July 2, 2010 -- This 2008 Hsiao-hsien Hou-directed film loosely based on the Academy Award-winning 1956 Albert Lamorisse film (which is directly referenced in the film) has been hailed by some as a masterpiece and has gotten a lot of good reviews. I was expecting something good, at least, when I checked the DVD out of the local library. Instead, watching this was a waste of time. I was extremely disappointed. Give me “The Notebook” any day of the week over this overrated piece of crap.
This is one of those slice-of-life films about ordinary people doing ordinary things over the space of a few days. We see everyday events like people bickering over support payments, bickering over lease payments, bickering over limited kitchen space, bickering over the location of a piano, bickering about how family members never call (if I wanted to watch bickering, I'd watch CSPAN), tuning a piano, practicing for a puppet show, playing video games, walking down the street, and above it all flies a red balloon. The problem is, there is a lack of editing from time to time. It appears the camera is just left on and runs and runs when there is little happening. This is either lazy editing, or some misbegotten notion of arty filmmaking. I found it boring. There are some nice images from time to time, and the acting is superb, especially by veteran actress Juliette Binoche, who plays Suzanne, mother of Simon (Simon Iteanu) a very cute young boy. Binoche, who usually plays serene characters, here plays a frazzled, overextended woman who often seems near the end of her rope.
This is an upper class family, since Suzanne can afford not only a full-time Nanny (Fang Song) and a piano teacher, but she is constantly buying things, traveling and eating out. However, none of the activities of this family, the nanny (who is a student filmmaker, speaking of lazy and obvious storytelling props) or the piano teacher, are out of the ordinary. There is no real drama, no tragedy, no romance. It is the cinematic equivalent of watching somebody rearrange the drapes for two hours, all the while bitching about how they don't like any of the drapes. Then there is the weird puppet show rehearsals directed by Suzanne, who also seems to do all the puppet voices. The puppet voices were like fingernails on a blackboard. The noise of it even upset my cat. This was annoying and painful to watch. How Suzanne makes a living out this kind of ugly puppet show is baffling. Well, you get the idea. This film rates an F.
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