택시운전사 [2017)

[A Taxi Driver (2017)]

Wow.

I was unfamiliar.

With this amazing film by Jang Hoon.

Not a perfect film, but very close!

A very moving picture.

Very much due to he extraordinary performance of Song Kang-ho.

And me.

I am learning Korean.

And seven other languages.

But I am lagging behind.

So we dive in further.

Kim Man-seob (Song Kang-ho) has a daughter in the film.

She is very important.

Played by Yoo Eun-mi.

But the big story is that of Gwangju.

South Korea’s sixth-largest city.

1980.

80.

Something about “hope”.

The “official story” is that “civilians raided armories and armed themselves”.

That’s what Wikipedia says.

So still you see that this movie is (whether true or untrue) at odds with mainline history.

None of the protesters are seen with guns.

Not one.

Indeed, no protester in this film does anything but peacefully protest.

So we are looking at (perhaps beautiful) propaganda.

Or, on the other side, FAKE NEWS.

Which is it?

I don’t know.

I am rather new to the subject at hand.

Modern Korean history.

But it begs a further question.

Why is an entire film dedicated to showing how bad the South Korean military coup government was in 1980 when the regime across the border (North Korea) is extraordinarily famous for their ruthlessness?

It is weird.

Who’s funding this?

It wasn’t the United States.

This is not American propaganda.

So who, then?

The most likely culprit is China.

Means, motive, and opportunity.

The idea would be to show the South Korean government as corrupt and (by extension) the American military as grotesque occupiers.

Funny enough.

In 1982 (two years after this incident took place), Gwangju was made a sister city with my hometown:  San Antonio.

Military city.

Hmmm…

Bringing it all back home, said Bob Dylan.

But, as Godard said (and I paraphrase), all propaganda can be beautiful.

i.e., it doesn’t matter if it’s true…it’s still a good story.

Jürgen “Peter” Hinzpeter is framed to make us unquestionably worship reporters.

That is the propaganda showing through.

Excellent story.

About the politeness and honor of Koreans.

Honor a favor.

Bow.

Multiple times.

Quickly.

And do not bring shame on your country by being greedy.

Stand up for your fellow countrymen.

Yes, of course.

Ahhh, those great balls of dough (?) in Honam.

Jeolla food.

I love Korean food!

Ugh!

Bibimbap.

So fucking good!!!

Before cell phones.

Left his 11-year-old daughter home alone in Seoul.

Because he’s a widower.

And now he can’t call to tell her he’s alright.

Because the military has cut all the phone lines to Gwangju.

All she has is him.

All he has is her.

Heartbreaking.

Nice acting by Yoo Hae-jin.

Taxi drivers.

Unite!

Like the ice factory workers in that Bruce Lee film.

The best Bruce Lee movie (probably).

The Big Boss.

Uprising.

Like in Hong Kong.

People take to the streets.

Very real threat of bodily harm.

Up against an immensely powerful military.

That doesn’t want to be embarrassed.

In a precarious position.

CIA uprising in Hong Kong.

This film goes a little overboard with the schmaltz.

A few too many string swells (and lifted Mussorgsky licks).

Sometime around this point we enter the world of BATHOS.

Like a Schindler’s List remake done in Korean.

Out to Suncheon.

Shoes.

Heartbreaking.

Food.

This really is a fine film.

Even with its excesses.

A LONG film.

It almost comes apart.

But hangs together like a Bruckner symphony.

The dramatic arc is there.

The film just gets wobbly for a bit.

Threatening to collapse beneath its own weight.

Some genuinely great cinematography here and there.

Thanks to Go Nak-seon.

Definitely a cautionary tale here.

Certainly a danger that military might can be abused.

When military becomes police.

Gets a little “buddy film” with a strange Fast and Furious meets Thelma & Louise sequence.

As ridiculous as “Gangnam Style”.

Yes, there may be some things lost in translation here.

I know not ALL South Korean films are like this, but are some of these mannerisms normal?

Put plainly, there are some CHEESY film gestures which cheapen this movie unnecessarily.

I’d like to find them endearing (and I kinda do), but they are mostly annoying when encountered.

The Gwangju Uprising.

Minjung.

Heartwarming story.

That a mere taxi driver (a humble rung of society) could make a huge difference.

Very inspiring!!!

 

-PD

Cinderfella [1960)

Here is a masterpiece.

I was wrong to dismiss it so suddenly.

On first viewing.

The fairy godfather and the schmaltzy song by the pool I couldn’t stomach.

But I tried again.

Because the juicer is so good!

AND THE KITCHEN DANCE (!)

So it’s true.

Jerry Lewis made AT LEAST TWO perfect films.

This one and The Nutty Professor.

And it gives me hope with which to plumb the depths of his full oeuvre.

The little mattress on the big set of springs.

The one cheap sheet hiding this dismal arrangement.

AND THE DINNER!

Holy crap!!

That is my life!!!

Forever catering to the whims of dickheads.

Forever going back and forth…for sugar cubes.

And to pour the wine.

And to light a cigarette.

[but mainly to sugar caffeinated beverages]

Out of breath…

Jerry Lewis.

Overworked.

Mucho trabajo, poco dinero.

Pablito!

This film celebrates us nerds!!!

Revenge.

Sure…

But really it’s a much sweeter, more pure vindication.

Nothing nasty about it.

Jerry combing his hair in the toaster’s reflection.

And a little touch-up in the reflection of the Rolls’s front grill.

And that haircut!

Buzz cut.

Except for the little shock of normality above the forehead.

Anna Maria Alberghetti is fantastic as Princess Charming!

So light.

So airy.

So sweet.

But it all goes back to the kitchen dance.

Post- puffs on a ciggy.

Dropped in the sink.

To mimic the entire Basie band.

Rahsaan would have been proud.

To feel it.

The touch notes on the piano.

The little Basie accents.

So lazy.

So classy.

And the air drums.

Brushes.

Buh-da-loop da loop.

Buh-ruh-rump!!!

And that sax, man!

Bari!!!

Blowin’ out the cheeks like Dizzy ( )

Duck walking.

Chuck Berry kicks.

A whole sax section in one mouth.

Fucking genius!

In truth, there are a lot of plot parallels between Cinderfella and The Nutty Professor.

We almost sense Buddy Love in the staircase scene.

But Jerry comes out verbally bumbling.

And humble.

AND HE DANCES LIKE JULIUS KELP IN THE PROM WHITE SUIT!!!

Manic, man…

Bloody jaw-dropping.

 

-PD

SNL Season 1 Episode 11 [1976)

Just as Buck Henry had me stumped in the last episode (Buck Who?), Peter Cook threw me for a loop right off the bat here.

Dudley Moore I knew, but Cook?  No idea.  In terms of firsts, this appears to be the first SNL hosted by more than one person (simultaneously).

Cook met Moore while at Cambridge University as a student (Cook) of Radley and (later) Pembroke Colleges.  Moore, on the other hand, was himself a student at Magdalene College (pronounced “maudlin”) of Oxford University.  They started performing together in these school days.

But the act which Cook and Moore were essentially reviving on this night in 1976 was their comedy duo which powered the BBC’s Not Only…But Also (1965-1970).  We can be fairly confident of this based on their throwback chestnut Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling.

Sir Streeb-Greebling’s featured skit (Table Talk) is one of the highlights of this episode.  In it, we learn of the knighted eccentric’s restaurant Frog & Peach (which serves, unsurprisingly, frog…and peaches [exclusively]).  If I remember correctly, the two dishes on the menu are frog à la pêche and, conversely, pêche à la frog.  This bit of absurd, excellent humor is indicative of the talents which Cook and Moore possessed as both writers and comedians.

Cook and Moore additionally did film work together such as Bedazzled (1967).  For all of you Yo La Tengo fans out there, this gives me an opportunity to wax informative on the song “Tom Courtenay”.  It is one of my favorite YLT songs (from the excellent Electr-O-Pura album).  Perusing the lyric sheet of the above song, not only is English actor Courtenay mentioned in the title (the narrative is likely from his perspective) but Julie Christie makes an appearance (her name being the first words sung by Ira Kaplan).  For our purposes, however, it is simply enough to point out that the real “star” of said lyrics (Eleanor Bron) played Margaret Spencer in Bedazzled.

Moving on…

Now that I have spent an inordinate amount of time on Cook and Moore, I should point out something important.  Saturday Night Live in its inaugural season was attracting what might be called B-list entertainers.  To illustrate this point, I would direct readers to my piece on the previous episode.  To have Bill Withers do but one song and have it be a tune from 1971 (on a 1976 broadcast) illustrates this point which has a parallel in Cook and Moore (who were ostensibly rehashing material from their show which ran 1965-1970).

But credit must be given to the comedic duo in question who persevered and relocated to New York City in 1973.  They did, in fact, win a Tony and Grammy for their production Good Evening.  This success was parlayed (partially) into a more risqué act where they assumed the personalities Derek and Clive.  In total, this new incarnation was featured on three LPs (that would be, for the young’uns, VI-NYL/RE-CORDS).

Ok, so Cook and Moore weren’t totally washed up.  That much is obvious when seeing this episode.  In fact, I find their humor much more effective than most of the hacks which preceded them as hosts.  The “One Legged Tarzan” skit near the top of the show exemplifies their shrewd method of laugh-getting.

It should also be mentioned that stars on one side of the pond aren’t necessarily stars on the other.  And so, dear readers, you must forgive my ignorance regarding Cook.  I have now done my research.

I should mention a further two bits.  Cook himself went on to work with some of my favorite musical acts (Sparks and 10cc).  That Ron Mael, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme saw something in this chap is good enough for me.

Again, the separation between British and American entertainment really can’t be overemphasized.  I know there is a Doctor Who craze in the States now, but (back to Peter Cook) this bloke had a bleeding planet named after him in 1999 [20468 Petercook].

Furthermore, I am ashamed to say that I needed Wikipedia to tell me that Mr. Cook gave the world “mayorwidge” as the clergyman in The Princess Bride (1987).

Ok, ok…enough about Cook.  [I’ve hardly said a word about Moore, but we must press on.]

This is generally a great episode (with the notable exception of Neil Sedaka).  I really don’t want to hate on this guy, but his repertoire…ugh. And his sartorial choices (burgundy velvet jacket).  The jacket would have been great if he didn’t have Meathead’s haircut (Rob Reiner…Archie Bunker).  [“And now I would like to impersonate the Archie Bunker.  (…)  Tank you veddy much.”]

To be fair, Sedaka had talent.  Singing voice?  Check.  Piano chops?  Check.  But the schmaltz gluing it all together is what made it unpalatable.  Not to mention, what was an MOR guy like this doing on such a counterculture show as SNL?  Look to the corner office, my friend…the corner office.

On the whole, a great episode.  Just bite the bullet when Neil starts crooning 🙂

 

-PD