Friday, February 26, 2010
Let's take a moment to praise the long-suffering Lam Suet. Round of body, square of head, Lam has has been reliably typecast as the fat guy in some 116 movies since 1982. If someone is going to take a bullet in the butt, or have to be dragged away from a bowl of noodles, it's Lam. Among the names his characters have been given over the years are: Piggy King, Fatty, Fat Lok, Fat Lo, Fat Ball, Big Mouth, Fat Tong, Fat Bo, Big Head (twice), Fat Seven, Fatty (at least twice), Bun Man, and, early in his career, Pudgy Triad Member.
When I saw Hong Sang-soo's latest film, Like You Know it All, it immediately put me in mind of the Italian still-life painter Giorgio Morandi, who's been painting the same arrangement of bottles for decades. You can look at a painting from the 50s and one from the 90s and see very little variation. It's the meditative attention to this small set of objects, and the subtle differences in the way he arranges and paints them, that mesmerizes. Hong, I realized, is becoming like that. He essentially makes the same film year after year, with slight variations. It just so happens that I don't mind watching that film over and over again.
If Hong is a still life painter, Johnnie To is more like a chef at a restaurant you frequent.