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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... - 19/3/2011 3:16:50 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Repast (Naruse, 1951)
 
Spoilers

Before I bought the 3 disc set from Masters Of Cinema, I`ve never seen a movie from the fairly unknown Mikio Naruse. So the release of this box was a golden chance to change this. Yesterday it was the day: my first experience with Naruse`s work was there. And that wasn`t bad at all. This makes me wanna see more.

Repast tells, as do a lot of Naruse`s films, the story of the everyday life of regular people. This time follow Michiyo (Setsuko Hara) who lives together with her husband Hatsunosuke (Ken Uehara) in the suburbs of Osaka,Japan. The regular life that they have slowly starts to annoy Michiyo more and more. Their relationship slowly starts to bleed to death and she wonders if this is everything that there is to the life of a housewive. She wonders if she needs to continue the relation. One day, Hatsunosuke`s niece brings a surprise visit from Tokyo. Michiyo is angry when she sees that her husband gives more attention to his niece than to his wive. Added to that is the fact that the niece doesn`t hide her feelings for her uncle. Does Michiyo really wants to go on having this marriage with her husband? Or does she leave him?

By showing the everyday life of the ordinary people, Naruse takes a risk of making a boring movie. He knows how to avoid that very easily, the film stays interesting all the time. The problems that the main characters have are fairly common, so it`s easy to imagine what they`re going through and feel with them. The acting is really good, in wich Setsuko Hara carries the movie without any problems. Some of the dialogues gives you something to think about, so the film is still up-to-date, even 50+ years after its initial release. Naruse has a good eye for the little detail. Those are things that you notice the best. The way of shooting is gorgeous and quietly, the ending is beautiful eventhough you can see it coming.


All in all, Repast is a good first meeting with Naruse`s work. This film makes me wanna see more of his work.
The Godfather

 
So happy,my first viewing of any of Naruse's films and it lived up to my fairly high expectations,on the surface a quiet,simple drama and underneath a clever,nuanced study of a struggling marriage in post war Japan.Michiyo is becoming increasingly disenchanted by the daily grind and her inattentive husband and things are brought to a head with the arrival of the husband's vivacious niece and the amount of attention he gives to her.

Naruse by this point is obviously a very accomplished film maker and that quality comes across in every scene.One of the great strengths of film for me is the subtlety with which everthing is handled.In some ways it reminds me of  Kenji Mizoguchi's Lady from Musashino,both were made the same year,the details are different but both focus on women in unhappy marriages and have an undercurrent of the social turmoil of post war Japan but the deftness of Repast makes Mizoguchi look quite heavy handed in comparison,particularly in dealing with issues of modernity and tradition.
I've got to mention Setsuko Hara,the whole cast are very good but Hara is outstanding in the role of Michiyo where she gets to portray a much wider range than the very restrained roles she's most famous for in Ozu's films.

Despite it's box office success it seems to be considered by some critics now as a slightly lesser film in Naruse's oeuvre,if so there must be some real treasures in store as his films begin to appear on dvd with English subs for the first time.A very enjoyable film which has really whetted my appetite for more of Naruse's work.

Jasiri
 
Naruse's microscope focuses on a work-weary, love-weary suburban couple. Their relationship has deteriorated into almost non-existence. The husband, Hatsunosuke (Uehara) and his dutiful wife, Michiyo (Hara) have lost virtually all sense of a proper relationship, consigning themselves to a dull acceptance of emotional survival and nothing more. Hatsunosuke's job in an office pays adequately but holds no great propects. He seems to float through his life not expecting anything else to be better or worse than his mundane job, often neglecting his wife's needs for appreciation, affection or praise. What little he says holds very little weight. Michiyo is in much the same position but her awareness is much more acute. With this Naruse explores the limits of such a relationship by the arrival in the couple's home of Hatsunosuke's niece Satoko. Being a vibrant and impulsive young girl, Satoko immediately catches the attention of her uncle. This connection rightly upsets Michiyo and she's forced to confront the real nature of her relationship with her husband. What is common among many of the films of Naruse is an underlying pessimism towards life, but instead of wallowing in self pity Naruse uses this pessimism to tackle issues head on. He represents them with all the dignity of reality, refusing to offer a nice easy way out. It's this personal touch with which Repast is graced. People are real, detailed and full of nuances, and because of this the film is riddled with emotional undercurrents, not least evoked with great skill by it's three lead performers. 
Chris_scott01.


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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 #: 61
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:16:53 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005

 

 
Sonatine (Kitano, 1993)
 
The final film in Takeshi Kitano's unofficial Yakuza Trilogy, Sonatine isn't as bleak as Violent Cop or Boiling Point, though it still maintains the undeniably nihilistic streak that the other two weren't afraid to flaunt, and once again it deals with the theme of the circularity and inescapibility of violence, though it's more of a footnote to the gangster genre deconstruction and the social commentary on Japan's stuffy, reserved personality than the main event. Telling the tale of Murakawa, a successful Tokyo gangster who's sent to Okinawa by his boss to mediate in a territorial scuffle, but finds himself being set up, the film starts off fairly conventionally, the tone deadpan (the scene in which he accidentally drowns a hold-out in his area while trying to make a point to him is hilarious, if simply for Kitano's facial expression, which pretty much says, "Oh...well, that wasn't meant to happen") and the shocking, abrupt violence of Kitano's gangster films there in spades. However, when Murakawa and his cohorts retreat to a beachhouse in the middle of nowhere to escape heat, the film moves into genre-breaking, funny, endearing territory, as they revert to pranks and games to pass the time and generally break down their stoic killer personas. This may well be the best example of the humanisation of the gangster in cinema history (even better than Goodfellas in this regard), and Kitano's stunning visual sense and almost Godardian filming style, Joe Hisaishi's evocative and simple score, and the great performances from all involved, including a very impressive Kitano, combine to carry out this humanisation, this deconstruction of the genre, in perfect style. It also means that, when the typical Kitano violence does occur, it's a lot more shocking and ugly than it would be, because of the way the characters switch between their 'stoic killer' persona and their real selves while on the job (it's much better than in Pulp Fiction, which attempts the same but fails, as the only difference between Vincent and Jules on the job and Vincent and Jules off the job - and Tarantino makes this distinction - is that Vincent and Jules off the job aren't waving their guns about). Sure, the pacing's still punishing, and the token female character in this seems a bit superfluous, but it's otherwise an excellent way to finish off the Yakuza Trilogy.
Pigeon Army.

Kitano Takeshi stars as Murakawa, a successful Tokyo yakuza captain who is farmed out to Okinawa, ostensibly to mediate between two warring gangs. He finds only a small scale dispute, but an attack on his men drives them to a hideout on the coast.

Whilst the film is still a gritty yakuza drama, and undoubtedly contains some dark and violent scenes, it has a lighter tone than Kitano's earlier works, Violent Cop and Boiling Point. This is partially a result of Kitano's character, who a little more human, not quite as psychotically unpredictable as in those films. Only slightly, though – he witnesses a rape, but rather than intervene, he walks by. Only when the perpetrator squares up to him, does Murakawa react. His subsequent relationship with the victim the result of a skewed form of "white knight syndrome".

It's also partially to do with the second act, as Murakawa and his men spend time hiding out by the sea.

In contrast to their normal yakuza activities, they pass the time playing games and pranks, (Frisbee, human-toy sumo, digging holes in the sand and luring people to fall into them etc). However, the fun is often tainted with violent undertones, the gang lifestyle they can't fully escape from - Murakawa and Ken (Terajima Susumu) fire live rounds at the frisbee, like a clay pigeon; Murakawa, Ken and Ryoji (Katsumura Masanobu) play Russian Roulette; amid a fireworks battle, Murakawa gleefully pulls out his gun and starts shooting in the direction of his opponents.

And of course, the time comes when the fun must end, gang members are killed off, and Murakawa goes looking for revenge.

One of my favourite Kitano films, filled with his trademark stylings, and a turning point between his very dark early outings and his later, more serene pieces.

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 #: 62
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:18:40 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005

 

 
Ringu (Nakata, 1998)
 
The film opens with two teenage girls talking about an urban legend of a cursed videotape, after watching it the viewer receives a mysterious phonecall and then they die a week later.  Then one of the girls, Tomoko, reveals that a week ago, she too watched a strange tape and received a mysterious phone call. She then dies, killed by a mysterious unseen force. Tomoko's aunt, Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) is a journalist investigating the supposedly cursed video. She finds that Tomoko's friends who also saw the video died on the same night in the same strange fashion. Reiko finds they teens stayed in a rental cabin and finds a copy of the video there. As soon as she watches it, she too gets a phone call and now has a week to find out how to defeat the curse. Helped by her ex-husband Ryuji, they track down the secret of the tape to a small island where they discover the tragic history of a young girl, Sadako.

When I first saw it I was expecting to see the cursed video to be trying too hard to be spooky or sinister, instead it plays like a nightmarish Maya Deren short and it's surprisingly effective. There's an overwhelming fear of communications media in the film. The curse is spread through video tapes and phone calls and our lead character works in the media, the curse of the film falling on her feels almost like punishment for her profession. You can read this fear of aspects of the modern world almost as a current reworking of old horror fears of prying too far and being punished for doing so. Curiosity leads people to watch the video in the first place and they're punished for doing so. Ring led to the explosion of J-horror in the west, but the western influence on Ring is obvious. Nakata admits to being influenced by the likes of The Haunting or The Changeling,  but you can find precursors for Sadako in the work of M.R. James, the influence of Casting the Runes seems obvious, but it also owes a bit of a debt to A School Story. It's a genuinely brilliant film, well-written and acted, atmospheric, with at least one scene destined to be remembered as one of the scariest moments of all time. It's one of the best horrors of the last 20 years. There was a remake, but it's best to treat it like the cursed video itself, avoid watching it. 
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 #: 63
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:26:38 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Woman Of The Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964)
SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: An entomologist finds himself trapped by a tribe of villagers and forced to live with a woman in an escape-proof sandpit.

Niki Jumpei is an entomologist on vacation in a remote region of Japan. He's collecting specimens from the insect population in the hopes of discovering a new species. He misses the last bus home and is offered shelter by a poor village. He is taken to a sand dune where a rope ladder leads him down to a house, in the house he meets a young woman who gives him food and shelter for the night. He finds out that her job is to shovel sand while digging for a water supply, the sand is then removed by the locals and sold illegally, in exchange the locals give her food and water. He also finds out her family were killed by the sand. In the morning he finds the rope ladder gone and himself trapped with the woman and ordered to help her, in exchange he gets sexual favours from her as well as food and water.

So if you haven't seen it then this film probably sounds like just another weird entry in my list and it would be foolish to deny that the film falls firmly into the category marked 'odd'. But it's so much more than that. Woman of the Dunes has an offbeat and timeless feel that lifts it above being mere oddity and into the realms of a genuine classic. For a start, despite its at times dreamlike aura, it's one of the most extraordinarily physical films ever made, the contrast between the shifting sands and the lovers bodies contains more intense eroticism than most pornographic movies could ever dream of. Add to that the unrelenting and oppressive feel of the film brought about by the claustrophobia of the ever-shifting sands, sands that have so much life and presence to them that they nearly become a character in their own right.

The film also has an existential quality that places it close to the work of the likes of Kafka or Camus. Teshigahara draws upon the myth of Sisyphus to create an allegory for life and for the effects of capitalism on humans. Niki craves recognition to validate his life, feeling that he can only really be worthwhile once he's achieved something in his chosen field. The villagers just do what they can to survive, the woman's existence is spent shoveling sand, as he asks at one point, is she living to shovel or shoveling to live? It's implied that neither lifestyle is more worthwhile and that they're more similar than the man would probably care to admit. They're both trapped in ultimately futile endeavours, each trying to reach a goal that's probably always going to be beyond them.

In recognition for his work on this complex and sensual film, Teshigahara was nominated for best director at the Oscars. He lost to Robert Wise for The Sound Of Music.

Rawlinson
 
A beautifully shot,slow moving and hypnotic film.The plot is very basic but the real interest is bubbling just under the surface.Again it's a collaboration with Kobo Abe and Toru Takemitsu and as in Pitfall Takemitsu's sparse soundtrack really adds to the film.

The dvd from BFI looks pretty good and I'm tempted to get my own copy but with rumours of a Criterion release I'd rather hold off and see.BFI really need to take a look at themselves,they have an impressive catalogue of films but seem to have no interest outside of just banging out vanilla discs with no mind to print quality and charging as much as they can.
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 #: 64
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:26:41 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




An Autumn Afternoon (Ozu, 1962)

Ozu's final film was this melancholy masterpiece. As always with the great director, the plotline is simple, an elderly widower has to adjust and allow his adult daughter to leave home. But it's not the story that's important, it's the characters Shuhei Hirayama (Chisu Ryu) Hirayama has an adult, unmarried daughter, Michiko (Shima Iwashita) who has taken care of him since his wife died. He's reluctant to let her fly the nest because both Hirayama and his youngest son have come to rely on her too much, but a meeting with a former teacher convinces him of the dangers of his selfishness. The film feels as much about the supporting characters and their impact on Hirayama's decisions as it does about the father/daughter relationship. Also, it feels as if Ozu is equally as interested in the changing Japan, there's an increasing Western influence showing on Japanese society and this comes up in conversation in the film. It has the air of a swansong, it may not have intentionally been Ozu's goodbye film, but it feels like the great man taking stock of his obsessions and his career to that date. Chisu Ryu and Shima Iwashita are wonderful as the father and daughter in this tranquil and beautiful film.
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 #: 65
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 19/3/2011 3:26:43 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Departures (Takita, 2008)

I went into this not knowing really what to expect, and came out absolutely blown away. I'm glad everyone else in the cinema stayed behind, because I needed a bit of time to gather myself. Departures, the 2009 Foreign Language Oscar winner, is a tour-de-force of subtlety, of grace, of ritual, music, passion, a celebration of life and an acceptance of death, of family, friends. It's a range that one might baulk at trying to express in film, but which this does effortlessly, and with such beauty. And humour.

In brief then, this film follows Daigo Kobayashi (unrelated to the test...), a cellist who finds himself without an orchestra, and in search of a job. Answering an advert for what he thinks is a travel agency, he starts working for a company that deals with the ritual "encoffinment" of bodies. While those around him, and initially he himself, find the idea repulsive, grotesque, and unclean, he begins to find it peaceful, and affecting in a way he never expected.

Intertwined with this burgeoning career is an exploration of Daigo's early relationship with his father, the subsequent unexplained paternal absence, and a heartbreaking subplot involving stones which is less bizarre than that sounds. While others may accuse the story of being too obviously signposted, I in my never-seeing-plot-twists frame of mind just enjoyed it as it happened. Special mention must go to Ryoko Hirosue, who played Daigo's wife Mika with such intense subtlety, that huge swathes of emotion were felt from the merest narrowing of her glistening eyes, or the slightest twitch of her lips.

So, what we are left with is a paeon to life and love. The poignancy in the film is tangible, and the very visible manner in which death is affirmed is so terribly un-British there can be no equivalent here. The film is quintessentially Japanese, and yet never alienates - its tenderness transcends race and nationality and speaks to one's heart.
HomerSimpson_Esq

 
"Departures” tells the story of Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a musician in Tokyo who has finally managed to land himself an orchestra job. It's just his luck, though, that said orchestra goes bust soon after, and he's left with an expensive cello that he hasn't paid for, no job, and a limited amount of talent. So, he picks up sticks and goes home, and – after a hilarious misunderstanding, as the Conchords would say – soon ends up as the assistant of a casketing business. There are a smattering of negatives within "Departures”; the over-simplifying voiceover, the supporting cast (most notably the second rate funeral attendees, who ham it up to the best of their ability), and the initial funeral - involving the old, family-less woman - which is almost played for jokes. But they aren't worth dwelling upon, because "Departures” is a film that defies academic criticism. It's a film about a son needing a father, finding a replacement, but still yearning for the socially enforced bond between a father and a son. There's a major hole in the character, which can only be filled by the presence of his dad, but the circumstance of their parting leaves things irredeemable. Over the course of the two hour runtime, we see Daigo grow so much as a person, but there is always a cap there, always a limit to how fulfilled he can be. The theme of family, particularly paternal bonds, is one that runs deep through the film's core. I saw this film with my own father, and not only is it a reminder that such an unspoken bond is important in the functioning of any life, but also the key emotional drive of pretty much every character within the film. The emotion stems from Masahiro Motoki's performance, which is sublime. After a few jitters at the start (his reaction to the band's dissolving is ridiculously overplayed), he settles into the role for the long haul, delivering an incredibly assured and confident performance as a man riddled by repressed regret and accusations of societal subversion. He slowly loses everything – his old job, his shiny new cello, his wife – before gaining so much more, and the way that Takata builds and builds and builds until the final moment, which is so clichéd yet so brilliant, where all of this frustration is let out in a fit of emotional jubilation. I don't think it's possible to stray into hyperbole with this ending; it's so simple yet so powerful, and the whole film feels like it's been leading up to this moment of release, where all apprehensions are finally washed away. It is a finale that will leave you moved, and if it doesn't you don't have a heart or a brain, and no amount of yellow brick roads will save you.
Piles
 
Daigo's orchestra folds. Selling his cello he heads back to his hometown and inadvertently ends up working for a company that prepare bodies to be casketed.

I was somewhat surprised by this. My fault – I'd expected something more serene, more meditative (something like Les Maisons en Petits Cubes, in fact). The first scene – which moves from a grieving family to what is basically a dick joke – put paid to that. Some of the quirks on the humour side reminded me a bit of Imamura's sense of humour. Some nice single shots (the cream over the nose as he tries to breath, the inability to see his father's face) although it doesn't go for the now rather clichéd Oscar baiting type landscape photography – although there is some beautiful countryside around the town the colours are often quite flat and in the mist and snow almost a matt palate seems to be being used. Very great care has been taken in being respectful to the ceremonies that are being performed– it was based on a the biography of a 'Buddhist Mortician' and apparently took years to put together and complete, including the lead learning how to play cello.

The film deals with many themes. Parents and children – his father left, he wasn't there when his mother died. This links into his growing relationship with his father-figure boss (the kidnapper from High and Low! – a nice and understated performance) and the link to his past is provided by the lady who runs the local baths. Death and transition, moving and settling into his new life. The ceremonies themselves were generally very affecting – the conveyance of grief is well-done with some excellent individual performances. It isn't perfect though - he seems curiously unbothered by his wife's departure and does nothing to hasten her return, and no real reason is given as to why.

Some parts I didn't quite get – people repeatedly act as if there is something wrong with the job – the word 'unclean' is used at one point. But while appreciating there is a taboo around death in Japan we were previously told that before specialists took it over this was what the family did for their departed loved ones – and there really wasn't anything anyone outside that culture could take to understand what happened to make it a problem.

I really liked the film and that it was very well done but I must confess my bafflement at its Oscar win. But perhaps, this year, the voters wanted something just a little gentler.
Elab49





Infernal Affairs II  (Lau/Mak, 2003) 

My 100th film of the year  was a good 'un - IA2, a prequel to the excellent Infernal Affairs. Mrs 123 liked the first one enough to say she wouldn't mind watching the second and third films, but something like 3 years later and we still haven't got round to doing it, so I finally took the leap on my Jonesome.

The film has a strong plot and nicely realistic feel, and once again features great performances from Eric Tsang and Anthony Wong. It doesn't quite reach the heights of the first one, for 3 reasons - 1) Shawn Yue is no Tony Leung, and Edison Chen is no Andy Lau, though at least there was some vague lookalikey quality (especially as the film progressed and Chen's hair got spikier and Yue grew a gitty little 'tache). Both put in ok performances, and despite Chen being fairly average (or fairly mute) in most things I've seen him in, there is something about him I like. 2) This being a prequel, the tension in certain scenes was lost because of what we know from the original IA. We know, for example, that a certain character must survive, as we saw his older self in the previous film. 3) It felt slightly overlong. At a little over an hour in, the film came to a point where you thought, "aye aye, the end is nigh!", but in fact it was still another hour away. There's not even much I'd suggest should be trimmed, and certainly much of the meatiest acting goes on after that point, so I might be asking for the moon on a stick there. Maybe on re-watch the length won't be an issue.

I've heard the third film is a bit of a step down - is that so? A quick scan of the cast list tells me Leung and Lau are back, and Yue and Chen are also in it, so it clearly has some action in two different time periods. That could be it's downfall, I guess, though depending how they've done it, it could be a positive. Will try to watch it soon....

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 #: 66
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:14:34 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Early Summer (Ozu, 1951)
 
Early Summer is the middle film in what is called the 'Noriko Trilogy' – each starring Setsuko Hara and examining the changing family relationships between generations often by focussing on her character often in context with Chishu Ryu playing, respectively, her father, her brother and her father in law.
 
Here, Noriko is the unmarried daughter of the family. Urged by all to make a match the family focus on an older man recommended to them but it is clear that Noriko is unhappy with the suggestion but goes along with the discussions to keep the peace. When she finally does make a decision the situation comes as close to open conflict in an Ozu as you are often likely to see.
 
Where several Ozu will end with a final parting – the daugher to an unseen husband, or returning to Tokyo in the final part of the trilogy, here the family seems to split more widely with the older parents leaving, as well as Noriko. . It might just be the convenience of using a home with three generations instead of the normal two, but it suggests, to me, a slightly wider break in the normal family relations than we saw in Late Spring  – there deceit is used to push the younger generation on to their own lives but it was the norm of the child leaving home to a family of her own. This breech will be pushed even further in Tokyo Story as family responsibilities are almost entirely reneged upon.
 
Even with that, the beautifully composed scenes with the parents now in retirement (as well as Noriko's reconciliation with her mother), do indicate a return to the normal cycle of the family in Japanese life, as even with the wrong choice Noriko has now fulfilled her role within the family.
Elab49
 
 


Zatoichi (Kitano, 2003)

Zatoichi is – as the subtitle would suggest – a blind swordsman, and one who has stumbled across a helpless town that is inhabited by a band of rugged, ruthless clansmen. In the spirit of Yojimbo, Zatoichi – joined by two siblings out for revenge against the clan's leader - takes up the position as the town's protector and, eventually, saviour. In today's climate of CGI infested, bloated blockbusters, it's quite refreshing to see an action film that is as intelligent as it is enjoyable. A film about the absurdity of revenge as much as it is a testament to the necessity of it, "Zatoichi” is a film that wins out thanks to its pacing. Yes, it's slower than most films (well, certainly slower than most action films of a similar time), but there's a mood and an atmosphere about it. This wonderfully executed pace gives the film an unpredictability; the quick, unexpected flashes of extreme violence can come at just about any time. Another thing to commend is Kitano's superb performance as Zatoichi. Almost mute and always brooding, the performance has a remarkable resemblance to Beat Takeshi's performance in "Hana-Bi” (which is, as of yet, the only other of his films I've seen), but what is more remarkable is that this resemblance is only drawn hours after the film has finished. So charismatic is Kitano as a performer that he is able to truly inhabit the role and become so believable, even though he is doing – to be completely honest – very little different to what he's doing in "Hana-Bi”. It's struggles slightly in the middle section, where things become slightly samey for about a half hour stretch. The two hour running time, it seems, is slightly too much for the concept to take, and the film is slightly damaged by the narrative's inability to stretch. Still, there's much to like, and the whole thing is superbly shot (particularly the siblings' flashback scene, which was surely influenced by a similar scene in Ichikawa's "An Actor's Revenge”) by a director I look forward to becoming better acquainted with.

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.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 67
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:19:41 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
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Save the Green Planet (Jang, 2003)

Extremely good Korean film whose central character is convincingly mad, believing that certain key people in his life are aliens, an excuse for their capture and torture – the teacher who bullied him, the CEO of the company where his mother was hurt. The film starts with the kidnap of this final victim – the brilliant Yun-Shik Baek who spends most of the film in spangly red underpants and occasionally with a dress on, a victim who uses his intelligence and convinces us he really did have the brains to get as big in business as he did, finally telling a story that touches on both 2001 and Usual Suspects!
Even better than his performance is that of Ha-Kyun Shin as the disturbed young man who kidnaps him and who, just occasionally, seems to touch on sanity and understand the real reason he is doing what it is he does.

What I haven't mentioned so far is the film is often quite bonkers and really quite funny with the oddest ending that isn't as out of place as you might think – Korean corporate activity does not get a good press here. We see the kind of attack that the main characters in films like The Show Must Go On hand out from the other side, with a brutal attack on protesters that results in one girl's death.
Elab49
 
 


Spring in a Small Town (Fei, 1948)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A love triangle between an unhappy woman, her invalid husband and his best friend.

An adaptation of a short story by Li Tianji, Spring in a Small Town tells the story of Zhou Yuwen, a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage to Dai Liyan. He suffers from tuberculosis and as a result they've drifted apart to the point where they've become strangers, with her being little more than his nurse maid. One day Zhang Zhichen, a man she loved as a young girl, visits their house, he was a close friend of Dai Liyan and they haven't seen each other in many years, during which time he has become a successful doctor. The visit reignites old feelings for both Zhou Yuwen and Zhang Zhichen and kickstarts the central love-triangle. Dai Liyan wants to arrange a marriage between Zhang and his little sister Mei, but the possibilities for an affair between Zhang and Zhou keep presenting themselves until even Dai begins to suspect their feelings for each other.

Spring in a Small Town is concerned with the changing eras and the characters are lost between the principles of the past and the present, expertly realised by the house itself, the finery of the inside hasn't been touched by the devastation that has ruined the outside. This acts as a perfect metaphor for the self-sacrificing characters. On the outside the world has changed and they should be able to follow their hearts to what makes them happy, but they are so loyal to the ideals of the past that they find themselves conflicted and torn by what they want and what's appropriate. As suppressed emotions bubble closer to the surface the house and the film become more claustrophobic as the audience waits for one or all of the lead quartet to reach breaking point.

What Spring offers us, and why it is often acclaimed as the greatest Chinese film of all time, is a lyrical but complex look at the way life and love often doesn't lead us to the places we expect or desire. It's a very subtle film that doesn't allow the actors or the characters to indulge in melodramatics and more importantly, it doesn't pass judgement on any of them or their decisions. Combine that with one of the strongest female leads of the era and you have a remarkable piece of cinema, one fully deserving of the high regard its held in.
Rawlinson

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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 #: 68
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:31:15 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Drunken Master II (Lau, 1994)

Blurb to come.

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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 #: 69
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:31:23 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 2002) 
 
The first of the loose 'Love and Honour' series, Twilight Samurai is easily the best of the three. A wonderful evocation of a period that normally has the background stuff glossed over - we might see the ritual and the fighting but we don't see the context for lower rank samurai living their lives. Here we see a demonstration that samurai was a rank and encompassed fighting-trained retainers, not just warriors – clerks, beancounters, all had samurai rank. Although Iguchi Seibei is a trained (and skilled) swordsman, he is of low rank and works as a stores clerk. Poorly-off he doesn't gad about like his fellow clerks, but enjoys a home life with his 2 beloved young daughters, and faces the difficulty of dealing with an increasingly senile mother while doing piecework to earn extra cash. And he actually seems rather happy with this – his role as a family man suits him more, a character too intelligent and thoughtful for his role in life; he wants nothing more than to see his daughters grow up safe and happy.

The film is set at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate – rumblings are beginning in Edo and a little more martial training seems to be taking place. Back home there is a succession crisis in Seibei's clan that results in him being ordered to kill a disowned retainer who has refused to take his own life. His abilities were noted when he acted to defend a friend's honour from the bullying ex-husband of the young woman he secretly loves.

Yamada's film creates a wonderful sense of a living clan – a community of retainers of various ranks and abilities, and differing interests. The relaxed homelife of Seibei and his family is quite a contrast to that generally presented in the type of film we'd expect with the word 'samurai' in the title – there is little formality, although the rituals are still there, particularly before he heads off on his appointed task, and the strict rank stratification rears its head in the romantic subplot. But Yamada breathes life into a world you can believe in. And at its heart is a superb performance by Hiroyuki Sanada as Seibei Iguchi. Sadly now playing out his career in 3rd rate Hollywood films and a stint on Lost, his was one of the great leading performances of the last decade giving us a character equally at home with his children as well as the desperation in fighting to the death against a man trying to persuade him that the real world shouldn't be bound by the rules they all have to live by, and death shouldn't be an automatic choice because you bet on the wrong horse.

Twilight Samurai was followed by Hidden Blade, which was broadly the same story (reasonably well done with the standout scene the demonstration of the title), and then Love and Honour, where a taster is blinded in service – the film examines the life of a young man unable to maintain his role, and the attitude of clan and family.

 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 #: 70
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:31:33 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Oasis (Lee, 2002)
 
Lee Chang-dong's 3rd film is a tragic, thought-provoking, and at times difficult love story, between a pair of marginalised people, Hong Jong-du, a man with a mental illness / learning disability and Han Gong-ju, a house-bound young woman with cerebral palsy. The pair are clearly seen as a burden, and their respective family members quickly use and abandon them. Jong-du is a former prisoner, having just completed a sentence for a crime that was actually committed by his brother. An ill-conceived desire to apologise to the victims of an accident results in a chance meeting with Gong-ju.

After a disturbing and harrowing scene in which Jong-du takes advantage of the largely immobile Gong-ju, she unexpectedly invites him to return. Despite this grim start, their ensuing relationship blossoms, until their families hear of it and become deeply troubled by it.

The film makes comment on how society treats people with disabilities, from the initial exploitation and neglect to a failure to comprehend the couple's love and objection to its continuation. They are familial and societal outcasts, and are consequently left to their own devices, leaving them isolated and trapped. Yet in each other's company, they are briefly able to transcend the confines of their circumstances and of their illnesses.

The performances from Sol Kung-gu and Moon So-ri are superb, particularly Moon's depiction of a cerebral palsy sufferer, which is so convincing that when we see her imagining herself able-bodied, it comes as a surprise that the actress herself is not afflicted with the illness.

A moving, provocative and heartrending film.

Gram23.

Oasis (2002) is the most difficult of the first 3 films to watch, essentially because Lee goes from damaged to disabled protagonists. We've already seen a character with, presumably, cerebral palsy as part of a secure family unit in Green Fish. Here the character is essentially used by her family to get a better life for themselves (and the male lead is equally poorly used). The lead is a young man who has some unspecific mental disability – he behaves much younger than he is, has no impulse control. Going to apologise for apparently knocking down and killing the father of a girl with cerebral palsy he becomes interested in her. We’re never comfortable with this as a viewer – his first arrest has already told us he has been charged with attempted rape – does he see an easy victim? His first interaction seems to confirm that. But for some reason she recontacts him – reaction to her family? It isn’t quite clear. But he does seem to have been the only outside point of contact she has had for a very long time as she has no life at all outside her apartment. A relationship of sorts starts but when they are caught he is arrested again, and jailed after an escaping to give her a gift.

Cerebral palsy is always a terrifying disease – the notion of being trapped in a body that won't do what you tell it, surrounded by idiots who think you're mentally incapable too. And we know Gong-ju is intelligent. She corrects Jong-du’s history and spends her day listening to the radio, her only real contact with the outside world. She can also communicate understandably. So-ri Moon’s performance is very good (as is Sol Kyung-Gu’s) but not quite convincing enough for such a severe physical disablement and it doesn’t help that Lee chooses to include fantasy sequences where she is physically able, which although an affecting part of the film, unfortunately serve to remind us we are watching a performance.

And the ending is a problem. While I understand there are issues around families’ inability to deal with the sexuality of the disabled, and a tendency to infantilise, we are expected to believe that she couldn’t at some point communicate the truth to her neighbour. Or even that at least the younger brother chose not to bother mentioning she had attended a family event without any distress. But this film is concerned mainly with communication it seems and slightly unconvincing though the ending is the theme is at least consistent.

Oh, and we do get our train. Gong-Ju’s taste of freedom on a trip to a family event. Watching the strangers around them leads to the first fantasy sequence. It isn’t entirely clear whose it is – either or both? I’d think initially or mainly hers – her wish to be like other people in normal relationships. But he dreams of her dancing, so it isn’t entirely one-sided.
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 #: 71
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:31:42 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Miyazaki, 1986)

Miyazaki's 1986 fantasy plays out the tale of Sheeta and Pazu, two young kids who find themselves fighting against rowdy pirates and shady government agents in order to protect Sheeta and the crystal trinket she possesses. In many ways, Laputa feels like a prototype for the Miyazaki films that would come after, be it in the character models (pirate captain Mama looks a lot like Spirited Away's Yubaba, some of the pirates look unerringly like the pirates in Porco Rosso, and one kid in Pazu's home town is the spitting image of Ponyo) or the film's narrative aspects (air-borne pirates much like those in Porco Rosso; an otherworldly ecosystem much like that which Ponyo brings on Sasuke's little port town). It even recycles some basic themes and elements from Nausicaa (the relationship between Sheeta and Pazu plays out as a version of Nausicaa's and Asbel's only without the initial distrust between the two; the environmental themes of that film come back with a vengeance once Laputa floats into view), and it suffers in this regard, as it invites comparison with these films more than any other Ghibli I've watched so far, and it doesn't manage those elements as well as the films that share them. That said, however, Laputa is a far more magical affair, driven by two immediately likable young protagonists and filled to the brim with action, adventure, humour and drama. Miyazaki's animation is predictably exquisite, with the titular castle in the sky being a breath-taking piece of animation in itself, and the characters are all excellently realised, particularly those of Mama's pirate crew and the mysterious government agent Muska (given a menacing calmness by Minori Terada; and of the bits of the English dub I watched, Mark Hamill's portrayal of Muska is equally great, and the only thing about that dub that looks appealing). The plot can sometimes feel like it's just throwing things into the pot when it needs them (the big reveal involving Muska being the most egregious), but it's still engaging enough and entertaining enough to overcome that flaw, and it definitely captures a certain spark that I felt was missing from the Porco Rosso and Nausicaa. Laputa may feel a bit cobbled together and slapdash, but it's immensely appealing nonetheless.

Pigeon Army


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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 #: 72
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:37:01 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
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Joint Security Area (JSA) (Park, 2000)

The border between North and South Korea isn't some minor crossing but a demilitarized zone overlooked by neutral nations and the US with a ceremonial garb toe to toe who's got the biggest weapons pile face off. The main protagonists here – soldiers on either side of the divide – first face each other here and later occupy respective lookouts either side of a bridge linking north and south. By that time, however, Lee (Lee), Oh (Song) and Jeong (Shin) have established a tentative relationship after the latter two save Lee from a landmine. Taking a chance Lee crosses the bridge to make friends and is eventually followed by Nam (Kim). But things inevitably go wrong.

The film is structured round a neutral investigation into exactly what happened in the hut on the northern side that left Lee and Oh wounded and Jeong dead. Swiss-Korean Major Jean (Lee) leads the investigation trying to force the survivors past a clearly fake set of depositions.

For us in the west this is really Park's first feature although he does have a couple of earlier unavailable ones on his CV. Writing with, among others, a fellow contributor to Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Park is clearly playing tricks with the viewer. Some beautifully shot earlier scenes in the relationship (in the snow or that gorgeously coloured field at night) lead us to believe in hope – although they deal with the idea of defecting early on with pat patriotism, north and south are coming together in friendship and humour. But when the shit hits the fan, trust does too. In this sense it is a deeply cynical take on the possible future of north and south, irrespective of any overtures, even if the bond between north and south remains unbreakable.

Lee's character is the most interesting of the four because there is clearly something odd going on in there. A respected soldier, he breaks down on the landmine, perhaps understandably. You get the impression that he actively tries to sell his competence to the other men, aided by his skill with a gun but there is a lot left unexplained too. Why the need to cross the bridge in the first place, to take that step? Or the unusual relationship with his fellow soldier, even dating his sister a couple of times. And is he lying to himself as much as he is to the others because he just couldn't deal with actually doing what a soldier is supposed to do? The performance is excellent, but so are the other three. Song is the experienced soldier with scars from fighting for the communist cause worldwide. His character, Oh, seems more tempted into the friendship partly because of that – at the end of a long career you begin to question the point of all the killing. And also because their superior is basically a dick. He excels in the scene where they are brought face to face and action needs to be taken to keep the story straight. Shin Ha-Kyun isn't as well known in the west but as the nice, and slightly emotional Jeong he's the heart of the relationship here and with later roles in films like Save the Green Planet and The Game, the equal of the acting talent on display.

With touches homaging Hitchcock, in tone, structure and music, and at times a laugh out loud  script (why is it two of the funniest moments in Korean films of the noughties are accompanied by the words 'we're fucked!'), and wonderful performances, Park's first feature to the reach the west is cynical, sometimes sweet, looks fantastic (I also love the opening shots from the owl to the cabin and then gunfire), is very funny and occasionally cruel (see the last shot and particularly Jeong's grin). So, very much what we expect from Park then.

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 #: 73
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:43:19 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Audition (Miike, 1999)
 
Over a decade since he lost his wife, Aoyama is beginning to feel the tolls of being alone. Sure, he still has his son (who is becoming interested in women himself), but now the thought of remarrying is becoming tempting. But he is too old to date, and wishes he could find the perfect woman at his first attempt. But how does one do that? He knows he can't really trust first impressions, as they can be quite deceiving, but he doesn't know exactly how true that fact is. Before the film is over, he will have learned that first impressions mean nothing, and that they sometimes might be much more than just deceiving.

Aoyama has a friend who is a movie producer, and who invites him to tag along to an audition. If he finds someone he likes, Aoyama can call that girl. He doesn't need to go through the rigorous process of dating. The audition will tell him everything he needs to know about her (that's what he thinks, at least). As it turns out, he finds someone he likes: the quiet and reserved Asami, who seems like the ideal woman for him. She used to be a ballerina, but had to quit due to an accident. Aoyama is impressed with her sorrow of having to quit dancing; not because he wants her to be miserable, but because she recognizes that she has a true passion for something.

Horror movies are not often nominated in the Hall of Fame. I felt it was about time that changed, and Audition is the perfect choice to lead that change. While it is not always a pleasant experience to watch, it is, contrary to what some people might think, an extremely well-made movie. It is a film that seems contradictory: on the surface, it is an artistic film, but it also not afraid to go to lengths usually reserved more exploitive films. Audition isn't necessarily a video nasty turned into art, but there are times while watching it that this description seems a bit fitting nonetheless. But more than anything, it is a tool to help you remember. For, you see, if you have forgotten how to feel, it will make sure you never forget.
Dante's Inferno





Hana Bi (Kitano, 1997) 
 
My only previous Kitano experiences were Zatoichi and Brother. I really liked Zatoichi and found Brother to be a flawed, yet somewhat wonderful mess. I also saw him in Battle Royale, giving an excellent, entertaining and memorable performance as the President of the reality show. Still, none of those, maybe Brother, could have prepared me for this; a poetic, beautiful, magical, emotional, powerful and violent film (well maybe villent was to be expected). Kitano (who also directs and edits) is Nishi, a stone-cold and at times very violent cop who at the same time is a broken, weak and hurt man, suffering from the deaths of his child, colleages and the approaching one of his wife. It's a film about broken poeple. Ren Osugi gives a great performance gives a great performance as one of his colleages, Horibe, left paralyzed and is left abandoned by his wife and child. It is an intense performance. emotionally it is intense, characters proving to be complex in their behaviours and feelings, and the Jo Hisaishi soundtrack portrays these emotions well, and since most of the characters have their emotions or thoughts muted by the lack and singular use of dialouge, it gives them the voice. It has a peculiar narrative and presentation with a strange presentation of images and symbols. It does seem to become pretentious in one scene were paintings are shown while Horibe is staring at flowers, but only that once. It can mean inspiritation but the scene is too long and almost breaks the reflexive, serene pacing that graces the film. Wonderful also is the relationship between Nishi and his wife, wordless but full of emotions. Its quite touching, and actions speak more than words. Oh, and when it is violent, it is hellish. -
Deviation.
 
The majority of non-film fans will know Takeshi Kitano as the count controlling "Takeshi's Castle”, even if they are unaware that his name is Takeshi Kitano. I was once one of these people, too, and although I've been aware of him as a director, writer, and actor, it's taken me quite a while to watch one of his films. "Hana-Bi” was the introduction I've been waiting for. It tells the story of Nishi (Kitano), an ex-policeman who has a wife with leukaemia and a guilty conscience. Both a character study and a narrative film, "Hana-Bi” is a subtle, excellent drama with a handful of fine performances, imagery, and symbolism. The pictures that Nishi's wheelchair-bound friend paints are something quite special, brimming with a quirky, naturalistic talent and intense symbolism. A recurring motif in the film is the opposing image between nature, birth, or re-creation, and agents of destruction, a motif regularly re-visited by these intelligent little pictures, which see bats with tulips for heads or lions with faces made up of sunflowers. Kitano's direction is also sublime, with an early jump cut between a cigarette lighting up and a gun spark devastating in its effect. It's a shocking, startling cut, and one which Kitano uses quite wonderfully. The writing is also perfect, unfolding on itself to reveal a quite maniacal central character whose one intention in later-life is to give his cancer-ridden wife one final memory. The fact that Kitano's character barely speaks throughout the running time, yet manages to convey such emotion and feeling, is really quite admirable, and that's down to both Kitano's superb writing and his superb performance. The finale is also worthy of note. It's the final recurrence of that re-appearing motif, with the image of the waves lapping up on a picture perfect beach contrasted with the devastating sound of deadly gunfire. Not only is it intelligent, but it's strangely moving and affecting, too, much like the rest of the film.
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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Post #: 74
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 24/3/2011 8:44:57 PM   
elab49


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Kwaidan (Kobayashi, 1964)
 
Kwaidan is a phenomenal Japanese horror anthology based on the short stories of Lafacadio Hearn. There are four stories in the film, each involving some kind of supernatural encounter. Black Hair is the tale of a samurai who is so desperate for wealth that he deserts his wife, only to find himself drawn back to his home many years later. The Woman of the Snow is the best of the bunch, an often told story about a young man whose life is spared by a snow spirit, as long as he promises to never tell anyone about meeting her. Hoichi the Earless, a story of a blind biwa player called by spirits to recite the tale of an epic battle. In the last tale, In a Cup of Tea sees a samurai guard haunted by a face that appears in pools of water. Kwaidan is a lyrical and evocative film where the line between the real world and the supernatural one is only seperated by a very fine line. The art direction is breathtaking and the film is shot in vivid colours, making it one of the most striking visual experiences in cinema.
Rawlinson.


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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 #: 75
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 2:55:53 PM   
elab49


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Ashes of Time (Wong, 1994)
Synopsis
Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung) lives in the middle of a desert, where he acts as a middle man to various swordsmen in ancient China. As he spends his life following the martial path, he encounters various characters that will change his fate.

Review
Before the likes of such great Asian directors of drama as Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou had their take of the Wuxia martial arts film, Wong Kar-wai had brought his take on the genre in the early 90s. Despite its box office success, its use on modern ideas of dystopia imposed in the genre had led many critics to cite it as one of Wong Kar-wai's most unappreciated works. Now it has been re-released as a remastered version, which shows the cut that Kar-wai originally attended.

Like many of his films, Ashes of Time is a visual feast both the eyes and ears, while its narrative challenges the audience, especially to those who are new to the Hong Kong director's work. While the film has one protagonist, the character of Ouyang Feng enters into various back stories, which all dealt with the theme of love. As we goes through these stories, we learn of Feng's past, in which he was in love with an unnamed woman (special appearance by Maggie Cheung). For a film that is an hour and a half, it is one to test your brain, thanks to its complex plot.

Despite the use of martial arts action, beautifully choreographed by Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, it definitely stands out as a period drama, which is what Kar-wai is best at. Even though the film is conquered by dialogue, rather than whooshes, cinematographer Christopher Doyle provides such beautiful shots of desert landscapes and gorgeous women.

The late Leslie Cheung succeeds at being the anti-hero, who eventually develops into a more sympathetic character when it gets to the fact that he is just lonely. Also, there are interesting supporting players, such the two Tony Leungs, who play the Blind Swordsman (Chiu-Wai) and the strange villain Huang Yaoshi (Ka-Fai). Towards the climax, Maggie Cheung specially appears in a dialogue sequence which is truly heartbreaking. It is a visual triumph for those who are fans of the work of Wong Kar-wai.
RW


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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 #: 76
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 2:56:22 PM   
elab49


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Lust, Caution (Lee, 2007)
Set in occupied WWII Shanghai, Lust, Caution adapts a very popular Chinese story following a young female spy as she tries to draw a Japanese collaborator out into the sights of her colleagues. Starting in the present day on the brink of that action, it flashes back to the tale of a student drama group in Hong Kong and the deceptions and mistakes that led Wong Chia-Chi to her current predicament.

I've no idea whether this is a common topic in Chinese cinema but the clear reference for Western viewers is to the multitude of WWII spy thrillers many of us grew up with and which this, in many respects, resembles – the world of Mata Hari et al. A more specific reference is clearly Hitchcock' Notorious – while we do see a clip of Suspicion during the film it's the slightly later that rings far more bells, particular the careful construction of the target that has the impact of making them the most complex and interesting character in the film – here that is Andy Lau as the very tightly wound Yee, a sadist, of sorts, desperate for some light and wanting to believe so much in the young girl that edges into his life. I think this deliberate focus is made clear with the final shots, that it is here where the films real interest lies.

The most fascinating part of the film, however, is the mah-jongg games. Joan Chen (I hadn't realised it was her till I saw the cast list, initially!), says none of them really knew who to play before the film then spent all of their downtime on set in games, impatient for filming to finish. As well as the strategy on the table, the camera moving between the 4 women, whose characters are laid out very quickly very well, playing each other with carefully chosen words and slights as skilfully as they play the tiles. And for all the superb period detail, the much talked about sex scenes, the Chinese demanding that the final major betrayal be removed (for much the same reason they had issues with Devils on the Doorstep), it is those games that really leave their impression I think.
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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Post #: 77
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 2:56:48 PM   
elab49


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Joined: 1/10/2005




Mother (Bong, 2009)
Bong’s latest evokes Memories of Murder more than The Host. The murder of a damaged and sexually provocative schoolgirl in a small community leads to the imprisonment of the only son of a very determined lady. The interrelationships are skilfully set out in the initial scenes - Do-Joon has some form of mental disability, he is easily persuaded and can’t really remember things. The local police know him and his mother – she turns up with what seems like the usual small gifts. And there is an unusual relationship between the 2 – partly, we might soon wonder, falling out of guilt. In fact, throughout the film we get the feeling of a community where most people know everyone else – generally respectful although, in Jin-Tae’s words, not quite right. Bong also gives several nods to Hitchcock – there are several very stylised and suspenseful moments and he makes it most obvious by giving us the odd discordant strings (eg when creeping round in the dark in someone’s house) and there is some great camerawork throughout – wandering through the wood, the buildup to murder, the near discovery while creeping out, as well as the kind of humour we’ve seen in his earlier films.

I’m not as sure about the opening scenes but I really did wonder about the end – what other memories might the other parents be trying to forget? Did they have as odd stories leading up to the bus ride? It was a fascinating thought to leave us on.

I think there are certain resonances not as familiar to us – the lead is apparently the personification of motherhood on Korean TV – like casting a Ma Walton or the like – so she would mean something very particular to the home audience. And I don’t think we have anything like Thank Your Parents tours – do we? But any thought disappears in the admiration of a stupendous central performance from Kim Hye-Ja as Mrs Yoon. In particular I'd highlight the desperate scenes in the prison and with the other man caught by the police at one point struck me the most – the pathetic way she asks if he didn't have a mother was heartbreaking. That he was left without someone who'd fight for him no matter what.
Elab49

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Post #: 78
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 2:57:16 PM   
elab49


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Kagemusha (Kurosawa, 1980)

Akira's 1980 epic may be considered a 'chambara', due to the era in which the film is set, though it has none of the typical samurai sword fights. The few battle scenes are conducted with musket fire, and these scenes make up only a small portion of the 3 hour screen time. The main focus of the film is devoted to the political consequences of an assassinated daimyo and the body double brought in to conceal his passing.

Three feudal warlords vie for control of Japan. A thief in the fief of the dominant Takeda Shingen, is saved from execution, due his uncanny resemblance to the daimyo, and put to work as a body double (the titular "Shadow Warrior"). When Takeda is assassinated, his dying wish is for the Kagemusha to take over the role of daimyo, so his enemies do not learn of his death and attempt to wrest control.

The limited action and the long running time could be a daunting prospect, but any concerns are soon allayed. As you might expect, Kurosawa's direction is masterful
– the beautifully shot scenes enhanced with his trademark use of lighting, sweeping fog and rain and a huge cast of banner wielding soldiers. Despite not being first choice for the role, the ever expressive Nakadai Tatsuya is superb as the lead. His thief character is initially reticent and shows contempt for the regime, but after Takeda's death, he must play the part full time, and slowly begins to grow into the role, overcoming the ambitions of Takeda's son and building a relationship with his grandson. This character development, and the gripping finale make for an arresting piece of cinema.
Gram123.


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Post #: 79
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 3:03:41 PM   
elab49


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Chungking Express (Wong, 1994)
Wong's is a film of two halves in more ways than one. Two break-up stories are told – the first half follows one police officer (Kaneshiro) after he has been dumped. Spending all his time hoping for contact from his ex- he saves up cans of pineapples for a month until his birthday hoping she'll see sense before then or planning to move on if not. In the meantime he bumps into a female smuggler, on the run when her latest mules manage to dupe her. The second has another cop (Leung) being stalked by a girl who works at the food stand he eats at – while she spends time in his apartment on the sly he continues to reminisce about the flight attendant who has recently left him.

The second is by far the superior, thanks mainly to a charming performance from Faye Wong (absolutely required given what she's doing).
Elab49

Wong kar-Wai creates a light, dreamlike movie following two stories of love and loneliness in Hong Kong only moderately linked together by a take away restaurant. It’s an offbeat concoction that is more concerned with mood and style than the actual stories themselves. But what style! One thing I’ve always said about Kar-Wai’s work is that you can almost smell his film, it’s so soaked up in the atmosphere of the world he’s created. It’s extremely stylish and Kar-Wai uses all the tricks in the book and more to create a true piece of art. The cast are all on fine form and Faye Wong is a striking figure as the odd, shy girl who falls in love from afar with a policeman. The second story is slightly more appealing than the first but the film as a whole is just wonderful and has some beautiful moments within it. Very romantic, funny and Beach Boys-y

Favourite Scene: In an overheated small flat, Tony Leung’s cop plays around with a toy plane and eventually uses his air hostess’ girlfriend’s back as a runway. Just a lovely, intimate moment showing two people in love.
Beetlejuice!


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Post #: 80
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 3:03:44 PM   
elab49


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Kiru! (aka Kill!) (Okamoto, 1968)

Excellent black comedy samurai flick based on the same novel as Kurosawa's Sanjuro (Peaceful Days) but like Sanjuro reworked and barely recognizable.This movie is a lot of fun with two great leads,Tatsuya Nakadai as Genta,a mysterious redemption-seeking ex-Samurai and Etsushi Takahashi as Hanji,a strong farmboy who wants to become a Samurai both of whom obviously had a ball hamming up their roles,paticularly the very funny,rubber-faced Takahashi who plays a lovely send up of Toshiro Mifune's Kikuchiyo the dumb,heroic country bumpkin character from the Seven Samurai.

The plot is a little hard to follow at first but as soon as you realise that basically,due to a few double-crosses,everyone is trying to kill everyone else you can sit back and enjoy it for what it actually is - a spaghetti western inspired black comedy of the highest order.The music also is outstanding,like a mixture of Japanese traditional and Morricone's score for A Fistful Of Dollars which is used to great comic effect in the "showdown" scenes.There is a bit of singing,dancing and taiko as well in the matsuri (festival) scenes.One of the best films I've seen this year.

I loved this movie so much that it's now my life's mission (for a few weeks anyway) to track down any more films I can find that are similar to this one and also see what else director Okamoto has created.So if you know of any please let me know.

Hozay


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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 #: 81
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 3:10:10 PM   
elab49


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Burmese Harp (Ichikawa, 1955)

The final of 3 films Ichikawa made with Nikkatsu immediately after leaving Toho and the one that brought him to international attention.

At the end of WWII a Japanese troop is caught behind the lines in Burma. Heading towards the nearest friendly border they are caught by the British. This is done peacefully as the troop – led by a musician – includes Mizushima, a master of the Burmese Harp who has learned the traditional "No Place Like Home”. The choral harmony ensures they are caught without anyone being hurt (it was a common query in wartime films as well – how countries of such culture, such music, could be so barbaric. Hence the focus on events like Xmastime in WW1, I think).

Mizushima disappears after trying to help bring down a Japanese troop who refuse to accept the war is over and intend to fight to the death. But he is eventually recognised by his fellows, living as a Burmese monk – travelling Burma to honour the dead and ensure their burial.
Harp is a powerful Japanese anti-war statement. It tries to come to terms with the death of thousands upon thousands of young Japanese men on foreign soil in a climate where the right-wing still abhorred the need for surrender. Focussing on the spiritual – the rites of death and Mizushima's own clear need to cling to his robes rather than go back – music is also key to the success of the film.

Elab49





Hidden Fortress (Kurosawa, 1958)

Blurb to come.

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Post #: 82
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 3:10:40 PM   
elab49


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Red Cliff: Part I/2(2009, John Woo)

“Red Cliff” is an epic story of the end of the Han dynasty. The time is 208AD, and the Prime Minister, Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang), of Xu leads a military attack of unprecedented scale against the kingdom of Wu. And so the leader of Wu, Sun Wuan (Chen Chang), calls on the rival warlord Liu Bei (Young You) for help. And so, a heftily unfair war begins. I stumbled upon the first part of John Woo’s epic, expensive “Red Cliff” when I thought I was watching the international cut, and just as the film was hitting its stride it ended. Thankfully, the words “to be continued” appeared on the screen, and although this break is definitely an intrusion of the tension and pace of “Red Cliff”, I’m very happy to hear that I still have two hours of this epic to enjoy. The first half is wonderful, epic in scale and scope but with some fine characters to go with it. “Red Cliff” has the biggest budget of any Chinese film in history, and – when watching – that fact becomes pretty obvious. But it’s not like Woo wastes it, because he fills his landscapes with awe-inspiring buildings, ships, and costume design. To look at, this is the best film in years, and the action (as you’d expect from Woo) is just about perfect. I love how he’s able to create stylish, elegant battle scenes (either with guns between two people like in “the Killer” or between hundreds of medieval soldiers like here), but is able to inject some personal drama into them by interspersing the wide angle shots with intense close-ups. The ideas behind the battle scenes are excellent too, and for once we have a blockbuster that isn’t just going to have the opposing forces knock lumps out of each other without giving them some tactics and strategy. Woo’s favourite theme of brotherhood comes to the foreground once or twice, as well as some interesting comments on inequality within the armed forces. My one problem is that it’s not just one, huge, epic film, and that the break in between does kill all of the tension and suspense that Woo had created over a slow, deliberated two hours. But still, I’d rather watch it in this form than as a chopped up two hour international cut, so what are you going to do.

Red Cliff: Part II(2009, John Woo)

“Red Cliff: Part II” is the second two and a half hour instalment of John Woo’s epic Chinese period war film. A quick recap of the first part comes and goes within the first ten minutes, and then Woo rifles on with his plot. Prime Minister Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) is still intent on marauding against the allied empires of Xu and Wu. John Woo doesn’t allow much time for respite, because he begins this film as if there were no break, developing more human drama, battle tactics, and characters. For about an hour and a half, there is little or no violence, with the director instead electing to further the brilliant characterization that he begun playing with in the first film. But when that action does come, boy, does it come. Woo’s main skill set is in creating glorious battle sequences, but I think he may have outdone himself here. The battles don’t begin with explosions and fireworks, but instead a slow, brooding approach. As the allied ships slowly crawl to the shore, Woo shrouds his film in mystery and fog, scoring it in silence. When we do begin, though, Woo manages to sculpt real human drama within the battle. He does this in two ways. Firstly, the use of close-ups is integral, and always keeps characterization and dramatization present in the bloodbaths. Secondly, Woo never resorts to using nameless, faceless soldiers as part of the battle, and instead creates a set of warrior heroes and concentrates on those. Not only are they infinitely cool, they each have their own skill sets and personalities, which develops an interesting dynamic between them. I don’t think there is much I can add to this or my mini-review of “Red Cliff: Part I”, except to say that – when judged as one complete film – this will be hard to beat as 2009’s best. It’s already miles ahead of its nearest contender so far, and I can’t foresee a film that can match its scale, its scope, its action, or its drama.
Piles


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Post #: 83
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 3:10:53 PM   
elab49


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Kiki's Delivery Service (Miyazaki, 1989)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A witch-in-training undertakes the tradition of living alone for a year to hone her skills.

Kiki is a teenage witch in training, she takes part in the tradition of witches that dictates she leaves her family to live alone for a year, in order to practise her supernatural skills. She sets off with a few possessions, her broom, and her familiar, a black cat named Jiji. Kiki finds herself in a small city where she determines to prove herself as a capable witch. She finds work as a courier for the local bakery, delivering the goods by broom and learns to take responsibility for herself.

It's a sweet story, simple and pretty basic by Ghibli standards. Not that basic has to be bad and sometimes the simplest tales are the best. Miyazaki doesn't seem to be interested in external conflict here. Kiki is looked upon as an outsider, but only in the way that all strangers in a small town are. Even though Kiki is looked upon with a little wonder for her powers, she's not treated as a freak. The film doesn't follow the other possible route of giving her bullies to overcome, or having her long for acceptance among the locals. She just gets on with things, working through her inner conflicts in order to grow.

And that's what interests Miyazki here. In many ways this is a Ghibli film with more in common with Whisper Of The Heart than Spirited Away. The supernatural here is always a secondary concern. The focus is on Kiki and how she grows up and learns to accept responsibility for her life. The story is in the characters, their warmth, their depth, their soul. It also manages to avoid the trap of becoming overwhelming sweet, Miyazaki delights in the tranquil moments. For all of the sweetness in the tale, there's also a lot of thoughtfulness. There's a sadness and a bittersweet quality to the story that brings levels of shade to the film that are often missing in live-action films, let alone animated ones. For some reason, Kiki's Delivery Service often seems to be regarded as somehow lesser in comparison to Miyazaki's other work. I've never really understood why. It's a beautiful, serene and surprisingly mature work, one of the great director's finest accomplishments.

Rawlinson


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Post #: 84
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:17:59 PM   
elab49


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Sound of the Mountain (Naruse, 1954)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A study of a family in crisis.

Sound of the Mountain is a delicate and thoughtful meditation on marriage, family and the chains that society places on people. Naruse looks at these concerns through focusing on the close relationship between a father and daughter-in-law. Kikuko and Shuuichi's marriage is failing because Shuuichi is both neglectful and unfaithful. They live with Shuichi's parents and she has an especially close relationship with his father, Shingo. As the marriage collapses further, the bond between Kikuko and Shingo becomes closer. Shingo has a closer relationship with her than with his own daughter, Fusako, who has also recently arrived back at the house with her marriage in difficulty. Shingo is aware that Shuuichi has been having an affair but is reluctant to interfere, believing a married couple should take care of their own problems, but when he becomes aware of how badly it's hurting Kikuko he feels obliged to step in.

The atmosphere in the house is stifling. No-one is able to express their true emotions and all relationships and feelings become ambiguous as a result of this inability to outwardly express emotions. It's easy to see a father/daughter relationship between Shingo and Kikuko, that she's making up for the disappointment he feels in Fusako. Kikuko is charming. She's sweet, loving, willing to virtually work as a maid for the family, she's the perfect daughter, unlike Fusako. Some might read surpressed romantic feelings between Shingo and Kikuro, I think it's just two souls findings solace together with the only feelings of love being platonic ones.

Naruse is fascinated with the daily life of ordinary people. It could be argued that if you break this story down to basics then it's nothing different to what you'd find in any soap opera. Of course the quality of the acting and directing alone would make any comparisons to the likes of Eastenders laughable, but what really sets it apart from soap-opera concerns is the unmelodramatic way in which the problems are approached and the obvious care that Naruse feels for his characters. He's an insightful director, able to evoke complex and subtle emotional depths through simple moments. The film can surprise you as well, especially with Kikuko's character who takes an action that's deeply unexpected and allows you to see a strength to the character previously hidden. To say anymore about Kikuko's actions would be to spoil the film too much, but it's those kind of moments that make the film so rich, so layered and so powerful.

Rawlinson

My expectations for all the films in the Naruse box set were fairly high based on his reputation alone but this was the one I was looking forward to the most having read the novel a while back and loved it.Glad to say that the film certainly lived up to my hopes for it,not a wasted second or any aspect of it that isn't absolutely top quality.


For the most part it stays faithful to the novel,the biggest difference being the main focus shifting from the father and his reflections to the daughter in law,which works much better on a dramatic level for a film,the only thing being it leaves the title meaningless.


Given the story there could perhaps have been a danger of it becoming a bit melodramatic towards the end but Naruse handles it with great subtlty and a certain detachment that keeps it remarkably low key.It shares some themes with the first film in the set Repast but delves deeper with more complex relationships and many of the cast from that film also appear here,with Setsuko Hara & Ken Uehara again playing the husband and wife at the centre of the story.


Watched two of the three films in the set so far and really impressed,for anybody with an interest in Japanese cinema of this period it really is an unmissible release.


Jasiri
 
Kikuko (the fantastic Setsuko Hara) is a young woman trapped in a marriage with a man who is cheating on her and who goes to the dance hall almost every night, leaving her at home with the in-laws, waiting up for his return. As the film progresses, we meet Kikuko's sister-in-law, who has herself been the victim of a failing marriage, as well as the 'other woman'. With every Mikio Naruse film that I see, a question intensifies; why on earth is this man not as well known or as well revered as Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kenji Mizoguchi? It seems that every hardcore cineaste lists Naruse alongside these names, but the three giants of Japanese cinema seem to have a monopoly going when it comes to casual world cinema fans (myself included until very recently). This, the third Naruse film I've seen after the majestic "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs” and the very good "Floating Clouds”, further cements in my mind that Naruse is a real master, creating a film with rich, powerful drama and subtle themes. If you look at it from a thematic point of view, it seems to be – first and foremost – a look at whether traditional values are still as important to human life as they once were (this isn't just restricted to Japan, it's striking in its universality). Naruse returns to this point quite often, and eventually he seems to side for tradition, albeit in a different manner; the director seems to put across the point that bohemian lifestyles and modern philosophies are all well and good if they don't hinder other peoples' lives. But to concentrate too whole heartedly on the themes of this film would be silly, because I think it is mostly a work of drama. Like in the other two films, "Sound of the Mountain” uses the injustices that frequently occur against women in Japanese society to build up some real drama, creating a sympathetic character in Setsuko Hara's Kikuko, but this time adding supporting characters with as many woes as the lead. The father-in-law, for instance, is a down-trodden spouse himself, and one whose constant sympathies are seen by his wife as weaknesses. Even the cheating husband is presented as a misguided lost soul, rather than a pure evil home-breaker. Just as much as it is the subtle direction and the fantastic writing (by Yoko Mizuki, based on Yasunari Kawabata's novel), it's the superb performances that drive this drama, particularly from Setsuko Hara, who creates one of the most sympathetic and innocent characters I've ever seen. All in all, "Sound of the Mountain” is a fantastic film, and one which fills me with hope that Naruse will quickly become a personal favourite.
PIles

< Message edited by elab49 -- 27/3/2011 10:18:50 PM >


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Post #: 85
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:19:51 PM   
elab49


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A Bittersweet Life (Kim, 2005)

Blurb to come.

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Post #: 86
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:29:09 PM   
elab49


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Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (Park, 2002)
Park Chan-wook’s filmography seems to represent a steady progression into the realms of the twisted and fantastical. His big Korean breakthrough, Joint Security Area, is a conventional (yet surprisingly affecting) tale of war and brotherhood set in the Demilitarised Zone splitting the Korean peninsula. His big international breakthrough, Oldboy, is a different beast altogether – nasty and visually stunning, it weaves a tale of the triviality of revenge with surprising effectiveness. His latest film, Thirst, takes the envelopes Oldboy pushed, sets fire to them and runs across a bed of nails with them in its hands, demolishing the vampire mythology it reveres and making it its plaything. Sympathy for Mr Vengeance appears to mark the transition between Mainstream Park and Batshit-Crazy Auteur Park, and it does so with style and courage. Park’s meditation on the futility of revenge and how it can only lead to pain and suffering is brave and unconventional, subverting genre expectations by generating sympathy for the kidnappers of the piece instead of the family of the kidnapped. While Song Kang-ho's restrained, compelling performance and Park's writing go some way to affording Song's character – businessman President Park – some sympathy, Ha-kyun Shin's deaf mute Ryu generates far more. A man with angelic intentions who can never catch an even break, Ryu acts out of desperation and loses everything because of it, and as he and Park go about their separate quests for revenge, Ryu’s brutal, passionate violence contrasts itself (oddly favourably) with Park’s calculated, sadistic tortures. The low-key, oddly sterile aesthetic scheme complements the heavy themes, themes illustrated well by the characters. Combined with a labyrinthine story that culminates in a viciously black comedy of errors, the themes and the violence are made far more palatable than they were in Oldboy, and more interesting as well.
Pigeon Army


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RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:29:14 PM   
elab49


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The Good, The Bad and the Weird (Kim, 2008)

Couldn't help comparing the direction of Inception with this and Nolan coming out the loser. Kim Ji-Woon directs TGTBTW with a confidence and a kind ofsheer mad joy with stunning setpieces using large, expensive, but simple, sets and knocking the crap out of them as the leads have at it each other. A film knocking past the 2 hour mark with nothing that seems remotely extraneous and note-perfect pacing. A big budget film with heart and humour and wit and a subversive and inventive style. Who'd think rubbish like Leone's could inspire this?

One train robber accidentally gets in the way of another on the trail of a map to 'treasure' in a tale that, depending on which version you are watching, may or may not consider political ideas of Korea and Japan and Manchuria. The UK version cuts most of it out and focusses on the crossing paths of the thief (the definite Weird – Song Kang-Ho), the arrogant killer (the bad, Lee Byung-Hun) and the bounty hunter (the Good, Jung Woo-Sung) as they eventually head, via set-pieces in the Ghost Market and elsewhere, to where x marks the spot. In a hilarious clusterfuck that is more reminiscent of The Hallelujah Trail than anything else, the Manchurian bandits, the Japanese army (aka the carnival shooting gallery for the Good) and the Bad's men clash in pursuit of the Weird leading to a classic western face-off that is brilliantly set up and shot as the camera first dances round the men then focusses as they prepare to shoot.

Here, a criticism for the UK cut which leaves this particular scene far too soon although, for the most part, the cuts aren't much of a problem.

Although the Good is less well-known and a little low-key, the other 2 roles are perfectly filled, particularly, as usual, Song Kang-Ho. Even though Wallach is easily my favourite character in the original, he's beaten hands down here by a range that traverses from the clown to a sudden seriousness that makes one of the final reveals all too believable.

Elab49
 

The Good, The Bad, The Weird yet again after watching the Korean cut yet again, after viewing the International cut plus the deleted/alternate/extended scenes and multi-angle alternative ending(s!) on the supplemental DVD...

It's only after watching the full version after the International cut (the Int'l version is the one that did the cinema rounds not long ago) and all the attendant DVD extras that it's possible to fully get to grips with this movie.  It's certainly big, but it needs to be as there's just so much going on in the background that multiple viewings are almost compulsory.


The International version reminds me of a DVD extra on Kill Bill Vol.1's Japanese release that just plays the action sequences, cutting all semblance of plot out completely.  Main characters appear for no reason and then vanish without ever being mentioned again.  One of the main three characters has his entire reason for being in the film removed entirely.  Another main character's survival (and the film's biggest nod to Sergio Leone) has the reason cut out.  And the film's ending has been completely deleted.  This shorter cut zips along nicely, but cannot make any sense to anyone who hasn't seen the full cut, which is a shame.  Hopefully, when the UK DVD is released (minus all the horse-tripping), all cuts of the film plus all the scenes cut from the two releases (that runs to just over an hour on their own) will be included, otherwise people will be incredibly short-changed.


It's still not Kim's best film, but the 4-hour+ original cut (that has yet to be released) may well be


Korean version: 8.5/10
Foz


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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.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 88
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:29:23 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro) (Miyazaki, 1979)

Before the heady days of churning out classics at Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki gave us this little film, and my, what a film it is. An original story using characters from a popular anime at the time, The Castle of Cagliostro is a fantastic adventure film that nails most of what it needs to nail in order to keep the audience on tenterhooks. Much like the Indiana Jones films, Cagliostro balances the story and the characters alongside good, old-fashioned thrills, and it's not hard to find yourself caught up in the slightly bonkers action on screen. Even for those not familiar with the previous animes starring the effervescent and charismatic thief Arsene Lupin III, he's a completely natural protagonist whom we can warm to and root for within seconds of his appearance (it helps that he robs a casino blind within those opening seconds). Miyazaki's screenplay whips along at an excellent pace, is filled with excellently-realised characters (Lupin's partner Jigen and dogged Interpol officer Zenigata among the best) and shows a knack for focusing on characters to help flesh out the world they live in, one he'd later go on to perfect in Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. The animation may be far more crude than we're used to from Miyazaki, and the ending doesn't make a large amount of sense, but Cagliostro is among the most entertaining and downright fun of any of Miyazaki's films.

Pigeon Army

_____________________________

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 #: 89
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:29:52 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54577
Joined: 1/10/2005




2046 (Wong, 2004)

If there's one thing that can always be said about Wong Kar-Wai, it's that his aesthetic vocabulary is one of the most developed in modern cinema. No ordinary human could produce a work of such breathtaking visual beauty as 2046, but with the assistance of cinematographers Christopher Doyle and Kwan Pung-Leung, Wong Kar-Wai has done that. It's a masterpiece of imagery, every facet of his production design carefully realised and perfected. From the evocative use of widescreen to the startlingly good colour choices (the simultaneously garish and tasteful greens of the Oriental Hotel, the whites and browns of Singapore standing in contrast with the shadows encroaching on every corner, the multicoloured madness of Chow Mo-wan's fictional future-world), from the impeccable costume design by William Chang to the surprisingly excellent use of slow motion, everything about 2046 feels right and looks spectacular, and it is just as much a key to the film's success as the winding, jumping narrative. Wong's narrative plays to his strengths - storytelling in segments, emotionally-scrabbling protagonists, ruminations on love and the loss of it - but feels as fresh as it did when I first saw Chungking Express. His dialogue is top-notch, if occasionally repetitive, the score is one of the best I've ever heard, and the star-studded cast gives impeccable performances, in particular Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as the aforementioned pulp sci-fi writer and part-time womaniser Chow Mo-wan and Zhang Ziyi as call girl Bai Ling. However, what's most important is that, unlike Ashes of Time Redux or Chungking Express, 2046 doesn't get hurt by overloading on a good thing - where Ashes of Time's visuals ultimately engulf the plot and make it unnecessarily hard to follow, and while Chungking Express is hurt by the constant playing of that fucking California Dreaming song, 2046 has none of this. It does feel a bit scrappy occasionally, and Wong's episodic approach does mean some stories aren't as well fleshed out as they should be (namely the story involving the second Su Li-zhen), but Wong hits all the right notes here. It is an experience-and-a-half.

Pigeon Army


_____________________________

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 #: 90
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