(Warner, 2006) D: Martin Scorsese, w/ Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. Rating: NNNNN
The Infernal Affairs Trilogy
(Dragon Dynasty/Alliance Atlantis, 2002-03) D: Andrew Law, Alan Mak, w/ Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang. Rating: NNNN
The extras on the departed dvd downplay as much as possible that it's a remake, choosing to emphasize how scenarist William Monahan drew on the history of organized crime in Boston to develop the screenplay.
However, if you watch The Departed side by side with Infernal Affairs, it's amazing how straight the remake is and how many bits and scenes are transferred almost directly from the Hong Kong film to Martin Scorsese's the bit with the cast, the theatre meeting, the rooftop confrontation, the apartment move-in, all the cellphone business, the two underhoods' discussion of how to spot a cop you could spend a few hundred words listing the parallels.
Which doesn't take anything from Scorsese's achievement; I'll just refer people back to my original online review (www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2006-10-05/movie_reviews4.php). I'll stand by that, with one change The Departed is actually more violent than Infernal Affairs.
Infernal Affairs' grand advantage is that Hong Kong filmmakers don't tend to worry about loading up backstory. Instead of attempting to explain all the characters' background loyalties, they just set it up and go. That's one of the reasons that Infernal Affairs is 50 minutes shorter than its remake.
The cast does a great job. Andy Lau and Tony Leung were born for these parts (Matt Damon's and Leonardo DiCaprio's roles, respectively).
The problem is with the rest of the package. Anything that's a hit in Hong Kong automatically means sequels. A couple of principal characters from the first film are no longer with us, so the filmmakers have to stretch. Infernal Affairs 2 is a pretty good prequel, but the almost incoherent Infernal Affairs 3 has a scrambled time scheme to allow flashbacks to bring back the dead. And events from the first film are shown in ways that contradict the original.
Infernal Affairs is a classic Hong Kong crime film, and this is the best version now on the market. This issue is only available in the box set. You can get the sequels separately, though it's hard to imagine why anyone would.
Dragon Dynasty is the Weinstein Company's Asian label, in cooperation with Quentin Tarantino, and it'll be devoted essentially to repairing the buggery the Weinsteins perpetrated on a lot of Jackie Chan and Jet Li titles when they had them at Miramax/Dimension: recut versions, English dubs only, original music tracks jettisoned.
So now that everyone has gone offshore or bootleg to get proper versions of Police Story 3 and Tai Chi Master, the Weinsteins want to sell us good ones?
EXTRAS The Departed: No Scorsese commentary, but a feature-length interview from TCM covers Scorsese's career up to The Departed; making-of featurettes; theatrical trailer; deleted scenes with director intros. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.
Infernal Affairs: Making-of featurettes, theatrical trailers and teasers on all three films, cast and crew commentary (IF2). Cantonese, English audio, IF1 French audio. English, Spanish subtitles.
(Sony, 2006) D: Sofia Coppola, w/ Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn and Asia Argento. Rating: NN
A colleague claims Sofia Coppola's movies are impossible to describe in a single sentence, but I'll give Marie Antoinette a shot: a very attractive young woman lives in a very nice house and worries that the people around her don't understand her. Lost In Translation and Marie Antoinette are almost the same movie.
So why is Lost In Translation almost a masterpiece of mood and tone, while Marie Antoinette gets lost in its own art direction. (Bill Murray as Louis XV might have helped.) Watching Marie Antoinette is like gorging on callissons and macarons, and despite the tempest-in-a-teapot controversy over the punk rock score, Bow Wow Wow's I Want Candy belongs on this soundtrack. Eat too much candy and eventually you either throw up or start to crave protein.
The real treat in the extras is a short burst of energy from Jason Schwartzman, who plays Louis XVI in the film, doing MTV Cribs in costume, three minutes directed by Sofia's brother Roman.
EXTRAS Making-of featurette, MTV Cribs - Versailles, deleted scenes. Englsh and French audio and subtitles.
(Seville/Warner, 2006) D: Géla Babluani, w/ George Babluani, Aurélien Recoing. Rating: NNNN
Here's an interesting little film that sounds French but has the doomstruck tone and existential fury of the films that came out of the collapse of the Soviet Union. A young man (George Babluani) inadvertently enters a secret gambling contest in which a group of sweaty punters bet on the outcome of Russian roulette.
I'll admit to being a sucker for black- and-white 'Scope films, but 13 Tzameti has an undeniably mad edge to it even the walls are sweaty, a form of pathetic fallacy that goes beyond nature. Director Géla Babluani is a Georgian emigré who's been living in France for 15 years, but there's nothing French about his sensibility, with the possibility of the film's final plot twist. 13 Tzameti may not be a great film, but it crawls under your skin and itches. You can't forget it.
Excellent DVD transfer, and the interview with Babluani is very informative.
EXTRAS Director and cast interviews, Testimony Of A Survivor, deleted scenes, Sunday's Game, theatrical trailer. French audio, English subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, February 20
In Alejandro Iörritu's multiple Oscar nominee, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are American tourists in trouble, and the film follows everyone they connect to, however tangentially.
A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints
Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson and Shia LeBoeuf in a coming-of-age story set in the 80s.
Batman vs Wolverine! Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as duelling magicians in Victorian London. With David Bowie as Nikola Tesla!
When A Woman Ascends The Stairs
The first North American DVD release of a film by Japanese master Mikio Naruse.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb