Archive for the Film Criticism Class Category

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Posted in Raise the Red Lantern (1991) on July 12, 2010 by Kanpoj K.

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Directed by Yimou Zhang

Raise the Red Lantern is Zhang’s forth feature film. It is set in China 1920, where China still has its own distinctive culture and rules. The film explores the dark side of the traditional Chinese culture and how surprising it is to discover what considered being right and wrong in the period of time.

Male dominant is common in China nowadays. But it is nothing comparing to what it is in hundreds years ago. If you are a rich man in that time, you can have many wives, big house and lots of servants. Each night you’ve got to choose which wife you’re going to sleep with. You can treat them however you want, even kill and torture them. Of course there’re rules in the house. But those rules are set to benefit you. When it comes to you doing bad things, everyone will pretend that nothing is happened. Would you prefer a life like that? For me, no, it would be boring.

At the beginning of the film, the new mistress talks to her mother and decide to get marry with someone she doesn’t love. This portrays the concept of marriage in that time to be more like a duty and responsibility than love. The film also shows that love is forbidden in that time. For example, the third mistress is executed because she has an affair with the doctor in the house, because of she has a love.

The use of the foot massage in the film has a lot of meaning. It is like an award for the chosen mistress. It is an addiction once you experience it. The sound of the hitting massaging stick echoes to the other room and makes other mistresses jealous. This is genius, totally genius.

The mood and tone in the film are very well done. I felt very depressing watching this film. I first watch it when I was a child. I remembered hated this film so much. And that hate shows how great the film is, to be able to give that feeling to someone. The film uses a lot of long take in slow pacing but never boring. Its storyline and tension through out the film dive the audience forward without losing patience. Every action and shot has its meaning. For example, the last shot where the forth mistress gone mad and walks outside of the room. The camera goes from closer to wider shots. We will then see she walk in circle with the red lanterns surrounding. She is trapped. It is a very strong ending and I still feel depress every time I watch it.

Syndrome and a Century (2006)

Posted in Syndrome and a Century (2006) on July 12, 2010 by Kanpoj K.

Syndrome and a Century (2006)

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Syndrome and a Century is not his most well known film but an interesting film to watch. This film went through a lot of problems with the Thai censorship laws. It raises the question of what is the standard for Thai censorship. The original film was hold back by the Thai censorship department for the inappropriate content in the film. The inappropriate scenes that they talk about are neither contain violence nor sex but very common issue like a monk playing a guitar or a doctors kiss in a private area.

The reasons for the censorship might not be that hard to understand. What the Thai censorship department tried to do is to protect the image of Thailand. They see the film as an intention to destroy Thai image, that why they censored them. But what they did not understand is that the film itself doesn’t have that kind of intention at all. One thing of the misunderstanding is that the film itself doesn’t have a straight forward narrative technique and people found it hard to understand. That is way people have difference interpretation.

Like his previous film Tropical Malady(2004), this film is divided into two part, city and rural. The events and actors in both parts are almost the same. It is almost like it wants to compare between both locations. The actors are in their same role such as doctor, monk and dentist. However, they are all behaving differently in different location due to the difference atmosphere.

Therefore, I think this film wants to compare the difference in behavior of a same group of people but in a different location, which are in the city and rural area in Thailand. How people would react and how the society would judge differently. For example, people in the rural area seem to more easy going than people in city. People in rural area are more close together. We see a doctor walks out the room in the middle her discussion with patients to ask her money back from a guy who look like a security guard. Or the scene where the dentist sings for the monk while checking up his teeth. Those situations never happen in the city. In the city, there are no conversation between them.

Moreover, the location setting also difference. In rural, the hospital seem more in the open space with trees in the background. Unlike in city, where we don’t see anything except dull hospital wall.

The scene that I like the most is the scene in the city where the doctor are drinking in the room and performing the supernatural healing power from the sun called “Jakra”. At one point in the scene, the camera slowly dolly in as they performing. It is funny to see these doctors believing in such a thing. Then one of the doctors turns to the camera and look straight at the audience. The camera then dolly back until she turns to continue the conversation. I felt immediately guilty that I judged them. The supernatural power might real, you never know. And if this situation happens in the rural area, I might not judge them like the way I judge the city people.

The Son (2002)

Posted in The Son (2002) on July 12, 2010 by Kanpoj K.

The Son (2002)

Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

This film is a very simple film. It is set in mostly one building and a couple small area. The film plays with only one single theme of forgiveness. It was shot mostly in long takes with handheld camera movement. It has a continuously tension through out the film. It received many awards. It prove that a good film doesn’t need a big budget and complicated setup. Just a good script and good way to present it is enough.

One thing I didn’t like about the film is the shaking camera technique. They use it a lot in their film to create the realistic documentary-like feeling and tension. However, I found it very annoying and it made me dizzy from the motion sickness. Although, some people don’t have this problem but many do experience it. I don’t mind the shaking camera in wide shots, but this film is shot almost every scene in close-up.

They spend a great time shooting at the back of the characters’ heads in close-up. They say that they want to save the characters’ expression for the important scene and we don’t need to see their face all the time. I agree.

I also like the tension in the film. Through out the film, I am waiting for just one action; waiting for the guy to grab a piece of wood and smashes it at the back of the boy’s head. But he didn’t. The tension comes from many things. The clever use of the setting, the carpentry room, where it’s full of dangerous equipments and materials. The close-up shots and the realistic environment sound without any music score also enhance the tension.

He has a leather belt that he uses for support his injured back. Perhaps, from carries too much weight. He lost his son, his wife left him and going to have a new baby with another guy. The belt looks uncomfortable to him and to the audience as well. It’s another good use of a simple prop to tell story.

Why a carpenter? A carpenter has to be good at mathematics and measurements. The main character is a great carpenter who is good at both. He is very precise, his decisions are never wrong. Talking about mathematic, there is only one answer in every question. If you can get it right, you’re right. There’s no emotions involve in the answer. He is trained to think that way. However, the question is what is a right thing to do in his non-mathematic problem. And once again he does what he thinks it right. He forgives.

Tampopo (1985)

Posted in Tampopo (1985) on July 12, 2010 by Kanpoj K.

Tampopo (1985)

Directed by Juzo Itami

It is almost like a mainstream Japanese film but the random insert of the irrelevant scene make it more interesting. The main theme of this film is food and what food means to different people. It is a dark comedy in a way that it criticizes the modern Japanese society.

The main storyline is about a widow tries to improve her noodle shop to be the best one in town, with a help of a stranger who always wears a cowboy hat (even in bath).  At the end when they success, the guy walk away without saying goodbye, almost like many cowboy films. He comes from nowhere to help and when he finished the task, he left.

The story follows the three acts structure like other mainstream film. It has the beginning, the climax and the ending. However, the film also includes many scenes that are not related to the main story, almost random. These scenes reflect the director’s opinions about the modern Japanese society.

For example, the rich couple who get shot at the end. The food for them represents lust. They torture animal for their own sexual entertainment. They eat while having sex. They even talk about food when he is going to die. This scene reflects the consuming habit of the rich who have things more than they needed. They live to eat, not eat to live.

Another example is the scene where the old noodle master teaches a young guy how to eat noodle properly. Food in this scene represents art. They look at the food as a piece of art. They have a certain way to look at it, touch it and eat it. It makes the audience hungry. And that is how Japanese people look at food as well. They gently slice small piece of raw fish, put it neatly on plain rice, and sell it for an expensive price. In contrast to some country, they fry the whole fish, throw in on a plate and it cost a lot less.

Another interesting scene is when the wife cooks dinner for the family for the last time. The food in this scene represents duty and responsibility. The wife is dying but all they care is how they will get food for the next meal if she dies. That’s comedy. It also reflects the male dominant in Japan society.

The last random scene I’ll talk about it when the Japanese people try to eat like a western. Food in this scene represents the social class. They try to be in a higher class and they think one way to be is to know how to eat like a western. That’s another comment from the director. The comedy starts when they see how the real western people eat and it has no rules at all. He just eats the way he feels like it. And the Japanese start to eat like him. The director uses the overacting to show how embarrass it is to lose their identity.

Mother (2009)

Posted in Film Criticism Class, Mother (2009) on July 12, 2010 by Kanpoj K.

Mother (2009)

Directed by Joon-ho Bong

This is a Korean film with a stunning performance by Hye-ja Kim. She got the best actress from this film. The script was very well written. The film drives by the guilt that the mother has. And later, it shows what a mother can do for her son.

The film starts with an over-protective mother who has a retarded son. The son hangs out with a bad friend who always gets him into trouble. The mother never blames him and rather spoils him. It later reveals that the reason of the over-protective behavior comes from the guilt that she has. She tried to murder him and committed suicide when he was young. But it was fail. The poison that she gave him damages his brain and that is the reason why he is retarded.

The beginning of the film suggests that this film is going to be just another ordinary Korean drama. However, after the son is arrested. The film then slowly changes to a mysterious, psychological thriller. The mother begins to lose her mind and lives between reality and hallucination. For example, when the mother walks into the girl’s funeral. One of the people in the funeral she saw is actually the dead girl.

The mother doesn’t believe that her son would have an intention to kill anyone. Which is true. The son does kill the girl, but by accident. She tries everyway to prove that her son is not guilty. But when she finds out the truth, she helps him anyways. She even kills the old man to save her son. And then she becomes the guiltier one. The story goes deeper and deeper with more guilt. She once asks the boy who is a scapegoat if he has a mother or not. The answer is no. He doesn’t even have a mother to help him like she does for her son. After all the sin that she makes, she decided to forget everything so that she can move on with her life.

The film begins with an old lady (The mother) slowly walk into the field full of flowers. She stops in front of the camera and dance. I watched it and I felt that this character must be crazy. It even looks funny to me.  Later on, the same shot appears again almost at the end of the film. This time it comes with all my sympathy for the character. This time I go “wow”. I didn’t know how I get from that point to this point, but it does make sense.