Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Adam's Apples is one of the most wicked and funny films I've seen in a while. It is on one hand a meditation on faith, belief and the struggle of good against evil. But on the other hand, it is a vulgar faerie tale featuring a rogue's gallery of unlikable characters that somehow (and believe me, against all odds) become endearing by the films end. Bear with me when I say it is a mix of A Fish Called Wanda, Pulp Fiction and The Seventh Seal, but set in a quaint church in the sunny Danish countryside.

The story opens with Adam getting off a bus in the middle of nowhere. By his tattoos, thuggish build and shaved head is immediately identified as your stereotypical neo-Nazi. He casually pulls his knife from his pocket and carves into the paint of the bus as it pulls away. Enter Ivan, who is neatly dressed and sports a cropped beard. He is the local minister who cares for former inmates during the transitional time between prison and freedom. Adam is a tough, take no sh1t kinda guy, and Ivan bugs him, well, just by being there to pick him up. Ivan refuses to see any evil in the world, and sets the gold-standard for turning the-other-cheek.

It is my understanding that naiv is the Danish word for naive, which is an anagram for Ivan. Adam all but spits on him, yet Ivan remains cheerful that their time together will be productive. So cheerful, that there is an immediate suspicion that something just is not right with Ivan. Take for example, when he shows Adam the churches prized apple tree. Adam jokingly comments that he'd like to back a cake with all the apples. Ivan thinks it is a great idea, and makes Adam's reform task to bake an apple cake. Either because Ivan annoys him, or is just completely unfathomable, Adam decides his 'task' will be to break the priests cheery faith on top of the baking. Along for the ride are the local residents of church (a ironically dysfunctional Eden of sorts). An alcoholic ex-tennis player with kleptomaniac tendencies, a Saudi stick-up man who robs gas stations on the grounds of politics, a gallows-humoured doctor with a penchant for gossip and outrageous story-telling and a homeless pregnant woman who also has a love of the drink and loose morals (but is an occasional WWF activist for endangered Indonesian tigers), make for a decidedly politically incorrect ensemble.

While sounding heavy-handed (as my poor prose would suggest), the screenplay is a marvel at putting assumptions and expectations into the blender and hitting frappe. It is a pop-cinema riff on the Book of Job which can turn from satirical humour to violent tragedy on a dime. Wunderkind screenwriter/director, Anders Thomas Jensen has a sharp sense of how to bubble up a message of spirituality over the course of the film which climbs out of the morass of murders of crows, lightning-bolts from heaven, miniature plagues and casual shootings. Adam's Apples boasts a superb collection of Danish ready-for-prime-time players: Always brilliant Mads Mikkelsen (who just scored himself the role of Bond villain in the up coming Casino Royale), Ulrich Thomsen, Ole Thestrup and Nikolaj Lie Kaas (the star of Reconstruction (KBT #39) who seems, from the deleted scenes, to have landed unfortunately on the cutting room floor), Nicolas Bro, Paprika Steen and the more-fun-than-the-Muhammad-Cartoons timebomb of Ali Kazim.

In a just world, this film deserves to achieve not only cult-comedy status, but also be the basis of a bible-study for a forward thinking church or two.

Drinks at 8:15. Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


“It has to be pretty, everything should be pretty” The kind lady Geum-Ja wistfully intones this phrase to the machinist who is going to build her an exotic gun.

After being sent off to prison for the kidnapping and subsequent murder of an 8 year old boy, young teenager Geum-Ja quickly loses her naïveté as she adjusts to prison life. She flirts with Christianity, and offers charity to many of the inmates she shares a cell with. She is very helpful and constructive in prison, and does a lot of favours for a lot of the inmates (the film nicely digresses to fill in several portraits of Korean women in prison and how they got there). No one has committed a crime as heinous as Geum-Ja though, and she goes exceedingly out of her way to atone for her crimes, to the point of giving inspirational lectures to the other inmates on finding her spirituality.

But the story is not so simple. Geum-Ja has left a daughter behind herself. She took the fall completely (although she is not innocent herself) for her accomplice who was the more vicious half of the kidnapping duo to prevent him for killing her daughter. Now she has missed out on many years of her daughters life, who we learn was quickly put up for adoption in Australia after Geum-Ja was jailed (to the point where the girl didn’t learn Korean, only English).

Geum-Ja has a plan, which she puts into motion. First, her form of atonement to the parents of the dead boy is filled with a shocking image and some pert irony. But then, it is a plan of simple revenge; that is until she discovers something horrific and tragic. This prompts a change in plans to something far more elaborate and diabolical an aim to achieve some kind of catharsis.

Director Chan-wook Park continues his sometimes poetic, sometimes down and dirty, but always gorgeously cinematic look at the effects of violence on 'normal' people in cruel and unjust urban landscapes. (Park has been referred to as an asian Quentin Tarantino with much, much more substance). If Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first part of his thematically linked trilogy of vengeance, was about a silent failure of communication and Oldboy (presented as KBT#7) was about disconnection, Chinjeolhan geumjassi is about something wholly appropriate for the closing chapter of such a surreally violent trilogy: Atonement.

The film is achingly beautiful and laced with dark humour. It captures a diverse and increasingly macabre collection of tiny rituals, many of them involving food. One fascinating sequence involves an invested group of people folding a bloody sheet of plastic like a flag at a military funeral. Another surreally violent scene shows Geum-Ja building the nerve to act on something just, but destroying something innocent. It stretches any sympathy you may have for her while adding layer upon layer of complexity for both her character and her situation.

Yeong-ae Lee is magnificently up to the task of portraying such a complex character who goes through so many transitions but intentionally maintains a distances from both the other characters in the movie, as well as the audience. Geum-Ja Lee is the harbinger for moving on, although it is clear she never will be able to. The relationship between Geum-Ja and her daughter has only a small amount of screen-time, but it is crucial to the story working, and is told with a bittersweet combination of hope and tragedy. The 13 years, which were lost for Geum-Ja, have such far-reaching consequences. Prison and planning have made her a strong-willed, confident, competent and capable woman, a far cry from the victimized wallflower she was as a late teenager.

With its delicate, but baroque score, beautiful imagery (from a pristine plate of tofu to the barren Australian outback) Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is haunting, cathartic, and above all, pretty.

If you have not been to a KBT for some time, this is the film to return to! (I assure you that seeing the other two parts are not necessary, each film in this trilogy is fully stand-alone.) Drinks at 8:15. Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Welcome to the St. Valentine's Day edition of KBT. And what better way to celebrate the western worlds 'day of love' than watching a young Thai martial artist travel to Australia to break bad guys in half in a quest to rescue his beloved elephant? So isn't that what we're all asking in our own lives -- 'where's my elephant?' I know that's what I've been asking.

Tom Yum Goong is the second film from director Prachya Pinkaew featuring world-wide action sensation Tony Jaa. KBT has screened Pinkaew's Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (KBT#16) and the stunt co-ordinator's side project, Born to Fight (KBT#28), which did not feature Jaa but was a hilarious tribute to bad Chuck Norris films of the 1980s. With the success of Ong-bak around the world, this time around the budget is much bigger and the look of the film is more polished, but from the sounds of things the script is not much better. But really, is anyone watching this sort of film looking for realistic drama? I cannot comment much further, as I am more or less screening Tom Yum Goong sight unseen (other than a couple glances to make sure the movie and subtitles worked on the projector set-up). I do know that the action scenes are plentiful and said to be a step up from Ong-bak, and that is enough to sell me on the issue: Lots of glass, flames in the background during Tekken-esque fight scenarios and a smack-down with Australian strongman and all around colossus Nathan Jones. And Elephants.

Yes, St. Valentines Day needs fewer greeting cards and more Elephants.

Come out at Tuesday February 14th at 8pm for a Vernors & Gibson's Finest. Trailers and showtime at 8:30pm.