Saturday, December 12, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 2 Roundup

11th December 2009

Three movies, three genres, three qualities. From Korea to Japan to Sweden. From a personal story to a mythical epic to a post-apocalyptic animated. As my oft repeated troika goes, the day included the good, the bad and the weird (not in that order though!).

My Dear Enemy (Meotjin Haru)
Yoon-ki Lee | South Korea | 2008
123 mins

My Dear Enemy commits one of the biggest sins a movie can – it gets boring. A simple enough premise that could have lead to a wonderful exploration of the two main characters’ interplay and psyche. It could also have been a humorous look into the situations they get into. It does neither. The first 15 minutes of the movie tell us almost everything we need to know about them. Then on it just allows time to tick on, burdening us with a painfully shallow female lead. It could have been a wonderful short. But it ends up akin to a five-course meal consisting of only biscuits.

Kamui (Kamui Gaiden)
Yoichi Sai | Japan | 2009
120 mins

As far as Ninja movies go, Kamui takes itself very seriously. Appropriately so. Yoichi Sai sets the scene early on with a voice-over narration that establishes the movie into mythical folklore. Following a traditional Japanese ink-paintings in an animated prelude, the movie follows one fugitive ninja, Kamui, on the run from the ninja-clan. Ultra-serious, masterful at his craft, and with not a single care, he escapes to and finally settles on an island of fishing-folk – unaware of the love and treachery that awaits him. Although the film does not employ state-of-the-art effects, it fills each scene, action or drama, with enough soul. The fight-sequences are intense, sometimes brutal, lots of fun and a tribute to the iconic imagery that ninjas carry in popular culture. Unfortunately, the movie lacks in a strong villain or arch-enemy – one that could be a cause of real threat to the hero. Therefore, the climactic showdown does not reach the level of excitement that the movie builds towards. It was just another good fight.

Tarik Saleh | Sweden | 2009
86 mins

In the hands of a good director and a great cinematographer, Metropia can make for a wonderful live-action movie. It can easily enough become a bad b-grade direct-to-video also. Instead, Tarik Saleh’s Metropia, with its peculiar technique and an eerie visual motif, is an askew look into a dystopian future. The over-sized heads and two-dimensional movements mixed with photo-real faces and skin create a bizarre effect. This surreal effect does not wear off as the movie progresses, instead complements the mystery that the movie’s story presents. The movie raises many questions, answers too few, but it is eventually not about intellectualizing the story. Metropia is about how it is made. Nonetheless, this does not stop the director from making a jab at our increasing fascination with voyeurism.

Day 3 has me dive deep into the festival. Having seen 10 movies by now, and four movies lined up for tomorrow, it will be easy to be overly critical towards movies that find it hard to hold the audience’s interest. However, it is usually on such days that the best of the festival is discovered.

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