In a rare treat, I saw two films on Saturday.
Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia AKA Curse of the Golden Flower: I used to say that The Phantom Menance
may have been was crap but also contained the best eye candy ever projected onto a screen. Not any more – if there's a more staggeringly beautiful film, I can't think of it. Plus this one has – gasp – a plot that doesn't insult the intelligence, and – wonder – spectacle that didn't come from a computer. (Clearly, there is some CGI in there, but if some of those crowd scenes were CGI, they fooled me.) I'm amazed this just got a nomination for costume design and not art direction and cinematography as well.
Oh, the plot? Royalty being nasty to each other: how unlike the home life of our own dear Queen.
Das Leben der Anderen AKA The Lives of Others – this would have to be very good to beat Pan's Labyrinth to the 'foreign language' award, and it is (even if I don't think it actually is better).
I can remember a book by a Brit who was living in East Berlin in the run up to the fall of the Berlin Wall (they actually missed that, due to being elsewhere in Eastern Europe) which made me simultaneously sad and glad that I'd never been in East Berlin when it was another country.
Most of the German audience will know that the bit of park they go to for some privacy is the Soviet War Memorial to the hundred thousand or so of the Soviet army who died in the assault on the city in 1945. When I went there in 1996, there were rabbit warrens in the mound with the main statue…
Seeing Sebastian Koch being excellent again reminds me – when I saw Zwartboek / Black Book at that cinema, I managed to miss the first few minutes. I wondered what I'd missed and now I know: a scene in the kibbutz which appears in the final scene.
Annoyingly, there's no 'director's commentary' on the DVD, because it'd be very interesting to hear the justification for including it. When I saw it, the survival or otherwise of two of the main characters was, to me, an open question. For everyone else, that crucial element of tension is missing: you know they're going to survive!
While I'm normally with Woody Allen on knowingly going into a film that's started, it's interesting to see how often chopping off the start of a film improves it.
So there's a '30th Anniversary Edition' version of Night of the Living Dead which opens with a scene establishing who the first zombie to be seen is. Who cares?
Similarly, Escape from New York originally opened with Snake's failed robbery which led to him being sent to the prison New York has become. We find out what happened in a few minutes, we don't need to see it!
And is there anyone who thinks Titanic wouldn't have been greatly improved by losing the first two hours? 🙂