Another really great Hong movie, this one with a different structural game than the others. Kwon (Seo Young-hwa of On the Beach at Night Alone) comes back to Seoul after vacation, picks up a batch of letters from Mori (Ryo Kase, crazed boyfriend in Like Someone In Love), and reads them out of order after they accidentally get dropped. Hong proceeds to play this guy’s story – arriving in Seoul to open his heart to Kwon then hanging around and losing hope and getting distracted when he finds her missing – in the same shuffled order she is reading the letters…

1. Mori hangs out with a girl from the Hill of Freedom Cafe, the same place where Kwon is now reading the letters

Mori is reading a book about time in every scene. Of course he meets a film producer… and of course he gets sad and drunk more than once

The guy in the bad shorts (think it’s Eui-sung Kim of Train to Busan) is Mori’s landlady’s nephew. He appears early on during the search for HoF Girl’s missing dog, then again at the guesthouse haranguing some poor girl.

Mori is sleeping with HoF Girl Youngsun (So-ri Moon of both The Housemaid and The Handmaiden, two titles I sometimes get confused).

Mori is leaving notes on the door of Kwon’s last known residence, returning to find the notes undisturbed. He gets awkward with the cafe girl and accidentally locks himself in her bathroom.

Present-tense, Kwon runs into Youngsun, exchanges pleasantries, then goes looking for Mori and finds him at the guesthouse. “The next day we left together for Japan. We had two children.”

Mori wakes up in the courtyard and it’s not Kwon but Youngsun – she got drunk and slept in his room while he stayed outside. She wakes up, leaves.

Vadim Rizov in Filmmaker:

The dialogue is predominantly in awkward English, because Japanese Mori is in South Korea to search for Kwon without a handle on the language. Lingua franca necessity supplements/supplants alcohol as the primary agent for awkward truth-telling … Obsessed with an idealized phantom, Mori records his days in letters that draw no conclusion or lessons from the random cycle of drunkenness and depressive oversleeping he’s mired in. He’s Hong’s least deluded male protagonist in some time: though he makes errors in judgment, he isn’t perpetually staggering around in an alcohol-fueled haze and seems abstractly aware of the ridiculousness of the situation he’s placed himself in by devoting two weeks to finding a woman who may not want to be tracked down.

This ol’ movie blog has experienced a Minor Setback in recent weeks… will be rushing through some current posts and changing some old ones. Sit tight, loyal (nonexistent?) readers.

I was finally bullied into watching this by the poster in the Ross front entry… Byington must have visited when this opened (before I moved to town). Story of Max (who carries a magic macguffin suitcase) and friends, jumping forward 5 years every 20 minutes (though the actors barely age). The movie plays like a deadpan, vaguely absurd stand-up comedy act – a funny one, but it’s hard to tell if we’re meant to have any affection for these characters.

Max and Kate:

Max is Keith Poulson (Hermia & Helena, Little Sister) who befriends coworker Nick Offerman and marries coworker Jess Weixler (a Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby). As time goes on, Offerman ends up with Weixler and first Max then his son will date the babysitter Stephanie Hunt. Characters are unceremoniously killed – Weixler’s dad’s post-cancer-diagnosis suicide is played for laughs, and Max, now rich from running a pizza and ice cream franchise with Offerman, has a heart attack while racing a breadstick thief in the cemetery.

Max and Jess:

The director, lead actor, and Max’s ex Kate Lyn Sheil are all Alex Ross Perry associates. Byington’s followup starred Jason Schwartzman and Tunde Adebimpe and I have heard nothing about it. His latest premiered a few months ago at SXSW and I have heard nothing about it either.

My favorite visual joke: wedding singer with a four-man band who all look like the same guy. Are those all the same guy??

Rizov liked it roughly as much as I did:

What it basically comes down to is that I find Byington’s comic fixations — rudeness and morbidity — funny and compelling … It’s smart and sad about death, and the stupid decisions casually made on a day-to-day basis by adrift 20/30somethings who think marriage will give them the stability and rigor they lack otherwise. “You never know what’s good for you,” Offerman says, and he’s right.

D’Angelo hated its guts:

[Max] just drifts through life, responding to decades of minor turmoil with the same vaguely bored sneer … there’s no indication here that Byington’s characters, or Byington himself, gives even half a shit about anything at all. Somebody Up There Likes Me seems smugly pleased with its own detachment, a quality underlined by the cutesy-ironic score contributed by Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio. (Hope you like tubas.)

Saw this right after rewatching Kubo and the Two Strings over Thanksgiving, noticed how they both refer to a person’s life “story,” then realized this was based on a book called Story of Your Life. So the two movies go together nicely is what I’m saying.

Amy Adams is a linguist and Jeremy Renner a physicist who are recruited by Forest Whitaker to communicate with the aliens whose giant ships have appeared across the planet. We see Adams do lots of linguistics but don’t see Renner doing any physics, and I think Adams’ final language-comprehension-enabled time-reading abilities break some movie paradox laws (she can learn from her future self), but the whole thing is so beautifully done I could care less. Also interesting that the emotional resonance of world peace is much less than the story of Adams’ own doomed marriage and child.

D. Cairns:

Dennis Villeneuve makes beautiful images, perhaps tending to exploit shallow focus a little TOO much, but in doing so he uses it in unexpected ways, sometimes throwing the whole subject of the shot into an artful blur.

Damn this movie being great, because now I have to care about Villeneuve’s Blade Runner sequel. An Advanced Movie, it relies on our knowledge of flashback rules in order to trick us by breaking them. Waited in my seat until the music credit came up. I liked the Jóhann Jóhannsson score but I guess I really noticed the bookending Max Richter piece. This was the academy’s exact justification for excluding Jóhannsson from award consideration, somewhat unfairly.

I haven’t watched a narrative (non-Walker) Tsai movie in a while, and I forget that they don’t exactly have stories that make any proper sense. For some reason I was in the mood to watch walker Lee Kang-sheng do nothing much in front of a static camera for many hours, so I double-featured this with Stray Dogs.

Lee is a hapless sidewalk watch salesman who has just lost his father (the father shows up in a prologue before we know who he is). Lee lives with his mom (Yi-Ching Lu) who is taking the father’s death hard. He sells a watch (his own) to Chen Shiang-chyi on her way to Paris, then the movie starts following the two of them separately.

Lee watches a film (Dragon Inn?) with uninvited friend:

Lee watches Leaud:

Chen meets Leaud:

She doesn’t have much story to speak of, hangs around Paris looking lonely, bumps into Jean-Pierre Leaud and gets his phone number in a creepy-hilarious scene, gets sick in a restaurant and goes home with a woman (Cecilia Yip).

Meanwhile in Taiwan (New Taipei City, I think, before it was called that), Lee watches The 400 Blows and becomes obsessed with changing every clock he sees to Paris time, and his mom thinks the changed clocks are signs from her dead husband, starts taping up the windows to conform to “his time”. It doesn’t seem to end well. His case of watches gets stolen, and in Paris, Chen’s suitcase gets stolen and thrown in the lake… then fished out by Lee’s dead father.

This played Cannes the year of Millennium Mambo, Va Savoir, I’m Going Home, Mulholland Dr., In Praise of Love, Kandahar and The Piano Teacher – a year of puzzling films by great directors.


The Skywalk Is Gone (2002)

A crazy scene in a movie theater and its restroom in What Time Is It There prefigures Goodbye Dragon Inn. This short, made as an epilogue to What Time Is It There, sets up The Wayward Cloud.

Chen has returned to Taiwan, is looking for Lee but she’s confused that the skywalk is gone, replaced by an underpass, where they pass while Lee’s on his way to a porn audition.

Ed Gonzalez calls Lee and his mom “victims of the mundane and the repetitive”.
“It all comes back to the issue of time, which Tsai views as an immutable burden that people nonetheless seek to control.”

Chen with a walkin’ monk:

Chen just missing Lee:

Tsai:

I enjoy putting characters in environments where it seems like they have no relationships with others because I want to think about what kind of distance we should keep between each other. I also like to put people in situations where they do not have love, because I want to know how much love we need, and what kind of relationships we want.

According to Senses of Cinema, Lee and his movie-parents appeared in those same roles in Rebels of the Neon God and The River.

Can’t tell if this was named after the acclaimed Sufjan Stevens album because I never listened to that. Good movie, as far as time-travel romances go, easily beating About Time and Safety Not Guaranteed.

Adz (Blake Lively, Renner’s police-informant sister in The Town) loses her husband to an accident, then loses her ability to age to another accident. This is seen mostly as a burden, since she doesn’t want to get close to guys anymore, and keeps having to change her identity so the FBI won’t kidnap and dissect her. One day decades later, her daughter has grown into Ellen Burstyn, and Adz meets a hot, very rich, and extremely persistent Michael Huisman (Treme, Black Book), who turns out to be the son of Harrison Ford (turning in his first decent performance since Air Force One), an ex-boyfriend who recognizes her and wants answers. This is where Katy gets creeped out, not Huisman dating a hundred-year-old, but dating someone his dad once wanted to marry. Anyway, she gets into another accident, starts aging normally again, ends up happy with Huisman.

AKA Live.Rinse.Repeat. I didn’t recognise a mustachioed Bill Paxton in charge of the fighting unit which disgraced PR guy Tom Cruise gets sent to. After Tom’s gruesome melty death from the acid blood of a rare alien beast, he gains its power to re-live a day over and over again, retaining memories from previous iterations. So it’s a less romantic Groundhog Day, but instead of the occasional comic death scene, it’s constant death scenes, Cruise having to get every single detail exactly right or else die, often at the hands of lesser aliens, or shot by teammate Emily Blunt (Looper), who built a super-soldier reputation because she once had the same Groundhog Day alien-blood power.

Liman made Swingers and Jumper. Based on a novel, adapted by Chris McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, The Usual Suspects) and the Butterworths (James Brown bio Get On Up).

Tom Cruise face-melt:

We watched these on Mondays (“Before Mondays”) in January.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Celine and Jesse meet on a train, talk for a while, and he convinces her to disembark in Vienna and spend the day with him before his flight out. They ride the trains and buses, go record shopping, visit a cemetery, church and carnival (feat. The Third Man ferris wheel), talk to fortune teller, poet and theater guys, hang out in bars, cafes and plazas then end up in the park with a bottle of wine. Next morning at the train station, plans to meet again in six months. Standard, unadorned romance-movie setup. Nothing new here. But so, so perfect in the dialogue and details. Linklater won best director in Berlin.

Before Sunset (2004)

Carefully maintained real-time structure – only about one edit where I felt time might’ve elapsed, and then no more than a minute. It also shuts out all side characters once the main couple meets again at Jesse’s book event (right after readers succeed in getting him to admit that the girl he’s written about really exists). Conversation starts with reminiscing and explaining why they didn’t meet six months after last time, gradually turns more personal, revealing their dissatisfaction with current relationships, leading to one of my favorite-ever movie endings: Jesse, who parted with Celine last time to catch a plane, not making that mistake again.

Before Midnight (2013)

No more happy reunions – they’ve been together since the last movie and now have twin girls. Jesse is concerned about his son growing up with his mom a continent away and feels out Celine on the idea of moving there, which sparks a massive, movie-length argument that felt almost too real for Katy to handle. At least they’re in a new country, at the end of a writing retreat in Greece, but there’s little time for sightseeing. The first section of the movie has them in conversation with friends (including Athina Rachel Tsangari), a nice way of bouncing our main couple’s middle-aged ideas on love and romance off other couples of different ages.

Filmed gradually while its young stars (Mason: Ellar Coltrane, sister Samantha: Lorelei Linklater) grew up. That’s the hook, and it would make for a fascinating movie regardless, but Linklater has dug into his Before Trilogy bag of observational non-dramatic tricks and built something great. There are big plot points and dramatic moments, for instance when mom Patricia Arquette grabs the kids and flees her abusive, alcoholic husband, but it focuses just as much on smaller moments, and it’s true to its growing-up concept by not having every event have a consequence (e.g. Mason picks up a gun and nobody gets shot).

G. Klinger in Cinema Scope:

The film’s title is somewhat misleading: if Boyhood certainly chronicles Mason Jr.’s experience, it also allows us to see Mason Sr. and Olivia mature alongside their son. Olivia herself resides at the core of the film, heroic for her resilience and commitment to her kids, and tragic for her inability to make suitable decisions for her long-term happiness. Arquette is so sublimely perfect, so believable as a single mom struggling with poverty (even maintaining the same bad haircut for much of the film), that when her character finally breaks down toward the end, she achieves the kind of saintly purity that one associates with certain Bresson characters.

I’ve read a couple of great articles about The Clock – never thought I’d have a chance to see it, but we were in Minneapolis while it ran at the Walker, so we watched almost two hours of it, which seems like a lot but is only seven percent of the total. And we could’ve easily kept watching (yes, Katy liked it too) – it’s not only a great conceptual achievement, it’s also very entertaining and ingeniously edited. To my great pleasure, as much care was given to the sound mixing as the picture, so audio will overlap in interesting ways. And the picture isn’t as clock-obsessed as I’d assumed. Clocks aren’t always onscreen, sometimes in just one fragment of a scene, or sometimes not at all, instead with characters speaking (usually in English) about the time or its passing (Nick of Time with Johnny Depp and Chris Walken got some repeat play), and clever connective shots will be used to fit scenes with similar times together. Plenty of humor – we got a confused phone conversation between two different movies, and Karl Malden in Baby Doll honking his horn to annoy characters of a whole different era.