Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Dragon Family

I remember watching this movie in the 80's and by that time it was the best movie I'd seen in years, although my cousin ruined the ending moment for me, because when the bad guy was in flame, he said that it was only a doll. Last night Celestial channel showed this and it turned out that I had forgotten so many scenes.

The Dragon family (Lung family) was the center of the story. I liked how they used the actors's real names for the characters' names. The father of the Lung family was the big brother of the 4 who had the power in Hong Kong triad and this organization had swore not to sell drugs. Problem came when Father Lung's godson, Alan (Alan Tam), killed one of the 2nd brother's sidekicks for selling drugs. The 2nd brother was furious because he thought the big brother had violated his affair and he wanted the organization to end. The accountant was panic because there was a lack of 5 millions in the balance and he privately asked the big brother for time to settle the matter. Meanwhile, Qiang (another sidekick - I forgot this actor's name, but he was very popular then after playing in Reincarnated series) came from abroad to help the 2nd brother. Together with the accountant, they set up a trap for the big brother. Lung's youngest son, A Yeh (Tan Ceng Yeh), liked to gamble and the accountant proposed to A Yeh that they would forget his debts (for his father refused to pay them) if he could received a drug cargo on his pier. A Yeh agreed but the 2nd brother caught him on the move and wanted a meeting which ended in the big brother's death. Not satisfied, the 2nd brother made a big massacre in the funeral house and killed the 3rd & 4th brothers, but Qiang stabbed him as well - made the 4 brothers were all gone and left Qiang as the leader of the organization. There was a funny line when Qiang's people made a comment that Qiang was more popular than Chou Yuen Fat.

From the Lung family, only A Hua (Liu The Hua) and the mother were alive, plus A Cung (Mo Sau Cung) who was studying in London, and Alan who had run away to Taiwan after killing the 2nd brother's sidekick. A Cung went back to Hong Kong, only to found his life was in great danger and ran to Taiwan to find Alan, and both went back to Hong Kong for revenge, when they accidentally found A Hua, who worked as a pimp (He was selling 2 actresses. One of them was Chang Man Yi, I didn't catch the 2nd's name because in the subtitles it was her Cantonese name). When A Hua brought them to meet the mother, who lived in a boat, it was too late because the boat and the mother were on fire, burned by Qiang's people. The revenge must go on!

Other actors I knew was Miao Ciao Wei, who played A Wei, Lung's eldest son. The actors who played the accountant, the chief police and Uncle Bao were also familiar, but I didn't know their names.

The actions were great, and my favourite was still the same: the scene where A Yeh ran away with the mother on a wheelchair from the funeral house until how A Hua sacrificed his hand to stop the wheelchair before it hit a car. After years, it was still a very entertaining movie, although now I think it seemed that there was no law in Hong Kong. Also found the acting was so-so, except Liu The Hua and the actor who played Qiang and Uncle Bao. Also loved A Yeh's sweater!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Blind Assassin

There are wonderful books written, which I haven't heard about. I look for them by reading reviews, compared one comment from another; but sometimes after I bought the book and read it, it doesn't suit my taste or mood.

Now I'm in the mood to read stories face paced stories. The Blind Assassin isn't one of them. Although it's full of details, which the reason why it won the Booker Prize, but the pace is very slow and there's not much of the plot. Possession, by A.S. Byatt, which also won the Booker Prize, is one of the most wonderful books I've read and I think the ending is perfect. I bought The Blind Assassin because the reviews seems positive and it did won the same prize as Possession. I wondered if this book was another masterpiece I might have missed, but it was not. I'm sorry, Ms Atwood.

I think I was misled by the title as well. The Blind Assassin, I imagined some heavy veiled killer with a sabre, like in Rudy Valentino movies. I wonder why where I got such image.

The Blind Assassin is a story about an old lady who is trying to reach her grand-daughter who has been separated from her by writing some kind of journal for her. There is a 2nd novel in this book as one of the characters is a writer, although the idea for the story came from someone else; and the 2nd novel consists of at least 2 stories told in different versions, set not on Earth.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Anne Of The Thousand Days

Anne of The Thousand Days (1969) told the story of Anne Boleyn (1507-1536). This is another great work from director Charles Jarrott, who also directed Mary, Queen of Scots.

I like very much Richard Burton as King Henry VIII. Burton's portrayal showed a king maddened by love and would do anything for it. It reminded me a bit of The King's Whore (1990), which also studied about passion in human life.

King Henry first saw Anne in a dancing party in the palace and wanted her instantly, but Anne didn't want to be his mistress after seeing what he had done to her sister. So Henry tried to annul his marriage to Katherine of Spain and when Rome refused him, he cut off from Rome, made himself the supreme head of the church and got rid of Katherine. Next, he made Anne's daughter, Elizabeth to be his successor with The Act of Succession, followed by several executions for those who refused to sign the Act, including Sir Thomas More. However, Henry wanted a son and when Anne couldn't give it to him, he got rid of her with the help of Cromwell, his chief adviser. In this movie, it was clear that Anne was innocent; she never committed the adultery which was accused to her. Her daughter, Elizabeth, would turn out to be the best queen England ever had.

Those were great moments in this movie: 1) When Anne told Henry, in front of Wolsey, how the cardinal was more powerful and wealthier than the king himself. 2) When Henry realized he was probably bewitched by Anne and that his excommunication from Rome gained him nothing but a useless daughter. 3) When Henry confronted Anne in the prison, how he could save her life if she and Elizabeth agreed to leave England; but Anne taunted him by saying she did commit adultery, and even incest with her brother. 4)The execution scene, when Anne turned her head to see her executioner.

In the end, Anne's sister, Mary's warning turned to be right. Once the king got what he wanted, he would get rid of it soon. Six years Anne resisted, because she was separated from her boyfriend, Percy, by force; but she gave up when Percy married another woman. In the end, she fell in love with Henry, but Henry didn't want her anymore because she couldn't give him the most thing he wanted: a son. In 3 years she was the Queen of England (although the people hated her). That was why this movie is called: Anne of The Thousand Days.

The movie ended perfectly with the moment Henry, who was out hunting, heard the cannon which announced the death of Anne, and then he turned his head to pursue Jane Seymour.

Cast: Richard Burton, Geneviève Bujold

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) was on my want-list for about a year and I was afraid that I would have to get the VHS, which was rare and quite expensive; but at last it's available on DVD.

The picture transfer is wonderful. This movie begins with Mary Stuart's last days as the Queen Consort of France. After the death of her husband, King François, Mary (1542-1587) returned to Scotland, hoped for a better future. The fortune, however, didn't smile on her. Her brother, James, betrayed her. Her marriage to Henry Lord Darnley, was turned to be a mistake. Darnley was furiously jealous to her secretary, Riccio (these two had an affair), and joined in a conspiracy with the lords to get rid of him; only to realize that they used him in the rebellion against the Queen, so again he changed side. The lords didn't like Darnley so much that they couldn't wait until he died from the pox, and soon after he made a narrow escaped when they blew up his house, they killed him. From Darnley, Mary had a son, James I, who later would reign Scotland and England, because Elizabeth I had no child.
Mary married for the 3rd time to Bothwell, but soon they were separated. Bothwell died in Denmark, and Mary at last beheaded by her cousin's Elizabeth I.

Compare to Mary of Scotland (1936) , I like the 1971 version better. Katherine Hepburn made a very strong queen. Lord Darnley here was evidently gay and I wonder how the marriage could even produce a son. She married him only to secure her throne. There were also silly scenes like when Mary turned down all of her suitors and when Bothwell joked with Mary's ladies-in-waiting. My favourite moment was when the people of Scotland came to give their support to the new queen with a song. The melody was similar to "The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond", but the lyrics were different.

Different from Hepburn, Redgrave made a more human queen. Fresh from France, which was full of singing and dancing, she was more free-spirited than the Scottish lords. She loved all her 3 husbands, although most likely she changed her mind soon after she found out Darnley's real personality on the wedding night. Dalton portrayed very well this drunkard, who was also a coward, double-traitor, pampered boy, who wept when in trouble and did anything to save his own life. I was happy when this pest finally died on screen. Redgrave's humanity also made it convincing when Elizabeth told her how fragile she was, how she had been tricked, and her anger when she tried to hit Elizabeth with her stick. The most breath-taking moment was the execution scene, when Mary removed her cloak to show her red dress.

I think I read somewhere that Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor never met in reality. Perhaps I am wrong. The last 3 movies (2 above + Elizabeth I miniseries with Helen Mirren) I saw about them showed the meeting, though. At least those were secret meetings.