Reviews of film screening during the 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival.
Night and Day
Encounters at the End of the World
Sung-nam is a South Korean painter who flees his own country due to a minor transgression and comes to Paris where he cannot speak the language and knows nobody. He soon discovers a small community of Parisian Koreans and finds himself growing increasingly attracted to another artist, despite also longing for the wife he has left behind in Korea. What begins as an outsider/exile film eventually becomes an exploration of desire and fidelity. Sung-nam is a likeable and slightly unpredictable character making Night and Day a mostly enjoyable film since he features in every single scene. However, it suffers badly from false-ending syndrome where after looking like it is about to finish, the film concludes with about another 15 minutes of jarring and confusing scenes that badly let the rest of this film down.
The point of interest behind this Hong Kong heist film is that it was made in three different parts, by three different directors and production teams, with each part continuing from where the previous part had left of. Tsui Hark sets the story off with his trademark frenetic and often bewildering style where the audience has to keep up with him in order to follow what is going on. However Hark nicely sets the scene of desperate men planning to steal a mysterious artefact, a cop who is sleeping with the wife of one of the men and a trio of impatient Triads who are waiting in the wings. Ringo Lam then continues the story in the most sophisticated section of the film where he sets up a complex web of torn loyalties, betrayals, double crosses and secret agendas. Finally Johnny To finishes things off by stylishly bringing a degree of farce and fun absurdity into the proceedings. The divides between the three sections are not marked but anybody familiar with the three directors should be able to spot the divisions. Triangle would have perhaps been more successful if either all three parts remained consistent with each other or if they all radically differed. Instead, Hark and Lam’s segments are very close to each other in style and tone while To takes the film off onto a completely different tangent. What To does would have been highly entertaining in its own right but in this case it is slightly frustrating that To’s chose to deviate so much away from the groundwork laid out by Hark and Lam.
Encounters at the End of the World
Prolific German director Werner Herzog brings a nice degree of dry humour to his documentary about Antarctica and the people who live and work there. The interviews he captures reveal an assortment of characters that you just couldn’t invent, but given that they are all people who have chosen to live in the most remote part of the world their eccentricities aren’t all that surprising. Herzog documents various activities such as seal research, diving beneath the ice, vulcanology and a lone penguin that has lost its way. In typical Herzog fashion he speaks about the random violence of nature and the inevitability of nature destroying humanity and yet a lot of the footage in this film suggests that Herzog is aware of nature’s mysterious beauty. There are sequences, in particular the footage taken by the divers under the ice, which are breathtaking and look more surreal than anything ever dreamt up in a science-fiction film. The sound recordings of seals swimming beneath the ice are also spine chilling in their unfamiliarity and strangeness.
Originally appeared here on the Australian Film Critics Association website