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 Maiden's Voyage 
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Stray Dogs

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    Surely, Stray Dogs is the prettiest Tsai film ever! It's filled with an odd beauty, discovered in supermarkets and derelict buildings, which stops just short of distracting us from the poverty and neglect that are his true concern. The symbolism here is surprisingly overt – the beam of a flashlight, the ruined house, an unexpected mural, indeed, the stray dogs! But it adds up to an effective collage of despair vs. hope. Is it a coincidence that Tsai gives us images straight from a horror film: the ghostly woman in the first long shot [left, below], and the bug-like monster following Lee down the hallway [below, right]? Even the cabbage murder (equal parts comic and pathetic) comes back to haunt us at the end, as Lee sways drunkenly behind the woman who loves his children. Given that the boat scene seems to quote The Night of the Hunter (albeit in reverse), I think they're very deliberate allusions. The world is a dangerous place for all of these characters, but for children most of all. Who will protect the frogs?

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Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:51 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

Gets better the more I think about it. I want to watch it again.


Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:00 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

I can't stop thinking about it either. Visually, it really got under my skin. The textures alone...

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And, as I updated my index post, I realized this is the first Tsai film I've ever featured here. That feels so wrong! New Year's resolution: write about Vive l'amour, The Wayward Cloud, and I Don't Want to Sleep Alone.

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Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:46 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

Shieldmaiden wrote:
New Year's resolution: write about Vive l'amour, The Wayward Cloud, and I Don't Want to Sleep Alone.

I fully intend to ensure that this happens.

Have you seen anything from Lee Kang-sheng as a director?

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 2:49 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Have you seen anything from Lee Kang-sheng as a director?
I have not. Recommendations?

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:14 am
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No idea!

Grabbed both The Missing and Help Me Eros recently.

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:23 am
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Help Me Eros is okay, like an airhead-y wannabe Tsai thing, it's fun - never heard of The Missing, will download!


Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:09 pm
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Catching up with January

It's been a great month for movies, and I'm falling a little behind. Consider this a catch-up post.

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The Missing Picture is a piercingly personal story of the director's childhood in the death camps of the Khmer Rouge. Illustrated with small, carved-clay figures set in heartbreaking tableaux, there's just enough context (mainly in the second half) to place the events in history. The muted, layered sounds, too, give it the ghostly feeling of past horror. But, its success is mostly due to the toy-like figures, alternately distancing and poignant, like the child's-eye view itself.


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I really love The Strange Little Cat. Its intricate choreography of small spaces, the music, the way a few small items are moved like chess pieces – all of these make daily life feel as complex and arcane as a game of Whack Bat in The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It's an amazing portrait of a family, whose mercurial hostilities and affections are just the iceberg tip of time and habit. Is it normal for a child to watch her mother as closely as Clara does? Her eyes almost never leave her mother's face, even when the camera looks elsewhere. (Yet we see it still.) By the end, we, too, are watching faces, searching for love and sadness behind the mischievous smiles.


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In Borgman, van Warmerdam adds a dose of supernatural horror to his typical dark family farce, and it works! At least, I found it truly disturbing, and that's good, right? This is a disorienting fairy tale where the archetypes are disguised and rearranged, where the family is exposed in its glass house and persuaded to throw the stones. I'm a little uncomfortable admitting how funny I found it, around and underneath the startling violence.


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My first taste of Joanna Hogg is Exhibition, a voyeuristic look at a marriage in quiet crisis. It's an odd sort of comedy, a slow-motion farce that dips briefly into surreal absurdity. Almost nothing happens, but Viviane Albertine manages to shine all the same, portraying fear, frustration, longing, and a very muted triumph. It's also a tactile love letter to a beautiful building, whose architecture is lovingly documented (hugged, eaten, and photographed) throughout. More pics from this one here.

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Sat Jan 24, 2015 1:08 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

wigwam wrote:
Help Me Eros is okay, like an airhead-y wannabe Tsai thing, it's fun - never heard of The Missing, will download!

Yeah, that one looks so Tsai. Hoping to watch it this weekend!

So much Duras in Exhibition, I reckon. Would be perfect for a certain thread, too! ;)

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Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:08 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Would be perfect for a certain thread, too! ;)
Oh, yes, perfect. I love the way it demonstrates both "good" and "bad" solitude.

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Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:24 am
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Lee Kang-sheng et al.

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I recently watched Visage, which, with its echoes of Léaud-Truffaut, seems at least as much about Tsai Ming-liang's remarkable relationship with Lee Kang-sheng as about grief or art. (A bit more on that here.) Other directors have had favorite actors, yes; but has any pair become quite as inextricably linked as this one? Sure, Depp is loyal to Burton, but I don't get quite the same sense of symbiosis. He's not the face the director presents to the world. Lee is, and for that privilege he's withstood a truly awesome amount of physical discomfort and degradation, and stood it gracefully, with seemingly no ego at all. He's amazing! I found a quote from Lee here, apparently from a discussion of the Walker project: "Collaborating with him is like a torture you have to bear. I experienced the heaviness of life with him, and performing the role has prepared me in some way for the future." He could just as easily be describing their 26-year partnership, which has produced not only (apparently) personal zen, but a body of art unlike any other.

What's the English equivalent of the term acteur fétiche? Does 'favorite actor' cover it, or does it require an 'alter ego' component? Only the former would cover the more varied Ryu-Ozu career, for example. But, the latter (alter ego) is the type I'm more interested in. Who are the great ones? Mastroianni-Fellini, of course. Lavant-Carax? Are there any cross-gender examples? (And, using your current wife in all your films à la Zulawski doesn't count!) Outinnen-Kaurismäki, perhaps? I’m not looking for the most prolific relationships, just the most valuable, collaborative ones. Help me out!

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Mon Feb 16, 2015 1:21 pm
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The examples that come to mind for the "English Version" are really good, but maybe some people will think of some better examples.

Terrence Malick and Grass Blowing In The Wind

or

Vincent Gallo and Vincent Gallo

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Mon Feb 16, 2015 2:18 pm
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage: Lee Kang-sheng et al

Shieldmaiden wrote:
Who are great ones?

I like Akerman/Seyrig as all-female combos go! Also, Wertmüller/Melato.

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Mon Feb 16, 2015 10:12 pm
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LEAVES wrote:
Vincent Gallo and Vincent Gallo
Ah, but which one's the director???

JediMoonShyne wrote:
I like Akerman/Seyrig as all-female combos go!
I didn't realize that she'd used her multiple times. Do you feel that she's an alter ego at all?

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Wed Feb 18, 2015 12:24 pm
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Visage

Reflections!

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It's hard to know what to say about Visage. Its visual language defies words, but, what else do I have? I do think this is both a departure from and an extension of his previous films. It's slapstick comedy about a film production on the verge of disaster, sweet tone poem about grief and loss, and loving homage to some of the heroes of French cinema. And, Lee Kang-sheng steps, finally, into the role he's always played: that of Tsai himself. But when the camera sweeps by him, oblivious, we know something's wrong. This director is absent, silent, subordinate, asleep. He's terrorized by his own film. He's inside it. Whatever is going on here, it's beautiful, and I want to see it again!

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Wed Feb 18, 2015 1:43 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
I didn't realize that she'd used her multiple times. Do you feel that she's an alter ego at all?

Um, perhaps? What do you think?


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Fri Feb 20, 2015 3:11 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Um, perhaps? What do you think?
Oh, neat. Good find! Seyrig seems like a handful, doesn't she? I think she's being rather condescending there. So, no, I don't really see that kind of relationship forming, though they might have developed it later, of course.

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:22 am
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Triple feature

Getting caught up with February I find I have a triple feature on a theme: black comedies of the performance arts.

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Even the weakest of these three has a lot to offer. Sure, Frank is a bit uneven, but Fassbender is fantastic as the title character, and the music is actually interesting. And I love the way it never shies away from the fact that Gleeson's John is talentless, his songs are terrible, and he's wrong about everything: the internet, fame, Frank himself. If John does gets a hint of redemption at the end, it's almost despite himself. And it's surprisingly bracing to find a music movie that refuses its characters the personal growth tropes, the creative breakthrough, and (especially) the hit.


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      You might think that Frank's comic treatment of mental illness was as dark as it gets, but Birdman is even darker, with a more cynical approach to failure: success. Again, we have a main character who just isn't very good. He's written a bad play (turning minimalism into melodrama), for an audience that won't be able to tell the difference anyway. And, here's the thing – the movie's narrative (is Riggan writing this? is it still in his head?) is badly written, too. Every character, every interaction, every confrontation is as clichéd and ridiculous as his play, a fact which is either exacerbated or obscured (depending on which critic you read) by all the acting's audition-like intensity, everything dialed up to eleven. By the time Riggan gets his success, it's clear to us (and to him) that it's preposterous, a bad joke. If it weren't for some slight signs of hope in his personal life, it would be too much (for him and for us) to bear.


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To say that Venus in Fur is about performance looks misleading at first. After all, the theater seats are empty the whole time, right? But this super-sized audition is the play, and we're the lucky audience as these two excellent actors slide easily in and out of character. Good performances in a bad play-within-a-good play... sound familiar? And, don't worry – it's neither overly clever nor pedantic. The point (for most of its runtime, anyway) is the interplay, the game, while the central criticism (of misogyny in the arts) dances around the edges. And it's all done with a light touch, its comedy in the staging and deft camera work. I especially enjoyed the most meta level, the one that couldn't have existed in earlier productions, where Polanski casts his own wife and cuts Almaric's hair to resemble his own, and makes the criticism personal. And I loved the Renaissance paintings over the credits; such a beautiful montage of fundamental male-gazing!

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:24 am
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Do like the Polanski, the more I think about it.

Did you ever see Carnage? Some similarities between this and that, I reckon.

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:18 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Did you ever see Carnage? Some similarities between this and that, I reckon.
Another play adaptation! I didn't, no. Do you like it?

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:35 am
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It's nice, yeah. Don't think the forum is terribly fond of it, but who cares, right?

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:14 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Don't think the forum is terribly fond of it, but who cares, right?
Haha, true. The only comment I found on here about Venus in Fur was "shitfest." :P

I'll check out Carnage for sure now.

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:09 pm
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I liked both of those movies. Neither of them is as great as The Ghost Writer to me, though, but I'm on board with 2010s Polanski so far.

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Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:57 pm
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Colonel Kurz wrote:
I liked both of those movies. Neither of them is as great as The Ghost Writer to me, though, but I'm on board with 2010s Polanski so far.
Ooh, I haven't seen Ghost Writer yet, either.

Bear's another one who liked Carnage, I believe. I know whose opinions to watch. :)

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:42 am
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I saw Venus in Fur in the middle of the day at Rio Cinema. A bloke sitting on his lonesome in the front row got thrown out for having a tug during the film. No-one would've spotted it or complained if it wasn't for the grunting. Good film. Recommend Hackney Picturehouse instead, though.

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 1:14 am
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Notes from Underground wrote:
Recommend Hackney Picturehouse instead, though.
Ha!

And, hey, I've missed you!

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:06 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
And, hey, I've missed you!

You shouldn't have. I think it says a lot that my only cinema related Corrie contribution in nearly two years is about someone wanking in a theatre.

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:21 am
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Notes from Underground wrote:
I saw Venus in Fur in the middle of the day at Rio Cinema. A bloke sitting on his lonesome in the front row got thrown out for having a tug during the film. No-one would've spotted it or complained if it wasn't for the grunting. Good film. Recommend Hackney Picturehouse instead, though.

:D

It wasn't Spengo, was it?

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:07 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
It wasn't Spengo, was it?

I neglected to mention I was talking about myself in the third person.

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:18 am
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I should've known, Notes.

He, did you try the Errol Flynn Filmhouse yet? Less wankers in there, I'd wager.

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:18 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Did you try the Errol Flynn Filmhouse yet? Less wankers in there, I'd wager.

Wow, didn't even know about that one. Even though it opened 2 years ago. Have you been?

EDIT: Sorry for interrupting your voyage, Maiden.

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"I thought, well, heaven, all that marble and giltwork, sounds a bit middle class. I would prefer something that was, I don't know, carpeted and had skirting boards, things like that." — Alan Moore

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:50 pm
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Wanking in the darkness is all part of the voyage, see. It's a Tsai thing...

I haven't, yet! Had planned to drop by an It's a Wonderful Life screening while visiting at Christmas, but didn't get round to it.

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:08 pm
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why haven't you done It's a Wonderful Life for ISOLATION yet?!

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:30 pm
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Why don't you do it yourself, snapper?

Why do I always have to do everything, eh?

WHY

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:40 pm
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im 2 sick 2 write unless its for pay

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:42 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Wanking in the darkness is all part of the voyage, see.
I turn my back for a couple of days, and look what happens! :P

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Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:18 am
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I'm still mulling over the mysterious Visage (original post here) and, while digging around, found this very interesting interview with Tsai, in which he talks about what Lee Kang-sheng has meant to him in his films:
Quote:
Hsiao-kang has a special familiarity to me. He reminds me very much of my father, who passed away while I was shooting Rebels of the Neon God [1993]. My relationship with my father was distant; we had a typical relationship for my generation. He was an authority figure who rarely, if ever, expressed his emotions and feelings. As a result, we didn’t really understand each other although when he passed away I felt a profound sense of loss. Hsiao-kang and my father smoke in an incredibly similar way and both are very reticent. For one of my film installations, It’s a Dream [2007], I had Hsiao-kang wear my father’s clothes; it gave me an opportunity to observe someone with my father’s likeness. Realizing It’s a Dream took a long time – almost 20 years – during which I experienced a lot of pressure concerning my filmmaking. For example, people wanted me to change my lead male actor. This made me ask myself: ‘What does it mean to be an author?’ What does authorship entail? Am I responsible for the art I make or the audience I cater to? Am I making a film for myself as an artist or for the market?’ My collaboration with Hsiao-kang is at the heart of this conflict. To consistently use a character who looks and acts like my father is my way of making sure that I’m making these films for myself, not the market. Simply put: I choose to face Hsiao-kang in order to face myself.
Notice he uses the character's name to refer to the actor. More on that at the link. This father-son thing, combined with the all-out weirdness of the Dance of Seven Veils scene in Visage, is starting to make my head hurt!

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Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:24 am
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Heinrich von Kleist double feature

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        Amour Fou is lovely! Jessica Hausner grabs our attention from the beginning with careful sets and framing, but she’s actually playing a long game of small, perfect gestures and repetitions—quiet notes that, almost imperceptibly, acquire surprising depth and power. I didn't realize going in that this would be about Heinrich von Kleist, a writer I’ve long admired for his short stories and novellas. Despite his pathetic and unlikable character here, the film sent me back to the stories that made such an impression on me years ago. It turns out, too, they’ve been rich fodder for German filmmakers since at least 1935.

        Of course, I couldn’t resist a sample, and picked San Domingo, a loose adaptation of one of Kleist's lesser works, by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. As far removed as possible from the Hausner, this is a playful experiment that mixes a free-floating pseudo-documentary of anarchist youth with the fictional melodrama of the two main characters. There’s barely a trace here of the overwrought tableaux he’d use just two years later in Ludwig. Instead he maintains a light touch, offsetting cynical humor with compassion. Hmm, maybe I should finish that Hitler movie someday after all.

      sImage Image

Notes:
For more Kleist adaptations, go here.
For more Syberberg, check out this Abyss entry on Ludwig, Requiem for a Virgin King.

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Fri Apr 03, 2015 5:17 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

OK, no one's seen San Domingo. I get it. But before I move on, I feel compelled to mention its weakest part. Several times he interrupts the hippie commune reverie to cut to some seriously weird shots of Michael's parents. To show they're rich and frivolous, they're wearing formal attire and dancing/laughing in a huge, ruined building with a lot of sinks. A hospital? I realize they're a minor part of the film, but it's so lazy and pointless. Was it really too much work to find a hotel lobby? Or any building with furniture, really.

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Sat Apr 04, 2015 5:48 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

Shieldmaiden wrote:
OK, no one's seen San Domingo. I get it. But before I move on, I feel compelled to mention its weakest part. Several times he interrupts the hippie commune reverie to cut to some seriously weird shots of Michael's parents. To show they're rich and frivolous, they're wearing formal attire and dancing/laughing in a huge, ruined building with a lot of sinks. A hospital? I realize they're a minor part of the film, but it's so lazy and pointless. Was it really too much work to find a hotel lobby? Or any building with furniture, really.


I haven't seen the film, but I assume a building with furniture in it wouldn't have been decadent enough.


Sat Apr 04, 2015 8:08 am
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Ha, yeah, I suppose it's an expression of their cold, barren hearts. Maybe the pipes are clogged. Obviously the symbolism flew right over my head. :P

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Sat Apr 04, 2015 11:06 am
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Das Vaterspiel

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                              One man's trash is another man's father. Or something.

Obscurity. Though this one isn't going to make my all-time list or anything, I think it's worth writing about things that are absurdly underseen. Call it the Bear Ideal. Anyway, I think I'll start featuring things, on occasion, at least partly because they have extremely low vote counts on IMDb. Say... under 200?

Das Vaterspiel is both flawed and ambitious. First its strengths: the images are rich and colorful; the sets are impeccable (is that house on Staten Island, because I'm pretty sure I've been in it); and its three stories unfold with energy and style to spare. Two very different men play their respective versions of a "father game," and their eventual intersection feels real enough, if rather pointless. And there it is. Though I was always entertained, I craved thematic depth, resonance. Our bland protagonist is equally unreadable in love and hate, and the bits of closure offered him in the end feel slightly academic. Maybe I'm asking too much? After all, when your topics are father-son relationships and the Holocaust, you can pretty much count on people bringing their own baggage to bear. Oh, and, speaking of baggage, why load this poor film down with the worst English-language title change I've ever seen? The German Father Game becomes Kill Daddy Good Night, and no one ever watches it again!

More Sabine, for LEAVES:

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Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:02 pm
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage: Heinrich von Kleist double feature

Shieldmaiden wrote:
Amour Fou is lovely! Jessica Hausner grabs our attention from the beginning with careful sets and framing, but she’s actually playing a long game of small, perfect gestures and repetitions—quiet notes that, almost imperceptibly, acquire surprising depth and power.

Missed this post, but yes: lovely film, right from the beginning with all those colours and compositions that recall a painting. Reminded me a little of Bright Star in this sense, though perhaps that's just the costumes. And you're right: there is a lot of emphasis on routine and repetition, as though echoing the rigorous morals by which these people live, and ultimately how crazy his request is when heard in such a context.

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Sun Apr 19, 2015 11:31 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
And you're right: there is a lot of emphasis on routine and repetition, as though echoing the rigorous morals by which these people live, and ultimately how crazy his request is when heard in such a context.
His request is crazy in any context! And, speaking of repetition, the song was what did it for me. Loved how it changed from weightless exercise to something fraught with meaning.

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:50 am
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Oh, the subtle inflection in the score is the best. Do love soundtracks like that.

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:58 am
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Post Maiden's Voyage: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
and His Years of Pilgrimage


A new novel in Haruki Murakami's "controlled, melancholy" mode,* Colorless Tsukuru is the small, but entertaining story of a man whose circumstances have led him to believe he has no attributes (no 'color'), who embarks on a quest to figure out his past and his place in the world. It's not as devastating as A Wild Sheep Chase (which I talked about here), but it's as delicate and satisfying as his best short stories.

I've read a lot of Murakami, and it's good to find that he can still surprise me: there are a couple of well-drawn, and interesting female characters here (the best of his career?); a strong sense of place when his title character visits Finland; a lovely final chapter that builds to a crescendo of comedy and pathos; and a striking depiction of grief as physical pain that rings true.

The trains Tsukuru obsesses over, though firmly in the present, carry the same metaphoric baggage as the sci-fi trains of 2046 – symbols of the possible, but viewed from the mournful perspective of middle age, in which the characters are all too aware of the connections missed, passengers forgotten, stations long past. Our train only runs one way!

Excerpt:
It had started raining again, a soft, quiet rain. The rushing stream drowned out the sound of the rain. Haida could tell it was raining only by the slight variation in the air against his skin.

Sitting in that small room across from Midorikwa suddenly felt strange to him, as if they were in the midst of something impossible, something at odds with the principles of nature. Haida grew dizzy. In the still air he'd caught a faint whiff of death, the smell of slowly rotting flesh. But it had to be an illusion. Nobody there was dead yet.

"You'll be going back to college in Tokyo before much longer," Midorikawa quietly stated. "And you'll return to real life. You need to live it to the fullest. No matter how shallow and dull things might get, this life is worth living. I guarantee it. And I'm not being either ironic of paradoxical. It's just that, for me, what's worthwhile in life has become a burden, something I can't shoulder anymore. Maybe I'm just not cut out for it. So, like a dying cat, I've crawled into a quiet, dark place, silently waiting for my time to come. It's not so bad. But you're different. You should be able to handle what life sends your way. You need to use the thread of logic, as best you can, to skillfully sew onto yourself everything that's worth living for."

* "He has two distinct styles," says his friend and admirer Kazuo Ishiguro, the Booker-winning author of The
    Remains of the Day. "There's the bizarre, anarchic style and there's the very controlled, melancholy approach." (Found here.)




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Tue May 05, 2015 11:33 am
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Post Re: Maiden's Voyage

yeah loved it, loved the women, loved Finland, his best one thats come out since I started reading him in 2006 or whenever


Tue May 05, 2015 9:34 pm
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wigwam wrote:
yeah loved it, loved the women, loved Finland, his best one thats come out since I started reading him in 2006 or whenever
Yay! And, yes. But, to be honest, that’s not much competition. What's come out since 2006, Blind Willow and 1Q84?

My favorites:

    A Wild Sheep Chase
    Colorless Tsukuru
    South of the Border
    After the Quake

But there are a few I probably need to revisit.

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Wed May 06, 2015 3:18 am
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Yeah After Dark and 1Q84 seem much lesser than something as good as Colorless

So cool you rate South of the Border so high, that's the first one I read and it seems to be underrated since it's not as out-there as some of the other male-protagonist pity-party-pervy ones like my faves Kafka and Norwegian Wood


Wed May 06, 2015 1:13 pm
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Oh, yeah, After Dark – that one slipped in under my radar somehow. I'll read it soon. Kafka is my least favorite, haha. Obviously I tend to like his shorter, more tightly controlled stuff. I'm definitely hoping the fleshed-out women become a new trend.

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Wed May 06, 2015 8:08 pm
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