A City of Sadness

12/18/2011

Taiwan / 1989 / Mandarin, Hokkien, Shanghainese, Cantonese & Japanese

Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

With Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Chen Songyong, Xin Shufen

Still from 'A City of Sadness'A City of Sadness takes place in the time between Japan’s ceding of Taiwan and the nationalist Chinese government occupying the island as its last stronghold. In this transitory moment, marked by rapid changes in policy and law, the country was passed from one colonizing force to another, standing on the brink of being captured by yet another. An already uncertain climate is perhaps most uncertain for the  Japanese families still living there, many of whom have lived their whole lives in Taiwan, the ground of their adopted homeland about to be pulled out from under their feet, leaving ocean in its place. They can allow themselves to be deported or to stay on and keep living their lives, in doing so subjecting themselves to violent mobs of Taiwanese and possibly being labeled “collaborators” by the government (although the heavy hand of the Japanese government left little room for non-collaborators for the fifty or so years that they were there). Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien draws on the ambivalence of this period, mapping it out across a varied group of characters whose hopes and losses are spelled by sparse dialogue and action, but are nonetheless articulately and profoundly realized. Read the rest of this entry »

Sambizanga

12/11/2011

Angola / 1972 / Portuguese & Kimbundu

Directed by Sarah Maldoror

With Elisa Andrade, Domingos de Oliveira, Jean M’Vondo

Still from 'Sambizanga'The raging river dashes itself against the yellow sand, while a team of laborers harvests great big rocks from the shore, breaking them down to manageable size to carry them off to be used as building material. The beach is at once an elemental place and one of constant foment, this idea driven home as the camera moves from the water to the workers. In the modern world, they are the human element, and also the last frontier in revolutionary possibility. If they can break enormous stones with only their hands and a stone tool, what keeps them from breaking the chains that keep them bound? Alongside the men working only with their bodies is Domingos, a hulking young Angolan driving a tractor to haul yet more rocks. The white foreman, Mr. Sylvester, seems to have a close relationship with Domingos, to the slight befuddlement of Timoteo, a young recruit to the team whose instinct is to be suspicious of the Portuguese. Read the rest of this entry »

Drôle de Drame

12/04/2011

France / 1937 / French

Directed by Marcel Carné

With Michel Simon, Louis Jouvet, Jean-Louis Barrault

Still from 'Drôle de Drame'Inside and away from a bustling London street, the puritanically scary Archibald Soper, Bishop of Bedford, crusader for family values, stands at a podium delivering an impassioned speech denouncing the “immoral” crime novels so popular in England at the turn of the 20th Century. Current target of his ire is one Felix Chapel, a notorious trash writer whom no one has met, and who exists only by way of his pen. Soper calls such books as Chapel writes “wretched and vile” not due to the quality of writing, of course, but because they put bad ideas into the minds of the public. As is often the case with such symposia, the seats are mostly empty, with only a few filled by a scattering of lone crazies, nodding cronies, and stuffy temperance ladies. The Bishop’s cousin, the famed botanist Irwin Molyneux, sheepishly enters the room and hesitantly takes a seat. Read the rest of this entry »