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Rohmer Marries Art and Entertainment in Seductive Romantic Comedy

A Good Marriage


Directed by: Eric Rohmer

Starring: Beatrice Romand, Andre Dussolier, Arielle Dombasle

Where: Busan Cinematheque

When: February 20 at 13:00, February 25 at 17:20

I’ve already gushed over Eric Rohmer enough in the past two weeks (see previous posts), so I’ll try to keep this relatively brief. Like most of the other films in the “Comedies and Proverbs” cycle, “A Good Marriage” is a charming reflection on the precarious nature of male-female relationships.

After swearing off married men, Sabine (Beatrice Romand) gets it in her head to wed her best friend’s cousin, Edmond (Andre Dussolier). As a handsome and successful lawyer, he has all of the characteristics of a perfect husband. The only problem is he doesn’t know about the protagonist’s hasty plan for their future together. The film follows her unwavering courtship of what increasingly seems to be a lost cause.

“A Good Marriage” is much more character-driven than any of Rohmer’s other works. The person in question here is a veritable princess who has to have everything her way. If not, she doesn’t hesitate to make a scene. In the middle of her 25th birthday party, Sabine resorts to locking herself up in her room to cry, and just barely falls short of shouting “it’s my birthday, I can do what I want to” - all because her crush didn’t show up in time. In her view, once she’s established that she wants something, there’s no reason for anybody to prevent her from getting it. Her stubborn behavior is only one of many unattractive qualities that eventually come to light.

The protagonist doesn’t beat around the bush, and on multiple occasions, she acknowledges her own straitforward attitude. What could be perceived as a strength, however, is really her biggest weakness. She’s glaringly obvious and overly persistent in her advances from the get-go, frequently making Edmond uncomfortable. These awkward exchanges make up the film’s most entertaining moments.

While Sabine sometimes comes off as bratty, immature and garrulous, she isn’t repulsive. Despite her flaws, there’s a lot of appeal in this sassy, opinionated woman, and the audience ultimately cheers her on. Maybe it’s just because she’s an underdog. It becomes pretty clear she doesn’t stand much of chance, but she sticks to the same strategy unflinchingly. It’s hard not to commend such a strong-willed trooper for her valiant efforts.

The combination of all these traits along with an unshakeable confidence and determination are at the root of the main character’s impetuous decision to get hitched, which pushes the story forward. Yet, “A Good Marriage” isn’t really about marriage at all - the movie is a fun-filled game of seduction that will get you laughing (mostly at the protagonist instead of with her).

Rating: 71/100

FIN, or "My Butt's Asleep."

The French film festival at the Cinematheque Pusan concluded this weekend and Yujin and I made a marathon of it Sunday to catch the few that she had missed. We saw Stormy Waters (tr.), a movie made in 1940 that had some rather unsubtle symbolism regarding the international situation at the time (one ship, that cheated, was Russian, and the competitor of the French ship was called the Dutchman.) It was notable for some remarkable special effects. Although to our eyes it looked like a couple of model boats in a bathtub, I am sure that in 1940 it was possible to effectively suspend disbelief. The plot was thin but the lead actress and actor were superb. And any movie that closes with the words "Forward at 60 revs" is OK in my book. All of these movies had English subtitles and Korean subtitles were shot along side the film from a laptop with a LCD projector.

Ordinary Lovers (tr.) was about the Paris "Revolution" of 1968. I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being (both the movie and the novel [Milan Kundera] ) and this movie covered the same time period but in Paris not Prague and with the communists on the opposite side. It had sex, drugs, more drugs, throwing cobblestones, more drugs, and a main character (a poet...wait for it...) who ends up killing himself (with drugs) when his girlfriend moves to New York with the painter for whom she has been modeling. If it sounds predictable it wasn't and mostly because the plot, what little there was of it, was lost in the brilliant photography (B+W in 2005) and the long uncut shots. I believe the director intended this and succeeded as I was good and fecking depressed when it was over (179 minutes).

We concluded the evening with a movie of conventional length and format. A young girl is tired of being a girlfriend and a mistress and decides she is going to get married. The subtle way in which she fails even though the object of her pursuit is genuinely attracted to her was intriguing. The language of the climactic scene, in which the inexplicable behavior of both parties was explained was transfixing in its psychological depth. Unfortunately, the film had dragged up to that point and then it was over. And it was shot in 1986. In France. You can imagine what the clothes and music looked and sounded like. Torture. I have fortunately forgotten what it was called.

While we were waiting for the second movie to start I saw an expat reading a book in the corner and I went over and asked him what he was reading. He showed me an old translation of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot." Odd. I had a copy of a newer translation in my bag. I pulled it out and we had a laugh. This young man was tall and shy (think Luke Turasky) and I asked him where from, etc., etc. Turns out he was born in the US but moved to France when he was five and grew up there. He still visits frequently (parents live/work there) but try as he might he could not achieve citizenship, something for which he was still a bit miffed. We watched the last couple of films together and exchanged digits for more hang out.

Next week (February 26 to March 1), by the way, they are showing a series of Sergio Leoni films, including my favorite film of all time: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. If you have not seen a spaghetti western you should get out there next weekend for some of that. The casting, the photography, the music, the plotting... all of it is exceptional. If you want more info email me but the theatre is adjacent the yachting center in Haeundae. Take bus 1003 from Suyeong or get off line 2 at Dongbaek and walk back up the river to toward Centum. Call PIFF for schedule as the paper I have is in Korean and I can't figger it out damnit.

Afterwards we cabbed it to what has become my favorite restaurant. It is a dwedgi-guk-bab place near my school. Huge steaming cauldrons of pork soup bubble on the porch of these places and the soup comes with a whole bunch of stuff to throw in there, customizing it to your taste. There are tiny shrimp to throw in (makes it salty), the best kimchi I have ever had, big bowls of gakdugi (radishes in spicy red sauce), guksu (noodles), veggies, red bean sauce, and, of course, rice. It is filling and wholesome and when I finish eating there I feel good all over.

The weather has turned back to the cold side but winter is set to come to a close. I am really looking forward to springtime here. I have been told that people come from all over to see the cherry blossoms in the trees along the rivers. It is supposed to be quite a sight. I got into the ocean and it didn't seem too much colder than it was in the summer, when it was freezing. If I had some warm sand to dry off on I would probably take a dip now. It only hurts till you go numb.

The school year is about over as well. We will be having our graduation for the AM classes on February 25th. After that a new crop of kiddoes will join us from downstairs. All three of my morning classes are second year so I will have all new classes. Although saying goodbye to some of these kids is going to kill me I am looking forward to the new classes.

That about sums it up. In regards to the blog, I will be writing more in the near future as there are some travel plans in the works. Unfortunately, I have nearly reached the storage limit on my online photo journal. I am looking into other options but the simplest thing seems to maintain a hard copy and delete old albums as new ones are posted. So if you have a favorite picture or haven't looked at all of them and want to, you had better get on it. Their days are numbered.

"Forward at 60 revs."


Should Tragedy Ensue...

and the dullness of your scissors makes you blue,there is a place in Seomyeon just for you:I found this spot while walking home from Burger King a while ago. This would be the same Burger King that thinks mayonnaise, which is totally a sauce, by the way, belongs on Whoppers. Burger King is wrong. My horrid display of rhyming and digression into Burger King's folly ways aside, I wonder if people

No Doubt About It, Streep and Hoffman Shine in Religious Drama



Directed by: John Patrick Shanley

Starring: Merryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams

It’s 1964. President Kennedy was just assassinated and the Civil Rights Act has been passed. The times-they-are-a-changin’. In a parish in the Bronx, the lone black student struggles to fit in with his classmates, but the kind and gentle priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes him under his wing. Before long, the school principal and head nun (Merryl Streep) suspects him of molesting the child and makes it her mission to expose him despite lacking proof. At times poignant and evocative, “Doubt” works as a cautionary tale against the dangers of excessive confidence.

The film benefits most from its stellar cast and sharp writing. There are two truly exceptional scenes: the initial confrontation between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn, and the nearly pitch-perfect denouement (or lack thereof). In the former, the filmmaker serves up an exemplary introduction of what’s to come - a highly dramatic battle of the wills between two bitter antagonists. Philip Seymour Hoffman just barely squeaks out the better performance by showing his remarkable ability to convey contradictory emotions in a single facial expression. It’s hard to tell whether Father Flynn is simply overcome with indignation by Sister Aloysius’ off-base accusations, or if he’s betraying feelings of guilt and fear.

In contrast, Merryl Streep plays her role without a hint of nuance or subtlety. Her character is little more than a diabolical zealot fired up for a witch-hunt. Later on in the movie, there’s even a shot of her holding up a prop that looks an awful lot like a pitchfork. Streep still makes for a haunting (albeit two-dimensional) villain.

The brilliance of the first showdown, however, isn’t only in the acting. John Patrick Shanley, a playwright by trade, knows a thing or two about stagecraft. The scene begins rather calmly with Sister Aloysius assuming the subservient position prescribed to her by the Church’s strict hierarchy, but the tension quickly crescendoes, and the nun from hell goes for the kill. The ringing telephone that no one dares answer mid-interrogation adds a particularly nice touch.

The final few minutes are another show stopping piece of cinema, and end the film on a high note. Shanley resists the urge to conveniently wrap everything together, and the central question goes unanswered. Unfortunately, he allows little room for doubt. It’s quite clear Sister Aloysius is just a mean muckraking woman and Father Flynn did nothing wrong. Still, the unresolved ending lets the audience decide exactly what went down. It just might have been that much more effective had the director left the conclusion even more ambiguous.

These two portions of the film are the indisputable highlights. The other hour and a half has some memorable  moments - including the priest’s opening sermon and Viola Davis’ (who plays the black student’s enduring mother) notable appearance - but it mostly pales in comparison.

Rating: 65/100

Seomyeon: Disorder Restored

A few events over the past week and a half have left me assured that Seomyeon is over it's midlife crisis, which involved being broken in an awesome way, and returned to just being broken.First, they've been ripping up the intersection in front of my apartment. At 2am. Because if 2am isn't a good time to do really loud construction, when is? In spite of my obvious noise complaints, I'm going to

Its Not Always About You Korea. Again.

If you hate Korea so much, why don't you just leave?This is a profoundly stupid question. I've seen it not only on my blog, but hundreds of times over on Dave's ESL Forums. Every time that I see this question, my brain swells in horror. Everybody that I've ever been involved with purposely pops their collar; I was already quite dumb enough, thanks. The students and business folk of Busan are


Busan, 13/2/09.Today is Friday the 13th. I realised this just before I started writing, so I'm hoping I don't jinx myself with anything I say here.Having finally passed my health test (see previous notes), I have been really looking forward to finally sorting a bank account out, as well as getting a mobile phone. How foolish this idea is proving to be.............Korean Mobile phones.In the UK, mo...

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.


Busan, 13/2/09.Today is Friday the 13th. I realised this just before I started writing, so I'm hoping I don't jinx myself with anything I say here.Having finally passed my health test (see previous notes), I have been really looking forward to finally sorting a bank account out, as well as getting a mobile phone. How foolish this idea is proving to be.............Korean Mobile phones.In the UK, mo...

Quell your Curiosity; Benjamin Button Among Biggest Disappointments of 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Directed by: David Fincher

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” takes the spectator on a journey throughout the life of a man who ages backwards. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born a decrepit old codger whose mother dies in childbirth and whose father abandons him on the front steps of a retirement home (how ironic Mr. Screenwriter!). As time goes by, he realizes that he’s been dealt the fantastical fate of growing young.

If this sounds like an enchanting tale, it’s no thanks to the screenwriter. Eric Roth’s script is the bastard child of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much more amusing short story. It takes skill to turn such an original and enthralling premise into such a dull movie, but Roth succeeds admirably. His most apparent mistake is the structuring of the plot as a series of flashbacks retold from the deathbed of the protagonist’s primary love interest, Daisy (Cate Blanchett). However, this recycled Hollywood formula is only the first in a long line of cliches and abuses of the source material.

The entire movie is imbued with false depth, starting with the irrelevant historical framework. “Benjamin Button” begins at the end of World War I, then goes on to include a segment on World War II, only to wind up on the day Hurricane Katina hit New Orleans. How these major events relate to anything is beyond me.

Meanwhile, the whole cast of quirky characters has some sort of extraordinary life-affirming experience, but instead of amplifying their roles, it reduces them to one-line definitions you could fit on an index card - the man who was struck by lightning seven times, the now free bushman who once lived in a monkey house at the zoo, the woman who swam across the English channel, and so on and so forth - which brings me to the film’s titular character. There’s nothing curious about Benjamin Button other than his strange condition. He’s born, he learns how to walk, he falls in love, he travels the world, he dies. In fact, the protagonist accomplishes very little for a movie that seems to be pushing the whole “carpe diem” message. His relationship with Daisy ultimately runs its course, and he spends his youth (the third and final chapter of his life) idling around on the inheritance his father left him. Am I supposed to feel inspired by the meaningless wanderings he pays for with Daddy’s money?

Of its whopping thirteen Academy Award nominations, “Benjamin Button” only even merits consideration for “best makeup” and “best visual effects.” From a technical standpoint, it’s pretty impressive. Still, there’s absolutely no reason to sit through its entire two hours and forty-five minutes other than for the sake of watching Brad Pitt progressively get more and more good-looking.

Perhaps what makes the film such a giant letdown is that it’s David Fincher’s follow-up to his terrific police procedural “Zodiac” (2007), not to mention that it stars some of the best working actors. Overall, it’s a scandalous waste of talent and good ideas, and possibly 2008’s biggest disappointment.

Rating: 33/100


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