Chungking Express (重慶森林): follows two lovesick Hong Kong police officers as they try to get over their last relationships. You can immediately tell that the visuals are the driving force of the film – the camera movement is light and fluid, framing and camera angles are experimental, the lighting is bright and bold – it ties together to create a very unique look. Unfortunately, no other elements of this movie come close to distracting you from this: the performances are decent but the characters (and their philosophy-lite inner dialogue) feel whimsical and slight; and the plot is inconsequential – relying on artsy / cutesy / quirky moments and fanciful gestures of romance to hold it all together. The film is split into two stories that have a few similarities (talking to inanimate objects, tinned food, chef salads, Indian people, and varying opinions on tears & water) but would have worked better focusing on the second part. If you think of a big HK movie in the 1990s, this is the complete opposite; so much so that it feels like a rebellious statement – ‘screw what you know about HK directors… I’m making a tedious homage to the French New Wave, suck it up losers!’ At over 100 minutes long it doesn’t half drag, which is a shame because a handful of nice moments and ideas get swallowed up by the dominating pop-video style, excessive runtime, and hammy dialogue – see below for genuine quotes. Chungking Express appears on list after list of seminal movies, but in reality it’s a barely-worked-on, directionless, and lightly scripted pet project between other movies – and it feels like nothing more than that to me. I’m sure he’s a lovely Won Kar-Guy, but I don’t understand Won Kar-Why the ratings for this are so Won Kar-High!?!? There are better films about Hong Kong and far better films about love: this is a definitive example of style over substance.
” If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries.”
” Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires. Meat sauce expires. Even cling-film expires. Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?”
” In May’s eyes, I’m no different from a can of pineapple.”
” When people cry, they can dry their eyes with tissues. But when an apartment cries, it takes a lot to mop it up.”
Wolf of Wall Street: based on the memoirs of a drugged-up banker that did a load of bad things. Most obviously, three hours is just far, far, far too long for this story, which is essentially: motivational speech, loads of drugs, party harder than Andrew WK, repeat x20. The premise is classic Scorsese – rise-and-fall – but they way in which it’s told, what he chose to film, and how he chose to film it is anything but. There’s so much skin, sex, sensationilsm, and alpha-male testosterone in here that it felt like Michael Bay defiling a Scorsese sceenplay. Another huge problem is that the main character – Jordan Belfort – isn’t even remotely likeable or interesting; just a one-dimensional, remorseless asshole. On the plus side the script it great, the casting is magnificent and Scorsese really gets the most from them. It’s also very funny, funnier than most comedies, although it does have a lot of time to play with. Sadly, it feels a bit cheap coming from someone that’s brought us films like The Departed, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver… and it made me remember how good a film Boiler Room was. Scorsese – you’re above this. Studios – no director is above cutting empty & pointless scenes from! Not Scorsese, not Tarantino, nobody.
Chatroom: London teenagers meet up online in a ‘Chelsea Teens!’ chatroom where they discuss their problems and bring out the worst in each other. At the centre of the film are five teens, overdramatized and riddled with angst, hatred & depression to the point of stereotype. There’s the least likable central character for as long as I can remember, and the other four people/plot-lines are picked up and dropped when convenient – and not properly explored or concluded. Unsurprisingly, it’s a very wordy film, but that creates the small problem that every word comes from 5 depressed teenagers all burdened with issues. When a story is driven through these characters manipulating and bringing the worst out in each other it doesn’t really make for inspired viewing. The best idea in the film is representing online chatting through a discussion with real people in a physical room, but it’s only novel for about 10 minutes. This is propped up by a few good tongue in cheek ‘online LOL‘ moments like the paedo entering, sex chat rooms and clay-mation skits. It’s shot well (Ringu series / Dark Water director) and the ‘chatroom’ sets are as seedy, sleazy, strange and twisted as your mum’s opinion of the internet. This film is to the internet use, what Requiem for a Dream is to drug use. Apparently nobody online does anything positive these days, and everyone’s up for egging on a suicide etc. There are a few neat ideas scattered throughout, but nothing sustainable for +90 minutes. Emo teen drama.