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Fah talai jone (2000) Tears of the Black Tiger

April 4, 2010

The only reason I added this film, and the only reason I watched it through, was because of the stunning visual effects.  I think of each shot as being like a panel in a graphic novel, and the director has painstakingly colored each outfit, every eye color and set of lips, and the sky, each piece a whole in an artistic frame.  To think of film as art first, entertainment second, can lead to some wonderful results.  Kurosawa was an artist first, and it shows.  It’s said he used to paint the most beautiful, detailed storyboards, whereas most directors stick to simple line drawings.

One of the most amazing scenes came early on, when Dom was playing harmonica on the tree, with the sun in the background.  The entire sky was just a mural, in a very expressionistic style that reminded me of Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920), one of my favorite films of the German golden age.  It’s often occurred to me that the world could use another art film, where the background, the sets, and the clothing all fit in perfect harmony to make each scene a work of art in its own right.

Unfortunately this film falls a bit short on that.  Though it is very beautiful, and the carefully colored world persists throughout, it’s not the work of art that Caligari or Dreams were.  Additionally, the story is less than compelling.  It’s a simple spaghetti western where the hero fights for the honor of his father, and the love of his life.  Perhaps it was meant to be deliberately corny, but the comical style of acting didn’t seem to match the more romantic, old visual stylings.  Perhaps the plot would have been better served with more cartoony type effects, something akin to Sukiyaki Western Django.

I certainly wouldn’t watch it again for the story, but the visual effects I will remember for a long time.  I wish more directors would pay attention to the artistic aspects of film making.

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