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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 9:21 pm    Post subject: Cannes, door to the Pacific

Cannes, door to the Pacific
By A.O. Scott (NYT)
Saturday, May 22, 2004

CANNES, France: It has become something of a cliché to preface any mention of Wong Kar-Wai's "2046" with the words "long awaited." Four years have passed since "In the Mood for Love," with its elliptical story and fabulous clothes, set the critics swooning at the 53rd Cannes International Film Festival. Wong's new film was expected at this festival last spring, and in Venice last summer. It was not ready for either of those events.

And on Thursday the audience at the 57th Cannes festival, had to wait a bit longer. The press screening took place simultaneously with the gala public showing on Thursday evening, rather than on Thursday morning as had been planned, because the print was not ready before.

Why the delay? Some people impishly suggested that the director, who has been known to reshoot and recut his films until the last possible minute (and beyond), was still on location or in an editing room somewhere.

What we finally witnessed was, well, a Wong Kar-Wai movie, full of lush, melancholy sensuality and swathed in light as lustrous and supple as the Shantung dresses all the actresses seem to wear. The title refers both to a hotel room in Hong Kong in the late 1960s and a high-speed train racing through the future, and one of the film's themes (aptly enough, given the drama surrounding its arrival) is time. The characters are always falling in and out of love too soon or too late, and the chronology glides forward and backward.

Like other work from this director, "2046" teases the boundary of incomprehensibility. It is a series of moods, nuances and gorgeous moments - seductions, couplings, tearful partings - with the usual connective tissue left out, or implied in title cards and voice-overs.

Whether or not "2046" takes the Palme d'Or, its scene-stealing provided a fitting climax to this year's festival. The dominant personalities - Michael Moore and Quentin Tarantino - may have been American, but Asia was the continent most heavily represented in competition, with six of the 19 entries. In addition to "2046," from Hong Kong, there were two each from South Korea and Japan and one from Thailand.

The other programs were also full of Asian films, ranging from the quiet, well-received "Passages" by the first-time Chinese director Yao Chang to the lavish, crowd-pleasing "House of Flying Daggers" by the Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou. There were, among other offerings, a smattering of Hong Kong action spectacles, a science-fiction anime feature from Japan ("Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence," in the main competition) and a Korean War picture ("Sword in the Moon").

The Cannes festival has become one of the premier Western showcases of Asian cinema, a development that reflects both the tastes of the programmers and the state of global film culture in the first decade of the 21st century.

What Europe was 30 years ago, Asia is today: a continent with at least a half-dozen artistically and commercially thriving national cinemas producing work in a dizzying variety of styles and genres, from challenging festival fare to populist blockbusters. Their influence is felt around the world, in the high-flying martial-arts wire work that has lately become a Hollywood cliché and, more interestingly, in the delicate urban anomie that permeates Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation."

At the moment, the biggest boom may be in South Korea, one of the few countries outside the United States where domestic productions dominate the box office. One of last year's biggest local hits, Park Chan Wook's "Oldboy," an ultra-violent revenge noir, is in competition. Alongside it is Hong Sangsoo's "Woman Is the Future of Man," a low-key, sexually frank study in disconnection and romantic frustration.

Their presence in Cannes is further evidence that both large-scale commercial filmmaking and art house cinema are thriving in Korea.

Meanwhile, it is hard to imagine a filmmaker more idiosyncratic than Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai director whose second feature, "Tropical Malady," is the great curiosity of this festival. It is a movie that reveals a great deal about the taste of its viewers. For every person you meet who fell into deep slumber before the end of the first hour, you find another who was utterly hypnotized by its languid rhythms and its haunting lyricism.

And then you move on, tripping from the shiny android future of "Innocence" to the sumptuous ninth-century pageantry of "House of Flying Daggers," from high-rise loneliness to rural poverty, all without leaving either Southern France or East Asia. By 2046 - the year of the 99th Cannes International Film Festival, not the movie that tantalized the 57th - rather than remarking on the vitality of Asian cinema, people may be wondering if interesting movies are still being made anywhere else.

The New York Times
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Tony Grrl

Joined: 25 Feb 2003
Posts: 1431
Location: Scotland UK

PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2004 1:01 am    Post subject:

I am so pleased to see so many Asian films getting into Cannes! Very Happy

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