Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: In the Mood for Love

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Listed in the Cannes festival catalog as “Untitled” and shown via a print lacking its final sound mix, Wong Kar-wai’s new picture is both more of the same and a tentative step in a new direction. Although the Hong Kong director continues his fruitful partnership with first-rate, Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle, and although In the Mood for Love is often gorgeously framed, lit, and color designed, there’s virtually none of the swoopy/slithery camera moves that frequently outran purpose and sense in Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, and Happy Together. Instead the visuals respect the discretion and emotional delicacy of the two principal characters, nextdoor neighbors (Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-wai) who gradually realize that their respective spouses are having an affair. Mutual pain draws them together, after a fashion (the spouses themselves are scarcely seen and remain faceless even then). But this being the hyperromantic yet inveterately lonely world of Wong Kar-wai, we should know not to count on the fulfillment that the wall-to-wall Nat “King” Cole song track yearns for.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: South of Heaven, West of Hell

[Written for Amazon.com]

If you’ve never heard of South of Heaven, West of Hell, there’s an excellent reason. If you have heard of it, it’s probably because you stumbled upon the information that it marks the directorial debut of singer-actor Dwight Yoakam, who managed to sweet-talk a spectacularly quirky cast into abetting the enterprise: current girlfriend Bridget Fonda and her papa Peter; indie-world luminaries Vince Vaughn and Billy Bob Thornton (for whom Yoakam made a memorably loathsome villain in Sling Blade); character-acting stalwarts Bo Hopkins, Matt Clark, Luke Askew, and Scott Wilson; and such icons of the florid fringe as Bud Cort, Paul Reubens, and Michael Jeter. All should file for workman’s comp and alienation of audience affection because they got themselves mired in one of the dumbest, most inept, most tediously self-indulgent messes in the history of showbiz hubris.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews, Horror

2000 Eyes: Shadow of the Vampire

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

One of the most eagerly anticipated offerings at Cannes this year, Shadow of the Vampire is the first feature in a decade from E. Elias Merhige, whose only previous effort was the one-of-a-kind avant-garde feature Begotten (1990). That amazing film visualized a timeless cycle of birth, death, and regeneration, in Druidic images at once primeval and postapocalyptic, that seem to have been developed on protoplasmic stock and projected with a flickering bioluminescence. What more appropriate directorial casting, then, for an imaginary (?) account of how F.W. Murnau, the cinema’s first poet of the supernatural, might have made Nosferatu, the first, albeit unofficial, screen version of Dracula.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Bossa Nova

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

What’s sadder than a would-be lilting comedy that just doesn’t lilt? It doesn’t help when someone decides to name the thing Bossa Nova and fill it with the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. The music sounds as sea-breezy and listenable as ever, but Bruno Barreto’s movie is flatfooted to the max.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Gohatto (aka Tabou)

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

“Have you ever killed a man? … Have you ever made love?” It’s tempting to call this latest film by Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses, Max Mon Amour) a meditation on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays in the military — except that in Kyoto’s Shinsengumi militia in 1865 it almost seems that every third warrior “leans that way,” with at least half the rest precariously susceptible to feeling the same, or fearing that they might start feeling the same, at any moment. There doesn’t appear to be notable scorn for the practice, but veterans like Captain Hijikata (Takeshi Kitano) worry that excessive fascination with a pretty boy like the new kid, Kano (Ryuhei Matsuda), can mess up morale and, er, take the edge off military preparedness.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Les Destinées sentimentales

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Three hours long and a far cry from his ultramodern chronicles of disenchantment, Olivier Assayas’s Les Destinées sentimentales ranges from the winter of 1900 to springtime some thirty years later. In so doing, the film recalls a genre that was in vogue around the time its own story ends — during the Depression, when cine-sagas of families weathering the seasons and storms of history somehow reassured audiences that “we’ll get through this one too.”

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: U-571

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Jonathan Mostow made his feature-directing debut a couple of seasons ago with Breakdown, a tense road-movie-cum-chase-thriller that pitted motorist and husband Kurt Russell against a sinister good-old-boy trucker (the late J.T. Walsh) who had somehow kidnapped Russell’s wife in broad daylight and the wide open spaces of the desert Southwest. The picture became a sleeper hit, and industry and fans alike marked Mostow as somebody to watch. U-571 won’t undo his career — it bids to be another palm-sweater, and technically delivers often enough to keep the popcorn crowd in their seats. But this movie seems to have no reason for existing except as an answer to the rhetorical question: “Do you think somebody nowadays could make an old-fashioned, straight-ahead submarine flick like the ones they did during World War II?” Mostow must have said, “Why not?” whereas many would have ended their riposte one word sooner.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: Amores Perros

[Written for The Stranger]

A dinged-up Grand Marquis rockets through Mexico City traffic, straddling the white line; two young guys inside, very hyper, have a dog gushing blood in the back seat, and, a couple of car lengths behind, some character in a van sticking a pistol out the window and trying to punch a bullet at them. Amores Perros, the most exciting rival of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the recent foreign-film Oscar race, begins at a screaming dead run and maintains one kind of intensity or another over the next two and a half hours.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Yi Yi (aka A-One and a-Two)

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Edward Yang’s work on this nearly-three-hour family drama from Taiwan won him the Best Director award from the Cannes 2000 jury. Quiet, patient, undemonstrative, Yi Yi is no tour de force à la Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, nor an emotional tone poem like Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, but its large, astutely chosen cast is beautifully observed, and Yang’s visual intelligence — whether focused on a verdant park or the Fassbinder-like frame spaces where life is lived in a modern, suddenly Westernized city — is formidable.

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