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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

WRITER BLOCKED...

So many moments of joy and happiness have come my way this holiday season. Sadly, I think the balance between those songs of joy has been equal to the moments of pending loss, confusion and worry. But, this is life. It tends to flow like that. I was going to post about the fun times had with Ing as we ran about on Turkey Day. I was also going to share much of the fun that was had at our home when we "officially" celebrated the holiday this past Saturday, but I didn't get to it fast enough. I've got some great pictures, tho. And, Ing and B both have some great photos --- some of which I hope to share on my blog soon. But, before I got around to posting about these adventures I got a headache.

It started when B, A and I were on our way to Emeryvile to see FAST FOOD NATION. My head hurt in a way that was unfamiliar to me. Not a migraine. And, then I started to feel sort of "achey" all over. And, then, the flu hit. Or, as my doctor called it, "viral gastro-something-or-other" which is just now starting to pass. In fact, I am not to "resume normal activity" until Thursday --- which sucks. However, luckily that should just about work out perfect as I am hosting a big Birthday Party for my B this Friday night!

Anyway, as I lay under my blanket trying to stay warm I've been trying to decide upon a subject to write --- it strikes me that I watched an interesting film via DVD yesterday during the height of my "sickness" -- in fact, I had to watch it twice to be sure I caught everything. I kept wishing that I could watch it with both Ing and Ginab because it was "sort of" about the process of writing jumping off into a strange idea of where our discarded artistic ideas go once we detach them from ourselves. Interesting idea. So, I shall write a bit about this film. Perhaps some of you are already familiar with it or might decide to find a way to become familiar. I do encourage that one give the film a chance.

The Pang Brothers jumped to international stardom as filmmakers with the release of their infamous film, THE EYE in which a beautiful blind woman has eye surgery and begins to see spirits all about.
Spooky, disturbing and fun -- the Chinese film was a major hit. It also introduced a very talented and beautiful actor to the mainstream, Angelica Lee (also known to some as Lee Sinje) ---- From Malaysia, Lee is a pop singer and sometimes actress. From what I can tell, she should focus more on her acting, which is quite good. After THE EYE, so much was expected of The Pang Brothers. Thus far, they have failed to live up to the potential that we all anticipated. Full of interesting ideas -- the Brothers Pang tend to fall back on all-too-easy by the number filmmaking. So, when it was announced that they were re-uniting with Lee to create a high concept big budget (by Hong Kong standards) film -- there was a great deal of excitement. So much, in fact, that they were virtually insured a slot at Cannes this year.

RE-CYCLE is the resulting film. It did debut at Cannes this year. As was the case with the more lofty Sophia Coppola concept film about French history -- it was not well received. From what I gathered, half the audience left the screening of RE-CYCLE before it reached the halfway mark and the remaining audience members applauded politely. RE-CYCLE failed to secure distribution outside of China. And, it did not do great business there, either. What caused me to become interested was the random "word of mouth" on the Internet where those who had managed to see the film debated the film's true meaning and the fact that, while flawed - there was a great deal of magic to be found in the movie. So, I contacted my pal in NYC several months back and he came thru. He sent me a pristine DVD copy of the movie which is now available to all if you look hard enough.

...ideas for a great novel about to be erased and replaced with new ones...

The "plot" of the film is almost non-existent. This is an experimental art film barely disguised as a horror film. Sadly, the attempts at horror fail and get in the way of the true beauty of the film. Luckily, the presence and talent of Angelica Lee help the film move through the silly horror moments. Lee plays a troubled romance novel writer. Somewhere in her late 30's she has reached a great level of success but is lonely and bored with the entire romance genre. She has decided to move into the supernatural genre but can't seem to get a grip on where she wants to go. Characters are only half formed in her head and she doesn't seem to have a clue when it comes to what the plot should be. The return of a an old lover has taken over her thoughts. Her loneliness and angst have clogged her imagination --- she is a writer blocked.

It is not long before we see that something is trying to reach out to her. Is it her imagination? Is it a ghost? Is she going crazy? ...It is not really clear. But, before long we see our writer literally plunge into a nightmare version of Hong Kong. The city is in ruins. She has walked into a landscape right out of a video game. And, like a video game --- she quickly discovers that she can only stay in one place for so long before angry bodies fall from the sky or emerge from the ground intent upon attacking her. Everyone and everything in this "world" is upset with her. The CGI special effects are clearly just that but are so beautifully detailed that one can't help but sigh at the beauty of the "horrors" surrounding Lee. And, it is impossible to not be impressed with her skills as an actress to emote feelings that we can understand and with which we can relate -- I suspect that there might only be 4 scenes in the whole film where Lee is interacting with real objects and people. Her work as an actress is simply amazing.

My DVD copy is poorly sub-titled. An old man is called "Granny" and other silly mistakes are made. But, hey, it is a bootleg. Anyway, The Pang Brothers idea is clever and surprisingly clear. Our writer has stepped into a world populated by characters, objects and unfinished/undeveloped ideas/plots which she has discarded during the "artistic process" -- I was mezmorized as, like a sort of further warped Alice In Wonderland, Lee journeys through abandoned ideas and characters who are turning on her for not developing them so that they can live on in this place --- which, is somewhere in her mind. ...panic and wonderment in a world full of forgotten ideas, fears and loves. Abandoned, lonely, angry and without hope for revision --- a writer blocked in a world of her own design. ...in her head.

Before too long, our writer meets up with two key figures who seem willing to help her find her way back to home. Or, as she asks, back to her own world. It is also not too long before we realize that THIS place is a bit more than just under-developed ideas for unfinished/unwritten stories/novels --- like all of us who like to tinker with words, it may be fiction --- but it is all balled up in our own reality. These untold stories and characters are based on her own experiences and people she has known --- or, should have known.

I love films from Asia. More than any other part of the world, these countries seem to wear their hearts (and chips) on their sleeves. Not afraid to share the level of confusion infused in the cultures --- and fearless in opening up the psyches which are almost beyond "fucked up" --- I tend to get lost in the ideas I find in films from Japan, Korea and China.
Life is scary and we are all horrified of death and being alone --- so the use of the horror genre has always made sense to me.

At the climax of RE-CYCLE is the revelation of something quite tragic about the life of this writer. I do not want to offer up what that is. I am not going to provide a spoiler. However, I will write that this tragedy is a loaded one for us in the West. I leave this film feeling rather mixed about what two men might be trying to say about a female character of their own design. Of course, this very complexity makes me all the more mezmorized.

The ending to the film is disturbing and intentionally opaque. However, for me, it is clear. We all live two lives. One in real time and the other in our heads. We hope for things that can't be had and, for those lucky enough to be artistes --- those hopes and ideas can be explored in art. In this film, the writer must come face to face with the truth that her choices as an artist and as a person come at a price for both her art and her life. This is true for all of us. However, the Pang Brothers were wise to use the mind of the artist to explore those elements that haunt all of our lives -- the regrets, the loneliness, the unfinished, the unresolved, the unexplored and the price for what we fail to re-cycle. ...and, the price for what we do re-use.

Ultimately, this is a very flawed film. Too much time spent on horror that isn't all that scary. Too little time spent on actually developing the character so beautifully played by Lee -- and the fatal mistake of trying to please too many members of their audience. Experimental/art house fans like me will tire of the horror tricks and fans of that will tire of the experimental. But, man, what a gorgeous mistake. And, one worth checking out on rainy Sunday or when you're not feeling so up too par.

6 Comments:

Blogger Dessie said...

"You're in my seat!"

Argh! Great film, The Eye.

10:50 PM  
Blogger ing said...

Argh, this film sounds difficult!

You're going to miss the masterpiece, Woman In The Dunes. Are you going to be home in bed tomorrow? Maybe I could pick up a copy and drop it by. . . I'll be out Christmas shopping and looking for wrapping paper that clashes with yours.

2:16 AM  
Blogger johnNokc said...

Matt --

Feel better, bubeleh.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I, too, love east asian films. Not so much Indian films, they seem pretty formulaic. But Chinese and Thai, and Japanese films...you're right, they just seem to open up an interior landscape so fearlessly. The starting point for most chinese films is far beyond where most American films dare to go.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

Snuggle up, keep warm, and feel better soon, ok?

12:16 PM  
Blogger matty said...

Dessie! LOL! Yes, THE EYE ruled! ...but not too high on the sequels.

Ing - Happy Birthday!!! It is a difficult film but I love the theme of the blocked writer and the discarded ideas that are all left in the writer's head. Neat! I do so wish I could see that movie. However, I feel like I need to follow the doctor's instructions and just stay inside all warm and toasty today. Today is the first day I've felt human in a while! Ugh! Back to work tomorrow! I am so tired of being stuck at home! And, yes, please clash up the paper! LOL! Look at my snazzy new profile picture provided by vous!

John - Thanks! I am feeling much better!

Daniel - Yes! I've always found Asian and French cinema to be so much more interesting that film from other cultures. I love the fact that so many French filmmakers fully embrace the dark side of humanity and have no fear in addressing it. And, Asian cinema is just so --- full of cultural/societal issues. Of course, one can find a lot of crap out there, too! ...and, thank you!

4:21 PM  

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