David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Archive for the 'Festivals: Vancouver' Category

Korean monsters, Miami hard guys, and looping Tokyo

More from Vancouver from DB:

Bong Joon-ho, one of the most talented Korean directors working now, has in a few years proven himself adept in many genres. His first feature was the charming comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), and he followed that with one of the best recent cop movies I know, Memories of Murder (2003). Now The Host has broken Korean box-office records and won tremendous praise at Cannes last spring.

Naturally, there’s been a buildup of interest for the three screenings of The Host scheduled during the festival. The opening one is sold out, and the others are nearly full too. This morning there was a Forum discussion with Bong, moderated by Tony Rayns, and it proved to be a very interesting conversation.

Bong had wanted to make a monster movie ever since his childhood, when he looked out his window at the Han river and imagined a creature like the Loch Ness monster rising out of it. Eventually he was able to summon up the money to do so. The budget for The Host ran to about $11 million US, nearly half of which was used on special effects. (Bong points out that the ordinary Korean film is budgeted at about what he spent on fx.) He contracted the CGI out to several firms, including Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital and The Orphanage, a San Francisco company.

To save money Bong cut several monster shots, instead simply suggesting the creature’s presence through other means. He was inspired by Spielberg’s handling of Bruce the shark in Jaws: faced with Bruce’s constant mechanical failures, Spielberg used point-of-view shots and Williams’ score to signal when the shark was nearby.

Will there be a Host 2? Bong says that if there is, he wouldn’t be directing it. He envisions the possibility of something like the Alien series, where different directors turn each installment in different directions.

Tony Rayns set up the context for the discussion with his usual aplomb, and the audience coaxed Bong into wider comments. One listener asked what makes Korean audiences so eager to support their local movies. Tony pointed out that Korea has the most cosmopolitan and film-loving population in Asia, and Bong talked of the expansion of the market, with The Host going out on more than 600 screens. Also, Tony added, Korean movies tend to be very good.

I can’t refrain from a personal note. Bong greeted me warmly, and he reminded me that we met in Hong Kong in 1995, when his breakout short, Incoherence, screened at that festival. At that time he told me that he had read the (pirate) Korean translation of Film Art: An Introduction. I was happy that our book might have contributed a little toward his film career, and he cheerfully autographed my Vancouver catalogue with a little tribute to the textbook. Sometimes I forget that film researchers can affect filmmakers.

I was pleasantly reminded again at tonight’s reception. There I met Reg Harkema, an Ontario director, who became obsessed with Film Art‘s discussion of La Chinoise and nondiegetic inserts….so much so that Monkey Warfare, his film in this festival, is full of them! (Have to catch that.) And Ho Yuhang, director of the Malaysian movie Rain Dogs, knew Film Art but was more interested in my Ozu book. His autograph in my catalogue reads, “My friend, that f*cker, bought the only Ozu book left in the store. Damn!” Yuhang is also a big fan of film noir and he’s now scripting a crime movie.

Apart from hobnobbing with directors, I saw the disturbing docu Rampage, about black family life in one of Miami’s most poverty-plagued neighborhoods. All the young men, including one serving in Iraq, want to be rappers, and the most talented of all is only 14. But can he and his brothers survive gang warfare? I thought that the editing and sound were a little too aggressive, even somewhat sensationalistic, but as the film goes along it raises very tough issues concerning filmmakers’ ethical responsibilities. The question of whether the presence of a film crew changes the situation it’s filming is brought to the surface with really unsettling results.

I ended the day with pure fun. Tokyo Loop is a string of animated shorts, in varying styles, all aiming to comment on life in Japan’s metropolis. I’ve long thought that animated filmmakers don’t get enough credit, because we forget that they have to acquire an enormous understanding of how creatures and objects move. I was reminded of this again in seeing Tokyo Strut, a record of human and animal movement conveyed solely by dots of light, and the very funny Dog & Bone. Other filmmakers record movement, but animators have to know how to create it.

Finally, a greeting to Marlene Yuen and Ted Tozer, who despite my best efforts to hide my operating tactics, spotted me counting shots in screenings at Vancouver last year. Ted, if this interests you, check the CineMetrics website on the first page of this site.

A film festival for all seasons

David here:

Screening over 300 films across 16 days, the Vancouver International Film Festival is a banquet for movie lovers. I’m here for about half of the event.

Gorgeous weather, a lovely city (mountains + water = hard to beat), and cheerful, hospitable people have already made this a lot of fun. Arriving in the afternoon, and fortified by a quick Japanese meal (soba; more on this later), I went off to several hours of moviegoing and socializing.

The festival is particularly strong in Asian cinema, programmed by the indefatigible Tony Rayns; the festival also gives the “Dragons and Tigers” prize to young Asian filmmakers. It was while serving on that jury last year that I came to fall in love with this festival. There are over 40 Asian programs this time, including Ann Hui’s My Postmodern Aunt (starring Chow Yun-fat), Tsai Ming-liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Hana (his last film was the very touching Nobody Knows). A special treat is Bong Joon-ho’s The Host, already a cult monster movie that has Hollywood studios fighting for the remake rights.

Vancouver is also very strong in Canadian cinema, as well as documentary, experimental, and international work. Like all great festivals, it’s actually several festivals in one: No way you could see everything you want to see. It was so exciting last year that I determined to return and try to see even more new films.

Festivals are important to us film lovers, because you want to keep up with creative work being done all over the world. Living in the US makes it hard, because so many wonderful films–sometimes masterpieces–don’t get released theatrically. Marketing a film in a country as large as the US requires massive amounts of money, and many interesting films just won’t attract a big enough audience to pay back costs. Also, I’m afraid that some Americans are narrowing their tastes in movies, so that they won’t give a “foreign film” or a “little movie” a chance. Festivals exist to do just that.

So I’m happy to report that my first day yielded real riches. Yokohama Mary is a documentary about a mysterious bag lady who walks the streets, sleeps in the corridor of an office building, eats at Burger King, and paints her face a blinding white. Urban legends have grown up about her. Was she a celebrated prostitute? A woman grieving for her lover? She has become an icon of the city, inspiring novels, books of photographs, and a play. But now she’s disappeared. The filmmakers assemble a rich array of documents, including surveillance-camera footage, and they interview people in the neighborhood to try to understand how she lived and why she vanished. Mary’s life is a capsule history of the seedy side of postwar Japan, and the film is at once gripping and poignant, with a wonderful ending in which the filmmakers find out her fate.

Walking on the Wild Side is a picture of contemporary China that couldn’t be more unflattering. Three young day laborers drink, molest schoolgirls, and generally raise hell before they set out on a path of petty crime. These are the most unlikable protagonists I’ve seen in a long time, but the movie, shot on low-def video, is fascinating in taking us behind China’s economic miracle.

Back to Japan for my final movie of the day, the thoroughly peculiar Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast-Food Grifters. Directed by Oishii Mamoru, best known for his animated Ghost in the Shell, it invents its own urban legend, that of spectral figures who haunt fast-food restaurants. Oishii traces the history of postwar Japan through the changes from soba shops to burger joints, visited by a series of ghostly figures out of mythology and pop culture. The animation, mixed with documentary footage and still photos, is unlike anything I’ve seen before, at once photo-realistic and curiously flat, with soft edges and abrupt, spasmodic action. Again: No way you’ll see this at the Multiplex.

Today promises to be no less exciting. It starts with a panel discussion with Bong Joon-ho about The Host and includes, I hope, a Brazilian film, Kore-ed’s Hana, and more Asian shorts. Will post again soon.

For more about the festival, and the films I’ve mentioned, check here: www.viff.org

David Bordwell
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