Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WFFBKK 2010: Capsule reviews part 2

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner – Female empowerment is the common thread running through Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, a trio of short films by three Asian female directors. A reference to Pakistan's slain former prime minister Benizir Bhutto is made in each short. China's Wang Jing starts things off with bowls of wonton soup in Nanjing, where a young man meets his girlfriend one fine morning. They have to kill time to wait for his roommate to leave so he can take his girlfriend back to his room. So they grab breakfast and then take a walk in a park. A pushy tour-bus driver adds a bit of humor to this segment. The middle segment, Lunch, is directed by Mundane History helmer Anocha Suwichakornpong. It's about two Bangkok schoolkids who eat noodles, ditch their afternoon classes and hang out in Lumpini Park. This segment is kept light for the most part, but ends a bit sad and ambiguous. Dinner by Kaz Cai is in Singapore, where an elderly woman thinks back to her days as a young nurse. Meanwhile, a young ex-convict has started work in a bakery and finds himself struggling to gain a co-worker's trust. Dinner breaks from the structure of the first two segments in that it takes place over several nights, instead of just one sitting. The project, produced by Bee Pin Tay of Wormwood Films of Singapore, has been in the works for a few years. Anocha had her Lunch ready even before Mundane History, and other directors for segments from Malaysia and Singapore were attached. But now it's ready and it shows there's real potential for more pan-Asian projects like this. Yasmin Lee Arpon has more about Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner in The Nation. (4/5)

Short Wave Programme 2 – Japan-based Thai filmmaker Kong Pahurak's quirky and darkly humorous Shinda Gaijin was part of this wildly varied mixed bag of shorts. The story's about a young Japanese woman who comes home from work night after night to find the same dead white guy in her apartment's bathtub. Each night, she is given mysterious and innovative ways of disposing of the body. (4/5)

SEA Shorts – Indonesian director Yosep Anggi Noen's It's Not Raining Outside is an entertaining comedy about a pair of furniture-store employees who stop for a tryst at a hotel while they are delivering a sofa. Rather than leave the sofa out on their truck, they decide to move it into the hotel, with wryly humorous results. A karaoke-singing clerk adds to the fun. Found, by Canada-based filmmaker Paramita Nath is the story of Toronto poet Souvankham Thammavongsa. It uses an old scrapbook that was almost thrown out to retrace Souvankham's path from war-torn Laos and a Thai refugee camp to Canada. Cages, shot in Hanoi by Keith Halstead, is quite nice. A man is talking about his collection of caged birds, but it's easy to see there's something else he's really talking about. Love Me Love My Dog by Wasunan Hutawach is just plain cute, even when the show-stealing Jack Russell terrier puppy is pooping on the floor. One Day in June is a poetic Singaporean short from Daniel Hui while Mickey, Wesley Leon Aroozoo's study of rats in a maze, goes nuts with experimentation and 1960s Star Trek visual effects. Do Not Look by Pam Miras has children confronting violence in the Philippines. The Boy by Mark Tan is another quintessentially Singaporean look at existence. All That Remains by Wichanon Somumjarn mixes childhood memories and a long motorcycle ride. And finally, there's After the Wind, Tulapop Sanjaroen's hypnotic look at a pair of twin sisters, one of whom leaving Thailand to study overseas. Strong performances. (4/5)

The Night Infinite (Di Natatapos Ang Gab) – Vincent Roman is a corrupt cop who's part of a squad of judge-jury-executioner killers. He goes down a dark, weird path after he strangles a woman named Nympha (Mercedes Cabral) and tries to pin the death on Nympha's lesbian partner Maria. There were parts of this movie I liked a lot. Like the beautifully framed monochrome opening shot, on a mountaintop, where Vincent executes three men. It's so beautiful, director Ato Bautista repeats it throughout The Night Infinite. Another great scene is where Vincent is chasing Maria, in slow motion, through the streets. Romantic music is playing, as if they were lovers running toward one another. Eventually Vincent decides he wants to help Maria, and he wakes up injured with Maria taking care of him, only she says she's not Maria. This was a world premiere for this film-noir drama. (4/5)

High-Rise – First-time-feature director Gabriel Mascaro somehow obtained a book that lists all of Rio de Janeiro's richest people, and used it to track down the all the owners of the city's penthouse apartments. The existence of such a book is curious, as it would seem to be a would-be kidnapper's goldmine. So I guess it's understandable that out of the 120 or so security-conscious penthouse owners, only nine agreed to be interviewed for Mascaro's documentary. He got in by introducing himself in a letter, in which he said he's a "famous director". A little fib. But now he's famous. And so are these pompous, out-of-touch rich folks who talk about how great life is now that they don't have to rub shoulders with the commoners who walk on the ground. Shots of ordinary Brazilians and construction sites serve as counterpoint to the interviews, which had the audience rolling with laughter. (4/5)

Red Dragonflies – Liao Jiekai directs this sort-of Stand By Me childhood drama, done in existentialist Singaporean indie filmmaking style. It's the story of an artist named Rachel, who's back in Singapore for an art exhibition. She reconnects with a guy she was friends with during her high-school years. There's then flashbacks to a hike she and her friend and another guy took, along an abandoned railway track that goes deep into a jungle and ends with a mysterious tragedy. Or does it? Along with a lament about childhood and lost friendships and missed opportunities, Red Dragonflies also documents a slower-paced, wild Singapore of the past that is fast being swallowed up by concrete and development. You can find out more about Red Dragonflies at the 13 Little Pictures blog. (4/5)

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