Tuesday, July 19, 2005


This film started out as one of three shorts in an Asian director anthology called Three Extremes. Fruit Chan's short film stood along side artistic genre-mashers Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) and Chan-wook Park (JSA, Oldboy). It being the best of the three, Chan made it into a feature film, and brought along superstar cinematographer Chris Doyle (Hero, In the Mood for Love) for the ride. The result is a visually stunning take on the age-old quest for eternal youth, paired with the twin sins of envy and vanity.
A woman is losing the attentions of her rich husband and seeks a solution from another woman whose dumplings are said to be 'therapeutic.' With unnatural youth of course comes a price, nothing so blasé as damnation, but more a look into the mirror of ones own lack of character for going to these lengths for personal ego and conceit.
The movie takes a fascinating look at Chinese myths of miracle potions and the odd little delicacies consumed to increase virility. But there is more to it than that. A woman's connection to her self-image and it being tied to self-worth are contrasted against a variety of maternal instincts (creating) and human desires (consuming).
As mentioned above, the original anthology was titled Three Extremes, and for good reason. There is some disturbing imagery here. You may never eat a Chinese dumpling again after watching this film. It dwells deep in the dark and primal depths of human need, its rich visual palette lulling a false sense of security when the movie pounces with well timed intense imagery. The film is not for the faint of heart, but at the same time, to write it off as pure genre is a mistake as well. Dumplings is edgy piece of entertainment with an eye for colour, and a mind for delicate subtext with I assure you, will never see an american remake.

Come out at 8:15pm for Dumpl...well maybe not...perhaps a glass of white wine. Showtime at 8:30pm.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I've been a fan of the French director Jean Pierre Jeunet since he made the quirky and fun post-apocalyptic gallery of the grotesque: Delicatessen. In that film, there is a section of pure audio-visual bliss as the residents of a small boarding go about their daily tasks in a perfectly balanced and unified rhythm. He followed up this with the dark and equally quirky children's fairy tale City of Lost Children with an imagination which recalls Terry Gilliam at his best. A stab at Hollywood franchise filmmaking yielded the dreadful Alien: Resurrection (easily the worst of the four films). Still, it brought Jeunet back to his French roots and he turned out the visually stunning (if a bit sugary) ode to the romantic in a stylized Paris, Amelie.
Now, at the top of his game, he has made a fabulous piece of pure entertainment, set in the first World War, featuring his signature visuals, and a leading lady who he made a star with Amelie.
Borrowing a page from Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, the film starts with desperate men in the trenches looking for a way out. One intentionally gets his finger shot off in the hopes that this will allow him away from hell on earth because of a minor injury. Caught and sentenced, these men are sent out into no-man's land to die for their crime of cowardice.
Meanwhile, the fiance of one of the men is waiting for him back in the French countryside. When he never returns, even several years after the war, she sets off to find him herself. What follows is a journey which is one of the most lavishly produced films in modern European cinema. The movie manages the challenging balancing act of combining Jeunet's whimsical style with the horrors of the first great war, and the romantic masochism of unfulfilled true love.

Come out at 8:00pm for drinks and an 8:30pm showtime.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


NOTE SPECIAL SCREENING TIME: 7:15pm (the runtime is just shy of 3 hours)

Sergio Leone's Masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West is hailed by many as one of the best westerns ever made. I would venture to go one further and put as one of the best films ever made.
First, it is an iconic American story, epic in scope: The principle story arc follows the Railroad as it inches through the frontier, one of the quintessential American mythologies. The secondary story is that of revenge, another american cinema staple. Second it is European: Shot in Spain, filmed, written by Italians (Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento) and starring the sultry Italian beauty, Claudia Cardinale. Third, it is pulpy: The haunting musical score, coupled with the many showdowns and a stylized placement of principle characters in the frame, often up close with endless plains in the background. Fourth, there is depth to the stories and characters: Once Upon a Time in the West is a step forward for Leone from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in which the three main characters are more ideal forms than the messy lives inhabited by the many characters on display here. Lastly, it is not afraid to mix it up: Leone casts Henry Fonda, known for his honest and upright portaits of american wholesomeness (The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men), and lets him portray one mean and nasty piece of thuggery.

Enough of what makes this movie great. If you haven't seen this, or haven't seen it on a large screen, come out TONITE AT 7:15 (7:00 for home-made pizza and a cold libation) and take in this glorious piece of cinema, which many have borrowed the title to impart a sense of the epic (Once Upon a Time in China, Once upon a Time in Mexico, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, Once Upon a Time in India), but nobody has even tried to top Leone's masterpiece.