December 31st, 2006

Kambei (The Seven Samurai)

Don't drink the brown tea, man...

Raz and I moved hell and high water last night to get to an 11:30 showing of Pan's Labyrinth. It was sold out, so we went through the list of movies playing at the AMC 25, figuring that they had to have something that looked interesting and started soon. We ended up seeing The Curse of the Golden Flower instead.

The film is something of a return to form for Zhang Yimou combined with the epic scope of his more recent work. Don't be fooled by the trailers, TV spots and posters, this is not an action film. It is a story of political intrigue, based on a Yu Cao play that is set in the Tang Dynasty. Yes, there is a battle at the end, but most of the movie is about the relationships and machinations of the Royal family. And in the best Shakespearean tradition, everybody has to do things the hard way.

I have to admit that while I never developed any warm fuzzies for the characters (which is good, because the Cao's play is analogous to Shakespeare in more ways than one), I found myself drawn into their plotting and mooning, with each new dirty revelation a nice twist on what came before. Nobody is purely in the right within the family, but players are compelled to pick sides, which means that there isn't really a "cause" for the audience to get behind, meaning they have to make their own decisions. Yes, it is a bit forced, but the performances work very well, and if the end is unsatisfying it was at least an interesting journey to get there.

But it isn't the acting, or even the action, that is what makes this film worth seeing on the big screen if you can.

Gong Li and Chow Yun Fat are good, to be sure, but the real star of this film is Yimou's striking visual style, more prominent and stylized here than it was even in Hero, if such a thing is imaginable. Every part of Xiaoding Zhao's 'scope frame explodes with sumptuous detail, tricks of light, splashes of color. The film looks spectacular, with breathtaking Tingxiao Huo production design, and the sound mix is very enveloping, drawing the viewer into this lush environment, with its etched columns, translucent surfaces and soft, carpeted floors - as the servants walk by chanting the hour of the day. Shigeru Umebayashi's score is quite engaging as well. The total effect is almost psychedelic. No, scratch that. The effect is psychedelic.

I have some reservations as to how well the drama plays out in the film, but I have to say that the brilliance with which it creates its setting and the cinematic splendor on display make it worth dealing with the film's deficiencies.
Williams (film composer)

Fedora, leather jacket and Depends...

New information has come to light about the project forever in development hell, Indiana Jones and the Rickety Walker.

"Ow! My back!"
Lucas: Indy IV Films In '07

George Lucas on Dec. 29 said that filming of the long-awaited fourth Indiana Jones movie will begin next year, the Associated Press reported.

Harrison Ford, who appeared in the three earlier films, is set to star again. Lucas said he and director Steven Spielberg recently finalized the script for the film.

Lucas kept mum about the plot, but said that the latest installment will be a "character piece" that will include "very interesting mysteries. ... I think it's going to be really cool," Lucas said.

"It's going to be fantastic. It's going to be the best one yet," the 62-year-old filmmaker said during a break from preparing for his duties as grand marshal of Monday's Rose Parade, the AP reported.

Exact film locations have not been decided yet, but Lucas said part of the movie will be shot in Los Angeles.

The fourth chapter of the Indiana Jones saga will hit theaters in May 2008.
Sounds retarded. Of course, almost identical press releases were seen in 1996, so there's still hope they'll leave it alone. If it does happen, I'll be looking forward to the score, though.
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    John Williams: Raiders of the Lost Ark