Saturday, July 5, 2008

DVD releases for July 1

Happy July. Maybe not the best week in DVD releases, but whatever.

My Blueberry Nights (2007) directed by Wong Kar Wai
First, let me say that I was disappointed with My Blueberry Nights. It is not, however, a bad film by any means. I attempted to articulate my disappointment when I first saw the Hong Kong DVD earlier this year, but found myself being way too snarky and totally unable to see this film outside of Wong's repertoire. If I could, I think I would find many things to appreciate about this film, but, believe it or not, I am still coming off the high that 2046 provided. My Blueberry Nights, Wong's English language debut, pales in comparison to the depths he was willing to mine in his Hong Kong films. A lot rides on the performance of Norah Jones who plays our heroine Elizabeth. I have to admit that the first fifteen minutes is painful with some of the most self conscious acting I have seen from so-called stars, Jude Law included. But once the film settles and Jones stops emoting and simply relies on that dreamy, hard to resist look of hers, she becomes a much more compelling lead. Opinions vary, but I think Natalie Portman steals the show as the sassy gambler.

Mishima (1985) directed by Paul Schrader and Patriotism (1966) directed by Yukio Mishima
Just in time for the 4th of July, you can visit Yukio Mishima's version of patriotism. Patriotism is his own adaptation of a short story he had written that not so ironically mirrors his own eventual suicide. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is Paul Schrader's poetic portrayal of this fascinating man. A great double feature that I plan on partaking in at some point. (Both are really nice Criterion releases.)

A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (2007) directed by Esther Robinson
A fascinating documentary about the man who was not only at one time Andy Warhol's lover but was also responsible for some of the most interesting experimental films that came out of the Factory. However, the personality mish-mash that was the scene of the Factory seemed to be too much for Williams who disappeared in 1966 never to be heard from again. A Walk Into the Sea is a very personal inquiry by William's niece to discover not only a family secret but also an individual was missing from the typical annals of the Warhol Factory history. This doc is full of some amazing and revealing interviews with family members and Factory revelers.

City of Men (2007) directed by Paulo Morelli
This film had a very short run here. It had the look of a film very familiar (most notably of course City of God) and very predictable. That being said, it was showered with positive review and is probably worth more than the inevitable comparisons.

Sunflower (2005) directed by Zhang Yuan
This melodrama from Zhang Yuan is a quiet gem of recent Mainland films, giving life to the city of Beijing, available just in time for the Olympics. The film focuses on a father-son relationship tainted by the father's experiences during the Cultural Revolution.


Daniel G. said...

We're on interesting opposite ends with My Blueberry Nights. Shamefully, it's the only WKW film I've seen. That explains in large part why I liked it so much, and in small part why I'm nervous to see 2046 and his other films. At least I'll know not to expect the same thing.

City of Men was the first best movie of 2008 for me back in early March. It's since faded a bit but I still consider it worth the praise it's received, including from me at the time. Of course it's not City of God, but if you're not expecting it to be you should enjoy it just fine on its own merit.

Kathie Smith said...

I have really been cautious with my negative comments about My Blueberry Nights just simply because I respect WKW so much. I read your review and struggled with whether or not to post my comments of disappointment, because I'm glad that people liked it (and I don't want to sound like a jerk!) It some respects, it might be a good introduction to WKW. I would recommend checking out Chungking Express, Happy Together, and Days of Being Wild before moving on to In the Mood for Love and 2046.

Personally, I am pining for a theatrical scening of Ashes of Time Redux in town, but that aligns with 2046 at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Thanks for all your great work on your blog, by the way. I check in often!

Daniel G. said...

Thanks a lot, Kathie! That means a lot coming from you, as I know you're well established and respected locally.

I appreciate your visits and encourage you to chime in whenever you have anything to say - I can't speak for anyone else but I know I would never consider someone a "jerk" based on their taste in movies, regardless of how opposite they may be from my own! In this case you're almost an expert, to boot.

Those first five you mention are the ones that I know are required WKW viewing. I ought to make a mini-marathon.