Cellphones, Sunsets, and Daggers

11:19 am PHT

Let’s resume our normal movie reactions. Over the past two weeks I’ve watched the following three films: House of Flying Daggers, Before Sunset, and Cellular. Among the three, I liked the Ethan-Hawke-Julie-Delpy starrer the best.

House of Flying Daggers

The House of Flying Daggers is a very good film! The story is well-thought; I never expected many of the plot twists in the film. The cinematography, as usual, is top notch. And since Zhang Ziyi plays a blind girl, I noticed that the sound editing is quite excellent too. So I would say that the movie is both a visual and an auditory treat.

But is it better than Hero, another Zhang Yimou creation? No. I liked Hero better for its sheer cinema artistry. The House would have compared favorably had it not been for the ending scene that is so unbelievable. The plot has been going on fine and dandy until we see something that’s so… ridiculous? (Think Filipino action movie ridiculous.) That scene alone lowered my evaluation of the movie several notches.

Nevertheless, I’d still recommend this movie.

Before Sunset

I’ve never watched the first film, Before Sunrise, so I was a bit hesitant to watch Before Sunset because I might get lost. But no, the screenwriters managed to lay down the film’s premise, rooted in the events of nine years ago, in the opening scene of the movie. You’d also learn more bits and pieces of the earlier events through the conversations of the two protagonists.

The movie basically follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they stroll around Paris talking about life, love, and all the what-might-have-beens. The whole movie happens in “real time” a la 24. And if you don’t like “talking films” then you won’t appreciate this movie.

I am amazed at how the screenwriters managed to make it all feel so real. The conversations doesn’t sound as artificial as in other films, although you’d have to believe that Jesse and Celine are so eloquent that there is virtually no dead air in the whole film. And it’s so wonderfully done the way they were able to piece together a whole plot (exposition, rising action, climax, and denoument) in a movie where two characters basically talk the whole time.

One comment: Paris is so beautiful! Interestingly, we never see one shot of the Eiffel Tower in the movie, ever. No cliché shots of the Arc de Triomphe or even The Louvre, either. The only Paris landmark we ever see is the Cathedral of Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité (the historic center of Paris). Even then, we don’t even see its façade, just the rear portions.

There is nothing in Metro Manila that can compare to the sheer beauty of the backroads of Paris. Pasig River cannot be compared to the Seine at all. If I were to visit Europe, I’d definitely stop by Paris. And I’d better brush up on the pitiful French I know (the ones aside from “Je m’appelle Eugene”, “Je suis des Philippines”, and “Parlez-vous Anglais?”).


Cellular is another great movie. It’s not intellectual, it’s not emotional, it’s simply your better-than-average popcorn action movie. If you didn’t enjoy this movie, then you’re thinking too much.

Chris Evans plays Ryan, a slacker fellow who picks up a weird call on his cellphone. The caller on the other end, Jessica Martin, played by Kim Basinger, is a science teacher kidnapped by a bunch of baddies. She manages to piece together a smashed up telephone and reaches Ryan’s phone. At first, Ryan thinks it’s a prank call but was eventually convinced and becomes your hero for the day (despite breaking hundreds of laws in the process).

While there were some plot elements that seems too fatfetched, nothing requires exaggerated suspension of disbelief for you to enjoy the film. The acting is good enough, with notable performances by Chris Evans, Jason Statham (as the main baddie), and William Macy (as the cop going into retirement). Special mention goes to this actor who plays the loud-mouthed asshole lawyer.

If you’ve watched The Thomas Crown Affair, you’ll recognize the chase song in Cellular, the one with the lyrics going “Where you gonna run to?” They played that in Thomas Crown during the scene where multiple Thomas Crowns walked around the museum exchanging briefcases. In Cellular, they played a dance version of that song that was so great, my friend and I were tapping our feet to the beat. Hehehe.

Comment: Does the cellular network in Los Angeles suck so much that they still have cross talk? Correct me if I’m wrong but America still uses the old CDMA system while Europe and most of Asia use GSM. CDMA is supposed to prevent cross talk since every digital transaction uses a supposedly unique code to guarantee signal connections. So I wondered if cross talking is so prevalent in Los Angeles that the screenwriters used it as a major plot device.

Or maybe cross talk also occurs in GSM networks except that we never observe it because Filipinos prefer texting to voice calls.  :P

Update: A little Google searching and Amazon previewing revealed that the song is “Sinnerman”, by Nina Simone. The first stanza goes like this: “Oh Sinnerman, where you gonna run to? / Sinnerman, where you gonna run to? / Where you gonna run to? / All along dem day.”

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