Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 19 July: Castaway on the Moon, Written By

Monday was my last day working in the office, and was really unusually quiet; I was expecting a lot of "wait! you can't go until you've done this! and checked this! and these people need to know that if you're going to be really and truly away for a week and a half!", but that didn't happen. I still got a little tense waiting for the other shoe to drop, though.

(And many thanks to the fine folks at Intrinsiq-Tendler who let me camp out in their office for seven days; it's a lot easier to carve three weeks out of the year if you can get some work done during part of it in an environment conducive to getting work done.)

I did dawdle a little on the way out, perhaps in a subconscious effort to not make it back in time to give Eve's Necklace a second chance. I decided not to, because let's face it, this is vacation and fun and I don't want to to make it feel like an obligation. Sure, I'll be asking for some second-chance screeners, but do I really need to see the mannequin movie twice to be sure it's a gimmick film? No, probably not really.

After that? Well, I could have made it to A Serbian Film, but did I really want to? Sure, it's highly buzzed-about and the folks who have seen it tend to praise it even while wishing they could unburn some of its images from their brains, but... Well, see above about obligations. Besides, if I didn't do some laundry within the next few days, I'd be out of stuff, so that seemed like a good time to get it done.

Kimssi pyoryugi (Castaway on the Moon)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

Somehow, I got the idea into my head that Castaway on the Moon was going to be a serious film, all allegory for isolation within the city and breaking its hero down to find out who he is without defining him by his relationships to other people. Which it is. It is also well aware that its plot is as potentially funny as it is clever, and goes for the laughs, too.

Mr. Kim (Jung Jae-young) is in bad shape. His girlfriend has left him, and he somehow owes hundreds of thousands of dollars on a $75k, supposedly interest-free loan. Once he has established the situation as hopeless, he throws himself into the Han river. Things still aren't going his way, though, as he washes up on shore. But not of the city; of Bam Island, a tiny piece of land in the middle of the river with an unscalable bridge support and no other connection to land. He can't swim, so he finds himself in the odd situation of being a Robinson Crusoe surrounded by one of Asia's largest cities, as nobody can see him. Well, one person can - Ms. Kim (Jung Rye-won), a young shut-in in a nearby high-rise, has accidentally caught a glimpse of him via her camera's telephoto lens, and has become fascinated.

Kim is the most common surname in South Korea, shared by roughly a third of the population, so it would be no great surprise for two random people to have that name. Obviously, in a film, that choice is not random, especially since the characters' given names are spoken aloud maybe once apiece and they are listed as "Male Kim" and "Female Kim" in the credits. The two are meant to be analogs for each other, creating tiny nations of one within Seoul and shunning outside contact. It's done in extreme ways but they could be anyone who has, one way or another, been hurt sufficiently to run away from the world.

Full review at eFilmCritic.

Joi sun ho (Written By)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

Last year, I saw Wai Ka-fai as a guest at another film festival, and as one might expect, most of the questions in the extended Q&A were about his collaborations with Johnnie To. Written By didn't play until later in that festival, after I'd gone home, which is a shame - it's a film I would have really liked to hear him talk about.

A family is involved in a horrific car accident; it leaves father Tony (Lau Ching-wan) dead and daughter Melody blinded. Despite that, they survive; mother Mandy (Kelly Lin) returns to school for her graduate degree, and ten years later, Melody (Mia Yam) is a promising young writer. But a pall still hangs over the family, so Melody proposes an odd form of therapy: She will write a novel, in which--

A family is involved in a horrific car accident; father Tony (Lau Ching-wan) is the only survivor, and he's been blinded. Though his Filipino housemaid Maria (Yeung Shuk-man) helps him handle day-to-day activities, he has become reclusive and withdrawn. He decides on an odd form of therapy: He will write a novel, in which--

Wai and co-writer Au Kin-yee don't quite create the ouroboros of a screenplay you might imagine from that description; that would be, in a way, too straightforward and confining. Instead, they create a layered story about dealing with grief and survivor's guilt which effectively shows how the departed can still linger in the minds of those who love them. It also allows the film to go off on some pretty wild flights of fantasy, and even get away with things happening in the plotline that might otherwise seem to be a little much. By the end of the movie, things have gotten very strange indeed, but the emotion of it is so grounded that it almost seems to be the logical extension of what has happened before.

Full review at eFilmCritic.

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