Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Movie Reviews: Suicide Club & Moon Child

I've been trying to keep track of movies I've watched lately, on the theory that I can one day actually remember anything about them or--perhaps, just perhaps--grow as a human being in response to my experience with the artistic display. Of course, there are many who would argue that the very nature of my taste in films makes the latter feat impossible. But to them, I say thee nay! I implore that my audience ignore the statements of such haters.

I watched two movies this past weekend: the first was Sion Sono's Jisatsu saakuru, aka Suicide Club; the second was Takahisa Zeze's Moon Child. It is probably important to note that both of these directors apparently started in the porn industry, a connection I failed to make until after the fact.

I'd previously seen the first five minutes of Suicide Club, which is an awesome moment of truly epic proportions. Also very giallo, so it was leading me to expect a Argentoesque horror/police investigation film. Although both of these apply in certain fashions to the film, it ultimately reminded me more of David Lynch. And I do say that with some trepidation, as I've encountered the comparison to David Lynch in reviews & promo of Asian films more than any other director--other than perhaps John Woo, but that's cheating--and it's rarely applied in any real sense beyond "David Lynch==weird & Takashi Miike==weird ==> David Lynch==Takashi Miike." But this was a film that reminded me at moments of Lost Highway more than anything else, if only because it seems to be in a similar vein of taking ~3 viewings to figure it out.

For now, it's a movie with some gorgeous shots of horrible things happening that seems to thematically interweave ideas of karma with mankind's disconnection from each other and ourselves. Two thumbs up, it currently gets four stars out of five with an option to buy once I figure it out.

It should also be mentioned that this movie is totally NOT for the squeamish.

Moon Child. I'd seen this before, and really only for one reason: Lee-Hom Wang. He's an acquaintance of a close friend, and we make sure to catch all of his movies when we can, just for the heck of it. It was a surprising film, because both of his previous movies were standard dumb Hong Kong movies, and this was fairly intelligent. Also because we'd encountered a lot of negative reviews, and it's actually very good.

The movie itself is pretty weird: it's a near-future gangster action film with a vampire as one of the main characters. It takes place over several time jumps ranging from the year 2000 to the year 2050, following the lives of our protagonists. I realized this time that it runs symmetrically: it starts as a vampire film, it turns into an action film about a couple of young gangsters just starting to make a name for themselves, it evolves into a John Woo-esque tale of loyalty and betrayal, which gets you to the big action-packed climax, and then it turns into a vampire movie again. This is what leads to a lot of the negative reviews, I think: they generally seem to center on complaints about it basically being an action gangster movie with vampires, which really just makes me suspect they were approaching the movie from the wrong angle.

There's a lot of good, intelligent thought that clearly went into this movie; I'm not sure quite how much of it made it out. The series of time jumps makes it feel like it should have been a three hour epic that was either not thought through well enough to develop all the material, or that just got cut down to two hours. Regardless, there's so much just packed into the movie that it feels impressively full on a level you don't often encounter any more. I think part of that is its character-driven nature--which is in and of itself odd, since you don't get a lot of time actually spent on the character development, so you have to read between the scenes--since I generally tend to be attracted to more plot-driven movies with more traditional character archetypes. Also four out of five stars, because it ultimately feels a bit distracted, and makes me feel like there should be more to it than there really is.


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