Thursday, August 04, 2011

a whole new world

this is fun, too...
when i innocently wandered into byu's international cinema in the 2001 winter semester to see a chinese movie called to live, my mind was blown.  the emotional power of the movie floored me in a way that few movies have done since and eyes were opened to a whole new possibility of cinema.  one of the things i remember noticing was when they were walking into the main character's ancestral home, a chinese mansion that had been in his family for generations.  and i thought of how cool it looked and momentarily wondered what research the production designers did to get it accurate.  then it occurred to me: this wasn't some hollywood movie, this was china telling a story about china.  getting a realistic set took about as much work as a getting that "ivory homes" look if you're shooting in utah valley.

and that was something i loved about international film: what you saw was real.  that was how people live in their respective countries.  yes, there is likely some production design to a certain degree, but what is often the most fascinating are the little things, the aspects of their life that are so mundane, so second nature that they likely don't think anything of them, yet to the outside viewer can be fascinating.  from then on, one criteria in determining which movies were worth skipping homework to go see (and this became more liberal as i approached graduation until my senior year, when i would not do my homework at all and spend my entire shift at the i.c. in the projection booth, just watching the films out the window) was how much i knew about that country.  the more obscure the nation of origin, the appealing the film.

later in my freshman year, i dragged my friends to a movie called a time for drunken horses solely because it was in farsi and i didn't know a thing about that language (yes, i've been doing this for ten years.)  i watched the song of the weeping camel mainly because it was set in mongolia and i'd never seen a movie about mongolia before (for those of you interested, check out mongolian ping pong; it's actually pretty good and quite cute.)  sub-saharan africa is just a rare and i still haven't developed a taste for their general style, but it's still fascinating just to see their culture and the stories they want to tell.  iran and afghanistan have some very powerful films and some very beautiful ones as well.  southeast asia is also harder to find, and i never did see the scent of the green papaya whenever it played.  there's a new thai director i keep hearing about but haven't had the chance to see any of his films (or learn to pronounce his name...)

today we pretty much finished up our animation and i was home before 7:00 with no need to be back at school until noon tomorrow (meanwhile, the other two groups are working hard in the lab, hoping to get some sleep tonight.)  everyone says there are only two things to do in college station: go the bars and go the movies.  and so i took advantage of my free evening, grabbed totoro, and curled up on the couch to watch my newest acquisition, satyajit ray's the music room.  it's been said that indian films can be divided into two types: the satyajit ray film and the bollywood film.  so this wasn't om shanti om but rather much more akin to ingmar bergman (although much less angsty towards God.)  the story was interesting and i really liked it (despite fighting to stay awake after not sleeping much this week), but, once again, part of the fascination was simply seeing india, not through the eyes of an enthusiastic brit, but from a native storyteller.  one more reason i love this stuff, i guess.

in the meantime, i'm going to sleep and not setting my alarm.... : )


Em said...

vertical ray of the sun is another good vietnamese one. And The Overture (Thai)is also ridiculously fascinating. Always more worthwhile foreign cinema than time to watch it. Or find it.

Jack said...

thanks, manfriend, for introducing me to a plethora of grand foreign films. i owe you for making me much more cultured and a little less swine.

The Former 786 said...

Here are some of my stereotypes I've developed during my viewing of foreign films.

French films - not as nude as everyone says they are.

British films - I really relate to them, and not just because they speak my language - I like the way they tell stories.

Japanese films - Bleak horror films, but compelling dramas.

Chinese films - These guys have a goofy sense of humor, and I like it.

German films - Too heavy. They make a good film, but these people need to lighten up.

Russian films - *shudder*