A spattering of words about some 2006 films that I've watched recently but haven't commented on.
Sympathy of Lady Vengeance, dir. Park - If you were like me and despised Chan-Wook Park's earlier revenge-trilogy entrant Oldboy then you should probably check Lady Vengeance out because it is much much better. Park's visual style is much less grungy here, and instead ramps up the seductive cinematography with splashes of colour and well-designed sets and costumes. Much less needlessly over-the-top violence, instead the violence here is much more of the anti-violence violence. If that is such a thing. It's a deeply disturbing, yet imaginative and reflective piece. Yeong-ae Lee is wonderful as the title character, too. B
Little Children, dir. Field - I was not a fan of Todd Field's previous film, the Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom. Too lazily snore-enducing for my liking (the odd plate-smashing or bitch slap being the exception), but Little Children is (like the above film) much better than the one that came before it despite near-identical themes. Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are excellent as the title characters (or, that's what I assume the title means. right? or am I completely wrong?), but the supporting characters (like In the Bedroom) get the short change. Jackie Earle Haley's creepy paedophile character is used merely as a backup device for whenever Field gets bored with the Winslet and Wilson storyline (which, it seems, is quite often in the film's final act). There are slipups (the narration is at times awkward and unfocused) and characters are introduced and/or do stuff that is not explained (the woman who goes walking with Winslet is...?) Still, it looks and sounds gorgeous and the acting by the two leads more than makes up for occasionally mishandled second half. B
Pan's Labyrinth, dir. del Toro - There's no denying that this film is absolutely stunning to look at. From the wildly imaginative and thoroughly Oscar-deserved art direction, to the creepy and sinister make-up work, down to the much less-fantastical but just as awesome costume. It's also a welcome surprise for the ears, with the score and sound design proving effective. I don't think it works quite as well as it thinks it does - the transissions between the two worlds (fantasy and reality) seem slaphappy and disjointed, and there are unintentional goofs that arise. Still, it's a feast and I felt like gorging on it. B+
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, dir. Winterbottom - Something like the tenth film Michael Winterbottom has directed since the start of the decade (a quick check of his IMDb page says it's his sixth, but has made one other since with another two out later this year. Unfortunately, his apparently lust for filmmaking (something that should be applauded) doesn't work for him on this metafilm version of Tristram Shandy. An unfilmable book by many accounts (a character says so too in the film) becomes a film about the filming of said movie. While the film seems to tap into the main thematic device of the book (a man tries to tell his life story but is constantly interrupted, I believe), and that may be all well and good for the book, but for a 90-minute film it just doesn't work. It goes around and around in circles showing us stuff we have already seen and then breaks it up with scenes of actors being themselves that, save for the rare few occasions (the shots over the opening and closing credits are the funniest and best), just aren't that entertaining. Of course, Steve Coogan tries his hardest, but I was just dreadfully numbed by this film. The best part of the film was actually Gillian Anderson who is starting to make a name for herself with these sort of fleeting roles (see also The Last King of Scotland, or better yet - don't). Maybe Winterbottom should stop for a few months and work out a proper film? C