16 May 2005


Saw this in the theater, and somehow failed to see what a stinker it is.

Saw it again on DVD, and the stench was unmistakable.

Even the thing I liked the most, the Saxon war chief and main antagonist, wasn't as good as I remembered him. Good, yes, distinctive, yes... but soaked in cheese.

Everything about the film, from the script to the staging of battle scenes to the score, is false and grandiose rather than dramatic and subtle. But it worked for me the first time, in the theater. I don't recall liking it, particularly, but I do recall looking forward to seeing it again.

Maybe there's a lesson here.

Maybe if you go into a film WANTING to like it, Hollywood grandiosity is like an overly salted and greasy dish... at first, it is filling and satisfying, and it only on reflection that its gross nastiness swells uncomfortably in your stomach.

If the movie made money, it is a good argument for making fast food.


From the French filmmaker of the recommended TASTE OF OTHERS, a very good movie.

The music is beautiful. Singing is the heart's expression of the two primary protagonists, a not-good-looking and not-charming young girl, daughter of one famous writer and bad guy, and a vocal teacher, patron of the not-charming daughter, admirer of the famous writer, and wife to an upcoming writer who falls under the spell of the famous writer.

The famous writer is a real jerk... not a villain, but a plausible and unlovable man. The upcoming writer disappoints us by withering in the shadow of celebrity. But the young girl sings, and we love her, and the vocal teacher shivers in the wind of celebrity, but is of Stronger Stuff, and her spirit survives, too.

Good guys, good music, narrative resolution through the passions of music. Yum yum.

09 May 2005


I wouldn't watch it twice...

I suppose I'm taking the contrary view, here. This was awful purty to look at and all, but I had a hard time taking it as seriously as it seemed to take itself. Maybe it was the bloodless, Chinese flavor of the fight scenes. My first exposure to martial arts on film was THE SEVEN SAMURAI, in which the sword play felt realistic, even if it was executed with an almost magical dexterity. I have no idea whether samurai can really do what they did in Kurasawa's film, but I sure as hell believed it at the time.

When the Nameless one and Broken Sword battle by the lake, I had to suppress chuckles as they swooped through the air and danced on the water. I'll grant it a few great moments: my favorite was the empty, man-shaped space on the arrow-covered wall of the Great Hall, a sad shadow that perfectly suggested the human pincushion that was somewhere off camera. (For some reason, it reminded of the volleys of gunfire that mark the final moments of Butch and Sundance.)

But "an action move for the ages?" (Michael Wilmington), "an exemplary feat of filmmaking" (Wesley Morris) or "a masterpiece" (Richard Corlis)... I don't think so.

For those interested in related reading, check this article on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, stumbled across in the course of some Knowledge Management research.