Plane Movies

August 22, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

Three of the movies I saw on planes during my marathon 44-hours in the air during the last week of May have now reached U.S. theaters. One of the benefits of flying Singapore Air is that each passenger has his/her own personal entertainment center, which includes roughly 100 on-demand movies (some current, some past, and many international). Since I'll view just about anything in similar circumstances, I ended up re-watching Caddyshack and Dirty Harry and seeing three films I was unfamilar with: 2046, Apres Vous, and Ferpect Crime. These are now available in limited distribution is some U.S. theaters.

It is not possible to write a review based on a plane viewing. No one would describe the conditions as optimal. Nevertheless, none of the films encouraged me to run out and see them upon their eventual art house arrival. Of the three, I would recommend one - 2046 - but only to Wong Kar Wai fans. Seeing it once was enough for me, but I enjoyed the experience. As for the other two, they are strictly video fare (at best). If you miss them, your life will be no poorer.

2046 "pretends" to be a science fiction film, but it's really a human drama. Much like In the Mood for Love, it's more about atmosphere than plot. We follow one man, a writer, as revisits his past and moves from woman to woman. As with Wong's other films, 2046 evokes emotions, but features a minimalist plot. The time travel element purports to be about a man journeying by train into the future, but it's only a part of the book being written by the main character, and it occasionally gets juxtaposed with his memories. It's merely a device to get us into the story. The meat of the movie is about the romances of the lead character. The actors - Tony Leung, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, and Maggie Cheung - are superlative. They do a lot with the dialogue, but more with their eyes and expressions. 2046 is slow and sublime, but requires an unhurried mind frame to appreciate.

Apres Vous is billed as a French comedy, but I didn't find there to be anything funny (or compelling) about it. When a maitre d' (Daniel Auteuil) saves a suicidal man (Jose Garcia) from hanging himself, he feels responsible for the would-be victim's life. This results in the maitre d' searching for the lost love of his new "friend." Ultimately, that woman, Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain), becomes embroiled in a romantic triangle with the two men. Apres Vous fails as a comedy, doesn't work as a romance, and is too silly for a drama. The film is slow and draggy, and it's tough to develop much feeling for any of the characters. Even on video, it may be asking the viewer too much to get through the entire 110 minutes.

Ferpect Crime is Spanish/Italian black comedy that has moments of incisive satire, but the sum doesn't equal the whole of its parts. A Cassanova, Rafael (Guillermo Toledo), who works in an upscale department store, becomes involved in an accidental death. All that stands between him and prison is a lone witness: Lourdes (Monica Cervera), the ugliest woman working at the store. In order to keep her quiet, Rafael must vow undying love and marry her. This puts him in a living hell, and he begins to contemplate how to murder his bride. The film starts out breezily enough, with some vicious skewering of department store sales practices and the behind-the-scenes backstabbing that occurs when commissions are involved, but as the running time increases, the comedy level goes down. Occasional bursts of humor are sufficient to keep the average viewer engaged, but not enthusiastic. Ferpect Crime is a suitable diversion, but nothing to go out of one's way for. On the plane, however, it was a decent way to kill the part of the trip from northern Japan to just off Alaska's west coast.