Another film about a man and which I had little idea what it was about before I watched it. Since “Birdman” got Best Picture at the Oscars I finally can make up my mind to pick out this film from my very long pending list and have it done with. I liked “Babel” a lot so I kind of knew what to expect and that I would like it too. And I do like it. The story of a man who has been informed that he has got cancer and has only very little time left to live, and which reminds me of François Ozon’s “Time to Leave.” But “Biutiful” is less stoic and in a way I like this better. The man set out to fix the many broken things in his life – his loose family ties, his broken marriage with a prostitute with bipolar disorder, his young children without a mother to take care of them, his many illicit business and the complicated relationships with the people he dealt with. When he was helping his daughter with her homework she asked him how to spell “beautiful” – and that is where “Biutiful” comes from. Something is crooked, wrong, but still beautiful. Life is beautiful, with all its many complications and bitterness. The Chinese say “When a person is about to die he speaks goodness.” So one tries to fix everything, right every wrong, before one dies, albeit it is not always possible. Things might even get worse, as in the film. Here one sees again this solitary man fighting against the inevitable. Sad but so very biutiful.
I did not know it is the story of a Jewish man, but Jewish or not, I really like the dark humour and the director brother-duo’s treatment is, as always, just right. Not too melodramatic to lose touch of the real, and at the same time not too plain as to be droll. Life is ridiculous, goodness is not always rewarded, we seek an answer from God and God does not heed. Just when you think every cloud has a silver lining, the sky changes, there comes a tornado along with the brusque ending. “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport.” Jewish or Christian or Pagan. Sometimes we have to help ourselves, so even if God does not help those who help themselves we still have ourselves. Life is ridiculous, so don’t you take it too seriously.
The usual virtuous wife story but very beautifully made. Instead of the romance I am more drawn to the theme of the country vs city, traditions vs modernity, virtues vs desires. While the city is being portrayed as a very magical place where people have so much fun they forget about time and place, it is also where the evil lurks – the smart city girl who tempts the young farmer and persuades him to kill his simple rustic wife. It is quite hard to believe that the city girl can fall in love with a farmer – but perhaps it is not an issue here. She is the embodiment of all the evils of modern city life and should be shunned. Though I do feel sorry for her when the film ends with her sitting mournfully in a wagon heading back to the city. She has fallen in love with the wrong person, that’s all.
Sorry I am late Mr. Lawrence. And sorry too that I have always thought that David Bowie was Mr. Lawrence. Sorry three that I could not at all recognise Ryuichi Sakamoto…… all the while I was thinking who that guy with those funny brows is…… And I had imagined a very different story (with more explicit content perhaps – obviously I was thinking of Gohatto). The pace of the film is very 80s – actors overlap their lines and actions and the breathings felt unnatural (to me in the 21st century). But really good to finally meet you, albeit many years late, Mr. Lawrence.
I like the opening Hong Kong sequence – they made good choices and those scenes of the Mongkok look really good, as well the decision to use Chui Tien You and Josie Ho. Except the terrible idea of the Chinese village where the epidemic killed half of its inhabitants – come on Hong Kong is a city… we have villages in the New Territories but not like that in the film, unless they meant it to be mainland China. Then there are many big names in this film but somehow the story does not work out too well – not thought through well enough? One sees big themes hovering through the air but they just do not seep through. Blindness, on the other hand, also about a fictional – probably even more fantastical – epidemic, was really shocking. The credit goes to the original story’s Nobel Laureate author. One really needs a good script in order to make a good film, not big names nor visual effects.
The real Amelie. I don’t know why they give Thérèse such a low rating but I really enjoyed it. The same old story of a upperclass lady with an independent spirit trying to fight through the cage of a conservative French countryside. Calm and slow, no apparent outrageous passion, every latent, hidden under a serene surface. That calmness is the real cage, the real source of suffocation, the real source of death. One might ask, why can’t she just escape from it all? Just walk out of that door, and never turn back. I think of that often. Perhaps that inability to walk out of one’s cage is the real chain that inhabits us from attaining our freedom.
It does not smell American – that was my first impression of The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. By the time I realised that it actually smelled like my favourite Amelie, it also appeared to me that this film was by none other than that same eccentric French director. But I was disappointed – it is meant to be a cute story with a little bit of dark side to it, but the drawback is, unfortunately, the little T.S. Spivet. It is the wrong boy. It feels like Amelie is being played by Sophie Marceau. Well, something like that.