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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cinematheque: A classic French filmmaker´s latest movie - Alain Resnais is still going strong (and other film news)

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In 2008, at the age of 86, Alain Resnais, one of the most prominent filmmakers in French film history, once again got behind the camera. The result was Les Herbes Folles (Wild Grass), which earned him a lifetime achievement award in Cannes, as well as a nomination for the Palme d´Or (The Golden Palm). This upcoming Friday you have a chance to enjoy the romantic drama at Alliance Française!

Alain Resnais started his career in the mid 40s and has since then made a long list of classics, of which Nuit et brouillard (Night and fog, 1955), Hiroshima mon amour (Hiroshima my love, 1959) and L’année dernière à Marienbad (Last year at Marienbad, 1961) are considered his masterpieces. These three pictures gained him a reputation as one of the French New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague) directors - the group of critics-turned-filmmakers that included François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard among others. Resnais, however, didn't really consider himself as part of the movement.

French New Wave or not, Resnais did belong to the filmmaking and literary community of La Rive Gauche (The Left Bank) in Paris, including Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy and other filmmakers, authors and artists. His films range from abstract and inaccessible to more easily digested mainstream pictures.

Cinematheque´s movie of choice for this week, "Les herbes folles", is based on the novel "L`Incident" by Christian Gailly, and it marks the first time that Resnais has taken a novel as the basis of a film. The director put together a cast that included his usual collaborators Sabine Azéma and André Dussollier who are making their ninth and seventh feature with Resnais respectively. The plot goes like this:
Marguerite (Sabine Azéma) had not expected that her handbag would be stolen out of the shop. Even less than the thief would throw the contents in a parking lot. As for George (André Dussolier) if he could suspect the reaction of this woman, he would perhaps not bend down to pick it up ... This is the beginning of a little game of cat and mouse between these two lonely people and a indescribable love story...

To explain the title and characters of the movie, Resnais said, as quoted in The Village Voice:
I have the impression that these are two people who have no reason to meet, no reason to love each other. In French, 'les herbes folles' means a plant that grows in a place where it has no hope of developing - in a crack in a wall, or a ceiling. I wanted to say that I consider these two characters to be completely deprived of reason. - - - But aren't we all?

The film includes several references to cinema, and for one specific sequence, Jacques Saulnier constructed a set of a street scene in where the viewers eyes are drawn to an old style local cinema theatre. Making film references and sneaking in items, scenes or conversations that revealed the director´s love for cinema was a popular habit among the auteurs of the French New Wave - so there we have at least one approach that connects Resnais to the group.

The screening on Friday will be followed by a discussion with Liu Wei, animator and producer for radio, and Thierry Berthommier, professor at Alliance Française. For info on where and when to cinematify and frenchify yourself, go to Alliance Française´s website. Don´t ezitate, be zere!

Check out what other movies are showing in Shanghai this coming week. Links lead to info about times and venues.

The Public Enemy: SubCinema screening at Dada, Tuesday the 25th: "The Public Enemy" is a 1931 American crime film starring James Cagney and directed by William A. Wellman. The movie relates the story of a young man's rise in the criminal underworld in prohibition-era urban America. The supporting players include Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell, Beryl Mercer, Donald Cook, and Mae Clarke. The film, which was based on the novel Beer and Blood by John Bright, launched Cagney to stardom. Plot description: A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war.
Tuya's Marriage: Free screening at Vienna Café on Thursday the 27th: This 2006 Chinese film took home a Golden Bear at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, the highest prize to be awarded. It tells the story of Tuya, a nomadic herder living in Inner Mongolia, who divorces her disabled husband in the hope of finding an able-bodied man can take care of not only herself and her children but her former husband as well. In Chinese with English subtitles.
Action Cinema at Cinemayhem: Orang3 and Independent Media join hands once again to bring you "Cinemayhem!" On Friday, May 28th, join in for a celebration of action cinema with the debut screening of locally produced kungfu short film @ Orang3, with live martial arts demonstrations to dazzle you with those lighting moves. To top it off, the tribute to action cinema will continue with renditions of action-inspired jams, courtesy of DJ DSquare from Holland, who will be spinning tracks til late for nonstop partying.
Red Kite: On Saturday the 29th, Image Tunnel presents, "Red Kite", a film directed by Mao Guangju: It was a tranquil summer, such a melancholy silence doping, bringing along all kinds of imagination. Standing under the welkin, with the kite flying high, he spent his youth time doing nothing, simply enjoying the leisure. When the kite was blow off, he just let it gone with the wind. During this kind of period, it is his kite that took him flying to love. Stilly, he made the perfect life for her. Maybe, that was his most pure and wonderful moments. 46 minutes, 30 RMB/person.
It’s Time for Dinner: On Saturday the 29th, Image Tunnel presents "It;s Time for Dinner", a film directed by Wu Yifei and Gao Yanfei: In Lianzhuang village, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, there are two groups. One is the students who come here for art training preparing for College Entrance Examination. Because of the needs of these students, another group virtually comes into being, which is the old models from different areas and of different backgrounds. 69 minutes, 30 RMB/person.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Based on the the 2003 video game of the same name, this action-adventure fantasy film transports you back in time to sixth-century Persia, aka Iran. Jake Gyllenhall plays street urchin Dastan who is adopted by the king as his heir. He then teams up with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to rescue the Sands of Time - a gift from the gods that controls time - from evil nobleman Nizam (Ben Kingsley).
How To Train Your Dragon (驯龙高手): This computer-animated fantasy film by DreamWorks Animation is loosely based on the 2003 book of the same title. The story takes place in a mythical Viking world where a young Viking teenager named "Hiccup" aspires to kill a dragon in order to get notice in a viking society. He finally shoots down a dragon, capturing it with a bolas cannon, though no one sees his feat nor believes him. But even with his chance at finally proving himself, he finds that he no longer has the desire to kill the dragon he captured and with time, befriends it.
Step Up 2: The Streets is the 2008 (舞出我人生:街舞): sequel to Step Up from Touchstone Pictures. The movie was directed by Jon Chu, and choreographed by Jamal Sims, Hi-Hat (Bring It On) and Dave Scott (Stomp the Yard). It follows Andie West (Briana Evigan) as she pursues her big dream of becoming a street dancer. She trains with her dance crew, the "410" (pronounced four-one-oh), to keep the title of the illegal competition 'The Streets'. Tyler (Channing Tatum) meets her at the dance club, The Dragon. Tyler tries to persuade her to audition for the Maryland School of the Arts (MSA), where Andie has to compete for a place, thinking it will help her life as it did his.
Iron Man 2 (钢铁侠2): With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances and confront powerful enemies.
Echelon Conspiracy (夺命手机): Max Peterson is a globe-trotting techno-whiz who installs security systems on computers. In the Czech Republic he receives an anonymous gift: a phone which sends messages that enable him to win at a casino. Max soon finds himself pursed by hit men, the casino's security chief, and a CIA operative. Who's sending Max messages? Previous recipients of similar windfalls have ended up dead. After a couple of close scrapes, Max realizes he's in danger, so he tries to find out the root of the conspiracy - which seems to have access to every security camera in the world - before he's the next victim. Why is this happening to him, and who can he trust?
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (地牢围攻): "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" is a 2008 fantasy film inspired by the Dungeon Siege video game series, which was directed by Uwe Boll. Set in the kingdom of Ehb, the story follows a man called Farmer (Jason Statham), who was adopted by his village. When Farmer's wife, Solana (Claire Forlani), and his son leave to sell vegetables at the town of Stonebridge, Farmer's farm is attacked by creatures called Krugs. With the help of his friend and neighbor Norrick (Ron Perlman) he travels to Stonebridge; however, the Krugs kill his son and capture his wife. With the help of Norrick and Bastian (Will Sanderson), Farmer's brother-in-law, he intends to find and rescue his wife.
Clash of the Titans (诸神之战): "The Clash of the Titans" is set in the Greek city of Argos where a war is about to explode between man and the gods. Perseus (Sam Worthington) raised as a fisherman, but is actually a demi-god. Perseus is the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) who is about to take on the gods after the death of his family. Zeus' brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) was the one who killed his family, and Perseus wants to kill him. However, it is Perseus's destiny to rescue the city of Argos from the ruthless rage of Hades and his Kraken monster. With nothing to lose, Perseus leads a band of soldiers on a quest to defeat the Kraken. In doing this, Perseus will prevent Hades from overthrowing Zeus and in turn destroying mankind.


The Three Smiles: The Scholar and the Beauty (三笑之才子佳人): A young girl is determined to win the heart of a pop singer, by all cost...Loosely inspired by the love story of scholar Tang Yi (Tang Bohu) and house maid Qiu Xiang, which originated in the 16th Century, this off-beat comedy is created by Chinese comedian Guo Degang and his colleagues and disciples. Starring Stephen Chow and Gong Li's.

Beyond the Sacred Land (圣地额济纳): Beyond the Sacred Land is a propaganda film chronicles the history of Chinese space programs, starting with the establishment of a missile base in a Mongolian grassland.

Road To Revival (复兴之路): "Road to Revival" is a film based on the musical staged in 2009 to celebrate the nation's 60th birthday, one of the most popular shows in Beijing last year. Zhang Jigang, director of the stage epic, also directs the film, presenting the nation's revival over the past 169 years since Western powers invaded China in the 1840s Opium Wars. When brought to the big screen, it maintains the magnificent setting and stellar cast including Peng Liyuan and Song Zuying.

The Perfect Match (终极匹配): A womanizer does not know who should be his perfect match, an energetic college graduate or a mature working business woman... From first time director Cheng Long, who has been working as the editor of three Zhang Yimou's films, "Curse of the Golden Flower", "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" and "House of the Flying Daggers".

Black Cat Detective (黑猫警长): One of the most popular animated television series in China in the 1980s is now a feature-length film. THe original five stories of the animated series are merged into one, with some modern touches. According to director Dai Tielang, who created the original series, there are no major changes. The popular theme song is remixed and trendy modern elements have been added to some dialogue and to the settings.

East Wind, Rain (东风雨): In the film, Fan Bingbing plays a spy during WWII. In order to fulfill her mission and keep the organization's information secret, she sacrifices herself. Director Liu set the film, which takes place in Shanghai, before and after the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Shanghai of 1941, as presented in the movie, is filled with spies working for different countries and organizations. An Ming, a Chinese agent, works undercover as a pianist in a local pub. He decodes the "East Wind, Rain" message and tries to pass on the information. Director Liu plays An Ming.

Go Lala Go! / Du Lala's Promotion (杜拉拉升职记): Helmed by actress-turned-director Xu Jinglei, the film is adapted from a novel entitled "Du Lala's Promotion". The best-seller centers on a woman named Du Lala who takes the high road to get promoted. The film stars director Xu Jinglei herself as Du Lala, as well as Stanley Huang, Karen Mok, Li Ai, and Pace Wu.

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (叶问2:宗师传奇): Two years after the film "Ip Man" (叶问) a sequel is now released, once again under the direction of Wilson Yip (Yip Wai Shun) and with Donnie Yen in the leading role. The film follows Ip Man, the kung fu master who among others taught Bruce Lee some of his tricks and kicks. After killing a Japanese army official to defend his honor, Ip Man flees to Hong Kong with his family to start a new life. Ip attempts to propagate his discipline of Wing Chun, but faces rivalry from other practitioners, including the local master of Hung Ga martial arts. In Cantonese.
El Orfanato / The Orphanage (孤堡惊情): The former orphan Laura raises her adopted son Simón with her husband Carlos in an old house and former orphanage where she was raised. Simón is HIV positive and tells Laura that he has five invisible friends, and she believes they are fruit of his imagination. Laura decides to reopen an orphanage for handicapped children in the location and during the opening party, Simón calls her to show the little cabin of his friend Tomás. The busy Laura does not gives much attention to her son; then she sees a mysterious masked boy and Simón vanishes. Laura feels the presence of other persons in the house and months later, the desperate Laura invites a team of parapsychologists to try to unravel the mystery. In Spanish.
Crossing Henessey (月满轩尼诗): "Crossing Hennessy" is an engagingly fresh and enjoyable dramatic comedy that makes great use of its Hong Kong locations as it delves into the romantic complications of modern urban life. 41-year-old slacker Loy (Jacky Cheung) sleeps in all the time and doesn´t do much with his life. His widowed but flamboyant mom (Paw Hee-ching) sets him up on a matchmaking dim sum lunch with Oi Lin (Tang Wei), a quiet mainland girl-next-door (well, a few streets away). Before long, mom starts to arrange the marriage details, not knowing that Loy is still into, and seeing his ex-girlfriend, who´s now divorced and back on the market. Meanwhile Oi Lin is waiting for her bad boy lover to get out of jail soon. Directed by Ivy Ho. In Cantonese and Mandarin.

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