Movie Diary 2/13/2012

A Time to Live, a Time to Die (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1986). Revisiting some Asian films for an upcoming talk at the Frye. Superb crystal-clear photography, lots of sunlight, important scenes in the driving rain, every blade of grass in focus. Although the tone tends to be lyrical, the movie doesn’t get away from the real, as when the corpse of the beloved grandmother (whose forgetfulness and desire to return to the mainland is the source of much affectionate comedy throughout) is turned over by the coroner, and her body is discovered to have rotted on one side.  An emphasis on household rituals—washing is a motif throughout, washing the floors, washing the body. Acute sense of revealing things, the father’s autobiography left behind, the mother confiding to her daughter to find a healthy man to marry—she didn’t know of her husband’s illness and spent twenty years tending him. A movie that might easily have been warm and comforting, but consistently steers into truthful complexity.

Dust in the Wind (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1987). A young man and young woman, still in their teens, quit school and go to Taipei; an unhappy experience. The classic story, in other words, although this one is doled out without the usual connective tissue of storytelling. Their home town (village? small city?) is usually seen from one forced perspective, looking down a street, houses jumbled, people gamboling around, talking.

The House on 92nd Street (Henry Hathaway, 1945). The coming of the documentary style to the procedural-noir; good things in here, although that style was done better later.

Crime Wave (Andre de Toth, 1954). …for instance, here. Very fond of this hard-nosed film, which is full of bright-lit cop-house interiors and straightforward, casual violence (and tasty supporting actors, such as Tim Carey, Charles Bronson, and even brief takes on Fritz Feld and Hank Worden).

Thin Ice (Jill Sprecher, 2011). A grift picture done in black-comic style, with Greg Kinnear (looking spookily like John Boehner) and Billy Crudup well-cast. Only Sprecher’s third film as director, which is a shame, because the first two were genuinely unusual: Clockwatchers and Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. (full review 2/17)

This Means War (McG, 2012). Gravity-free zone, with spies and love and stuff. Would like to see Tom Hardy and Chris Pine in an actual spy movie, which this isn’t. (full review 10/17)

At What a Feeling!, we begin a week of 1980s Oscar-winners. First up: Roland Joffe’s The Mission, which won for Robert Bolt’s screenplay.

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