Okay, three more movies Friday night, starting with the only Korean film in the festival (or at least the only Korean film I'm seeing in the festival, I don't think there are any others), "Shadows in the Palace". I mention this because I'm a big fan of Korean cinema (it's the only country I'll specifically seek out in the program guide), and it past years they've had a few more Korean films. So while I'm happy to see this movie, more Korean films in the future, please!
Anyway, "Shadows in the Palace" is a beautifully shot, exciting, grotesquely convoluted palace drama/murder mystery/ghost story/torture epic. Hmmm...I got everything I wanted to say in one sentence, I love it when that happens! It has an almost all-female cast, and takes place in the world of palace maids, serving the emperor, the queen, and the emperor's concubines. The plot involves a baby prince (who may or may not be legitimate), a dead woman (who may or may not be a suicide), an investigating nurse (who may or may not be allowed to investigate properly), tons of political machinations (which may or may not destroy her), secretive witnesses (who may or may not be tortured to death) and creepy shadows falling over the palace (which may or may not be ghosts). It's so convoluted, I couldn't really wrap my head around everything. But it's also so beautiful that I want to watch it again and again until I do understand.
So I ran right out of the theater just as the credits started to roll to get to another screen to see "In the City of Sylvia". As it turns out, I might have been better off getting a drink and talking movies with other fans. There is something remarkable about the cinematography in this movie, I'll give it that. The main character is an artist who spends a lot of time in cafes watching people. And the cinematography reflects his eyes, the way that he's very observant and even background characters are somehow filmed as if they're very important. And as a technical exercise it can be very, very interesting. Unfortunately, there just wasn't a story to go with the technical prowess. Day 1: guy sits in a cafe all day and watches people. Day 2: he goes back to the cafe, follows the waitress on her way home, finally talks to her. He thinks she's a girl he met at a club 6 years ago, she isn't, they part ways after he apologizes for talking to her. That is over 2/3 of the movie. I won't even bother giving the rest away. If the technique was used for a story where something actually happened, I'd rave about it all day. As it was, it was a disappointment.
And then it was down to the Stella Artois lounge for a few free beers before the late show screening of "Big Man Japan". Oh my god, this movie is hilarious/awesome/insane! Hitoshi Matsumoto writes, directs, and stars as a sad-sack employee of the department of monster protection. He's a 6th generation superhero, and when electricity is applied to his nipples he becomes a giant "Big Japanese Person" who fights nasty (and hilarious) monsters. Sadly, his ratings have fallen and the populace hasn't embraced him (they point out he causes as much damage as the monsters). A documentary crew follows him around as he explains his work, his sad life (with bricks routinely crashing through his window), and living up to the legend of his grandfather (the adored Big Man #4). The monsters get more insane, the story gets more insane, and it ends with a ridiculous send-up of the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. I must own this movie! Coming soon on Magnolia's cult label, Magnet Releasing (no date announced yet, but I hope it's soon!)