catfish and rock chicks

i have been a very busy social butterfly this week, with tuesday night knitting, and more to come this weekend with guild meeting and then not one but two world wide knit in public day events. so actual knitting progress is slow, and i have nothing new to show or tell, except that i am onto the second sleeve of the TtHF featherweight and a couple more inches up the leg of a sock!

the sock knitting was faciliated this week by two 1.5hour train rides, one to sydney and one back again the next day. the cause of this excursion was an invite from knitterjp to attend a session of the sydney film festival with her. i have not been to the film festival since i was at film school and it was a mandatory subject from which you had to write 15 film reviews. if anythings designed to kill your love of films, that will do it.

so i was excited to be going back to the state theatre and excited to be seeing two films that were the subject of a deal of public interest, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” and “The Runaways”. this is my only picture of the entire evening, and its a phone-camera pic. sorry!

now, my days of deconstructing films, of unearthing sub text, of considering the ‘gaze’, are well behind me, and i am happy to leave it so (as someone said once, jurassic park is just about dinosaurs, dude). but, in the interests of having nothing better to say in blogland right now, i submit, for your reading pleasure, my distinctly populist reviews of these two films.

firstly Uncle Boonmee, which, as we all know, won the Palme D’or at Cannes a couple of weeks ago. not that that is any guarantee, film festivals being inherently political beasts. but i did have some expectations about this one. for example, i heard it was a comedy. it isnt really, tho it does have some funny moments, and i did laugh, but i laughed at some places i dont think i was meant to laugh at. it started with a lovely slow meditative feel as we followed an escapee water buffalo, eventually reclaimed by a loin cloth wearing farm boy signifying, i think, The Past. this was juxtaposed with a post-title move into present day rural thailand, and i enjoyed that switch, although i did think the countryside looked oddly australian. uncle boonmee turns out to be quite a character, and we follow his journey to his death, assisted by his sister in law, nephew, returned-from-the-dead wife and returned-from-the-jungle-but-now-a-monkey-spirit son. their sudden appearance at the dinner table required a suspension of disbelief i was willing to make, given it was accompanied by a cute little quip from sister-in-law jen, who, looking at monkey-son, asks why he let his hair grow so long. funny.  there were some lovely scenes between unclee boonmee and jen, and i really enjoyed the slow meditation as we followed him about the tamarind farm. the whole scene was so evocative, the sounds, the slowness of everyones movement in the heat, the buzz of insects, the sleeplessness under mozzie nets at night time.

then suddenly we were in The Past again, travelling with a Thai Princess to a sacred pool, where she talks to her reflection and laments the passing of her youth and beauty. the scene was quite a jolt, there was no explanation or segue, given it was the same jungle uncle boonmee had just been walking in. anyway, things got even weirder when the Princess starts talking to a catfish in the pool, then she gets in the pool and gets up close and personal with said catfish, and then you know that something just isnt right. either we’re in a ‘lost in translation’ moment, or its meant to be funny, or i really dont know, but people kind of laughed and then stopped laughing, and you just realise how locked into your own cultural tradition you are, that there are acceptable ways of telling stories that youre used to and how do you move beyond that? i mean, we make plenty of crappy art house movies in the west, and we all watch them and pretend we understand, pretend they’re so deep, but most of the time they’re just sound and fury signifying nothing. i dont think this was the case with unclee boonmee, because it did mean something, and the rest of the movie returned to the present, where a direct link to the catfish scene was made, but even so, it was clumsy and not really very clever film making. it makes me uncomfortable when movies like this are given major awards. not because they dont deserve them, i really am no judge of that, but because i get this feeling theres a kind of reverse-cultural imperialism going on. a kind of paternalism. like its so strange and cute and sweet, it must mean something, and so we must award it, because it must mean something. but really, maybe it was just about the catfish, dude. dont get me wrong, it was a really interesting film, and im glad i saw it, but to call it “Elliptical, spiritual and with a finely honed sense of the extraordinary in the everyday”* is to be just a little bit disingenuous, methinks.

in a move that totally epitomises the idea of ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’, we went from a metaphysical buddhist meditation to the loud thumping rush of The Runaways. at the moment, this film is getting a lot of attention because of a certain Twilight actress having a go at being something other than a sullen vampire-wannabe. and for a while it looked like all she was going to manage was sullen-rock-chick-wanna-be, but then she met Kim Fowley (Micheal Shannon) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), and well, the rest is history. seriously, if you dont know the history, a girl called Joan calls herself joan jett, introduces herself to creepy rock producer with idea for all-girl band, they recruit a singer called Cherie, write a song called Cherry Bomb, make it big and proceed to implode. its a fairly standard rock and roll story, in that respect, but its outstanding and original as a movie for a few reasons. firstly, they were an all girl band when that wasnt done. secondly, they were kids. and thirdly, they were really freaking good. joan jett, lita ford, sandy west… need i say more? seriously good rock chicks. and this is a seriously good rock chick movie. sometimes it skates on thin ice ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ cliche wise, but thats what that life is. the relationship between joan and cherie is beautifully handled, the reality of that life so well portrayed, and the havoc it wreaks on them all so heartbreaking to watch. but none of that even matters because there are knock out performances and a killer soundtrack. bowie, sex pistols, suzie quattro, and the runaways themselves, it totally rocked. i wanted to get out of my seat and jump around. im still walking around singing “have ya grab ya till youre sore…hello daddy hello mom… im youre ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb!”. i really want to see this again in a big new cinema with a top notch sound system. i dont think ive ever had so much fun at a movie before, and its not a fun ending either. if i had to sum it up, i would say dakota fanning is going to be dripping in oscars one day REAL soon, and, it was TOTALLY FREAKIN AWESOME!!!

overall, a great night, including hanging out with jp at the swiss’otel, dumplings at wagammana and an overnight stay in a hotel in the middle of sydney, followed up with book shopping (the new sookie, see im all about pop culture at the moment), a yarn sale where i bought nothing, and a qvb lunch with three generations of roseredness.

did i mention, totally freakin awesome?!

k xx

PS wordpress is taking out some of my section breaks today so apologies for the long paragraphs.

*Quote from CS, Film Festival website

About DrK

researcher, knitter, dog lover View all posts by DrK

7 responses to “catfish and rock chicks

  • bellsknits

    two vastly different film experiences in one night! I’ve not seen, I think it’s safe to say, any films from Thailand ever. It’d be worth it just for that.

    And rock n roll cliche films are either dire or amazing. This one sounds worth checking out!

    God I love the State Theatre. So many happy concert going memories there, but never a film!

  • Rose Red

    Will you still like me if I tell you I have no idea who the Runaways are? I know about Joan Jett though…

    But it sounds like a great movie, hopefully I’ll get to see it sometime! Not sure about Uncle Boonmee’s acid trip though!

    • drkknits

      it was totally an acid trip! i thought i was having a flashback! and i didnt really know about the runaways either (i was only 7 at the time), but i did recognise some songs.

  • shellauw

    You know. I still don’t get Sookie. I really don’t get Sookie. I don’t like her. Not in the same way I really don’t like Twilight, but I just don’t like Sookie.

    I’m having an ongoing debate with a Sookie-obsessed friend of mine here, and I still can’t articulate it. Maybe Anne Rice and Christopher Pike ruined me for life…

    And I miss film festivals. Thai films are an emotional rollercoaster, but I love them. Korean films are a little more hardcore… but I think French films are possibly the best.

  • gidgetknits

    Rock chicks… that sounds good! Thanks for the review.

  • ailsa

    OK I completely apologise. This was a GREAT post.

    I loved what you said about the reverse cultural imperialism – it is almost patronising at times. Critics can pretend to adore what they fear they don’t understand – the emperor’s new clothes..


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