omplete QPORIT: June 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

 

SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK... IS A THRILLING MASTERPIECE!

A scene from “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark”
© Jacob Cohl


Enjoy SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK. It is thrilling, brilliant theater.

The entire theatrical space-- the stage from the bottom to the top & from front to back... and the space above your head up to the ceiling -- is alive with dynamic, breath-taking action.

Many shows have deployed a brilliant stage picture, but none in my memory have created such spectacular, continuously engaging, constantly morphing, monumental visual images.

A scene from “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark”
© Jacob Cohl


The choreography, as Spider-Man swings his way from front to back or ledge to ledge, or fights above your head, is exciting, graceful and beautiful.

The stagecraft, the mise-on-scene, is epochal, constantly amazing. And FUN!

This production, built from Julie Taymor's inspiration, sets a completely new standard for theatrical presentation!

Now, of course, the story is a comic book story.

T.V. Carpio
In a scene from “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark”
© Jacob Cohl


We are not getting Shakespearean sophistication in plotting, philosophy or poetry. But this is a comic book story: a comic book story! And it tells a coherent, fundamentally interesting, nicely resolved story that integrates perfectly with the presentation.

(l-r) Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano
In a scene from “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark”
© Jacob Cohl
 


I enjoyed the music. It is different from the style of other musicals, but just as valid and enjoyable. It insinuates itself into your memory. It has rhythm, energy, melody and passion. As a singer, Reeve Carney is not Bono, but he does well, and – for that matter -- Bono is not known for swinging through the air. Reeve, whether he is acting, singing, or swinging through the air, makes the transition from high school geek, to reluctant superhero, to successful, mature lover, convincingly and with a believable payoff at the end.


Bono & The Edge with Reeve Carney
Sing RISE ABOVE from SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK
On the American Idol Season 10 Finale - 05/25/11



It is hard for me to understand how a theater critic can be “bored” at a show this inspired. My fourth grade teacher told us that being intelligent young students we should always be able to find something interesting in whatever is happening. A theatrical experience is not just about the words, it is the entire experience: the visual splendor, the mythic story, and the musical style. These critics need to open their ears, relax their defenses, look up and let it all in!

Too many great plays suffer from an audience with too few young people. The Foxwoods Theatera very large and comfortable theater -- was filled, as it should be, with an audience of all ages.

You have no doubt heard a lot about the cost of the production, the indefensible accidents (hopefully never to happen again) and, as we noted, the many critics – who seem stuck in the mud with their eyes to the ground – who claim to have been “bored.”

Well, FUHGEDDABOUDIT:

SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK
is a fun-filled, almost theme-park like entertainment,
and it should be admired by all serious theater critics
and enjoyed by all ages of theater lovers from 10 to 110.

spidermanonbroadway.marvel.com

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 

HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2011 - WRAP-UP


Jensen Bucher
Best Actress at HOBOKEN IFF 2011
CALENDAR GIRL
Photo by Eric Roffman



The HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL was very successful. It fulfilled the promise of the Opening Night.

One major objective of the festival, according to Festival Chairman Kenneth Del Vecchio, was to give developing filmmakers an opportunity to be seen and present their films. And in this it was very successful.

Certainly the best part of the festival was the opportunity for filmmakers to see their films with a public audience and to network with other filmmakers. The films were well chosen, and there were opportunities given to a total of about 90 films: features, documentaries, short films, and TV pilots. And there were also five (unproduced) screenplays selected and highlighted at the festival (but not presented with a reading). The scheduling of the films and the pairing and groupings of films was outstanding.

At each time slot there were two theaters showing films. And each film got a single screening. So there were about twice as many films as any one person could possibly see.

By and large the audience consisted mostly of people who had a somewhat direct connection with some film in the festival. There did not seem to be very many people who were purely there as a “civilian” audience for film. Most screenings during the day on weekdays seemed to have an audience of a couple dozen.

There was considerable publicity generated by and for the filmmakers on local media outlets during the festival. However, the enormous amount of publicity before and during the festival necessary to bring large numbers of civilians into the theater would have been orders of magnitude more than an independent festival could possibly manage.

Probably the weakest aspect of the festival was the projection. It was not terrible: the films were all watchable and the sound was understandable. However, there were problems with both the sound and the visual images. The screenings were all at the Cedar Lane Cinema in Teaneck, NJ; the normal projection booths there are set for 35 mm film, and the screens are large. For this festival, as for many independent film festivals, the films were projected from standard DVDs or Blu-ray disks. So the festival had to provide its own projectors, and hook them into a sound system. DVD’s do not have resolution really capable of providing a perfect image – no matter what the projector – on a large screen. Blu-ray disks are obviously better. But the problems were slightly worse. The color was washed out -- desaturated -- on many films I saw; on some the aspect ratio was distorted, stretching the characters sideways; and the projector was not centered, causing additional distortion. The sound was sometimes set too loud, sometimes too soft, and sometimes muddled – sometimes changing during the screening of a single film.

For most films the projection was more than adequate to understand and enjoy the story. But for some filmmakers, for whom the visual and sound presentation is an essential part of the art of the film, better quality of projection is very important.

Hopefully the festival organizers will set up better projection equipment next year – and more of the filmmakers will provide Blu-ray (or even computer hosted) HD digital copies of their films.

On closing night there was an awards ceremony. I was only sorry the festival did not last another day, with the nominated films getting a second screening, so I could catch up on some excellent films I missed.

The awards ceremony for the winners was a rehearsal for their eventual Academy Award speeches.

The only egregious error in the jury awards was that they omitted Andrew Serban's WEST SIDE GIRL, a terrific short film, from the list of nominees. It is a tense film shot on location at night with brilliant wild, natural light cinematography. The acting by the actress playing the West Side Girl, and by her low-life friends, was excellent. The story is well-written, complex and sophisticated. I am completely objective in this opinion. The fact that I have a role in the film, as the landlord being stalked by the dangerous tenant, is completely irrelevant to my opinion.

The most celebrated films (roughly in this order in terms of their nominations and awards) were:

Calendar Girl
Big Guns
Der Sandmann
The Girl from the Naked Eye
Walk a Mile in My Pradas
Vulnerable
Mortem
All God's Creatures
The "A" Plate
Uncle Melvin's Apartment


At the Awards Ceremony, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Carroll Baker (who celebrated her 80th birthday on May 28th)! Distinguished film critic Foster Hirsch gave a fascinating introduction to her long and distinguished career, and showed a terrific compilation of film clips from some of her most important films.

Festival Chairman Kenneth Del Vecchio
With Carroll Baker and Robert Loggia
At the HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2011
Photo by Eric Roffman


In addition, there were seventeen (17 !!!) different categories of awards. Here is the complete list of nominees and winners

1. BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES• Irewne Bruger - Der Sandmann
• Diana Rudychenko - Mortem
• => Jensen Bucher - Calendar Girl
• Jessica Kaye - All God's Creatures
• Emma Leonard - Vulnerable

2. BEST TV PILOT NOMINEES
• => WTFU - Allison Lane & Chris Ritter
Dicks - Tom Archdeacon & Rick Yudt
Odessa - Al Thompson
Chosen - Dave Meketansky
The Robber Barons of Wall Streetons

3. BEST SHORT SHORT NOMINEES
Nobody But Her - Danny Anderson &Phillip Jordan Brooks
• => The Interview - Reinaldo Marcus Green
A Farewell to Arm - Phillip Snyder
Over a Cup of Joe - Marla Hammons
• Nice Tie, Italiano! - Evan Hart

4. NY POST BEST FEATURE TRAILER WINNER: WALK A MILE IN MY PRADAS

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR NOMINEES• Ron Yuan - The Girl from the Naked Eye
• Nick Troy - Calendar Girl
• Sam McMurray - The "A" Plate
• Jackson Heywood - Vulnerable
• => Tom Archdeacon - Walk a Mile in My Pradas
6. BEST SCREENPLAY (UNPRODUCED) NOMINEES
• => Reunion 108 - Billy Sample Chez Noir - Neil Graves
Queen of Vengeance - Mark Winzer
Second Thoughts - Chris Warner
The Game of Life - Mark Sarian

7. BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY NOMINEES
• => Max Da-Yung Wang - The Girl from the Naked Eye • Lorenz Merz - Der Sandmann
• Eric Atlan - Mortem
• Tarik Tanrisever - Free Man
• Chris Kilden - Neander-Jin

8. BEST EDITING NOMINEES
• Eric Atlan - Mortem
• Claudio Cea - Der Sandmann
• Greg Babor & Richard Halsey - The Girl from the Naked Eye
• => Ron Kalish - The "A" Plate
• Florian Steinbiss - Neander-Jin

9. BEST SHORT FILM NOMINEESPerhaps Tomorrow - Sandy Garfunkel
Perry St. - Merry Colomer & Marta Jover
Android Love - Lee Citron
• => The Desperate - Ben-Hur Sepehr Roger's Number - Russel Terlecki

10. BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM NOMINEES
Zero Percent - Robert Fernandez & Tim Skousen
• => Death by Medicine - Gary Null
Through The Roof - Matthew Peters
Adam Blank Gets A Vasectomy - Adam Blank
After The Fire - Anthony Bretti, Guido Verweyen and Michael Huffington

11. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS NOMINEES
• Sally Kirkland - The Last Gamble
• Samantha Streets - The Girl from the Naked Eye
• => Priscilla Barnes - The "A" Plate
• Kristen Rea - Walk a Mile in My Pradas
• Kym Thorne - Vulnerable

12. BEST ACTOR NOMINEES
• Mitchell Walters - Uncle Melvin's Apartment
• Fabian Kruger - Der Sandmann
• Jason Yee - The Girl from the Naked Eye
• => Steven Bauer - The Last Gamble
• Chris McDonnel - Big Guns

Jason Yee
Best Actor Nominee at HOBOKEN IFF 2011
THE GIRL FROM THE NAKED EYE
Photo by Eric Roffman



13. BEST SCREENPLAY (PRODUCED) NOMINEES
Walk a Mile in My Pradas - Rick Karatas & Tom Archdeacon
• => Uncle Melvin's Apartment - Craig Weintraub & Mitchell Walters
Calendar Girl - Faith Brody
Der Sandmann - Peter Luisi
All God's Creatures - Josh Folan & Billy Fox

14. BEST DIRECTOR NOMINEES
• => Peter Luisi - Der Sandmann
• Eric Atlan - Mortem
• Terre Weisman - The "A" Plate
• Alan Lock - Vulnerable
• David Ren - The Girl from the Naked Eye


15. BEST FEATURE FILM NOMINEES
• =>; Calendar Girl - Tommy Avalone, Frank Vain, John Guarrere, Derek Lindeman and Anne Qualtieri
Der Sandmann - Peter Luisi, David Luisi
The Girl from the Naked Eye - Jason Yee , Ron Yuan
Vulnerable - Alan Lock
Mortem - Eric Atlan & Marc Bercovitz

16. BEST OF THE FESTIVAL AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER: BIG GUNS

17. BEST OF THE FESTIVAL JURY AWARD WINNER: CALENDAR GIRL


The festival deserves praise for its sense of camaraderie among the filmmakers and participants, the fine parties, and the selection and presentation of a large number of indie films.

It would be nice if the festival reaches out (massively) in advance to the communities near where the screenings will be, to bring in the largest possible number of neighborhood “civilians” to the audience, and share the films with the community.

One possible source of publicity would be for the festival to announce the jury nominations for awards before the festival (since the jury has access to all the screeners in advance anyway). This would allow the festival to promote some “special films” and some “special actors”. It provides a great focus, so the best films do not get missed. Promoting some films especially hard probably helps all films because it draws people to the festival.

A panel session including Q & A with the “special actors” is always a draw and very interesting. (For that matter, all films could have a Q&A with filmmakers and cast whenever possible. It’s good for the filmmakers and the audience.)
Also very useful for publicity would be for the festival to provide -- to accredited journalists in advance of the festival -- production stills and cast / creative credits as well as PR contact info for all the films.

The HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL was very well organized and run by Festival Chairman Kenneth Del Vecchio, with dedicated and hard working Vice-Chairs, Assistants, staff and volunteers.

Nina Transfeld
Actress and Vice Chairwoman of the HOBOKEN IFF 2011
Photo by Eric Roffman


Taking place just outside New York, the festival is convenient for New York, New Jersey and metropolitan area filmmakers; and, for out of town and international filmmakers, it is a chance to network and be seen in the New York metropolitan area.

I think the HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL deserves to be noticed. I think it is a great place for filmmakers to send their films. It was fun. I’m looking forward to coming back next year!


HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
(Note: A video about the festival auto-starts!)
http://www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com/

HOBOKEN IFF OPENING NIGHT - QPORIT
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2011/06/hoboken-international-film-festival.html

COMMENTS ON THE GREAT FIGHT - QPORIT
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2011/06/great-fight-hoboken-international-film.html

COMMENTS ON WEST SIDE GIRL - QPORIT
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2010/03/andrew-serbans-west-side-girl-with-me.html

CARROLL BAKER - WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carroll_Baker

CARROLL BAKER - IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004647/


IMDB - FILMS AND PEOPLE FROM THE FESTIVAL

CALENDAR GIRL
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1611816/

BIG GUNS
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1781777/

DER SANDMANN
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1801808/

THE GIRL FROM THE NAKED EYE
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1079360/

WALK A MILE IN MY PRADAS
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645187/

VULNERABLE
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1661955/

MORTEM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1697646/

ALL GOD'S CREATURES
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1261964/

THE "A" PLATE
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1669779/

UNCLE MELVIN'S APARTMENT
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734175/

JENSEN BUCHER
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3102383/

JASON YEE
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0947166/

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

 

BELMONT STAKES


Here, below (thanks to NBC) is a video of the running of the Belmont States.


It was an exciting race, with RULER ON ICE (an unheralded longshot, but with top ancestry -- he's the grandson of Fusaichi Pegasus, the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner) coming in first, followed closely by the next two finishers, STAY THIRSTY and BRILLIANT SPEED.

The race was decided only in the last few seconds, with Shackleford, winner of the Preakness, leading most of the race, but then fading to fifth in the final quarter mile. Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner and Monzon bumped into each other shortly after the start of the race, nearly unseating jockey John Velazquez on Animal Kingdom, and almost dumping the horse. After horse and rider recovered, Animal Kingdom made a race for the front, but only reached sixth place.

RESULTS AT THE FINISH OF THE BELMONT

 1 - RULER ON ICE (#3) 24-1
 2 - STAY THIRSTY (#2)
 3 - BRILLIANT SPEED (#5)
 4 - NEHRO
 5 - Shackleford
 6 - Animal Kingdom
 7 - Mucho Macho Man
 8 - Santiva
 9 - Monzon

10 - Master of Hounds
11 - Prime Cut
12 - Isn't He Perfect



Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.


LINKS

QPORIT - ON THE PREAKNESS
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2011/05/preakness.html

QPORIT - ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY
AFTER: http://qporit.blogspot.com/2011/05/kentucky-derby-2011.html
BEFORE: http://qporit.blogspot.com/2010/05/mint-julep-for-kentucky-derby-2010.html

RULER ON ICE - RACING NATION
http://www.horseracingnation.com/horse/Ruler_On_Ice

FUSAICHI PEGASUS - WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusaichi_Pegasus

OFFICIAL BELMONT SITE (SEE RACE 11)
http://www.equibase.com/premium/eqb4x9ProgramDisplay.cfm?TRK=BEL&CY=USA&DATE=06/11/2011&STYLE=BEL#11

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

 

HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - OPENING NIGHT

Ryan Charles, Director and Josh Folan Producer
ALL GOD'S CREATURES
Opening Night at the Hoboken International Film Festival
Photo by Eric Roffman


HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2011
JUNE 3 – JUNE 9


hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com


The Hoboken International Film Festival began last night with large and friendly crowds and a fine film, and continues with an enormous number of films through Thursday, June 9, all screening at the Cedar Lane Cinema in Teaneck, NJ.

For the record, HIFF is an acronym used by several film festivals, notably:

HAWAII INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (they got the HIFF URL)
www.hiff.org

HAMPTONS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
hamptonsfilmfest.org

HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com

NORTH HUNTSVILLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (CANADA)
www.filmnorth.net/


The Hoboken International Film Festival is organized by Kenneth Del Vecchio, a filmmaker, actor, lawyer, writer, producer, self-described 400 pound bench-presser, former judge, and current politician – he's running for the NJ State Senate on the Republican line.

From the 4th to the 8th of June, there are two screens running feature or short film programs from about 2 PM until 8 or 10 PM: that’s about 40 film programs at the festival! (Films that Del Vecchio is involved with – in some combination of the roles of actor, director, writer, or producer -- make up about 10% of the programming.)

Opening Night had something of the flavor of a political event. A large fraction of the audience consisted of people who had worked on the Opening Night film, THE GREAT FIGHT, which was written and produced by Del Vecchio. Much of the rest of the audience consisted of filmmakers and actors in other films to be shown later in the festival. The large theater was packed. Before the film there was a food-and-drink party. There were several interviewers outside the theater speaking on camera with the filmmakers. People came early. After the screening, people stayed late.

One film that’s coming, which I can recommend, is WEST SIDE GIRL, made by Andrew Serban, screening with other short films on Tuesday, June 7 at 6:00. A devout Catholic up-and-coming female punk and lifelong resident of Manhattan's rapidly gentrifying Hell's Kitchen plots violent revenge against her landlord for evicting her in the middle of winter.

Roland Uruci, Shannon Lower (Patty Reilly), and Eric Kappenberg
In WEST SIDE GIRL
Photo by Andrew Serban


I play the landlord, and I can tell you that this punk is a scary tenant. 
Eric Roffman (aka Me)
As Bertelsman, the landlord
In WEST SIDE GIRL
Photo by Andrew Serban


The film was shot in natural low light, with brilliant cinematography. The acting by Shannon Lower and her low-life pals is terrific.

This short is a calling card for a feature length film: Andrew is just completing a script for a feature length film centered on the same character – and the same neighborhood.

Two other films that seem interesting, from conversations with the filmmakers on Opening Night, are ANYWHERE, TX, screening at 4:00 PM on Wed Jun 8 and ALL GOD’S CHILDREN, screening at 2:00 PM Saturday.

Melissa Swanepoel
Producer: ANYWHERE, TX
Opening Night at the Hoboken International Film Festival
Photo by Eric Roffman

Teaser for ANYWHERE, TX:




Teaser for ALL GOD’S CHILDREN:





Trailer for THE GREAT FIGHT





LINKS

HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com

THE GREAT FIGHT - IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1703147/

WEST SIDE GIRL IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1621062/

ANDREW SERBAN'S "WEST SIDE GIRL" (with ME!) - Story in QPORIT
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2010/03/andrew-serbans-west-side-girl-with-me.html

ANYWHERE, TX
http://anywheretxthemovie.blogspot.com/

ALL GOD'S CREATURES
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1261964/


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THE GREAT FIGHT - HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL


THE GREAT FIGHT
Directed by Sherri Kauk
Written and produced by Kenneth Del Vecchio

Nora Kaye (Cassie Rodriguez / Mother)
Miguel Jarquin-Moreland (Anthony Rodriguez)
THE GREAT FIGHT
In the theater lobby after the screening on Opening Night
Photo by Eric Roffman



Kenneth Del Vecchio’s film, THE GREAT FIGHT, directed by Sherri Kauk is very good.

It is the story of an autistic savant, of high school age, who has special, extraordinary intuitive skills as a fighter. He is taken under the tutelage of a policeman who once was an MMA upcoming fighter, and now owns an MMA school.

MMA = Mixed Martial Arts, and is a brutal kind of fighting in which kicking, wrestling and punching are all allowed, and the boundary is not a flexible rope, but a steel cage.

The story takes place in a small town in new Jersey and, appropriately, the characters speak in New Jersey voices, not with Hollywood diction, look like New Jersey people, not like Hollywood actors, and some scenes take place in and around New Jersey courtrooms that do not look like Hollywood courts, involving New Jersey judges and policemen that have an authenticity that is not made in Hollywood.

Frank Giglio -- who is not a professional actor, but rather a policeman and martial arts instructor, and is, in fact, the inspiration for elements of the story – plays a policeman and martial arts instructor. He is natural and interesting in front of the camera, and makes a powerful presence. Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, who plays the autistic young man, is really terrific; he is someone to watch.

While the ambiance and acting are excellent, the film’s love story is a bit timid, as is the way it shows MMA fights, which – as shown on television – are much more physical and bloody than the fights shown here.

The writer, Del Vecchio (a former prosecutor and judge, and currently a politician -- he's running for the NJ State Senate on the Republican line -- as well as filmmaker), seems to be wearing his heart on his pencil: he does not like prosecutors who overstep the law, and does like cops who act with compassion and understanding. He also seems to like the violence of MMA. He is sensitive to (non-English speaking) characters who seem to be criminal, but are in fact victims who need help.

The writing is simple and straightforward, though it’s a little too simplistic in a plot-line involving the prosecutor. The dialog is natural and authentic. And the screenplay avoids the usual clichés in films about a developing love, or the buildup to a “great fight”. So I liked the way it ends.


LINKS

HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com

THE GREAT FIGHT - IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1703147/

THE GREAT FIGHT -- OFFICIAL SITE
http://thegreatfightmovie.com/

KENNETH DEL VECCHIO - WRITER, PRODUCER
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0216016/

SHERRI KAUK - DIRECTOR
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2625667/

FRANK GIGLIO (Nick Tantino)
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1476507/

MIGUEL JARQUIN-MORLAND (Anthony Rodriguez)
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4021129/

SUZY KAYE (Cassie Rodriguez)
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2300998/

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Friday, June 03, 2011

 

EMPIRE OF SILVER


Production Photos from EMPIRE OF SILVER
Directed by Christina Yao

EMPIRE OF SILVER is a visual treat and a narrative mess.

The story is really very interesting, though as told in the film it is nearly incomprehensible at first viewing.

Because the story is interesting, and watching the film actually a pleasure, describing the plot/story explicitly is not a SPOILER but something of a RESCUER.

The hardest part of understanding the film is figuring out who's who, and what their relations are... but before that, some background.

First of all, the film takes place from about 1898 through the first decade of so of the 1900's.  The focus of the film is a family which runs a chain of major banks in North-Western China. The main currency at the beginning of this period is silver (not gold, as in the US). Then, paper money backed by silver becomes the currency. But when the government is weak, paper money becomes of dubious value, and hard currency (ie silver) becomes essential. A principal function of the bank is to maintain physical stores of silver and provide/transport them whenever and wherever needed.

Secondly, during this period there are several upheavals:  From 1898 to 1900 an anti-missionary, anti-foreign rebellion began in Northern China and spread to Peking (Beijing). Many missionaries and foreigners were killed. An army of Western Nations including British and French suppressed the rebellion. Because of the hand-to-hand fighting methods and training of the rebels, the Western Press called them "boxers" and this was known as the "Boxer Rebellion." The Ch'ing (or Qing) Dynasty, which had ruled for 250 years, supported the Boxers, and when the rebellion was suppressed, the dynasty was weakened and led to a Chinese Republic a decade or so later.

Before, during and after the Boxer Rebellion, China was buffeted by fighting between warlords, conservative nationalists (eg the Boxers), and progressive modernizers. There was a great difference between the poverty of most people, especially peasants, and the wealth of the ruling and merchant classes.

The story takes place largely in Shangxi, Beijing, Tianjin, and the Gobi Desert. Shangxi is near the coast of China roughly parallel to Southern Japan. Beijing is East of Shangxi, inland; Tianjin is South of both cities, roughly making an equilateral triangle, and the Gobi Desert is East and North of Beijing, extending to East and North of Shangxi.

The story begins with the head of the family, Lord Kang, and his four sons. The First Son is a deaf mute, the second an impetuous fighter, the third a sensitive young man. The Fourth Son is married to a beautiful woman who is is kidnapped and raped on a journey. She dies, but the Second Son is killed in a fall during a rescue attempt, and the Fourth Son goes mad with grief. That leaves the Third Son, also called Third Master, to take up the family business. Third Master and Lord Kang (his father) differ on the ways the bank should operate, and whom the bank should hire as its principal operating officers.

But the biggest issue, (and the most confusing in the story line) is the fact that the father hires a beautiful English speaking woman to teach English to Third Son. They fall in love. However, the father prevents the son from marrying this woman, and marries her himself. She is therefore Third Son's step-mother. This is the source of most of the "soap-opera" personal drama and conflict and anguish. Unfortunately, at least as exposed in the sub-titles, the evolution of this story is very unclear. (I never quite understood exactly when each of the events I just described actually took place, and exactly who was -- or was supposed to be -- a concubine.)

The film, with beautiful cinematography, and compellingly attractive and interesting actors and characters, describes the sweep of life -- as well as the personal values and relationships -- in China over this period of transition (the early 1900's) as seen through the eyes of this family trying to sustain their bank, as politics, war, and economic principles keep changing around them.

EMPIRE OF SILVER is directed by a noted stage director, Christina Yao, making her first major film, and stars Aaron Kwok and Hao Lei, both extremely attractive and charismatic.


SOME LINKS

EMPIRE OF SILVER OFFICIAL SITE
http://www.empireofsilver.com/eng/index.html

EMPIRE OF SILVER IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1362045/

EMPIRE OF SILVER IMDB - SYNOPSIS
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1362045/synopsis

A REVIEW
http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2009/09/empire-of-silver-review.php

ANOTHER REVIEW
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marshall-fine/huffpost-review-iempire-o_b_868988.html


(Minor warning note: Not everything that each review says in its synopsis of the events of the film is necessarily correct. -- The film, being confusing, may also confuse its reviewers.)

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