TIFF Thoughts: Disappointments and Discoveries

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I don’t normally take the time to write movie reviews, partly because I watch a lot of movies, but also because I’m not too sure if anybody actually cares about the obscure films I sometimes like to watch. BUT it’s TIFF season (complete with clogged King Street, a myriad of parties, and annoying paparazzis), so I thought I’d share a disappointment and a discovery.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way quickly: Zhang Ziyi’s latest film, an adaptation of Leclos’ classic Dangerous Liaisons by Hur Jin-ho, is, well, terrible. From the writing, to the directing and the acting, nothing was quite there. But the most disappointing was definitely the cinematography, that featured way too many half-dutch shots, flatly lit scenes and, to my great surprise, an astonishing number of out-of-focus close-ups, something you wouldn’t expect from a production this scale…

But let’s not dwell. Enough to say that I do not recommend this film!

On the positive side, I had the opportunity to attend the screening of Chen Kaige’s Caught in the Web at the  Visa Screening Room at the Elgin Winter Gardens. The film was absolutely inspiring, one of those pieces that makes you think, makes you laugh, and makes you (okay, me…) tear up. While it had a few forced moments, overall the film saw the actors deliver great performances, especially Yuanyuan Gao, who was equal parts stoic, beautiful and fragile as the woman ‘caught in the web’. One of the more unique elements of this film is its restraint (there are some sublime moments of un-consumed love, deep sadness). This dramatic thriller, for lack of a better description, while not a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat flick, successfully alternates moments of great narrative tension with others, more emotionally subdued. In some way, it feels like a younger, more innocent little brother of Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover, another beautiful – though much, much more violent – movie about the web.

Find the synopsis and trailer below. Take my word: it is worth seeing!

Ye Lanqiu (Gao Yuanyuan) is a beautiful and successful young woman who, as the film opens, is diagnosed with an advanced lymphatic cancer that requires immediate treatment. Numb with shock, Lanqiu sits on a crowded city bus, hiding behind large sunglasses and completely oblivious to what is happening around her, not even registering the conductor’s persistent request that she give up her seat for an elderly pensioner. This moment of perceived incivility is recorded on a mobile phone by an assistant to journalist Chen Ruoxi (Yao Chen), and the zealous reporter quickly decides to go viral with the video, flooding the web with the footage of the callous “Sunglass Girl.” The video triggers a massive internet hate-mail campaign against the already stricken Lanqiu, and heralds even more catastrophes in both her personal and professional life. But fate is not yet finished with Lanqiu, and the chaotic course she has been unjustly set upon will, through a chain of bizarre coincidences, bring her face to face with the very person who made her a public pariah.

In an odd conclusion to this blog post, I just want to end this quick blurb by mentioning and thanking two of my former Concordia teachers, who have shown me great films and, generally, inspired to talk about and make films – Louis Goyette and Peter Rist. Thanks!

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