The Horse Thief — January 14, 2019
Easy to see why Martin Scorsese was so taken with this, a story of sin, excommunication and failed redemption.
Less easy to see why he named it the best film of the 90s. But you gotta admire his bold rejection of temporal reality.
Springtime in a Small Town — January 17, 2019
A faithful, reverent remake of the original. What changes there are range from good (a more realistic set adds to the sense of decayed opulence, all those rich woods surrounded by blasted stone) to indifferent (the long slow camera movements a kind of middle ground between Fei Mu and Hou Hsiao-hsien) to bad (opening up the film’s world: adding a scene in which the doctor interacts with other school kids undermines the “last people on earth vibe”, as does centering the house among other, similarly destroyed houses in the town).
Also, and this may just be the transfer, but for a film set in springtime, the light is especially gray and murky. That trip down the river is particularly sad when it should be more joyous (also check that in ’48, everyone, including the women, rowed the boat, but in 2002 only the doctor does).
Also also, removing the (excellent) narration in the original decenters the narrative from the wife’s perspective, but to what end? It also undermines the original’s film noir sensibility. It’s a story that could have become The Postman Always Rings Twice but doesn’t, for important, possibly tragic possibly hopeful, reasons.