Daily Archives: November 30, 2019

Cult Confusion (HAPPY TOGETHER)

From the Chicago Reader (January 23, 1998). Today I would probably rank this movie much higher. — J.R.

Happy Together

Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed and written by Wong Kar-wai

With Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung, and Chang Chen.

At some point in the mid-90s Wong Kar-wai’s exciting and hyperbolic style lost its moorings. Whether this happened between Days of Being Wild (1990) and Chungking Express (1994), during the two years it took to make Ashes of Time (1994), or between the latter two films and Fallen Angels (1995), Wong’s powerful organic flow, which makes Days of Being Wild his only masterpiece to date, has atrophied into a slag heap of individual set pieces.

Many of these set pieces are thrilling enough in their own right. Fallen Angels has plenty of them, spaced out like showstoppers in a vaudeville revue, though their effectiveness tends to diminish, their frenetic intensity ultimately becoming monotonous. Like the mannerist tics comprising Wong’s style — the use of different characters as narrators; the momentary freeze-frames punctuating Christopher Doyle’s slowed, slurred, or speeded-up cinematography; the shifts between color and black and white; and the bumpy transitions between garish forms of lighting and visual texture — his set pieces always provide a lively surface activity.… Read more »

Samuel Fuller: The Words of an Innocent Warrior

From Written By: The Journal of the Writers Guild of America, West (March 1998, Vol. 2, issue 3).

The first photograph here was taken during the summer of 1987, when I was the director of the Film Studies summer school program at the University of California, Santa Barbara and invited Sam Fuller to serve as our Artist in Residence. –- J.R.

JR with SF samfullerhappy

Many film lovers of my generation were introduced to him in an early party sequence in Jean-Luc Godard’s already unruly Pierrot le Fou (1965), playing himself and smoking his signature cigar-a short, wiry firecracker ready to hold forth. Asked by Jean-Paul Belmondo what cinema was, he said it was like a battleground: “Love. . .hate. . . action. . .violence. . .death. In a word, emotion.”

By the time the writer-director-legend Samuel Fuller died in Hollywood last October at age 86, his reputation as the last two of these hyphenates was fully in place. Celebrated for his gritty noirs, unglamorous war films, and eccentric westerns, he also turned up in bit parts in everything from The American Friend to 1941. Yet the fact that he’s still better known as a director and as a juicy screen presence than as a writer seriously distorts the meaning of his life and career.Read more »