Thoughts On: October 2019


Shorts #106

Today's shorts: The Farewell (2019), Romance of the Western Chamber (1927), The Boatman's Daughter (1935), Street Angel (1937), Lost in Thailand (2012)

A tremendous film, one that finds success in patience, in taking moments to let scenes sink into characters and thus reflect their depth to the audience.

With good portions of comedy and heart, The Farewell presents a touching exploration of what it means to let go and hold in, to let go fear and anticipation and hold in one's own doubts. This is a tension imbued into familial dilemmas and their often existential weight, and we are allowed to carry and release them across this narrative. With nothing bad to say about The Farewell, I can only recommend it.

Though this silent film presents a somewhat fractured narrative, it is given support by some fascinating deployments of robust montage that introduce a counterpoint to the theatrical feel of the cinematic space.

Romance of the Western Chamber tells a tale of anxiety, of grand gestures that fail to hold a light to the individuated, mature person. Romance, then, emerges as a product of personal struggle, not ingenuity: the gaze an affront to action; desire meaningless without devotion. The final scene that encapsulates this ethical turn of the narrative, yet it comes as something slightly too little, quite late. It is this that leaves the narrative feeling fractured; an hour spectacle juxtaposed with a momentary investigation of a character's psyche. That said, Romance of the Western Chamber holds much of intrigue.

A timid romance whose script is maybe more affective than the final cinematic product.

There is an attempt within The Boatman's Daughter to expose the frailty of a woman and an elderly man in a harsh world of capitol. Their dignity and sovereignty hangs in the balance, the vessel keeping them afloat riddled with stopped holes ready to fail. Alas, though this is evident when retrospectively recounting the fabula, the potentially harrowing experience of this narrative is dulled by the awkward dialogue and use of performances.

Street Angel is a very busy film, characatologically loud and vocal with its politics. This tells a story about an eccentric band of downtrodden outcasts who struggle to escape their cacophonous, oppressive urban milieu. The musical component of the film in juxtaposition to the realist elements make for a unique narrative blend; a film grounded in melodrama with a clear drive to present life in the shadows of a city filled with skyscrapers.

A rather insane comedy imbued with too many plot beats, Lost in Thailand doesn't feel like a positively exhausting in-a-few-days crazy adventure. It rather feels like a rollercoaster ride with many forced emotional ups and downs, moments of realisation and re-workings of friendships. Exhausting it remains, but this is not a noteworthy achievement. Some laughs are to be had, but the caricaturing can be painful and often childish.