Sunday, June 27, 2010

NYAFF 2010-Day 2 A case for Development Hell

A hot muggy soupy day in NYC. The perfect day to be inside watching a movie...or three.

This is easily the worst film directed by the Pang Brothers. They are a writing directing duo who's work I really love (Recycle is a favorite), but this time out of the box all they brought was technical wizardry. The story of a bunch of martial artists battling the evil Lord Godless (played by Simon Yam in a role I don't think he's happy about) who is trying to take over China. Its all over blown action and visuals (which are about 800 out of 10) but its dramatically barren.

This is based on a comic and an earlier film but isn't a sequel nor a direct remake, at least according to the NYAFF material, however the extras on the DVD call it a sequel. Personally I really don't care because this movie is awful. Where is the crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when you need them? The film starts in the middle, has no characters (or performances) of any sort and is possessing the worst dialog in years. One of the worst films of the year (its a bad movie lovers dream-I longed to talk back to it) it will go on my best of year list in terms of the visuals.

Frankly I left early (Buried Land rule was in effect). Which was cool because when I left the theater I met Simon Yam for a second time and he genuinely engaged me for a momentary conversation. (I think he thinks I'm someone I'm not)

The second film is an hour long documentary called Development Hell. It was started as a short film for the cast and crew of Dark October the original version of the current Bodyguards and Assassins but grew as things happened and the production got delayed. The film chronicles the films fits and starts in getting made. The film talks about the film's origins in the producer Peter Chan's father earlier version of the story which for odd reasons was never released in China but was around the world and is currently buried. Thirty years later Peter starts to make his own version and that's when things begin happening (SARS, 9/11, funding problems).

Its a wonderful behind the scenes piece that shows the development of the story, the construction of the set, and the general difficulty of making the film. Its a fantastic explanation of the film and what the filmmakers were trying to do and why. (Frankly I found that seeing the film after seeing the documentary increased my love of Bodyguards because it put everything into perspective.)

If you want to know how good the film is, I would put it as one revision from being one of the best documentaries on film I've ever seen. The film's flaw is that it's been made by people who know the material too well so it just needs a couple of tiny little bits explained, like director Teddy Chen's Purple Storm for it to be perfect

Hiroshi Fukazawa has done a masterful job that really deserves to be seen by anyone who sees Bodyguards and Assassins... unfortunately that isn't likely to happen. Apparently the Chan's (Peter and his father) are unhappy with the film and want it suppressed, especially in this hour long version. The director said it's unlikely this film will ever really get screened or on a DVD because of the opposition to it. (We were shown the very verboten long directors cut)

Why is any one against it? Beats the hell out of me. Frankly I think its a fantastic piece of filmmaking that acts as stunning showcase for the perseverance of everyone involved. I think everyone in the film comes off extremely well. I've been turning the film over in my head since I saw it and in all honestly I don't see any downside.

This is a film that needs to be seen.

(One quick additional thing Development Hell is a very specific documentary that just on the history of the film from the original version to the point where the current version went into production. It doesn't cover the actual production)

After the film Simon Yam came out and introduced Bodyguards and Assassins.

What can I say one of the best films of the year is even better thanks to having seen it before, a huge stellar screen and the tid bits about the story. I reviewed this film back in February and I have little to add but to reiterate you need to see this.

I probably should point out that from the documentary I did learn that the the story is fictional, however events similar to what happens in the movie occurred when Sun Yet Sen was in Los Angeles. Also Sun was never aware of all the martyrs to his cause until many years later. I point this out because the notion of martyrdom is key to the story.

Bodyguards remains one of the best films of the year.

And now off to bed and a day off from the festival to catch up with life chores. Day Three for me is Tuesday so I should be reporting in Wednesday. Until then I leave you in the hands of the one and only Mr Ken Fries.

(This review has been revised to correct the many mistakes made when I wrote this while tired. I think I got them all. )

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