Monthly Archives: June 2016

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003)

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Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – IMDb 238/250

My exploration into East Asian cinema continued when I watched the beautifully serene Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring for my latest IMDb review, a modern South Korean classic from director Kim Ki-duk.

Kim Ki-duk, who at the time was noted for gory, action, and sexualised Korean films (such as the very odd Bad Guy which I watched at university), went a different direction with this film, which but this film charts the entire life of a young apprentice monk from childhood into old age through the use of five different seasons, showcasing a whole different style and method of directing for Ki-duk.

As an English viewer of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, many of the films main usage of symbolism is lost on me, as much of what Kim does with this film relates to Buddhist symbols and iconography.

The use of Buddha statues, hens, cats and Buddhist writings, foreshadow and subtly comment on the story, but knowing nothing of the culture or the symbols meanings, I really didn’t even notice they were there, and it didn’t matter at all.

Without really realising it until half way through I was completely mesmerised and invested in this film.

It really was like nothing I had seen before. Nature seemed to flow through this. The film is set on a floating temple, with the monk and his apprentice needing to row a small boat across a lake to get anywhere near normal society.

The flowing of the water, the sound of the animals and the quiet music makes it a contemplative film, as the story slowly builds and develops delicately like the sound itself.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring features is one of the most beautifully shot films I have ever seen

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring is one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen

It is only really at the end of the film, where you see someone using a mobile phone and modern handgun, that you realise this is set in our present day, you get so completely lost in a different kind of world for these characters, and romanticise what it would be like to live in their bubble.

But although the cinematography, imagery and sound take centre stage over dialogue, action and plot in this film, the story of Spring, Summer Fall, Winter… and Spring is beautifully told, using the various seasons to tell a story that eventually left me shocked, with the tone of the film rapidly changing.

Throughout much of the first hour the two characters seem to live idyllic lives, but through the use of the young apprentices own cruelty to animals as a young boy you know he is capable of something darker.

Sadly this seemingly innate darkness in him (and perhaps in us all) comes to light when he falls in love with a young woman who visits the temple to heal herself of an unknown illness.

What happens to him and what he does, as well as his Masters reaction to this, is completely shocking. The way this is handled is opposing and a complete contrast to anyway an English or American film would handle the drama that unfolds.

And that is why I loved it – I was shown something completely different, taken into a whole different version of my own world I knew nothing about.

Like Departures did before it, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring has given me a whole new appreciation for East Asian cinema.

This is a film I could say so much about, (my notes for this lasted about three pages). I would say it is a perfect movie for analysis, so any film studies students looking for a great essay topic, I’d recommend this one.

Not the kind of film you want to repeatedly watch and at times the absurdity may be a bit over the top, but I can certainly say this is a unique film with a lot to say about love, nature, nurture, morality and what it means to be alive, presented beautifully in this incredible setting of a lonely lake in South Korea.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring: 8/10

Paul

P.S – Exactly one year ago today we created this blog! And I’ve done 12 of my 250 reviews…. This might take a while.

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The Big Sleep (1946)

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The Big Sleep – IMDb 239/250

Well I can finally say it. I have seen a film with Humphrey Bogart in, as my latest watch was The Big Sleep, starring Hollywood’s original ‘Brangelina’ Bogart and his then wife Lauren Bacall.

Based on the famous American novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep has Bogart playing private detective Phillip Marlowe, as he investigates who is blackmailing his new client’s daughter, simultaneously finding out what happened to a missing family friend.

Your overall opinion of this film will be mostly based on your reactions to the dialogue. The action and plot really play second fiddle to the writing and the interactions between the characters, which some might find exhilarating while some may find it grating. I sat primarily in the latter.

I can appreciate its cleverness. The conversations between all the characters, especially the chemistry infused dialogue between Bogart and Bacall, is very slick and smooth, which isn’t surprising when you consider the great American novelist William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay, as well as the excellent base material they had to go off from Carver’s novel.

But really the way they talk to each other just isn’t realistic in the slightest. Yes it is impressive and witty but humans don’t speak to one another the way they do in this film, and in the end it was just rather annoying. Then again the art of speech has been lost in the age of texting, clubbing and twerking.

I just think I found the film a bit too smooth for its own good.

Bogart is very good though at portraying the charismatic detective, he really does exude personality, and I can see why Bogart is such an icon, and why he managed to make Phillip Marlowe such a memorable movie character, bringing Carver’s creation to life wonderfully.

Phillip Marlowe was like an American version of James Bond

Phillip Marlowe was like an American version of James Bond – the ladies couldn’t resist his charm

But really he was the only shining light in this film for me. Martha Vickers as the flirtatious Carmen Sternwood put in a good performance, but Bacall playing her sister was rather wooden, it felt more like she was playing herself than a character – something I think is common in film noir. (It is rumoured that the films producers were annoyed how Vickers outshone Bacall, and as such limited her screen time).

Many of the other characters were instantly forgettable, so much so that I had trouble remembering who each character was supposed to be – along with following the actual plot, which didn’t help my engagement of the film.

The Big Sleep really highlighted some of the issues I have with 40s and 50s cinema. Many of them just feel the same as the last, with the same kind of plots, characters, dialogue and in particular their overall feel and the way their presented really makes them interchangeable. Though it is hypocritical of me to say that having watched about ten superhero movies in the last few months which aren’t exactly unique pieces of cinema.

The ending of the film was also rather bizarre as nothing was resolved – but apparently this was the point. Roger Ebert says it is about the ‘process of a criminal investigation, not the results’. Well if that is the case – I didn’t like it. I want things neatly finished.

My main enjoyment of the film came from my own reading of the history and making of it, but I don’t think I will be sitting through The Big Sleep again any time soon.

If you like this kind of film I could see it being one of your favourites. But it really isn’t one of mine – despite some redeemable features, and its name is very fitting for my enjoyment of it.

The Big Sleep: 3/10

Paul

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