Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Random Ten, Year in Review Edition 1

Well, another Friday night, and nothing special to say here - maybe in the next week or two - as Harvard features a series of films by a Particular Favorite (note the banner of this humble blog) - inspiration may return. In the meanwhile - go Celtics! and, well, the year is running down, so - let's start reviewing it! And how better (or lazier) than to bring back the Friday Random Ten, to look at music released in 2007? So for the next month - songs from this year....

1. Buffalo Tom - Hearts of Palm - rather surprising, actually, how many records like this I got this year: 80s and 90s indie bands coming back after years away - Buffalo Tom, Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr - never mind the Stooges... or the who (was that this year?) Anyway - none of them are all that interesting, I'm afraid.
2. The New Pornographers - Failsafe - a nice record, I should listen to it more, I sppose. I don't have much sense of this - or most of thes erecords - as albums. Thanks to the iPod of course...
3. Ghost - Caldonia **** - Ghost, Boris, white Stripes - those are records I have listened to over and over this year. This is a darned good song.
4. Grinderman - When My Love Comes Down *** - and grinderman. Another great record; one of the best of the year.
5. Buffalo Tom - Three Easy Pieces - Chris Colburn singing - a nice little song...
6. Of Montreal - Faberge Falls for Shuggie - I admit, though a couple songs on this record are genuinely great, there's a lot of it I don't know if I have ever actually listened to. This might have been the first time I ever actually heard this song - should try to fix that... this is a strange discoish thing that still manages to work...
7. PJ Harvey - Silence - a record I have to listen to more.
8. The Fall - My Door is Never - speaking of old farts, still hanging around, still exciting.
9. Linda Thomas - Day After Tomorrow - acoustic song about a soldier... beautifully sung...
10. Bishop Allen - Like Castanets

And video - let's go with Mr. Smith, doing "Reformation":

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Home Again

Back from holiday... as usual, killing off whatever posting routine I might have... this time, I had some notion of adding another bit to the Kurosawa blogathon, which came to naught. (So far anyway - I might still finish the piece...) Did get a good start on the new Bordwell book - that promises some good reading in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, it interrupted another interesting book, Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics... hopefully, I'll get back to that one... Meanwhile - will I get around to reviewing movies anytime soon? it's possible. I am mildly exercised by Fernando Croce's comparison (linked to from the House Next Door) of the (reverentially derivative noir/western) No Country for Old Men to the reverentially derivative (did Terry Gilliam live in vain?) Southland Tales - the real problem might be with Croce's statement that "Blood Simple and Fargo are their [the Coen Brothers] most characteristic works" - hell no! the comedies are their best and most characteristic films. Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou - Cormac McCarthy might not agree, but Stanley Cavell seems to. But anyway - Southland Tales may not be the disaster it seems to be considered, but there's nothing new about it. No more original than the Coen brothers film, and a lot less well made. Both are straightforward genre pieces - or, the Coen Brothers film would be, except after a stripped down first half, they turn elliptical and meditative and...

Whatever. The ride home, meanwhile, gave me a chance not only to get into the Bordwell book, but to generate a double strength Friday Random Ten! A meme I've sort of abandoned, but since I haven't come up with anything better to replace it, and since long train and bus rides lend themselves to the concept, here goes. with ratings and comments when the spirit moves me.

1. Burnt Sugar - Mermaids Angels and Rainbows
2. Claudes Claudes - Mao Mao - not sure where I came up with this, but it's certainly entertaining
3. Mercury Rev - Secret for A Song ****
4. Thelonius Monk - Ruby My Dear ****
5. Johnny Cash - Greystone Chapel
6. Pere Ubu - Pushin' too Hard
7. My Bloody Valentine - Sometimes
8. Styx - Blue Collar Man *** - memories of 1978! or is this 79? those long hours, impossible odds... about as convincing rock and roll as the Yi yi song... or...
9. ABBA - Knowing Me, Knowing You *** - uh oh. Those aren't three stars. Not for Abba. Not me! no!... well - all right, maybe... Abba at their most theatrical, though - very much plotted, this song - no more carefree laughter, silence ever after, indeed; it's like a Bergman movie!... I better leave it alone or I'll make it 4 stars...
10. Damon & Naomi - The Turnaround
11. Bishop Allen - Middle Management
12. Deerhood - O'Malley, Former Underdog
13. Replacements - Lovelines
14. Richard and Linda Thompson - Dimming of the Day ****
15. John Cale - Mr. Wilson
16. Stereolab - Nothing to do with Me
17. Tortoise - the Taut and the Tame
18. Robert Wyatt - Lullaloop
19. Radiohead - where I end and you begin
20. Dungen - Bortglomd - hey! more Swedish rock!
21. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Well of Misery - an uplifting end...

Okay: and a video? Oh, who's kidding who? complete with Bergmanesque compositions, all those faces at right angles to one another... well, why not?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Shot from Rashomon

As promised, here's a long bit of geekiness for the Kurosawa blogathon. If this looks like an (imperfectly) edited down version of a paper for school, it is, I assure you.

I want to write primarily about one shot: at the end of the Samurai's tale (told by a medium) - where we see the woodcutter and priest sitting in the background, and see - well - this:

The medium relays the samurai's claim that, after he was dead, someone crept on him and removed the dagger from his heart. Who could that be?

The conceit of the film (which it is famous for) is that it is the same incident told four times, by the participants and a witness. There is a frame story, in which a priest and the woodcutter who witnessed the events tell the stories to a traveler during a storm at Rashomon gate. They have witnessed the trial, where the stories are told, and are perplexed by it all. Kurosawa cuts back and forth between the ruined gate, the court, and the incident itself. In all the scenes at the court, the woodcutter and priest have been visible in the background. They don't do anything in those scenes - the participants tell their stories, answer questions, etc. - the priest and woodcutter just sit and wait.

This shot is different. For a start, Kurosawa cuts in closer - instead of a long shot, with the priest and woodcutter in the background (or a close up of the medium, telling the story) he shoots it so the woodcutter and priest are in the middle distance, the medium something of a frame for them. As she tells the end of the samura's story, we see the woodcutter behind her tensing, blinking, flinching. And when she stops, she collapses out of the frame entirely, leaving Takashi Shimura there alone...

It's an important shot - it sets up the possibility that the woodcutter has been lying so far. But it's interesting for another reason - where does this information come from? Kurosawa cuts from back to Rashomon gate, with the woodcutter pacing back and forth. An immediate reminder that we are seeing things that are being told by the woodcutter and priest (and before them, by the people at the trial.) Everything we see, whether from the trial or the stories told at the trial, is a visualization of something they tell the commoner. Everything in the film, from the trial or the woods, comes from a discreet source within the film. It's true that the camera doesn't take the literal POV of the characters, or even maintains a constant identification with them. Kurosawa often shoots from impossible angles, or uses camera movement that can’t be reduced to the perception of the narrators. There are even subjective shots from someone else’s point of view. During Tajomaru’s story, for example, we see shots of the sky, the sun through the trees, from the woman’s point of view. But, even with these shots, the high angles, the “wrong” points of view show events that are being related by the narrator in the story. The woman’s POV shots of the sky in Tajomaru’s tale show what he thinks she is thinking, not what she is thinking. We never really step outside the perspective of the person telling the story.

Except here. That shot of the woodcutters' reaction at the trial is not something anyone tells anyone else. Neither he nor the priest would mention it - the priest doesn't suspect him, and he certainly isn't going to incriminate himself. On the contrary - this bit inspires him to start telling his own version of the story, with the dagger playing no part. The shot of the woodcutter’s reaction can only come from the director. It cannot be traced to one of the diegetic narrators—it can only come from the author’s narration. There is almost nothing else like that shot in the film, certainly not in the embedded stories. Kurosawa does not let us outside the stories being told - he gives us nothing else to let us judge them, pick between them. Except here. He shows us something only the woodcutter would know, and he wouldn't tell.

Not that he doesn't give his agitation away, back at Rashomon, pacing back and forth and immediately launching into his own "true" version of the story. This version is set up, in a lot of ways, to resolve the story - to show what really happened. We've heard from the three participants in the incident in the grove, all peddling wildly incompatible and self-serving tales. Now we see a version from someone who was not involved. And we get it first hand: the woodcutter himself, not through an intermediary. This increased "realism" is reflected in the style - the sound for example: this is the only embedded story not to use music, sticking to the natural sounds. We are primed to see this as the "real" version of the story - the placement of this version of the story, the style and sound, the woodcutter's agitation at the gate, all seem to privilege it, mark it as being more reliable.

But it's a rhetorical trick - undercut before it starts by that shot of the woodcutter at the trial. Kurosawa sets us up to want a resolution - then sets us up to think one is coming - but gives us just another story, told by an interested party. He's told us that the woodcutter is not exactly a paragon; he's also rather pointedly intervened, giving us, for the first time, information not contained in the embedded stories. And when the woodcutter's story gets going, it soon turns into something different than the What Really Happened account we might expect. The stylistic elements (like the elimination of music) that privilege this section are almost immediately countered by other devices. Kurosawa quickly establishes a pattern of repeating details from the other accounts ironically. We see, again, Tajomaru urging the woman to run away with him - but this time ridiculous, wheedling and trite, promising to reform, like countless outlaws before him. She responds by trying to get the men to fight for her - but this time, she is bitter and ironic herself. Her husband reacts by denouncing and abusing her - which is both very conventional, and mostly a bid to save his neck. Everything becomes more stylized as the section goes on - the acting, the characters’ reactions, the direction. The close ups become more insistent; the geometric patterns (the triangles and ostentatious camera angles) become more intrusive. This builds to the mid-point of the story, when the two men fight. And the film has become almost a straight parody of a swordfighting movie.

There's another post to be written about Kurosawa's use of genre in Rashomon. [Actually, that was the other half of the paper I'm repurposing here.] The four segments of the incident in the grove are told in four different styles - Tajomaru’s version is a chambara, full of adventure and derring-do; the woman's is a melodrama; the samurai's a tragedy/horror story. You hear it in the music: Tajomaru’s story has exciting martial music, with hints of sensuality (the harp that emphasizes the wind that he says started it all). The woman's has that Bolero imitation, giving it an exotic, sensuous, melodramatic, tone. The medium’s trance has Japanese music, drums and chanting, and the rest of the Samurai’s story uses dark, foreboding music suggestive of tragedy or horror. The fourth section doesn't so much resolve the "truth" of the stories that came before as it criticizes and parodies the film genres they represent. (And represent something like the future of Japanese films - it points to the Japanese new wave, which shows a lot of the characteristics noted below.) It sets itself up as a "realistic" alternative to them, but soon becomes more of a parody, a deconstruction, of the earlier versions of the story. The style of this section reminds us of the importance of style throughout the film. It exaggerates the generic elements of the other accounts by parodying them; it underlines the role of music by eliminating it. It emphasizes the compositional and editing patterns used throughout the film by exaggerating them. It repeats shots and set ups - the angle used in the penultimate shot of the sequence, showing the clearing through a web of trees, is a repetition of a setup from Tajomaru’s story, used to frame the first shot showing the three principals together in the frame (in the fateful grove.) The use of such overt devices reminds us of the authorial voice in the film, and reminds us that the filmmakers are also interpreting the story. All the reasons we might give for considering the final version of the story more real than the others come from the director, are all elements of his style.

And back at Rashomon gate, what do we know about the incident? we can't trust the woodcutter's story - we've seen how he reacted to the medium's mention of the dagger, but his story contradicts that detail. The commoner certainly doesn't believe him. But more than figuring out what is happening in the story, I think Kurosawa is pushing at the edges of the nature of fiction. By intervening in the story (with that shot of the woodcutter at the trial), giving us information not related in the film, only to allow the woodcutter to contradict this information; and by making his own manipulation of the material more overt during the woodcutter’s story, Kurosawa makes explicit the ways he, as the narrator of these narratives, is imposing his interpretations on the story as much as the characters. In the end, I think the theme of the film is not so much the lack of a stable truth as it is the inextricable entanglement of narrative and interpretation. Each character presents as truth what they think the story means: and so does Akira Kurosawa. He sets up the woodcutter’s story as a resolution, only to undercut it. He comments on the story through the form and style of the final segment. The moments he privileges - the woodcutter’s reaction at the trial, notably - are themselves formal devices, which serve as much to show his interpretation of the story as to show a reality behind the interpretation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kurosawa week

A week of Kurosawa posts have started, hosted by Film Squish. As usual, I've been lazy - but Akira Kurosawa is a director I have written plenty about in the past for various purposes, so I can certainly add my two cents - or dollar fifty - to this endeavor.

He's an odd case - one of the directors I picked up on before I really committed to "cinephilia" as it were. Along with Kubrick and Lynch and Eisenstein, back in the 80s - and my opinion of him eroded a bit when I did really get into film. (Which I wrote about, some, for last spring's Altman blogathon.) But it didn't erode far - I never wavered in my love for Seven Samurai - or High and Low, when I saw that, or Yojimbo and Sanjuro - and when I finally saw it, Stray Dog, which still seems to be an underrated masterpiece - not far off his best films (Seven Samurai and High and Low, with Rashomon in there as well.) I've wavered a lot more about Ikiru and Rashomon and Ran, though they are as likely to count as masterpieces as not.

I find - and this is certainly relevant to my ability to generate prose on the subject - that Kurosawa is, and has always been, one of the most stimulating intellectual directors around. His films are infinitely interesting to think about, to write about, to analyze and play with. For all his powers, though, I am not always convinced by his artistry: his films, even at their (almost) best (not in Seven Samurai or High and Low, anymore), have patches of dullness, slip into stridency, obviousness - he loses control of the material in a lot of his films. But this seldom comes hurts their effectiveness as philosophy - only as art.

As art: I think his strength and weakness is in his synthetic style. He uses everything, all the means at his disposal: long takes, fast cutting, acting, compositions, everything - but he lacks, I think, the sense of timing that the (really really) great directors have. With the very best - the Ozus, Capras, Godards, Mizoguchis, Renoirs of the world - scenes never seem to falter or lag; with Kurosawa, there are quite a few scenes that don't quite work. They feel wrong - too long or too short, repetitive, something like that. He lacked rhythm, sometimes. There are sequences in almost all his films (maybe not at the top) that feel stiff and awkward, too stagy, too static, too posed. He sometimes (and this happens even in High and Low, though I don't remember any in Seven Samurai that don't work) seems too fond of his compositions, careful, meaningful - almost turning them into tableaux. Though one of the interesting effects of this is that the "problem" tends to disappear the closer you look at the films: slow them down, watch them on DVD, jumping around, stopping, slowing, speeding up and so on, and their meaning and function becomes more effective. Again - he rewards analysis more than most of his peers: though perhaps at the expense of the organic flow (as well as some the sheer beauty and surprise) the best of them have.

I'm sorry to seem to dwell on the negative. It isn't negative, quite - it's more of an explanation of why I tend to react to him analytically more than emotionally. He doesn't leave me with a sense of awe - more one of inspiration. And probably an explanation of why I am more likely to write about Ikiru and Rashomon - great films I waver on, and have to convince myself of their greatness, rather than Seven Samurai, which is obvious. In any case, it's late tonight, so I have to leave you with a teaser (and Stanley Cavell is speaking tomorrow, with one of my favorite films of the decade) - but with a week to do it, I should be able to get a couple posts up for this blogathon. Starting with rehashed old papers, edited down to workable lengths - maybe moving beyond that. And of course - I look forward to the wealth of material I hope will appear in this blogathon. Kurosawa was a giant of the film world, and one who has had the great good fortune to be pretty widely available in many formats through the years. I am looking forward to it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Two Films and Remembrance

Checking in with a couple links and a movie or two... First - Armistice Day is over, but there are a few more hours of Veteran's day - there's a great post on the Great War on Making Light, with links to film footage and much more, and a nice link from Lawyers Guns and Money to a list of the remaining surviving veterans of the war to end all wars. There's much to be said for Farley's comments about the specificity of this holiday: WWI was a pretty sharp and decisive break with something - you can trace a direct line from damn near anything that's happened since back to it. From modern art to WWII to the end of colonialism to horror movies...

...including prohibition, and after prohibition, the "war on drugs" in all it's stupid variations... and thus, American gangsterism, the tradition of American crime fiction, and the Coen Brothers! And Sidney Lumet... two new takes on that venerable genre came out this weekend... Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a new version of the ever popular heist gone wrong picture - in this case, Philip Seymour Hoffman (as a dope fiend embezzler) lures Ethan Hawke (as his loser little brother) into an ill advised scheme to rob a mom and pop jewelry store... heh heh heh... I hope it doesn't spoil anything to say it goes spectacularly wrong. It's a fine little film - it reminded me somewhat of Exiled: a pure genre picture, made for the pure pleasure of going through all the paces of the genre - not quite up to Johnny To's technical chops, but similarly blessed with first rate actors biting into meaty roles... None of it adds up to a thing, except the plain pleasure fo the style, the genre, the craft of it, which we are invited to share without illusions...

No Country for Old Men
starts somewhere like that: a genre tale told with full attention to the specific pleasures of the genre itself. But it keeps going. First - because the Coen brothers have filmmaking chops that surpass Johnny To - partly since they bring the same command to everything, not just the set pieces, but even on the merits: they are better story tellers - much of this film is virtually silent: men running, chasing, searching, sometimes fighting... dialogue when it comes up is almost incidental (especially in the first half) - though it can pack a punch... The story itself is as generic as anything in the Lumet film: a schmoe finds a suitcase of money, various bad guys are looking for it, he has to lam, the bad guys come after him (and each other), a trail of bodies ensues. Good enough and well told on the face of it, it slides toward something more as it goes... Peter Keough at the Phoenix talks about Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, magnificent, while sporting an unfortunate late 70s page boy haircut) as Death, and the film as being about Death: which is just about right. The film is, basically, a hideous and intolerable allegory about Death: random, inescapable, the end of every story. It is to their credit that they do this, incorporate a walking symbol into the film, and make him fit, make the story work on its own terms. And - because they find new ways to tell the story: they can surprise you, even when you know what's coming, and how, they find a way to tell it that can take you unawares. It's impressive work. They've had a bit of a down run lately - I like The Man Who Wasn't There a good deal less than a lot of people - and no one defends their next two films. This is a nice return - maybe not up to their best films (Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou? - that's a damned impressive stretch; plus Raising Arizona, I say) - but close.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I'm Brian and So's My Wife!

The Film & Faith blogathon is reminding me what a lazy slob I can be some time. I have plenty of time to plan and prepare and what do I do? Watch the Red Sox, watch the Celtics, load Syd Barrett and Sigur Rus CDs into iTunes - NOT rewatch Naked or O Brother Where Art Thou or After Life or A Touch of Zen (nothing says it has to be Christian) or Pulp Fiction or The Gospel According to Matthew or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, or Lady Vengeance, or any other promising subject - not work up a decent essay on the subject. Sloth! one of the Deadly Sins!

Still, it's too interesting a topic not to do something. I might work up a post out of an existing piece - in the meantime, let's expand a bit on the clip in that last post... In fact, I think Life of Brian is, not just a great film - which it is - but a darned good religious film. Presents a more appealing vision of christianity than most overt christians do - Passion of the Christ? God, no... Life of Brian takes an interesting approach to religion - it analyzes it a bit, taking it apart into its component parts. Religion, after all, is not, really a single, unified thing: it's a melange of social organizations and institutions, ideologies and belief systems, behaviors, ethical and moral values, rituals, traditions, ethnicities, identities.... Life of Brian offers a fairly savage attack on part of this - religion as social and political phenomenon, as ideology used to support social and political control. It is much more sympathetic to the ideas and behaviors inspired by faith. A big part of the point of the film is, in fact, the way admirable and sensible religious ideas get warped into excuses for forming gangs and attacking other people.

It's interesting, actually, that faith and belief don't figure all that much in the film. Some of this, of course, is due to the fact that it is more about politics than religion anyway. It's also because faith and belief are simplified in the film: collapsed into a couple main ideas. First - the good idea - that religious belief is about values - specific values - getting along, treating people well, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Being yourself and respecting others. Blessed are the peacemakers. The film (being a political satire) puts more energy into the second main idea about religion: the ways beliefs, ideas, etc., are transformed into ideologies, ways of controlling people. It’s done pretty directly: blessed are the cheesemakers; we are all individuals - good ideas are absorbed by society and twisted, put to use as ways to control, as tools for the exercise of power. (The Pythons aren’t quite as Foucauldian as Frank Capra, but they make a good start sometimes.) Good ideas and values are turned into dogmas and ideologies useful for forming gangs: defining who’s with us and who’s against us, who’s in, who’s out, who you can abuse and who you can’t. That’s a pretty universal Monty Python theme - the misuse of language - words, turned into tools for power. (Or resisting and undermining power, sometimes.) The ideology of religion hardens, into taboos and irrational codes, stupid vows of silence, excuses for stoning people, that get twisted and warped all around each other themselves. With pretty serious, seriously awful, consequences - those idiotic revolutionaries convincing themselves that Brian is dying for the cause - and the even more idiotic crack suicide squads...

All of it a perversion of the perfectly sensible things Jesus and Brian say in the film; probably an inevitable perversion, since we are social and political animals and do those things naturally. Though what makes what they say sensible is their insistence on the worth of the individual against the group, or within the group. A kind of calling out from the group - to not forget that social and political organizations are conveniences, ways of living in the world. There’s a sense in which something like the Sermon on the Mount is a call to flexibility of mind - don’t judge lest you be judged; take everyone as they come; see the world as the other fellow sees it. Don’t get tied down to any one group or set of ideas, even if you are part of one group: social organizations are fluid and changeable. We should be fluid and changeable. At least that seems to be something like the conclusion the Pythons draw about it - their work constantly condemns people who treat their particular class or profession or any given role as an Absolute Value. Hell - the boys themselves embody the idea, playing all the roles, working, most of the time, in sketch comedy style, rather than establishing one persona, one universe, to live in, to act in.

Anyway - here's another clip, the sermon on the mount falling on deaf ears....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Catch Up

No, I don't have a good excuse for not posting in a week. I don't know - just the occasional spell of sloth. Anyway - we have 2 blogathons tempting us back to the internets: New Critics asks, What is the purest comedic moment you have ever experienced? - and RC at Strange Culture hosts Film & Faith. Both are pretty wide open, and should gene lots of good reading. I hope I can muster a contribution or two, but meanwhile - I have gotten my movie viewing in, so let's run through some recent shows. With stars! the first resort of the lazy critic, and that's me...

Control - ** - the Ian Curtis biopic - it looks great; sounds good - the music being superb; has a nice approach, in some ways - getting at the sordidness of Curtis' life - but it's still static and dull, and not very revealing. The music gets short shrift - and the sad fact is, without the music, Ian Curtis doesn't matter much. We wouldn't have heard of him, and his story would be just another another miserable tale, told (in this film) without much life or insight... Flashes of Stroszek on the TV screen remind you of what a great filmmaker can do with poverty and desperation, and the flashes of the music remind you of what a great mind can do with their pain and worries. The most interesting thing about the film is thinking about how it brings a photographic style to cinema (the reserve of some of the discussion around Tucker's Jeff Wall post). I'm inclined to think that "cinematic" photography is photography that activates offscreen space: so photographic cinema might be film that negates offscreen space. Though of course - this is always relative: the offscreen always exists in cinema, just as it doesn't exist in photography - but an artist like Cindy Sherman uses t absence creatively. Corbijn, in a way, freezes the spaces and things in this film: there is very little sense of things happening that the camera doesn't see - a sense of the world being closed in. It's a relative thing, of course. It's also pretty effective, given the material: it gives a claustrophobic, elegiac sense to the film, which works. So whiile it is not the film you would probably want to see, it has merits. And is, I say, handsome to look at, and has just enough of that great music...

What else? Lars and the Real Girl and Wristcutters: A Love Story are a pair of neat little indie pictures, clever high concept pieces graced with enjoyable performances and some nice ideas, though neither one can quite justify 100 minutes with the concept, and neither one has an ounce of actual filmmaking style. I am spoiled: I have, in the last month or two, seen films by Pedro Costa, Wes Anderson, Michael Haneke, Johnny To, Arnaud Desplechins, a couple fine Romanian films, and a raft of Val Lewton (to celebrate Halloween) - it's hard to come back to watching plain looking indie films like this, however well they are written or acted. But - they are pretty well written and acted, and do what they do efficiently and entertainingly - I suppose I could compare them to Lust, Caution - they start to look like masterpieces.

Exiled - *** - Johnny To sets several pf his favorite actors loose on a very hoary plot about that Last Big Score (gone, of course, Terribly Wrong) - Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Simon Yam as a flamboyant boss - Nicky Cheung, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet... scenery is chewed, figurative at least, then shot to hell... robbery, styling gunslingers, Ennio Morricone style music, empty streets, morbid jokes follow, all as sharp and clean as a Ramones song. What can you say? Not up to the Election films, but a sharp, dead on genre parody/pastiche done right....

Okay - that's if for now. Meanwhile, here's a teaser for both blogathons.... jehovah jehovah jehovah!