Movies reviewed this week: Shanghai Express, A Taxi Driver, The Foul King, and One Hour with You.
5/1/2023: Shanghai Express (1932): ****
The thriller noir was nearly perfect; the romance suffered from a fairly stiff performance by Clive Brook. Didn’t matter that much since Dietrich had enough charisma for the both of them even before you add Anna May Wong playing the lead role in her own little side movie.
And wow, the lush evocative train. Overlapping windows into compartments separating the saint from the sinner, but the windows are all pretty wide open. It’s pre-Code, after all.
5/2/2023: A Taxi Driver (2017): ****1/2
It’s worth remembering that the events of the Gwangju Uprising were worse than what you’ll see on screen. When this movie was made, it wasn’t public knowledge that the South Korean military used helicopters to fire on civilians. But even without that, the raw true story is more than powerful enough to make a superb movie.
Song Kang-Ho is the other pillar of excellence. For most of the movie, he wears a goofy cheerful mask to hide his desperation and fear of failure. His transition from avoidance to action is the heart of the movie. He humanizes the tragedy like few actors could.
The directing wasn’t more than workaday, but it doesn’t need to be.
Boofest 2023: connected to Rebel Without A Cause by youthful rebels.
5/4/2023: The Foul King (2000): **1/2
Regrettably pedestrian. Even a very young Song Kang-ho is fun, perhaps even more so because you can keep going “he’s so young!” The cheesy little local wrestling promotion was also spot-on. But the funny was kind of fitful and I can’t say I felt like it resolved in any terribly interesting way.
I guess the point was a sort of surrealist deadpan comedy. Fitting for a wrestling movie, Andy Kaufman and all, but not all that engaging.
Boofest 2023: connected to A Taxi Driver by Song Kang-ho.
5/7/2023: One Hour with You (1932): ***1/2
How kind of our ancestors to make an entire movie dedicated to defining the word “effervescent,” and how lovely that they used such cool art deco sets!
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