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RWaller's reviews view profile

High-class Comedy Has High-Class Finish  
on November 13, 2004 - 9:20 AM PST
  of Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Vol. 3: Destiny (2004)
6 out of 8 members found this review helpful

(This review refers to Ai Yori Aoshi - Enishi Vol. 3)

Ai Yori Aoshi is a class act from the beginning, taking the harem-comedy form and exploiting it to tell a beautiful and touching story of perfect love and its many rewards, and with stunning visual beauty and sometimes haunting music.

Nonetheless, while working my way through it, I was frequently disappointed (and even sometimes appalled) by the dumbness and vulgarity of the comedy that accompanied the exquisite central romance. Eventually I understood that this was on purpose, to dramatize the cultural gap between the traditionally-raised Kaori and Aoi, and the "modern" people who surrounded them.

If you've already seen some of the second season "Enishi" you may have felt let down, and suspected the show wasn't really going anywhere further. Well, it is, but probably not to where you expected ... instead it ends on a quieter and more sublime note that reveals the true importance of everything that came before in a very special way.

Do not miss this truly beautiful finish to a truly beautiful story.
Buddhist masterpiece  
on October 16, 2004 - 1:25 PM PDT
  of The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

This stunningly beautiful film has a strong Buddhist theme, so it's unsurprising that many American viewers were perplexed by it even while captivated by its beauty.

It is the story of Mui, a poor servant girl ... except she is no ordinary servant girl, she is an Enlightened One. She lives totally in the here and now, and sees and appreciates everything (and so do we, thanks to the breathtaking color cinematography). She quietly goes through her ordinary life, giving every tiny moment all her attention and invisibly enriching the lives of all those around her, until near the end of the picture she is given off to a family friend whom, coincidentally, she has fancied since she was little. He is engaged to another woman, but one day he picks up a bust of Buddha, and stares at it with recognition, realizing suddenly that the face and the smile of the Buddha are something he has been seeing every day, on Mui. He sees her for what she is, and both their lives are transformed.

Even more astounding than the richness and beauty of this film, is the feat of finding two wonderful actresses 10 years apart, to play the same very unusual girl, both identically beautiful and graceful and having the Buddha smile.

Intoxicating and unforgettable.
Ripoff Gains Respectability With Age  
on June 1, 2004 - 7:59 PM PDT
  of Wizards (1977)
4 out of 7 members found this review helpful

I am saddened that no one today remembers the "cartoon messiah" Vaughn Bode, whose creations "Junkwaffel" and "Cheech Wizard" were pioneer works of alternative comics.

Ralph Bakshi, desiring to do a Cheech Wizard movie after his success with "Fritz the Cat" (a film despised by Fritz's creator, Robert Crumb) already had a lot of footage in the can before he bothered to ask for permission. When Bode refused to approve the project, Bakshi went ahead anyway, reworking some of the finished material to disguise the characters, but not much.

The reason why this film is such a mishmosh of styles, is that it is a combination of material based on Cheech Wizard and Junkwaffel (unattributed of course), material altered to try to make it look sufficiently different from the Bode originals, and material thrown together on the quick (lots of bad rotoscope) to fill in for stuff that couldn't be used without Bakshi getting sued by Bode's lawyer, if he had one.

Vaughn Bode is dead and forgotten now, but this piece of sloppy plagiarism still exists. Too bad for all of us.
black comic masterpiece  
on February 27, 2004 - 6:33 AM PST
  of L' Ennui (1998)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Has no one else found this film funny? I was laughing helplessly through almost every minute of this agonizing and all-too-believable story based more or less on Alberto Moravia's The Empty Canvas.

Director CÚdric Kahn casts an ironic and unsympathetic eye on Martin (Charles Berling), a self-obsessed philosophy professor who seems to think everyone, especially his ex Sophia, should be fascinated with his inner crises. He is an egomaniac of Woody Allen proportions. He is still dependent on Sophia, though he has clearly long since driven her off with his craziness.

Through a bizarre series of events he meets his match .. Cecilia, the exact opposite of Sophia - a voluptuous but quite ordinary girl who is fresh from an affair with a 65 year old painter and is unruffled by Martin's rude and ceaseless interrogation, which she mostly just shrugs off. He is fascinated with her, he can't believe anyone can be so impassive, he must find out why the artist became obsessed with her, he must possess her. She seems amused by him, she is used to artistic types and simply ignores his raving. They strike an arrangement, and they meet together every day for sex. She is punctual, and even in the sex - which we see plenty of - she is affectionate but impassive.

Soon Martin, pretty loosely wrapped to start with, is going into a manic tailspin over Cecilia, frustrated with her apparent refusal to become emotionally involved, babbling to the disgusted Sophia about the details of their lovemaking and raving alternately about how he has to break it off with the girl, and how he has to possess her. He becomes a continuous pest, interrupting Sophia with phone calls and visits at all hours.

He becomes obsessed with the idea that Cecilia is cheating on him. She refuses to fight with him. He becomes enraged and begins habitually taking her forcefully at unexpected moments, trying to claim her. This too amuses her.

Martin's degeneration into a screaming, running maniac - which he wasn't far from to start with - is worthy of Roberto Benigni - he is in constant motion, driving at top speed, charging at every available telephone, running frantically down streets to "expose" Cecilia's infidelity, horrifying everyone he comes in contact with. The camera follows all this frantic activity without comment. When he finally does catch Cecilia lying about her "actor friend" she is unruffled even then, blandly confessing her simultaneous affair and uncomprehending of any problem this should cause him. Their ensuing difficulties lead to a calamitous climax from which, typically, he learns nothing.

The result of all this is a hilarious black comedy, ruthlessly and insightfully examining the relations between artists and the simple unreflective women ("empty canvases") they invariably become obsessed with, the attraction of opposites, the desire for the unobtainable, and the solitary nature of obsession. And this comedy is enacted in a beautiful visual framework, mirroring the art which is the unspoken source of all the action.

It is unclear whether Kahn and his star Berling intended this specifically as a comedy, but the film's wit and lack of mercy make it irresistable, laughter comes from the horror of recognition. There is no attempt made from beginning to end, to show either sympathy or contempt, either for the preposterous excesses of Martin's neurotic personality or the placid ruthlessness of the equally self-centered Cecilia, the object of his obsession.

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