Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Day 4

Two more films on tap for Sunday at the fest. And they need to check the links they have posted for their films on the site.

First was Exiled or Fong Juk if you want to search on IMDB. This is one of two Johnny To films playing the fest (there was supposed to be a 3rd but the print wasn't available). It starts with two different pairs of shady men in trench coats knocking on a door and asking for Wo. While they wait we find that they know each other. When Wo arrives they follow him in and the first of Wait. Smiths? Really?many stunning bullet ballets begin. We find that all 5 are friends from a young age now working for different bosses in Macao, one of which Wo nearly knocked off. So they then sit down to talk, reminisce and set aside their orders to come together one last time.

The blurb in the fest program says "To is the greatest Hong Kong genre director working today," and with this its hard to disagree. The film has the beauty of a Yimou Zhang epic and pistol choreography that can go head to head with vintage Woo. The levity is perfectly placed throughout as well. Do yourself a favor and catch this when it rolls out in limited release in June and till then check the trailer:

Next was Day Night Day Night which i had first noticed watching this years Independent Spirit Awards where it won the "Someone To Watch" prize (highly ironic). I thought it would be haunting or arresting...instead it was self-important yet trite. It is the story of a young girl who attempts a suicide bombing mission in Times Square. You are dropped in as she gets off a bus into a terminal in Jersey and gets a call from her handlers. What follows is similar to what was shown in Paradise Now - she is trained, a video is made, lots of cloak and dagger and then she's let loose on NYC. However while PN showed the conviction of all involved this shows nothing of the sort. The characters are all American aside from a bomb-maker with a British accent. Her handlers try out different shirts, jackets and background images for her final video. She washes her stockings and brushes her teeth then trolls from MSG to Times Square stopping for a mustard covered pretzel and some pudding. It sound like an edgy farce but the direction is ultra solemn verite style so I'm not sure if the film is a comment on Americans' lack of conviction or on how western Muslims are soft, a trite example of how easy it would be for this to happen or just a story of a misguided youth. We get a few semi-precious clues to the girl's background - she looks vaguely of middle-eastern decent but could just as well be Hispanic (the actress is, in fact), she has come from across the country, she "is doing it for him" which may or may not be a younger brother, and her parents when she calls are looking for her.

I'm not going to give away the ending but its as ambivalent as the rest of the film. There is no substance and it takes its style from so many that have come before. I think the raison de etre is just to make you look at other people more questioningly which i find tantamount to cinematic terrorism.

This starts in limited release May 11th.


1 comment:

CS said...

I had tickets to see Exiled at the Toronto Fest but opted not to go. I'm kicking myself now. Sounds like it is an entertaining flick. I really like To's films, if you get a chance, checkout his film "Breaking News". The opening action sequence is really well done.

In regards to Day Night Day Night, I must admit I really enjoyed the film. It annoyed a lot of people at my screening, yet I found it oddly appealing. I just wish the ending was tighter.