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Monday, September 05, 2011
In Venice, Mr. Neaw and Mr. Fassbender
Venice, Sept 4
Yesterday Rirkrit Tiravanija, emiment visual artist and maestro of live museum curry-cooking, premiered 'Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours' in the Orrizonti section. The 149-minute film -- which presents nothing more than the uncle of the title walking, talking, farming, eating, drinking -- has turned out to be one of the best Thai films of the year. Neither detached nor intimate, neither exotic nor romantic, at its conceptual level 'Lung Neaw' (no relation whatsoever with 'Lung Boonmee'!) reveals itself to be a patient study of time -- how it flows, how it's interminable, and how life occupies that stream of invisible liquid, sculpted and lulled by it.
This is a teaser, and a full report on the film and its Venice premiere will be in the LIFE section of the Bangkok Post on Wednesday. I should say here that later in the week, the Venice Festival will also screen Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's 'Tae Piang Pu Diew' (or 'P-047'), which to me is another best Thai film of the year. Sorry, but again the full report will follow later.
On another note: Venice can't get enough of Michael Fassbender. And in turn, Michael Fassbender (or his characters) can't get enough sex. First the actor plays Carl Jung in 'A Dangerous Method', a psychoanalyst who upstages Freud in their theoretical rivalry by having dark sex with his patient. And now Fassbender plays Brandon, a hyper-sexed New Yorker whose uncontrollable libido (he would make Freud proud) gets him in an existential crisis. Brandon just can't help it: he uses prostitutes, he maturbates, he picks up girls, he consumes a formidable quantity of porn, print and digital -- sometimes all of this in the same night.
The film is called 'Shame'. This is a new work by Brisith artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose sensational 2009 debut, 'Hunger', also starred Fassbender in the physically demanding lead as an IRA prisoner on an epic hunger strike. In 'Shame', let's just say that Fassbender is more solid than the whole movie, and the McQueen enthusiasts may sulk when this follow-up doesn't quite match the stylistic excitement of his first film.
Cary Mulligan plays Brandon's dysfunctional sister, and her part is the weakest in the story, which feels underwritten in many ways. It's Fassbender, playing a soul tortured by his own impulse, by the pain rather than pleasure of sex, who saves the film.
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