Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan at the Northwest Film Forum
Yeah, I know, it’s awards season and the theatres are packed with the respectable products of Hollywood and the international festival circuit. You got your Lanthimoses and Cuarón’s and Kore-eda’s, your respectable actors doing biopics and whatever it is Natalie Portman is up to in Vox Lux. Well, you can have all that if you want, for me, the undisputed highlight on Seattle Screens this week is a 45 year old rape-revenge film by Chor Yuen, the Shaw Brothers answer to Josef von Sternberg. Intimate Confessions kicks off what is to be a series of Hong Kong films over the next month, splitting between the Film Forum (who will be playing Come Drink with Me, Golden Swallow, and The One-Armed Swordsman in coming weeks) and the Grand Illusion (who have a pair of Sammo Hung movies: Pedicab Driver and Blade of Fury). I will do my best not to name them the Featured Film every week. But no promises.
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) Fri-Thurs The Favourite(Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs At Eternity’s Gate(Julian Schnabel) Fri-Thurs A Christmas Story(Bob Clark, 1983) Sat Only Free Screening Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) Sat Only Heavy Trip (Juuso Laatio & Jukka Vidgren) Sat Only Life and Nothing More (Antonio Mendez Esparza) Tues Only Bell, Book and Candle (Richard Quine, 1958) Weds Only
This film played earlier this year at SIFF,where bopth Evan and Sean reviewed it. But, because of SIFF’s embargo policy, they were only able to use 75 words apiece to do so. I’ve combined those two capsules into this, single review for ease of reference.
Life in the People’s panopticon; that’s the idea anyways. Money sloshes around via exploding CGI coins—the digital puss of wealth accretion under authoritarian capitalism—yet the film fails to locate China’s live-stream stars in meaningful social context. Trapped in the machine, but never interrogating 21st century cinema’s central question: how do we watch people watching screens? Talking head aesthetics won’t cut it. It takes a poet to penetrate the human surge beneath the simulacra.
Evan is right that there’s nothing in the aesthetic (PBS plus CGI) to match the radical transformations of a life spent online, but I think that’s kind of the point. That despite the newness of the technology and of this form of celebrity, of an economy built solely on loneliness and “prestige”, all the same old principles of exploitation and alienation apply. The virus of capitalism replicating itself anew. Pair it with All About Lily Chou-chou and The Human Surge and then go into the woods and read some Thoreau.