Days in Berlin, Part 3

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By Robert Koehler

Forum is looking shaky. At least, that’s the impression from the third day, with a bunch of films that are either slight or bad or unwatchable. The slight is, at least, modestly entertaining: USC grad Arvin Chen’s Au revoir Taipei (above) takes a penniless young man, determined to leave his native Taipei and follow his love to Paris, and slot him into a situation involving an attractive bookstore clerk, an aging real estate shyster, a giant, doe-eyed convenience store worker, and a group of would-be crooks dressed in orange suits. Plus the regulation bumbling cops, sniffing out a scam that gets our hero way in over his head. Chen has a good comic sense, with a gentle grace to his desire for farce mixed with romance. The movie is a divertissement from the serious Forum heavyweights; that’s why it was programmed here, and that’s how it should be viewed, no more, no less.

Regular Forum watchers began, by the end of the day, to wonder what was in the minds of the Forum programmers to include such abject failures from Asian cinema as Sawako Decides, Ishii Yuya’s lugubrious semi-comedy about a woman who considers herself a “loser,” and which strains by the end to turn her into some sort of “winner.” Igor Volshin, an inexplicable favorite of Forum, is back with I Am, a feature-length assault about druggies and madmen, a movie full of bad teeth. The day was capped with Ryu Hyung-ki’s forlorn Our Fantastic 21st Century, concerned with a young woman leading—what else?—a dead-end life who really hits the skids when she tries to pull a scam at the superstore where she works as a temp. Whatever social critique Ryu intends is lost with a directing scheme that lacks any shape or focus—a recurring problem with the new Forum work from Japan and Korea.

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