IT'S AN ASIAPHILIC stutter-start summer for the Northwest Film Center, which is stringing three very different trilogies from three very different directors across the coming weeks: The Vengeance Trilogy by South Korea's Park Chan-wook; Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's Noriko Trilogy; and Hong Kong's Wong Kar-wai's Love Trilogy.
Other than Asian descent, these nine films share a similarly thematic relationship to the term "trilogy." They all stand alone as single films, but when viewed chronologically are intended to convey more deeply developed themes, as well as act as a traceable timeline of their respective directors' evolutions. Perhaps the most familiar of the three groupings to the under-40 set, Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance improve upon themselves with each edition, blending varying degrees of sorrow and passion with brutal, athletic violence and increasingly stylish presentation. Watching all three in a day seems like an interesting psychological experiment, and god bless the Film Center for giving us the opportunity to do so with the consuming benefit of the big screen.
Wong Kar-wai is perhaps most famous for In the Mood for Love, held up as a pillar of aesthetic accomplishment. Its moody pacing and gorgeous appearance launched fashion trends and inspired ample fodder for the inspirational benefit of all that came after it, not to mention helping to solidify Hong Kong's international reputation as China's stylish answer to Paris. It's shown here sandwiched between Days of Being Wild and 2046, two similarly sensuous homages to urban and feminine beauty.
By far the least accessible to young American audiences are Ozu's films, the most recent of which, Tokyo Story, was made in 1953. (Late Spring came during 1949, followed by 1951's Early Summer.) Comparatively flat and drab next to the other directors' work, the films' dialogue (or perhaps translation?) is stilted and characters infinitely more reserved. These films are critically revered, however, so buckle down, eat your vegetables, and enjoy the increasingly lost art of subtlety.