The Princess Bride is the ideal post-Christmas movie fare for the whole family. It’ll be playing at the Yukon Arts Centre on the afternoon of Jan. 12, as part of the Yukon Film Society’s Available Light Cinema series. First released in 1987, it has become an all-time classic, inspiring the contemporary success of films like Shrek and Brave. It’s a delightful combination of swashbuckle and swordplay, mixed in with Monty Python.
Directed by Rob Reiner, with a brilliant screenplay by author William Goldman, The Princess Bride stars Robin Wright Penn in her first screen role as Buttercup, a young peasant girl in the mythical land of Florin. She is adored by stablehand Westley, played by Cary Elwes, whom she spurns until the day that she comes to realize that she’s also in love with him.
But, it’s too late, for the evil Prince Humperdinck has declared his intention: to marry Buttercup and have her crowned as his princess. But that masks his real motive: to have her eliminated so her death will catalyze a war with a rival kingdom.
Westley sets off to rescue his loved one, but his plan meets with many obstacles and outlandish villains along the way, ranging from screaming eels and the Cliffs of Insanity; to the giant Fezzik, played by André the Giant; and a six-fingered henchman named Count Rugen, played by Christopher Guest.
It’s all great fun, with lots of action for the kids and clever comic repartee for the adults.
Standing in sharp contrast to the Princess Bride is the evening presentation of a new film from Chinese director Jia Zhangke. In A Touch Of Sin, winner of the Best Screenplay award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, the violence is played straight, not tongue-in-cheek, and the effect is at once arresting and unexpected.
Director Jia has been previously known for engrossing docudramas, such as his 2004 Still Life, which expounded on the effects on the Chinese environment of the massive Three Gorges Dam project. His efforts earned him the enmity of the authorities and brushes with the censors.
With A Touch Of Sin, Jia exposes the economic disparity between the rich and the poor that has accompanied China’s drive to a powerhouse state capitalism that’s fettered with political suppression. Miraculously, this film escaped the Chinese censor’s wrath, but its power speaks volumes about the country’s endemic inequality.
In a series of four interlinked vignettes, all drawn from current incidents covered by the Chinese press, the film graphically and brutally illustrates the growing desperation of the country’s working class. A young man working for subsistence wages picks up a gun in protest of the mine manager’s public flaunting of his wealth. A receptionist working at a sauna gives an ultimatum to its married manager with whom she’s having an affair, with bloody results.
A motorcyclist shoots down three desperate youths who try to rob him. Escorts parade their wares before wealthy clients at a high-end brothel, ironically dressed in skimpy outfits imitating the worker’s garb of Mao’s cultural revolution era.
Things have truly changed in China.
The Yukon Film Society presents three films at Whitehorse’s Yukon Arts Centre on Sunday, January 12 The Princess Bride plays at 3:30 p.m., followed by Muscle Shoals at 6 p.m., and A Touch Of Sin at 8 p.m.