#139- Farewell, My Concubine

Quick recap: This is the story of two men, Douzi and Shitou, whose friendship spans over 50 years in China.

best friends, being bros, doing bro things

best friends, being bros, doing bro things

Fun (?) fact: This is going to be a big one, so be prepared:

Ready?

China banned this movie. I KNOW. Crazy right?!

showing young boys being beaten and tortured was cool for China, but not the homosexual vibes going on between the two characters

showing young boys being beaten and tortured was cool for China, but not the homosexual vibes going on with Douzi

My thoughts: You guys, opera is badass. Seriously. I know next to nothing about it, and what little I do know concerns Italian opera. I think I was aware that China had their own productions but I wasn’t aware how, well, badass it all was. Chinese opera has the same themes as opera around the world: love, death, war, but they have an added element of acrobatics, amazing feats of strength and stunning costumes. Watching Farewell, My Concubine makes me want to hunt down a show and watch it live because although the movie was good, it’s not the same as watching the real thing.

The plot is straightforward enough: two friends stay close for over 50 years. But oh my god, the things these two men went through. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but China has some really messed up history. At times, it felt like the director was going for melodrama, with one tragedy occurring after another, but then again Farewell, My Concubine takes place during a very turbulent time in China’s history. Although this story is fictional, I imagine most of what the movie portrays is something someone lived through at some point.

One thing that really captured my attention was the depth of the characters. Douzi is the main character, whose story starts with his mother abandoning him at the training headquarters for the Peking Opera. He is initially rejected because of an extra finger on his hand, but his mother chopped it off and walked away. The training was brutal, with boys constantly being beaten with swords and expected to be perfect. Douzi is strong, but feminine, and so is trained to perform the Dan (female) roles. Throughout the movie, he maintains his feminine personality, to the point of being overly dramatic, like many people thought homosexuals acted back in 1993. Shitou is the more masculine of the two, but very caring. He has a very short temper but somehow endless patience for Douzi. I really enjoyed not having to pick a protagonist and root for one person because everyone in this film had faults.

the story is that a king is defeated in war. All his soldiers abandon him, except for his horse and concubine. The concubine stands until the very end and then kills herself with his sword.

the story is that a king is defeated in war. All his soldiers abandon him, except for his horse and concubine. The concubine stands until the very end and then kills herself with his sword.

Final review: 5/5. Many of the scenes were very difficult to watch but I was engrossed the entire 3 hours and at the end, it felt like it was almost too short of a film

Up next: Tongues Untied

#118- Muriel’s Wedding

Quick recap: In this ‘comedy’ (more on that in a bit), Toni Collette plays Muriel, an overweight, socially awkward woman who still lives with her parents and does nothing for a living. She’s obsessed with weddings and also ABBA because why not?

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Fun (?) fact: There’s a line in the film when Muriel is shopping for a wedding dress and the attendant asks when she is getting married. Muriel replies, ‘September’ and the attendant says, ‘spring!’. I’ve always known that Australia has opposite seasons than the US but still, that line made me think about all the many things that are weird about Australia. Australia is weird, you guys.

weird.

weird.

My thoughts: If I were ever kidnapped and tied up, I can think of no worse torture than forcing me to watch movie after movie with the ‘romantic comedy’ label. Thankfully, Moonstruck is the only movie I’ve had to watch with that label on this list so far, and it wasn’t that bad once I realized I would have Nicholas Cage for entertainment. After sitting through so many war movies recently, Muriel’s Wedding seemed like an appropriate change for a bit. And it was Australian, so that seemed a little classier than most romantic comedies. I thought it might be a nice change of pace to see my thought process as I watched the movie instead of just commenting on what I observed:

Title sequence: My prediction is that this is going to be a movie about an unattractive girl who has a make over and then falls in love and marries.

1:42: These beautiful women are all berating Muriel for catching the bouquet. I guess the director didn’t want to beat around the bush to let us know Muriel isn’t well liked.  *pops open a beer*

4:49: Muriel is arrested and led out of the wedding party for stealing a dress. I mean, I know it’s wrong but she looks so sad and embarrassed.

9:58: Muriel’s family is at a restaurant,listening to their father mock them and call them all useless. I’m beginning to see that this isn’t a typical ‘ugly duckling’ story but instead one about a girl with serious problems.

13:32: Oh, good! Muriel has friends! These are the same girls who made fun of her at the wedding, but that’s what friends do sometimes. All in good fun!

16:41: Nope! They are kicking her out of the group for being weird, fat and ugly. And now Muriel is crying. Oh my god, this is awful. *finishes first beer, throws the can in a corner and cracks open a second. Starts chugging immediately.*

ironically, Muriel is showing exactly how I feel right now

 Muriel is showing exactly how I feel right now

20:57: Oh, Muriel. I know it was harsh to be kicked out of a group but then to show up on their vacation is just asking for trouble.

21:15- They throw a drink in Muriel’s face. Why are you doing this to me, Muriel??? Stop it! *on 3rd beer now. This one won’t last long*

25:00– Muriel has found a friend! Oh, thank god. And this friend also likes ABBA and hates the girls. Things are looking up.

35:48: Muriel’s dad found out that she stole his money to fund the trip and she has now run away to Sydney. And she looks good! I’m ready for the comedy part.

42:04- Muriel brings a date back to the apartment she shares with Rhonda but freaks out when the boy starts taking her clothes off. I’m still going to count this as a success for Muriel.

46:29– After drunkenly falling down, Rhonda  (Muriel’s only friend) is diagnosed with cancer. *Quickly finishes 3rd beer and grabs the vodka bottle*

54:20- Rhonda finds out Muriel has been trying on wedding dresses for fun because in her mind, she will have truly changed if she can find someone who loves her. Don’t do this to me , Muriel!

mw1

59:50- Rhonda’s cancer is back and she will never walk again!

1:01:53– In an effort to stay in Sydney, Muriel has answered an ad to marry a guy so that he can get on the Australian swim team. Dude is visibly grossed out by her.

1:08:27- They get married, but dude is still visibly grossed out. Muriel’s dad has divorced her mom. Mom shows up to wedding carrying a gift but isn’t noticed because of course not. She looks more sad than Muriel ever has.

1:19:23- Muriel’s mom tries on a pair of shoes because her current ones hurt her feet so much. She forgets to pay for them and is arrested.

1:21:17– Muriel’s dad yells at her mom and makes her feel awful.

1:22: 54- Muriel’s mom kills herself! *throws empty vodka bottle into corner with other beer cans*

End of movie: Muriel realizes she needs to start being honest with herself and breaks off the Not Marriage to the swimmer, but after having sex with him. Good job, Muriel.

Final review: 4/5. This was in no way a comedy. Most depressing movie ever? Maybe. Worth watching just for Toni Collette but don’t make me sit through it again without expecting some sort of alcohol poisoning. 

Up next: Out of Africa

#115- All Quiet on the Western Front

Quick recap: ‘I can’t tell you anything you don’t know. We live in the trenches out there, we fight, we try not to be killed; and sometimes we are. That’s all.’- Paul Bäumer

Fun (?) fact: Raymond Griffith, who played the dying soldier Gerard Duval, was a prolific silent film star. Having lost his voice as a child, Griffith’s career on screen was effectively over after All Quiet on the Western Front. It was really hard to find a trivia fact more depressing than this movie but I think I did it!

My thoughts: War movies are on a whole rather depressing. I’ve seen quite a few lately and I suppose it’s only fitting that I end my streak on the most depressing. Rome,Open City and The Ascent are more sad but for a soldier’s perspective, nothing compares to this.

So basically, everyone dies. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler because A)the movie is over 80 years old and  B) it’s an anti-war film so what better way to prove your point than by killing every one?  I spent too much time trying to figure out who everyone was at the beginning of the film but after they started dying off, I realized that it didn’t matter and that it was probably best not to become too attached. The death scenes themselves were a little dramatic but once again, this movie isn’t trying to enlist anyone so might as well add all the flair you want. The battles are spectacular, though. I couldn’t keep up with what was going on which I guess was pretty realistic. It amazes me to no end that this movie was made in 1930. Many parts look far more sophisticated than what Hollywood was producing at that time. The acting too was impressive, especially considering that ‘talkies’ were still a relatively new thing.

The plot itself wasn’t hard to follow because once again, the entire movie is just watching people die. I’m in no way for censorship, but I can see the reasoning behind so many countries banning this movie. The point is said several times that dying is more important than your country which I’m not here to discuss but it seems a radical idea for the time and actually still a radical idea. It goes without saying, really, that Germany was not a fan of this movie and didn’t allow it to be shown at all until the 50s.

just in case you missed the point, EVERYONE DIES.

just in case you missed the point, EVERYONE DIES.

Final review: 4/5. I’m ready for a different topic now.

Up next: Red River

#109- Winter Light

Quick recap: Everybody is sad. Super sad, you guys.

No one has ever had it worse than me. Am I right, Jesus?

No one has ever had it worse than me. Am I right, Jesus?

Fun (?) fact: Director Ingmar Bergman’s favorite film from his career. He says that Winter Light was the most personal for him and helped him realize who he was during the filming. Which makes this movie even more sad.

Seriously, just Google this movie and you will see that all of the images are of the characters being sad.

Seriously, just Google this movie and you will see that all of the images are of the characters being sad.

My thoughts: I keep using ‘sad’ as a descriptor for the mood of Winter Light, but I really should be using words like ‘depressing’ , ‘existential’ and ‘I hope I have enough beers to make it through this movie’. In all fairness, I do normally enjoy movies that don’t end happily because such is life. But this movie was sad from the very beginning. I mean, it is called Winter Light, which is the perfectly depressing name for a movie.

Visually, the movie is beautiful. The use of black and white was the perfect choice for such a dreary film, and although they made me uncomfortable, I liked the close ups. It made the mood all the more depressing, but that was the point of the film so you might as well drive it home, you know? Especially impressive was the 6 minute shot of Tomas reading Marta’s letter. It is simply her looking right at the camera, and speaking the contents of the letter.

The story itself, of a priest going through an existential crisis is understandably a heavy subject. I get the feeling that Bergman didn’t create Winter Light (which is actually part of a series) as a date night movie, or something to make out to. Although I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who would be into that sort of thing. Moving on. The plot is pretty straightforward and I don’t think it is any surprise that when the priest, Tomas, is unable to successfully counsel Jonas, Jonas kills himself. Like I said, if you are going for bleak, might as well go full force. Although this was a short movie, it is one that should be taken in small doses or at least through several sittings to truly grasp all that is going on. Not me, of course, but you guys go ahead and knock yourselves out.

now there's a priest with a true existential crisis

now there’s a priest with a true existential crisis

I don’t think it’s possible to have a ‘favorite part’ because it’s just not that sort of movie, but I was extremely interested in the discussion of Christ at the end of the movie. Algot, one of the members of the church, counsels Tomas after he has renounced his faith and brings up the point that everyone focuses on the physical suffering of Jesus. He goes on to say that instead, people should look at all the betrayals that He suffered including praying to God while He was near death, and not getting a response. Algot ends with the opinion that God’s Silence is worse than anything else. Like I said, heavy stuff.

Final review: 3/5. Wouldn’t watch again, but if you are looking for your own existential crisis (come on, who isn’t these days?), then this is the movie for you.

Up next: If….