Starring Margarita Terekhova, Oleg Yankovsky, Fillip Yankovsky, Innokenty, Smoktunovsky
Fragmented narrative chronicling several key moments in the life of a poet, Alexei, based on the writer/director Andrei Tarkovsky himself. Alternating between adolescence and adulthood, color and black and white photography, this film is considered one of the great feats of modern cinema. I consider it an enigma that I’m not interested in probing. There are instances of great beauty in the film, but there are longer instances of uninvolving, static scenery, a meandering, monotonous rhythm, acting and action without context, and a surplus of meaningless poetry. The Mirror is a perfect litmus test film for film buffs. Many of those who laud Tarkovsky’s vanity project as a masterpiece will deride many of the Hollywood action flicks that I enjoy. That’s fine, but I’ll stand firmly on my belief that this is a bad film.
Starring Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow
Two romantic tales involving police interweave in this movie: first, a young cop (Kaneshiro), getting over a break up, falls for a mysterious criminal (Lin). Second, another cop (Leung) also dealing with a breakup can’t see the cute food store worker, Faye (Wong) who secretly loves him and sneaks into his apartment to clean up after him. I’ve never cared too much for Wong Kar-wai’s work, and it’s a shame because I love the subjects he explores, his romantic flourishes, and vivid imagery, but I’ve never been anything but apathetic towards his films. Chungking Express was my first of his works, and seeing it now for the third time, I still find it monotonous. Even the humor, which is present at times, takes the same note as the moments of sadness.
Starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Hashimoto, Ken Watanabe
Two truck drivers help a widowed noodle shop owner achieve her dream of creating the perfect ramen dinner. Thrown into the mix are random group of vignettes, sometimes funny, sometimes erotic, sometimes just weird. This is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It throws a number of things onto the screen, and still manages to be charming, if not coherent.
Starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Micheline Presle, Fernand Ledoux
Tragedy about a young officer (Delon) caught in an affair with the wife of his superior, just as he has fallen in love with a local Austrian girl named Christine (Schneider). The fatalism of its ending was, for me, contrived, but that didn’t keep me from caring. The stars-Schneider and Delon- are two of the most beautiful and photogenic ever to be on screen, and their romance is brief but sweet.
Starring Ryu Seung-ryo, Jung Yu-mi, Park Jung-min, Shim Eun-kyung
A thoroughly average man (Seung-ryo) working as a security guard mysteriously gains telepathic powers just as he’s reunited with the daughter he abandoned years ago. Initially, he uses the powers to make a quick buck as an illusionist, but he soon pushes his ability to the limit once he finds his daughter wrapped up in a serious battle against a corrupt corporation. It’s a unique take on the superhero genre, but ultimately lacks a compelling protagonist to make the action exciting. The average middle aged man hero is a nice idea, but here, he really is too average. He never comes across as a unique personality. There are some memorable moments, and the over-arching villain, or villainess, Director Hong (Yu-mi), steals the show. Unfortunately, she’s not in it more, and gets no significant closure in the story.
Starring Hilda Koronel, Mona Lisa, Rez Cortez
In poverty stricken Manila, beautiful Insiang deals with a boyfriend unwilling to commit, a mother who is critical of everything and everyone, and her mother’s brutish boyfriend who has eyes for Insiang. Lurid, melodramatic story mixed with gritty, documentary style filmmaking. Effective drama, with a beautiful leading lady.
Starring Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Inma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner
A chance reunion with the friend of her estranged daughter sets Julieta down memory lane, as she tries to recall the events that led to her daughter leaving. Julieta lets its slight plot unfold slowly which gives it a weight that would otherwise not be there. We see an older Julieta think back on why her daughter left, and flashbacks reveal a younger Julieta who has turned her back to her father for cheating when she herself is engaged in an affair. The film feels less thematic than some of Almodovar’s best work, but Julieta is masterfully done and intriguing. Based on an Alice Munro story.