31 May 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 0 Comments Tagged , , , , , , ,

Wednesday BL- “ARGH!” – “Good Men, Good Women”

Good Men, Good Women

Taiwan, 1995

Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

History and national identity have long been present in the films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, but between 1989 and 1995 he made a series of films dealing explicitly with the subject of the past, focusing his camera eye on the nature of recreating history. With A City of Sadness (1989) the intent was simply to present the past, a significant moment in time, as it was. The Puppetmaster (1993) shifts focus toward the methods of representing reality, not just through art but documentary — recollected memory and storytelling. The final film Good Men, Good Women poses new questions: How does one identify with the past? How do our perceptions of the past impact our sense of self and our relationship with the society we live in?

Good Men, Good Women is divided up in several ways. It depicts the modern life of an actress, Liang Ching, preparing for a film about the real life Chiang Bi-Yu, a member of a group of Taiwanese who traveled to the mainland to join the resistance against the Japanese during World War II only to return to the political oppression of post-war Taiwan. Liang simultaneously studies her role while dealing with the unresolved issues of her past. The dual structure of the film isn’t simple parity; the film within the film must be considered on both realist and theatrical terms and the present is both the literal present and the memory of the recent past. The two halves do parallel at certain points but the richness is in the inconsistencies between the two and their sub-divisions and the attempt at reconciling the confusion and guilt of the present with the apparent idealism and purpose of the past.

- Jonas Erickson

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17 May 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 0 Comments Tagged , , , , , ,

Wednesday BL- “ARGH!” – “A Brighter Summer Day”

A Brighter Summer Day

Taiwan, 1991

Directed by Edward Yang

How do you describe A Brighter Summer Day? I honestly don’t know where to begin. Allow me to paraphrase a famous quote – “Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished because this really is the world in four hours.”

How do you create the world in four hours? By recognizing that the past and future are always present, that “the bombs we plant in each other are ticking away,” that objects hold great meaning, that life is fragmented in so many ways, and that the truth is hard-won.

The film: Unfortunately, A Brighter Summer Day is not available for purchase and has never been released on video in the western world. Outside of the occasional repertory screening, these links provide the only means of viewing it: Part I and Part II.

- Jonas Erickson

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23 Apr 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 0 Comments Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Special BL- “ARGH!” – “King of Kings” – Review

King of Kings

USA, 1961, Samuel Bronston Productions/MGM

Directed by Nicholas Ray

In 1961, King of Kings was panned, cynically perceived as commercial sacrilege. Cooler heads have since prevailed and its stature has risen tremendously in the years since, even among Christians. “It’s just a cash in,” they once said. Indeed, the battle scenes, the casting of Barabbas and Judas as revolutionaries, and Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils would support that assumption but King of Kings is much more than that. If it is loose with scripture, so what? The Passion of the Christ (2004) takes the scant number of verses (straightforward and unspecific verses) about the scourging and crucifixion and turns them into the most fetishistically rendered violence in screen history. Samuel Bronston might have been fiscally motivated to make the movie but it can’t help but be elevated by the artists (Nicholas Ray and Philip Yordan – previously paired on the epochal western Johnny Guitar.) Rather than giving us another thoughtless devotional, King of KingsJesus remains a transgressive figure, outside of and irreconcilable with our society past and present.

It’s true that Jesus almost seems like one character among many, a supporting player in his own film, but what’s important is the presence and the idea of a Christ figure. The coolness of Jeffrey Hunter’s performance makes it difficult to simply identify with Jesus. It’s a thin and occasionally uneasy line between the iconic and the tangible; something out of reach yet very real. The key character (but not the central one) is the Roman general Lucius – alienated from Rome, disenchanted with his place, wondering what his purpose is in the hostile territory of Judea. This character witnesses Jesus, finds something in him, but nevertheless isn’t a follower and it is in this that all of the power of the film is collected. Lucius sees a vital, powerful new way, a reordering of society on purer, greater principles, but simply cannot accept it – old allegiances, socio-cultural conflict, commerce, politics, and human nature, in other words the world, forbid it. Christianity in King of Kings is a permanent sub-culture. What I find in the ending isn’t a sense of complete victory, as other Christ films conclude, but simply a group of people abandoned to their work in the world. Far from heralding the great rise of Christendom, the apostles and the gospel seem destined to become lost in the mainstream. The ideas are adapted and the roles are assumed but the revolution is lost.

– Jonas Erickson

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