Sunday, August 27, 2023

Rat in a Cage

The Housemaid (1960) - Kim Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 12.48.19 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 12.50.48 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 1.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.39.38 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.43.25 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.56.27 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 2.57.54 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 3.00.24 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-25 at 3.05.00 PM Mainly taking place in a two-story house, Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid is a high on cringe, yet effective melodrama that says a lot about rapidly changing capitalist society. Based on a real life news clip, it tells of an aspiring middle-class family trying to move up in the ladder, at all cost. Studious Kim (Kim Jin-kyu) is a music teacher who conducts a choir composed of a gaggle of gossipy female mill workers (incentives provided by the factory). In order to renovate his newly bought house, Kim actively pursues anyone for private lessons. Because he is a suave, good looking man, there are a lot of adoring workers who want his attention. But he is a married family man, a straight shooter. So when he discovers a love letter planted by one of the adoring girls, he straight up reports to the management, and the girl gets suspended and she later commits suicide. But it is Ms. Cho, the dead girl's best friend, who is in love with him as she takes private lessons to be closer to him.

In the meantime, Kim's seamstress wife's health is failing and will be in need of a housemaid to do house chores and take care of their two growing young children- a hyperactive boy Changsoon and a crippled older sister Aesoon. Ms. Cho introduces Ms. Kwak (Ko Seon-ae), a wide eyed young woman from the factory for the job. She becomes increasingly unstable and throws herself on Kim, then he and his family become the hostage of her threats of going to the authorities. Kim and his family, afraid of losing their aspiring petit bourgeoisie existence, gets trapped in living hell.

The lower class and middle class fighting for the scraps in vertical hierarchy is pronounced more subtly. Knowing Cho is in love with Kim, Kwak naturally wants what Cho has. It's not lust she's after. She just wants what others have, because that's what a consumerist capitalist is supposed to do. The premise might resemble some cheesy 90s psychosexual thriller but its presentation is nothing but - Kim' style is very much indebted to Hitchcock - constant tracking shots, use of space and even POV of water glass containing rat poison.

Bong Joonho apparently is a big fan of the film and took inspiration from it to make his award winning Parasite. But whereas his film (and his films in general) feels highly superficial, too overwrought and heavy on unsubtle symbolism, The Housemaid is bustling with raw energy and plays out like a neo-realist melodrama. Yes, the two-story house and a constantly featured wooden stairs are symbols of a rising middle class's upward mobility. But more than anything, it says a lot about people living under constant pressure of losing everything in a capitalist society. It is their fear which even overcomes murder(s). If you were moved by family devotion and sacrifice in Parasite, the murders and depravity toward children in The Housemade will shock you.

Is it the puffy tail that makes all the difference between a rat and a squirrel? You might have achieved the goal of becoming petit-bourgeoisie by having a pet squirrel, but you will always have rat poison hidden away in the cupboard. The Housemaid pokes at these conundrums of living in a rapidly developing capitalist society.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Nights are for the Heart Broken

Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971) - Bresson Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 11.48.26 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 11.48.08 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 11.51.02 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 11.59.45 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 12.19.30 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 12.32.32 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 12.38.20 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 12.40.43 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 12.59.14 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-24 at 1.01.36 PM Perhaps the most melancholic adaptation of Dostoevsky’s White Nights. A painter named Jacques meets a suicidal young woman, Marthe, and talks her out of jumping off from the Pont-Neuf bridge. For four nights, he falls in love while she pines for her lover to come back. After her lover doesn’t show up, she reciprocates his love and of course, it’s his happiest night of his life until…

In his typical austere fashion, Bresson goes on to tell lovers on the bridge at night story. Young actors emoting their heartbreaks here have no equals in cinema, really. The romantic bosa nova provided by Marku Ribas really adds to the achingly beautiful Parisian night atmosphere. You know the heart break's going to come but when it happens, it's still devastating. Ugh!

Monday, August 14, 2023

Synecdoche, Bucharest

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021) - Jude Screen Shot 2023-08-13 at 10.56.35 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-13 at 11.00.11 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-13 at 11.24.05 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-13 at 11.00.40 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-13 at 11.33.25 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-13 at 12.08.55 PM Radu Jude's satire of modern Romania, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is both uproariously funny and biting in its criticism of the former Soviet Block country's checkered history. It starts with an explicit sex scene with a school history teacher, Emi (Patia Pascaríu) and her husband engaging in what appears to be a homemade sextape. Then somehow the whole thing ends up online for everyone to see.

After that, the whole movie is Emi walking around ugly, capitalist modern city of Bucharest, all stressed out for the consequences she has to face. Everything is hilarious, from Pascaíu's performance to Jude's aimless camera, often sidetracked by inanimate objects he pans to - a broken mannequin, a flower growing from the concrete floor, the McDonald sign, the political party posters, etc.

The middle part, titled as 'Collages', playfully goes through all the hypocracies in Romanian political history, vacuous modern culture and sexist stereotypes.

As Emi sits at the table in an impromptu PTA meeting outdoors (because of Covid), she tries to defend her actions as a private matter that somehow got out of hands and into kids' phones. As the meeting continues, the old conspiratorial, ignorant and racist tendencies from the parents reappear to the surface.

I mean, considering what's going on in Florida, what's happening in Bad Luck Banging is very much universal and on point. Jude's Ci(shit)ty Symphony movie of consumerist Bucharest and in-your-face satire exposing the society’s hypocrisy is, along with Triangle of Sadness and Barbie, one of the best comedies I’ve seen in years. Best Wonder Woman movie too where WW assaults everyone in the room with a dildo!

Saturday, August 12, 2023


Les Trois Désastres (2013) - Godard Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 11.57.05 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 11.59.29 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 11.55.04 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 12.07.06 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 12.05.57 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 12.04.56 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 12.04.35 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 12.01.49 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 11.58.34 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 11.58.40 AM Before Goodbye to Language (2014), where Godard embraced 3D as another art form, he participated in 3X3D, omnibus project commissioned by EU. I won’t even mention the other two shorts by other directors because they were terrible. But The Three Disasters, is a continuation of Godard’s contemplation on art and cinema. His wordplays are strong here: des =dice, astres=stars… as if predicting Hollywood’s short romance with the medium (again) as a gamble. “Writing was necessary. Printing was gratification. Digital will be dictatorship.” He drawls in his gravelly voice. He also observes the invention of perspectives in Western art ruined having any depth in content, correlating it to 2D and 3D in cinema. It’s Invigorating 20 minutes as any of his other films.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Nocturnal Activities

Happer's Comet (2022) - Taormina Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 8.52.09 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 8.29.53 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 10.46.15 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 8.24.02 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 10.47.46 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 10.49.09 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 9.11.53 AM Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 9.14.37 AM Tyler Taormina's dialogless film captures the loneliness of American suburbia perfectly. Entirely shot in the devil's hour, we see collages of nocturnal activities of inhabitants of anywhere USA faintly lit by TVs, cell phones and street lamps with soundtracks of insects, distant traffic and rails and music from the radio. The atmosphere is not threatening, rather, it's a comfortable darkness - the one that envelops you like a bath water or warm blanket. It lets personal inhibitions go, it seems, to these people, as they engage in activities such as roller skating/blading without being looked at or judged, and even engage in a cornfield orgies. Happer's Comet would make a great double/triple feature with Chantal Akerman's Toute une nuit and Bas Devos's Ghost Tropic as part of a lovely film series that features films devoted to nighttime.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023


Daïnah la métisse (1932) - Grémillon Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.02.06 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.09.28 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.09.36 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.08.44 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.09.29 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.11.07 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.09.21 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.11.45 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.38.10 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 1.00.40 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 12.59.27 PM Screen Shot 2023-08-09 at 1.02.38 PM A murder and racial/class politics in an ocean liner headed to New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Starring stunning Laurence Clavius as a temptress at sea who yearns to be free. Restored from a nitrate negative by Gaumont Pathé Archives in 2018.