aka: Bangbang wo aishen
Taiwan 2007, 103 min
Two of the most challenging films of the festival came on Friday night. The first, Help Me Eros is a Taiwanese take on the Contemplative Cinema of Béla Tarr, Theo Angelopoulos, current period Van Sant, ect. The films are meant to give you time to process and read what you may into them while the film is running as well as long after. But the problem with contemplative cinema is that it is very culture specific and the meditations and queues that are there to pick up are often lost on people who don’t know that culture and thus the contemplative aspects are seen more as space in which to fall asleep. This neon poem to Taipei is filled with loneliness and sadness and life that is soulless but plot queues, while interesting are alien to me.
The plot that the film floats about involves and man who has lost millions and is now holding onto the last vestiges of his previous life – an ultra modern home atop a sweet shop and a mighty impressive pot plant. Having also lost all his friends he pawns off pieces of his life to buy water and sweets at one of the most bizarre establishments I’ve ever seen – a drive though neon candy shop with a stripper poll and girls in skimpy outfits. He falls for one of 3 girls working there but ends up getting high and fornicating with all of them… in very visually memorable ways. His love interest, obviously pissed, destroys the plant and his depression spirals further out of control to the point that he buys 50 thousand dollars worth of lottery tickets. In the final scene he disappears but bills rain down from his window.
Its brilliant looks may entice some while the poetic meditations on life will suit others and some may put up with it to see the more titillating aspects of the film but on the whole this is a very art-house film. If you appreciate any of the directors mentioned above though seek this one out.
Mexico 2007, 75 min
This is Gael García Bernal’s directorial debut and its not that interesting to tell the truth. Bernal plays the lead Christobal, the teenage scion of an upper-class Mexican family. He is down at the family’s vacation house with his friends for a weekend and there are a bunch of class issues and drugs and jealousy and swimming and daddy hating and barbecue. It’s fairly melodramatic and very well trodden territory (you can actually see people coming of age!) but at least it’s also short and well acted.
Great Britain, France 2007, 89 min
The final film of the night was to be Irina Palm but the print was apparently lost in transit (I’m assuming USAir was to blame). Instead it was replaced with this film directed by Asif Kapadia (The Warrior, The Return) and staring Michelle Yeoh and Sean Bean. The title refers to the lands above the Russian Arctic Circle for which special benefits are given to those who chose to work there. Yeoh plays a native woman whose village was attacked by some of these men. She flees for parts even farther north with the only other surviving member, an infant child. Together they live as survivalists in the harsh climate avoiding all human contact. When Yeoh discovers a man come down from a glacier (Bean) her nurturing instincts get the better of him and she brings him into their camp and nurses him back to health. The now grown infant and adopted daughter falls for him and they make plans to leave all leading to an unexpected showdown that will leave you speechless.
Part horror film, part psycho-drama and part travelogue with hints of an environmental message the scenery is the real star of this film reflecting the seeming openness but hidden dangers in the characters and well as their relative stoic silence. Yeoh gives one of her most powerful performances to date as the damaged, protective survivalist who becomes jealous of her ward and the new interloper. Much like Mother Nature when something new emerges to throws off the balance she moves to bring things back to a natural equilibrium.