Thursday, June 15, 2006

Despite being a film nut, I've unfortunately let most of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) pass me by... poverty sucks like that.

However, yesterday, I did manage to see Americanese last night, the adaptation of Shawn Wong's novel American Knees - a story about the intersections of love, romance, relationships, and race in the context of the Asian American community. I first encountered the novel way back in 1999 as a part of an Asian American literature class at U-Dub - Shawn (an English professor at the UW) even came in and led an entire class-long discussion about the book. I got my copy autographed, haha.

Anyways, Roger Ebert wrote an excellent review of Americanese right here. I definitely recommend reading it.

My own brief thoughts:

  • This is not a film for sleepy people. It starts pretty slow, and Byler is definitely interested in telling the story with a lot of long camera shots and (uncomfortable) silences. Of course, since the core theme of the movie is broken relationships / breaking up, I'd much rather have scenes of well-filmed awkward silences than scenes of well-filmed awkward dialogue.

  • It takes awhile to warm up to Raymond (Chris Tashima) and Aurora (Allison Sie)'s respective characters and their relationship. The chemistry they have isn't really apparent until midway through the movie.

  • In contrast, the supporting cast were perfect fits for their roles: Kelly Hu as Brenda, Aurora's CCB friend who hates Asian men and only dates white guys; Michael Paul Chan as Jimmy, Raymond's talkative & over the top friend; and an outstanding performance by Sab Shimono as Raymond's father, who is lovably eccentric and still pines for his past away wife.

  • The post movie cast interviews were good.

    Someone asked a question about funding and Byler revealed the entire budget came from the Asian American community (he joked, "Who else would want to see a film about a bunch of Asian Americans?"). Byler also talked about the huge disparity that Hollywood has created in the Asian American acting community - they were so flooded with hundreds of applications for the roles of the women in the film, that shutdown casting calls in one week. In contrast, it took over 3 weeks to get just 30 inquiries from men for the lead role of Raymond.

    Chris Tajima, asked about playing Raymond, joked that after over 25+ years as an actor, it literally is a "once in a life time role because it had a love scene". Byler and him also joked what a relief it was for the actors in the movie to playing roles that didn't require a "bad accent" or "kicking someone in the stomach". Ouch.


I had similar feelings about seeing the film. Definitely some slow moments, but overall it was a great experience. Joan Chen was actually my favorite performer. Haven't read the book yet, but plan to soon....
Oops, just saw your comment on mine! Yes, Shawn was hilarious. Would've been great to have a class from him, but alas, I was in Nebraska during undergrad.
i still havent even seen the other Byler film Charlotte Sometimes yet...

no ones psyched about Justin Lins FAST AND THE FURIOUSER 3!?
sarah- Joan Chen played a good crazy woman. She was straight up psycho! haha.

dks- heh heh... you know, I was actually thinking about seeing it...
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