Posted at 3:46 PM on March 2, 2007
by Euan Kerr
Poet Robert Burns exhortation for the gift to "See ourselves as others see us," rings true in different ways for two films opening in the Twin Cities this weekend.
"The Italian" is a heart-rending tale of a little boy (Kolya Spiridonov) growing up in a Russian orphanage who becomes a pawn in an illegal adoption operation.
His name is Vanya, but all the other youngsters call him "Italian" because he's been promised to an affluent Italian couple as soon as the money-hungry adoption broker. The other children envy him for his chance for a cushy life, even as they seem destined for a life of petty theft and prostitution as they desperately try to get by.
But Vanya sees his future in a very different way. He wants to find his mother. Through dogged determination, a little luck, and a whole lot of chutzpah he sets off on his journey. He's pursued by a hoard of adults, some malevolent, some uncomprehending, and helped by people he meets along the way.
It's hard to ignore comparisons with "Oliver Twist,"
but director Andrei Kravchuk maintains a modern and gritty Russian edge to the tale, all underscored by the sweet sadness of the lost innocence of youth.
"Tears of the Black Tiger" There is nothing more American than a western, unless of course it's a Thai western. "Tears of the Black Tiger" transposes a tale of unrequited love and gunslingers into the Thai countryside.
Director Wisit Sasanatieng has a glorious time messing with the look and feel of the story, wrapping the set in lurid neon colors, and his heroine, Rumpoey, in 1950's dresses. She's engaged to the goody-two-shoes police captain, but she's in love with Dum, a young man from her past. She doesn't know he has become the fastest gun in the East by the name of the Black Tiger, and a notorious outlaw.
The story follows a pure western formula, and you know where it's going, but that's not the point. This is a film where you go along for the visual ride and to enjoy the quirks. This is a film where the romance is so chaste the lovers hardly even touch. It's straight out of the Hays Code. Yet the bloody violence is so 21st Century over the top it would delight Tarantino.
This is one strange confection, which won't be to everyone's taste, but if you're going to see one Korean western this year, this should be it.
Wait.. Tears of the Black Tiger is from Thailand. What does it have to do with Korea????
Apologies. Guilty again of writing too fast. Thanks for pointing it out.