"Poetry," "IP Man 2," "Walking with Destiny"
Hard on the heels of Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine" comes his beautiful new film, telling a similar story of bereavement and reconciliation. Mija, a cheerful, chatty 66-year-old (hauntingly played by Yoon Jeong-hee), is the caretaker for an elderly disabled man and the guardian for her sullen teenage grandson. Mija, who is beginning to forget the names of everyday objects, signs up for a community center's creative-writing course to keep her mind active. Her teacher urges her to observe all of life's harshness and beauty, declaring, "It's important to see everything surrounding us well." Then a schoolgirl's death forces Mija to confront ugly realities beyond her imagination. Can this kind, compassionate woman accept a life where loathsome acts are as natural as wind? The film uses both poetry readings and negotiations to bury a crime investigation to reflect the ways we almost instinctively misrepresent and spin our observations of simple truths. A captivating film, as observant and nuanced as a sonnet. (Edina. Unrated; brief sexuality. In subtitled Korean.)
Fight choreography, 7; storytelling, 2. This basic-issue Great Man biography of the Hong Kong martial-arts master who mentored Bruce Lee is reverential to the point of parody. In the title role, Donnie Yen all but glows with virtue as he builds his kung fu academy, raises his family and fends off bullying rivals (principally rotund Sammo Hung, an action superstar of the 1980s in a solid valedictory performance). As in classic melodrama, life is an unending series of physical and moral tests, and Ip Man never wavers. The story line is a clothesline from which numerous melees dangle; the climactic fight against a hissable British boxer and the corrupt colonial administrators who support him is a bold example of Chinese chauvinism. The "foreign devils" connive and land illegal blows, but the indomitable Ip Man rescues national pride with a whooping that is brain-rattling without being vengeful. This is sensational, sentimental mass entertainment, one of the highest-grossing films in Hong Kong history, but it doesn't add much to the crowded history of martial-arts movies. (St. Anthony Main. Unrated; action violence. In subtitled Cantonese and English.)
Half of a solid history. This biography of Winston Churchill, produced with the support of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, lauds his early recognition of the Nazi threat and heroic stand against fascism in World War II. It tells that story well, while ignoring Churchill's colonialist racism and the British imperial atrocities he jingoistically supported in Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq and Ireland. Those discordant aspects of the statesman's personality and legacy may be too much for a two-hour film to reconcile, but director Richard Trank's film simply ignores the unflattering facts. That said, the wartime footage is powerful, as is Sir Ben Kingsley's rich-toned narration. (St. Anthony Main. Rating: PG for documentary war violence.)
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186