Day 6: September 14

9:00 a.m.

The Emperor And The Assassin

Chen Kaige
Japan/China/France, 1999
Gong Li, Zhang Fengyi, Li Xuejian, Wang Zhiwen, Chen Kaige, Gu Yongfei

Sunny says, "An editor is your best friend." Looked good, nice production design and photography. Paid the writer too soon. Repetitious and unnecessarily slow. Some nice visual effects of the Qin army going to war and massing outside the Han capital city. Given that I feel like dying today, this wasn't a really good start to the day.

I mentioned this film to someone else who had seen it -- they remarked that Gong Li was very pretty, but it would have been even better if she had gotten a chance to act. And with that...

12:30 p.m.

The Girl Of Your Dreams

Fernando Trueba
Spain, 1998
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Resines, Neus Asensi, Jésus Bonilla, Loles León, Jorge Sanz, Rosa Maria Sardá, Johannes Silberschneider

A pretty much forgettable ditty about a Spanish-German movie coproduction during wartime. Penélope Cruz stars, but to no avail. The film is all over the map in the way that Trubea's earlier "Belle Epoque" was not.

I came out of the screening shuffling and unsteady. A coffee helped, but the sun is bright today, and I feel no more than 5 minutes from sleep as I write this (5:20 p.m.). Spoke briefly to Rosie this morning -- she said she doesn't do 5 films a day any more because it takes too much out of her. Another of my icons falls

3:30 p.m.

Away With Words

Christopher Doyle
Japan/Hong Kong, 1999
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Kevin Sherlock, Mavis Xu, Christa Hughes, Georgina Hobson

I considered blowing off this one in order to get some rest, but I'm really glad I didn't. I staked out and got one of the reserved seats in the theatre (they're the ones with the most legroom) and the film itself was really enjoyable. No plot as such, just a string of images and sequences that swirl around a Japanese man who seems to be living in a small Hong Kong club. It's a miracle I like this because it very easily could have been complete crap. In fact, if most of my friends had seen it, that's exactly what they'd think of it: crap.

Maybe I liked it because I could relax and just flow with it. Movie and mind met. Who cares why.

"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge. I'm trying not to loose my head."

6:30 p.m.

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai

Jim Jarmusch
USA, 1999
Cast: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, Isaach de Bankolé, Victor Argo, Richard Portnow

Jim Jarmusch, Forest Whitaker, and Henry Silva were there (late) to introduce the film. To hear Jarmusch speak was really quite off. See -- I have a recording of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas in which he plays Dr. Thompson or his lawyer. I listen to it often when writing. And it's just plain freaky to see the voice I've heard so often disembodied, embodied. It's a slow Iowa drawl, if you've never heard it.

The film is a hoot, and Whitaker is quite good. The movie has a very deliberate pace and some of the longest seemingly falling action I've seen since Lord Of The Rings. Gary Farmer has a cameo to reprise his role from Jarmusch's previous film "Dead Man."

Q: Your last two films were a lot more violent than your earlier works. How come?
A: I'm getting angrier as I grow older.

Q: Could you comment on your ongoing relationship with Robby Müller (the cinematographer)?
A: I'm... Abbot to his Costello. We work together a lot and [can communicate well because of that.] That's kind of vague isn't it? I like working with him.

Q: You said you wrote the film for Whitaker. What was it about him that attracted your attention?
A: He gave me a whole lot of money. His on-screen presence, his ability to convey [depth of character] as an actor. He was great to work with.

Q: [To Forest] How long did it take to learn to handle the guns like that?
A: The thing were he puts away the gun like a sword took about a week. I showed it to Jim and asked if we could put it in. The other stuff is based on [something] I did as a kid in the Philippines. I've been doing that since I was a little bitty boy. In all martial arts, the weapon is supposed to be an extension of your hand (or body); that's what I was trying to do.

Q: [To Jim] Is there any similarity between the way of the samurai and the way of the film maker?
A: There should be.

9:30 p.m.

The Color of Heaven

Majid Majidi
Iran, 1999
Cast: Mohsen Ramezani, Hossein Mahjub, Salime Feizi, Elham Sharifi, Farahnaz Safari

A blind boy goes home to the country for the summer. Everyone loves him, but his father doesn't have a lot of faith in his ability to cope without vision. And then I left. The 5th film of the day... was sleepy. And after an indifferent hour, I chose sleep over finishing the screening.

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