8:00 PM, 3rd March, 2012
Two decades ago, I went to the Academy Cinema City in Adelaide to see a film that had gained incredible buzz from overseas (back in the days before the Internet - and piracy - was prolific). The film? Reservoir Dogs. After a decade of high-quality-but-not-necessarily-cool cinema in the 80s, I was blown away by this cheeky movie, reverent to the past but still bringing something new. Little did I know that a wonderful decade of film-making (which would herald David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, PT Anderson and Darren Aronofsky as well as the wider audience recognition of the Coen Brothers) was beginning.
Why do I mention this? Because I got the same feeling when seeing Drive. It's about a young man who is a stunt car driver by day, and a getaway car driver by night, but to mention the plot seems redundant. This film is about atmosphere and style. The look, the music, the classic villain performance by Albert Brooks (who deserves an Oscar) - all of these contribute to make this an absolute must-see, in the same vein as Reservoir Dogs back in 1992. Starring the omnipresent Ryan Gosling, this moody not-quite-action film was far and away my favourite movie of 2011, and hopefully the opening act of another great decade of cinema. I highly recommend you come and see Drive.
9:55 PM, 3rd March, 2012
The story begins in 19th Century China when two seven-year-old girls undergo a ceremony that makes them (or reveals them to already be? I'm not really sure) laotong - friends bound together for eternity (the modern translation, BFFs, somehow sounds much more cynical). We follow their stories as young women (Bingbing Li is Lily; Gianna Jun is Snow Flower) and simultaneously follow the stories of their 21st Century counterparts - or incarnations, descendants, something of that sort.
The primary story is that of the 19th Century women, who from an early age are earmarked for arranged marriages (one of the earliest things we see happen to them is their feet being bound), and whose entire lives will be utterly ruled by the chance of which husband they are given to, and which family they marry into. To retain their ties to one another they develop a secret system of communication (involving fans; hence the other half of the title) - and that's the link to the 21st Century, when Nina (formerly Lily), a career woman who's thinking of moving from Shanghai to New York and leaving Sophia (formerly Snow Flower) behind, discovers the secret history the two women share.
Most people find cross-cutting between the two eras jarring or distancing, but it shows up a pleasing difference this film has from many other period pieces: usually we see modern people dressed in costumes of the past; this time we see people from the past dressed in costumes of the present.