Hello, yes, let’s dive in. This summer my life was devoured by The Untamed, a Chinese web series based on a (deeply problematic) BL wuxia (or more accurately, xianxia) webnovel. It’s the fourth adaptation, which is amazing. If you have any Western examples of multiple media adaptations of sprawling medieval fantasy epics where the gay heroes fall in love with each other against a backdrop of clashing sects and soap opera revenge, please tell me, otherwise your faves could never.
A mainland program is obviously unable to include the physical relationship of the novel (honestly for the best, having read it: all the intimate stuff is terrible on multiple levels), but the creative team ran with the challenge, emphasizing their faith, commitment, and link as soulmates, which had the effect of making it all the more romantic. There’s a whole essay to be written on how they used the tools of story structure, blocking, music, cinematography, and acting to make their relationship clear, and let’s be honest, I’m waiting for someone else to write it.
The Untamed is free on Viki & YouTube, but it’s also allegedly coming to Netflix, which honestly makes me a nervous. Fandom people should absolutely watch it and no one else should lest you see too clearly my id. Thank you.
I’ve seen over 130 films since last time I posted here so obviously we’re not going to talk about all of that. Have some quick hits instead:
* Booksmart. My movie of the summer. I saw it four times & bought it the day it came out. There’s a lot to love about it (ride-or-die ladies! queer lead! bad sex!) but specifically something that I haven’t seen talked about is the fact that Beanie Feldstein is not a stick insect and yet her body was never an issue or a consideration or anything ever. The early bathroom scene, where they call her a “butter personality”? That she could desire & be an object of desire? I have never seen anything like that before, and definitely not in a teen comedy.
Also, I would 100% watch a movie about any and all of the side characters (as one would expect from a movie cast by genius Allison Jones) but especially my boys Theo & Tanner (and of course Gigi). Bless.
* Downton Abbey. Totally unnecessary and also I loved it, and there’s a Thomas moment that had me biting my fist in delight.
* Fagara. A lovely, woman-focused family drama with Kore-eda aspirations. Three half-sisters reunite after the death of their father to manage his hot pot restaurant through the end of its lease. Food, family, and learning you don’t need Andy Lau to take care of you after all.
* Friend Zone. Don’t let the title turn you off! I don’t believe in that concept, and the film, a cute Thai romcom, doesn’t either. The male lead does it to himself by lying when his friend asks him if he loves her like a friend or as something else, and the film is clear (through the lead and a group of guys he’s telling his story to in a wedding-reception framing device) that this was dumb of him and people should just communicate. You gotta love a film that critiques its own title.
* Hustlers. “Climb in my fur” is the iconic line of fall; I will not be taking criticism.
* In Fabric. Look, if the concept of a killer dress is not enough for you I don’t know what to say. Gorgeous, strange, and often hilarious, capitalism will eat you alive, but at least you’ll learn a lot about how washing machines work in the process.
* The Reports on Sarah and Saleem. This film did the rare, most satisfying thing of ending on exactly the shot I wanted it to end on. What a thrill! Saleem is Palestinian, Sarah is Israeli, and they’re having an affair that gets mistaken for all the dangerous political mess you might expect. It’s not a film that I vibed with at the beginning – affairs are not super compelling to me – but when the film shifted to focus more on Saleem’s pregnant wife Bisan, they had me. Maisa Abd Elhadi is terrific as Bisan, a total badass.
* Shadow. So glad I made a space for this during SIFF. It has a slow burn open setting up palace intrigue, but then when the action takes off it is absolutely gorgeous.