In honor of the olympics I've decided to do a list of my favorite Chinese language films. Both Mandarin and Cantonese films will be included as they are both Chinese languages.
Top Five Chinese Language Films
1. Raise the Red Lantern
2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
3. The Killer
4. Farewell My Concubine
5. Infernal Affairs
Let Chaos Reign
by Dallas Petersen
[Insert Superlative Here] Christopher Nolan's latest film The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. From the opening frame to the final frame it is absolutely riveting. Although strongly rooted in Frank Miller's groundbreaking graphic novel, The Dark Knight breaks new ground and takes the "Superhero Movie" to exhilarating new heights. Every aspect of this film from the acting to the writing and directing, and the music all complement each other to create a superb film-going experience.
Christopher Nolan has been making fine films since the intriguing pot boiler, Memento was released in 2000, but The Dark Knight is, to date, his crowning achievement. Nolan has seamlessly integrated heart-pumping action, with brilliant and honest character development. The intelligent script, co-written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan, explores the relationship between order and chaos and the depths that 'good' men and 'bad' men alike will sink to in order to maintain control. The action moves at such an incredible rate that the feeling of chaos is palpable and emanates from the film itself. As the citizens are in the grips of fear, due to the actions of the Joker, the audience gets a real sense of the fear a terrorist can induce by unleashing chaos.
As the Joker, Heath Ledger is [insert superlative here]. The Joker is more an elemental force than a mere mortal, and Ledger is a conduit for the Joker's maniacal machinations. Ledger gives a full body performance, with every word, cackle, wave of the hand, and step he takes embodying the almost childlike malevolence of the Joker. As a character, the Joker springs out of the night itself. The audience is given no back-story and no insight into his character. The only information given about the Joker is from the Joker's own mouth as he relates how he acquired his scars. He tells this story twice, and the stories contradict each other. Is either story the truth, or neither? The choice to give the Joker no history is a masterstroke. If the audience is given a back-story, or any information about a character, then the audience is given a small window of understanding the character. If something is understood, then it can be controlled, or contained. Anything controlled is not feared. The Joker is utterly frightening. He wants nothing more than to cause chaos. He is the dark core initiating the destruction of the established order.
Christian Bale is excellent as the dark force willing to commit all manner of sins in his efforts to stop the Joker and maintain order. In fact, all the acting in this film is particularly fine, with the veteran actors Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman adding just the right touches of humanity in the Manichean struggle for Gotham's soul.
The music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard aids in heightening the intensity, and perfectly complementing the action. There is a certain music technique that is brilliantly implemented in a way which exemplifies the tenuous hold of order over chaos. Each time the Joker tears at the threads of order with his chaotic actions there is a single note played that slowly increases in pitch. The effect this has on the intensity of the film is tangible, and you can almost the feel the order slowly slipping away as its pulled down by chaos.
Rarely do I see a film that fills me with such awe (There Will Be Blood would be another case), and rarely will there be a review this superlative on this blog. Helen and I just saw this film yesterday, which I'm sure makes us the last people on the planet to have seen it. I'm sure there are impoverished African kids who have already seen The Dark Knight projected on the side of a village hut. So, I saw all the amazing reviews which have continued to pour out, and have looked forward to this film with growing anticipation. Usually I am disappointed when I am put in this situation, but in this case, my expectations have been exceeded.
In all fairness, some of the plot is rather contrived and it seems that neither Batman or the Joker are capable of making any mistakes as each of their schemes always go according to plan. Bombs always blow up on time, guns never misfire, and Batman is (almost) always in the right place at the right time. But, overall, The Dark Knight is such a joy to watch, that it is hard to quip. I simply can not recommend this film highly enough.
**** Stars out of 4.