I spent most of the plane ride to and from Sydney watching movies. I like to pick non-English movies to watch on planes because they come with subtitles. And these were the five I watched this time round. I wish I could say I liked them all but… well, I didn’t.
Monsoon Wedding (2001) – ★★★★
Mira Nair offers us a peek into the lives of various members of an Indian family as they prepare for a wedding. People fall in love (and out of love), secrets come to light, and the father-of-the-bride frets and worries rather like George Banks in Father of the Bride (only some of the things this father-of-the-bride has to face are more serious than anything Mr. Banks faced). It’s an engaging movie, mostly comedic but with serious moments that lend weight to the otherwise light-hearted film. Good film, this one.
Ripples of Desire (2012) – ★½
This Taiwanese film is the story of two sisters – the top courtesans in a brothel – and their romances as well as the secret they keep. It was underwhelming. There was not quite enough time invested in the romances (both stories seemed a bit vague), and too much time invested in the philandering merchant who falls for one of them. The supernatural-ish twist to the sisters’ secret ended up feeling a bit bizarre as well.
The Assassins (2012) – ★
Even more underwhelming than Ripples of Desire. It shows us the warlord Cao Cao in a somewhat more positive light than in John Woo’s Red Cliff. Here, Cao Cao (played by Chow Yun Fatt) comes off as a ruler who may be cruel, but his deeds haunt him all his life. The main narrator of the movie is a young girl, secretly trained as an assassin, who ends up being sent to Cao Cao as a concubine. But she’s in love with a fellow assassin… The romance gets stuffed into the corner though that may have been for the best since the actor isn’t suited for the role. They cast Japanese actor Tamaki Hiroshi in the role – and it was this that caught my attention because I was curious to see whether he could speak Mandarin or not. Apparently not. He shouldn’t have been cast in the role because he just sounds odd speaking Mandarin – or maybe they dubbed the lines. Either way, it doesn’t work. The story seemed thin, and was more like an attempt to make Cao Cao look less villainous that how he’s usually portrayed.
A Very Ordinary Couple (2013) – ★★½
This Korean film had potential. It’s a darkly comic story about a couple at an office who break up, then get back together again and attempt to make it work. The first half of the movie is largely comical as the two characters go through all sorts of typical rom-com shenanigans, ranging from stalking each other on Facebook to creating fusses over silly things as an excuse to see each other to arguing in public and thereby revealing their heretofore secret relationship from their colleagues. Most other reviews would say that the movie really begins in the second half when they give their relationship a second chance but alas, I was too tired and sleepy and the second half became more serious and slow… not exactly a great combination for the weary traveller. I drifted in and out of consciousness in the second half, sadly. But the ending was certainly unexpected. In a sense, this is a realistic movie. It doesn’t present romance as an easy boy-meets-girl thing, nor are the leads hyper-attractive (by my reckoning, at least). It attempts to present a more realistic approach to the story, which is interesting. (But I have to say that the editing method and the choice of framing the story in a pseudo-documentary style was a bit jarring at times.)
Library Wars (Toshokan Sensou, 2013) – ★★
Again, underwhelming. This manga-adaptation is about a Japan where the media is tightly monitored and censored by the government. Libraries have been accorded the privilege of possessing their own defense forces, and the characters in this story are members of such a group. Eikura Nana is Kasahara Iku, a tall tomboyish new recruit who can beat nearly about anyone else in judo, and she joined the force to emulate and to search for her “prince charming” – a mysterious man who prevented authorities from confiscating a book from her when she was younger. Okada Junichi stars opposite Eikura as Dojo Atsushi, the hardened cynic and elite squad leader who just happens to be the said mysterious prince charming. Of course. There is a tinge of a romantic storyline in all this, but it’s kept fairly low-key – which I liked. It’s a really predictable thing, anyway.