Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Virgin Spring

I am happy to announce that I finished watching The Virgin Spring. It was not an easy task. I don't really know what to say about the film. So many good things have been said about the film from professional critics, and it even won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 1961 Academy Awards. But to me, the acting is overly dramatic, unbelievable, and the visual is not impressive or exceptionally artistic.

Maybe I just don't know how to view this film, where to place The Virgin Spring in the history and context of cinema. Perhaps, in 1960 when the film was released, it was quite something; but as cinema evolves, our expectation of films changes in a way that a film like The Virgin Spring is not understood for its aesthetics and becomes more difficult to appreciate.

There are, however, some great topics/themes that the film explores: religion, vengeance, sexual innocence, and justice. Fifty years later, these topics are still quite relevant.

I could not find a trailer for this film so below is the first ten minutes of the film. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Auteur Series: Ingmar Bergman

I have a love for all things auteur. My favorite auteurs to date are Wong Kar-Wai and Wes Anderson. Sadly, they're a bit vanilla and have become household names. (Okay, maybe not.) So I am hoping to expand my list of favorites.

For the next few weeks or even months, I will be watching films by Ingmar Bergman, an influential Swedish director who is very much approved by the Criterion Selection. As some of you might know, I have a love for all things Criterion Selection too. Furthermore, I also have a love for all things Scandinavian. So, needless to say, I think Bergman is a pretty good choice for me to embark on this Auteur Series.

Just to add a little more understanding of Bergman, Bergman is the idol of some of the most relevant directors today whom we always see at movie award shows. Todd Field, director of In the Bedroom and Little Children, Ang Lee, Woody Allen, and even Park Chan-wook, director of Oldboy have cited Bergman as their influence.

Woody Allen praised Bergman as "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera." So I am looking forward to what Bergman has to offer. The first film I will be watching is The Virgin Spring. My one and only concern...Bergman's films are black and white films--something I have difficulty viewing if they are not for a class.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I've been trying to remember where I saw the poster or ad for Séraphine because that quick glimpse of an ad led me to a great movie. Séraphine, who I have never heard of before this film, is a French artist who lived from 1864-1942 painting in primitivism. Her style similar to that of Van Gogh's and her color is vibrant and lively. Séraphine was self-taught, poor, and eccentric but produced paintings that her patron, Wilhelm Uhde, thought were brilliant.

In the film, Séraphine is played by Yolande Moreau. You will instantly recognize her as the Madeleine Wells from Amélie, the landlady whose husband left her for someone else in South America. At first, I could not take Moreau's acting seriously because of the contrast in tones of the two films. But slowly, I began to realize that Séraphine was probably in fact just as outlandish as the way Moreau was portraying her.

Two things I really enjoyed about the film is its narrative of the topics of religion and the way Séraphine worked as an artist. Séraphine was highly religious. She went to church, worshiped Virgin Mary, and had small shrines in her tiny apartment. She said her inspirations when painting comes up above. During certain parts of the film, however, as the film suggests, her talent morphed into madness--a madness that stemmed from religious beliefs. Moreover, her downfall was caused by an event mixed with her psychological problems and her delusional belief that God will save her.

The other thing that makes this film so wonderful is how the film shows Séraphine working relentlessly despite her living conditions, WWI, and the overall hardship of her life. As a household maid, Séraphine made a meager living. On the side, she washes linen and works at a butcher. She did not have the money to buy paint and canvas. Despite this hardship, she still painted by finding natural ingredient to mix her own paint. She collects mud by the river, wax from votive candles at church, blood from the butcher to mix her own paint. The results are vivid and rich colors that supposedly have stood the test of time as they are still as beautiful as they were when painted.

Because of this beautiful film, I will be looking for Séraphine's paintings the next time I visit museums in NYC.


A clip showing works by Séraphine:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sony's Nex Camera

I've always loved Sony. Their designs, whether it's in their cameras, televisions, or laptops, have always been, in my eyes, the best. They are sleek, luxurious, and futuristic. And functionally, the specs suggest their technologies are cutting edge. The results are products that are beautiful, functional, and, of course, expensive.

Recently, I do not really know what they have been doing though. PS3 lost to Wii. Their amazing small P series laptop, which was supposed to redefine laptops, seemed like a dud and caused some public relation confusion. I no longer know anyone who owns a VAIO desktiop. And their MP3 and digital books are irrelevant. BUT I do love the following video from NY Times. It gives me hope that one day Sony will reach the height of its glory once again. (Think Walkman.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Who Draws the Borders of Culture?

A compelling and fascinating article on NY Times on the ownership of antiquities specifically on the ownership of the Parthenon marbles. I've heard this topic discussed a couple times during my art history courses. Michael Kimmelman, the author, does a great job discussing the evolution of how antiquities become prized: if Lord Elgin did not take the Parthenon marbles, the Greeks would not have valued it so much.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Stoning of Soraya M.

Unlike Departures, I probably can't say enough about The Stoning of Soraya M. This is one of those films where the message matters more than the acting, the cinematography, or even the script. This film is about women's rights, cruel and unusual punishment, and religion. Think of this film as a combination of The Last King of Scotland, for its storyline, and Deepa Mehta's Water, for its social commentary.

As the title suggests, the film is about the stoning of Soraya M. who is played by Mozhan Marno and not Shohreh Aghdashloo as the trailer might misleading. (Aghdashloo starred in one of my favorite films--House of Sand and Fog.) The leading actress in the film is indeed Aghdashloo who holds the film together beautifully with her powerful and dramatic acting. Many critics complained about the film's glorification of the stoning scene, prolonging the scene while adding no real and meaningful substance to the film. I too agree. But at the end of the day, a film is out to make money. Hollywood is not art for art's sake.

While watching the film, there were so many moments when I thought to myself "this is not right!" "something needs to be done." It disgusted me that the mayor and mullah, the religious cleric, allowed the stoning to take place yet are afraid of the news of this event leaving the town. Moreover, the stoning was treated as a ceremony and a sport where the crowd anticipated the event and cheered when Soraya M. was struck.

This film further strengths my thoughts on religion. If you know me, you probably know I am quite the atheist. I hope that this film and the book of the same title that the film is based on are generating discussions on the issues mentioned. And I do hope in the near future that problems with women's rights, cruel and unusual punishments, and religion in Iran and other Middle Eastern nations will be alleviated.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


There is little that I should write about Departures. This is the best film I have seen since watching The Hurt Locker. Departures is poignant. It is beautiful to watch. It is thoughtful. And it is a well-rounded film. It has, as the subject matter suggests, melancholy but is also nicely balanced with humor and some heartwarming sentiment. Departures beautifies and sheds light on a profession not often talked about.

As you will see in the film, the "encoffinment" ceremonies performed by Daigo, the protagonists, have a magical quality that can calm the families of the dead. But this incredible effect extended beyond the screen; as I watched the film, I became profoundly affected as well. I think at the end of the film, the audience (at least speaking for myself) became more knowledgeable and respectful of this profession that, like in the film, was looked down upon. The viewer's prejudice transformed from one of disgust to thankfulness.

is a film that should be watched sooner or later for its cinematic beauty and achievements but also for its insight into a clouded profession that, ironically, the departed does not have to think much about.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Hi everyone. I'm back from a hiatus. I graduated, and I am now back home. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I will be employed; but in the meantime I will be restarting my Netflix subscription.

I have been meaning to watch Oldboy since January when I went back to school. At brunch, my friend Sandra recommended this movie. She raved about the psychological aspect of the film and how incredibly the storyline comes together at the end.

And after watching the film, Oldboy sure is twisted. The film is about a person's revenge by imprisoning and torturing the protagonist then unleashing him to search for the reason why he was imprisoned for 15 years. I was not particularly interested in the middle of the film as Oh Dae-su, the protagonist, tries to find the reason behind his kidnapping. I think my screening of the film was hindered by the fact that the film was dubbed in English on Netflix. Because of this, I was not as focused on watching the film as I should have been.

On the other hand, the beginning and end are definitely worth watching. The penultimate scene where Oh Dae-su begs for forgiveness is fantastic--it is sick and twisted but it does a powerful job showing the boundary humans might go to achieve something. The end left me uneasy feeling that I am now burdened with a secret that Oh Dae-su tried to forget. In addition, I loved the soundtrack of the film and the dark, strange humor that is sprinkled throughout the movie. Look out for one of the early fight scenes--it is unusually amusing.