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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Posters

 
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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 6/3/2011 8:25:41 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005





High And Low (Kurosawa, 1963)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: The son of a shoe-company executive is kidnapped by an envious criminal.

Based on an Ed McBain novel, High And Low is a crime thriller split into two acts. The first act follows Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), an executive for a shoe company. Disagreeing with the other executives aims for the company,  he risks all he has to buy the controlling interest in the firm. Gondo is then informed his son has been kidnapped and a ransom is demanded, but then he discovers that the kidnapper took his chauffeur's son by mistake. Does Gondo pay the ransom or save his money for the company buy-out? The second act follows the police as they attempt to track down the kidnapper, revealed to be a student jealous of Gondo.

There's a very obvious dichotomy in this film, set up in no small part bu the title. High And Low (literal translation Heaven And Hell)  splits the film in two in order to place emphasis on the difference between the wealthy Gondo in his expensive home on a hill (the high or heaven) and the life of the poor kidnapper, living in the slums beneath Gondo's house (the low or hell). The second half includes some of the most impressive work of Kurosawa's career as he creates the nightmarish and noirish world of the Tokyo slums. The film is heavily influenced by Dostoevsky's Crime And Punishment, both examine the circumstances that can push someone to lose their morality and commit unthinkable crimes.

Not Kurosawa's greatest work, and far from his last entry in this list, but High And Low is still a masterpiece of cinema, working expertly as both crime thriller and examination of the human soul.

Rawlinson


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 31
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 6/3/2011 8:25:51 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005




Ninja Scroll. (Kawajiri,1993).
 
SPOILERS

Ninja Scroll is set in the backdrop of feudal Japan. It follows a traveling Ronin named Jubei Kibagami, and Kagero a beautiful but cold and deadly female ninja. The two are unwillingly pulled into a diabolical plan conceived by Dakuan, an agent of the Tokugawa government who's mission is to bring about the destruction of The Shogun Of The Dark and his eight Devils Of Kimon, whose scheme is to overthrow the Japanese government and cast Japan under a new regime of darkness and turmoil. Under these difficult circumstances these two Ninja must form an uneasy alliance to combat against the forces of darkness.

Ninja Scroll is everything you could ever expect from a balls to the wall gory action anime, slick and sharp animation, lot's of swordplay, a considerable volume of blood and guts, an array of super powerful villains, a slick and as hard a snails protagonist, a sufficient selection of erotic situations and a rather convoluted plot. But putting that aside this film is more than just a ninja/samurai bloody and hacky action anime that has got everything your average bloke could ever hope for. By extracting all the benchmarks of a tried and true formula and nailing every aspect of it to the transfer to the big screen, it has distinguished itself as the quintessential starting point in it's genre. Although the quality of the film (depending entirely on your definition) is of course debatable, one thing is certain: for the lovers of gory ninja anime (there are quite a few of you) Ninja Scroll is pretty much the best you can get. I would even be as bold enough to say that it is a true instant classic. The reason that Ninja Scroll deserves it's rank as an instant classic is because it goes much further than just merely rehashing the formula perfectly, the main character's are not particularly familiar and the interplay between Kagero and Jubei is more creative and more emotionally complex than you would think. Some of the villains also have very creative abilities, though that is not say that you won't recognise many things; the ninja Mushizo who has the ability of controlling wasp's is the spitting image of a spidery villain in Vampire Hunter D, but with spiders replaced by wasp's, the ninja Tessai who has the ability to change his skin into a rocky protective barrier looks exactly like the the metal giant in Fist Of The North Star, and the blind samurai ninja Mujuro has an air of general familiarity about him. The plot deserves recognition for a reasonable amount of originality, though it seems a little odd to have a group of eight demons and a dark shogun involved in a scheme that essentially boils down to stealing mounds of gold. Yes, you heard it right, gold. No dark manipulations or demon armies from the depths of hell, just a heap of gold. Still, putting that aside it still has a sufficient volume of semi- random political intrigue for a proper samurai era tale. So the story may not be the primary reason to watch Ninja Scroll, but even if you are not a huge fan of blood and gut's and the too cool for their own boot's ninjas, then the visuals will definitely be enough to make it worthwhile for you to check it out. I will start with the obvious (and most important), the action is smoothly and fluidly animated, well choreographed and there are even a few really pretty artistic touches (mostly with the supernatural powers of the villains, including the ninja Shijima who can literally disappear into shadows). In the scenes where action is absent, the character animation is very good, although i have to admit that some of the dialogue scenes are a tad static. There are a combination of slick art and rather original character designs backing the animation, which are hard edged but attractive and relatively realistic. The backgrounds are somewhat innocuous, but even those are pretty well drawn from detailed bamboo forests to rooms at sunset crisscrossed with hard shadows.

To be honest i can't really find that many things to criticise about this film. But one thing that does cone to mind is this. Despite what i said earlier about the fact that it is forgivable that the plot is formulaic and cliche, it is still for me a slight factor niggling at the back of my brain. Lone traveling ninja saves beautiful, sexually oppressed female ninja, as a result comes into confrontation with big scary demonic ninjas, meets strange old crafty government spy, spy draws them unwillingly into a cunning plan to bring about the destruction of a demonic, megalomaniac shogun's diabolical plan to use gold to fund a war to cover Japan with a dark, oppressive regime under his and the eight Devil's Of Kimon's control. You get the idea, and even though they manage to pull it off quite well without hindering the film's unique style, it still seems rather dull in comparison to what they could have potentially done. But maybe i am being rather unfair, i think this is probably a rather trivial criticism on my part and i am just merely splitting hairs, seeing as what they did achieve story wise with such a cliche subject matter was really quite impressive as i mentioned in the previous paragraph regardless of my personal stance on it. But then again i am not writing this for my benefit, but for yours as reader's. Another thing i found with the film is that i really felt they laid it all on quite excessively. It contains some of the most graphic and gratuitous violence and sexually orientated scenes i have ever seen in any anime (don't start with the Hentai jokes). I mean, don't get me wrong i love a bit of rough and tumble and balls to the walls action just as much as the next bloke, but there is such a thing as over emphasising it.

In all, though it is difficult to call Ninja Scroll original and as mentioned it occasionally pushes the general limits of what is considered good taste, it still has all the antisocial relationships, dismembered corpses, magical abilities, building vaulting ninjas and more blood and guts than any fan of the ultra graphic, violent ninja genre could hope for. The production values of Ninja Scroll are high enough, that even viewers who don't usually go in for this sort of thing might find it a worthwhile enough reason to watch the film. It is, for all it's intents and purposes (and despite it's cliches) the quintessential gory ninja anime that for any fan is the must see benchmark achievement of this inspiring genre.

 
Curtain Twitcher
 




The Warrior King (Pinkaew, 2005)
 
Before launching into a double bill of films often considered to be the worst of all-time (that's "Plan 9" and "SA3"), I beheld the spectacle that is “the Warrior King”. The story of a man (Tony Jaa) who has his elephants stolen and father murdered by gangsters is really quite smoothing. Launching a one-man tyrade and reconnaissance mission to retrieve his lost elephants, Jaa kicks some Aussie ass without taking any names, or obeying the usual laws of physics. There’s not really any kind of logic, reason, or point to “the Warrior King”. It doesn’t really teach morals or speak of anything of worldly importance, except for perhaps illegal ivory trading, and even that takes a back seat in favour of KERAZY martial arts and Tony Jaa’s chiselled chest. That’s not to say it’s a bad film, because it’s one of the most entertaining I’ve ever seen, with a ridiculous amount of incredible action sequences. The highlights include a warehouse battle against some BMXing/rollerscating ruffians, and an incredible tracking shot that charts Jaa’s ass-kicking ascent up a spiral staircase towards a restaurant that serves endangered animals. And that’s not to mention a man throwing a baby elephant through a sugar glass window. Yes, that’s right; a man throwing a baby elephant through a sugar glass window. Breathtaking from start to finish, utterly hilarious, and without any real point for reflection or thought (there doesn’t really need to be), “the Warrior King” ranks alongside “Face/Off” as a film that should really be complete and utter bobbins, but is infinitely watchable.
Piles


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 32
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 6/3/2011 8:25:58 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005




Gion Bayashi (Mizoguchi, 1953)

Low key yet very engaging film about the relationship between two geisha.The older Miyoharu and the young idealistic Eiko,who disowned by her father and in a bid to escape a bad situation with her uncle comes to Miyoharu,a friend of her deceased mother and asks her to take her in as a trainee geisha.


As with practically all Mizoguchi's late Daiei films it's shot by the great Kazuo Miyagawa and while Mizoguchi's trademark flowing camerawork is largely absent,the exquisite compositions of indoor spaces and narrow streets and alleys of the Gion district beautifully reflects the enclosed world in which the geisha live and the increasing pressure brought to bear on the women after Eiko reacts violently to an over forceful client.
 
Jasiri


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 33
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:04:36 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005




Drunken Angel (Kurosawa, 1948)
 
In a postwar Tokyo slum a harassed and temperamental doctor treats a local gangster with TB.
 
Often seen as Kurosawa's first major film (and also his first film with the young Toshiro Mifune), Drunken Angel was made under strict post-war censorship rules. Intriguingly it's also noted in a couple of places that Japan didn't have access much US film product, so this was apparently made without experiencing firsthand the blossoming film noir genre from the US, yet Angel would fit so perfectly into the classic noir cycle> Following the fate of the yakuza Matsunaga there are some brilliant noiresque shots playing with shadows on the wall or the multiple mirror shots during a fight later on in the film.
 
Shimura plays the doctor – a cynic himself, he's stayed in the slums while his classmates earn easy money and drive fancy cars. Because no matter how wise he cracks, all he wants to do is save these people – Matsunaga's case is contrasted with that of a young school girl who, unlike the gangster, follows instructions on her care and, more importantly, has the will to get better. Ultimately, Matsunaga doesn't. Arrogant and a womaniser, he has resigned himself to his fate and no matter how often he returns to Sanada's surgery he never truly believes he'll get better and there is never a chance he'll take the offer of a way out that he's given.
 
Kurosawa has constructed this world with a massive fetid puddle come pool at the centre – hosting germs and the detritus of the world around the sump is as good a metaphor for Matsunaga's life as any other (and the only annoying note of the film is a line that feels the need to make this explicit), but at least he ends up in white. It's often quite a cynical film - there is even at one point a breathtaking statement from the yakuza boss about the usefulness of underlings with TB who'll go over the top in his service as they have little to lose. It's impressive how much Kurosawa must have gotten past the censors.
 
Mifune is a compelling, unpractised and ferocious presence at the centre of the film, throwing himself around wildly at times and completely capturing the Matsunaga's desperate attempt to pretend he isn't ill. Sanada's imperviousness to dismissals and threats is wonderfully played by Shimura – snappish and with that sarcastic edge covering a man who cares deeply about his work. There are smaller roles for Chouko Lida (better known as the reluctant carer in Record of a Tenement Gentlemen and the mother in Only Son) and Michiyo Kogure as a faithless girlfriend (also the selfish wife in Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice).
 
Elab49


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 34
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:04:40 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005




Attack the Gas Station (Kim, 1999)
 
A film that grows in my estimation whenever I think about it, Attack the Gas Station! is a gleeful, manic, anarchic, stylish, exciting, deceptively deep tale of disaffected youth and the society that maligns them, simultaneously a scathing satire on the hierarchical, rigid nature of Korean social values and a violent, hilarious free-for-all using its space - a brightly-coloured gas station - to impeccable effect. Sang-jin Kim's debut film starts off in blistering fashion, with our four anti-heroes, rabblerousing youths No Mark, Mad Dog, Ddan and Paint, laying waste to a gas station run by the spineless owner and his three ineffectual teenage workers. A few days later, the gang of four, bored and with nothing to do, decide to rob the same gas station - except this time they lay siege to it, taking hostages, making demands and generally going all out about it. What follows is two hours of sharp-toothed slapstick violence and surreal social role reversal, as the stories behind the downtrodden youths are revealed and the gas station's patrons and hostages - sometimes interchangeable - vent on the four thieves. Attack the Gas Station! is ridiculous fun, filled with blisteringly funny and excellently-executed scenes (Mad Dog's treatment of the hostages and the scene in which No Mark wrings the gas money out of the pig-headed cops are highlights) and complimented by some stunning camerawork, excellent acting from the entire cast, and some fantastic music. The film's vicious satirical message is never lost in the mania, but at the same time the film never forgoes its addictive insanity in order to bash on about the way Korean society treats its youths and those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and this balance makes it all the more appealing. Topping off with an absolutely sublime final sequence, Attack the Gas Station! is probably the most fun I've had watching a film, and it's clever and stylish to boot.
Pigeon Army.
 
 

 

FIST OF FURY (Lo, 1972)

Bruce Lee action film with the martial arts expert playing an angry student of a Kung Fu school, whose Master has been murdered. Revenge is on his mind, but the deeper he gets involved, the more he drags his school down with him. Looking more like a Chinese Spaghetti Western, the plot is secondary to Lee's masterful Kung Fu skills. The fight sequences are brilliantly staged and with lightning speed, Lee shows why he will always be regarded as the greatest. 4/5

Wrenster
 
Despite the strong anti-Japanese sentiment, Fist of Fury is probably Bruce Lee's strongest film. Set in 30s Shanghai, Lee plays the student of a martial art school who returns to find his master has been murdered. Japan is in control of Shanghai and Lee knows that his master was murdered by a rival Japanese school. Lee tries to keep to his master's principles of non-violence, but living at a time when the Chinese are taunted from within as the sick man of Asia, and signs saying No Dogs and No Chinese allowed are commonplace, he knows he can't count on the police for help. Eventually he goes on a revenge mission. As much as I love the iconic Enter the  Dragon, Fury feels tighter and more coherent and Lee's revenge attacks seem to do more to create his near mythical persona. Quite simply it's one of the best action films of all time.

Rawlinson
 


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 35
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:04:43 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005




Hara-kiri (Kobayashi, 1962)

Hara-Kiri is set at the start of the Tokugawa Shogunate – when Japan emerged from Civil War into a totalitarian society with many of the old clans destroyed and disbanded and thousands of masterless ronin swarmed across the country to Edo. After one samurai is admitted to a new clan after impressing them by his request to commit hara-kiri in their courtyard, other ronin see it as a new gambit and an easy way to get some cash and be turned away at the gate. One young man, Motome Chijiiwa, makes the mistake of approaching the Iyi clan – proud of their martial reputation and not wanting to encourage the masses, the force him to go through with his word. And, 6 months later, another ronin turns up at their door with a similar request – Hanshoro Tsugnumo.

Hara-Kiri continues Kobayashi's key anti-authoritarian theme – after taking on the military in Human Condition, he and regular Kurosawa screenwriter Hashimoto turned their focus on the start of the totalitarian society – the beginning of 250 odd years of the shogunate. The film starts and ends on an empty suit of armour – the symbol of the Iyi's martial reputation – empty and useless, but still standing. Hara-Kiri – which includes a gruesome example of the film's title – is very much anti-samurai. Tsugnumo's story and its conclusion, his own realisation that the soul of a samurai in the 2 swords he carries is no match for the soul of man, is a powerful attack on the samurai of old and the decisions and actions of the Tokugawa's.

Central to the film are 2 superb performances. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the troublesome visitor to the Iyi compound Tsugnumo – a charismatic actor who gets a wonderful foil to play off in Rentaro Mikuni's Counsellor Saito, a character who seems conflicted but works solely for the good of his clan in the face of the actions of this dangerous intruder.

Although much of the discussion on this film is its take on history – not mindless chopping chanbara but an examination of the problems of authoritarian society from a man who refused to be raised to officer from private in the Imperial Army in WWII – there doesn't seem as much about the structure and filming of the story itself. Because, interestingly, what we're looking at seems to be something of an adaptation of An Inspector Calls, and I was often struck by the similarity on first viewing. Also, it is presented in very theatrical terms and you can see this also working as a play – watch the lighting cut down to the mourners as Motome is returned home, e.g. or the courtyard set-up. It doesn't play as much with theatrical convention as e.g. Ichikawa would, but it is clearly a strong influence in lighting and camerawork.

Hara-Kiri will stay with you long after first viewing – Hashimo's tragic tale and hopeless end facing the pride and intransigence of men who no longer appreciate what is important in life embarking on a society that will, for Kobayashi, dominate Japan to its detriment for the centuries to come.

Elab49




_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 36
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:09:39 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005





Samurai I: Miyamoto Musashi  (Inagaki, 1954)
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple  (Inagaki, 1955)
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island: (Inagaki, 1956)
 
SPOILERS

This is first of Inagaki's Samurai trilogy. Set initially in 1600, it stars Mifune Toshirô as Shinmen Takezo, a young man from the village of Miyamoto, who, along with his friend Matahachi (Mikuni Rentaro), join the war between the East and West. Takezo is considered "wild", and wishes to become a famous samurai.

After the battle, and a sojourn with the wife and daughter of a murdered bandit, Takezo heads back to his home village. Matahachi remains with the women, despite having fiancé Otsu (Yachigusa Kaoru) waiting for him back home. Upon his return, Takezo is vilified and pursued as a criminal. He is eventually caught by Takuan, a priest who sees something in him, gives him the means to train and finally, a new name - Miyamoto Musashi.

Unlike most of the chambara films I've seen to date, this is a more typical story of the development of a hero, and consequently sort of feels less Japanese. Other factors add to that feeling - that it was was shot in full-screen, and in quite American-looking "Eastmancolour", the love story subplot, as well as the Hollywood-influenced music swells. For me, this dates it more, too - that it is a 1950s film is quite evident - unlike some of the timeless b&w samurai epics, with their distinctly Japanese scores.
That's not to say there's anything wrong with the film, just that watching it is a different experience to watching a Kurosawa, Okamoto, Gosha etc.

The plot stands up well, and it could be a stand-alone film were it not for the finale, in which we see the tale has only just begun. Mifune and Yachigusa are good, as is Onoe Kuroemon as the priest (even if he does chuckle a bit too much), though a couple of other actors are less convincing.

The print is not as highly polished as some of the other Criterion titles, but it's still in good nick aside from a few small faults (some scratching, a couple of strange cuts suggest a couple of seconds of film are missing and there's the odd subtitling error).
I'm loathe to rate it at the moment, as without seeing the sequels, I would likely give it a slightly lower mark than it deserves as a portion of the whole, suffice to say I liked it.


The second in the Samurai trilogy. Miyamoto Mushashi (Mifune Toshirô), after his training under the priest Takuan (well, trapped in a loft with a bunch of books), heads out into the world to hone his skills. He survives a duel with a scythe & chain master, the actions of his cowardly, duplicitous former friend, the affections of no less than 3 women, and an ambush by 80 warriors. He finally defeats his enemy, but demonstrates newfound chivalry in the process.

Like the first film, it is filmed fullscreen and in Eastmancolour, and has that western-influenced music (not "Western", as in cowboy...). However, this time, it retains a more Japanese feel, as the tale is closer to the usual chambara, with Musashi on a journey of self-discovery, rather than emerging hero.
The acting from the supporting cast is better here, though the women of the plot generally get a pretty rough deal out of it - they have to portray a lot of earnest, unrequited desire and the heartache that brings, but not a great deal else.

The colour drops out occasionally, and on 2 or 3 occasions, the subs are on-screen for a fraction of a second, forcing a rewind and attempt to pause whilst they're visible. But again, despite these imperfections, it's generally a good Criterion print.

Overall, I'd say it was a marginally better film than the first, but as a direct sequel, with the same core cast, it does make me appreciate the first one a little more - guess I'm beginning to see the bigger picture.

 
The final part of Inagaki's Samurai trilogy.

Miyamoto Masahasi travels to Edo, gaining the attention of the Yagyu lord, and ambitious samurai Kojiro. Whilst Kojiro craves recognition for his skills, Masahasi humbly heads off to a small village to plough the land. The pair finally meet a year later, and fulfil their agreed duel.

There is less swordplay action in this than the previous films, Masahasi warding off would-be attackers by demonstrating his skills in other ways - repelling three bandits when unarmed, and catching flies in mid-air with chopsticks (far more successfully than Mr Miyagi did). This contributes toward making the film seem a little slower than it's prequels, along with resolution of Akemi's unrequited love for Musashi, and his relationship with Otsu. The final fight is a fair conclusion to the trilogy, although the battle at the end of part 2 (Duel at Ichijoji Temple) was more climactic.

The picture quality seems a little worse, with more scratches on the film, and again, we have a couple of instances of subs flashing on screen too quick to read.

As a stand-alone, I'd rate this on a par with the first film - the middle film having a more captivating plot. As the conclusion to the trilogy, it works well, as Musashi has completed his transformation from gruff wild man Takezo, eager to fight in the war and sick of his life as a farmer in the first part, to the calm, rounded samurai who sees the value in avoiding unnecessary conflict and in honest labour.

Gram123
 

_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 37
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:09:43 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005




Funeral Parade Of Roses (Matsumoto, 1969)

Synopsis: Oedipus Rex as played out among gay transvestites in late 60s Tokyo.

Like the rest of the world, in the late 60s Japan was in the middle of a generational crisis. The youth of the time started experimenting with sex and drugs in an attempt to find their own identity. Artists naturally picked up on this and film-maker's started experimenting with form and narrative in an attempt to establish their own place in the world. One of the results of this experimentation was Funeral Parade of Roses. Funeral Parade of Roses is an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind film. It's unique and still challenging even know, 40 years after it was made. It's set in Tokyo's gay underground, and the film tells a modern day homosexual version of the Oedpius myth.

Young transvestite Eddie (Peter) works at the Bar Genet, a local gay bar in Shinjuku. He works with his friend Leda, who acts as the opposite number to Eddie. Leda is shy, wears a traditional kimono and finds the world a challenging and frightening place. While Eddie has numerous affairs, wears modern short skirts, takes drugs, and is close friends with many in the underground artistic scene. Eddie buries himself in sex and drugs to try and block out the traumatic memories of his childhood. Eddie lived a horrific youth, abandoned by his father and beaten by his mother, until the day he murdered her while she had sex with a strange, drunken man. Both are treacherous figures, and both are in love with Gonda. Gonda is the local drug-dealer and owner of the gay club. Gonda wants Eddie, but is blackmailed into an affair by Leda. This doomed love triangle plays out to its disturbing conclusion, an obvious one if you have any familiarity with the Oedipus tale.

Avant-garde filmmaking collides with a more exploitation mindset here. Matsumoto's experimental approach involves playing with time, a disjointed narrative, the use of captions, a documentary style set of interviews both with the cast and with real people on the street of Tokyo. Parts of the film you think are narrative are actually revealed to be documentary at times, such a sex scene that pulls back to reveal the camera crew that film it. But it also uses extensive nudity and other elements more associated with exploitation cinema of the time. There's no doubt that part of the aim of Funeral Parade of Roses was to be something shocking to the Japanese establishment of the time. But the question always hangs over the film of how much of it is real? Something that reoccurs in one of the narratives strongest themes.

Matsumoto is obsessed with the idea of identity. There's much made in the film of masks, and how every character is wearing a mask of some kind. There's also much made of reflections and looking into mirrors. Eddie is first beaten by his mother when she catches him wearing her lipstick and admiring himself in the mirror. Eddie's first mask leads to a trauma, but still the characters constantly admire themselves while putting on more masks, even repeating the 'mirror, mirror, on the wall' refrain. The characters from the underground art world are exposed as all wearing masks themselves. Funeral... is too a difficult film to come to any easy conclusions about it, but I would argue that the whole film is actually about finding an identity for yourself in the middle of a turbulent time period. It's inventive, surprising, it still has the power to shock an audience, and it deserves to be seen.

Rawlinson
 
Fascinating and compelling watch, with the lead, Peter/Eddie, and amazing find. Oddly the first scenes reminded me of Une Femme Mariee, a recent watch, only this time you believed they were actually making love and meant it. And then the chat and then leaving. Manipulating the timeline, the flashbacks coming together, the fascination with multiple masks and mirrors and individual set-ups (I loved the 3 of them in the gents!) made this film pass in a trice. Even if I did feel the need to check the date for the gestation of La Cage aux Folles at times

Several parts intrigued me though
- who were the guys, I guess, protesting?
- there didn't seem to be any form of violence portrayed which if this had been eg San Francisco of the same period I'd have thought was a way of life. Was it different in Tokyo? I understand the loss of restrictions post war changed life immeasurably in Japan but that seems an odd quirk.
- Bar Genet - presumably a reference to Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers?

The constant breaking of the 4th wall didn't annoy and I was impressed by the fact the director happily gave away the twist ending about 10 minutes earlier in Peter's interview.

Oh - I also learned, no strip walk the line when drunk. Noted.
Elab49
 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 38
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:09:46 PM   
elab49


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Good Morning (Ozu, 1959)

With this his 50th film Ozu goes back to something he hadn't done for many years and makes a straight out comedy.The dominant themes of his later films,generational conflict/misunderstanding and the modernisation of post-war Japan are still to the fore but it's light hearted and consistantly funny.All the performances are wonderful with Ozu's perennial busybody Haruko Sugimura stealing every scene she's in,except those that she shares with her mother played by Eiko Miyoshi.Great entertainment and the image quality of the Tartan disc is very good.

 
Jasiri


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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 39
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:12:52 PM   
elab49


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Fist of Legend: (Chan, 1994)
 
Often touted as the best film Jet Li has made, and finally available in the west on with the original audio. Directed by Gordon Chan, with action choreography from Yuen Woo-ping and two of his brothers, the film is a semi-remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury.

I obviously had high expectations for this, and for the most part, it didn't disappoint. Set in 1937, Li plays Chen Zhen, a skilled kung fu student who leaves his studies in Japan to return to Shanghai when he hears of the death of his sifu.

Chen has trouble with the occupying Japanese, led by General Fujita Goh (Billy Chow), and faces his countrymen's disdain for his relationship with a Japanese woman.

It's serious in tone with no comedy element, and uses wirework only for the pull-backs to show the impact of kicks and punches. This more realistic approach benefits the film greatly and the fights scenes are very good, particularly a blindfolded battle between Li and Kurata Yasuaki (Legend of a Fighter, Millionaire's Express).


There is some totally unnecessary undercranking, but it's mercifully brief. The only other real negative is that this version appears to have retained some (but not all) of the edits that the American dub imposed, notably Li's final utterance at the end of the film.

The disc looks to be pretty chock full of extras including a BL commentary, and the print is spot on.

So is it the best Jet Li film, I don't know. It's certainly better than some other Jet Li efforts, but I'd probably rate it alongside the first couple of Once Upon a Time in China films. So perhaps slightly over-hyped due to the long period without a decent release, but still a quality release of a quality kung fu film

Gram123


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 40
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:12:56 PM   
elab49


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Paprika (Kon, 2006)

A device created to help people with psychological problems is abused to draw the world of dreams into reality.

When I said Tokyo Godfathers was my 2nd favourite Kon, I didn't intend at all to diss this. And for Dev – apart from the carnival music and Paprika fling I didn't really notice anything else. And the carnival music is really annoyingly catchy!

In some ways this film has as much going on at the margins as Spirited Away – some screens are just chock full of individual animations that you know you're probably missing something on each watch. Most people seem to spend their dreams in the childhood parade – even Kogawa's problems are rooted in his youth, although not so far back. The machines are supposed to replay these dreams and help the patient resolve their problems – but as the dreams merge with each other and reality trying to work out what is real and what isn't is a problem.

The main character is effectively an avatar of the lead scientist on the project – a powerful character on the dream side, and seemingly the dream women of the men whose dreams she inhabits. Her real world counterpart has just as strong an effect – and when one of the bad guys traps her the split between the 2 is one of the grossest things I've seen on screen this year. Her initial flits into the real world are the first sign that something is wrong (although unaware of what is happening at that point our first thought is for the sanity of her counterpart). Or are we supposed to consider how real the other side of our personality – the one we don't need to take real responsibility for – is?

There is a bit too much of what sounds like rather incongruous religion stuff but reassuringly we are presented with the normal strand of megalomania as time goes on. Just remember to ignore the rather skimmed over science parts (and annoyingly I was going to mention a term they use a couple of times that I'm pretty sure they don't get the meaning of!). And they carefully don't even try to explain how the merge happened – it isn't that kind of film and it isn't really relevant.

Quirky bits? Kon likes Monkey too. And the available films in the cinema at the end.

Elab49


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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 9/3/2011 11:12:59 PM   
elab49


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The Life of Oharu (Mizoguchi, 1952)

A bleak story following the social decline of Oharu, as she is exiled, prostituted, used and abused by virtually everyone she meets. Mizoguchi uses her plight to highlight the repression of women in a class-obsessed, male-dominated Japanese society, aided by a dignified central performance from Kinuyo Tanaka. Elegant, political film-making, then, but not exactly a happy viewing experience

Moth


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 11/3/2011 8:23:46 PM   
elab49


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Infernal Affairs III (Lau/Mak, 2003)



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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 11/3/2011 8:23:56 PM   
elab49


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The Birdpeople in China (Miike, 1998)

Wada heads off to China for his company to check out new jade find in the back of beyond. Reaching his initial destination he is unexpectedly joined by a violent yakuza, sent by his gang to protect a loan made to the company. Together they travel further into more inaccessible regions aided by an eventually amnesiac guide towards a village that treasures a myth of people who can fly.

2 city people being overwhelmed by simple rural pleasures is hardly new but Miike's film is both often very funny (the transport is falling apart, and the yakuza is really not happy to be there) and really slightly odd – Ujiie goes very Kurtz when he falls for the villagers after joining the children's flying school and decides to save the village from the incursions of the modern world as a major jade vein is found. You don't want to be a trained turtle when he's around (and the shots of them dragging the raft are wonderful). The vistas presented are stunning – lots of country greens and browns more and more beautiful the further they get from civilisation.

There is a great warmth to the film – misanthropic humour aside. There is a tendency to the simple villagers being all wonderful and good but there is some interest in initially going to a province which, it is suggested, influenced Japan's own cultural past so there are elements of combined race memory. There is a conflicting message about technology – it got Ujiie there but might threaten the village if others come. Wada holds too closely to his recorder as his link to civilisation but he is also able to use it to unlock part of the village's own myths as Wada carefully translates the song handed down from the grandfather who flew.

A funny, sweet, quirky and very humane tale
Elab49

I've seen three Miike films before this - Happiness of the Katakuris, Audition and Dead or Alive - and it's safe to say that none of them are like this in any way. Miike's idiosyncratically diverse output reaches a peak here, however, in that, while not perfect, The Bird People in China is the most fully-realised of all his films I've seen. It doesn't meander about like his other films, searching for a way to come to a the middle or end - it knows what it's doing and, while it takes its time, it never loses its way. As a result, The Bird People in China develops quite organically from a light fish-out-of-water comedy with a bit of a black streak to it into a moving and thoughtful film about the place of tradition and environmental and social 'purity' (so to speak) in a world where society marches ever on. As said, though, it takes a while for it to develop out of the slight comedy it begins as, and that carries to things like the performances (Renji Ishibashi's performance as a disgruntled Yakuza forced to tag along with Masahiro Motoki's salaryman is often painfully over-the-top at the start, and it takes a while to warm to Motoki generally) and the coherence of the narrative - it knows what it's doing, but the importance of things like the song often feels a little too trivial to be spending so much time on it. However, the last hour of the film is magical and enthralling, with stunning cinematography and an incredibly satisfying conclusion. It may not be perfect, but The Bird People in China is certainly Miike's best that I've seen, and I can see it growing on me in time.
Pigeon Army


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 11/3/2011 8:23:58 PM   
elab49


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A Touch of Zen (Hu, 1971) 
 
King Hu's 1971 3-hour epic wuxia masterpiece.

The story is well set up in the first hour, with three characters on the run from the Eastern Group, hiding out in a small village. Scholarly artist Mr Ku unwittingly gets himself wrapped up in the drama, and ultimately helps strategise an ambush on the bad guys.

It's 50 mins in before any action takes place, but when it come it's finely executed swordplay, edited (as with King’s earlier film Come Drink With Me) to show the actor’s fighting skills without the use of wirework. The bamboo forest scene is credited as being an influence on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s a testament to the editing skills of Hu, that a film made 31 years later, with the availability of wirework, special effects and large budget, takes its inspiration from A Touch of Zen.

As people leap, the director cuts, and then we them see them land - and it feel no less of a spectacle for being done in this primitive manner.

Beautifully filmed, particularly the scenes towards the climax, featuring the Abbott character who is like a flippin' superhero, flicking away even the expert swordsman with barely a flinch. He’s frequently shown with the sun shining from behind him, the rays of light clearly a representation of a halo, as seen in artwork of Buddhist monks.

Gram123.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 45
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 11/3/2011 8:24:02 PM   
elab49


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The Quiet Family (Kim Ji-Woon, 1998)

Probably better known on these shores as "that film that got remade as Happiness of the Katakuris", it's by far the superior of the two films, and that's taking nothing away from Taksahi Miike's great/mad version.  Kim's film is darker, cleverer, funnier and ultimately warmer than its better-known cousin, and it's a joy to watch.  Hard to pick out a standout performance, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that although Choi Min-Sik's turn as the Uncle is a fine string to his bow, he's just about overshadowed by Song Kang-Ho's incredible comedic turn as the idiot son - probably the best I've seen him in any film.

The UK disc's picture is fine (in comparison to the R3HK disc I already had), although the dark bits are occasionally too dark.  It comes with what is probably a very good and insightful commentary from Kim and Song (well, they seem to enjoy it, as they generally descend into giggles every 10 minutes or so), but this is spoilt by the crap subtitling which veers between incomprehension to sheer Violent Copesque "you know what?  I can't be arsed translating this bit" huge gaps in the conversation.  Although one gem is right at the start, when Kim goes on rather too long about the choice of wallpaper (something which, if the rest of his films are anything to go by, is something of a fetish for him)
 
Foz
 
A Jeunetesque take on an accidental Batesish motel. The Kang's first visitor at their mountain lodge commits suicide. Worried that their reprobate son would get mixed up in it they hide the body. But their luck just gets worse and worse. Nice performances all round (it still feels odd seeing Choi Min-Sik in this kind of role, even it it isn't a bad match for the early version of Oh Dae-Su). Is there a question mark over what happened to the first chap? Too much hardware and an odd final position – and an emotionless youngest child who also seems to be there. The family dynamics are also well done, particularly the squabbling siblings. Kim, obviously, went on to bigger and better things.
Elab49


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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 11/3/2011 8:24:05 PM   
elab49


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The Cat Returns) (Morita, 2002)

I've been trawling through all the Ghibli offerings I can find recently in a concerted effort to find something close to the magical experience I had with Spirited Away. After watching several Miyazakis (and the decidedly not magical, but still amazing Grave of the Fireflies), it's a film that wasn't directed by Miyazaki that manages to come closest to capturing that same appealing magic that Spirited Away had - The Cat Returns. Hiroyuki Morita's spin-off from Whisper of the Heart (which I have yet to see) tells the story of Haru, a young girl who saves a cat from certain death - only to find that said cat is the Prince of the Kingdom of Cats, and his father, the King, is hellbent on her becoming his son's bride. It's a simple story, simply told, but it has the same understated beauty and enchanting fairytale feel that made Spirited Away such a great film, only in slightly lesser amounts. Reiko Yoshida's screenplay is light and funny, the characters all engaging and entertaining peoples/creatures brought to life by the gorgeous animation. Excellent voice acting, particularly from Yoshihiko Hakamada as the dashing Baron and Chizuru Ikewaki as the clumsy Haru, gives the film even more of its considerable charm. The Cat Returns may not be as ambitious as some of Miyazaki's animations, nor may it be as grand or as emotional, but there's no denying just how heartwarming and endearing this film is.

Pigeon Army


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 11/3/2011 8:24:10 PM   
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A Scene at the Sea (Kitano, 1991)
The 3rd film directed by Kitano, and the first to come from his own production company.
This film sits in marked contrast to his previous two - no harsh violence, no Kitano (onscreen), and not a yakuza in sight. The film focuses on Shigeru, a young deaf-mute who with the monotonous job of bin man. Upon finding a broken surf board, he repairs it as best he can and takes up a daily surfing routine. Clearly unskilled at the offset, he gradually improves, and the mocking from the other surfers on the beach is soon replaced by admiration. Shigeru's girlfriend, Takako, loyally follows him, folds his clothes as he surfs, and accompanies him to competitions.

The plot is rather light on drama, often with not a huge amount happening, and with both leads being mute, very little being said. In fact, it plays out almost as wordlessly as Kitano's later film, Dolls.
Problems come when Shigeru's pursuit of his new hobby starts to become detrimental to his relationship with Takako, and to his job. However, these issues never really threaten to derail the film's gentle pace and never seem insurmountable. Even a climactic event at the end of the film is dealt with in a serenely - to the extent, even, that it catches you off guard, and initially you're not quite certain what has happened.

The visuals (particularly Kitano indulging his well-documented love of the sea), adds to the tranquility, along with the pleasant Joe Hisaishi score - another contrast to the almost entirely music-less Boiling Point. Considering the calmness, the lack of action, suspense, conflict and indeed, dialogue, it flows along quite nicely, and never gets dull. At the same, it doesn't have as strong a story as Kitano's other "quieter" films like Dolls or Kikujiro.
Gram123

  
Takaeshi Kitano's 3rd feature film, and possibly his finest work as a director.

It's certainly a strange premise - Deaf-mute garbage collector Shigeru (Claude Maki, who crops up again later in Kitano's career in Brother) finds a broken surfboard on his rounds and an obsession with surfing begins.  He is joined by his doting girlfriend Takako (Hiroko Oshima, who deservedly won two 'Best Newcomer' gongs for her part here, and has seemingly done nothing since) who follows him everywhere, folding his clothes on the beach as he pursues his dream.

And in all honesty, that's pretty much it.  Sounds a bit dull, doesn't it?  Especially after Kitano's previous films (Violent Cop and Boiling Point, most notable for their excessive violence), the notion of a romantic surfing movie doesn't really get the juices flowing...

...but to miss this film is to miss Kitano at his most poignant and wonderful.  Everything that makes a Kitano film a treat to watch - great framing of very, very long shots, impeccable timing (both comedic and dramatic), images of consequence without viewing the action, very natural sets and performances and a heart of incredible warmth.  Oh, and a cameo from Susumu Terajima starting a fight for no apparent reason, doing that manic limb-flailing thing that only he can do so well.

As you might imagine from a film with two deaf leads (his is set up and explained maybe a couple of times too often right at the start, hers is merely implied a couple of times), this is pretty much a silent movie.  Kitano seems a little daunted by this task at first with his slightly clumsy use of a couple of amiable (almost Manzai) idiots as painfully obvious exposition, but he soon warms to the job by an excellent use of background noise which is either exaggerated or completely removed to great effect, and also Joe Hisaishi's excellent score which is used very sparingly.  And once the story (such as it is) and the characters are set up very quickly, then the rest of the film is allowed to flow freely.
And it's certainly a film that creeps up on you.  It's impossible to not be drawn into Shigeru and Takako's relationship, and when this relationship has its inevitable 'blip' (thanks to a misunderstood Tangerine Incident, which soon becomes a running joke), it's genuinely moving and threatens to derail the film's overall niceness, so Kitano ultimately lightens the mood of the scene with a couple of perfectly-timed gags (one sound joke, and a bit of genius slapstick that goes by almost unnoticed).  And then we're off again, with an increasing retinue of people who are touched either by Shigeru's improving surfing or by his and Takako's impossibly devoted bond.  And by the end, when the film's title eventually appears (literally translated as "That Summer, the Calmest Ocean" - as with his first two films, the translated title bears little relation to the original), you will find that you have been crying your eyes out for the previous ten minutes.

An incredibly touching film, painstakingly put together.  Films very rarely get as good as this.

Foz
 
SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A deaf and dumb teenager learns to surf.

Best known in the West for his revisionist Yakuza films, in Japan Takeshi Kitano rose to fame as a comedian and there were initially worries about 'Beat' Takeshi being taken seriously as a dramatic actor. That's why A Scene At The Sea must have been a bewildering film in both Asia and the West. It was only Kitano's third film as a director, and his first two offerings had been Yakuza films, so a film about a deaf and dumb teenager learning to surf must have been an incredible surprise to audiences.

Shigeru is a deaf and dumb teenager who works as a dustman. One day on his rounds he finds a discarded surfboard and suddenly finds himself drawn to the ocean. Accompanied by his devoted girlfriend, Takako, Shigeru struggles for respect at first and is mocked by the local surfers, gradually winning their respect through his dedication to the sport. It sounds like a million teen movies, doesn't it? But there's so much more to it than that rather slight plot description can tell you, A Scene at the Sea has as much depth and hidden surprises as the ocean that Shigeru loves so much.


Kitano's films, even at their most violent have a still and meditative quality, none more so than A Scene At The Sea. The literal translation of the Japanese title is That Summer, A Most Quiet Ocean, and that title is infinitely more fitting to this beautiful little film. It gives you this memory of an idyllic summer without ever resorting to cheap sentiment. Kitano provides us with the ocean and the beach and the characters make themselves known to us through their actions, both in the ocean and out of it.

In this deeply lyrical film, Kitano strips away the storytelling and the dialogue to create a minimalistic masterpiece. The film is virtually wordless, both Shigeru and Takako are deaf mutes and Kitano puts us firmly into his world, letting us experience some of Shigeru's heartbreak when he misses his first contest when he's unable to hear the announcement for his category. What little dialogue there is almost takes you out of the film, nearly breaking the spell that Kitano has placed us under.

A Scene at the Sea is probably the most delicate and romantic of Kitano's films, the relationship between Shigeru and Takako carries the emotional weight of the film, and the unconditional love they show each other gives a powerful emotional core to this funny, moving and honest film.
Rawlinson
 
 


A Summer at Grandpa's (Hou, 1986)
 
Childhood in cinema is usually something that's handled really badly, the children are shown as precocious, just there to ask the adult the embarrassing questions or prompt them with some Rain Man-esque wisdom. I think what makes a cinematic depiction of childhood work is the feeling that you could have experienced it yourself. You don't have to have actually have been through it, it just needs to capture some of those emotions. Which is why Stand by Me is a great depiction of childhood to me, even though I didn't go on an adventure with my friends to see a dead body. I still felt a lot of what those characters feel and I recognise aspects of myself and my friends in them. Where the Wild Things Are is my film of the year for exactly the same reason, it captured a feeling I understood even if it didn't replicate the reality. Whereas something like Home Alone is a terrible depiction of childhood because it captured none of the things I felt as a child, even though I did get left home alone over Christmas and had to fight off criminals while my family flew to Paris. A Summer at Grandpa's captures the right feeling, even though the situation is a world away from my childhood.

When their mother is taken into hospital, eleven-year-old Tung-Tung and his four year old sister, Ting-Ting, are sent to spend the summer in the country with their uncle and their grandfather. The stay proves more dramatic than may have been expected, with the country providing just as many dangers as the city. The uncle proves himself irresponsible from the start, he leaves them on the train and is more interested in sex than anything else, some of his friends are wanted for a brutal robbery, a woman miscarries her child, and the children are forced into confrontations with the adult world. Despite that, the film never tries for forced melodrama, with the situations still feeling everyday and realistic. The children try to insulate themselves from the outside world but they are forced to face adult events as that world encroaches on their life over the summer. Despite the mature themes of the film (and there are plenty of adult moments) it's the depiction of the children that feels the strongest. The children are often shown as not understanding the adults and the letters they write home express a frustration that the adults aren't making enough sense. The film is firmly on the side of the children, they are our identification figures and the film flows to their moods. Despite the fact that Hou makes his characters face some harsh truths, the film is warm. It exudes the feel of summer and it manages to capture a gently nostalgic feeling aided by the naturalistic performances of the cast.

Immaturity is a running theme. The film opens with a seemingly out of place sequence of a young girl giving a valedictorian speech, but it's thematically linked. The idea of the girl being reluctant to leave her childhood behind is reflected in Ting-Ting and Tung-Tung as their innocence is lost when real life takes over. The children are unable to articulate their emotions and this causes them to lash out. But their uncle's rash behaviour, and even some of their grandfather's actions, are shown to be just as childish as the children's. Hou is showing us how those childlike moments exist in everyone, even when we've supposedly matured. I think it's the way that Hou captures these small nuances in behaviour that prevents the film from falling into easy sentimentality. Instead of a simplistic coming-of-age story we're given a meditation on what it means to be a child, what it means to be an adult, and what gets lost in-between.

Rawlinson.


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quote:

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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 8:58:23 PM   
elab49


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The Human Condition - No Greater Love (1959), Road to Eternity (1959), A Soldier's Prayer (1961) - Masaki Kobayashi

A masterpiece. Blurb to come.

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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 49
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 8:58:30 PM   
elab49


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La Maison en Petits Cubes (Kato, 2008) (aka Waterworld - the prequel)

*sigh* I was quite right. Had I seen this before my Oscar choices I'd have been one more to the good. The drawing is superb, the colouring beautifully done. A poignant trip through the past for an old man living just above the waterline in an almost completely submerged town. As the water rises, he builds a new story to his house. Dropping his precious pipe he goes down through the levels, and back through his past, to a time when the town was whole, telling us why, unlike most everyone else, he never left. Simply wonderful - and kudos to, I think, someone called Kenjo Kodo for the music which is a perfect fit to the emotional feel of the piece.

Elab49


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 8:58:34 PM   
elab49


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The Foul King (Kim, 2000)


The perfect antidote for/double bill with The Wrestler. More reminiscent of those Saturday Lunchtimes with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, Foul King is a great watch with a fine comic performance from lead Song Kang-Ho. Kim’s follow-up to the Quiet Family shows more assurance – the scenes as the wrestlers branch out in the crowd are skilfully filmed with a genuine sense of chaos.

The ending to the film is a little abrupt. Stopping at his final leap might have been better – but I’d guess ending on that interesting grid network – back to being another part of the circuit board linking back to the earlier attempt to fix the phone – is the point Kim wanted to make.

It's a film that I have 2 copies of on DVD – one the original Korean audio, but the other one, a Chinese version, has a slightly different and sometimes even more amusing translation.
Elab49

< Message edited by elab49 -- 16/3/2011 9:03:00 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 51
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 8:58:41 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
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Suzhou River (Lou, 2000)
Our narrator, never seen on camera, is in love with a woman who performs a mermaid act in a nightclub. Another patron is also interested in her and the film then tells his story – the tale of Mardar and Moudan. One a crook, the other the daughter of a rich man they fall for each other and are split apart because he gets caught up in a scheme to kidnap her. While he tries to protect her, she feels betrayed and seems to die – jumping into the Suzhou River. But the mermaid woman – Meimei – seems to be the spitting image of his lost love, whose body was never found and for who he's been looking ever since.

I think part of the appeal for me is the strong noirish feel – the voiceover structure, the obsession with the resurrected femme fatale, the dreamlike storytelling world that most seems to take place in – the mood, as well as part of the storyline, has seen reasonable enough comparisons to Vertigo being made and it is that type of tale, one of obsession rather than simply romantic love, that is being told. And much as I dislike Vertigo, I really like this – it's a grittier and less pretentious form of filmmaking, although the voiceover can be a little forced, this dialogue comes across as part of the character of the videographer

Interestingly this first person point of view technique is one that classic noir never quite got right and here it is used much more effectively, I think partly because the narrator, for the most part, is telling the stories of others and also because it isn't just standing and recording dialogue – continually moving it is more of a voyeur recording both lives and the world in general in which they live and the hand-held technique doesn't irritate as it can in other films.

Elab49
 
Lou Ye wears his influences fairly prominently on his sleeve in Suzhou River - his editing and directing styles are clearly indebted to Jean-Luc Godard, and a hefty chunk of Suzhou River's plot owes a lot to Hitchcock's Vertigo - but his tale of love and loss on the banks of Shanghai's Suzhou River far surpasses those influences in terms of quality. The film;s opening image is a camera lazily drifting down the titular river, while our narrator - who remains unseen to us during the film, hidden by the first-person camera that puts us in his place during his scenes - tells us about his city, about his river, and about a mermaid that he could claim to have seen, if only he weren't lying about it. The following 90 minutes tell the story of the narrator and his willful girlfriend Meimei, and a story-within-a-story about motorcycle courier Mardar and the girl who falls in love with him, Moudan. Lou's direction is beautiful, giving an unpleasant and washed-out Shanghai an air of mystery and humanity, as though a hub of emotion and life. The acting is great, bar the occasional slip (Jia Hongshen's performance as Mardar is prone to these), and Lou manages to make characters as human as Godard ever did without making them needlessly impetuous or generally unpleasant - these are not good people, but these are people all the same, and their stories resonate regardless. Lou also offers a deep, incredibly satisfying look at memory and its correspondence with love and loss - how a city can remember the week when a mermaid was spotted on the banks of the Suzhou, even though there never was a mermaid; how a person can convince themselves, and others around them, that someone still exists, even though all signs point to their demise.
Pigeon Army



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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 8:58:45 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
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A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim, 2003)
 
Su-Mi and her sister Su-Yeon have spent time under psychiatric care, as the film begins they taken home by their father, Moo-Hyeon. Their stepmother, Eun-Joo, also lives with them. The girls and Eun-Joo don't get along. Shortly after the sisters arrive home, a series of strange events start occurring round the house, with Eun-Joo blaming the sisters and the sisters thinking their stepmother has murderous intentions. But are the events some cruel tricks by the stepmother, one or both of the sisters descending into psychosis, or something more supernatural?

The success of Ringu led to a period where every new Asian horror was being hailed as a masterpiece. Usually it was undeserved, an accolade being thrown at films that were decent but far from the best of the genre, A Tale of Two Sisters is a rare, deserving film. It's basically an examination of a dysfunctional family, shot through the framework of a haunted house film. You can see where it has its roots in an old folk legend, with troubled siblings, an ineffectual father and an evil stepmother all thrown into the mix. It's like the darkest of Grimm Brothers tales.  The direction is masterful, with the film framed so that you're never sure when to expect something to appear from your peripheral vision. It could easily have fallen into cliché, but some brilliant set-pieces and a genuinely unnerving atmosphere rise it to the level of greatness. One of the most brilliantly creepy films of the last decade.

 
Rawlinson


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 9:03:04 PM   
elab49


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Millennium Actress (Kon, 2001)

As the famous Ginei Studio is torn down, bickering television documentarians Tachibana and Eiko hike to the house of the famous and reclusive Chiyoko Fujiwara. Once the actress that kept the studio afloat, Chiyoko has long since retired from acting, but as Tachibana and Eiko conduct their rare interview with her, they get much more than they bargained for - a recounted of a love story so universal as to be told across people and generations, and yet so individual as to be Chiyoko's own. Kon's innovative approach to Chiyoko's biopic sees her neverending pursuit of an artist and revolutionary told through her own films - be they Kurosawa-inspired chambaras, historical epics, Ozu-esque family dramas, sci-fis, post-war dramas, even a Godzilla-lite monster movie. Meanwhile, our two intrepid interviewers are given first-hand experience of Chiyoko's story as it's told, to the point that Tachibana even starts inserting himself into the story in all sorts of ways, some humourous, some poignant. It's an approach that blurs reality and fiction together and is at once visually arresting and hugely emotional. Even as Chiyoko's object of desire becomes more and more unattainable, we can't help but be swept along in her all-encompassing chase, particularly when it's as good-looking and seamless as what Kon does here. It's unreal and yet totally believable; filled with humour that alleviates many an intense situation and yet never prone to undermining its own emotional core. Millennium Actress is a beautiful, stunning piece of work, and proof positive that Satoshi Kon is one of the best producers of anime currently working.

Pigeon Army
 
 


Pitfall (Teshigahara, 1962)

A unique film which is difficult to say much about without giving away a major plot point,Teshigahara's description of it as 'documentary fantasy' is a good description.The film contrasts two main elements the social realism of struggling miners with ghost story,it's an odd blend but it works perfectly and it's an impressive debut film that also marks the beginning of his collaborations with novelist Kobo Abe and composer Toru Takemitsu.

Yet another outstanding release from Masters of Cinema a great film but also a great dvd the picture and sound quality are very good and there's a commentary track from Tony Rayns,haven't listened to it yet but Rayns is always informative and interesting so it should be good.
Jasiri



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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 9:03:08 PM   
elab49


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Pom Poko (Takahata, 1994)
 
Pom Poko is a curious beast. Undeniably aimed at children (it focuses on a group of raccoons) it definitely centres on adult concerns. Social mobility, deforestation, environmentalism (a Ghibli recurring theme), are major themes, as well as Japanese folklore, and a particularly unapologetic look at life and death. The forest in which the raccoons live is being destroyed to make room for homes for the expanding human population. In a bid to keep their homes, the raccoons stop their in-fighting, and rally to fight back against the humans. learning the ancient raccoon art of transformation, they begin a campaign of attack and fright (possibly, one might say ‘shock and awe’) to stop the developers’ destructive onslaught. Each consecutive campaign results in death or heartache amidst the successes – something the raccoons do well is celebrate – and the depiction of this, while not graphic, is never avoided. In this, the film should be applauded. Too often real-life experiences are avoided, watered down, sugared, made more palatable for children’s consumption, and in so doing create a skewed world-view that ultimately can do more damage when the realisation of the truth of the world inevitably catches up with that child. There is nothing monumental, nor scarring, nor damaging here. My children are not (I hope!) going to have nightmares from this film, and certainly nothing was said, or intimated through their reactions at the time, to indicate that they were unduly affected.
 
The ending – which I will not talk about in specifics – is ambiguous. While it has the feelings of a happy ending, it is at cost. Happiness, it is learned, is not a right but a privilege, and comes at a great price. It is all the more satisfying, and touching because of this. This is not an empty happiness, but a true, earned, and contented happiness, with a tinge of sadness. It is, for a story about transforming raccoons, remarkably close to how happy endings should be. My children enjoyed the film greatly and, while lots of the thematic content may have gone above their heads, some of the emotional feed off cannot have escaped them. A superb film that has multi-layered, and will be rich in rewatch value.
HomerSimpson_Esq
 


Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984)
 
Nausicaa is the princess of the Valley of the Wind, a small, peaceful society situated in a valley where perpetual gales seem to blow. She lives in a time when the toxicity of the earth has become overwhelming, and the human race itself has become an endangered species. Creatures of the forest, including the massive Ohmu, often rampage against the surrounding cities and a war rages on between two neighbouring kingdoms. It's Nausicaa's job, somehow, to sort it all out. It's difficult to believe that this is only Miyazaki's second film, because he's already at a ridiculously high standard. Based on Miyazaki's own manga series, the high point here are – as always with Ghibli and, specifically, the director – the visuals. It's a beautifully drawn film, with several sequences that are nothing short of awe-inspiring, including the march of the Ohmu and the envisioning of the god-like "Giant Warrior". The story, too, is just about timeless, and silly quarrels between nations over things that are either unimportant or belong to neither of them will continue to the end of time, or at least the end of humanity. The music lets it down somewhat, but I guess it's typical of the 1980s, and it does become somewhat cluttered at times. However, there are moments when "Nausicaa" is up there with the very best of Miyazaki's work.
Piles.



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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 9:04:04 PM   
elab49


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Humanity and Paper Balloons (Yamanaka, 1937)

Another film which reminds me a little of The Lower Depths,like that set in the Edo period and focusing on those at the bottom of the social order.
Really loved this,simple story that's beautifully shot and very satisying.It's a dark tale but there's just enough moments of  humour to keep it from being overly gloomy,watched it a couple of days ago and just can't get it out of my head,top stuff again from MoC.

Given how little of pre 1950's Japanese cinema is available on subtitled dvd I'm happy to see anything regardless of condition but the image quality of this is very good for it's age considering how badly a lot of Japanese films from this period were stored.

Jasiri


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 56
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/3/2011 9:04:53 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
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Floating Clouds (Naruse, 1955)

"Floating Clouds” tells the story of Yukiko Koda (Hideko Takamine – Naruse's heroine from the later and better "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs”), a Japanese Woman who has just returned to her home country after working as a security during World War II in French Indochina. Whilst serving, she fell in love with her boss and begun an affair, believing he would leave his wife upon return, which – of course – isn't really the case. "Floating Clouds” is the second Mikio Naruse film that I've seen, and I can tell already that he's a director that I'm going to like. Just like in the aforementioned 1960 film, Naruse is able to skilfully and softly give his audience both intense emotion and measured, interesting thematic content. The film is set post World War II, and – as you'd probably expect (it's not really the most original concept, but it's done well) – contains the familiar post-war theme of not being able to find a place in post-war Japan. The film meanders and wanders just like its heroine, who is perfectly played by Hideko Takamine (who is able to evoke so much emotion and so much sympathy from her audience with, at times, just her eyes), and although this meandering tone can become quite wearing after two hours, Naruse's commentary does very well in not becoming one note or predictable. It's the emotion, though, that draws you into this film far more than the themes, with Naruse watching (rather than controlling, and that does feel important) his heroine flail haplessly and helplessly around, attempting to find both her place in society and somebody to share it with. It's quite a heartbreaking film at times, with Naruse using both his emotive score and the melodramatic performances of his three stars (Takamine, as well as Masayuki Mori as her would be lover, and Mariko Okada as her rival) to give off the impression that this search for a partner is very much as important as the simultaneous search for belonging. I'm not sure if there's quite enough here to justify tipping over the two-hour mark, but when "Floating Clouds” is successful it's capable of being great. 4/5.
Piles

< Message edited by elab49 -- 16/3/2011 9:06:45 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:16:40 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
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3-Iron (Kim, 2004)

Revisiting it for an essay, I was figuratively hit for six again by this film. A beautiful, melancholic affair, Kim Ki-Duk puts his impartial camera to the best use it has ever been put to as he tracks our silent protagonists, the enigmatic Tae-suk, who breaks into peoples' houses and lives in them while they're away, and the battered woman, Sun-hwa, whom he 'rescues' from her abusive husband. Lee Seung-yeon and Lee Hyun-kyoon are amazing as Sun-hwa and Tae-suk respectively, evoking wells of emotion through their facial expressions and subtle changes in body language as they partake in the lives of others; in contrast, Kwon Hyuk-ko is deliberately uncomfortable as Sun-hwa's arrogant husband, a man who believes he can buy eternal fidelity from anyone and gets violent when he doesn't. Kim contrasts the lives of those who are out-of-touch with Korean traditions with those who have lost sight of them in favour of Western influences, appointing a hallowed identity to those following those traditions in some small way and suggesting that it doesn't matter what you have on your mantelpiece or what you can buy, just so long as you don't lose sight of what's important - people, relationships, heritage. Accompanied by Kim's stunningly subtle cinematography and a low-key soundtrack, a tale is woven of finding what is worth living for and sticking with it, of bringing constants to the transient.

Pigeon Army


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:16:43 PM   
elab49


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The Killer (Woo, 1989)
 
The only way to think of John Woo’s seminal 1989 thriller is as an opera. The film is loaded with an operatic feel, a very operatic story. The only thing missing is the songs –instead we have to make do with some of the most beautifully choreographed action sequences of all time.

Appropriately for a film so consciously indebted to western culture (originally, he wanted the singer to be a jazz singer instead of the usual HK singer), the film was Woo’s first big success in the West. Despite a rapturous critical reception in Hong Kong however, it was a flop commercially at home, with Chow Yun-Fat citing the violence.. A pity, as it still stands as Woo’s masterpiece.

The film concerns a hitman, Ah-Jong (played beautifully by Woo’s muse Chow Yun-Fat) who accidentally blinds a girl in a nightclub shootout. Guiltily, he looks after the girl, who has no idea the man who is now helping her is responsible for her condition. He wants to give up his profession after the tragedy, but agrees to take on one more hit to pay for her to have some sort of blindness curing operation (never properly explained, rather like City Lights, it seems cinema just likes the idea that blindness can be cured)

Influenced by Jean Pierre-Melville, The Killer is a seminal, beautiful, thrilling work. It took me two watches to fully appreciate it, it has to be said, but having clicked with it, I can’t get enough. I’m a big fan of Woo’s other work, but for me, this is his best.

Rhubarb.

The Killer is John Woo's masterpiece: it's more ambitious and explosive than A Better Tomorrow, has a stronger storyline than Hard-Boiled and is just a very lot better than Face-Off. Borrowing from Le Samourai, it stars Chow Yun-Fat as an assassin who blinds a singer during a botched job. So he scraps his plan to retire and carries on taking assignments, trying to scrape together enough money to pay for a sight-restoring operation. On his tail is cop Danny Lee Sau-Yi, who's flummoxed by Chow's unexpected shows of ethics, like risking capture to take a girl caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out to a hospital. A grudging friendship develops, leading to a battle to the death with the Triads: think scattering doves, thousands of candles and statues being shot to smithereens. Impassioned performances, a superb musical score and action sequences that recall The Wild Bunch in their visual glory and emotional impact make this one of the best actioners ever made.

Favourite bit: Woo's take on the "cops and crooks, they're pretty similar" chestnut (no they're not, they're completely different). To the strains of the terrific main theme, the camera pans around the cop, sitting in Chow's chair. Then Woo repeats the shot, with Chow in the chair. It's marvellously effective, and unexpectedly moving.

Rick_7.




Shaolin Soccer (Chow, 2001)

I think for most of us in the west this was Chow's crossover film, leading to the later, bigger, hit Kung Fu Hustle. There is a lot of admiration for his work before this though – Rawlinson regularly recommends seeking out God of Cookery on youtube, e.g. – but for most of us, this was it.

Seeking a way to promote Shaolin kung-fu, and after discovering that song and dance is not the best way to go about it, Mighty Steel Leg Sing encouters a famous former footballer, crippled in a corruption sting. Gathering his former brothers together they enter the China Supercup, hoping to eventually take on their coach's nemesis – owner of Team Evil, Hung.

The Team Evil is really the giveaway here – the general tone of this very funny film is a right royal mickey take. Venturing regularly into the absurd and knowing it, the various dissolute characters of the kung-fu brothers are wonderfully brought together, whether the eating obsessed Light Weight (particularly when they make the mistake of training with eggs), or the eternally put upon Iron Head and the football sequences are fabulously over-the-top.
Elab49


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:16:47 PM   
elab49


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A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, 1991)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A look at the political turmoil in 60s Taiwan through the lives of street gang teenagers.

A Brighter Summer Day is an explosive film looking at the instability of Taiwan in the early 60s. The film's main focus is the youth gangs that take over Taipei in a battle for territory and respect. But then Yang expands the scope to show how the Nationalist government that had fled Communist rule in China took power in Taiwan and created an atmosphere of fear, Yang shows this through the effect on the individual, namely a 14 year old boy named S'ir and his family.

S'ir becomes friends with Ming, her boyfriend is another gang member, Honey, who is currently in hiding on suspicion of murder. S'ir's friendship with Ming lands him in trouble, but he's saved by the return of Honey, but soon after Honey is found dead and a confrontation with the rival gang is beckoning. S'ir is also having trouble in other areas of his life, he's having problems in school, something his father ineffectually tries to clear up, and things only get worse when his father is interrogated by the secret police because of his friends on the mainland. S'ir's love for Ming, combined with the pressure over his father's arrest, leads to a tragic confrontation with Ming.

Yang depicts a country trying to distance itself from its past and looking to embrace something new as Taiwan searches for its own identity. This upheaval leads to many of the youths embracing adopted cultures such as American music. The title of the song is from Are You Lonesome Tonight?, people hang out in pool halls and perform American music whenever they can. The youths are looking for something new to cling to in the fact of an uncertain home country. This uncertainty is what leads to the creation of the gangs as well, it gives the kids someplace to feel they belong. This sense of dislocation is one of the film's key themes, objects from other cultures invade lives and any sense of patriotism is dwindling, all signs that the old order is being swept away. When S'ir gets in trouble at school, his father tries to argue for him but fails, demonstrating the fading influence of this once powerful man. Even the street gangs have no real power or control, they're merely tolerated until they step too far out of line.

There seems to be a trend among Asian films of the last two decades to try and combine the personal and the political (City of Sadness, Peppermint Candy, etc) and A Brighter Summer Day is one of the finest examples of a film taking the huge theme and distilling it through the turmoil it can cause for the individual. Events in the film are spurred because of the political context, even the final tragedy has to be seen as S'ir snapping because of the pressure on his father. This is an extraordinarily ambitious project from Yang, the film is four hours long and includes a cast of over 100 amateur performers with multiple intricate plot threads. Yang's direction is masterful, it manages to take on an epic scope and still make the film feel intimate and personal, and most impressive of all, the individual is never lost to the sweeping scale. The film could easily have been indulgent, but instead it's a sublime work of art. One of the finest films of the 90s and its director's greatest achievement.

Rawlinson



Police Story 2 (Chan, 1988)
 
Jackie Chan reprises the role of Chan Ka-Kui (or Kevin Chan, depending on your release) in this classic sequel. As a result of the events at the climax of the original Police Story, Chan has been demoted to highway patrol. After resigning as an officer, a plot to blow up a shopping mall soon has him back in the uniform. The film's plot centres on a gang of terrorists who have planted bombs in various locations around town, threatening to cause massive destruction unless a ransom is paid and Chan's million miles an hour battle to stop them.

Either of the first two Police Story films could have made it to this spot - the first film perhaps has a slightly scrappier plot, but is full of iconic stunt sequences. This film does lean a little more towards standard testosterone-fuelled police actioners, but the on-screen action is probably even more incredible than its predecessor and the night time fight scene in a children's playground is a classic kung fu sequence. With much of 80s HK cinema, it could be argued that as long as there is some semblance of a serviceable plot to hang the high octane kung fu action on, that's all that really mattered. That might be doing a slight disservice to Police Story 2 – it's true that there's not much new in terms of the bomb-planting story, but it ticks along (no pun intended) well enough to get us from Stunt A to Fight B. And when such scenes arrive, they are a stunning spectacle. If anyone knows how to shoot an action sequence, it's Chan.

Chan's character is the film is pretty standard Chan, toned down a bit from his goofier more comedic roles, and he's ably backed by the likes of Maggie Cheung and "Uncle" Bill Tung.

Gram123.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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