L.N.D.N Marathon Movie #3: Secret (2007)

I’ll play for you at graduation

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Words: Desmond “Neo” Childs

The third movie in our Late Night, Date Night Marathon differs from the previous two in that it delves in something other than romantic comedy or erotic-drama. Jay Chou, the world-famous Taiwanese musician and singer–makes his directorial début here while also starring as the male-lead. The story itself centers around a talented young pianist who meets and becomes infatuated with a classmate. The problem is, she only shows up for school now and then. How will Lun (Jay Chou) ever confess his feelings to Yu (Guey Lun-Mei), the ‘mysterious piano girl’?

I’m tempted to unfairly lump this film into a group of movies with a label on them. The label isn’t necessarily a negative one, but many people who hear it cannot help but see it at one–and it’s predictable.

No.

‘Predictable’ is the label. I kind of found this film predictable. What makes it a little weird for me, is that when I say something is predictable I’d like to be able to back that up with examples. I can’t do that. At least not at the moment. So instead, I’ll layout the most basic line of narrative this story follows.

Boy meets girl in school–in this case, they meet specifically in piano class. They’re both talented people and their supporting cast follow typical high school student tropes.

They interest one another–they begin to have cute little conversations, silly banter and begin to actively seek one another out.

Something the boy does is misinterpreted as his interest in the girl dissipating–The guy is either caught hugging another girl or some weird mishap where he kisses someone. Of course the leading-lady is worried about her relationship with such an individual.

The brief fallout–the two separate and are miserable. In this film, the fallout leads up to a major twist so I do give Mr.Chou (who also wrote the story) kudos.

The happy/magical/sappy/silly reconciliation–You know this part. It’s probably the most predictable of the predictable things I’ve listed. And to Jay Chou’s credit, he chooses take a route not traveled AS OFTEN. I can’t really say too much without giving the twist away other than the relationship between the two lead characters really is ‘timeless’.

I honestly enjoyed the subplots and supporting cast more in this one than the overall story. There were the two ruby students who befriend Lun and always seem to get into trouble. And let’s not forget Lun’s father–Chiu, played by the always brilliant Anthony Wong. The highlights of the movie itself would most definitely have to be any scene in which a piano serves as the primary set piece. The chemistry between Chou and Lun-Mei feels honest enough, but their on-screen relationship didn’t feel profound enough to call for the actions the both took. The whole ‘love’ story feels more like infatuation–and their onscreen time together was too muddled in flirting and empty promises. I guess the idea is that the two love birds didn’t really get the chance to explore ‘what could have been’.  And if that’s the case then fine. But the falling action of this movie dealing with Lun frantically searching for Yu suddenly brings out the not so obvious point that both characters are seeking something more along the lines of an escape from their loneliness. But that’s just me.

On a positive note, Jay Chou’s direction is pretty poised and the story he developed isn’t a mediocre one. The scenes featuring instruments or concerts were beautiful to watch–and even seemed to serve as action sequences in an otherwise quiet, sullen picture. I do not feel like anyone outside of Anthony Wong deserves any true praise, but even he’s given certain dialogue that made me roll my eyes.

Ex: “Don’t be anything special. Be normal.”

Or something to that effect. He doesn’t want his son to try to be anything more than what anybody else is. I understand the culture is  such that putting ‘self before the community’ is looked down upon–but it just felt like the scene wasn’t very nuanced.

This movie isn’t a bad movie. I just feel like it’s mostly forgettable. The movie did play at the 10th Udine Far East Film Festival–but i couldn’t find any info about whether it competed or just held showings. At any rate, you can check out the movie, free of charge on  hulu.com

If you’ve seen Secret and agree or disagree, send me an email at svmovieblog@outlook.com

All images used have been taken from google.com and I do not own any of them.

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH ‘SECRET’ ON HULU.COM]

 

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (1994)

286218_detEat-drink-man-woman-familyEat-drink-man-woman-last-scene

Nothing says “I love you” like cooking an absurd amount of food every Sunday

Words: Desmond Childs

Alright, I’m going to cut to the chase on this film. It’s billed as a family-centered drama, with a tinge of humor. Who ever gave this movie that short, precise synposis was DEAD ON the money.The sense of “together-ness” in family movies is essential, and the lack thereof in this movie was enough to make me want to turn it off after an hour or so. Ang Lee and his crew want very badly to present the lives of the characters on screen as unpredictable and sometimes overbearing. What we get is a bad soap opera of cliched relationships, failed expectations, and poorly written plot devices and schemes. At one point I actually laughed. It’s never a good sign when certain characters aren’t given a second thought UNTIL they become pregnant or fall in love with someone much older than themselves. With no character development, 80% of what unfolded within the last 45 minutes was completely unearned. The film drifts sullenly toward the third act and then speeds through toward the end. That was an awesome pace….in Die Hard. This is romantic comedy! We expect wit, cunning, and skill in our characters; not to mention a bit of depth. Not only did this film fail to make me laugh, but there was not a strong attempt to establish some sort of chemistry between actors on screen. Those are two sins I’m unwilling to forgive! (At least, for this movie)

Directed By: 

Ang Lee

Ang-lee-on-the-set-of-bro-001

Synopsis and Analysis: “Life is like coooking, oh wait, I was mistaken.”

Ang Lee is an accomplished filmmaker, with many of his projects garnering industry awards worldwide. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001), won him an Academy Award for “Best Picture” and “Best Director”. He also won an Academy Award for “Best Picture” with his film, Brokeback Mountain(2006). Lee’s other eleven features have also garnered accolades. The word around the film industry is that Ang Lee has a knack for storytelling. Apparently, a knack worthy of multiple Academy Award nominations. However, this film is not a good testament to Lee’s strength in filmmaking. The pace drifts all about, characters dart in and out of the plot, while the themes are convoluted by a lazily written screenplay. Even if the actors on screen were to blame for the lack of human emotion in the majority of this film, it’s Lee’s job to bring that out of them. The characters seemed to either be wallowing in self pity or bickering about their various life choices. There doesn’t really seem to be any strong subtext to any of it. The father in the story is an old man who has had to raise three daughters by himself. The daughters struggle to make a name for themselves in various parts of their careers and lives; while the father desperately tries to find a way to “matter” again to anybody. The movie than stems off into the love lives of the three daughters, all of which are not expounded upon well enough for the audience to care. Then, the story shifts back to the family dilemma of “whose willing to live with Dad and keep him company” chapter. Finally, we get to see all these inconvenient, yet inevitable situations plant themselves right on the faces of the characters onscreen. Without spoiling too much, we get a pregnacy, an un-approved marriage; and than we get a random, buzz killing twist thrown in to draw up a…chuckle from of the audience? Ang Lee must’ve wanted us to laugh. It’s like once he realized this story wasn’t all that interesting he curtailed the end and made the falling action as absurd as possible as to give the audience something to remember; good or bad. By the way, the father in this film experiences a handful of hardships, but he’s suppose to feel better and more connected to his family because he regains his sense of taste? REALLY!? I understand the subtext Lee was going for, but it’s one heck of a misfire, lemme tell ya’.

 

 

Electric Shadows (2004)

312

Electric Shadows: “You cannot let the pass dictate your future…”

Words: Desmond Childs

*Author’s Note: I owe readers an apoology for this overdue review on a movie I promised to discuss over a month ago. With all of my things unpacked and settled in; I’m ready to get back to work.

 

In the spirit of nostalgia, Xiao Jiang brings us Electric Shadows; a tale of regret and sorrow. This movie takes the main protagonist’s problems and enhances them past the original limit. The heroine has to learn that she cannot change the past and that “closure” is the closest she could get to the relief she sought after.

Directed By:

Jia Yan (Xiao Jiang)

Jia

Jia Yan, whose is credited as Xiao Jiang for this film, wrote and directed Electric Shadows. One thing I noticed about her style here, is the nostalgic feel it gives off. You can’t help but wonder how much of Ms. Jia’s own childhood was embedded into this movie; with the setting and characters carrying an authenthic glow. The pacing is a little tiresome, where halfway through, I wanted to push the “fast-forward” button. The ending sequence of events wasn’t pulled off all that well, although the idea to tie the two stories together was a neat one. The movie’s payoff was a bittersweet and ultimately unearned “heart-string” tugger.

Reunion of the Hearts and Souls?

A film about the awakardly frantic life of a radio announcer. The town they live in spends the end of every night (at least it seemed like every night) watching movies on a giant projector screen. The movie nights were popular enough for mostly all of the citizens to attend (popcorn included). Soon, the girl’s mother has a child out of wedlock, and is thus shunned by the town and looked down upon. The follwing set of events chronicles their lives, with cult-like ritual of movie basically being a character in the movie itself; where many of the film’s more vital moments taking place. Personally, the film was engrossing for about an hour and 15 minutes; before it starts to drift and reach for some emotional moments. The good directors can bring those moments to you seamlessy; while the great ones weave those moments into already enticing works of art. Many of the sad moments in this film were done relatively well, although watching a child quietly stare into space does wear on you afterawhile. It’s a little lazy to hope the audience is going to feel for a little kid, just because she’s a kid. Luckily for this film, the lead actresses have enough charisma to make us all feel bad for them in their predicament. I even dug the little ugly guy friend who served as her tag-a-long for a part of the film. To summarize, Electric Shadows was a nice movie. I feel as though director, Jia Yan may have a flair for dramatic, epic, romance movies at her best; and cute, little tales of puppy-love, romantic comedies at her worst. Not a bad way to make a living. Wow, I think I just typed the longest sentence this year on this blog. Does that deserve a hand clap of praise?

 

Electric Shadows is available on Netflix’s “instant watch” feature. Check out the trailer below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (1994)

286218_detEat-drink-man-woman-familyEat-drink-man-woman-last-scene

Nothing says “I love you” like cooking an absurd amount of food every Sunday

Words: Desmond Childs

Alright, I’m going to cut to the chase on this film. It’s billed as a family-centered drama, with a tinge of humor. Who ever gave this movie that short, precise synposis was DEAD ON the money.The sense of “together-ness” in family movies is essential, and the lack thereof in this movie was enough to make me want to turn it off after an hour or so. Ang Lee and his crew want very badly to present the lives of the characters on screen as unpredictable and sometimes overbearing. What we get is a bad soap opera of cliched relationships, failed expectations, and poorly written plot devices and schemes. At one point I actually laughed. It’s never a good sign when certain characters aren’t given a second thought UNTIL they become pregnant or fall in love with someone much older than themselves. With no character development, 80% of what unfolded within the last 45 minutes was completely unearned. The film drifts sullenly toward the third act and then speeds through toward the end. That was an awesome pace….in Die Hard. This is romantic comedy! We expect wit, cunning, and skill in our characters; not to mention a bit of depth. Not only did this film fail to make me laugh, but there was not a strong attempt to establish some sort of chemistry between actors on screen. Those are two sins I’m unwilling to forgive! (At least, for this movie)

 

Directed By: 

Ang Lee

Ang-lee-on-the-set-of-bro-001

Synopsis and Analysis: “Life is like coooking, oh wait, I was mistaken.”

Ang Lee is an accomplished filmmaker, with many of his projects garnering industry awards worldwide. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001), won him an Academy Award for “Best Picture” and “Best Director”. He also won an Academy Award for “Best Picture” with his film, Brokeback Mountain(2006). Lee’s other eleven features have also garnered accolades. The word around the film industry is that Ang Lee has a knack for storytelling. Apparently, a knack worthy of multiple Academy Award nominations. However, this film is not a good testament to Lee’s strength in filmmaking. The pace drifts all about, characters dart in and out of the plot, while the themes are convoluted by a lazily written screenplay. Even if the actors on screen were to blame for the lack of human emotion in the majority of this film, it’s Lee’s job to bring that out of them. The characters seemed to either be wallowing in self pity or bickering about their various life choices. There doesn’t really seem to be any strong subtext to any of it. The father in the story is an old man who has had to raise three daughters by himself. The daughters struggle to make a name for themselves in various parts of their careers and lives; while the father desperately tries to find a way to “matter” again to anybody. The movie than stems off into the love lives of the three daughters, all of which are not expounded upon well enough for the audience to care. Then, the story shifts back to the family dilemma of “whose willing to live with Dad and keep him company” chapter. Finally, we get to see all these inconvenient, yet inevitable situations plant themselves right on the faces of the characters onscreen. Without spoiling too much, we get a pregnacy, an un-approved marriage; and than we get a random, buzz killing twist thrown in to draw up a…chuckle from of the audience? Ang Lee must’ve wanted us to laugh. It’s like once he realized this story wasn’t all that interesting he curtailed the end and made the falling action as absurd as possible as to give the audience something to remember; good or bad. By the way, the father in this film experiences a handful of hardships, but he’s suppose to feel better and more connected to his family because he regains his sense of taste? REALLY!? I understand the subtext Lee was going for, but it’s one heck of a misfire, lemme tell ya’.