7 Films from Broken Hearts Club Theatre
Welcome, once again to the annual tradition of Valentine's Day, a celebration of love involving mountains of red and pink decorations, enough chocolate to clog the heart of a Colossus, and the leading cause of October/November babies.
Last year I rounded up nine games for you to play alone, perhaps with the blinds closed and tears in your eyes (http://www.realmofgaming.com/news/9-Games-to-Play-Alone-on-Valentines-Day/1667.html) and this year I'll be bringing you, yes you reader, something special once again. Welcome to Sgt. Clever's Broken Hearts Club Theatre!
From a gathering that barely avoids copyright infringement, we bring you some thematically appropriate films to enjoy alone, or perhaps with your significant other(s). I don't promise that all of these are "romantic", but I do promise they'll be void of the saccharine nonsense of Hollywood rom-coms and Nicholas Sparks movies.
* Voices of A Distant Star/ 5 Centimeters Per Second
From Makoto Shinkai, a talented director whose work often draws comparisons to that of Hayao Miyazaki's, come two animated films exploring the effects of distance, both spacial and temporal on relationships.
Voices of A Distant Star is Shinkai's first major work, created almost entirely by him, and as such has much lighter production values than 5 Centimeters Per Second. Regardless, it remains a gorgeous and evocative piece of work. Voices of A Distant Star tells the story of two close friends, Mika and Noboru, who become separated when Mika is recruited as a special agent to fight in an interstellar war against a hostile alien race using a specialized mech.
The two continue to communicate by exchanging emails via their mobile phones. As the front moves deeper into space the time it takes for their messages increases, until a point where messages take years to be received.
5 Centimeters Per Second, named after the speed of which a cherry blossom petal falls, explores similar themes, but is set further back, before the advent of cell phones and email. The story focuses on Takaki and Akari, two school friends who develop an intimate bond, but are separated when Akari's family moves away. The two keep in touch by writing letters (seeing pattern here?) but eventually their relationship becomes even more threatened when Takaki learns his family will soon be moving too far away for him to even visit her by train. The rest of the film's three acts focuses on Takaki as he grows older and his relationship with Akari changes with the distance.
A story about two lovers, Cindy and Dean, who become entwined when they meet at Cindy's mother's nursing home. The film cuts between the story of their meeting and their current married life, juxtaposing the romantic and dramatic beginning with a life that has begun to change the dynamics and feelings that the two held for each other. The film stars Michelle Williams as Cindy, and Ryan Gosling as Dean. While the story is never quite easy to watch, there's a stark beauty in the grounded and very human tale that director Derek Cianfrance is telling. A story of love that knows that love isn't always the end all key to human happiness.
Also it's the best love story with Ryan Gosling in it so there.
*Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A surreal, tragic, and often hilarious story from the pen of Charlie Kaufman, the writer who brought us the indescribably bizarre Being John Malkovich and Synecdoche, New York. The story stars Jim Carrey as Joel, and Kate Winslet as Clementine, two lovers who have decided to erase each other from their memories. Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and David Cross also appear in the supporting cast. The film tells the story out of sequence, moving across the timeline to moments in the past and present, and takes a surrealistic turn into Joel's mind as his memories are being erased.
Probably one of Jim Carrey's best roles, he brings a sense of gravitas to his character, while his interplay with Kate Winslet makes their relationship and characters feel tangible, despite the absurdity of the situation. Pick it up if you want something a bit unconventional and dramatic, with a flair of humor.
When a documentary maker with a fevered passion for the works of prominent actor Chiyoko Fujiwara finds a key that once belonged to her in a torn down movie studio, he delivers it to her at her reclusive home. In the following interview, Chiyoko regales the tale of her storied career, and the young artist she helped escape during wartime who inspired her career. As she speaks, the line between cinema and history begin to blur together in the story of a woman who traversed time eternal through her roles in order to find the young man.
Animated by famed studio Madhouse, and directed by Satoshi Kon, director of Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika, Millennium Actress uses the unique devices of the animated medium to create a frame that is very often stepped out of in order to tell a rousing tale blending a myriad of genres. It's a feat that would be difficult to replicate in another medium and speaks to the team's understanding of the format and the story's sharp writing.
*A Chinese Ghost Story (Animated)
Based on a short story from a collection written in China's Qing dynasty, this animation shares its name and origins with a live-action Chinese horror/romantic comedy of the same name. Ning, a poor tax collector begins on a journey to collect some debts after his lover leaves him after waiting years for him to be able to support her. After a run in with two Buddhist exorcist monks he and his dog, Solid Gold stumble across a literal ghost town. Here he falls for Shine, a beautiful ghost, and secretly an agent of the evil tree spirit Madame Trunk. From there on they stumble from across China in strange event after event.
Produced in 1997, and blending CGI and traditional animation long before it became commonplace, it can feel a bit dated at times by today's standard, and while the English dub is quite good, the lip syncing can at times be hilariously mistimed.
For the most part however, it feels like a novel blend of the Chinese romantic period martial arts movies that director Tsui Hark made his name with, Chinese folk ghost tales, and animation evocative of Disney films, complete with a few catchy musical numbers. Except that I actually enjoyed the antics of the animal sidekick this time. If that's not enough, you should know that there are quite a few grand battles as well, complete with over the top ridiculously named attacks, and a mech that looks like a Chinese paper lantern piloted by an exorcist named Redbeard who sings his intro into battle. Yeah.
A cult film out of the late 60's, Barbella takes place in the far future, where the titular character is tasked with exploring an unknown planet to find the whereabouts of scientist Durand Durand and his weapon the Positron Ray. With sets that absolutely capture the retro chic sci-fi look of the period (think Space Channel 5, but absurdly more lavish) Barbarella is a treat to behold. Starring a young Miss Jane Fonda, and definite product of the period of Sexual Revolution, Barbarella is a colorful and lighthearted romp of absurd plotting, locales, and sexcapades, with some amusing one liners to boot. Don't take it too seriously and you'll find some fun to be had bathing in the colorful camp of the film.
That concludes this year's program for SGT. Clever's Broken Hearts Club Theatre. For those whose heartbreak rings eternal, or those who simply lust for a little bit more, do check out our previous year's features (http://www.realmofgaming.com/news/9-Games-to-Play-Alone-on-Valentines-Day/1667.html). Until next year lovers, sayonara!