by Mar Sydymanov

The Chaser — Chugyeokja (추격자), 2008

The following text is written by a cinema lover who focuses on single aspects of the film in the title. This is not a conventional movie review. Links to recommended reviews can be found here and here. The text was also published on www.lydialoveslyrics.com/.

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Na Hong-jin’s 추격자 (Eng.: The Chaser) is a well-told, and above all, a well-timed film. The excellent editing becomes apparent in the rhythmic pattern of the film: slow-paced sequences alternate with rapid chase scenes, while the real tragedy of time running-out enfolds in the background. By doing so, it pays homage to movies like 16 Blocks (2006) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the latter especially narrative-wise. However, The Chaser doesn’t feel like a rip-off. On the contrary, it manages to create something that other films are rarely capable of doing: it creates further suspense by wearing down the viewer’s patience with certain figures in the film. This is what films like Psycho (1960), Se7en (1995) or The Bone Collector (1999) have accomplished long before. You are frustrated by the incompetence of the system, the police, of certain individuals and foremost by the protagonist. They are all as helpless as the victims. …


by Rüdiger Brandis

A few days back, I went to the movies and watched “Jurassic World”. I don’t really know why I did it, but there I was watching refabricated scenes and tropes of “Jurassic Park” and other monster action movies mashed into one, a forced premise on top and stupid plot decisions. But I didn’t mind that much, until the movie decided that it doesn’t need to only quote its predecessors but in doing so it destroyed the whole universe it tried to establish so far. Spoilers will follow.

Basically, the movie has the same plot as Jurassic Park and shares the same theme with all three movies: After the “Jurassic Park” catastrophe, the park got restructured and finally opened under the new (and very creative) name of Jurassic World. Then something goes wrong, a large flesh eating dinosaur goes on a rampage and the heroes of the film, again consisting of stupid kids, a man and a woman, have to flee from/defeat the little bugger. …


by Rüdiger Brandis

I am a big fan of Darren Aronofsky, although I have to admit that I haven’t seen his newest film Noah yet, because the trailers look like — to put it mildly — shit. A few years back, in an interview on some special edition DVD-Set, I heard him talk about his artistic influences and he mentioned the Japanese director Shin’ya Tsukamoto and his breakthrough movie Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Since then, I planned to watch this movie and now I finally came around doing it. So yeah, let me tell you about Tetsuo.

The movie opens with a man (Shin’ja Tsukamoto), who is only referred to as “the man” or “the metal fetishist”, implanting a large piece of scrap metal in his leg. His body rejects the object and the man goes crazy running out on the street. A passing businessman (Tomorowo Taguchi) hits him with his car and assuming that the metal fetishist is dead dumps his body in the woods together with his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara), who was also in the car. But the metal fetishist is still alive and begins to hunt the businessman, who is driven into madness as his body parts slowly turn into metal. …


by Rüdiger Brandis

I graduated last summer, I was 24 years old then, and with all these great ideas in my head I moved to Berlin, because that’s what you do if you want to go somewhere as an artist, a scientist or a journalist or whatever you think you are (at least if you live somewhere in Europe this city will cross your path sooner or later). I started an internship and didn’t really think about anything and was happy to be out of school for the first time in my life. And then I started working, nine fucking hours a day, every day, ok I got the weekends off, but you get the picture and after three month I quit. I wasted the rest of my money, which was practically nothing, I didn’t really earn money as an intern and after that got little jobs to keep me afloat and drifted from couch to couch, to hostel, to home and eventually to couch again (couch can also mean a mattress on the floor). …


by Martin Gerecht

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I recently watched the newest Universal Soldier installment, called “Day of Reckoning”. And a day of reckoning it was. I’m not complaining about plot holes. With the Universal Soldier series that would be like shooting fish in a barrel. I didn’t watch “Reckoning” to get a clever plot or intellectual entertainment. I wanted action in the style of early to late 90s with glorifying shootouts, martial arts, corny lines and cheesy dialogue. What I got was one of the most confusing experiences since watching “Irréversible” (2002). For those of you who have seen that, sorry for bringing back the memories, for those who haven’t, if you like disturbing scenes that will stick with you for a while, give it a try.
So there I was, watching what I anticipated to be action fast food, but turned out to be a mind bending trip of violence and depression. “So what happened to the Universal Soldier franchise?” I wondered. I had seen the first one a long time ago and all I could remember was a bunch of action scenes, dialogue that made you laugh and shake your head in disbelief, because someone actually got paid for that, and that was it. Sure, the violence was pretty graphic, but mostly comically over the top.
In “Reckoning”, the violence is very graphic as well… But somehow nothing is funny. No corny lines, almost no dialogue at all, disturbing background noises and a love interest that blurs into the background, granting no comic relief (in contrast to the love interests in “Universal Soldier” 1&2). So I started wondering, am I even sure the first “Universal Soldier” was as tongue-in-cheek as I remembered it? Only one way to find out and a few hours later I had watched the original “Universal Soldier” (1992), “Universal Soldier: The Return” (1999) and another new installment called “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” (2009), and again, was baffled by the differences. …


by Rüdiger Brandis

In the year 2008 I sat somewhere in a big screen cinema and watched the 007 movie “Quantum of Solace”. The pictures flashed so fast across the screen that I couldn’t really see what was going on. Who was chasing whom and where? At least, I thought this in the first ten minutes of the film. And I wasn’t the only one. Afterwards, I heard a lot of complains about the fast cuts in the movie. A few years later the same thing happened to me again: In 2010 I watched “Somewhere” in a small arthouse cinema. The first scene in the film is about two minutes long and consists of one single shot. You see a part of a small race circuit out in the desert. A black Ferrari drives on it and keeps on coming into the picture and disappearing out of it. I watched the movie several times and every time the same effect appeared in the audience. After a minute of watching, the people started to talk to their neighbours, wondering why nothing happened, or simply lost interest. Normally the average Friday-evening-moviegoer isn’t even aware of these specialties of editing, which I just described. So why did he notice it in these two cases? The answer is an easy one: Because it was very eye-catching. People noticed it, because it was something they hadn’t seen before, they didn’t know how to deal with it. This led to a discussion about the speed of movies: On the one hand that there should be longer shots so that the viewer has a chance to see the pictures; on the other hand we need a fast series of pictures so that we don’t get bored. …


by Daniel Badeda

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Prologue

In the summer of 2012 I was going through a pretty rough time in my life. On one weekend in particular I had messed up pretty bad. I will not go into details here, but I was ashamed of myself. I had become a person I didn’t want to be. I had lost myself, I felt as if I was without direction, I didn’t know who I was anymore. At the end of that eventful weekend I came home into an empty, messed up apartment and I was feeling as miserable as I possibly could. I had reached an absolute low point in my life. I sat down in front of my computer, clicked on the internet browser and my starting page imdb popped open. …


by Mar Sydymanov

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Johnnie To’s “Sparrow” (2008) is everything except an overly masculine, die-hard gangster film for which the director is known for. “Sparrow” is a romanticising portrait of Hong Kong at its best. The cinematic homage is an associative, photographic, anecdotal and most of all episodic film. This becomes explicitly apparent looking at the underlying plot structure: four successful pickpockets individually meet a mysterious woman who is a) as good or even better in pickpocketing than all of them combined, b) a femme fatale who knows about her effect on men and c) in a Stockholm Syndrom-esque relationship with a major pickpocket boss who keeps her close to him by withholding her passport in a safe. She, the irresistible Chung Chun Lei, played by Taiwanese actress Kelly Lin, enters the lives of these four men and brings along trouble to their day-to-day stealing routine. In the end the four men manage to surpass the pickpocket boss in a final street pickpocketing-duel and force him to release Chung Chun Lei as a debt of honour. Thus, by handing out the passport to her she is free to leave Hong Kong for good.
As fragmented as this plot summary appears, as fragmented or rather episodic it actually is. The film jumps from one scene to another, leaving logical gaps in-between. Magic, coincidence and a deus ex machina here and there drive the story forward. Despite the lack of coherence in narration, To manages to orchestrate a set of aesthetic scenes which show the idealised version of a charming Hong Kong in present time. Where aesthetic takes over, the plot becomes secondary. This is especially convenient for the characters who don’t need to develop by any means. They are and they stay one-dimensional with each of their specific set of attributes: the woman is an attractive young female in need (damsel in distress, anyone?); the four pickpockets have each one distinctive position in the group and a corresponding attribute. There is the leader/good guy, the second-in-command/gambler, the comic-relief/the chubby one and the whippersnapper/comic relief #2/the driver/the hotshot. Lastly, there is the pickpocket underground boss who has somewhat a soft spot in his heart and only wants to be loved (but can’t express his need).
Taking in the lack of coherent narration and the one-dimensional characters, To seems to aim for the creation of a feeling rather than a cohesive story. One could conclude that “Sparrow” shares more features with a musical than a caper movie. And indeed Johnny To stated that the cinematic showdown was initially planned to be a musical sequence but due to budget limits couldn’t be realised as such.
Nevertheless, even without the singing and dancing, the film is told as light-heartedly as a musical rendition of it would have probably looked like. This genuine happy-go-lucky vibe becomes already apparent in the first scenes of the film. It all starts with Kei (Simon Yam), the head of the pickpocket team, in his apartment getting ready for another day’s labour. He gets interrupted in his morning routine by a curious sparrow which flies through the window and lands on the apartment floor. He gently catches the bird and throws it out of the window. Moments later however, the sparrow returns and conjures a smile on Kei’s face. …


by Rüdiger Brandis

Feeding Frenzy definition: This phenomenon can be observed when predators are overwhelmed by the amount of prey available. Do you know this feeling? I know I can relate to it: The knowledge that there are so many things to do out there, so many movies to watch, games to play, books to read that I don’t know what to do first. And then there is this shallow feeling afterwards when you notice you ate too much. You were too greedy and stuffed it all in, and now you feel sick and can’t really remember what you put in your mouth. And the stuff is still coming, but it looks all the same: colorful indeed, in little pieces so you don’t choke, but it is still too much. That’s how I feel about movies lately. It seems I have seen enough. …


by Daniel Badeda

I am sitting in a café in Mitte. Saturday afternoon. An early fall day. The sun is shining. I am drinking black coffee, enjoying a few cigarettes and soaking up the last sun-rays of the year. People are walking past me, tourists, families with kids, couples hand in hand, old ones and young ones. Middle-class,seemingly happy-go-lucky belated youngsters in their late twenties, characterized through a sense of fashion that suggests a mixture between an awareness of the importance of external appearance and a moderately bohemian attitude, proudly displaying stylish sunglasses while smoking self-rolled American Spirit/ Pueblo/ Pepe cigarettes. …

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Essayland

Welcome to Essayland, dedicated to host our spontaneous literary outburst on the subject of film.

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