Friday, October 17, 2008

Johnnie To's SPARROW

Sparrow screens on Saturday, 10/18 at 600 North Michigan at 6pm.

Although it’s only one of two films I’ve seen so far in this year’s festival, it’s hard to imagine I’ll see anything more instantly satisfying than Sparrow. A playful, largely dialogue-free fantasy about a team of master pickpockets, it often feels like a great cartoon brought brilliantly to life, with elaborate set-pieces that use contemporary Hong Kong as creatively as Ratatouille used contemporary Paris. The movie reportedly took three years to shoot, and the filmmakers’ perfectionism is evident in almost every shot. Yet for all the technical mastery, Sparrow is a rather playful film, often evocative of a 50s MGM musical. (The maximally arranged widescreen frames certainly encourage this comparison.) While some critics—most notably the Reader’s Fred Camper—have written great defenses of Johnnie To in the past, I only found him intermittently brilliant before this film. But with Sparrow, he combines the giddiness of his action-comedies like Running on Karma with the focused aesthetic of his“Election” Trilogy and even manages to ditch the flip cynicism that made those films occasionally seem tasteless. Here is a movie that should entertain people of all ages for some time to come. (2008, 87 min, 35mm)

Also screening on Sunday, 10/26, 1pm

1 comment:

Barry Alpert said...

SPARROW (via Johnnie To)

Stop shaking your feet.
Play Casanova.
A beautiful woman
Required real skills--
one hand, kiddo.
We'll never meet again.

Barry Alpert / Silver Spring, MD US / 7-16-09 (3:13 PM)

Quarried during my first viewing of a dazzling 2008 feature by Hong Kong auteur Johnnie
To, a director who has completed 50 films since 1980, though the 7-8 I've witnessed
relatively recently combat any notion he's simply cranking them out for a demanding
commercial studio. Instead the self-conscious and cinematically-referential films of Jean-
Luc Godard come to mind. I wondered whether Johnnie To was consciously synthesizing aspects of Robert Bresson's Pickpocket and L'Argent with, unexpectedly enough, Jacques Demy's Umbrellas of Cherbourg.