Boarding Gate (2007)

20 03 2008

Despite no western distribution, this has already gained somewhat of a reputation as being horrendously bad. This reputation has mostly been formed by people expecting something closer to the genre it’s obviously playing off of. This is nothing new, or nothing bad for Assayas fans. Another aesthetically accomplished film, but I do wish he would stop confining himself to a certain genre in every film. Clean is great, but on paper it’s pretty much a Hallmark movie and demonlover is equally good, but reeks of David Lynch’s influence. Boarding Gate files itself under Hong Kong action, which is basically an excuse for emulating the big city, neon lights mood envoked by directors like Fruit Chan and Wong Kar-Wai. Thankfull, Assayas is pretty good on it’s own, but the act might be wearing a little thin. He’s far too good to be wasting his time making movies like this.

Sandra and Miles reunite after a long time apart, but their time together is anything but blissful. He’s a business tycoon and she’s a prostitute: they talk of the time when they were together, reflecting on what they as a couple use to be. Sandra has another love, Lester, who is a contract killer and he hires Sandra to kill Miles. She does so, and flees to Hong Kong where she is trapped into a corner by a group of gangster led by Kay (played by a Cantonese-speaking Kim Gordon) and Lester’s wife, Sue.

Assayas proves again, that he’s probably the best when it comes to editing. The whole steadicam and jump-cuts feel is becoming a bit of cliche but he’s pretty much a master of it. Oddly enough, he’s not working with Eric Gautier here, which proves that he can obtain the look he wants, no matter who the cinematographer is. It’s also nice to see urban Hong Kong since Fruit Chan seems to be drifting more and more away from that feel. Really, with Assayas, there’s no room to complain when it comes to pure filmmaking talent.

However, that leads right up to my main problems with this. The story is just way too simple and way too unremarkable. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely something more complex going on here than in a John Woo film. It’s just that I still can’t help but wonder why a director as talented as Assayas, would want to confine himself to silly genre conventions. That sounds sort of stupid: “it’s not conventional…but there’s conventions” but it just seems that while the film is plotless (in the best way) it’s also influenced by a three-act structure. It’s most likely just a subconscious thing that Assayas has gained from watching some silly Hollywood movies, but it certainly taints his abilities as a filmmaker. For example, the opposite of this would be Werner Herzog, who never saw a film until he was ten and that makes sense in the context of his films.

It should be noted that this doesn’t completely ruin Assayas’ film, just cuts it short of being really special. For what it’s worth, his next film, Summer Hours, looks/sounds a bit more personal. This is a good movie, though, probably not as good as his previous two. I’ll be optimistic and say that all great artists struggle at one time or another and considering how Assayas has mastered the technical side of filmmaking, it’s only a matter of time before he makes something shall we say, more emotional profound?

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3 responses

20 03 2008
Daniel

This is actually being distributed by Magnolia, opening tomorrow in NYC! I’ll come back and read your article after I’ve seen it…

20 03 2008
Jake Savage

Wonderful news!

…but the rest of country is way behind New York, especially here in Cincinnati. :/ In any case, I look forward to your thoughts.

20 03 2008
Jake Aesthete

You should see “Late August, Early September”. It’s not a genre film at all. Neither is “Irma Vep”.

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