Capsule Reviews–The 601st Phone Call, Quick, The Silent House

A few little mini-reviews now, as I have a sore throat and really don’t feel like writing too much, but wanted to get my thoughts down.  Also, a bit of admin news – I do occasionally try and look at films from outside Asia, and I think that I will be starting a another blog up to capture my thoughts on those.  Not sure of a name yet, any suggestions are of course welcome!  What it will mean is that I am just going to give up on the comic book one ( as I just don’t have the energy or inclination to keep that up to date. Frankly, I managed a single post on it last year, and the truth is, I am not as in love with comic books as I once was. I still read and collect them, but this has pretty much taken over my creative and free time.

Right, onto the films!

I only watched “The 601st Phone Call” as I am a huge fan of Chinese Pop Singer ’Bibi’ Zhou Bichang, and this is her only screen outing to date.  It tells two interconnected tales.  600 phone numbers of various Hong King celebrities are released on the internet, causing a media storm.  The problem is that one of the numbers is wrong – giving Office Girl Yi-Shu’s (Zhou Bichang) number out in place of Tianyou’s (Cecilia Cheung).  This leads chronically ill wannabe singer Xiaowen (Ge Hu) to contact her.  He believes she is Tianyou’s assistant, and he begs her to tell her employer about his song.  Together they work on the lyrics, and a phone call and text based romance ensues.  Meanwhile, Tianyou is having a hard time matching her artistic integrity against the needs of the record company.

It is a strange and undemanding film, that never quite succeeds on either storyline.  The Yi-Shu/Ziaowen romance never really goes anywhere, other than the pair moodily waiting for each other’s calls and messages, but it is harmless enough in true “Fatal Beauty” style.  The other story could have been much more interesting, if it were not for the fact that Tianyou seems to be exactly the kind of Idol-style pop singer she claims not to be.  In fact, the story gets quite surreal when the record company arrange for her to first get beaten up, and then drive her to a suicide attempt!

It is an undemanding film, with nothing really to mark it out amongst many films of this ilk, and although there are a couple of hilarious moments (like the Chinese Actor who is utterly distraught he is not considered famous enough to have his number released) the dual nature of the story hurts the film, meaning it lacks depth.  Mildly recommended, unless you are a Bibi completest.

Quick” on the other hand is an unexpected treat from Korea – a real summer Popcorn blast – that works as long as you really do not thing too hard about the plot mechanics.  Motorcycle courier Gi-soo (Lee Min-ki) is drawn into a mystery man’s act of revenge against his employers, when forced to deliver explosive packages in order to prevent his ex-girlfriend Ah-rom (Kang Ye-won) being killed by the bomb wired to her motorcycle helmet.  The Police are hot on their heels, along with an ex-fellow motorcycle gang member (and now Policeman) Myeong-sik (Kim In-kwon).

If you think along the lines of a “Speed” on two wheels, you will get the general idea of this one.  But I really enjoyed it despite is not really being my normal kind of movie, it is fun and exciting, and on the whole the stunts are spectacular (only failing when it tries to CGI-up – one rooftop scene looks terrible, and a sequence of flying canisters is not only unoriginal, but does not quite work).  In that wonderful Korean way, it manages to mix a decent action thriller with a decent love story (of course showing that Gi-soo maybe is not the utter heel he is painted to be at the beginning of the film).  Not only that, but it actually spends time looking at the consequences of actions of the carefree and responsibility lacking youth in quite a dark manner.  It is also rather amusing (if sometimes a little over-daft), even finding time to poke a little at K-Pop girl bands and the usual inadequacies of the Police Force – but never in too cruel a way.

It is maybe 20 minutes too long, but I had a huge amount of fun with this film.  It certainly made up for the crushing disappointment of “Sector 7”, so Recommended.

The Silent House” is not Asian, but hails from Uruguay.  Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her Father travel to a decrepit old house owned by one of her Father’s friends, with the intention of renovating it so it can be sold.  However, as soon as they settle down for the night, Laura hears a noise upstairs, and when her Father goes to investigate, he ends up dead.  Laura struggles to leave the house, and uncovers a dark secret.  But then, is everything as it seems?

The big deal about this film is that it is meant to be filmed in a single shot (as you probably know, in the days of real film stock, you were limited to maybe 10-12 minutes before the film ran out – in this age of digital I guess you are only physically limited by storage).  Now whilst even I spotted at least two moments where there probably was a cut made, technically I though this was pretty well done, in terms of moving the actress and the camera around the locations within the house.

The problem is firstly, it really is not THAT scary, sure it has atmosphere, but the scares that are used are pretty standard fare.  More problematic though was the storyline.  You see, without spoiling it too much, there is is a pretty horrible story here, but you have to realise that you are effectively seeing this film through the eyes of a very unreliable source.  And whilst the film is mostly done in one shit, the only way you can make sense of it is if you realise that events are not unfolding chronologically (I saw a pretty decent explanation of this over in an IMDB comment).  And that just seems at odds to me with the idea of the single shot.

At the end of the day, I appreciated the craft, and even the central performance, but as a story, it seems that the technique won over the execution.  A US Remake is about to hit our screens in March, it will be interesting what approach that takes.  Mildly Recommended.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nekoneko says:

    Sorry you are feeling sick… I hope it doesn't hang with you as long as my annual bout of flu did.

    Yep… I definitely agree with you. “Silent House” has an interesting look and I applaud the efforts of the filmmakers to go beyond the simple “found footage” genre to try to capture something new… but sadly, yes… the story is fatally flawed by that one nagging plot element… which as to remain nameless if we don't want to discourage people from giving it a try. It is worth that…. but only if you can get a look at this one for the right price.

    Can't say I can compare it to the re-make as I've not seen that one… That will have to wait till I get a peek at it on pay cable, if I get the chance.


  2. ElPeevio says:

    Thankyou Neko – sadly I only ever seem to get mild, drawn out ill. I will have the sore throat for a few days, which only really hurts at 3am when I am too tired to go do something about it, then it will become a mild but annoying headache, and so on… I do ironically envy those people that just get REALLY ill for a few days, and then manage to get on with their lives. The British Winter never helps either – never quite managing to be one thing or the other. STill a mild grumble all things considered.

    The American remake I think is not out until March – it is taking the one shot approach, but changing the storyline from all accounts. It will no doubt be terrible, interesting only because it stars the sister of the Olsen Twins – who I had never heard of until now. Oh – and by the “Open Water” people. Want a trailer?


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