June 15, 2004

SIFF: Resurrection

As the Seattle International Film Festival wound down last weekend congrats to the big winners the makers of Facing Windows from Italy Seattle Maggie sent to Cinecultist her final two reports. While CC doesn't like to see a cinematically confused Maggie too often, she's not the type of movie-goer to let some incomprehensible plot stand in her way, as you can see in her fourth review which follows.

I must admit I'm at a bit of a loss. Let me start out by telling you about my boyfriend Todd. Even though he is a very smart fellow, he's one of those?I yam what I yam guys, if you know what I mean. He likes documentaries, and biographies about obscure jazz musicians, and Discovery Channel specials about bears. Hence, when I drag him to movies where an object might represent a feeling, certain colors are supposed to link scenes, or characters say things but mean completely the opposite, he sometimes needs me to provide a short debriefing afterwards to get what it was all about. However, after the SIFF screening of?Darkness Bride last Friday evening when credits began to roll, Todd looked at me expectantly and I had to cut him short with "Sorry, dude. I got nothing."?

This is what I could gather: In the remote Chinese village of Virgin's Tomb (named after a Virgin who chose death over undoing by rapists), a young girl named Qing Hua is having some problems.

While she is fond of her pre-arranged husband, the unfortunately named Sissy, she also has special feelings for another young man in the village, Chun Sheng. Sissy also welcomes Chun Sheng into their relationship, and they form a platonic sort of threesome. Then the vengeful spirit of the Virgin appears, some grave robbing happens, Sissy disappears while tending his flock of sheep, and Qing Hua is attacked by her crazed mother-in-law, who wants her to join Sissy in the afterworld. She and Chun Sheng run off to the city where they find Sissy miraculously alive, but accompanied by Yan Yan, a prostitute infused with the spirit of the dead Virgin. Qing Hua is overcome by jealousy and dread, which has devastating consequences for the future of their happy threesome.

The quality of the film itself was not that great, with too many gritty shadows and bizarre, lingering shots of farm animals, especially a weirdly reoccurring donkey with particularly baleful stare. The incidental music kept thundering ominously at odd times, making you think that something of note was happening, when nothing much actually was. Also, I found the characters to be too incomprehensible for my liking, especially the frustratingly semi-mute Sissy, who seems to live for sheep, Kentucky Fried Chicken and drawing in the dirt with his special stick, and not much else.

I see a fair amount of foreign film, but this was one of few that I felt as though I were watching in a completely different language as in, not relating to anything that I could recognize as the human experience. There was just something beyond my reach that I didn't, or couldn't, get. The film may have been about the nature of love, or the power of vengeful spirits, or country superstition versus the harsh reality of the city, or maybe it was just about Colonel Sanders triumphant invasion of the Chinese countryside. It may have genius or just plain strange, I just don?t know. The only thing I did fully understand were the shadow finger-puppets that magically appeared during the credits, compliments of an anonymous fellow SIFF festival-goer, perhaps finding the film as inscrutable as I did. Peace to you too, buddy.

I give?Darkness Bride 1 out of 5 Golden Space Needles, as well as a special jury prize of the Giant Platinum Question Mark. This is Seattle Maggie, signing off...now, if someone could only tell me what the deal was with that donkey?

Posted by karen at June 15, 2004 7:59 AM