14 October 2014

Quickie Review: ILO ILO (2013)

A screening of this Canne Caméra d'Or-winning film was hosted by the dayjob and I went, having prepared myself to go all Hooper from Chasing Amy during the Skype Q&A with Singaporean director Anthony Chen. But this film about a Hong Kong family who takes on a Filipina maid during the Asian financial meltdown of 1997 thankfully wasn't rage inducing.

During the Q&A, the director mentioned having been taken to task for not providing any critique of the OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) system. I was just happy that we didn't get either of the two "typical" OFW horror stories--Filipinas being physically or sexually victimized, or victimizing the families they work for, stealing money, abusing children and elders, etc. Hell, I half-expected Teresa (the maid) to have some anting-anting which makes her some Asian Mary Poppins who teaches young Jiale about, I dunno, love and family or somesuch. 

(She probably would have if this was some Hollywood film.)

Anyway, I'm fine that the film wasn't about the plight of OFWs for two reasons. One, I think Chen gives a pretty even-handed representation of the part most people play in that whole system, in a way which jives with the memories I've had as a child observing Filipinas who were brought over to the United States to help with the families of other Filipinos. And two, that kind of message would've taken away from the film's focus on the compelling study of how four very different people cope against forces outside their control.

5 out of 5.


10 September 2014

Quickie Review: THE ONE I LOVE (2014)

If I had it to do over, I'd Netflix this one but I definitely wouldn't pass it up. If you liked 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed, you'll probably like The One I Love. There's something to be said for a movie that resists being described in other reviews because to do so even in the slightest would spoil it.

Other reviews have noted similarities to (and the film actually name-checks) The Twilight Zone, and it does so as more than simply a code for "something freaky's going on here." The film's plot absolutely feels like something out of a Richard Matheson episode. And of course, I can't even reference which Matheson episodes came to mind as I watched this, because spoilers.

The one thing this film has over a Twilight Zone episode is the feeling the film's resolution leaves me with, which I can only describe as the same feeling described by Bruce Sterling in his oft discussed and debated definition of "slipstream," namely "...a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility."  If slipstream is that form which is, as it's said, "some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely-real, or the markedly anti-real" then I'd definitely call this a slipstream film.


03 September 2014

Quickie Review: FRANK (2014)

I admit it, I watched this film because I caught the trailer a week or so ago at the local art house theater, and was captivated by the head...



Inspired by Chris Sievey's persona of Frank Sidebottom and the time the co-screenwriter Jon Ronson spend in Sievey's band, the film is about far more than the eponymous character wearing a big head, in the same way that any (good) band is more than the sum of its parts.  Frank shows the complexity of the chicken-and-egg question about the origin of creativity. And then it complicates the question further by throwing in the the added dimension of collective artistic expression; this is about a band, after all. Think of it as a po-mo version of The Commitments where you spend less time cheering for band, and more time going back and forth between "WTF?" and "Huh, that's kinda deep."

I don't think it's spoilery to say the band breaks up.  C'mon, it's a band movie--when was the last time a movie band didn't implode? But Frank might surprise you a bit with the whys and hows of the breakup, and might also surprise you with how the breakup leaves you feeling.