(ru) wrote: The nearly three-hour, erotically charged spy melodrama "Lust, Caution" (2007) is atmospheric, palpably tense, and brazenly epic - it's the type of operatic saga that utilizes time and space as a weapon, using run-time and performative deliberation both to heighten the stakes of its story and enhance our own feelings of transportation. Being set first in Hong Kong and then in Shanghai for a period lasting from 1938-1942, it's crucial that we become convinced that what we're witnessing is, in fact, WWII intrigue without overdrawn cinematic glitz. And the film's director, the skilled Ang Lee, is plenty adroit at convincing us of his setting and of the story, adapted from the Eileen Chang novella of the same name by Wang Hui-Ling and James Schamus. It's the movie's length that gets to us. Despite most of its one hundred fifty-eight minutes being used efficiently, one can only ponder why Lee's pace is slack for so long, why sauntering character development is made so much more vital than an accumulation of thrills. Eventually "Lust, Caution" builds and nearly explodes in its tension, sexual or otherwise. But a sense that it could have been a tighter, Hitchcockian thriller lingers, and we find ourselves wishing it preferred kinetic energy to a languid proclivity. It introduces itself in the above mentioned 1938 through a scene that sees a group of glamorous women playing Mah-Jongg, the conversation meaningless and the mood chipper. The get-together is being hosted by the elegant wife (Joan Chen) of Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a controversial special agent who uses his influence to recruit for a dangerous puppet government set up by Japanese officials. But among these beautiful power-players does one woman particularly stand out. She is Mrs. Mai (Tang Wei), the wife of a business magnate. Or so it seems. Flashbacks reveal that Mrs. Mai is, in actuality, a student actress in way over her head. After gaining critical recognition for a comprehensively patriotic play, one of her peers (Wang Leehom) decides that their acting troupe must make their dedication to their country truer, thus prompting a plot to assassinate Mr. Yee. No one much willing to put themselves on the line overtly, Mrs. Mai, born Wong-Chia-chi, volunteers herself as a pawn. Her mission is to seduce the villain she's fighting against. At his most vulnerable, her cohorts will make sure that their romance ends lethally. But alas, the conspiracy is interrupted by a violent death right as it's about to lift off, all actions halted for nearly four years. In the 1942 era Shanghai of the film do we see the potential for death exceed far past any of the limits set by the events in 1938, not only because the plot gains traction with revolutionaries but also because Chia-chi, who steps back into Mr. Yee's life after being tracked down by her former comrades, develops a relationship with her enemy that painfully begins to blur her vision. Upon release in 2007, "Lust, Caution's" merit was not as much as a part of the public discussion as Lee's veraciously staged sex scenes, which, being so unusually graphic for a feature film, earned the movie an NC-17 rating that ultimately corrupted much of its crossover appeal. But in Lee's knowing hands, they feel necessary rather than gratuitous. They communicate, better than any array of dialogue could, that the focal relationship is one that's as equally characterized by its mixtures of hate and of passion. Chia-chi despises what Mr. Yee stands for, but as she gets to know him through physical connection does she start to see that the man, so caught up in his anger, his power, and his fury, is distinctly aware that he could easily lose all he's worked for in an instant - terror always seems to be lurking in his eyes. Mr. Yee hates Chia-chi so because she reminds him of his inability to stay faithful to his wife and because she reminds him of the extent of his political authority, which seems to both enlarge his head and frighten him all at once. But as rendezvous between the two steadily metamorphose from brutal S & M sessions to more tender carnal exchanges, we can tell, in ways not expressed by scenes of conversation, that the pair awakens something in one another. And that dynamic is fascinating, considering the way it's never so clear if they love each other or if they despise each other. Both coming with such shaken up senses of self, they don't want to carry an erotic fixation but end up doing so anyway, and it haunts them. Indubitably can "Lust, Caution" still be viewed as a classic spy thriller made succulent through its gorgeous imagery. Lee has the untouchable mystique of war-era Asia down, and in some ways does the feature resemble Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" (1946), which similarly found a woman using her feminine charms to manipulate a powerful menace in the midst of supple visual electricity (though never for a second does the heroine, played by Ingrid Bergman, appear captivated by her target). But while it's handsome and emotionally involving and oftentimes gripping, unquestionably could a half-hour have been cut - it moves more slowly than a film as potentially taut as it should move. Yet Lee's lavish direction, well-matched by the smartly cast Wei and Chiu-Wei, seduces us. It transports us into its exotic setting, elevated by flagrant sexuality and by ever-present peril, so conclusively that we don't have much time to ask questions. It's only until after we're finished that we have reservations.
(nl) wrote: Drunkboat has been a long time coming. But at long last this poignant and moving film has finally seen the light of day. And while there are those who have obviously already had their say with this indie flick, one can't help but wonder if those critics were watching the same movie. Drunkboat is one of the year's top indie flicks. It has proven with its story and the acting of stars John Goodman and John Malkovich that indie flicks can be and are just as enjoyable and noteworthy as any film released by the major studios.The story behind this movie centers on Mort Gleason (John Malkovich). Mort is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get his life back on track. The thing of it is that he still faces adversity as neither his (seeming) sister believes in him at first. Nor does her son, Abe (Jacob Zachar). Abe is a typical teenage boy. He thinks he knows everything. And thanks to Abe's plot to buy a boat from the unscrupulous Mr. Fletcher (John Goodman), Abe almost loses his way as he attempts to recover from his past. This is where things get just a tiny bit dicey. One can't help but scratch one's head in bewilderment at Abe's plan. Abe could have done any number of plans. But buying a boat just seems odd. But perhaps that could have been part of his character. Abe was just a teenager. So he was just doing something dumb and thoughtless like any other teenager. It doesn't have to make sense, as little of what the teenage mind does makes much sense. So keeping this in mind, those critics who have panned the movie for this quirkiness would be well served to go back and watch it again. Perhaps understanding this would give said critics a different view of things.The movie's central plot is really underrated. It obviously hasn't gotten the credit which it deserves. Malkovich's portrayal of mort is expert to say the least. It's his acting that anchors (no pun intended) this story. The irony is that while it's his acting that anchors the movie, John Goodman is billed as one of the movie's stars. The reality is that as amazing an actor as Goodman is, he's more or less just a supporting actor to Malkovich. In his own right though, Goodman's acting is equally impressive. It gives Malkovich something off of which he can bounce his lines and character. The pair is seen together in one scene near the story's end. But that one scene is powerful in itself. Thanks to Mr. Fletcher tempting Mort with alcohol and Abe verbally abusing him, audiences see Mort at his weakest and most innocent moment. It makes him a fully sympathetic character for audiences. And it makes Mr. Fletcher that much more despicable of a human being. This scene is not one of those over the top moments either. It's just enough to keep audiences watching to see what will happen. And it will make the movie's final moments all the more moving. Drunkboat clocks in at just under two hours. In that time, Mort's attempt to get his life back on track will keep audiences watching without even once checking the time. Malkovich's portrayal of Mort will make any viewer want to cheer for him as he shows that he is really making an attempt to get his life right. The relationship that he builds with Abe makes the story even more powerful. While other critics have obviously had their say on this work, those who go into this movie with an open mind will hopefully see it for the moving story that it is and that it truly is just as good as any film made by any major studio. It's proof that even in the twenty-first century, indie flicks are just as valid as anything else that's out there.