Reviews - Films

The Grandmaster

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai
The first feature in five years from Hong Kong's arthouse darling, Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmaster , was shown at the Berlin Film Festival. The Berlin Film Festival has scored a theoretical coup opening with The Grandmaster, and like all of his movies, it's a melancholy romance at heart, but punctuated in this case with long and meticulously choreographed sequences of gravity-defying martial arts. The instant reference point for most viewers will be Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with which the movie shares two stars, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen, but Wong's return to the wuxia genre, which he previously explored in 1994's remarkable Ashes of Time, is a much more studied, narratively elliptical creation. His
inspiration is the life of the legendary Ip Man, who mentored Bruce Lee in the Wing Chun style of martial arts. Played by regular Wong lead Tony Leung, Ip is first glimpsed in a dark, rain-spattered opening set piece taking down all comers with his fiendish prowess. The fateful, if brief, encounter in the film happens between Ip and his counterpart from North China, the acrobatic Gong Er (Zhang), whose father, a noted grandmaster in their field, is on the verge of retirement. Both stars have excelled before in archetypal wuxia roles, but the through-line of Ip and Gong's great lost love here is seriously wanting.


Paradise: Hope

Directed by Ulrich Seidl
Originally conceived as one 130-minute feature film, Paradise: Hope (2013) sees 60-year-old Austrian director Ulrich Seidl complete his trilogy of films inspired by Odon von Horvath's 1932 play Faith, Hope and Charity. The final chapter in the trilogy leaves us with the remaining young girl of the three women whose stories comprise this peculiar examination of these vague and ambiguous themes. Overweight and curious, thirteen year old Melanie is spending her summer holiday at an Austrian fat camp whilst her mother and sister embark on their own irregular excursions. At camp, she makes friends with her roommates with whom she has pillow fights, smuggles sweets and talks about sex. More importantly she also develops a crush on the camp’s fifty year old doctor. This
juvenile obsession grows into Melanie's first true love and whilst the senior physician who’s the object of her affections initially warms to her advances, he rapidly becomes aware that she's quickly discovering her inherent feminine seductive powers and will do anything to win him over. Ostensibly a coming-of-age tale set against a backdrop of oppression and rejection, Seidl takes his unflinching approach and dilutes it appropriately for this juvenile scenario. A stark and uncomfortable ride that constantly snares you within its suffocating framing, Paradise: Hope combines the claustrophobic composition of a Scandinavian noir with the minimalist drollness of an Eastern European comedy. But having said that, Paradise: Hope is a fascinating examination of inherent desire for love, somehow managing to capture your attention and draw your eye to the brief flicker of hope that burns ever so dimly behind its stark and uncomfortable veneer.


I'm Not Dead

Directed by Mehdi Ben Attia
Best described as Trading Places meets Birth meets the Boulevard Saint-Germain, writer-director Mehdi Ben Attia’s ‘I’m Not Dead’ is a muddled, art house head-scratcher whose talented cast can never overcome a story that fails to carry its social-psychological themes anywhere believable. Too obscure to find much traction outside the festival circuit, this film should receive a small local release and some overseas play in French film weeks. A hardworking Algerian student at the illustrious Ecole Normale Superieure, the young and handsome Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi) hopes to make it as a member of France’s administrative elite. When he's not admiring the lectures of his esteemed philosophy professor, Richard (Emmanuel
Salinger), Yacine holds down a day job as a part-time messenger, using his earnings to pay the rent for a flat he shares with his pot-puffing brother, Jamel (Driss Ramdi). When a delivery soon brings Yacine into the clutches of his favorite teacher, it seems at first that Ben Attia’s scenario is headed toward the kind of conflict that would pit the underprivileged immigrant against the upper-crust intellectual, with Richard’s wife, Eleonore (Maria de Medeiros), perhaps serving as the booty. Instead, the film takes one wild and perplexing turn after another when Richard abruptly dies of a brain aneurysm, and then his soul is somehow transported into Yacine’s body, a phenomenon that’s unconvincingly explained by a couple of bloody noses and too many coupes of champagne. Forced to resurrect himself as an Arab outsider with little money or contacts, Richard gets a glimpse of what life is like on the wrong side of the Seine, and then tries to penetrate into the very world (and woman) he once belonged to.































 

 

 

 








 
















 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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