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5 April, 2006

Serial cinema

As I said, I've seen five films at the cinema within in the past fortnight, and one was 'Brokeback Mountain'.  The others were:

A Bittersweet Life (2005): This was very superficially similar to 'Oldboy' in that it's Korean, rather violent and tightly focussed on a single character; since the latter was the only other Korean film I'd seen before, I couldn't avoid the comparison. The narrative seemed more straightforward, bordering on derivative, but the ending can be interpreted a number of ways, which means one was left thinking and re-evaluating the experience for days.

Blow Up (1966): A wonderful film about the nature of perception.
Made forty years ago, it's certainly dated (40 years seems startling, though – it's not that dated), but it's 'period' nature is almost added value rather than a problem. In particular, it highlights the aesthetics of the time: at 24 years old, David Hemmings looked remarkably like Terence Stamp (who was apparently Antonioni's first choice for the leading actor), and in street scenes, the camera lingers on (then revolutionary) Modernist high-rise buildings that'd be ignored or considered ugly nowadays.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2005): Though not as novel a story as 'Oldboy' (another of Park Chan-Wook's 'revenge' trilogy), the sheer innovation of the film's execution was fascinating. The use of special effects was particularly striking, in extending shots beyond the physically possible and conveying nuances of the plot and characterisation that I don't recall seeing before. So far as I'm concerned, this is what digital imaging is for.

Hidden (2005): The audience and lead characters are in the same position, of being presented with footage & events and having to interpret them for their/ourselves. As soon as I got home, I rang Helen to discuss it, and it's almost as if we'd seen different films.
Predictably, my view was that the surveillance videos were the product of a dispassionate outside observer, and that the subsequent events followed from the characters' reactions to it, whereas H. thought the videos had been produced by one (or more) of the characters in order to deliberately provoke specific actions. It's the difference between people's own memories and guilt driving their responses to an outside, itself entirely neutral, event, and someone attempting a deliberate act of impassioned revenge.
Incidentally, though I said earlier that the 'shared communal experience' aspect of going to the cinema isn't important to me, the collective gasp at one key moment was delicious.

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