Monday, May 29, 2006

Evil eye

The plot of the Pang Brothers film The Eye (Gin Gwai) can be summarised as: blind girl sees dead people with someone else's corneas. It is a well-worn theme: transplanted body part has a mind of its own (or its previous owner's). Still, Oxide and Danny Pang marry a superb visual sense with an atmospheric sound track to create chilling apparitions and nightmarish scares. The film is apparently to be Hollywoodised soon, and I can't help thinking that this will probably improve on the shortcomings of the original. This is the ultimate point-of-view movie, but the Pangs cheat: in one jarring scene, they cut away from the heroine's spectral visions to the parents of a dead kid she has been seeing, in order to do a little exposition -- an amateurish lapse. In addition, Angelica Lee as the haunted Wong Kar Mun is an entirely passive participant, required merely to react with her very expressive eyes. Dialogue is lame in parts and the casting leaves much to be desired: her shrink looks about 12, and is presumably a Hong Kong heartthrob. Other characters are mostly cardboard, although the actual spooks are hairraisingly good. The film's big money payoff is the explosion of a toppled petrol tanker in traffic, toasting everyone except our heroine (and shrink/boyfriend), who sees the souls marching off and runs up and down trying improbably to get everyone to flee the scene. Kept me watching and is always visually arresting: action often happening almost off-screen, hinting at much worse things hidden. And the editing is rapidfire, suggestions of enormity built by quick cuts from, for example, bare feet hovering inches above the floor, a ghastly mirror reflection, a wheelchair grinding down a strobing corridor ... some of the tingling intensity of this stuff reminded me of David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

This was also the week I settled down to watch the recommended Life on Mars, and it has been extremely enjoyable. The writers freely admit they wanted to bring back The Sweeney and the period, mid-to-late 70s, is evoked in loving detail. Where did they find all those grimy, slimy bleak alleys and rotting buildings? John Simm is very fine as the time-travelling/comatose 21st-century copper plunged into a policing culture unclouded by issues of suspect's rights or moral minefields, and, of course, no familiarity with CSI as we know it. Simm's sparring partner, DCI Gene Hunt, is a great turn by the splendidly gritty Philip Glenister, but the character is stereotyped. John Thaw's Chief Inspector Reagan lit up the screen. Perhaps Hunt will be better fleshed out before the end of the eight episodes (I have two to go).

The director apparently wanted to summon the hard-faced look of Get Carter, but Mike Hodges has nothing to worry about. I like the look of Life on Mars, but it doesn't abrade me or prepare me to flinch.

Still and all, this is good TV, I have enjoyed it and am looking forward to the last two eps.

Other recent viewing: Mission: Impossible III, a welter of CGI action linked by a McGuffin and little else. Tom Cruise is really past his sell-by date. He is starting to grate on me.

The Squid and the Whale
, which has been acclaimed as a deeply emotional experience, is a cold film (which suits the material), and seems to end at a random point. Good character work by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney as divorcing parents, and Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline are even better as their conflicted sons. Absorbing, but there's no must-see here.

Finally, at Forbidden Planet during my London jaunt, I picked up a no-budget indie SF movie called Primer, written and directed by Shane Carruth, a geeky genius (who also plays one of the two leads). Two keen garage inventors come up accidentally with a time travel device while working on superconductors -- and then find themselves "way over their heads" as things get very complicated, with scenes repeated but modified by changes wrought in the future. The dialogue is rapid and not well-recorded (as the director admits), making all this difficult to follow, but what makes it watchable is the way mundane reality presents huge moral dilemmas to those who can influence it. I am going to give it a second spin. Archeology of the Future, this one's for you.


Blogger Wyndham said...

Surely, as an example of transplant-with-a-mind-of-its-own movies,The Eye can't be better than The Hand, Oliver Stone's first directing job I believe, and one of the finest movies from Michael Caine's infamous tin period.

11:24 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

Indeed, Wyndham, I well recall The Hand (but not Ollie's moniker on it) and The Eye is obviously co-ordinated therewith. Sorry ... I also seem to recall a heart transplant that turned the main character into a killer and I'm sure there must be others. The Eye is a visual treat though. Hard to avoid the pun really.

8:38 PM  

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