Saturday, May 6, 2006


The 49th San Francisco International Film Festival

By now, I come to realize that it's almost impossible for me to comments on all the films during the film festival. I am gonna recap as much (or little) as I can about them.

  1. Perhaps Love (如果 爱) (Hong Kong)

    Reviewed on March 30, 2006. My rating: 9 out of 10.

  2. One Long Winter Without Fire (Tout un hiver sans feu) (Switzerland/Belgium)

    Reviewed on April 4, 2006. My rating: 5 out of 10.

  3. Factotum (USA)

    Reviewed on April 4, 2006. My rating: 7 out of 10.

  4. In Bed (En la Cama) (Chile/Germany)

    Reviewed on April 6, 2006.) My rating: 10 out of 10.

  5. Half Nelson (USA)

    Reviewed on April 7, 2006. My rating: 9 out of 10.

  6. Brothers of the Head (England)

    Reviewed on April 7, 2006. My rating: 8 out of 10.

  7. Romance & Cigarettes (USA)

    Reviewed on April 12, 2006. My rating: 3 out of 10.

  8. Favela Rising (Brazil/USA)

    Reviewed on April 12, 2006. My rating: 5 out of 10.

  9. Sa Kwa (사과) (South Korea)

    Reviewed April 20, 2006. My rating: 4 out of 10.

  10. Manslaughter (Drabet) (Denmark):

    A professor tried to protect his young lover after a tragic event. A pretty good film reviewed on April 21, 2006. My rating 8 out of 10.

  11. Eden (Germany/Switzerland):

    A relationship blossoms between a chef and a waitress because of food. I finally finished this film on the computer, because I couldn't go to the second screening. I kinda like this film because it's about cooking, and the food looks exquisite in this film. But I have a problem with the script and the daughter character who has dawn syndrome. I think it's insignificant to the story. It doesn't have to use a disabled kid to gain sympathy from the audience. My rating: 6 out of 10.

  12. Regular Lovers (Les amants réguliers) (France):

    The riots in Paris in the 60s. I walked out after 20 minutes. And, I hate that 20 minutes.

  13. Adam's Apples (Adam's aebler) (Denmark):

    A skin head con man is released to a rural church living with a few others couldn't be any more different from him. This (black) humorous Danish comedy is unapologetically offensively funny. Now I understand how they published a cartoon and made so many Muslims around the world so mad. It's in your face. I really like this film for his originality and its politically incorrectness. My rating: 8 out of 10.

  14. Circles of Confusion (shorts):

    A bunch crap are put together, except a few mildly interesting ones. You can sleep over most of them. My rating: 2 out of 10.

  15. Perpetual Motion (无穷动) (China):

    A rich woman invited her three friends over to hang out aiming to find out who is the one sleeping with her husband. I like the first part of this film much better than the second part because the dialogue is sharp and witty. But then the film falls flat and lost its edge. Still a pretty good film to check out. My rating: 7 out of 10.

  16. The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai (発情家庭教師・先生の愛&#) (Japan):

    A tutor will take off one piece of clothing if the student answers correctly, among other things. This is one of the pink films (soft porn) with a political satire. The title actually means something like: "Private teacher in mating season: Teacher's pre-cum." But it didn't get translate that way. I was quite bored by this film even this is the first "pink film" I have ever seen. It's really silly. My rating: 4 out of 10.

  17. Live 'N' Learn (shorts):

    Again, shorts at this film festival are so disappointing, most of them are boring experimental ones. But I love "Big Girl" from Canada in this shorts program. It's very well written and performed, and even quite touching. In less than 15 minutes, it shows how this little girl develops this bond with her mom's new boyfriend. I gave this film a 9 out of 10, but give the entire shorts program a 5 out of 10.

  18. All About Love (再说一次我爱你) (Hong Kong)

    Andy Lau plays two characters who are connected to a girl due to a heart transplant. This is a chick flick to show off Andy Lau, the script is ridiculous and cliché. People go to this movie simply because of Andy Lau. He should have just given a concert instead, why bothered to make this film? Tear jerker? Oh please, it puts you into sleep if you are not laughing at the silliness of this film. My rating: 3 out of 10.

  19. The Wayward Cloud (天边一朵云) (Taiwan/France):

    During an extreme drought in Taiwan, a porn star meets a lonely girl and finds creative ways of using a watermelon. Like any other Tsai Ming-liang's films, this is a unique bizarre film and definitely not everybody's cup of tea. I can't believe that this is also a musical. While I was watching this film, I kept wondering what's in the director's head. I am fascinated and thrilled by Tsai's imagination he puts into the film. I wonder what would be like to be his roommate. Everyday would be a trip. I think my liking of this film is undertaken by my love with his previous work. I probably wouldn't like this much if I had not seen his other films. It gives me a smirk when I overheard comments like: "this is not what I had expected." Indeed. Watching Tsai's film is always a unique cinema experience. My rating: 7 out of 10.

  20. The House of Himiko (メゾン・ド・ヒミコ) (Japan):

    A girl is hired at House of Himiko, a retirement home for aging gay men, and fell for the handsome young house manager Haruhiko. I like how this film portraits a few lively older gay characters and how they face their death with dignity. I especially like how the film deals with her relationship with Haruhiko. It's a cute touching film, but it's a little slow and could use some cutting to a shorter length. My rating: 7 out of 10.

  21. Viva Cuba (Cuba/France):

    A young boy and a girl run away from home on a journey to visit the girl's father, so the father can help the girl to stay in Cuba so the boy and the girl can stay together as best friends forever. This is a very charming film about two children. But it's not necessarily a children's film. The film gets into these kids' heads and speaks their own language. It expresses their emotion in a heartwarming way. The performance of the young actors are outstanding. And the police guy? Oh my! You might want to watch the film again just to see him. My rating: 8 out of 10.

  22. Looking for Madonna (Indonesia):

    Walked out after 20 minutes. Bored me to death.

  23. A Perfect Couple (France/Japan):

    It's as dreadful as "Regular Lovers" after first 15 minutes. Walked out.

  24. Le Petit Lieutenant (France):

    A recovering alcoholic woman investigates a murder of a cop. It looks to me like an episode of CSI on TV. I don't know how it gets selected to the SFiFF. It's nothing special, quite plain. My rating: 4 out of 10.

  25. October 17, 1961 (Nuit noir, 17 octobre 1961) (France):

    A drama enacts the 1961 massacre of Algerian protestors in Paris. The film does a decent job on tells a story about police brutality and the government cover-ups. But nothing is beyond the level of telling one side of the story. I am not quite familiar with the actual event, so I was watching this film like a documentary on PBS, only it's a drama and doesn't have the depth of those PBS documentaries. My rating: 6 out of 10.

  26. You Are My Sunshine (너는내운명) (South Korea):

    A farmer madly fell in love with a coffee delivery girl, only found out that there are so much secrets yet to be discovered. This is a totally disappointing Korean melodrama. While the story is not really believable, but I can see that it can attract so many housewives who watch day time soap opera. There are so many wonderful Korean drama, how does this one make the cut to the SFiFF? It's like any other episode on KTSF 26. My rating: 5 out of 10.

  27. Art School Confidential (USA):

    An art school freshman discovered that learning art is not really what he had imagined. I went to see this film because of the trailer, which looks really funny. I like this film, but not whole a lot. The film shows us that the education in art school is totally crap and a big scam. That's why the jokes work in this film because it captures many public perceptions about art in general. My rating: 6 out of 10.

  28. Princess Raccoon (オペレッタ狸御殿) (Japan):

    Oh, in this film, a cute prince (the guy from "The House of Himiko" (メゾン・ド・ヒミコ)) falls in love with a princess (Zhang Zi-yi), and there are some dancing and singing and fantasy stuff. I don't really know what's happening, but the whole movie is weird and I was about to fall in sleep. I am not a big fan of fantasy film, so this film without much plot and interesting character just keeps me looking at my watch. My rating: 3 out of 10.

  29. Drawing Restraint 9 (Japan/USA):

    I couldn't stand this film any more after Björk went to the bath tub and the director Matthew Barney (known as Björk's husband) shaved his head. I walked out and went home. It's painfully slow at the beginning and I had no clue what the film is about after 45 minutes. I heard that it gets even more bizarre later of this film.

  30. Bashing (Japan):

    A young woman is shunned by the community after she was released as a hostage in Iraq. It's incredibly sad to see this young woman couldn't find any worth back in Japan. She can only feel her usefulness and the meaning of her life when she volunteers for the Iraqi people. But the film never explains why the Japanese people condemn her volunteer work (not just in Iraq, but any volunteer work oversea) so much. The movie left me puzzled and confused why this young woman and her family is treated so badly because of her volunteering. My rating: 6 out of 10.

  31. Look Both Ways (Australia):

    A woman witnesses a train accident even she is already paranoid in her daily lives. Coping with the aftermath, she met a guy and develop a romance while combating her own "general anxiety disorder" (my diagnosis). The film does a good job in exploring the mind of this troubled woman, and how people deal with death, but I still get bored by the film because I just don't care about that character. I just want to stay away from her and get on my own life and be happy, and what's the point of watching her drama? My rating: 6 out of 10.

  32. Cycling Chronicles: Landscapes the Boy Saw (Japan):

    A 17 years old boy riding his bike on the highway across Japan. It's mildly interesting, but not enough to hold me on my seat at late night, except I am so worried that he would get hit by a car. I didn't stay long for this film, and left for home.

  33. Obaba (Spain/Germany):

    A film student went back to a small town called Obaba in Spain to discover the stories in this town many decades ago. It's very slow and loose, it's not really engaging. That young teacher's romance with her good looking student could have been interesting to watch, but the film cuts away to something else. I couldn't believe Spain sent in this film for Oscar consideration for best foreign film. Why the hell didn't they send "Bad Education?" My rating: 5 out of 10.

  34. The Silent Holy Stones (China):

    After the arrival of new media like television in Tibet, A young lama becomes obsessed by a TV show. Who wouldn't? How could a young boy stay in some mountain monastery without any "entertainment?" The film did a great job on showing the culture clash in a documentary fashion. It's surreal to see that the boy could interrupt a play asking for money while the audience is still moved to ears by the play. I wish I could go into these people's head to figure out how they think. Very interesting film. My rating: 7 out of 10.

  35. Three Times (最好的时光) (Taiwan):

    The film tells three stories in three eras (1966, 1911, 2005) through three dreams: "Dream of Love," "Dream of Freedom," and "Dream of Youth." After the movie, it seems everybody has their own favorite story among these three. I like the second one: "Dream of Freedom." It uses the silent film format and it's beautifully shot. The lighting and the shadow creates a great atmosphere to tell his story in 1911. It reminds me a lot of the scenes in director Hou Hsiao-hsien's previous film "Café Lumière" (珈琲时光). However, I don't really cared about the other two stories in this film. My rating: 6 out of 10.

  36. The Bridge (USA):

    A documentary about people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. I only watched 30 minutes of this film but I didn't like even that 30 minutes. I hold a very strong opinion about this bridge barrier issue, I don't mind to this film sometimes. But I heard it's quite a disappointing piece.

  37. Taking Father Home (背鸭子的男孩) (China):

    A naive boy went to the city from a small village to look for his father who has been gone for six years. I really like the way how this film develops its characters. We started to care about this boy very much, and we want to know if he can find his father and what he is gonna do next. But I don't feel the ending fits the boy's character. I just don't see that could have happened. I also wish that boy could speak as much as at the beginning. He almost became a mute during the second part of the film. Regardless how cute it looks to have two ducks in the basket the boy carries on his back, I'm still pondering what the significance of those two ducks. What if they were chicken? My rating: 7 out of 10.

  38. The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros) (Philippines):

    A 12 years old gay boy met a handsome cop and fell in love with him. This film is so charming and delightful and you will forgive all the flaws from the young actor's acting and the holes in the plot. I asked the producer Raymond how in the world that cop didn't call other cops for help nor went to a hospital after he was badly beaten. He had this 12 year old boy to take care of him instead. But it seems nobody cares. The audience just smiled at the feminine boy's good heart and his cute outfits. It's so good to see a film about a boy's love while the boy is happened to be gay, because it's not making a gay movie. My rating: 8 out of 10.

  39. Clouds of Yesterday (美しき天然) (Japan):

    An aging man resolves an old episode back to the 1930s when the silent films were played. This is a film very hard to understand and very different. The synopsis seems clearer than the film itself. After I saw the film, I still have no idea how the synopsis got written up. I didn't like this film. My rating: 3 out of 10.

  40. The Giant Buddhas (Switzerland):

    A documentary about the destruction of the famous Buddha statues in Afghanistan. This film is pretty bad. I don't know what point the film is trying to make. How did they destroy the buddha? How is China building a new one? Why is the Buddha there? Why did the Talibans want to destroy it? I got none of the answers to these questions. My rating: 3 out of 10.

  41. They Chose China (Canada):

    A documentary about the 22 American POWs during the Korean War who chose to stay in China rather than returning to McCarthy's America. Using some valuable video footages, the film tells an interesting story about these people's decision and their lives after that important decision. It's surprising to hear some of these POWs' comments are back so many years ago are so appropriate to the Vietnam war and to the Iraq war, and to any war the US have gotten involved after World War II. There were some applauds from the audience during the film. I just wish that the film is a little longer and in depth in telling stories of these POWs. My rating: 7 out of 10.

  42. Workingman's Death (Austria/Germany):

    A documentary about the manual labors around the world. I didn't see the film in its entirety, only saw parts of it. But the images were incredible, sometimes so hard to watch. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the slaughterhouse in Nigeria. I have never seen anything like that, and people working there day after day for almost nothing. I have to watch it again when it comes to the library. I don't think I can stay in the theatre for two hours to see this.

  43. A Prairie Home Companion (USA)

    Reviewed on April 12, 2006. My rating: 7 out of 10.

Now, I am exhausted.

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