Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:27 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
Posts: 3379
Location: California/NYC
Image

Hokey plotline undermines doc footage

Lots of pretty (buit coldly digital) cinematography cannot compensate for the clumsiness of a tacked-on noir plot with hokey mystical overtones in The Last Time I Saw Macao, a documentary posing as a nostalgic film noir about a man who returns to the Chinese-controlled former Portuguese colony to see an old friend. We never see the main characters, and the plot about mysterious assassins never gains traction. Directors João Pedro Rodrigues (of the 2009 NYFF selection To Die LIke a Man) and his collaborator João Rui Guerra da Mata haven't gotten a grip on juicy material as they did in the award-winning earlier film. These 85 minutes feel interminable.

Calling this a "stunning amalgam of playful film noir and Chris Marker–like cine-essay" is typical empty festival blurb hype. Things feel wrong from the "spectacular" opening scene (unrelated to anything else) of the actress in which Cindy Scrash lip-synchs to Jane Russell’s “You Kill Me" from Josef von Sternberg’s 1952Macao with baby tigers cavorting in a fenced-off space behind her. The sequence is strangely lifeless -- and pointless. A silly sequence of a war game in which somebody is supposedly shot for real adds on more pointlessness, and gradually the "noir" story of the visit begins in voiceover, accompanied by conventional shots of Macao.

Images are mostly a travelogue to the old and new city, but there is too little chronicling of Macao's current status as the world's most intense gambling venue. Vegas-like signs abound, and one good image is a fake Venice lagoon with a Chinese gonadalier singing a Sinatra song in a mock-Sinatra voice. More of this kind of incongruity might have been interesting. The contrast between the old world charm of the Portuguese colony the narrator knew and the crass, hyperactive Chinese Macao is alluded to, and seems potentially fascinating material. But the observations of the place in the voiceover and by the camera are mostly at one remove, the kind of thing any sensitive tourist given to facile pronouncements could come up with. "Candy," the "friend" from decades ago, is evidently a transvestite (also the topic of To Die As a Man), gradually turns out to be much more than a friend. The interrupted attempts of the two to get together involving useless phone calls, are more tedious than suspenseful. Rodrigues' sometimes pleasingly lurid gay campiness (in other films) is far too muted here in this colorless effort. Chris Marker? Baloney!

Included, inexplicably, in the Main Slate of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, where it was screened for this review, A últia vez que vi Macao debuted at Locarno.

_________________
©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 5 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group