I Come with the Rain

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

23 August

 

Beginning of the Philippine Revolution, 1896

On this day in 1896, the Cry of Pugad Lawin, or Balintawak, took place. It marked the opening phase of the revolution in the Philippines against Spanish colonial rule, and refers to the skirmish between the Katipunan secret society – under Andres Bonifacio – and the Civil Guard loyal to the colonising power. The actual date of the “Cry” is disputed; it used to be officially marked on 26 August but since 1963 has been officially remembered on this day, when Katipuneros gathered in the Kalookan area and tore up their tax certificate, a “no taxation without representation” moment, to the accompaniment of patriotic cries to revolt. The “cry” itself (“grito” in Spanish) refers to the act of declaration – whether it is vocal, written or even psychological – and marks the “enough is enough” Rubicon that separates a law-abiding citizen from one who is determined to act against their oppressor. By 1898, Spanish military rule had officially ended in the Philippines. By 1902, the Philippines had fought and lost a war against the USA and had fallen under a new colonial power.

 

 

 

I Come with the Rain (2009, dir: Tran Anh Hung)

This is a recommendation for a very messy film, but one packed with such tantalising ingredients that it’s really worth a look. Or feasting your eyes on, because it’s that sort of film too. And it stars Hollywood’s own Josh Hartnett – who after the romantic comedy 40 Days and Nights in 2002 seemed to decide that he’d go off and plough a lonelier furrow than the one Hollywood had in mind. Well, here it is – long, deep and windy and very lonely, a thriller by the arthouse Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung, shot largely in the Philippines but set largely in Hong Kong, and starring Hartnett – one of the few Western faces – as a detective heading to Hong Kong to find an heir to a Big Pharma corporation. When he gets there he learns that the son has become a faith healer who is literally taking on the diseases of all who attend his mobbed clinic, and is breaking out in stigmatic bleeding as he does so. Can the detective find him or will a local gangster (Lee Byung-hun) looking for his beautiful drug-addict girlfriend (Tran Nu Yen Khe) get there first?
The hunt for a charismatic leader who has built a new society with himself installed as a kind of Christ, this sounds like Apocalypse Now, to a degree, and Tran goes along with the notion, throwing in Elias Koteas as a babbling madman, explaining, excusing, mythologising, muddying the plot as a serial killer anchored in Los Angeles, which surely means he has no real connection to the rest of the film. The film also is like that, deliberately messing with space, logic and timelines in an attempt to lock-step with the messianic supernatural side of things.
Don’t expect to always understand what’s going on, in other words, and you’re also going to have to roll over and accept the massive and repeated use of sheer coincidence as a plot device. But some things are abundantly clear. We have no problem knowing who the bad guys are, for instance. We also cannot fail to be impressed with the visual beauty of the film, which astonishes at every turn, almost every shot composed in terms of colour, composition, light/shade and camera movement with a meticulousness which must have been maddening for anyone other than Tran. Some of the violence is bravura stuff that has already made its way into other more mainstream films. The scene where a victim is encouraged to get into a body bag, before he is beaten to death with a hammer while zipped inside. Neat and tidy brutality, that’s the way to do it, and with a metaphysical ironic joke for fun. Then there’s the car chase – the director of the achingly lambent Scent of Green Papaya showing he’s not just a pretty scenarist with a high speed chase in reverse. The scene where a bad guy shoots someone’s dog then uses it as a cudgel to beat its owner (yes, that’s the same ironic idea as the body bag, but let’s award marks for variety).
It’s a weird film, a beautiful one and, ladies and bents, Mr Hartnett takes his shirt off a lot to add a further layer of entertainment that Tran’s camera or the Radiohead soundtrack haven’t already provided.
I’d gone into this film having heard it was lousy and was shocked at how good it is. Not perfect but messy, as I say, or “a baroque action film” as Tran describes it. Most cop movies are about the imposition of order on chaos. Tran’s not sure it’s that simple.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Hartnett on the road less travelled
  • The cinematography of Juan Ruiz Anchía
  • Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack (with Radiohead assists)
  • Koteas’s mad Taxi Driver-meets-Marlon Brando performance

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

I Come with the Rain – Watch it now at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “I Come with the Rain”

  1. "I Come With The Rain," is a film that is hard to define. In some ways it is a redemption story, in other ways it is a reinterpretation of Christian mythology, and in yet further ways it is a study of evil. If anything, the film is ambitious in the themes that it tries to explore. As with most ambition, a degree of prudence is often needed for reaching higher quality. For example, one may wish to change the world for the better. However, trying to affect a whole planet is beyond the capabilities of most. The prudence enters in defining one's world more strictly. The wish to change the world changes into a wish and drive to change one's immediate world or community. The ambition becomes tempered by practical and manageable constraints. Unfortunately, ICWTR attempts more than it is capable of handling well. The film touches on the three interconnected themes mentioned above in a less than coherent way. By the end of the movie, one is left with the sense that valuable ideas have been brought to the table but never developed into anything that can be useful or fulfilling to the audience.

    The premise of a damaged detective searching for a messianic figure amidst the corruption and evils of modern life is promising. The film falters by attempting to create three interconnected and artfully ambiguous tales about the detective, messiah figure, and the personification of modern corruption and evil. One of the hallmarks of parables is that they are rather simple. The parable usually develops a story around a single moral or epistemological rule. ICWTR attempts to tell three parables in tandem. The result is not a smooth synthesis commenting on the complexities of the human condition. Rather, the film comes of as confused and lacking in relevant concrete development. To be clear, the film itself is not overly difficult to understand; the attempts of the film to convey deeper meaning are muddled and shallow. In fairness, the raising of interesting questions may have been the goal of the film. The problem is that the film does not arm the audience with any tools to continue the discussion later on. As an example, how would you respond to the following question if asked by a random stranger: "Is 'good' tainted when it is saved by 'evil?'" Hopefully this is a jarring question and one that defies immediate answer. In one sense, the question is interesting and plumbs the depths of moral/ethical thinking. In another sense, the question is too brash and off putting. Such a question almost begs for some sort of established framework to deal with it. In essence, the above question comes later in the discussion after some context and philosophical norms are established. ICWTR asks questions like this without giving the audience any real framework to deal with said questions. The film methodically, and beautifully I might add, simply presents scenarios that lead to these questions. The result is a confusing and somewhat disjointed experience. As a viewer, I know I am supposed to have been exposed to some deeply meaningful symbols and questions; yet I do not really know what to do with these symbols or where to go with these questions. In the end, one really wants to find deeper meaning in this film and unfortunately cannot.

    While the above may seem a harsh review, the film does offer a great many good points. The cinematography is beautiful. The scenes vary from lush tropical forests to oppressive and over developed cityscapes. The actors assembled are an international powerhouse. While Hartnett may be less than A status in America, Kimura and Lee are considered first rate stars in Asia. In this sense, the film is an international blockbuster. The acting by these stars is somewhat uneven. Of the three, Lee is the most consistent, turning in a nuanced performance that aptly captures the variegated emotions connected with his personification of modern corruption and evil. The editing and pacing are very well done and match the attempted themes. The Radiohead soundtrack adds a pleasant ethereal touch which aids in setting a more contemplative tone. In essence, the film is extremely well made, it just attempts too many messages within the story.

    On a personal note, I really wanted to like this film and was somewhat saddened that I was underwhelmed. I enjoy having my knowledge and interpretations of symbolism expanded. Unfortunately, this film merely referenced a great many known symbols without expanding or deepening their meaning. For this and the above reasons, I will probably not recommend this film to many. I tend to see this as a film that attempted something artistic and philosophically profound. No doubt, many people will agree and furthermore extract something from the film. Sadly, I was not able to pull any greater meaning from this movie. 6.7 stars of 10.

  2. Everything about this movie screamed for me to despise it. Yet this movie is like meeting a person whose appearance is ugly, yet whose inner beauty is unseen unless given a chance to shine. Dark…. nasty work with cuts of beauty. It just flows out in both directions, this movie got a 9 out of 10 from me.

    Basically an ex-cop (Josh H.)named Kline who has seen and been overtaken by evil( a serial killer drives him insane over his investigation into this 24 mutilation killings then tortures Kline during a meeting,) is given the task of finding a lost son of a billionaire who turns out to be a new Christ figure, a saint. Which of these two meetings will have the most impact on Kline? Deep, slow and gory but oh so beautiful in a very disturbing way.

  3. OK, I've been wanting to watch this for soooo long and finally I made it! First of all forget the adverts, they completely betray the movie. I was expecting a real good HK gangster movie with a western edge but what I got was much slower, more serious and very edgy. Josh Hartnett was great, possibly the best I've ever seen him and to be honest I usually can't stand him. Well, changed my mind! Unfortunately there were parts of the movie where the dialog was difficult to understand, and this was down down to the Asian actors…..BUT…. It wasn't impossible, and overall the acting in the movie was great. The thing that struck me most about the film was the cinematography which had that real Asian edge, think of any modern Korean movie, it:s beautiful! And the speed of the movie which was sloooow but perfect! I loved it, and I think if you have ever been into Asian cinema or any other for that fact you will too. I:m not going to tell you anything about the story, just watch it……

  4. Kilne is a former detective, 'contaminated' from his investigation of a serial killer with a penchant for sculpture using human flesh. He turns private eye and goes in search of Shitao, the missing son of a Howard Hughes-style millionaire recluse, his journey taking him from The Philippines to the homeless ramshackle dwellings of Hong Kong's underbelly. Reliable reports say Shitao was gunned down and left for dead, but he seems to move ghost-like in the shadows and crevices of the city. And crucifix-like graffiti and barking prophets seems to carry a message connected to Shitao…

    Somebody had the idea to take a festival darling of a director, connects him with two of the biggest stars in the East Asian market, throw in a young Hollywood heartthrob to keep the dialogue in English for the all-important US market, all to a soundtrack by Radiohead – how can it lose? By a complete lack of a semi-coherent script, that's how. Rarely does a film fail so completely to display any shred of plot or coherence. There is some waffle about the beauty of human suffering, a bit of scripture misquoted here and there, but it resonates to absolutely nothing. Depressingly, it is a certainty some people will make great claims for this, condescendingly pontificating that if you didn't 'get' it you don't know your religious history, iconography, semiotics, blah blah blah… Nonsense. This film is an insult to the intelligence, pure and simple.

    The only multi-dimensional character is Harnett's Kline, and his arc is all in flashback to the guy you start the film with, he never grows during the course of the film. Shitao has an American father (actually, less Howard Hughes and more Charlie of the Angels fame) but hardly speaks English. This is obvious from the few lines of dialogue given to Kimura, who gets to grunt a lot clearly because he can hardly manage basic English. Every line he has punctures the suspension of disbelief.

    The saving grace for this film is the acting, with Harnett especially powerful when we see his moment of contamination, and Byung-hun Lee effective in his vulnerable moments, few and far between as his day-job is psychotic gangster. Elias Koteas, one of the most reliable character actors around, is under-used, managing to charm and repel in the manner of Lecter, despite having the most giggle-inducing junk to say as dialogue.

    Kimura, unfortunately, lets the side down badly. Apparently Byung-hun Lee prepared and rehearsed his scenes meticulously, while Kimura would turn up and ask "What do I have to do?" The Japanese star looks out of his depth beside the Korean. Far and away the most charismatic member of the boy band that spawned him here in Japan, Kimura has coasted through his acting career, looking like he could put in a shift if asked to rise to the challenge. He came close in Wong Kar Wai's 2046. I Come With the Rain asks him to step up to the plate, and he is found badly wanting. The charisma is all surface pouts; when asked to come up with something more nuanced, he simply doesn't have it. I for one thought he had, and to see him crash and burn like this is extremely unpleasant. I should have been feeling pity for the character, not the actor.

    Apart from that, there is little to praise. The direction never gets out of third gear, while the editing looks like a work-in-progress. Continuity seems to have been sinful. Clearly the filmmakers think this film will travel on the elements alone, and spent little to no time developing the script. They may be right; the female fans of the male triumvirate pouting on the posters may just be young and naïve enough to think this is art. If they are wrong, they have the consolation of knowing Antichrist will keep them company this year in the category of misjudged art-house projects with messianic connections.

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