Saturday, September 11, 2004

the passionless christ

so... i watched, or rather half-watched because i ended up fast forwarding through most of it, 'the passion of the christ.'

where to start to tell you what's wrong with it? hmm... i just don't know. well, maybe i'll tell you the only thing i did like about it: hearing the languages. even though two of them are dead, so there's no way to know how they really sounded, and the third i'm sure has changed in sound over the millions of years it's been spoken. so they weren't accurate, but as a Ph.D. in english who herself knows a few dead languages, i really liked that part...

but the rest of it... not so good. in fact, really shitty. first off, you know the story if you'ver ever been made to sit in front of the telly watching those ol' biblical epics. or been driven to church and sort-of paid attention. or again, if you have a Ph.D. in english with a concentration in medieval english lit, including drama. 99% of plays put on then were biblical in nature, you see. mostly they revolved around corpus christi, when they would put on what are now called 'cycle plays'. here, you went from station to station watching a different play based on biblical dogma, but with british influences, settings, humour, etc. for example, one play is the noah play, and in one version (the wakefield) noah's wife is a nagging bitch. the bulk of them dealt with jesus and his last day on earth, so you got the different stages of the passion. in a way, i liked the film because some of the scenes really seemed to be influenced by these plays, especially the more realistic york cycle. in one of these plays, jesus is realistically nailed to the cross, and the workers talk about tearing the sinews and watching the blood pour out as they each take a turn hammering in a nail. so the goriness of the play didn't astonish me (esp since the world made such a big stink about it). although i doubt, sincerely, that good ol' mel went back and read the cycle plays...

now while the excessiveness of blood didn't astonish me, and while i usually, as you all probably know by now, adore violence and gore in my films, here it was just excessive to the point of patent inanity. granted, it could be true (if any of the jesus stories are true) that he was beaten to a pulp, and i have no doubt that that's the way it was, but come on, we get it already, mel. plus, mel was trying far too hard to make it stylized violence, with funky camera angles and slo-mo. was he taking a page from a hong kong action film? who knows. but if he was, his film lacked the humour that goes along with the gore, and thus it was just too much. i mean, as i said, it didn't really bother me, but i could see how some reverent folk might be shaken up. i mean, this was supposed to be a tribute to christ, not some psuedo-artsy-fartsy trip down crucifixion lane!

another problem with the film is, as i slightly mentioned above, all the tricky camera angles and shots and effects. they made me laugh, roll my eyes, or just scream, 'oh god, not another shot of the ominous sky!' one scene just really cracked me up... judas, who was going mad with guilt over selling jesus to the high priests, was sitting against a tree. these two kids come up to him and start taunting him mercilessly. all of a sudden, mel cuts backs and forth from the kids to judas, and sometimes they've turned into hideously deformed kids, complete with only one eye on one of the boys and grimacy faces on the other. it reminded me of a cheesy halloween film or something.

and as i said, all the slo-mo, focus on the dropping rain shots showed up, which are really nice in a film like 'hero' where they enhance the beauty of the film, but here they just seemed like gimmicks to make the audience suffer with christ. and oh boy did i suffer!!! through all the hokiness!

also, the pacing was a little too slow for me, and again i know that's because of the aforementioned attempt by gibson to make the audience feel jesus' pain. but to me, it was just boring. that's why i ended up watching it at 5 and 20 times the speed after a while.

then came the end, which i won't tell you about in case you actually end up watching this film. oh boy! it's a whopper, effects-wise!

so i guess if you want to suffer through a bad film, do so with christ and watch 'the passion...'

by the way, i have been so absent these days as i am very busy with school. acupuncture college requires a lot from you! but i love it! i'll try to write more. one reason i haven't blogged is that i've not seen a film worthy of my attention and care. but once i get into a routine, i'll be able to blog more about whatever... i am reading the 'tale of genji' now, and while it may take me months to finish (it's about 1200 pages of very small typeface) i will LOVE to talk about that when i'm done....


Saturday, September 04, 2004


so yesterday gretchen and i went to see 'hero' after class. oh what a film!
i rather knew what to expect, effects and action-wise, because back when i taught at UCR, one of my students gave me a copy of the film on VCD, but it has no subtitles. so i've watched it many times without knowing anything about the plot.

but seeing it on the big screen just blew me away. oh the cinematography is brilliant! even better, maybe (not quite sure yet!) than that of 'crouching tiger...' (and if you've been keeping up with my blog, you know i love that film and have a chapter in a book about it)...

actually, the film is very similar, martial-arts wise, to 'crouching...'. once again we see the characters with the ability to fly, something my brother (and many others) just couldn't tolerate. and yet, according to chinese thought (remember, i am learning chinese theory right now) and Ang Lee (director of 'crouching...'), this ability is called “vulge” kung fu, enabled by an “enlightened body” which “weighs less” than that of fighters with unenlightened souls. so it's not a fantastical device, but rather one based on taoism. still, i admit, you have to suspend your disbelief for that if you aren't as enlightened as the fighters are.

and once again we see plethoras of arrows coming at people, reminiscent of the great 'ran' by akria kurosawa (this is one of the best films of all times. if you've never seen it, DO!). but this one takes it a little further, putting viewers into the flight of the arrows and making us feel that flight. also we see water droplets as slo-mo comes in and we see the arrows split the water... well, ok, this gets a little cheesy. way too over the top. but it's still impressive to see. a lot of slo mo takes place, sometimes i think a little too much. but that to me seems to be its only flaw.

the scenery... god, 'tis breathtaking. the colours of sunsets are even more bold and have an even more impressive 'painted' feelings than the sunsets i see here in abq (which has amazing sunsets). the settings are so important, that as with 'crounching,' they almost become a character themselves.

the plot contains twists and turns i don't want to give away, but i will tell you that the main gist is that nameless, played by jet li, wants to kill the evil emperor of the qin province of what will become china one day. the emperor is apparently a warmongering tyrant who will stop at nothing in his quest to acquire all of the surrounding states. other critics have claimed that the plot is akin to that of kurosawa's 'roshomon' (another must see!) but i don't get that, as 'roshomon' gives 4 versions of one story while this film builds off each telling... and it is clear which version is correct...

maggie cheung as flying snow is simply exquisite in this film, as is zhang ziyi, who shows up as moon, servant to broken arrow (coma brain. i forget the actor's name right now!). broken arrow, meanwhile, plays his character with perfection. and jet li puts in the performance of his life as nameless. forget the drek you might have seen him in in american productions. here he is back in his element, and he proves why he is such an international star.

in all, i would say that if you liked 'crouching tiger' or never saw it, you should check out 'hero' because, while it wasn't, to me, as solid as the former, it was intriguing and intense and immaculate. if you hated 'crouching,' well... this is more of the same stuff so stay away....

happily, now i can watch my VCD knowing what's going on! it won't be as intense as the theatrical showing is, but hey... at least i own a copy.