Sunday, January 18, 2009


I feel remiss in not having mentioned it here before, but it's still not quite too late to let my readers know about a terrific film now playing at the 4-Star Theatre: Johnny To's Sparrow. Like Robert Bresson's Pickpocket, it finds inspiration in the criminal art of sleight-of-hand to provide viewers with a pure cinema experience. Quite unlike that fifty-year-old film, however, Sparrow is full of brightness, color, and jaunty music- so much that it has been likened to a musical without singing. Let me quote from Peter Nellhaus's recent review:

Simon Yam almost dances his way out of his dump of an apartment in the film's first scene. The grand set piece could well be called "The Umbrellas of Hong Kong". Credit To for further undoing genre expectations by having the final confrontation between Yam and his gang against their rivals as a slow motion stroll in the rain. Replacing the bullet ballet is choreographed movement of umbrellas, hand movements, razors cutting cloth, and splashes of water.
For my part, I think this is quite possibly Johnny To's best film of the dozen or so I've seen, certainly his best since 1998's a Hero Never Dies. It is down to only one 4:40 PM showing per day from now until Thursday January 22, but I can think of no better way to cinematically ring out the Year of the Rat than to watch these sneak thieves in action on the 4-Star screen.


  1. Thanks for the mention. For those interested, the DVD is "officially" R3 for those who would rather not wait for a R1 version. The supplements also have English subtitles.

  2. Good to know. This is still technically an "undistributed" film in the US; the 4-Star engagement is thanks to long-term connections between theatre owner Frank Lee and Hong Kong distributors. I'm not sure we should expect it to ever be released on region 1 DVD.