Tuesday, June 30, 2020

This Week in (Virtual) Tickets: 22 June 2020 - 28 June 2020

Ah, summer, so it looks nice out the window.

This Week in Tickets

Kind of a quiet week, writing up previous reviews, watching season 2 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, doing a bunch of crosswords, the usual. Eventually, I was able to get a couple things off the shelf, with Taza, Son of Cochise the latest restoration from the 3-D Film Archive to see release. It's… Well, we haven't gotten entirely beyond this sort of cross-ethnic casting, but it seldom looks as bad as this. The next night was from the "unwatched Hong Kong Blus" shelf, grabbing The Moon Warriors off there and realizing that I'd seen it before. But, it's been over fifteen years, and it's an example of how you can wind up viewing something with new eyes.

Saturday night, I rented something from the Coolidge, and then when I tried to hook it to the TV… nothing. Just a dark-ish blue no matter what input I selected. The middle of a shelter-in-place situation is no time to find oneself without that working! Especially when there's no more 3D models on sale in North America, which would mean looking at a projector, which I'm not opposed to, but, well, then you're talking on a screen and trying to convince the landlord to let you bolt stuff to the walls, and let's just say I was glad that unplugging and then plugging things in a couple of times did the trick.

So all is good, and Sunday night I can watch Sometimes Always Never and The Audition via the Coolidge's virtual screening room, and it was a pretty darn good pairing. The Audition is the better movie, but the other one being an attempt to stretch a scene-stealing Bill Nighy character's story out to the length of a feature with a lot of Wes Anderson to it isn't wholly a bad thing.

Holiday weekend coming up! Would love to be able to put something on my Letterboxd page from some sort of outdoor thing, but it doesn't look likely.

Taza, Son of Cochise

* * (out of four)
Seen 25 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, 3D Blu-ray)

(Quickly checks IMDB to avoid getting "actually..."-ed)

Oof, but this is some awkward, obvious "white people playing Apache" material, and I'm not sure I understand the point of it being so obvious, other than the straightforward "audiences wanted stories about Native Americans but wouldn't go to a movie without stars, none of whom were Native". The dissonance of it just is bizarre to see 65 years on, though, one of the tackier "products of its time" you'll see. It's never convincing and makes every strange line-reading an awkward coin-flip between "deliberately racist" and "trying their best but somehow even worse".

Put that aside, somehow, and you've got the movie, which is just decently-enough mounted to be frustratingly bad. Maybe there's some actual history in there, though I doubt it, and the script made of it is ridiculous, with characters displaying an amazing ability to jump from one idea to its opposite mid-conversation. The film is lucky to have Douglas Sirk in the director's chair, about to rattle off a string of classics but still grinding out genre product at the moment, and able to squeeze a decent pace and some nice visuals out of the script. Russell Metty's Technicolor cinematography doesn't do any favors for the make-up jobs on Rock Hudson and Barbara Rush (still with us at 93!), but he works with the scenic locations well, and the 3D disc shows he gave audiences who paid a bit extra for that back in '54 their money's worth without making it look like a tacky gimmick.

The restoration by the 3D Film Archive looks nice, but there's no avoiding that sometimes buying these discs because you like 3D can get you some stinkers.

Tin san chuen suet (The Moon Warriors)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

Been long enough that I didn't realize I'd seen this one before until I saw the orca, but even among batshit crazy Hong Kong films that might otherwise run together, some details make a movie stand out.

And this movie is... Well, it's something. It's such a familiar sort of thing that director Sammo Hung and writer Alex Law can basically start at least a few scenes later than many movies do, just cutting out rote setup completely, and have the audience not feel like it is too far behind. They never let it get boring, with a few genuinely odd bits of action and enough impressive ways of setting the scene to make the film genuinely striking at times. Characters are introduced fleeing a flaming castle, implying that the whole idea of government/royal stability is gone (ultimately only existing as a tomb), while the fishing village is open but also built to pull a viewer in, centered on the big communal cooking space that emphasizes the locals being so tight-knit. The film looks lovely even when it makes little sense or is depicting something horrible.

I suspect I had less patience for romance in my kung fu when I first saw this in 2004 (looking at the old review, I was also just learning that Andy Lau was kind of a big deal), but it's a huge part of what makes this particular movie work, even though many of the axes it turns on are kind of clunky. The thing I wind up liking about that is that, sure, the attraction between Lau's fisherman and Anita Mui's princess happens awful fast, but so does the sudden bond between the fisherman and the prince said princess is betrothed to. It's maybe not quite queer but it's intense enough for jealousy, and as such it heightens the melodrama deliciously, even as it feels like something few American movies of the era would manage in quite so sincere a fashion. And even if they did, they certainly wouldn't handle the melodrama that it leads to nearly as well.

What I thought back in 2004

Taza, Son of Cochise
The Moon Warriors
Sometimes Always Never & The Audition

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