Lost In Translation (2003)

Lost In Translation (2003)
Directed by: Sofia Copolla
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
Genre: Drama, Romance
Runtime: 100 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.6

In this eye-opening story, the two lonely individuals that merge the illusions of what they have and what they could have are two Americans. The emotional refuge, Tokyo. We have Bob Harris (Bill Murray), and actor in his fifties who was once a star, and is now supplementing his incomes with the recording of a whisky commercial. On the other side of the telephone, a frightening reality: his wife, his sons, and the mission of choosing the right material for heaven knows what part of the house. When we consider Bob's situation, we realise that Lost in Translation is also a meditation on the misery of fame. Certainly fame has great advantages but then there are the obligations, the expectations. We also have Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a woman in her near twenties who is accompanying her husband, a photographer addicted to work, on a business trip. But it could said it is as if she is alone anyway. Her world, just like Bob's, is reduced to strange days in the bedroom, the corridors, the hotel's swimming pool, and the bar, the perfect destination for victims of sleeplessness and wounded soul. The bar is the place Bob and Charlotte meet for the first time. They talk, little, but just enough. Once their dislike for parts of their lives are established, they begin sharing times that feel dead to be able to feel alive. Scarlett Johanssen plays Charlotte with just the right amount of emotion that her initially morose and soul-searching character doesn't seem silly. At one point, she tearfully admits over the phone, "I don't know who I married." This may come off as silly, but consider her position: far away from home, newly married, in a big intimidating city, and her husband is away on a photo shoot. Bob, on the other hand, seems to have it made, but Murray lets a current of loneliness run across that memorable face that seems to hint at something more. He gets comical faxes from his wife about bookshelves and carpet samples, but he gives off the impression that he's come to the point where he doesn't even care anymore.

Charlotte possesses an intellectual maturity that inevitably leads to boredom with men her own age, including Charlotte's husband, who conveniently ducks away for a photo shoot, foolishly leaving his tagalong wife unattended. Charlotte loves her husband because she is supposed to, but wonders what she is missing, a question Murray spends most of the film answering for her. Bob Harris's marriage runs only on inertia and memories now, but both forces are strong and he is not about to abandon such a history. While stuck in Tokyo, sparks erupt between Bob and Charlotte as the two fit together like lost pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Sex could occur at any time, yet does not occur for the very reasons it should occur: the characters, have far deeper and more fascinating explorations in store than the mere physical release of sexual tension.

These two environmentally alienated people meet in an unfamiliar environment and slowly grow on each other. It seems that neither can sleep, probably because deep down, they realize that life is ticking by like an old regulator clock with a broken chime. In some ways, you might say that Bill Murray's character sees Scarlett as the embryo of his present existence. Charlotte bonds to Bob for a taste of her own developing life drama. While its two protagonists try to find mutual solace in each other, their silence is as expressive as their words. This is a film that believes that an individual can have a valuable relationship with someone else without becoming part of that person's life. 

Bob and Charlotte are souls in transition for whom, surrounded and confused by exotic rituals, and a different language, allows them a moment to lose their identities. Both characters provoke similar feelings form different experiences. There are no kisses or crazy nights between them, but only a shared intimacy in which a night out, a walk in the streets, a session of karaoke becomes a powerful expression of their affection an complicity. The relationship we all await only happens in our minds and the protagonists, whom we are not allowed to know everything they say and desire. Tokyo metaphorically speaking is the third character in the film. The bright colours, the noise of the city, just everything evokes the various spiritual awakenings of the characters.

The movie takes a while to truly glean out the deep-seated motivations of both of its characters, but they become fully-realized in a miraculous scene where Bob and Charlotte lay fully-clothed in bed together. Here, they handle the 'big' questions in life, like "What is my purpose?" and "Does marriage get easier?" I was amazed at the honesty of the character's responses. Bob relates to Charlotte the experience of having children and the ongoing struggles of marriage, but a tinge of fear and apprehension runs through his speech. Charlotte hasn't really figured things out for herself yet - she says she's tried just about everything but hasn't found that niche. Coppola's screenplay takes these two separate beings, far apart in age and experiences, and makes a profound statement - both are in the same exact emotional limbo. Charlotte is confused and worried, but Bob is regretful and washed-up. In a way, these two are some form of deeply odd soul-mates. That is the heart and soul of Coppola's work.

How many of you can relate to and have actually been that guy/girl on business, in the hotel in some foreign city, happily married yet feeling alone and beaten by life's banality? How many of us have been tempted in that very situation, to stray from the confines of moral adherence for the lure of a forbidden, if fleeting, joy? How many have felt that tingle- that spark- when a stranger smiles and you think, "you know, in another life..."? Change the time, place and all of us have been there whether we admit it or not. 

The characters here are true. Their dialog is true. The setting is true. It's all tirelessly fascinating because we can all relate to it and it involves us in a way that most movies do not. We find ourselves drawn to every moment these two experience together and apart. We are intrigued by the glances, nuances and words they share.

this movie is not for everyone. It is a movie about human experience and personal relationship. It isn't out there to entertain (although there are some funny scenes), it is out there to make you feel. People who have very strong empathetic tendencies will adore this movie. This movie is about characters and the relationship between Bob and Charlotte is so authentic, so free of Hollywood trappings, its an absolute wonder to behold. Charlotte needs Bob for his humor and charm, and Bob needs Charlotte because she is a reminder of the youth he longs for in his past. Their parting ways at the end is absolutely heart-wrenching, but at the same time, makes one feel so inexplicably happy that one can't stand it. Another aspect of what makes this film so incredible is the cinematography. The shots of Tokyo are breathtaking, a contrast of the hyper-modern city of today and the Imperial majesty and beauty that was feudalistic japan. Not to mention the soundtrack- it just wouldn't be the same movies without it.


Submarine (2011)

Submarine (2011)
Directed by: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige
Genre: Drama, coming of age
Runtime: 97 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.1

 It tells the story of Oliver Tate who is caught at the junction between childhood and adulthood as he struggles with his first feelings of love, desire, heartbreak and must choose what path he wishes to take that'll define who he is for the rest of his life. Tate (Craig Roberts), a strange, intelligent and unnervingly confident schoolboy who falls for an equally strange girl Jordana (Yasmin Paige), a sarcastic, chain-smoking femme fatale with a bit of a pyromaniac who hates anything romantic. After an incident which sees Oliver reluctantly participate in a spot of casual bullying that causes a girl to fall into a muddy pond, Oliver and Jordana begin their unusual romance. All seems to be going well until Oliver suspects his mother Jill (Sally Hawkins) of having an affair with cheesy self-help guru Graham (Paddy Considine), who lives next door. His father Lloyd (Noah Taylor) is so passive and uncaring that he is practically a zombie, and so Oliver takes it upon himself to rescue his parent's broken marriage whilst holding his own fragile relationship together.

Jordana contrasts heavily against Oliver's intellectualism, not as a ditsy bimbo but a self-confident every-girl. Outspoken but no revolutionary, fits-in but isn't popular and isn't gorgeous. She's a cute, average girl. She is equally naïve as Oliver when it comes to sex, but she has the self-confidence to keep things into perspective. She doesn't like romance yet is too young to have been romanced; make-up is minimal with half-polished fingernails; she doesn't use complex sentences to convey her unique traits in the eyes of Oliver. Because of this, Oliver's infatuation with her is earnest, her heartbreak in the final act has weight and their intimacy is adorably off-centre.

It may sound somewhat similar to all the coming-of-age stories that have hit the cinema recently, but what makes Submarine so special is Richard Ayoade's ability to capture the essence of growing up; the joy, the optimism and the tenderness alongside all the angst, confusion and depression too. I defy anyone to not see themselves plastered up on that silver screen in the film's opening as Oliver fantasises about the adoration and attention he'd receive if he died.

This is a sharply observed black comedy and coming of age story, built from great energy and a script that is brimming with clever details. The centrepiece of this film is the creation of this bizarre, nosey and self-absorbed teenager. And what a clever creation Oliver Tate is. He's such a fun character and a perfect vessel for the film's entirely quirky and very cynical dialogue. The hysterical opening vision of students lighting candles in remembrance of his hypothetical death perfectly visualises the bizarre and hilarious mind of this egotistical and obsessive protagonist. That was one of the most unexpected, original moments and that made me laugh a lot. There are so many quotable lines and memorable little quirks, like the way Oliver measures his parent's love life by how much they've turned the light switch, or when he describes his pipe and hat phases. It can gently nudge everyday life for people in this community. I love all the attention Ayoade applies to all of his characters, not just the protagonist. Lloyd is, for example, a biologist who remembers random facts like the exact depth of the ocean and in the family dining room you'll notice the huge fish tank. There's also a funny moment where Oliver remembers his dad spoiling every Christmas by saying what the presents are before someone has unwrapped them. All of the jokes here are smart because they have the purpose of building character.

The tone the film goes for is similar to Wes Anderson films and French New Wave but it still comes off as felling rather fresh. The use of title cards, inner monologue and a smart lead are all used very well and actually lead to a fair share of fun scenes. The unusual use of colour, frequent cuts and shifting narrative all come together to give the film a quirky style and in some ways reflect Oliver's different view upon the world itself. The film is also shot beautifully. The gorgeous views of beaches and far away scenery are great to view, while the views of intimacy and school life are shown with great understanding. Especially good is were Oliver imagines his romance on a super 8 tape, which is a very witty idea and quite striking to see. Ayoade does a fantastic job of capturing the teenage feelings of tenderness, fun, love, sadness and angst too. The chemistry between Roberts and Paige is also excellent and feels normal, you understand why they would like each other despite differences. The music is superb, the songs by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner are very delicate and soft but packed with feeling that fits the film perfectly. 

The ups and downs of this British comedy are mainly due to Ayoade's wonderful screenplay and direction that are touching yet never slip into sentimentality - he often playfully pokes fun at it in many cases – but what also deserves credit are the poignant score by Arctic Monkey's singer Alex Turner, the cinematography that effortlessly shifts between comic framing and beautiful imagery and the note-perfect performances by the entire cast.


Happy Together (1997)

Happy Together (1997)
Directed by: Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 96 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.4

The story follows a young gay couple from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, where they foolishly imagine they can salvage their stormy relationship by starting over in a new place. No sooner do they arrive than they quarrel and separate. As the movie, narrated by Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), the more introspective of the two, follows Lai around the city, the cacophonous urbanity that in other films by Mr. Wong serves as a mood-enhancing stimulant only underscores his alienation and melancholy.

The first twenty or so minutes of the film are in black-and-white and outline the dysfunctional romantic relationship between the two main characters.  Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) is the extrovert – a spoiled, self-absorbed narcissist who continually avoids responsibility and seeks to charm his way through all circumstances.  His lover, Lai Yiu-Fai , is the introvert and is more responsible, sensitive, and caring.  For most of the film, the focalization is on Lai, and the viewer is privy to Lai’s inner monologue describing his emotional responses and reflections. 

The two men have a stated goal of eventually making a trip to the famous Iguazu Falls about a thousand kilometers north of the city. And this goal has metaphorical overtones for the story.  For the two men, this goal is almost an unrealizable fantasy, and the closest they seem to be able to get to is to stare at a rotating frosted souvenir lamp depicting the falls in Lai’s apartment.
As the film opens, the two are already locked in a pattern of abuse: Leung, the steadier, more practical of the two, is ill-equipped to handle Cheung’s immaturity and lack of commitment. When the two stall out in Buenos Aires indefinitely, without the money to go home, Leung logs time as a doorman at a tango bar, while his partner carouses with other men and lives dangerously.

For all its darkness and discord, Happy Together ends on a note of cautious hope. Lai begins working at a restaurant and forms a friendship with a young man named Chang (Chen Chang), and develops a romantic attachment to him. The film remains ambiguous about Chang's sexuality, but the character comes to represent a new option for Lai, a life without Ho and their dance of love and hate. It's unclear whether or not Lai will ever be truly happy, but Wong ends the film in a way which celebrates that uncertainty, since it represents possibility and the hope of something different than what went before. 

Their relationship is really the heart of the story which goes completely opposite of the film's namesake. Not once are they happy together nor are they happy apart. The film acts as a sort of tug-a-war with these lovers constantly battling to win each other back or push each other way. Never once is one's "male" dominance long lasting, leaving these lovers continuing their love hate relationship.The narrative was considerably random; we never know where Wong Kar-wai would lead us after following particular events. However, every sequence was made beautiful and meaningful—meaning to say, the beauty creates substance in this over-exploding gay romance. All in all, Happy Together is one of the most exceptional film made by Wong Kar-wai for its blunt, ingenious perspective of an ailing relationship craving for reconciliation. Instead, it grabs the sentimental side of this deteriorating relationship in an honest, explosive way. The non linear story also perfectly captures the life of these two characters who are literally fish out of water. Wong's fixation on alienation and searching come through more in this film than any of his others. The powerful acting propels the story and the emotional content of their relationship gives it a heart. The film is not happy nor is it very entertaining beyond the characters. Nothing much is gained and nothing much is lost yet the aesthetic beauty of the cramped and ugly Argentina background leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.

The couple show their true colours in heated dialogue exchanges that contain blame and jealousy, as well as regret and longing. A brilliant scene perfectly captures their entire relationship through visual metaphors. The pair sleep in separate beds showing their distance, while dressed in only their underwear which signifies their vulnerability. The partner being interrogated uses their blanket to hide from the confrontation, only to be left alone and then pursue their own line of questioning in a seemingly endless argument. This sequence works so well as it shows Wong Kar Wai using his best visual poetry, which is easy to grasp as well as being humorous and poignant. Another such symbolic moment sees the pair having reduced their initial dream of travelling to a waterfall, into a lamp with a waterfall upon it. Their dream becomes a tiny little footnote that they admire every now and again when they break from their bickering.

Wong's technical wizardry extends to a control of colour that encompasses harsh high contrast black and whites of the road-movie opening, blue- and sepia-tinted monochromatic transitional scenes, highly-saturated colours of its urban settings, and the uncanny naturalism of the most arresting image of the film: Iguazu Falls. We see the Falls from high overhead, in an image that slowly rotates through 180 degrees, taking all the time in the world. The first time, as a place that can't be reached; and at the end, as an arrival point, however temporary, for Lai.

Happy Together like its Turtles inspired title, is a contradictory look at love and how it can actually be possessive obsession thickly veiled to those involved. The title is ironic as the film showcases the on-again off-again romance where the participants are nothing but miserable during their time together. The Turtles song from which the film takes its title has always been one of my favourite songs of all time, and one of the reasons is how sweet and endearing the lyrics are, mixed with an often dark melody. 


Comrades: Almost Love Story/ Tian Mi Mi (1996)

Comrades: Almost Love Story/ Tian Mi Mi (1996)
Directed by: Peter Chan
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Runtime: 118 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.7

the story starts off pretty simply. During the 1980s, Hong Kong was an up and rising economic powerhouse in Asia. It attracted many Chinese Mainlanders (a term to describe those who came from China) who migrated there for employment and success, indicating that there was a lack of opportunities back home. In 1986, Li Xiao Jun (played by Leon Lai) arrives in Hong Kong. He's a Mainlander from some rural community up north. He lived in the tiniest room of minuscule apartment at his Auntie Rosie, who was actually running a brothel, and several other Thai sex workers.  He come to Hong Kong to make some money in order to eventually bring his fiancée down and get married. This task is made difficult because he is rather naive and more importantly, doesn't speak a word of Cantonese. His best hope is to work menial jobs until he can learn the language and better his circumstances. Even though his life was hard due to the language problem, Xiao Jun worked very hard, starting from the bottom as a delivery guy for a butcher shop

He, then, formed a friendship with Li Qiao (maggie Cheung), a tough young woman who be more well-versed about Hong Kong than he was. She spoke Cantonese like a Hong Konger, behaved like a Hong Konger and even thought like a Hong Konger. It begins when he goes into a McDonald's to pantomime his way into ordering a hamburger. The cashier, Li Qiao, is arrogantly frustrated with his inability to speak Cantonese and tells him he'd better get with the cantonese and english because in the hustling capitalism of Hong Kong, people like him don't stand much of a chance. He is drawn to her because she can speak to him in Mandarin and she is very cute. "Are you from the Mainland, too?" he asks. "Of course not!" she says. (It's hard to move up in Hong Kong with that stigma attached.) They end up spending time together.

from this moment, "Tian mi mi" song chants in entire film
They grow closer. At one point she confesses that she too is from the Mainland (but from nearby Guangzhou Province). He replies "I've pretty much known that all along." "They why did you let me take advantage of you?" "I needed a friend and you're the only one I have." They become lovers of convenience and proximity. He still loves his fiancée and sends her letters, but she is distant and Li Qiao is near.

Li Qiao, however, is not the romantic lead often found in typical stories; her main method of making money is to hoodwink fellow main-landers into handing over resources. It just so happens that naive Li Xiao-Jun is one such man to fall for her trickery but, although they begin their time together as deceiver and victim, their shared loneliness and status as desolate souls in a big, bustling metropolis brings them together in a passionate, albeit, doomed affair. 

The two vow to stay only friends, which seems easy as their lives prosper. However, when financial slowdown sets in, things take a turn for the worse. Chiao turns to working in a massage parlor for cash, and comes to question her "friendship" with Xiao-Jun. Xiao-Jun brings his fiancee, Xiao-Ting, to Hong Kong, and Li Qiao eventually takes up with Pao(Eric Tsang),a Triad boss with a heart of gold. However, despite their best efforts, their fates cross again and the two find themselves questioning their earlier choices. 

With a fiance back in China, Li Xiao-Jun knows his time with Li Qiao must end; they depart each other's company physically, moving onto new relationships, but deep inside an unbreakable bond has been formed. In keeping with the film's English title, as much as our leads would prefer this to not be a love story, it is indisputably so - the pair shared youth and fell head over heels with each other and the music of Teresa Teng together. Bonds like these are not easily broken.

Comrades, Almost a Love Story focuses on the isolation in the crowd and correlative loneliness that many newcomers to a big city often experience. Xiaojun and Li Qiao, despite both being Chinese, find themselves isolated amongst the Hong Kongers. Between humorous scenes of them trying to learn English (with an American teacher having his class chant “jump you son of bitch, jump” as they watch a cowboy movie) and their attempts to climb the social ladder as migrant workers, the two eventually fall in some state of love and lust, breaking the oath of fidelity Xiaojun made to his fiancee, brought together by their mutual Chinese-ness in a sea of Hong Kongers who would rather see themselves as British subjects, especially in the face of the repatriation to come a year later.

Director takes an unusual approach to the urban isolation romance. Rather than frame his characters in long shots, emphasizing the crowds around them, he shows them in tight close-ups and two shots, adoringly close explorations of the star’s lovely faces. While there are occasional establishing shots of crowds (Lai bicycling through the Tsimshatsui district, narrating his life in a letter home; Lai navigating a crowd lined up for new housing, bringing water and chocolate to Cheung), for most of the film we are seeing the two leads either alone or together (a few times from the point-of-view of an ATM machine, the pair alone in a small square patch of screen space) while the world outside is reduced to blurry, fragmented noise.

The cleverest of these — and one with huge resonances for Chinese viewers — is the duo’s shared passion for Taiwanese thrush Teresa Teng, whose idealistic Mandarin melodies entranced a whole generation of mainland and overseas Chinese during the ’70s and ’80s. (Pic’s Chinese title, which literally means “Honey Sweet,” is one of her best-known songs.) The duo’s early failure to make a living selling her albums in hard-bitten, Cantonese-speaking H.K. — and their shared grief at her death in 1995 — is the movie’s most touching expression of the often false hopes that power Chinese emigres.

The music of Teresa Teng also plays a huge role in this film. The Chinese title, Tian Mi Mi is one of Teresa’s songs and couple loved humming to the song while riding on the bicycle. Li Qiao was an ardent fan of Teresa Teng and sold her cassettes as a part time endeavour. Li Qiao herself is a very interesting character to watch in this film. Underneath that harsh straightforward manner she displayed, her love for Teresa Teng’s songs represented her softer side. She could have been gentler if life was a bit nicer to her. Yet, unlike the innocent Xiao Jun, Li Qiao was often in a survival mode, her mind set to make money as much as possible. Teresa Teng’s music made the film a much sweeter journey as it serves as a stark contrast to the city-centred cinematography of the film.

The object of their shared affection is Teresa Teng, the legendary and powerfully emotional Taiwanese singer; a performer whose song gives the film it's original title. As one of the first singers to bring popular music to China, her songs were revolutionary - rather than communist anthems celebrating the power of the regime, Teng's tender laments spoke of heartbreak and longing, giving dignity to the self as an individual. This was considered dangerous by a government who were formed on the ideology of the collective over the self and, as such, these simple love songs became personal, political statements. 


Eat Drink Man Woman (1994): "Life should not be like cooking, you need to wait until all ingredients are prepared."

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Life should not be like cooking, you need to wait until all ingredients are prepared.
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Sihung Lung, Yu-Wen Wang, Chien-lien Wu, Kuei-Mei Yang
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 124 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.0

Chu: Eat drink, man woman,food and sex. Human basic desire. Can't avoid them! All my life, every day, all I do. It pisses me off. Is that all there is? Is this a good life?

A veritable smorgasbord of all the things that make life worthwhile, including good friendship, love, food and sex, can be found in Ang Lee's `Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,' the story of a widower who has raised three daughters on his own, and now that they are grown is ready to move on with his life. Chu (Sihung Lung), a celebrated chef who runs the kitchen of a huge restaurant, finds himself at an impasse however; his daughters, Jia-Jen (Kuei-Mei Yang), the eldest, a teacher, Jia-Chen (Chien-lien Wu), his second, an airline executive, and Jia-Ning (Yu-Wen Wang), the youngest, who works at a fast food restaurant, all still live with their father, and though they are adults (all in their twenties), he feels responsible for them, as they are still under his roof. They, on the other hand, feel responsible for him; he'll soon be retired, and they fear age is catching up with him. And it makes them each, in turn, think twice about career opportunities and any romantic entanglements that may appear on the horizon. it's a situation they all realize is not conducive to a happy, fulfilling and fully functional family life; the love is there, but it's seasoned with frustration, and no one seems to know what to do about it.

Chu: These past two days, I... something wrong?
Jia-Chien: No, it's fine. Nothing.
[Jia-Chien makes a face from the soup]
Chu: Say it!
Jia-Chien: The ham was oversmoked.
Jia-Ning: It's fine.
Jia-Jen: Father probably forgot to taste it.
Jia-Chien: Or his taste is getting worse.
Chu: My taste is fine!

As in all Ang Lee films the cinematography is spectacular, and the opening sequence is a wonderful demonstration of Chinese culinary excellence, and it is almost impossible not to stop the film right there, go and get some chinese takeaway to eat, and come back to enjoy the film without the cravings that this film inevitably produces. The Characters are complex and likeable, and the relationships between them is what this film is all about. The family is slightly dysfunctional and communication is often strained but as the movie develops these dialogs become more heartfelt, and the love between the characters becomes more and more apparent.

Chu: I don't understand any of them, and I don't want to know. Let them grow up and leave. It's like cooking. Your appetite's gone when the dish is done.
Old Wen: That's not the worst thing. At least people like your cooking.
Chu: Honestly, Id' have to give that up if it hadn't been for you lately. My sense of taste is getting worse and worse. My food is only as good as the expression on your face.
Old Wen: Don't be silly. You rely on your feelings when you cook, not your taste buds. Like that Western deaf composer, called Bee...
Chu: Beethoven.
Old Wen: That's right, Beethoven. Good sound is not in the ear, good taste is not in the mouth

Lee has crafted and delivered a complex, involving film, laced with poignancy and humor that deals with the kinds of problems most people face during the course of their lives. And, of course, there's the love, the many faces of which are all explored here. Food is the metaphor; Chu sets his table with a variety of tantalizing and exotic offerings, even as the table of life is set with like fare, and once set, it is up to the individual to sample what they will. Fittingly, it is at the dinner table that many of the meaningful events in the lives of the family members are revealed. Lee uses the intricate emotional weave of the story to optimum effect with his ability to illuminate the sensibilities of his characters, and that he does it so well demonstrates the depth of his own insight into human nature. And that he can so proficiently transfer the emotions of the written page to the screen demonstrates his mastery of the art of film directing. Finally the story is wrapped up in a stunningly sincere and beautiful scene between father and daughter, which invariably leaves me sitting in total silence until the end of the credits.

Chu: Men die for money, birds die for food. It's not worth dying for food for a man.
In a more mainstream film, everything would have been treated more heavily, but Ang Lee resists that temptation and uses a lot of restraint. This gives the film a great dose of realism, so much that it doesn't seem like a film, but instead an examination of the lives of some ordinary people. This also helps create the tone, which is rather light and pleasant.

Lee has also turned what might have been merely an extended Taiwanese soap opera into a wise and warm exploration of family relationships, love and friendship, against the backdrop of a traditional society adapting to the modern world. Fascinating in themselves, the food preparation sequences serve as a metaphor for the skill required to transform bare existence into a rich life. As with real life, `Eat, Drink, Man, Woman' is far from predictable, and is filled with twists and turns, including a surprise at the end. In the final analysis, this film is a delightful, entertaining reflection upon the human condition that will awaken your taste buds and prepare you for the feast of life. 


The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
We are Infinite
Directed by : Stephen Chbosky
Starring : Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Genre : Romance, Drama
Runtime : 102 minutes
WI's Rating : 8.5

Patrick: C minus, ladies and gentlemen! I am below average!
Sam: Below average!
Patrick: Below average!

Based on the popular epistolary young adult novel by Stephen Chbosky, who also directs, The Perks of Being a Wallflower centers on a young high school kid named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is a meek, unassuming tenant of this world, a kid so shy and unremarkable that you could probably spend four years attending the same school and never notice him. That, at least, is the way his fellow students see him. We meet him at home, with his mom and dad and a sister who is dating a loser. Charlie's heart is damaged because of a tragedy long ago. His aunt died in an accident on his birthday. Years have gone by but Charlie still nurses fresh wounds. His act of self-therapy is to write in a private journal to someone he calls "My friend." We meet him as he is entering high school, a place where he is both mocked and ignored. It isn't long before – much to his amazement – he makes some friends. One is a flamboyant kid named Patrick (Ezra Miller) who has a joke or a line for each and every occasion. For a while, Patrick's overabundant personality seems one-note until late in the film when he begins to confide in Charlie some things about his own dark past that break his jolly facade. The other is Patrick's half-sister Sam, played in a brilliant performance by Emma Watson whose presence still contains echoes of Hermione Granger. Once, Sam was the "school atention", who got the attention of the boys by making herself an object of lust. Casting off that skin, she lives a cleaner life but now has to live with feelings of regret. She's not the typical Movie Girlfriend who has all the easy answers contained in a tender smile. She stirs the poetry in Charlie's soul, but she is afraid to move toward love. Sam is a particular human being, not a cliché, the rare kind of teenager who seems to be waiting for something. She doesn't live in the moment but is always looking forward. She seems to be a victim of time itself, trapped in a body and an age that won't let her press forward fast enough. That's probably why she is working so hard to get away from her past and into a good college. 

Within his new circle of friends he finds himself attending an alarming number of high school parties, one of which has him sampling the host's fresh batch of brownies – several in fact – with predictable results. Charlie is nudged into experiences that few parents would agree with, but that Charlie will certainly never forget, no matter how hard he tries. The unique circle of friends also includes a sweet but cloying girl who will briefly become Charlie's first girlfriend. She is Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) who has little interest in Charlie as a person, but more of an interest in just having a boyfriend. She quickly gets on his nerves and their relationship comes to a devastating conclusion that we don't expect.

Charlie: I don't know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might be too busy trying to participate. So if this does end up being the last letter I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn't know what I was talking about or know someone who has gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don't happen. And there are people who forget what it's like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We'll all become somebody's mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening, I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you're not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you're listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another story about a simple guy living in a cruel life of high school. The difference is he's not ought to save the day, wants to lose his virginity, seeking to be popular, or revenge on his bullies. The story is about a shy kid who wants to get along with people and can't wait to leave high school. Behind it is the genuine pain and emotion of the characters which makes it more than just another story about teenagers. Stephen Chbosky tells his own story on screen pretty well and the performances are quite excellent. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is often heartbreaking, charming, and wonderful. Charlie is palpably just another teenage protagonist, but he is not one of those who tries to prove everyone who mistreated him wrong. His goal is to get away from being anti-social and be like anyone else in high school. We may have heard a story like this before, but what makes this one extraordinary is when it mostly depicts the darkest aspects of their lives. Expressing the most heartbreaking truths about these teenagers. Knowing their problems easily makes it reasonable for us to care about them. The romance is rather credibly lovely than a mainstream claptrap. In the joyous moments, it's pretty delightful and plays a quite nostalgic soundtrack. The indie look and feel of the film is undeniable from the start. Single-point lighting is used effectively as a plot device. Charlie's face often appears split down the center, one side brightly lit, the other in soft shadow, mirroring his conflicted soul and sense of confusion, trapped between two worlds. Light falls gently on him when he's serene, more harshly in moments of crisis. The darkness hides the secrets he deftly keeps to himself as the narrative unfolds.

Sam: You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think it counts as love. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is unpredictable because it depends on the actions of the characters, both in the serious and the comic moments. They are written and acted with such specific detail that we can feel the even flow of their lives. There is drama, joy, heartbreaks, mistakes, misunderstandings, romance, laughter and revelations. It is a breath of fresh air to finally encounter a screenplay that lets the characters be human beings. It feels the joy and tragedy of the awkward passage of the teenage years. This is a film so smart about life that you find yourself nodding with recognition. It is one of the best films of the year.