Devils on the Doorstep (2002) Jiang - A pretty impressive film about a Chinese village during the Japanese occupation of World War II. A mysterious man drops off two POWs (a Japanese soldier and his Chinese translator) to a Chinese man, Dasan Ma, and threatens to kill Ma if anything happens to the POWs. The mysterious man claims he will be back to pick them up at the New Year, however, that deadline passes and after an additional 6 months, the villagers start arguing about what to do with the prisoners. Beautifully shot, compelling, and even funny a times. 4.5/5
Hawks and the Sparrows (1964) Pasolini - Starting with the opening credits actually being sung and the first actual scene involving a dance routine, this movie has one of the best beginnings I have seen for a while. After the dancing ceases (although the awesome Italian rock song continues throughout) we are left with a father and son who wander around and are given the task of converting the hawks to Catholicism (which takes a year) and then converting the sparrows as well. This task is of course assigned by St. Francis of Assisi. They also walk around with a talking crow. Just the right amount of stylishness, satire, and absurdity. 4.5/5
Peeping Tom (1960) Powell - Lauded as the British "Psycho", about a socially awkward man who works as a photographer, but sometimes kills people with his camera. I personally would have preferred this film to go a bit more campy, as I got a little bored with this at times. 3.5/5
Red Beard (1965) Kurosawa - A story about a young cocky doctor who believes that he is going to become the shogun's personal doctor, but instead is sent to work under Dr. Niije in a clinic for the poor. Initially he is resistant and upset that he has been sent to work for the clinic, but gradually becomes more compassionate and decides that life working to help those who need it most will provide him with a more satisfying life. 4.5/5
12 Monkeys (1995) Gilliam - Surprisingly I had never seen this film until now, but I had seen the short movie that inspired it ("La Jetee" by Chris Marker). James Cole (Bruce Willis) has the ability to time travel a bit in order to collect data about deadly virus that will kill off much of humankind in the future. He is sent to a mental institute the first time around on his time travel quests, but on his second trip, his psychiatrist suspects that Cole may not be crazy after all. Brad Pitt also plays a loony. Lots of Gilliam weirdness and fish-eye lens shots. 4/5
Zizek! (2005) Taylor - A documentary about everyone's favorite contemporary Eastern European philosopher, Slavoj Zizek. Zizek looks a lot like a bear and is pretty into Lacanian theory, the nature of belief, and general questioning of reality. I don't get a lot of what he talks about, but the documentary basically follows him around (the scene of him buying DVDs and another of him sitting up in his bed shirtless are pretty priceless) and creates an interesting portrayal of an undeniably interesting man.
So, instead of the usual random updates this week, I'm just going to be super lazy and post a list of films that I am potentially interested in seeing in the upcoming months...
Let the Right One In - Alfredson (Swedish vampire/coming of age/story about loneliness/ getting good reviews) October 24
Synecdoche, New York - Kaufman, Charlie (Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut/could be terrible) October 24
Slumdog Millionaire - Boyle (it's Danny Boyle/decent reviews/Indian gameshow teenage romance) November 14
The Road - Hillcoat (John Hillcoat of The Proposition/ apocalypse/ Cormac McCarthy adaptation) November 26
Milk - Van Sant (Harvey Milk film starring Sean Penn) December 5
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Fincher (David Fincher/Brad Pitt ages backwards/ Tilda Swinton) December 25
The Brothers Bloom - Johnson, Rian (dude who did Brick/ con-man/one-last job) January 16