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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch

In this issue:

These Movies Matter;
July DVD Reviews

by Angela Pressburger

Foreign Drama: Yi Yi, A One and a Two, The EventDocumentaries worth watching: Ballets Russes (See Ballets Russes with The Red Shoes), Why We Fight; Protocols of Zion
Classic: The Loved One and From the Small Screen: Portrait of a Marriage

Yi Yi: A One and a Two
2000, Taiwan/Japan, 173 min., subtitles,
Criterion edition
Director: Edward Yang

Best Director,Cannes, 2000; Grand Prix, Fribourg, 2001; Panorama Jury prize, Sarajevo, 200; Chief Dan George Humanitarian Award, Vancouver, 2000; Best Foreign Film, French Film Critics, LA Film Ciritics, New York Film Critics, 2000

The film focusses on NJ, a middle-aged Taiwanese electronics executive, who is so busy rushing through his life he has not been paying much attention to happiness. From this centre-point the story moves through the ups and downs of three generations of an upper-middle class Taiwanese family.  As the film opens, NJ’s wife, Min-Min, is undergoing a spiritual crisis and wants to go on a retreat. His teenage daughter, Ting-Ting is about to experience first-love. And Yang-Yang, his eight-year-old son has begun a project to photograph the backs of people’s head in order "to show them what they cannot see." But, all-in-all, things seem pretty normal for an active family.

Then the current of life begins to shift. At Min-Min’s brother’s wedding, NJ’s mother-in-law has a stroke which results in a coma.  NJ has a chance encounter with his first love, Sherry, whom he has not seen for thirty years and his emotions begin to surface — but things do not unfold as one might imagine.

Yi Yi is an observant, richly detailed, portrait that allows the
minutiae of daily life to provide an ongoing, flowing background for some of the deeper questions such as: What sort of difference in one’s life does taking one opportunity and not another actually make? Or, as Ting-Ting asks: "Why is the world so different from what we think it is?" In this movie — unlike most North American films — the characters don’t feel forced into sudden decisions, romantic or otherwise. They’re committed to the life they’re leading and their vague romantic yearnings are more like background noise than calls to action.

When doubts about existence and how we’ve conducted ourselves arise, as NJ observes, it’s a little like talking to someone in a coma, when talking is “like praying: you’re not sure the other party can hear, and not sure you (yourself) are sincere.” This is the small magic of going with the current of ordinary life.

The Event
2003, Canada/USA, 114 min.
DVD released April, 2004
Director: Thom Fitzgerald

Jury Award, Berlin, 2003; Grand Jury Award for Outstanding
Actress (Olympia Dukakis), L.A. Outfest, 2003; Audience Award, Indianapolis, 2003; Best Director and Writer, Atlantic Film Festival, 2003.

Matt (the charismatic Don McKellar) is in his thirties, gay, Jewish, and dying of AIDS.  He feels he has no hope of recovery and decides to take his own life.  With help from his friends and the support of his mother (Olympia Dukakis), he decides to hold an “event”, a party at which he can end his life among friends — a final celebration of life.

His boyfriend, Brian, is an AIDS counselor and has access to the necessary drugs. All goes well until an inquisitive district attorney (Parker Posey) arrives and begins to ask questions.  She’s looking into a string of unexplained deaths in the Chelsea district of Manhattan where Matt lived and died. Initially, she’s only interested in questioning Brian, but then a video of Matt’s event surfaces and her net spreads wider. As she questions the participants she begins to uncover disturbing inconsistencies in the stories of Matt’s nearest and dearest.

This is a hard-hitting film that will make you think about dying and the right to choose your death. What is the role of loved ones in supporting such a decision?  And how do you begin to deal with emotional conflicts and the single taste of tears, anger and humour all arising at the same time? Everyone who was at Matt’s “event” tells it like it was for them, and the answers are not always the ones a district attorney wants to hear — but they are truth.

This is the best drama we’ve seen on assisted suicide, and one that will intellectually challenge you for days.

Page Two of Angela Pressburger's July DVD Reviews>>

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