This is a response to this list from Film4 of the 100 Must-See Films of the century so far that…
Kei (Simon Yam) is the experienced leader of a team of pickpockets — also known as "Sparrows" in HK slang. He enjoys a carefree lifestyle taking photos. One day a dashing beauty, Chun-Lei (Kelly Lin), suddenly appears in Kei's viewfinder. Kei is mesmerized. But behind Chun-Lei's attractive facade lies a mysterious past and a mission to set herself free.
The lightest, most graceful Johnnie To film. This time around I was enraptured by the jaunty shape-shifting score by Xavier Jamaux and Fred Avril. There's some Michel Legrand pop-jazz, Morricone vocalizations, and light bossa nova. It floats away with the movie.
Plus Simon Yam can wear the shit out of a linen suit.
Brothers on a bike
Snatching as a serenade.
Chasers become chased
A girl is the ultimate con.
Umbrellas of To-Berg.
If Exiled characterizes its sense of brotherhood through our awareness of the past, Sparrow builds it through the present—something tangible in the everyday presence of reality. The second sequence in the film, as we see the four men work the street, is something closer to watching Gene Kelly work his way through a crowd: elegant, calculated, and always with a smile. All of To’s gangster films have comedy in them (Exiled’s interlude in the desert, Drug War’s HAHA!), and his comedies have suspense as well, but separates Sparrow from your run-of-the-mill American comedy is every joke is also in service…
So, I brought this project forward by a few days after having to abandon the 30 Countries one - and almost immediately wished that I hadn't bothered.
Starting with an amazingly awful opening scene where Simon Lam befriends the titular bird with some of the worst silent acting I've ever seen, it really gets no better after that. Half an hour later I was asleep and when I awoke I found myself really thankful that I had missed the rest of it.
I did consider restarting it today but I get the distinct impression this one isn't going to win me over. This is my third attempt at a Johnnie To film and so…
It doesn't really get any better than the umbrella sequence.
Who is behind this?
Tell me you have a Johnnie To film that I haven't seen that is basically just a rehash of The Mission or Exiled with almost the exact same cast and I would be as happy as a pig in the proverbial shit. Funny enough though the director's films that take a different approach while proving he isn't just a one trick pony make me just as happy because I know I'm always in for something special.
This is one of those films. Even though on the surface it can be considered a crime film about a group of four men it is vastly different then something like the excellent Exiled. First of all these "career…
"Sparrow" is a crime comedy centering around a group of pickpockets full of charm and wit, superb original music, good performances and is directed by Johnnie To.
Kei played in a confident and charming way by Simon Yam is the leader of a team of pickpockets. He's the oldest and most experienced member and obviously a mentor to his colleagues.
They each meet the mysterious woman Chun-Lei played Kelly Lin while on their own and things get mixed up in smirk-inducing, heart-warming, thrilling and charming ways.
"Sparrow" is shot in beautifully composed images with a lot of elegant tracking shots and paints a natural yet somehow magical picture of Hong Kong.
The score is one of the best I've heard…
I saw a movie and it was perfect in every way.
Sparrow is beautiful and fun and loving. There's an umbrella scene that is nearly transcendent, and simply astonishing in how captivating it is.
To was at his best here.
35mm hong kong at acmi is a real treat and inspired a thousand things in me because i'm applying for exchange there, to live and create.
but.. this film was pretty poor. the stars go to the cinematography and a few giggles i had but nothing else really. the plot was pointless, it was missing so much in terms of character and narrative and arc and had too many painfully long slow-mo sequences that didn't have a place really.
seeing the streets of hong kong on screen is always a special experience though.
hopefully the next film i watch will change my life, i really need to watch grizzly man or something, or all of sadbutterfly's top 4 and then i know ill have a world shattering film experience. .its been too long.
beautifully shot and scored but the plot is nearly nonexistent...
Some words just go together: "a song by Bob Dylan," "a painting by Frank Auerbach," "a novel by Thomas Pynchon," and now, "a movie by Johnnie To." Though SPARROW took nearly three years to complete, it feels like the product of a single good spring day. It's hard to imagine him going through more than three cigars in the whole filming. There are rooftops, rainy sidewalks, convertibles, but they seem less like the results of a carefully planned production than the individual parts of a vivid experience. In a Cinemascope Hong Kong that could easily be Paris in 1961, four master pickpockets, led by a beige-suited Simon Yam, decide to free a charming young woman from her elderly and controlling…
To is just so good at placing objects and people in spaces. He composes situations like the one with the fish tank in the lift and it's like: "Of course, this is exactly how chase sequences should work!"
The closest approximation of weightlessness to be had on terra firma.
Well, fuck. I finally did it. I found a Johnnie To film that I didn't like. Sparrow didn't click with me at all. From the film's opening pickpocketing scenes to the clunky interactions between the mobsters and the 'lovable' gang of tea-leaves. It was really only carried by some decent looking shots and the likes of Simon Yam and Suet Lam. I don't want to write any more about it, just accept that everyone has the odd film that doesn't click, especially when a director shoots as many flicks as Johnnie To, and move on with my life.
It's late (early really) and I don't have a lot to say about this other than I like it very much but here goes:
•Sparrow finds numerous ways to dramatise sleight of hand - mostly by focusing on the sound and texture of the environments in which the pickpockets work. Oftentimes the snatches seem to be less about clever men and more about the places they work in: the pop of a juice box under tires, the sheen of a polished window and the rain sliding off umbrellas.
•The sensuality of the scenes in which Chung Chun Lei seduces the gang is similarly oblique. They often focus on the tactility of objects: the feel of a cigarette or a balloon or a playing card.
•The sparrow metaphor is arguably heavy handed but seeing as it folds into a bittersweet and refreshingly adult view of the world I really don't mind.