Dir: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Gong Li, Caifei He, Jingwu Ma, Cuifen Cao
Song-Lian's father dies and she is forced into marriage to a powerful and wealthy lord, not an uncommon fate for attractive young girls in 1920's China. Her husband already has 3 other wives and upon her entry into the court household, she learns that they all compete jealously for the master's attention and his affections - a red lantern is lit outside each concubine's house where he chooses to spend the night. The film is lavishly filmed in deep and startling red, and the master's face is never shown. Instead we witness the bitter rivalry among the women and Song-Lian's eventual fate. Deeply shocking and moving, this is definitely Zhang's masterpiece of storytelling about feudal China.
Dir: Gillies MacKinnon
Cast: James Wilby, Jonathan Pryce, Jonny Lee Miller, Stuart Bunce
Based on the novel by Pat Barker, this is a dramatised account of the WWI poet Siegried Sassoon's time in a Scottish hospital recuperating from his war wounds (while the war goes on) and recovering from shell-shock. This depicts Sassoon's moral dilemmas and ambivalence about war and its effects on his comrades whom he loves, and the rather shocking psychiatric methods of "rehabilitation" used by the hospital doctors in order to send the men back to the front line. Includes a meeting between Sassoon and the famous WWI trench poet Wilfred Owen. An ambitious movie but one that ultimately, I think, failed to bring home the message - it was altogether quite bland and formulaic. Stunningly average.
Dir: James Ivory
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, James Fox, Christopher Reeve
A beautifully subtle film, told in a series of flashbacks, about life in a fine aristocratic home in pre-WWII England and the relationship between two servants in the household - the ever devoted and discreet butler Stevens and the female housekeeper Miss Kenton who falls for him. Both are deeply committed to their jobs and the emotional turmoil resulting from the realisation that any romance was in a sense, "forbidden", is skilfully suppressed. They dutifully and decorously refer to each other as "Mister Stevens" and "Miss Kenton" throughout. When they meet again many years later, this discretion and decorum is maintained. The butler Stevens is a most intriguing character, and I thought the ending was wonderfully symbolic; the sudden freeing of trapped doves in the mansion signifying perhaps the freedom this man never enjoyed in his life. Heavily laden with things left unsaid.Rating: 7.5
Dir: Claude Chabrol
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Michel Serrault
Betty and Victor scam their way through the country, the perfect glamorous crooked couple. Betty then drags in Maurice whom she suspects, is planning to steal some cool millions and naturally, she doesn't want to be left out. The film keeps the viewer guessing as to whose side Betty is on - Victor's, Maurice's or is she working for herself while doublecrossing the other two? It is an intelligent film that keeps us guessing as to Betty's true intentions as she dons a multitude of guises, but for a Chabrol film, it is alas quite an average thriller. Still, I found it an entertaining way to spend a summer afternoon.
Copyright ArtemisWorks 2002