Digital Restoration festival
The Taipei County Government is hosting this Chinese Taipei Film Archive program in its main building. The curator has assembled some interesting old (and not so old) films from around the world that have received a digital boost, even if the format seems to be HDCAM for all screenings. Entry is free, but some of these flicks would be worth paying to see. Taiwan is represented by Our Neighbors (街頭巷尾, 1963) by director Lee Hsing (李行), whose festival at the Spot theater concluded last week. Then there are rarely screened works by Antonioni (Le Amiche, 1955), Visconti (Senso, 1954) and Carl Theodor Dreyer (Die Gezeichneten, 1922). There are other early Scandinavian films from Norway and Denmark, an American documentary from 1958 (Grand Canyon) and an episode of the English sitcom Dad’s Army, of all things. Finally, there’s the original The Wizard of Oz, which demands repeat viewings regardless of format. The program starts this Tuesday and finishes the following Saturday, with individual films screening three times at most. More details at www.ctfa.org.tw/2009DRFS.
The Great Buck Howard
John Malkovich is back with another strange but true-to-life role as Buck Howard, a magician and one-time chat show regular with a never-fail trick that keeps the audiences coming back even as he plays to lesser and lesser rooms. Colin Hanks (producer Tom Hanks’ lad) is his gopher who guides the viewer through this odd man’s traveling show. Filled with cameos by media personalities playing themselves, this is worth a look, especially for those who long for the return of vaudeville.
Gu Gu the Cat
There’s been quite a few dog and cat-themed films out of Japan over the past few years. The most recent cat flick was Nekonade, in which a soulless older man warms to a stray kitten and learns to live a better life. Gu Gu the Cat has a similar theme, though the manga-drawing heroine is already a cat lover by the time she adopts the titular feline, but will it help her out of a deep depression? Curiously features one-time Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman in the supporting role of an English teacher-cum-Greek chorus.
This is the second sequel to 2003’s Buppha Rahtree, a bloody comic-horror effort from Thailand, which turned The Exorcist into a comedy but kept the nasty stuff intact (Scary Movie 2 tried to do the same in its opening scene, and would have been a better film had it stuck with that idea). In this installment, the put-upon female ghost of the first two films is re-embodied at the expense of an abused schoolgirl — who conveniently has an awful lot of potential targets to slice up. Also known as Buppha Rahtree 3.1, and installment “3.2” is in the pipeline.
This sprawling Indian historical saga secured a mainstream release in the US, which suggests it’s a mixture of Bollywood and Hollywood. Hrithik Roshan plays India’s first locally born Muslim emperor who marries a politically connected Hindu woman (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) for practical reasons but ends up working for her love and respect anyway — even as court intrigue grows and war beckons. Even by Indian standards, this one’s an epic: It’s more than three-and-a-half hours long, but it’s quite intimate and well worth the trip, according to seasoned Western reviewers.