Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962). Godard gives us a film of ideas, but outside of one sequence where the main character, Nana, and a philosopher discuss talking and thinking, the ideas seem to slip in by chance, in the midst of dialogue which is occasionally (if purposely) perfunctory. So a discussion between two prostitutes begins with the two catching up on each other’s lives, but ends with Nana describing her life in clear existential terms: “I am responsible.” The film has a documentary sheen, but you can’t say we are encouraged to see it as a form of fictional cinéma vérité, because Godard interrupts our viewing experience in a Brechtian fashion, so we are always aware that the documentary sheen is constructed, not real. I appreciate that the above might suggest a dry film you wouldn’t watch if not forced to do so, but it is nothing of the sort. Anna Karina is as good as she has ever been, and our attention never flags during the film’s 83 minutes. #125 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time.
Ip Man (Wilson Yip, 2008). Very good martial arts film, based on “fact” rather than fact, with Donnie Yen in another fine performance. He carries the title role with quiet confidence, and the fight scenes, staged by the immortal Sammo Hung, are top notch. Simon Yam gets to play a good guy, and a newcomer named Lynn Hung shows that Trisha Helfer isn’t the only 5’10” ex-model who can act, as Mrs. Ip Man. Top it off with Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, who plays a Japanese bad guy with subtleties you don’t often find in such roles, and you’ve got the acting down as well as the action. As for the plot, well, it works well on the screen … it’s kinda like Billy Jack Goes to China in some odd ways … but the life of the real Ip Man gets worked around until he becomes a fine example of Chinese resistance against those big bad Japanese. I’m sure the Chinese government liked this interpretation.
Fanboys (Kyle Newman, 2009). I laughed a few times in the early part of this amiable comedy, and thought perhaps it would be the rare contemporary comedy that I liked. It didn’t get any better, though. The in-jokes pile up, and there are some good ones, but to my mind, they were too insular. And the infamous “cancer plot” was just as boringly standard as expected.