Jul 172014
 

062_ddmpf_1sht_V3.inddI really liked this movie. It was well-made and engaging, and its mix of action and mystery had a familiar, vaguely international feel to it.

Yet in tough to specify ways, fundamental values or assumptions seemed off enough to make things unclear and odd sometimes: ellipses I couldn’t quite fill in, character relationships I didn’t quite get, things like that. This kept me on my toes and made for an exciting and fun movie.

I know absolutely nothing about Asian cinema. I wasn’t one of the Hong Kong action film fans that populated my film classes back in grad school, and I’ve never really watched Japanese anime. What I have seen–mostly some mid-century art film and Wong Kar Wai’s stuff–has too little to do with a movie like this to help me out.

What would I need to see to understand what I’m missing in a film like this?

 

 July 17, 2014  Movie Logs Tagged with: ,
Jan 152014
 

As far as heros go, it’s hard to find one more retiring than Reeves’s character here. Yet, the film moves. It assumes a world, introduces it in an economical voice-over, and then fills it in, scene-by-scene. The tightly driven narration reminds me of the best aspects of films like Total RecallKrull and The Beastmaster, only better. So there’s something old fashioned here that has little to do with the costumes or the narrative’s source.

On another note, in films such as Speed and Johnny Mnemonic, Reeves’s choice of roles anticipated shifts in Hollywood taste. He’s done it enough that I take his genre films as fingers to the wind. So coming on the heels of The Man of Thai Chi, this film makes me wonder if Hollywood’s nursing a new Orientalism driven by Chinese efforts to push product back across the Pacific and into North American theatres.

 January 15, 2014  Movie Logs Tagged with: , ,
Jan 152014
 

Man of Tai Chi (wide)

Keanu Reeves directed this film, but what exactly was his role? (Call this a note to self: the answer will take some research.) The movie is in Chinese. The genre is Asian, as are the actors and settings. Reeves is working with collaborators from previous movies. The fight choreography is familiar. What is not familiar are the odd (and often oddly beautiful) moments like:

  1. The flicker effect that opens the film; several slow cuts through black; a dramatic time-lapse sequence; the weird  and self-conscious white-screen transition to a dot.
  2. The beautifully ordinary cityscapes. Their muted warm colors contrast with the garish, vivid colors of the fight scenes in the show-within-a-show and with the dull greys and blacks of the the security firm. The changing color palettes suggest a carefully controlled visual style.
  3. The slow beautiful 360-degree pan from a rooftop that the final credits roll over.

Do these moments belong to Reeves? Are they a directorial signature? And if they do and they are, then what about the plotting, which is complex, tight and rapid? Does the tale well-told belong to Reeves as well? And if the visual flourishes, the colour and the plot all do belong to Reeves, then has he made a strong movie?

Reeves’s carefully cultivated star persona makes the answer an obvious (and obviously wrong) “no.”

 

 January 15, 2014  Movie Logs Tagged with: , , ,