It’s tempting to poke fun of Joseph Braude‘s piece in the LA Times about Middle Eastern moviewatching, except we’re not quite sure where to go with it. There’s certainly a lot of worthy stuff in the article, but there’s also a gawkish underlying assumption that it’s surprising that the inhabitants of the Arab world watch and care about films that seems about a decade outdated and that reminds us of the Lexus convertible conversation in "Three Kings" (we just got it on DVD, so it’s been on our mind recently, apologies).
Many governments don’t bother to forbid most American motion pictures. Protesters in Libya, Syria and the Palestinian territories may burn the U.S. flag during street demonstrations, but they catch the latest U.S. films in theaters. All of the Persian Gulf states except Saudi Arabia abound in state-of-the-art movie houses, often in luxurious shopping malls. In fact, Kuwait was the second nation in the world after Austria to introduce technology enabling automatic movie ticket purchases by mobile phone.
A friend of ours who grew up in Iran swore that nothing was more popular there than a satellite channel that played only "Baywatch," but sadly, Braude doesn’t confirm this, though he does get into some interesting points about the relationship between Arab viewers and left-leaning Hollywood.
Fiona Ng at the New York Times reports on "Action English," a Chinese television show that uses film clips to attempt to teach American slang.
At the Japan Times, Mark Schilling takes on Takeshi Kitano‘s latest, "Takeshis’," which premiered at Venice to mixed and bemused reviews, and which is a departure from the actor/director’s previous work, a surreal exploration of Kitano’s persona and previous films that sounds a bit like Akira Kurosawa‘s "Dreams." Schilling compares the film to Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 "Branded to Kill," and wonders if, like that film, it will later be regarded as a masterpiece, though at the present, he doesn’t seem to know what to make of it himself. Either way, a possible turning point for Kitano’s career:
Kitano has described it as a kind of "death"
(pronounced in Japanese, the title is "Takeshisu" or "Take[shi] dies"),
in which he shakes off the mortal coil of his first 11 films and
prepares himself for the next stage of his career. (He says he wants to
make a film that challenges Kurosawa and other Golden Age masters —
whatever that means.)
Also at the Japan Times, Giovanni Fazio becomes the first we’ve seen to defend Lou Ye‘s "Purple Butterfly," which stars Zhang Ziyi and which opened here in a minimal release to fairly bad reviews (we loved his debut, "Suzhou River").
Chris Johnston at The Age has an excellent essay on based-on-actual-events Aussie horror film "Wolf Creek" (which gets a Dimension/Weinstein Co. release on Dec. 25), and its relationship to a particularly beloved national icon:
And then comes the moment. "Bit of a
bugger, eh?" says Mick. Just five little words. But with them, and
other similar moments, Wolf Creek subverts a mainstay of Australian
outback mythology – the noble white bushman, the loveable rogue.
It’s no coincidence that Mick is called Mick. He’s Mick Dundee,
Crocodile Dundee, gone evil. He has the same hat, the same flannel
shirt and the same jeans. He has the same knockabout ways, the same
laconic humour. During Melbourne filmmaker Greg McLean‘s low-budget
horror film, which has become a surprise box office winner, he even
reprises the famous Croc Dundee line "Call that a knife? This is a
knife!" as a victim, Kristy, hopelessly brandishes a tiny, red Swiss
Army penknife. It is puny and useless next to Mick’s long, curved
monster, which he keeps in a leather sheath on his belt.
Alongside picks for who’s going to win, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the organizers of the Australian Film Institute Awards about revitalizing the presentation and getting Russell Crowe to host them for free. Tom Ryan at The Age is a little more cynical about the choice:
Yet surely he can
be relied upon to bring a bit of spice to the night. Imagine his
response if someone tries to tell him to wind it up. Or if they attempt
to stop him reading the poem or singing the song he’s penned just for
us. Or if he doesn’t get the standing ovation he deserves. Or if a
teleprompter doesn’t work.
Well, we think that all awards show would be a little better with the promise of violence, so good on ya, Australia â€” scatter some cell phones around the green room and let’s see what happens.
+ Reelpolitik (LA Times)
+ Movie English as a Third Language (NY Times)
+ Kitano beats his own drum (Japan Times)
+ Love and death in Manchuria (Japan Times)
+ Beware a wolf (The Age)
+ AFI Awards: We tip the winners (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ A good deal to Crowe about (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Rusty oils the wheels of our industry (The Age)