In this powerful film, four very different people on the edge of desperation are unexpectedly linked by their destinies. A top-notch cast featuring Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle ... more »Gellar and Emile Hirsch unforgettably brings to life the stories of a clairvoyant gangster, a rising pop star, an unlikely bank robber and a doctor desperate to save the love of his life. Filled with surprising twists and turns, this suspenseful, action-filled drama employs both brutal violence and aching poetry in a moving exploration of the search for happiness in a gritty urban world.« less
"The Air I Breathe is a movie of the entangled lives genre, similar to Crash in that respect, and it also conforms by way of gratuitous violence and strip clubs it gladly flaunts. But that is not to say that the narrative lacks depth or emotional layers. The viewer becomes acquainted with three lives that will intertwine so as to lend freedom to a fourth in four vignettes titled: Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow and Love. These characters, respectively played by Forest Whitaker, the disgruntled Wall Street clerk turned bank robber and suicidal sociopath; Brendan Fraser, a reticent hitman who seems to have lost his ability to predict the future as he decides to forsake fealty to his heartless crime lord (Andy Garcia); Kevin Bacon, a doctor who saves the life of Trista, a persecuted pop-star, and is thereby enabled to save from a snake bite his best-friend's wife (Julie Delpy), with whom he also happens to be secretly in love; and Sarah Michelle Gellar's pop tart, Trista, who becomes entangled favourably by the three lives but will lose everything in the while, love, career, and friends. This is the debut feature by Jieho Lee, a Korean-American director and screenwriter who wrote this script as a reflection to his journey in a "bimodal world". The cinematography is well suited by the description of bimodal, as the colors are very stark but a terrifying chiaroscuro breathes the presence of a dual tone universe which seems to preface the destiny we all have set out for us, but not independently of others. The acting is mediocre, but for the outstanding consummate performance of Andy Garcia, who seems to be getting better with time and roles, and the flaky, horned-up supercilious nephew of Garcia's role played by Emile Hirsch. The movie bounces along several themes but seems to defragment a somber reality where death and debts seem to frustrate everyone who has a heart, and where life is held hostage by forces that threaten us at all times, from every angle. The congruence of themes is intriguing but the direction fails to fully represent this enigma in ways that portray the meaningful (or lack thereof) essence of life, aside from the role of coincidence. It seems to have no meaning save for being a yarn tangled and reeled compact. Ultimately however the violence seems to be overbearing and inopportune to portray the pain of ordinary lives and extraordinary men, some of which inexplicably have the advantage to foresee the future. This last aspect of the movie is very clearly a deus ex machina, which functions effectively as a means to allegorize destiny, but it does not fit with the pragmatics of the narrative's realist outlook. I fault the writing for that, whereas it was clearly insightful by other turns. There are deaths upon deaths and several cars slamming into people. A practice which I've yet to see done as well as in the Mexican movie Amores Perros, which was also about debts. Herein I think much of the movie fails as well: the restraint it practices in regards to theme of debts, as was the case with the theme of destiny. I enjoyed the movie and it does hold you riveted to the screen thanks to stories that intersect and diverge only to meet into the future of one pop-star who is running away from her past and her present. It could have been better, but it deserves to be viewed. A movie with a lot of questions, too bad it does not know how to ask them..."
A Subtle and Brilliant Movie
Brian Rooney | Littleton, CO USA | 05/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Air I Breathe" is an ensemble piece about a psychic gangster and a chinese proverb. I can't think of another story that has ever followed this formula, and so I loved it from the start, from the first powerful beats of the soundtrack, as an original and beautiful, unheard new story. It is fresh in most every way. It is deep, but it will not beat you over the head with its message. Like a chinese proverb it politely opens a door to greater wisdom. It's up to the viewer to step inside.
Forest Whitaker is tremendous. One of the only flaws with this show is that he's not in it more, though from a storytelling perspective it makes sense. All of the performances are stellar, as would be expected from Whitaker, Bacon and Garcia, but equally stunning are Brendan Fraser and Sarah Gellar, both of whom have given the best acting performances of their young careers in this film. I'm not familiar with Emile Hirsch or Julie Delpy, but they are both strong in supporting roles.
There is a lot going on here, on multiple levels, and so it is only natural that the movie seems a little too short. Bacon's story in particular might use some further fleshing, especially as he's such a joy to watch. Again, however, like a chinese proverb it must be concise. The undercurrent matters more than the surface, and some viewers will be turned off by this. When the proverb comes full circle, the film's purpose is spent, and audiences waiting for the resolution of a typical three act play will likely find the ending a touch too quick, as there are numerous story threads that never get wrapped up. But the story here is the vessel, not the wine.
It isn't perfect. It's not Hamlet, but I'd put it just a notch beneath American Beauty or Crouching Tiger as one of the more beautiful and literate experiences I've seen lately.
Many will view it with the same eyes that saw Scarface and miss a lot. Nothing against the brilliance of Scarface, but this is a gangster flick of a very different sort. After I watched it the first time, I wasn't sure just what I'd seen. Then I thought it through, and realized some of its subtle brilliance. I'll tell you what I mean, but first:
****Spoiler Alert**** ****Watch it Once at least before you Read This****
"The Air I Breathe" What does that mean?
Whitaker plays Happiness, and his epiphany (the moment when he discovers himself) takes place at both the beginning and ending of the film. The rest of the story is just a deeper examination of this cyclical change, as he discovers in a heart-wrenching instant that everything he has lived for is wrong, that uncertainty is beautiful, pleasure is not found in lust but in the moment of transition, that this day's sorrow is pregnant with tomorrow's joy, and that real selfless love is the constant to carry us through. This transition destroys him, and sets him free.
Gellar (also known as Trista, who refuses to reveal her true name--as suffering is the place where lovers secretly meet, or "tryst") is Sorrow, the counterpart to Whitaker's Happiness, and as such she mirrors his transition. His death brings her freedom. She becomes the butterfly to his caterpillar. The instruments of this change are Fraser's Pleasure and Bacon's Love, also counterparts.
Pleasure is the more fleshed of these two. In one of the movie's more interesting twists he can see the future. There is no uncertainty for him, and, despite much sex and violence, no pleasure, until Sorrow enters his life on the same day as Uncertainty. When he meets Trista his visions begin to fail him, but for the first time he begins to live. He turns from his boss, Garcia's Fingers, to give hope to Sorrow--just as Whitaker turns from his life in pursuit of money (Fingers represents Greed as the villain of the piece), at the last moment accepting that it will never free him of suffering. Fraser comes to accept this fact of life, and this acceptance allows him to find . . . He impregnates Gellar's character before he is killed, leading to the final conflict of the tale, when Sorrow crosses paths with Love.
Bacon's Love is pained yet true. It is not the classical love of self-sacrifice and explosive dramatics, but the real love of patience, trust and constant creative expression. It is also an abandoned, lonely yet strong Love. The object of his affection is married to a plastic surgeon (bastardizing his emotion in favor of shallow ideals built around the drive for money, again greed being the villain), and she is dying, bit by a snake (the symbolism there is easy enough) and nothing can save her but the transfusion of a very rare (one in a million) blood type, which happens to be shared by our very own Trista. That is: Sorrow is the only one that bleeds right. Sorrow, meanwhile, is preparing to throw herself from the roof of the hospital where Love works as a hopeless and desperate surgeon. In short: Love saves Sorrow by giving her a reason for being, as she saves him by bleeding, feeding new life into his dream, and, cyclically, giving him a reason for being.
That's asian philosphy for ya!
So Happiness gives up the money he stole, gives up his life even, throwing it from the roof where he is surrounded by snipers. The snipers are Fingers. Whitaker finally owns his "money" only when he gives it away. It lands in the lap of Sorrow, who is thus empowered to move forward, carrying the unborn child of Pleasure, into a future made uncertain by, as much as it is made worthwhile by . . . Love.
Whew. Props to anyone who made it through that. But there's one piece still missing. What is "The Air I Breathe"?
It is transition. It is the moment of change. It is the butterfly emerging from its cocoon. It is cyclical. It is constant. It is like breathing.
It is subtly brilliant, like a good asian proverb should be. It is secretly beautiful, like Pleasure, like Happiness, like Love . . . like Sorrow."
The Air I Breathe-A Rough Gem for Some Viewers
S. Janssen | San Ramon, CA United States | 06/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all I am biased: I love films that tell stories about lives that impact other lives through small coincidental moments. Another reviewer of this movie used the term "butterfly effect." I automatically give this kind of film three stars even if it is a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Given this bias, I am rating this film four and a half stars because I was quite taken by the theme that tied the four stories together.
The rest is spoiler, so don't read any further unless you have seen the film already.
For me at least, this film was about the monotony and the banality of our lives that are the by product of conformity, routine and safety. Each of the characters in the four stories are leading lives of quiet desparation. Their daily life consists of monotonous routine and they are all emotionally inert.
Each character is protected and "safe" within the framework of their life and each takes a huge risk that catapaults them out of their cocoons into something bigger then their original selves. Through risk, danger, and moments of intense and reawakened feeling, they experience, however briefly,a peak moment of humanity that makes the risk worthwhile even though it may end in death.
The "Happiness" segment is about a stockbroker, a man who jumped through all the right hoops, fit quietly into society, and now live on the verge of despair until the moment he takes a monumental risk, and steps outside his boundaries to spend a glorious hour as a criminal living entirely in the moment, totally alive right up to the moment of his death, having had one brief shining moment of a happiness that bordered on ecstacy.
"Pleasure" gives us a criminal whose life, although outside the law, is equally as boring and banal as the stockbrokers because of its total predictability and unvarying routine. When circumstances destoy his safety net, our criminal experiences pleasure: initially from the experience of pain and subsequently from caring for someone other than himself.
"Sorrow" is the story of an almost-celebrity singer who surrounded by entourage and the insulation of an entatainer's world is also living a life of monotony and banality. With the promise of stardom on the horizen, the singer destroys her safety net by choosing freedom and is awakened to her humanity through fear and sorrow.
"Love" is yet another view of the same theme. In this case a physician who lost the love of his life because he opted for emotional safety and failed to act. The eminent death of his loves pushes him outside his comfortable boundaries and he takes action in ways that would have been beyond the self-efacing ways of his ordinary and monotonous life.
When all is said and done, the film is about breaking boundaries to find a moment of passion and of real humanity, regardless of the consequences. The cast, from the leads to the supporting roles, were all very good, and in some cases outstanding. Actors of the stature of Whitaker, Fraser, Geller, Bacon and Delpy deserve our thanks for accepting parts in small budget films such as these. They bring a good script to life, and provide opportunities for new indie directors.
The Air I Breathe [Blu-ray] "
Hard film to categorize...
terpfan1980 | Somewhere near Washington DC, United States | 06/08/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This isn't an easy film to categorize... it's also not necessarily an easy film to get through a viewing of, and not a film that I'd recommend as any sort of date movie.
There are other films that are similar to this, so I'm sure there is a category for this type of film, but then again others that use the same technique don't necessarily fall into the same category this film does.
Let me get going by saying this is a film that tells several tales, intertwining those tales to show how one story impacts upon the next and how characters from the various stories impact upon the others. Four distinct stories that all come together as one bigger story.
Each story stands alone, but you see the successive stories you learn more about what has happened to characters you may only have seen in passing in the previous story.
The cast is talented enough, though the acting is at times uneven. In addition the inherent violence and shocking events that make up the vignettes and bigger story make the film somewhat difficult to consume. The overall tone is dark and depressing for the most part while offering examples of Love, Pleasure, Sorrow and Happiness (not necessarily in that order).
Rental before purchase is highly recommended for this film. Viewers that are sensitive to violence, especially graphic and/or implied graphic violence should be forewarned and look elsewhere for their entertainment. Rated R (mostly for violent segments). Runs a fairly scant 97 minutes."
Beautiful Story, Fair Execution
Joshua B. Anderson | Rock Hill, SC | 07/03/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Just like Crash, Babel, and other films before it, The Air I Breathe attempts to weave the lives of different people all into one story. Crash and Babel are two of my top films and I'm a big supporter of Sarah Michelle Gellar so I was definitely interested in seeing The Air I Breathe.
Another initial draw was that the story was based on a Chinese proverb where happiness, sorrow, pleasure, and love all interact with each other for a greater purpose. The interwoven stories and the initial purpose they serve for one character was executed fairly well. The last few frames make the 90-something minute film worth it, but the build up to it just wasn't what I expected. There was something a little flat about the film that I can't really get a hold on.
It wasn't the performances. They were all amazing. Forest Whitaker is a gem, and I really enjoyed seeing Kevin Bacon being emotional. Sarah Michelle Gellar has the acting chops, and she gets to showcase just a small amount of what does she have. Brendan Fraser portrayed a very low-key character, and I enjoyed him. I will admit that Andy Garcia and Emile Hirsch irritated me a bit.
Visually, the film was on and off. There were certain moments where things could have taken one or two steps up, and the impact the scene was meant to have would have generated something more. I will exclude Forest Whitaker's character's disposition and the final few frames from that for they hit where they were supposed to, as well as Sarah Michelle Gellar's scene on top of the hospital and Kevin Bacon's reaction.
I also believe that - for me - the emotional notes the film was supposed to hit didn't hit hard enough because the majority of the characters weren't really fleshed out as much as they should have been.
At the end of viewing, The Air I Breathe did not reach the status that I give Crash and Babel. The emotion and character development was just shy of giving me the feeling that I garnered from those two films. I definitely think if Jeiho Lee is given another film that he would surpass the effect The Air I Breathe was given."