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Monday, June 28, 2010

Bodyguards, Assassins, Boys on the Run, Live Nude Girls, and Michael Jackson

Over at Twitch, I review a couple of films currently screening at the New York Asian Film Festival (you're going, right?). First up is the historical martial arts epic, Bodyguards and Assassins, director Teddy Chen's attempt to add and action-packed chapter to the life of Chinese revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Next up is the romantic comedy (?) Boys on the Run, which makes a great case for more genre fluidity and ambiguity in relationship movies. Finally, I had a chance to see director Tetsuaki Matsui's documentary about the late Japanese porn starlet Yumika Hayashi, Annyong Yumika, which attempts to make sense of the enigmatic actress' life after the discovery "lost" Korean-Japanese co-produced adult film.

Despite being wildly different, both Bodyguards and Yumika are unexpectedly linked by ideas about public figures and their approachability. Bodyguards approaches this at a right angle with the mostly implied presence of Dr. Sen in a film ostensibly about his struggle for Chinese liberty. But each character in his ideological camp "speaks" for the good doctor and attempts to create a picture of the venerated, but ultimately unknowable figure. Chen's film shies away from showing Sen's face (although there is a key scene with his mother which I suppose acts as an emotional stand-in) but ultimately it's admiration at a remove.

Then there's Yumika where the very public, very popular porn star nonetheless leaves an absence where her life should be. Underneath the analysis of a fairly silly, kind of horrible "discovered" porno is the sense that no one really knew this woman and Matsui spends 2 hours trying to capture some essence of her onscreen through the recollection of her lovers and colleagues.

Yumika was a performer and her career and persona were ultimately forms of performance and to a certain extent so was the persona of Dr. Sen, who has over time become an idea of a person. I wonder how many years before the same effect overcomes Michael Jackson, who was actually a living ghost for about 15 years as he retreated from public view. After his death, after the late-night jokes, after the contentious struggle for his kids what will remain is the idea of the performer which has almost overnight shed the taint of more than a decade of decline and scandal. We don't know about him than we did before but our impression of him has shored itself up into something concrete, something definite that we identify as performer, or Performer.   

Anyway, check out the reviews and think a little about celebrity and illumination. 

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