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I Love You (2002)
Masterful story of broken love.
22 January 2003
If you like the films of Wong Kar-Wai you will enjoy this vital, actionful and heart-wrenching love story. I just saw I Love You at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival where I also saw festival darling Dopamine, another film about love. Where Dopamine was a predictable and slick televisionism, I Love You was surprising, brutal and real. Despite its emotional and musical embellishments, the film engages us immediately in the tragic love of a flawed young couple. Zhang Yuan's simple fevered frame never lets up through several unexpected turns and revelations. The performances by the two leads are fresh and unusual. The story takes place in small spaces and a bleak city, but the electric relationships are familiar, frustrating and funny. Zhang doesn't employ the same stylistic flourish as Wong, but the masterful direction, insightful characterizations and poetic camera mark the two as members of the same generation of Chinese filmmakers telling urban stories rich in human perception. An original and overwhelming movie about love. I will seek out this director's other films.
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Dopamine (2003)
A predictable, slick, televisionism.
22 January 2003
Inappropriately videographed in an self-conscious style reminiscent of the "hip and cool" B-grade TV action series Silk Stalkings, this film offers little in the way of human insight, original characters or surprise. Despite co-starring Sabrina Lloyd, who was winsome in Sports Night and Ed, the film makes you want to leave unseen before the credits roll. Unfortunately I didn't. I just saw it at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival where I saw another film about love by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yuan. It is called I Love You and never has the discrepancy between TV weaned pablum and cinematic poetry been made so sharply evident to me. If the conceit of Dopamine's main character designing a cuddly interactive computer character as a replacement for his own emotional connection wasn't obvious enough, the dialog will lay it out for you time and time again. The bland predictability of the story, the stock characters (sensitive lead, womanizing buddy, token black friend) make you feel bad that someone had spent so much time on the impressive effects used to make the "emotionally responsive" Koy Koy computer character that the young hip technology guys are toiling over for the big client. Also impressive were the "Brain Chemistry" computer effects used in the out-of-place opening credit sequence and which were needlessly invoked again every time the main character fell further "in love". When John Livingston's character Rand finally sheds the inevitable tear, it is so discomforting and phony that even a generous Sundance audience could be moved to groan. Other characters, like Rand's parents, are merely expository devices. The film's ruminations on love and contemporary relationships were dealt with years ago by Oprah. Despite its desperate efforts to do so, this is a film that takes few risks. A huge misapplication of craftsmanship.
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