Sunday, May 16, 2010

Coming Soon...

"In The Mood For Love", a visually beautiful Hong Kong film about cheating spouses, healing hearts, and noodles. Stay tuned for the review!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

French film
Length: 1 hour 47 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

What is it about?
The Beat That My Heart Skipped is an incredible movie which delves deep into the psychology of a Parisian property shark named Tom. The business of dirty real estate has been handed down from his father who often guilts Tom into violently collecting money which hasn't been paid. When Tom meets Mr. Fox, his late pianist mother's manager, in a chance encounter, he gets the chance to turn his life around. The movie revolves around Tom's struggle to pull himself out of the real estate business in which he is so heavily entrenched and create a better life for himself.

Was it a good movie?
This kind of deep psychology is only usually found in books, and this movie pulls it off perfectly. The story and character development is fast, but very solid all the way around. Tom's internal struggle is foreshadowed in the very first scene, setting the stage for the rest of the movie and how his father's attitude and choices will affect him. The whole movie, though dramatic, is realistic in terms of Tom's psychological issues, and that's the most valuable part of the movie.

Can you explain some of the symbolism? (WARNING: this portion contains some spoilers!)
Tom is seeking to become more like his mother in adopting her love of the piano, mostly to get away from the life he's currently leading - a life just like his father's. In trying to be like his mother, Tom is yet again following a career path (and way of life) that he has not chosen himself. This is one of the major reasons he cannot succeed in turning his life around when he has the chance. Neither career path is really right for him. In one scene, Tom listens to a recording of his mother having difficulty practicing piano because she's too nervous. Not only is this foreshadowing of how Tom's audition will go, but it further highlights the fact that Tom will not be able to succeed as this is not his own dream and passion, but somebody else's. In other words, while his aspiration to change his life for the better is admirable, he has doomed himself to fail.

Tom's piano playing serves several purposes throughout the movie. The audience hears Tom playing the same piano passages over and over, symbolizing his being stuck in the same situation in his job, his life, and all his relationships. The piano also brings Tom together with Miaou, his Asian piano teacher. While Tom learns the language of meaningful and heartfelt piano playing from Miaou, he teaches her French, as she doesn't know the language at all. She is the first female that holds any value in his life, although at times their interaction is awkward. Finally, the piano gives Tom a more healthy outlet for his anger with both himself and his father. He takes out the anger he feels because of being used and unappreciated by his father on other men who don't appreciate their wives/girlfriends. Just as his father uses Tom to solve his own problems but doesn't appreciate his efforts (which are not considered favors, but are expected from him), the other men Tom comes in contact with don't appreciate their wives/girlfriends and take advantage of them. Two major examples of this are Fabrice, Tom's cheating business partner, and Minskov, the Russian businessman who won't pay Tom's father money he owes. Tom sleeps with Fabrice's wife Aline and Minskov's young girlfriend as a sort of twisted and indirect revenge for the way he has been used by his own father. By doing this he is accomplishing two opposing things: giving the women the attention he feels he deserves from his father, and at the same time, using them the way he's been used. He resorts to these things when he is disgusted with the life he's living.

At the end, on his way to Miaou's concert, Tom chooses to attack Minskov after seeing him on the street. This is extremely significant as Tom's father has been dead for two years and therefore there is no longer any pressure on him to avenge the debt owed to his father. He could easily have seen Minskov, gotten upset, and left it alone, satisfied with the violence-free life he is now living. Perhaps he thinks Minskov killed his father, but if he was a genuinely non-violent person inside, wouldn't he try to control himself and continue on to Miaou's concert? Tom's reaction to Minskov brings into question whether he can change from who he had to be when his father was alive. When Tom can't bring himself to kill Minskov, he finally lets himself feel the pain of his life and his father's death. It brings him to realize that he can no longer be the person who his father forced him to be, even to avenge the last debt owed to his father. But is it too late? Is the high he experiences when he finally sits down at Miaou's concert from Miaou's piano playing or his brutality against Minskov? Or is it a result of finally freeing himself from his father's grasp by completing his father's last wish of "getting" Minskov?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Japanese film
Length: 1 hour 40 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

This movie is the Japanese version of the Ring. It was made four years before the American version and is actually very different.

What is it about?
Ringu has the same basic storyline as the Ring, but the facts are presented very differently. There is an evil video tape that kills all who watch it in exactly seven days. A reporter named Reiko is doing research on this tape (though she thinks it is just a myth at the time) when her niece dies of what they think is a heart attack. She dies with a look of horror frozen on her face. Reiko soon finds out that a few of her niece's friends died at exactly the same time in exactly the same way - they had all watched the video together in a cabin.

Reiko goes to the cabin, finds the video, and watches it. Soon, disturbing things begin to happen. Reiko then shows the video to her ex-husband Ryuji and asks for help in finding a way to stop the process. In the meantime, Reiko's son, Yoichi, watches the video. Now Reiko must figure out what's going on and how to stop it before she, her ex-husband, and her son all die.

Was it a good movie?
This movie has a great plot line, but it can be a bit confusing at times. For a horror film, it is very advanced since the horror is really based on the storyline instead of on special effects. The score to the movie is absolutely excellent. There is barely any music at all, but when it is used, it's so simple that it makes the scene even more intense.

What differentiates it from the American version? (WARNING: this portion contains partial spoilers!)
Ringu is quite different from the Ring. While the Ring relies heavily on scary graphics, Ringu barely has any graphics at all. In the Ring, the girl is supposed to be pure evil and absolutely contemptible. Conversely, Ringu depicts her as someone the audience should feel sorry for since she was born evil and can't change that. Some of the back story reveals that she even tries to defend her mother from those who treat her badly. Even the musical scores for the movies are different. Ringu's score is extremely minimal, while the Ring has an excellent score that is present during a decent amount of the movie.

If you enjoy a good scare delivered through a good plot line with the occasional shock factor, Ringu is the way to go. If you're scared by excellent graphics and an okay plot line, the Ring is for you. If you're planning on watching both, watch the Ring first because if you watch it second, the plot line is very disappointing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paradise Now

Middle Eastern film
Length: 1 hour 31 minutes
Rating: PG-13

What is it about?
Paradise Now takes place during the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It centers around two childhood friends, Said and Khaled, who are chosen to carry out a suicide bombing mission in Tel Aviv.

A good portion of the movie is dedicated to showing everything suicide bombers must go through before they are able to carry out their mission. This includes rituals, prayers, and making videotapes of themselves with their reasons for being suicide bombers as well as their last goodbyes to their families and friends.

When the time comes for them to cross the border into Tel Aviv, something goes wrong and Said and Khaled are separated. It is after this separation that their friendship and beliefs are tested, and they must begin to think as individuals instead of as a unit.

Was it a good movie?
This is a great movie, especially because it shows both the aggressive and the passive sides to resisting the Israeli occupation. Said and Khaled both believe they must take an aggressive stance, which is why they believe suicide bombings are the right thing to do. Suha, the woman who falls in love with Said, believes in resisting the occupation peacefully, and thinks that more violence will only tighten the already unbelievably rigid lifestyle they've been forced into living.

Paradise Now develops the main characters extremely well in a short period of time. Character development is usually the easiest place for a movie to slip up, but it is actually this movie's strength.

Can you explain some of the symbolism? (WARNING: this portion contains some spoilers!)
There isn't much symbolism in Paradise Now, it's very straightforward for the most part. However, the symbolism that does exist in the movie is easy to interpret and only adds to the storyline. None of these symbols are vital to understanding the characters or the plot.

The biggest and most important symbol is in what is commonly referred to as the "last supper scene". It is the last dinner Said and Khaled will eat before their suicide mission; sitting together with their fellow conspirators, it is set up just like the Biblical last supper. Some say that Said and Khaled are both in the middle so that neither of them can represent anybody from the actual last supper painting. Personally, I think Said is in the middle, making him the "savior" figure, and Khaled is on his left, making him a "Judas" figure. This would mean that, since Said ends up going through with the suicide bombing, he will be viewed as a savior by those who take an aggressive stance. Since Khaled has come to a revelation that peace is the more persuasive approach, he backs out, making him a betrayer to Said, and therefore he would be considered evil.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Korean film
Length: 1 hour 35 minutes
Rating: R

What is it about? Tae-suk posts Chinese take-out menus on people's doors and then comes back to check on them after a while. If the menu is gone, he assumes the owners are home, but if the menu remains, he assumes the owners are on vacation. In the latter case, Tae-suk carefully breaks into the house and lives in it for a few days, using their clothes, beds, TV's, food, and other things. In return, he does their laundry and fixes things around the house. This is how he meets Sun-hwa, a woman married to an abusive husband. This meeting is what the rest of the movie is based on.

Was it a good movie? 3-Iron is an excellent movie full of symbolism and intense interpretive character development. The characters Sun-hwa and Tae-suk don't speak at all during the movie, so how they act is very important since that's all the audience has to go by in order to understand them. If you don't like having to interpret what's going on, you can still enjoy the movie for its basic plot line, but it will be a bit lacking and it won't be as easy to understand what's going on. The character development is exemplary, even with the lack of dialogue from the two main characters. Overall, 3-Iron gives the message that hope and love can overcome all odds, no matter how bad things seem.

Can you explain some of the symbolism? (WARNING: this portion contains some spoilers!) First and foremost is the giant symbol of golf. In Japan, as in many other places, golfing is a significant status symbol. That being said, the reason this sport is used over all the others is because whoever is seen playing it is the one who has the "status" of being in control of Sun-hwa.

Another major symbol is nude or partially nude women in pictures and statues. Notice that the picture of Sun-hwa seen in the third place they break into together has her positioned so that none of her body except for her legs and arms is really showing. This physically shows that she is not willing to let just anyone into her life, since she has been so badly abused by her husband. She is using her own self as a barrier to keep others at a distance until she determines whether or not they are "safe" to let into her life (this is directly reflected in the scene when she hides and watches Tae-suk when he has broken into her house).

The final major symbol in this movie is the scale. When we first see the scale, Tae-suk weighs himself at 110 pounds. He takes the scale apart and fixes it to weigh him at 65 pounds. Sun-hwa weighs 47 pounds after this adjustment. The second time we see the scale, Sun-hwa weighs herself at 56 pounds. She then takes the scale apart and fixes it, but she does not reweigh herself this time. The last time we see the scale, both Tae-suk and Sun-hwa are on it and the weigh nothing. The significance of this is that when Tae-suk first enters Sun-hwa's life, he makes it much simpler and less stressful. They both weigh less emotionally. Sun-hwa weighs herself later in the movie and she is heavier than the last time. This is because she cannot be with Tae-suk, so she fixes the scale. We do not know if her weight actually changes directly afterwards, but we can assume that she fixes it in anticipation of Tae-suk returning for her. When they weigh nothing, it is because they are now able to be together forever, leaving them with no more pain or stresses to weigh them down.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't Be Scared of Foreign Films!

Do you ever wonder what you're missing when you watch a foreign film? Sometimes it seems like you're looking too deep, and sometimes you feel like you're not interpreting anything deeper at all. Neither way is wrong. You can't look too deep, and not all foreign films are made to be interpreted. If you see something that you think can be interpreted, it probably can, so forget the question of "How do I know if I'm supposed to interpret that?". Instead, "How do I interpret that?" is a far more reasonable question. Here are some pointers on symbolism, motifs, and everything else:

1. If you notice something, especially objects, more than once in the film, it probably means something.

2. If there is special attention given to an inanimate object, there's usually a reason.

3. The way characters speak is important. It gives you insight into their motives and their actions.

4. Characters' professions, especially if they are more of a background character, can help you piece other parts of the story together. When those characters speak, many times you can apply whatever they're saying to something deeper, usually a forewarning.

5. If a character makes reference to an older story/play/movie or uses a quote from one of them, it means something.

6. Short or sudden cut scenes are not just there to throw you off track. If you think that cut scene was wierd or unnecessary, look a little deeper. Though the reason for it changes with every movie, it can usually reveal something about the character.

7. Most importantly, it can sometimes be difficult to catch everything the first time you watch a foreign film. You may get the overall idea of the movie the first time, but each subsequent time you watch it you can pick up more and more symbolism and depth. Think of it like an overstocked store: the first time you walk the aisles, you see what's on the surface and sometimes get a glimpse of things stashed behind the front items. The more times you walk the aisles and look closer at the inventory, the more you will see behind the obvious items.

These are just a few ways to interpret foreign films, and not all of them will be used in a single film. They are just general guidelines to help you begin your journey into the foreign film world. The interpretations you'll find on this lens are mine, and they just scratch the surface. If you have any interpretations of your own, feel free to write them in the guestbook!