardly the man's fault of course.

screen capture of Moebius

Ki-duk takes his story to extremes. I heard rumors of cuts where all the references to incest were removed from the film, yet I feel they are essential to the core of the story. It's just another example of the characters acting on their urges without worrying about any social or moral repercussions. People have been quick to yell that Ki-duk is simply aiming to shock, but as is always the case with his films there is more than meets the eye.

Reading up on the film, many have described it as a black comedy. I feel most (if not all) of the laughter is a direct result of unease with what is shown on-screen. There isn't much to laugh at really, unless it's the grotesque nature of the story that is making people laugh (much like crowds start laughing when horror films get too tense). I experienced Moi-bi-woo-seu as a pretty intense drama, a downwards spiral invoked by a family acting purely on their urges and instincts. It's definitely not a film for everyone, some people will definitely yearn for the Ki-duk of yonder, but if you accept Ki-duk's angrier side there is a wildly interesting film hidden beneath the emotional chaos. It's definitely not for the squeamish, but for me it sits proudly with the best films Ki-duk has made so far.

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Wed, 05 Mar 2014 12:19:28 +0100