Reviewer Ed Farolan




128 min., South Korea, dir. Bong Joon-Ho

Bong Joon-Ho is the kind of director who loves surprises. And naturally, he likes surprising his audience with his return in this feature film to the blackly comic "police-procedural world" of his past films like Memories of Murder. Quack herbalist and acupuncturist Hye-Ja (veteran actress Kim Hye-Ja) lives for her son Do-Joon (Won Bin), a 27-year-old with the mind of a child. When a sexually precocious girl is murdered and her body left on the roof of a derelict building, evidence found at the scene incriminates Do-Joon. Desperate to prove her son’s innocence, Hye-Ja is patronized by the cops and cheated by a lazy and dissolute lawyer. She then suspects Do-Joon’s friend, Jin-Tae (Jin Goo), but he’s the one who goads her into a proper investigation. “There are three possible motives for murder,” he comments. “Money, passion and vengeance. Which could it be in this case?” The audience is constantly put in a state of mystery as we try to figure out who the murderer is. It has a startling and original ending, which as a reviewer, I can't divulge. As usual, Bong’s finale is stylishly comic and ironic, and leaves the audience shaking their heads and smiling.


Pop Star On Ice

85 min., USA, dirs. David Barba, James Pellerito

A prelude to the Vancouver Winter Olympics next year, this is the figure skater to watch as he dreams of garnering a medal in the Olympics, as he didn't win any in the 2006 Torino Olyympics. This film reflects an interesting portrait of outspoken and flamboyant Olympian and three-time US Figure Skating National Champion Johnny Weir as it traces his career from age of 12, when he first gets gold for the Juniors' Competition, to the present. The character and the dying swan choreography Jon Heder plays in Blades of Glory was inspired by this provocative and controversial skater. I like the way the documentary was structured, using a graphic device of an imaginary newspaper, "The Daily Weir" as it reports competition results. Barba and Pellerito also capture Weir's stance on being gay, rebutting gay sports commentator Mark Lund's remarks why he doesn't openly say he's gay. And I agree with Weir that this is a personal matter and no one should butt into one's personal life. Weir maintains, "What I do in my bedroom is personal....I don't think anyone needs to know..."

Facing Ali

98 min., Canada, dir. Peter McCormack

In this excellent sport documentary, ten of Muhammad Ali's rivals pay tribute to this very inspiring athlete. The film shows archival footage of boxing matches including a knockout when he first captured the gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics, and other matches. As one of his rivals commented, he was the boxer who transformed the art of boxing, and after Ali, boxing changed forever. Vintage footage of Ali in the civil rights movement as well as his stand against the Vietnam War, as he openly states, "I don't have anything against the Vietnamese", adding that the war is "right here in America against the whites", is superbly documented by McCormack. Interviews with Ali's most renowned opponents, including Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes, give the viewer an inside look on who Ali was and how he fought against them in the ring, as well as how their lives and careers changed because of him. I remember seeing many of his fights on TV in the 70s, "Thrilla in Manila" against Frazier, and the one gainst Foreman in Zaire,and clips of these and highlights of his other fights are flashed back in this film.


Trimpin: The Sound of Invention

77 min., USA, dir. Peter Esmonde

Trimpin (as he wants to be called only by this name), who has a startling resemblance to Arts Club Artistic Director Bill Millerd, is a unique artist who's been labelled a "magician and a mad scientist". He goes to junkyards to salvage whatever he needs to create weird musical instruments that play sonic experimentations that sound better that New Age music. In this documentary, we see a project he was commissioned to do at Seattle Center--a towering, guitar-shaped column of self-playing electric guitars. We see typewriters turned into pianos, tiny ukeleles that are played like violins, a "seismofon" which transforms earthquake data into melodies, and a glass ball that goes round and round, like the moon circling the earth. Esmonde takes the viewers from Seattle back to Trimpin's German homeland, where the artist explains how he was first inspired when he was 8 or 9 by the sounds of the Black Forest’s natural environment as well as the sounds of cuckoo clocks and music machines originally produced from that part of Europe hundreds of years ago. At the end, we are treated to a concert which he mounts with the Kronos Quartet, and no one knows what kind of music will be played and when the concert would end. It does end in a somewhat eccentric fini. Both Peter Esmonde and Trimpin will be in attendance, and this is a must see documentary.


Under Rich Earth

91 min., Canada, dir. Malcolm Rogge

Fuentovejuna, a play by Renaissance Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, comes to mind as I was watching this documentary about Junin, a small village in Ecuador, where all the townspeople get together and fight a Canadian mining company, Ascendant Copper Corporation, from exploiting its natural resources. It shames me to be Canadian when you see documentaries like this where big business, in this case, a Canadian mining company based in Toronto, for love of money and greed, comes to small towns like Junin to make big money regardless of the villagers' human and civil rights. Footage of confrontations captured by the camera of Malcolm Rogge in 2006 reveals the story of this small community standing up to the aggressive tactics of goons hired by this Canadian mining corporation to intimidate the villagers. Until now, the community remains strongly opposed and confrontations continue. I hope Rogge has sent this documentary to Toronto, and I'm sure it's creating waves. Let's wait and see if big business will triumph despite all the opposition. Unfortunately, in the history of mankind, it's often the aggressive rich and powerful who eventually come out winning.

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.© 2009 Ed Farolan