The Greencine Five, Part IV: Memento Mori, Bride and Prejudice, Azumi, The Burmese Harp, Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life…. and other strange tales


Remember the Dead

A head-ache-inducingly complicated love quadrilateral, Memento Mori joins the “new wave” of Korean cinema that focuses on bizarre plots, fantastically improbably revenge stories, and Catholic iconography. Rapid cuts and a seemingly switches between the past, present, and fantasy leave the viewer struggling to keep up.  Took special pleasure as one of the main characters perfectly shares the physical appearance, vocal intonation, and mannerisms, leading to some otherwise needed levity. You won’t regret Memento Mori, but you won’t regret missing it, either.


In “Amrika”

Bride and Prejudice, a fusion of Bollywood and Jane Austen, is fantastic. A story with shallow characters, predictable plot twists, and inexplicable dancing. It’s also fun. Several sisters are on the marriage market, energized by their sense of romance and their mother’s sense of drama (“It is my fate to grow old in this house, surrounded by spinsters!”). The film is structured in India, London, Los Angeles, London, and India, and the (apparently standard) Bollywood fight scene is hilariously staged in a Bollywood theatre. In spite of skepticism of bollywood and skepticism of film adaptions of Jane Austen, everyone loved this film.

 


A derivative film

A disappointing movie set during the early morning of the Tokagawa Shogunate, Azumi is the story of a girl assassin who, well, is a pretty good looking girl and has a knack for assassinating people. Specifically, Azumi’s cell is charged with eliminating the Shogunate’s near-peer competitors on Japan, which (if successfully completed) would allow a peaceful hegemony to descend over the land. Western weapons are in use throughout the film, hihglihging the open source civil war of the time. Ultimately, Azumi’s good lucks and a video game aesthetic (both of which become more apparent as the film rolls on) cannot save a poorly executed attempt to combine Battle Royale with Hero. Sans Azumi herself, the movie is as good as Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai. (Note that Curtis disagrees.)


Dances with Buddhists

If Signs of Life (previously reviewed here) has a typically German message about the second world war (“Sorry!”), The Burmese Harp is typically Japanese (“It sucks for us too!”). This 1968 film is saved from Under the Flag of the Rising Sun mediocrity, however, because of the American film that seems based on it: Dances with Wolves. While I don’t think that one was directly based on the other, I had the same joy watching The Burmese Harp as I did with The Magnificent Seven, after seeing Seven Samurai.


I’ll be in orbit, actually

An uneven mix of four short films, Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life…. and other strange tales ranges from the interesting to the hilarious. The title piece is the most disappointing of the collection, an interesting if mechanical tale of writer’s block while writing The Metamorphosis. Seven Gates is the tale of two brothers making their way back to Christmas meal, hinting at previous adventures (“I try to imagine your face when you saw all those dead turkeys”) and leaving you wanting more. The Deal is Lewis Black‘s hilarious spoof of evil corporate titans. And Mr. McAllister’s Cigarette Holder is a sweet story of dignity during poverty in the Deep South of the Great Depression.