Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Sparrow (2008)

The story of four pickpockets who get entangled with a mysterious woman is a charming throw back to the 1960's style European caper films that starred people like Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Though filmed in Hong Kong the film has the feel of being set in Paris.

Director Johnnie To has made a flawed but intriguing film. He has taken all of the finest things and brought them together into a film that will more than likely have you smiling from ear to ear.

The first thing you'll notice is the score which doesn't sound like its from Hong Kong. The score is decidedly European or at the least Euro influenced and it perfectly sets the mood of a light hearted romp.

Next we have the look of the film. This is a film that is in love with its characters and its setting. I don't ever remember seeing a film that made Hong Kong look this good. Its one of the jewels of Europe not a jewel of Asia. Had the film not been in Chinese with an Asian cast you'd swear it was Paris. The black and white photos that Simon Yam takes in the film are stunning. They add a nice dimension to the film, and their use during the credits is a nice way to ease out of the film.

The cast headed by Simon Yam is first rate. Yam has always been a tough guy actor and the chance to see him in a lighthearted mode is great. Who knew he had such a great smile. Its infectious. Kelly Lin as the woman in question is wonderful. Looking over her IMDb entry I'm amazed at how many movies I've seen her in. She really is a great actress. The rest of the cast is equally good, even Lo Hoi Pang as the villain of the piece. He maybe slimy but at the same time you can't help but like him.

Last but not least are the various set pieces and sequences in the film. The film is filed with wonderful little bits that make the film a pleasure to watch. From the opening where Simon Yam is in his apartment, to the various meetings of the crew, the first pickpocket outing, the first appearance of the woman in everyone's lives, to the "wounded" chase, and on and on to the finale in the rain with umbrellas. You admire the audacity, charm and technical skill that's has gone into each bit.

Which is part of the problem with the film, As enjoyable as the film is you never stop thinking that the film is a film. On some level all of the characters do become real, frankly I would love a sequel, but at the same time you are also aware of the film-making. You know that Johnnie To is skillfully moving everything about. Its not bad but it never allows you give yourself over to the film completely to it. You're aware of the magician doing his magic-even if you can't see how its being done. Its not fatal, its more nit picking because pretty much the rest of the film is so good.

In the interest of fairness my only other complaint is that the plot has a couple of plot bumps or gaps that again are not fatal but could have been smoothed out bridged had the film been a little bit longer (the film runs about 85 minutes). They are not the thing I can really discuss because to do so will give details away, never mind they complaint is minor.

Absolutely worth a look. This is one of those films that I really think should be seen even if its not perfect or going to be loved by everyone simply because there is so much good in it its worth experiencing.

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