A very quick recap today - I've just been away for a couple of weeks, so two of the three movies I've seen have been on the aeroplane; I'm not a great flyer and get distracted from the film by any turbulence or the sounds of the engine or the wings moving about, so my reviews of Cedar Rapids and Somewhere can be taken with even more of a pinch of salt than usual...
An interesting Korean movie which I saw early on last week, so I might be a bit fuzzy on the finer points of this one, but I'll try and do it justice. The plot centres on a mute young man who travels around Seoul on his motorbike, looking for empty homes to break into. Once inside, he cleans the absent occupants clothes, repairs appliances, plays a little golf and then documents his escapades with a photograph. However, his routine is interrupted when he finds the battered wife of a wealthy businessman inside one of the homes he burgles. The pair engage in a silent courtship, and continue to break into houses around the city until the discovery of a dead body in an apparently empty flat leads to their arrest. After this point, things begin to take a (possibly) supernatural turn which I don't want to give away, but which for me was rather unwelcome, detracting from the more realistic scenes at the beginning of the film. A meditative, slowly paced movie, but very charming, particularly for its first two thirds, it is also capable of shocking you with several instances of brutal violence.
Cedar Rapids (2011)
In which a naive young insurance salesman named Tim Lippe is lead astray at a sales conference in dazzling Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I didn't have high expectations of this comedy, starring Ed Helms from the American version of the Office, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was rarely laugh out loud funny, but provided a steady stream of amusing moments, as the straightlaced Lippe is taken out of his comfort zone. As well as Helms, it also has a strong cast of other faces familiar from various hit US shows, including Isiah Whitlock Jr (Clay Davis in The Wire) and Alia Shawkat (Maebe in Arrested Development), alongside fim veterans like Sigourney Weaver and John C Reilly. I should also mention that the version of this film I watched had been rather savagely cut for language by Delta Airlines. In some ways this added to the amusement factor; every time a character was supposed to say 'fuck', it was replaced with 'freak' or 'fudge' or something similar. In my favourite example of this clumsy dubbing, Isiah Whitlock Jr's character insults a local redneck by calling him a 'mudlover'. You work it out (shouldn't take too long).
Sofia Coppola's latest film explores similar themes to her best known work, Lost In Translation, but with less success. Both movies focus on the lives of angsty film stars staying in luxury hotels, whose lives are enriched by a younger woman (though in this film the younger woman in question is the film star's daughter, rather than a love interest). However, whereas Bill Murray effortlessly and hilariously portrays his character as infinitely world weary and jet lagged, Stephen Dorff's character just seems a bit listless. This film was watchable enough, but felt very slight - I remember reading somewhere that in order to have a successful film, you need to have some sort of conflict or difficulty for its protaganist to overcome. There is almost no conflict or narrative urgency in the movie - Stephen Dorff is a highly succesful movie star, who is somewhat depressed, at the start of the movie, then reconnects with his daughter and seems slightly less depressed at the end. Still, Elle Fanning is very good as Dorff's daughter and the film retains some of the dreamlike quality that made me love Lost In Translation so much.