a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Tokyo Filmex 2007 – boxoffice.com blog #6

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Moving into the final weekend, Filmex is gearing up with more guests and screenings of buzz films. Young director Hana Makhmalbaf is here with her film Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame. She made her first film at 9. At 16, her first documentary played Cannes. Now at the ripe old age of 19 she’s screening her first feature.

Lee Kang-shen is also in town. He’s as quiet and taciturn in real life as the roles he’s played in most of the films of his mentor, Tsai Ming-liang. From Rebels of a Neon God to I Don’t Want to Sleep Any More, he’s been Tsai Ming-liang’s favorite alter ego and anti-hero of contemporary Taiwanese alienation and confusion. With his gentle face and disarming good looks he’s played a series of hip loners and losers, creating a bittersweet on-screen persona that gives a rich resonance to otherwise dour and downer films.

This year he’s at Filmex, not only in person and on screen, but also behind the camera. Help Me Eros is his second directorial effort. It’s a gorgeous film, all neon and candy colors, with inventive mise-en-scene, where there’re often several fields of action in a single frame. The film is positively dripping with sex and desire. Lee’s learned well the look and style of his mentor. In fact, Tsai Ming-liang gets credit as executive producer and production designer.

Lee plays the weirdly lovelorn and perpetually stoned main character, Ah Ji, his eyes at 3/4 mast throughout the film. And he has a hilarious touch with presenting the foibles and repressed (and not-so-repressed) desires of a set of demimonde personages. But he himself portrays a character with such lack of empathy and connectedness, that when it came to the end and Ah Ji’s defenestration, I was just kind of happy the whole thing was over.

Nonetheless, kudos to program director, Ichiyama Shozo for taking chances and presenting films that themselves take chances – and sometimes miss. But giving Help Me Eros the benefit of the doubt, it is quite sexy, though heartless, and could become a bit of hit in Asia and on the festival circuit.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

November 23, 2007 at 2:59 am

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