Thursday, March 29, 2018

Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Tremble All You Want at the Hong Kong International Film Festival (Film reviews)

The faces of the Hong Kong International Film Festival
and associated Entertainment Expo
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (West Germany, 1972)
- Part of the HKIFF's The Ecstatic Truth of Werner Herzog program
- Werner Herzog, director, scriptwriter and co-producer
- Starring: Klaus Kinski, Del Negro, Peter Berling, Ruy Guerra
At one point in Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer's Into the Inferno, the two co-directors are heard discussing the German auteur's sanity.  The conclusion, which seemed fairly obvious to me at the time, was of course he is!  But after having viewed the cinematic work that's considered Werner's masterpiece, I can totally understand why it is that there are people who might think otherwise since making Aguirre, the Wrath of God involved filming in unlikely places and requiring cast and crew to do such as climb up and down formidable mountains, ride ferocious rapids, and live on rafts for weeks on end!
In the film's mesmerizing opening, the audience is presented with the sight of men and women, many of them dressed like they came from the set of a movie featuring castles rather than jungle, clambering down and up narrow mountain paths in a remote part of South America.  Set in 1560, the people in question turn out to be a Spanish expedition under the command of Gonzalo Pizzaro (Alejandro Repullés) searching for the legendary city of gold known as El Dorado.   
With supplies running low, Pizarro decides to send an advance team out down river on four rafts.  Mainly consisting of Conquistadors, they also include the mistress of its leader, Don Pedro de Ursua (Ruy Guerra), the teenaged daughter of the second in command, Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), and a priest, Brother Gaspar de Carvajal (Del Negro).  What ensues afterwards are the kind of mishaps and missteps propelled by folly, power grabs, greed and, increasingly, delusion; the last of which stems in large part from Aguirre, the bug-eyed man who functioned for much of the time as the leader in all but name before going ahead and seeking credit as well as actual command.
The kind of cinematic effort that looked to have placed uncommon demands on its cast and crew that gets one suspecting its helmer is demented, a genius or both, Aguirre, the Wrath of God has to be seen to be believed.  Adding to the craziness is the sound of German coming out from the mouths of characters who are supposed to be Spaniards and at least one indigenous South American; and learning that the multi-national cast actually were filmed speaking English, only to be dubbed into Herzog's native German in post-production!
My rating for this film: 8.5

Tremble All You Want (Japan, 2017)
- From the HKIFF's I See it My Way program
- Akiko Ohku, director and scriptwriter
- Starring: Mayu Matsuoka, Daichi Watanabe, Takumi Kitamura
The first line of blurb in the Hong Kong International Film Festival's program booking folder's blurb for this offering reads as follows: "A surprising foray into the world of Japanese Chick Lit and the women who read, live and hide there."  So I think I can be excused for expecting Tremble All You Want to be about avid readers of Japanese Chick Lit.  Only, it's actually an adaptation of a popular Japanese romantic novel targeted at young women like its protagonist, 24-year-old OL (Office Lady) Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka)!
The early impression one gets of Yoshika is that she's spirited and vivacious, comfortable to talk with a variety of people, including the matronly woman she regularly sits next to on her bus commute, a waitress in the cafe she often frequents whose dyed blonde hair Yoshika admires and a bearded angler who can be found fishing in all kinds of weather.  Infatuated since her schooldays by a fellow known as Ichi (aka One) (Takumi Kitamura), she finds herself romantically pursued by a socially awkward colleague she takes to calling Ni (aka Two) (Daichi Watanabe).     
What initially feels like breezy fluff takes a turn for the dramatic and sad though when it gets revealed that Yoshika can actually only fantasize that she's got many people to talk to and, instead, is painfully shy and finds it difficult to comfortably interact with many of her fellow human beings.  Even sadder and more shocking is that her (dis)position seems to have struck a chord with so many of her countrywomen (and -men?) that this offering actually won the Audience Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year!  
Put another way: this romantic dramedy failed to win my heart; though it's by no means the fault of its versatile lead actress, who's called on to display a range of emotions and even sing in one scene in the movie.  Rather, Tremble All You Want made me feel my age (which most certainly is not twenty-something!) as well as made me realize what a blessing it is that I'm the kind of person who actually is inclined to chat with complete strangers fairly regularly, including when I'm in the Land of the Rising Sun!  
My rating for this film: 6.0


eliza bennet said...

One of the films that I'm glad I have watched on big screen is Aguirre, Wrath of God. The film certainly left a deep impression with me.

YTSL said...

Hi eliza bennet --

I can't imagine viewing this film on a small screen/TV. And yes, I do realize I'm really fortunate to live in a city where I have opportunities to watch many great films on a big screen.