XL Popcorn – A Chinese Ghost Story / L’Avventura

So continueth the dictated film reviews! Damn these wrists!

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: A Chinese Ghost Story (Sien nui yau wan)
Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Year: 1987
Country: Hong Kong

It has been nearly a year since I last saw Leslie Cheung in the 1993 film Farewell My Conubine where he played the role of a gay Chinese opera actor. He plays a rather different character in A Chinese Ghost Story, for one thing he is a straight debt collector who has fallen in love with a ghost.

This film is very much a horror film in the same way that Evil Dead II is a horror movie i.e. lighthearted horror which is to entertain and not to scare. Not what I expected to be honest as with a title like A Chinese Ghost Story I was going for the assumption that it would be more like Ringu than Kung Fu Hustle.

Once I had adjusted by expectations I really started to enjoy this blend of ghosts, comedy and wuxia. Even when it starts to get a little bit Power Rangers towards the end… when a sword was summoned from a felled tree using sanskrit. It’s amazing how in this universe at the same sanskrit phrase had so many uses. I mean, it can conjure fireballs, summon swords, enchant arrows and make invisible things visible.

Nowadays some of these effects appear a bit cheesy and low budget. However, it adds to the charm. It would be boring if the desiccated bodies did not move jerkily as squeak like mice.

I’m not entirely sure how they managed to squeeze out two sequels from this original film and I’m unlikely to get around to watching them as I still have over 500 films to see on this 1001 list. Oh and the anime and the TV shows and the books and the albums and the comics.

Title: L’Avventura
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Year: 1960
Country: Italy

When L’Avventura had its first showing at the Cannes film festival the audience booed causing the director and leading lady to make a swift exit. Now, an animated audience at a film festival is common. Especially at Cannes where it really can be trial by fire. This did not occur after the second screening. I mention this not just because I find it interesting, but because booing apparently happened fairly often when people were watching this film.

Apparently this reaction was due to the audience starting to get a bit miffed during some of the longer scenes without dialogue. Having sat through Jeanne Dielman I have no qualms with scenes without dialogue. In fact, I feel that there are times when a skilled director and actors are able to tell us more with silence than with words. That is the case with this film.

I’m not entirely sure why this film has the title of The Adventure. Unless the director is going for something rather clichéd like “life as an adventure”, which I sincerely hope not. The crux of this film is that you see a woman’s best friend and fiancé deal with the fact that she has gone missing. Now, I did not think much of this woman as she was a bit of a pain. Then again no one deserves to go missing in the Mediterranean the way she did.

What she leaves behind is rather interesting. For someone who would have appeared to be loved no one is actually trying that hard to look for her. Sure, her fiancé makes a bit of an effort but he very quickly makes a move with her best friend Claudia. Claudia resists for a few days and then is madly in love with him.

What is interesting about everyone is that they lack substance. This is not a potshot at the writing as this is how they are. These are spoiled rich Italian socialites and they quickly move on to the next party despite the fact one of the number has presumably drowned.

I think I really enjoyed this film. Especially the cinematography which was, obviously, aided by some beautiful Sicilian scenery. Big praise also has to go to Monica Vitti for a remarkably human portrayal of a woman undergoing internal conflict. She must have lived an breathed the role to be so spot on.

I found out that this is the first in a trilogy that all appear on the 1001 list. I’m curious how the theme progresses.

Progress: 486/1007

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