Movie Diary 2/7/2012

Goodbye, South, Goodbye (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1996). A bit more accessible than Hou’s “sadness trilogy,” and a contemporary setting. Three small-time criminals occasionally drop down from Taipei to the south, to pull jobs. Long-take scenes, some building to violence, as people end up scuffling or fighting. One motif: Hou withholds information in an unconventional way, not letting you know how people are connected until well into the movie. Or within a scene: suddenly during a fight someone says “cuff him,” and we find out, oh, apparently one of those characters is a cop. Action punctuated by shots of movement: cars plowing down highway, motorcycles ascending a mountain road, usually wordless. Exceptional beauty to the photography itself, in a non-pictorial way. Typical scene: argument in an apartment, three or four minute take, cats skulking about at will, then the most hot-headed of the group (called Flatty) opens a window and jumps out. We hear a splash from outside, but never cut out there or find out what happened. All pervaded by a sense of melancholy. Great title.

Safe House (Daniel Espinosa, 2012). What’s going on out there? One can’t call it golden, or even silver, but it’s something like a bronze month for multiplex action pictures, what with Haywire, The Grey, even Contraband all passing the time nicely. And now this: Bournian spy stuff with an annoying camera but a few undeniably grabby situations. A pro-Wikileaks message, too. (full review 2/10)

At What a Feeling!, Carroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf rebuts The Grey, without CGI wolves.

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