The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > KEN EISNER

Our Time Will Come in old Hong Kong; Michael Haneke shoots for a Happy End; Film Stars Don’t Die in Liver­pool, much; Ed­ward Hop­per meets Re­al­ity in Shirley.

OUR TIME WILL COME Star­ring Ed­die Peng. In Man­darin and Ja­panese, with English sub­ti­tles. Rated 14A

Tack­ling mul­ti­ple themes as­so­ci­ated 2 with the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion of Hong Kong dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, this well-crafted epic spends more time on po­etry and per­sonal en­tan­gle­ments than on der­ring-do—al­though crack­ingly chore­ographed fight scenes erupt of­ten enough to keep the film’s 130 min­utes mov­ing swiftly.

Di­rec­tor Ann Hui has lately been al­ter­nat­ing be­tween big-bud­get his­tor­i­cal dra­mas (like The Golden Era) and small-scaled in­die stuff (A Sim­ple Life). In Our Time Will Come, she tack­les the lit­tle-known, fact-based tale of guer­rilla fight­ers who spir­ited artists and in­tel­lec­tu­als out of the en­emy’s clutches.

Things be­gin with a dis­si­dent writer res­cued by a Robin Hood–like hero called Blackie Lau, played by ver­sa­tile, Van­cou­ver-raised ris­ing star Ed­die Peng (Rise of the Leg­end). He soon meets shy school­teacher Fong Lan (Cloud At­las’s Zhou Xun, who man­ages to be both ethe­real and earthy) and her peas­ant mom (A Sim­ple Life star Deanie Ip). Lan helps Blackie with­out quite know­ing what’s what, and she’s grad­u­ally drawn into the re­sis­tance, ini­tially by spread­ing printed fly­ers.

Rep­re­sented in the present by oc­ca­sional black-and-white footage of a Hong Kong taxi driver who served as a run­ner for par­ti­sans, the lo­cal fight­ers were led by com­mu­nist cadres, bat­tling it out with both the Ja­panese and the com­pro­mised na­tion­al­ists work­ing with them. The movie doesn’t dwell on po­lit­i­cal align­ments, and they mat­ter lit­tle to peo­ple like Mrs. Fong, who is merely try­ing to sur­vive the whole or­deal. Some oc­cu­piers are pre­sented as be­ing fat, crude, and stupid—in the man­ner of U.S. movies dur­ing the war—but the story isn’t sim­ple-minded.

Peo­ple of many back­grounds min­gle at Shang­hai-style jazz clubs, where the mu­sic is hot and the clothes are gor­geous. It turns out that Lan’s hand­some boyfriend (Wal­lace Huo) is work­ing for the oc­cu­piers—or is he? In fact, the young man’s Ja­panese boss is an ex­pert in Chi­nese po­etry and has a com­pli­cated at­ti­tude to­ward the lo­cals. (Jim Jar­musch fans will rec­og­nize Masatoshi Na­gase as the vis­it­ing poet in Pater­son and the rock­a­billy tourist in Mys­tery Train.) The movie cel­e­brates the lan­guage its char­ac­ters are fight­ing to pro­tect, so it’s odd that dis­trib­u­tors chose a ran­dom ti­tle over some­thing closer to the Man­darin orig­i­nal, which trans­lates as May We Last For­ever, it­self taken from a thou­sand-year-old poem quoted sev­eral times in the story and—last­ing for­ever in the song form—still pop­u­lar wher­ever Chi­nese lan­guages are spo­ken. > KEN EISNER

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVER­POOL Star­ring An­nette Ben­ing. Rated PG

An­nette Ben­ing fol­lows her 2

Os­car-wor­thy role in 20th Cen­tury Women with a more lit­eral star turn, as film noir femme fa­tale Glo­ria Gra­hame, in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liver­pool.

Spoiler alert: the ti­tle doesn’t lie. (Glo­ria’s swan song hap­pens some­where else.) It’s taken from the mem­oir of Peter Turner, a 27-year-old Liver­pudlian and novice ac­tor who met Gra­hame in Lon­don in 1979, where she was do­ing Ten­nessee Wil­liams— theatre be­ing her best route af­ter movies dried up. He’s played by Jamie Bell, the Billy El­liot kid who has turned into a qui­etly im­pres­sive adult ac­tor, even if he hasn’t quite given up the dance. In fact, he first con­nects with the sul­try Os­car winner (for 1952’s The Bad and the Beau­ti­ful) while hus­tling to disco records in her room at a the­atri­cal board­ing house.

The place is a dump, but Glo­ria still has a trailer in Mal­ibu and a ho­tel apart­ment in Man­hat­tan. She also has can­cer, some­thing she’s loath to tell any­one about, or even admit to her­self. (As she even­tu­ally tells her doc­tor, “I need my hair to work.”) Now push­ing 60, she can still work any room, and has a thing for much younger fel­las. Her fourth hus­band, in fact, was her step­son with sec­ond hubby Ni­cholas Ray, who di­rected her in her finest role, op­po­site Bog­art in 1950’s In a Lonely Place.

Her other best gig was as Ado An­nie in Ok­la­homa!, in which she was “jest a gal who cain’t say no”. Ac­tu­ally, lit­tle Glo­ria, al­most happy at last, ex­cels at turn­ing peo­ple away, over slights real or imag­ined. Al­though of­ten con­sid­ered trashier than ri­val Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, Gra­hame was de­scended from Bri­tish roy­alty, help­fully pointed out by her ditsy mother and bitchy older sis­ter (born in Vic­to­ria, B.C.), played by Vanessa Red­grave and Frances Bar­ber in one stand­out scene. Even so, our fa­tal femme gets sur­pris­ingly close to Peter’s fam­ily, with vet­er­ans Julie Wal­ters and Ken­neth Cran­ham es­pe­cially strong as his hard­scrab­ble but lov­ing row-house par­ents. It’s a won­der that any of them can sur­vive the wall­pa­per!

The story’s no doubt a downer, and this is why Con­trol screen­writer Matt Green­halgh and Lucky Num­ber Slevin di­rec­tor Paul Mcguigan (not the for­mer Oasis bassist) chopped up its lo­ca­tion-hop­ping time frame. Their pur­pose­fully ar­ti­fi­cial tran­si­tional de­vices—clos­ing a door in Liver­pool that opens onto L.A., for in­stance— may not be to ev­ery­one’s taste. But the lov­ingly crafted movie is qui­etly emo­tional, darkly funny, and deeply mar­i­nated in Old Hol­ly­wood nostal­gia, summed up best by Turner him­self, in a cameo as a Lon­don bar­man who asks his al­ter ego, “Say, isn’t that Glo­ria What­ser­name?” > KEN EISNER

STILL NIGHT, STILL LIGHT Star­ring Éliane Pré­fontaine. In French, Span­ish, and Man­darin, with English sub­ti­tles. Rat­ing un­avail­able

The un­der­ly­ing prin­ci­ple of this 2

gen­tly ad­ven­tur­ous movie from Que­bec is the un­ful­filled po­ten­tial that hu­mans carry around, whether with deep re­gret or some kind of sus­tained hope. It’s a fit­ting theme for a tale that fre­quently ges­tures at pro­fun­dity with­out ever quite reach­ing its goals.

This de­but fea­ture from wri­ter­di­rec­tor So­phie Goyette, who has made sev­eral well-re­ceived shorts, is di­vided into three parts. Ini­tially, we meet Éliane (Éliane Pré­fontaine), a fair-haired Mon­trealer who works birth­day par­ties as a Dis­ney princess. Things haven’t clicked for her since she failed to get into a pres­ti­gious mu­sic school. In fact, she aced the piano au­di­tion, but hit the wall with mu­sic the­ory. “I had never heard of it,” she ad­mits to a sym­pa­thetic sub­ur­ban ma­tron.

In­stead of pick­ing up a book, our pouty princess heads to a briefly ex­plored Mex­ico City, where she gives piano lessons to the small son of a wealthy fam­ily. We never see the mom, but Éliane forms a kind of bond with the sad-eyed pa­tri­arch (Mex­i­can TV and stage vet­eran Ger­ardo Tre­jol­una). The di­rec­tor’s not par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in what con­nects them.

Turns out the guy is pre­oc­cu­pied with his own ail­ing fa­ther (Felipe Casanova), and of­fers to take the older man on a fi­nal trip. The third part fol­lows them to an un­named city in China, al­though this doesn’t mat­ter much, since they spend most of it in a dark ho­tel room, qui­etly dis­cussing generic life prob­lems. There is one ar­rest­ing se­quence. While rid­ing a small train through an un­der­ground amuse­ment park, the old-timer won­ders why his mid­dle-aged son—who wanted to be a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher—didn’t bring a cam­era. He doesn’t of­fer much of an an­swer, and nei­ther does the movie.

Buried as­pi­ra­tions may be im­por­tant to these char­ac­ters, but pas­siv­ity marks most of the ac­tion in Still Night, Still Light. Its orig­i­nal French ti­tle, trans­lat­ing as My Nights Will Echo, at least of­fers the prom­ise of fu­ture re­ver­ber­a­tions. But most sounds in the present tense are dis­con­nected from peo­ple here. The cred­its tell us that Pré­fontaine is the ac­tual per­former of the Chopin pre­lude used as a theme through­out. But Goyette shoots her from be­hind, with no hands vis­i­ble at the piano, in the man­ner of movies forced to fake on-screen ta­lent. Sim­i­larly, the cam­era of­ten cuts from in­trigu­ing wide-screen com­po­si­tions to empty sky or other blank space. Mean­while, the ac­tors put out as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. These chilly ma­noeu­vres in­vite pro­jec­tion of your own

thoughts, and can be ex­plained as blows against the em­pire of nar­ra­tive ex­pec­ta­tion. But that doesn’t make them any more re­ward­ing.

> KEN EISNER SHIRLEY: VI­SIONS OF RE­AL­ITY Star­ring Stephanie Cum­ming. Rat­ing un­avail­able

Why do Ed­ward Hop­per’s paint­ings 2 haunt us so? His ac­cu­racy of fash­ion, ar­chi­tec­ture, and body lan­guage makes us nos­tal­gic, to be sure. Large fields of un­dec­o­rated space and un­for­giv­ing light in­vite us to pon­der what led those lonely souls to be­come, say, Nighthawks at the diner (1942).

In this 90-minute ex­per­i­ment, Aus­trian film his­to­rian Gus­tav Deutsch and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jerzy Palacz have cap­tured these in­ef­fa­ble qual­i­ties; when spec­tral fig­ures move across the fa­mil­iar frames of 13 Hop­per paint­ings created be­tween the ’30s and the ’60s, their ges­tures seem to ef­fort­lessly ex­tend the tra­jec­to­ries of the orig­i­nals. These beau­ti­fully chore­ographed vi­gnettes pro­voke more won­der­ment at what the sub­jects were think­ing at the time. Too bad they don’t leave us won­der­ing.

Cu­ri­ously, the film­maker has cho­sen one per­former to an­chor every im­age. Cana­dian dancer Stephanie Cum­ming has a flame-haired pres­ence that sug­gests Jes­sica Chas­tain’s more mys­te­ri­ous sis­ter. Un­for­tu­nately, Deutsch also has her speak, and Cum­ming has a flatly af­fect­less mod­ern voice that sug­gests for­got­ten shop­ping lists, whether the ma­te­rial at hand is ex­cerpted from a Thorn­ton Wilder play, a news­pa­per re­port about Elia Kazan rat­ting out friends to Joseph Mccarthy, or just ba­nal mus­ings about an­other per­son in the room.

In­stead of link­ing the scenes in sur­pris­ing ways, the film­maker locks into a dead­en­ing for­mat, sep­a­rat­ing them with chrono­log­i­cally fixed dates

sup­ported by a ra­dio an­nouncer read­ing the lat­est news about Hitler, the stock mar­ket, or Martin Luther King Jr. This has the ef­fect of dis­tract­ing from the gor­geous im­ages and ul­ti­mately dead­en­ing their al­most meta­phys­i­cal ef­fect.

Deutsch fur­ther clut­ters the can- vas by posit­ing his cen­tral fig­ure as an ac­tress, called Shirley, who waltzes age­lessly through New York Movie and other death­less frames. But if she’s a fig­ure out of time, that only makes Shirley’s so­ciopo­lit­i­cal mus­ings more ir­rel­e­vant. Even if this bad writ­ing were bet­ter-read, it would still ruin the con­tem­pla­tive mood of the orig­i­nals. A few stabs at pe­riod mu­sic work bet­ter than any­thing in the script. But any­way, it’s not the mean­ing or the his­tory we love about Hop­per; it’s the si­lence. The peo­ple in his paint­ings are for­ever be­tween thoughts. > KEN EISNER

HAPPY END Star­ring Is­abelle Hup­pert. In French, with English sub­ti­tles. Rated PG

This sleek study in up­per­crust 2 dread cov­ers a lot of themes close to that semifrozen or­gan Michael Haneke calls his heart. The Aus­trian writer-di­rec­tor be­hind such twisted fare as Funny Games and Code Un­known is in­ter­ested in de­cep­tion and pun­ish­ment as the most es­sen­tial modes of ex­is­tence.

Born in Ger­many, Haneke grew up in Aus­tria and worked as a film critic be­fore pro­duc­ing and di­rect­ing TV. Since 2000, he has mostly shot in France, with the suit­ably chilly Is­abelle Hup­pert a near con­stant in his films.

Head­ing up the con­struc­tion com­pany handed her by her ail­ing fa­ther, Hup­pert is here called Anne Lau­rent, while her Amour han­dle, Eva, is more or less passed down to the new­est mem­ber of her trou­bled fam­ily. Eve (Fan­tine Har­duin) is the 13-year-old daugh­ter of Thomas (Math­ieu Kasso­vitz), and has moved into the Lau­rents’ pala­tial home in Calais af­ter her mother over­dosed on meds. A suc­cess­ful sur­geon but a ques­tion­able fa­ther and hus­band, Thomas has re­mar­ried into the Lau­rent fam­ily, al­though Eve twigs that he might al­ready be stray­ing. Any­way, this sad-face sprite might not be as in­no­cent as she seems.

The in­trigu­ingly frac­tured tale be­gins with spec­tac­u­lar footage of a con­struc­tion-site re­tain­ing wall col­lapse. This puts the aris­to­cratic clan un­der lit­eral threat, es­pe­cially when Anne’s ne’er-do-well son (Vic­to­ria’s Franz Ro­gowski) has­sles one of the ac­ci­dent victims. The trou­bled lad has a spe­cial place in his mom’s heart, but has no lead­er­ship skills, as she ad­mits to her fi­ancé (Toby Jones), who is, con­ve­niently, an English banker.

Luis Buñuel made a whole ca­reer out of dis­sect­ing the charms of the bour­geoisie, dis­creet or oth­er­wise, al­though his films had a satir­i­cal wild­ness this di­rec­tor lacks. Back­ground de­tails about African mi­grants, France’s grow­ing eco­nomic di­vide, and the fam­ily’s Moroc­can ser­vants don’t fully con­nect, even if they sug­gest larger is­sues at play. This not-so-happy Haneke ends well enough, how­ever—at least for those who like their hu­man­ism on the dark side of el­e­gant re­straint.

Our Time Will Come.

A shy school­teacher (Zhou Xun) joins the re­sis­tance in

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