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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... - 27/3/2011 10:29:56 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Lee, 2000)

The arrival of the sword Green Destiny in Beijing sets brings out a young thief and exposes a hidden murderess.  

For many, Lee's breakout subtitled hit was the first time that they encountered wuxia. Here it's in a form not entirely dissimilar to the big Technicolor event films of mid-the last century – tales of unspoken love and women married off to strangers, romantic banditry and honourable warriors. It feels like the eastern equivalent of an old swords and sandals epic really, although this feels very short and more perfectly balanced than many of them could claim. The fight sequences are exciting and enjoyable choreographed with the occasional lovely comic touch (my favourite may by the look on one man's face when he realised the skilled fighter in the inn has a real hatred of those who bear his name along with the slight slap-stick timing of the aftermath).

Crouching Tiger is still, IMO, the benchmark for these breakout films and the likes of Hero and House of Flying Daggers really haven't come close to this one.

Elab49
 
 
I hadn't seen this since I was in intermediate school, so it was nice to revisit it after all these years, not so nice to realise it's not as brilliant as I once thought it was. Being adapted from the fourth book of a pentalogy, it's at least forgivable, if not optimal, for the first ten-fifteen minutes to operate as an exposition dump. However, the film's internal logic is bizarre, it's filled with plot holes ("This poison has no antidote!" "Yes it does, the ingredients are just incredibly difficult to get! It will take time!" "I have them at my headquarters, go fetch them!") and the apparent grace of some of the action choreography is contestable. However, Crouching Tiger is incredibly entertaining and thoughtful, turning the wuxia film on its head and offering a visual feast of fight scenes and scenic backdrops - say what you will about the bamboo scene, it looks amazing. On top of that, Chow Yun-Fat, Ziyi Zhang, Cheng Pei-Pei and Michelle Yeoh give great performances, and Lee directs the action incredibly well - for every scene of goofy glide-running, there's a charged and gripping fight scene like the one involving the police officer, his daughter, security guard Bo and Jade Fox.
Pigeon Army


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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 #: 91
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:30:00 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Ong-Bak (2003, Prachya Pinkaew)

The fact that I'd seen "The Warrior King” a few months before "Ong-Bak” meant that I pretty much knew the entire plot of this film beforehand. It's not that it's a prequel or anything, but rather that they both follow the same basic plot structure, only in this – the earlier of the two films – the elephants of "The Warrior King” are replaced by the head of a sacred stature, and Sydney is switched with the more domestic city landscape of Bangkok. That being said, I didn't exactly go in to "Ong-Bak” hoping for a great story with great performances (both, in fact, are pretty predictable and actually quite rubbish), I went in it hoping for incredible action sequences, and that's what I got. Tony Jaa's trademark "no wires, no stunt doubles, no visual effects” is as impressive here as it is in the later Pinkaew-helmed effort, with the highlight being an incredible foot chase through the back streets of Bangkok, which sees Jaa showing us his Muay Thai skills and his incredible, damn-near-impossible agility. The fight sequences are also predictably immense, with a triple-battle within an illegal fight club being just about perfect. I will say, though, that these set pieces do indeed fall short when you compare them to those in the superior "Warrior King”, particularly the immensely ambitious staircase long shot, but perhaps it's not fair to keep comparing it to the later, better film. One fault of this film as an independent piece is that it builds Jaa up as unbeatable from the very beginning and, as a result, there's really no threat. There really is no doubt at any point that Jaa's Ting is going to win out the day, but it's certainly an incredible journey to a predictable conclusion. It's the star's natural charisma and truly sublime action star skills, though, that make "Ong-Bank” a truly original and impressive film, even if it is the weaker of his two renowned Pinkaew partnerships.

 
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.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 92
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 27/3/2011 10:30:03 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Drunken Master (Yuen, 1978)
 
Fei Hung is the son of a martial arts master who is constantly getting himself into trouble when he should be learning kung fu. Fei Hung believes that because of his status as the masters son, he already has the martial arts abilities to be able to stand up to all challengers and should command the respect of the town. This ego problem results in Fei Hung getting into fights with an assistant martial arts teacher, a female guardian of a visitor to the town, a fight with the son of an influential man in town, as well as mounting debts he cant pay with local restaurants. After hearing about all of these troubles, Fei Hung's father decides he has had enough and enlists Begger So, who is known to push his students to the limits of what their body can handle, to train Fei Hung in the art of drunken boxing.

While the plot may sound fairly standard for martial arts films, Chan gives it a comedic edge which sets it above most. Its his ability to flow through seemingly impossible stunts while adding slapstick humour to the fights which has made him such a massive idol of martial arts fans. It is this ability Chan has which has since led to Hollywood producers believing he could be a big hit in the west, but it is pretty easy to say that none have come anywhere close to recreating what made him so great in the first place.
TRM


Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is an undisciplined boy living and learning at his father's kung fu school. However, after getting into a fight with the son of a powerful local businessman, Freddie (as the English subtitles call him) is sent to learn with an aging but powerful drunkard called Su Hua Chi (Siu Tien Yuen). Only when he masters the way of the Drunken Fist Kung Fu style can he hope to stop assassin Thunderleg (Jang Lee Hwang), who has been sent to kill his father. Most of the good stuff that we get within "Drunken Master” comes when Jackie Chan is fighting, whether that be kicking ass or getting his ass handed to him. I was obviously expecting some incredible kung fu here, and that is indeed what you get, but the true genius lies within Chan's ability to merge his impressively complex fighting with broad slapstick comedy. There's an early scene where he steals his teacher's hat and refuses to give it back to him, and the inventiveness in that minor moment alone supercedes that in most of Chan's American work (that which I've seen, anyway). It is also seemingly gets better as the runtime elapses, with the second half being genuinely brilliant. The scenes in which Su Chi trains Chan's Wong Fei-Hung are brilliant; the training techniques both impressively difficult and decidedly humorous, with Chan's very physical performance bringing both the laughs and the gasps. I would say that there are a few flaws, particularly within the first half of the film. The scene in the restaurant is plainly unfunny, and although the kung fu pay-off is kind of worth it, the 'Chan stuffs his face with noodles and can't pay the bill LOL' stuff that went before it goes on way too long and doesn't really do anything. I also had problems with the scoring; there was way too much of it and it was oddly unfitting. The worst fault of my experience wasn't even a fault of the film, but rather of the DVD, which had the audiotrack flitting between the original Cantonese audio and a horrible English dubbing. Still, it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one that relies on fun first and foremost. How could anybody not enjoy a film that has a bald man fighting with only his Iron-like head?

Piles



Porco Rosso (Miyazaki, 1992)

A tale of derring do and aerial battles in the adriatic with a nod to the neutrality of a club like Rick's Place as Italy converts to fascism – and in a land where difference isn't tolerated the best pilot of all is a pig (a spell is mentioned at some point but not detail – I guess we naturally think of Circe and Odysseus's journey home. Rawlinson's review refers to Porco cursing himself which seems pretty reasonable given the pain of remembering everyone he's known who has died while he survived – maybe I've missed that in the film?).

One of the best Ghibli scripts IMO – a droll humour that suits the storyline perfectly. Starting off with what must have been the St Trinians Jr school outing (look before you take hostages is my advice); Porco is hired to combat the various pirate outfits that take on shipping in the area. The pirates strike back with an overeager American out for fame and fortune (and who seems never to have seen any female before in his life ever) who badly damages Porco's plane putting him under threat not from the pirates but the hostile Italian authorities.

The dogfights work remarkably well – unlike the Transformers type malarkey where you can't tell where one machine ends and another starts, you actually get an idea of the skills these early pilots had (and their lack of regard for imminent death – a reminder of which comes with one beautiful scene which sees a near death pre-pig Porco looking up to the bright arc of dead planes).
Elab49
 
 
SPOILERS AHEAD

Porco Rosso is one of Miyazaki's most frequently underrated films. It doesn't have the epic scale of the likes of Mononoke or the sweetness of a Totoro, so it's often regarded as a lesser entry. But for me it's always been one of his finer films.

The crimson pig of the title is Marco, an Italian flying ace in pre-WW2 Italy. So ashamed by the rise of fascism in his native country, along with a sense of survivor's guilt following the deaths of many of his squadron, he cursed himself to become a humanoid pig. He now lives on a private island, taking on cases battling air pirates. Frustrated with constantly being beaten, the pirates hire a cocky American pirate who thinks he can defeat Marco. After a sneak attack leaves Marco grounded, he has to seek the help of old friend to repair his plane, and he gains the services of a talented young mechanic, Fio, along the way as he seeks a return fight with Curtis.

Miyazaki puts great effort into the evocation of the period and it's one of the only of his films to recreate a specific time and place. The breathtaking animation is among the finest of Miyazaki's work, especially in some of the aerial battles and Marco's daring return to the air, flying his plane down a series of canals. But the real joy of the film is in the bonds between the characters. The friendship that develops between Marco and Fio is surprisingly touching and the would-be romance with Gina, the beautiful owner of a pilot's bar is unexpectedly complex.

Critics have called the film naive, but ultimately the film is a fairytale with all of the simplicity that comes with it. You can watch it on the level of a fairytale. You can watch it as a display of the beauty that Miyazaki finds in humanity. And also the cruelty that we can be capable of. Or you can see just see it as an old-fashioned mixture of romance and wartime espionage that puts Casablanca in the shade. Whatever you take from Porco Rosso, it's one of Miyazaki's most accomplished works, even if it's not always treated as such
Rawlinson

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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 #: 93
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:42:39 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005





When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Naruse, 1960)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A bar hostess tries to retain her independence

Keiko is a young widow. She's a hard-working, charming and beautiful woman, struggling to get by following the death of her beloved husband. In order to make a living, she's become a bar hostess and she tries to maintain a sense of independence and self-respect in a patriarchal society. She has to make a decision, she has reached 30 and needs to decide between remarrying or opening the bar of her own that she dreams of. Keiko prides herself on her standards, she doesn't act like the other geishas, refusing to prostitute herself and earning the respect of her loyal clients. Despite the image she projects of grace and confidence she's tormented by financial pressures. She needs to survive while supporting the people depending on her, including a sick child, a greedy mother and a useless, debt-ridden brother.

For a woman like Keiko, the work is difficult. She's good at it, but she has to hide her tragedy during the climb up the staircase to work. She hates climbing those stairs more than the work itself and it's there she puts on the mask of a false smile for her clients. In order to open her exclusive bar she needs money, but she wants to avoid the path of making herself a mistress to a wealthy patron. Keiko seems to have options, she had the respect and devotion of several loyal clients and her manager Komatsu is deeply in love with her, they offer her various forms of help but all of them fail her when she needs them most. Her desire for escape ends up going nowhere and she finds herself stuck there, alone and still walking up that same flight of stairs.

Set against the usual backdrop of polite Japanese society, Naruse focuses on the repression of women and how so many of them are stuck in some form of servitude to men, be it through marriage and domesticity or catering to them through the geisha lifestyle. Naruse is one of the great directors of women and he obviously sympathizes with Keiko and helps the audience connect with her through the betrayals she suffers and the pressure she is under.

This sad and evocative film could almost be considered slight to the casual viewer. But it's a dark film, a character study about trying to retain dignity in the face of overwhelming despair and degradation and one that shows how people try to hide deep pain behind a happy facade. Naruse's focus seems so small but those damn stairs take on almost Sisyphean proportions and the emotional weight of Takamine's performance crushes on the viewer until it becomes overwhelming. It's one of the great examples of Japanese cinema from one of its most neglected masters.

Rawlinson
 
My first encounter with Mikio Naruse. I almost ordered the 3-film box set by Masters of Cinema the other day, but changed my mind as I hadn't watched anything by Naruse before and wanted to see this film first. I definitely will order the box set now. This was SUCH a beautiful film; not totally unlike one of my favourite films, Le Notti Di Cabiria by Federico Fellini. OK, very different in style and mood, but they surely have their similarities. One of them being a fantastic performance by its female lead. Not often do I have the fortune to watch such a wonderful performance. This is a film I will recommend to everyone. If you love film and don't watch this you will miss out on a masterpiece. A film I will definitely watch again and which makes me want to get to know this director more. Top score.
Pherlygwen
 

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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 #: 94
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:47:55 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Kung Fu Hustle (Chow, 2004)

Blurb to come

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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.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 95
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:05 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Whisper Of The Heart (Kondo, 1995)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A young girl meets her first love.

This charming animation from the great Ghibli Studio is, in an unusual move for the studio, a love story. It focuses on Shizuku, a bookish 14 year old girl experiencing her first love. She notices all her library books have been previously checked out by the same person, a boy named Seiki. A creative girl, Shizuku is writing a song for the school graduation. At the school library she forgets her lyric book one day and returns to find it only to discover it being read by a boy who annoys her in every way possible, including teasing her about her song. Next day she sees a large cat who seems to ride public transportation on his own, intrigued, she follows it to an antique shop where she sees a statue of a cat who the shopowner informs her is called The Baron. She also discovers the annoying boy from school lives there. It turns out he's the mysterious Seiki and they gradually begin a friendship that turns into a love affair. When he tells her he's leaving to study in Italy, she becomes inspired to write a story for him, based on the legend of The Baron.

And it's that simple really. A schooltime love story. So what makes it such a strong film? The authenticity. I know that may seem a strange word to use in relation to an animated movie, but this feels more real than the majority of live action teen movies. It's a sweet joyous tale that has a universal appeal because it all feels so true. Even though it's not going to be your life it's still true as someone's life and that's what makes this authentic, the feeling that you could be watching the feelings and emotions of genuine teenagers. The characters ring true all the way through, which raises the question of why are live action teen movies often so underwhelming and unrealistic? Also, can you think of many modern teen films that treat female characters with as much respect as this one?

One of the key themes of Whisper... is the importance of creativity. Shizuku is a budding songwriter, Seiki a musician. The shopowner is a storyteller and a musician and his tales are a huge influence on Shizuku's own story.  The film finds great joy in allowing its characters a chance to express themselves in scenes like the group sing along in the workshop and Shizuku finds release in their free-spirited nature. True, the basic message of the importance of following your dreams is a little simplistic, but the heart of the story is with the characters rather than the plot. While Whisper Of The Heart is a wonderful film, it also leaves me feeling disappointed, not through any flaws of the film, but because the untimely death of the director robbed us of more like this. But if his cinematic legacy was to be this one film, then it's a legacy to be treasured.

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 #: 96
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:10 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Secret Sunshine (Lee, 2007)
 
Lee Chang-Dong's first 3 films are so often referred to in a single breath because of the normal boxset release that it can be difficult to shake the thought that they are, however loosely, a trilogy. To the extent that you do sit watching Oasis waiting for the trains to appear – the train being used as key metaphors in both Green Fish, where the characters escape temporarily from the real world on pointless journeys, and as the links back through the memory of the main character in Peppermint Candy. But thematically the only real link is the damaged lead in each case.

After a 5 year gap Lee produced Secret Sunshine (2007), IMO his best work to date with one of the greatest female performances of this century, and beyond. Jeon Do-yeon won a deserved best actress at Cannes for the lead role. A widow moves to her husband's hometown with her son. Her brother's visit tells us the family are somewhat estranged, as the husband was not one of life's good guys and her move confuses them. While dealing with this, however, the kidnap of her son goes wrong and she loses him too. And falls to pieces. The religious overtures of the pharmacist initially rebuffed as superstition lead to an initial catharsis as she falls apart in the church and commits herself to the group. And as a temporary Band-Aid it seems to work. She becomes part of the church, followed by her admirer Song Kang-Ho. And then one day she feels whole enough to forgive her son's killer. And then the plaster is ripped off – in a stunning scene in the visitors' room he tells her he has already been forgiven. He too has found god. Her face runs from shock to incredulity – how dare he find forgiveness. Only she can provide that. But apparently not. Religion no longer provides the fake crutch but rather than deal with the pain she lashes out at the temporary respite – fabulously vandalising a church meeting in the park and attempting to seduce the good men of the parish. And then gives up again.

As a meditation on grief it is both beautifully written and performed. It is a brave piece that considers how religion offers a temporary respite from dealing with the real world that can do more harm than good, as well as taking us very believably through the different stages of grief and loss that led her there. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. If you haven't come across Lee Chang-Dong yet, do it now.
Elab49



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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.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 97
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:13 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Only Yesterday (Takahata, 1991)
 
Isao Takahata seems to be the neglected man in Studio Ghibli, his films display every bit as much brilliance as those of his partner, Hayao Miyazaki, but while Miyazaki has received international acclaim (and even an Oscar) Takahata's films still seem somewhat unknown. Grave of the Fireflies has picked up the reputation it deserves, but a surprising number of people who revere that film still don't seem to know Pom Poko, My Neighbours the Yamadas or Only Yesterday. Maybe it's because the films are on a smaller scale in comparison. Certainly a film like Spirited Away is an easier sell than Grave of the Fireflies, people aren't usually keen to have their heart ripped out. But you have to think that some of it still comes out of a prejudice against animation, or a desire to view it as something simply for children. As acclaimed as Grave of the Fireflies is, I've still seen plenty of people mark it down because it was animated and not as good as a 'real' film. And I think that if Only Yesterday had been a live action film then it would be regarded as a masterpiece and hailed as one of the most subtle and intelligent depictions of memory and regret ever made.

Our lead character is Taeko, we meet her in two distinct time periods, as an adult in her mid 20s in the early 1980s, and as a child of around ten in the 1960s. In the present day, Taeko is an office worker preparing to leave for her summer holiday to the Japanese countryside to help pick the safflower harvest. On her way to the countryside she slips in and out of memories of her childhood self, remembering the small events that helped her to grow into the person she becomes, the joys, the disappointments and the minor incidents that can seem earth-shattering to a child. Taeko is a character who struggles with self-expression, she's a curious child who knows exactly what she wants, but the few moments that she has are stifled, by her family, by friends, by expectations, even her chance of becoming an actor is taken away from her by her rigid father. This suffocation leads her to be unable to express her true desires as an adult. The two points in time intertwine and comment on each other so we can see the woman in the girl and the girl in the woman. The slips in time don't feel like nostalgia solely for the sake of nostalgia, the world wasn't always better then, she was often alone and unhappy as a child, but it also doesn't create artificial misery. The film slips so easily between these time periods that you don't always notice at first. The biggest tip-off is the differing animation styles, Taeko's adult world is drawn in bolder colours, while the younger world is a place of softer watercolours. It's an exquisite way of detailing the past and the often hazy business of memories. Only Yesterday gives you a more psychologically complex portrayal of a character than most live action films can manage.

It saddens me to think that this depiction of Japanese life, which I would honestly rank alongside the best of Ozu and Naruse for honest realism, is neglected. Life in the country isn't softened by the beauty of nature, when Taeko goes to work there it is hard work, work that lasts long hours for very little reward. There's no sense of Takahata spoon-feeding you anything, we're never told this is bad/this is good, we're allowed to see the character finding out for herself. As a child she sees her dreams crushed by the harshness of life around her, we see her realise how her own fear and desire to fit in costs her a potentially rewarding friendship, we even see the value of life's small moments, like the disappointing first taste of pineapple. The ghost of her young self haunts her until she is able to make the decisions about what she really wants and when she does, that final moment of redemption never feels forced or sentimental. This is a poignant and insightful film and a thing of rare beauty. While Only Yesterday is fine as a title, the Japanese title actually translates as Memories of Falling Teardrops, a far more reflective and poetic title for one of the most poetic and graceful of all films.

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 #: 98
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:16 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park, 2005)
 
The pinnacle of Park Chan-wook's career to date, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance completely eschews the harsh, uncompromising minimalism of his earlier works in favour of a cleaner, more colourful aesthetic, and by god does it work. Park cleverly sets the film up as a vibrant revenge fantasy - people remark on how 'Kind-Hearted Geum-ja' (played by Lee Yeong-ae in a brilliant career-ending performance) has changed, but Park wins us to her side with the highlighter colours and the ornate designs that are part and parcel of her post-prison existence. As the aesthetic regresses into uglier colours and rougher designs - the isolated school, full of shadows and dust; Baek's house, a washed-out kitchen reminiscent of Tae-ju's house in Thirst; the streets between Geum-ja's house and her workplace, a knobbly stone bank looming over the dim alleys - the darkness underpinning her motives and her very existence pushes to the forefront, and Park's agenda is fully exposed. This isn't a world where revenge just happens, a cyclical, matter-of-fact force as in Mr Vengeance; this isn't a world where revenge is cruel and unjustifiable across the board, as in Oldboy; this is a world where we understand revenge, we seek revenge, but we gain nothing from it. It is the most effective and intelligent interrogation of the concept of retribution in Park's Vengeance Trilogy, a film whose striking devotion to aesthetic beauty complements and feeds into the film's themes, which in turn gives rise to its poignancy and its bitter, ironic humour.
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 #: 99
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:19 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Howls Moving Castle (Miyazaki, 2004)
 
After an encounter with a mysterious young man, Sophie falls foul of the Witch of Waste and is put under an aging spell. Stumbling out of town she finds her way to the titular moving castle, home of the Wizard Howl, his young apprentice Markl and the 'tamed' fire demon Calcifer.

So far so faithful to the original novel by British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones. The characterisations of the leads stay very true (including the dark desire of the witch to actually consume the hearts of others), and many might be surprised to know that much of Calcifer's sulky teenager dialogue and behaviour actually comes from the book too – but that wonderfully anthropomorphic drop of fire on screen, bullyed and all but enslaved, is all Miyazaki. And Howl is as far from a traditional romantic hero as you can get – self-obsessed, vain (utterly bereft when his hair changes colour). But it is Sophie's character which soars on screen – quite unexpectedly the spell has freed from her plain humdrum life and she almost revels in what she can get away with as 'granny' Sophie and it is this coming to life that starts the cracks in the shell the enchantement has created.

As well as forgetting Wales entirely, Miyazaki transfers the story to a kind of half-way house world of steampunk – you still get the Victoriana and the machines, but they don't feel as forced and clever-clever as this repetitive idea is increasingly becoming. He slots it in organically, into the kind of town Kiki would fly into it, and adds a world at war and the redemption of the spellbound.

While I understand that Spirited Away is many's favourite Ghibli, I prefer Howl's. I think you can feel the texture of the source and that many of the themes in it's predecessor, and characters, were really just try-outs for this film. The all-out inventiveness of the world across the river in Spirited is concentrated into the ins and outs of a walking castle in a world of gorgeously deep pastel colours as Miyazki takes the viewer on a journey of far more mature emotional depth than you might expect.

I should make clear that this is a review of the original Japanese with subtitles. I am content these are true to the script as they are also true to the book. As opposed to the loathsome English dub – it might be star-studded but the script seems to have been written by 'scripts for dummies' alumni and much of the emotional nuance and depth is removed and blunt Mills and Boon crap added instead. Criminal.
Elab49.

 


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Post #: 100
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:22 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Ponyo on the Cliff (Miyazaki, 2008)

A beautiful children's' story. Melding elements of The Little Mermaid with Miyazaki's common environmental theme (and many of the smaller animations are very reminiscent of Mononoke, with some, like the mud in the harbour, and conversion between fish and wave are very close in imagination and look to Spirited Away), Ponyo is perhaps the best "children's' movie” Ghibli has made. Excuse the lack of expertise but much of the animation feels different – the seascapes and the residents are certainly less traditionally rendered with broader lines and brighter colours and the sea reminded me very much of Japan's most famous works of art




I think deliberately so.

The effervescence of the children is absolutely delightful – as Ponyo discovers each new thing, constantly dancing about, extremely tactile, she and her friend Sosuke and their easy acceptance of wonder are amongst the best rendered little children I've seen. There is also some nice characterisation amongst the adults; particularly Sosuke's mother Lisa (curiously he refers to both parents by their given names which made me wonder at first what the relationship was) – a complete madwoman behind the wheel, holding down the home front while her husband is at sea.

The music is particularly noticeable. It's the first time I've noticed an orchestral score in these films and it works very well – you can hear adjusted riffs on better known pieces (Ride of the Valkyrie comes up occasionally).

The story isn't perfect. Little Mermaid is one of the poorer fairy tales  - the idea interesting, but the story itself not so. So how to have a happy ending? For an adult watching it's a bit of a cop out but I doubt the young 'uns will notice.

But the imagination and beauty of the animation put the likes of Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid firmly in the shade – the direction and craft on show here are far superior and the little characters created truly adorable. The storm is amazing, as is the depiction of the sea world in its aftermath.

ELab49


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Post #: 101
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 28/3/2011 12:59:24 AM   
elab49


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My Neighbour Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988)
SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: Two young girls move to the country and encounter forest spirits.
After their mother is taken ill, two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, and their father move to the Japanese countryside to be nearer to her hospital. While playing outside, Mei sees two little ears in the grass, she follows them and discovers a group of magical creatures, including the gigantic Totoro, the keeper of the forest. The film then follows a largely plotless path, tracing their adventures with the spirits while waiting for their mother to recover. The fun starts properly when one rainy night the girls are waiting at the bus stop for their father. Mei falls asleep on Satsuki's back and Totoro appears to her for the first time. Totoro is wearing a leaf to protect him from the rain and Satsuki offers him her spare umbrella. Totoro is delighted by the sound the rain makes on the umbrella and gives her some seeds in return before catching the Cat-bus. The girls plant the seeds and awake to find Totoro and his friends dancing around them, the girls join in and the seeds sprout. The final adventure when Mei decides to walk to see her mother and gets lost. Satsuki seeks Totoro's help in finding her and he summons the Cat-bus to help them rescue Mei.

The plot description in no way does justice to the film, it's simply a masterpiece beyond all superlatives and the greatest animated film ever created. It's also one of the most enchanting, delightful, fantastical and magical films ever made. It's to Miyazaki's eternal credit that he made something so memorable out of a film that can seem so slight. The wonder here comes from the characters and from the world that Miyazaki creates. The forest creatures are adorable, especially Totoro who's able to become one of the most magical creatures in animation without ever saying a word, and who can deny the incredible imagination and invention behind the Cat-bus? This is a child's view of the world and it captures it as meaningfully as any live-action film ever has.

The film's slight plot adds depth to the film and the characters and never feels tacked on to satisfy some demand for a conventional narrative. Even the fantastical adventures don't give way to wild abandon, they're more interested in inspiring a sense of curiosity about the world around them. There's no villain here, no great battle for the children to overcome, it's just children dealing with worry over their mother's health and indulging their imagination. It's a beautiful film and it's difficult to think of many times that sheer joy has been captured as convincingly, in live-action or animation, than the scene where Totoro jumps up and down to make more raindrops fall.

Rawlinson
 
Given how much of the Ghibli iconography comes from this film you have to assume it is very close to its heart – Totoro in the main Ghibli graphic, little Mei striding determinedly along all over the place.

I think this was a perfect watch after Ponyo. Its almost unique achievement is an adorable big cuddly animal that seems in no way anthropomorphised – even if it does have a bus system that, cat aside, isn't entirely unlike Harry Potters.

Anyway – a family move into a new house in the country while the mother is in hospital with some unspecified illness. Mei is a perfectly encapsulated younger sibling – the neediness, the following, the sulks – the determined wee face. Satsuki her brave older sister trying to do everything while mum isn't around. Both are young enough to see the magic in the real world around them – dust and bugs in the closed up house become fast moving little sprites (think Spirited Away). New plants coming through do so as a result of a magic ceremony at night with them pulllllllled through the earth with Totoro's help.

Totoro? I guess a character in Japanese children's book. Kind of a cross between a bunny and an owl, that comes in various sizes with the little'uns leading Mei on an Alice type chase down the rabbit hole.

I think the film captures the magic of childhood beautifully and the characters of the children even better. And I would so love to travel by Cat Bus (and actually see the sequel – a short called Mei and the Kitten Bus which is one of those only available at the museum in Japan).
Elab49



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Post #: 102
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 30/3/2011 9:36:12 PM   
elab49


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Mad Detective (To/Wai, 2007)

"Mad Detective” sees Lau Ching-Wan play a former police inspector who is forced into early retirement when he presents his retiring boss with his severed ear as a present. However, he comes out of this retirement to help a rookie cop, played by Andy On, to solve a complex murder case which involves missing colleagues, where the prime suspect is a policeman (Lam Ka-Tung) with multiple personality disorder. The main problem with "Mad Detective” is that it's a bit of a mess, really. The plot is far more convoluted and complex than it needs to me, and I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't one step behind it at some points. Maybe that's the point, though, and I guess that this can't really be considered as a flaw as, all in all, you always manage to catch up, and it is indeed far from predictable. The film looks amazing, too, creating a brooding, atmospheric background for the mysterious criminal plot, and one equally as enigmatic for the romantic subplot. Perhaps its biggest success, though, is the fact that it's about as close to a genuinely conflicted police officer we've been given over the last ten years. This is a cop with so much baggage and so much genius, and it all leads to a very interesting character, and one that – even if we can't relate to – we can certainly sympathize with. The film discusses mental disorder as well as paranoia, regret, and nostalgia. It's helped out by a truly fantastic performance from Lau Ching-Wan, who gets into the mind of the possibly clinically insane policeman that he plays, and remains there for two hours. Infinitely inventive, cliché-free, and well directed, "Mad Detective” is a film that overcomes its messy plot to become one of the best thrillers of the 2007.
Piles
 
I really enjoyed this Johnny To and Wai Ka Fai film, which features Lau Ching Wan as crazed police officer, Bun.

Bun is blessed with the ability to see people's "inner personalities". However, this combined with his unusual behaviour, including his "method" technique of investigating crimes, has led to him being fired from the force, despite his success rate.

When officer Ho seeks Bun's help with the case of a missing cop, we begin to see people from Bun's point of view, including the personified aspects of their personalities.

The 'supernatural' element of the film is played out as fact - i.e. Bun really can see these ghostly personas that no one else can see, though there is also contrary evidence to cloud the issue (for example, he's not taking his prescribed meds). Such complexities, strong direction, as well as the fine acting job from Lau lifts the film above the multitude of modern HK crime dramas.

Gram123.


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Post #: 103
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 30/3/2011 9:36:15 PM   
elab49


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Akira (Otomo, 1988)
 
If Akira has one thing going against it, it's the pacing. For a film that's two hours long, it certainly seems to drag at points, particularly in the final half, with Tetsuo's rampage through Neo-Tokyo a little stop-start and drawn out a little too much. That said, Akira is a nevertheless thrilling and deep piece of sci-fi excellence, with excellent character work, great setpieces and an unpredictable, twisty-turny storyline that, while oddly paced as mentioned before, is still gripping. However, the film's biggest asset is its art, with possibly the most satisfyingly well-realised dystopic environment I've seen put to film. It's a cliche to say it, but Neo-Tokyo feels like another character in the film, this dark, ugly presence whose malignant fingers loom over every frame, encroaching on every character moment and seemingly driving the story to the conclusion where it dies. It's an absolutely stunning-looking film, and it doesn't hurt that everything else is pretty excellent in it as well.
Pigeon Army.


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Post #: 104
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 30/3/2011 9:36:18 PM   
elab49


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Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997)

Some films battle for your love, and find their way to your heart through persistence and cunning (at least one of the remaining films fits this bill), some have always been there (Back To The Future), and some just jump right in and give your heart a good throttle. Princess Mononoke is one of the latter types of film. A film I watched for the first time last year, I was blown away, moved, amazed, entertained, enthralled, thrilled... I could go on. I have never been so affected by an animation and it showed me more than any other film (and I include the Pixar films in this) that animation is a viable, acceptable film style on a par with live action. When you can feel so much, be so affected, by watching something that has only been drawn, you have to question how seriously you take the form. I see animation equally to live action in its ability to move and amaze me, and much of that is down to this film's impact on me.

Studio Ghibli is, to a degree, a Marmite studio - you love them or you hate them. For me, the inventiveness on display in films like this, and Spirited Away are astonishing, and while there may be socio-historic references that I may be ignorant to, there is more than enough to fulfil a rich tapestry of audio-visual experiences. We meet Ashitaka who is wounded by a rampaging demon and reluctantly banished from his village lest he curse them all. He undergoes a solitary picaresque journey where he comes upon an already-raging war that is environmentalism made manifest. I am a pacifist, but I'm also in favour of maintaining the environment, so a war over such was an interesting dichotomy for me.

Mononoke herself is a fascinating, mysterious character. Her clear love of life is tempered by her anger at the destruction of the forest, as represented by the Forest Spirit, an elk-like creature that transforms by night, and whose head the Iron Town warmongerers require to win the war. It's a wonderfully visual film, but whose score is exceptional. There is a depth of concepts, of cultural history, of myth and legend, that fill out underneath the surface story and create a layered, filmic experience that is quite unlike much else I've seen. People argue over which Ghibli film is the best, and I freely admit there are so many I have still to enjoy, but for now this is undeniably my favourite of Miyazaki's oeuvre, and by default my favourite animation film ever.

Homersimpson_esq.



Thirst (Park, 2009)
 
"Thirst” tells the story of a good natured priest, played by Kang-ho Song, who cherishes life, and agrees to be part of a medical experiment to give something back. A series of very unfortunate events see the man of faith rapidly descend into a vampire, and the introduction of an old school friend's wife, Tae Ju (Ok-bin Kim), sends him on the path towards carnal sin and blood lust. As only my second Chan-Wook Park film after the obvious, "Thirst” was a very engaging, interesting, thoughtful take on a very old story. It takes an overly populated subgenre and, with the help of an exquisite score, some lovely visuals, and some good ideas, turns into something fresh, new, and exciting. It's a film that defies expectations, taking everything that we think will happen and throwing it firmly out of the window. It's almost the anti-Twilight; unforgiving in its momentum, sharp dark wit, and heart-breaking plot developments, building a believable but volatile romance between its two leads. The two performances at its heart are nothing short of perfect. Kang-ho Song is brooding and contorted internally, unwilling to throw his old beliefs away but equally unwilling to suppress the incredibly strong desires within him. And here is where the main idea within "Thirst” lies. It's a dismantling and de-construction of pleasure, sin, and compulsion. It's a delicate handling of religious themes, the repression that comes with faith, the self-importance of those who live by the good book, and the guilt enforced upon those who buck it. It's probably not an anti-religion film, but rather one that condemns those who blindly follow the teachings of it for egotistical, self-indulgent reasons. Going back to the performances, Ok-bin Kim is equal to Song's every move as the slightly more volatile and much more indulgent Tae Ju, who contrasts the man of faith's reluctant beliefs wonderfully. It's these finely formed performances that a believable romantic involvement builds itself upon, and, just when we think the two are finally in the same mindset, some wonderfully devised sequence of events throws a spanner in the works once more. It's like Bunuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire”. Just with vampires.
Piles

This has been somewhat of a labour of love for Park, as it's been hovering about on his 'to-do' list for years.  And it's a stunner.

Not going to mention the story at any length as it's one of those films that's best watched unspoiled given the sheer amount of stuff that's going on, except to maybe mention that it's sort of like the Catholic version of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring.  And with Catholicism being fairly central to the film, it should be no huge surprise that Sin and Guilt are at the centre of everything.
All Park's mainstays are here - lots and lots and lots of very subtle and very black humour, lots of red herrings and blind alleys, a fair smattering of very well-imagined and realised CG, and a couple of definite "whoa!" moments just to make sure you're keeping up.  And of course, some oddly-accented foreign extras who to be fair are quite good here, although when compared to the pipe-smoking Swiss/Swedish (it's hard to tell) blokey in JSA, the only way is up.


One surprise here is the use of sound throughout the film, using exaggerated noises in very ambiguous ways (the sounds for feeding and kissing for example are almost identical) which works tremendously well. And of course at the top of it all is Korea's most famous Greg Dulli lookey-likey Song Kang-ho putting in another top-notch performance (although in full bandage mode he reminded me of Vic & Bob's Living Carpets), ably matched by an incredibly - especially by Korean standards - raunchy turn from his opposite star Kim Ok-bin.

The only vague gripe about Thirst is that by the time the end rolls by, it's difficult to really feel sorry for anyone which sort of leaves the whole affair a bit flat.  However, such is the way that the film is put together (no scene is irrelevant) that you'll be sitting there questioning bits and thinking about others and realising just how well-crafted the characters actually are and what actually happened etc etc in the same manner that people were discussing Kim Ji-woon's A Tale of Two Sisters for over a year after it was first shown.

Park has yet to make a duff film, so it's difficult for me to put any of his work in order, or indeed where this would fit.  Suffice to say, his high standard of shocking, funny, original and ultimately human (both in terms of warmth and coldness) film-making is well maintained here, and will certainly appeal to his fans.

Foz



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Post #: 105
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 30/3/2011 9:36:21 PM   
elab49


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Hard Boiled (Woo, 1992)

Blurb to come.

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quote:

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Post #: 106
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 30/3/2011 9:36:23 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
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Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)

Ozu's simple, beautiful slice-of-life about the relationship between a father and his loving and devoted daughter. The relationship between the two falters as the father, alongside his conspiring sister, decide to put the daughter Noriko up for marriage (a plot that seems to come up again in his last three films which I still haven't seen). It's slow and the first hour seems to go longer than it should, but it feels alive, and my appreciation for the film became also love and enthrallment when a lengthy and elegantly filmed scene at a Noh theater comes and gives the film greater dramatic depth that lasts till its poignant last shot.
Deviation.

< Message edited by elab49 -- 12/4/2011 3:04:09 PM >


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Post #: 107
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 30/3/2011 9:36:26 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




The Host (Bong, 2006)

Joon-ho Bong cites M. Night Shyamalan's Signs as an influence on his tale of a horribly dysfunctional family trying to rescue one of their own from a giant mutant tadpole, specifically mentioning how original it was for Shyamalan's film to deal with a normal family fighting aliens. We should count our blessings, then, that he didn't take too much from Shyamalan's decent but highly flawed alien pic, because we wouldn't have this layered, deep, superlative monster flick otherwise. On the face of it, The Host is a thrill-a-minute monster film with an impressive and grotesque beast at the centre and some brilliant setpieces built around it. However, Bong’s too smart to leave it there, weaving in a moving, heartfelt story of a family coming together through tragedy and hope. But wait, there’s more! – underneath those other threads writhes a viciously biting social satire on US interventionism and South Korea's limp-wristed stance in the face of aggressive US foreign policy. Indeed, Bong even goes so far as to base the monster’s creation - an American morgue employee telling his Korean assistant to dump litres of formaldehyde into the Han River = mutant tadpole killing everyone – on real events that occurred in South Korea in 2000 and led to massive public outcry because the American morgue employee in question could not be prosecuted due to the US' refusal to hand him over. It's subversive, it's exciting, it's highly emotional, and it's filled with great performances, fantastic cinematography and brilliant music. The Host is a perennial favourite of mine and without a doubt one of the best films to come out of South Korea.
Pigeon Army.

Enjoyable monster film, excellently directed by Bong Joon-ho, who's shaping up to be another great South Korean director. I'm not normally a fan of monster movies (I pretty much hated Cloverfield), but as with many subjects, this benefited from not being a Hollywood production. I was surprised that people had slated the film’s CGI – to me it looked very impressive for a film made outside of the US.

Song Kang-ho was pretty good as usual as was Byeon Hie-bong as his father, and the little girl who played his daughter. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and whilst it’s a bit daft in places (how come none of the Park family suffered the effects of the Agent Yellow?), it’s great fun throughout. -- Gram123.

 
The best monster movie of recent years. Skilfully conceived monster, excellent SFX and, most importantly, they are both subordinate to the narrative and all the better for it. Focussing on the dysfunctional family of a young girl carted off as dessert as they get caught up in the bureaucratic idiocy after the attack. The explicit criticism of the US resulted from a real life pollution incident caused by the US military in the Han river for which they refused to take the blame or hand over the person responsible for the decision to the courts.
Elab49



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Post #: 108
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 5:44:40 PM   
elab49


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House of Flying Daggers (Zhang, 2004)

Blurb to come.


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Post #: 109
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 5:45:52 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005

 

 
Throne of Blood (Kurosawa, 1957)

A splendid adaptation of Macbeth, with Toshiro Mifune taking on the central role as he rises to power, aided by his scheming wife. The themes of the play are wonderfully captured with eerie, atmospheric sets and soundscapes, with the appearance of the ghost at the banquet a particular standout. Stirring stuff
Moth


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Post #: 110
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 5:46:42 PM   
elab49


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Sanjuro (Kurosawa, 1962)

I am starting to think that out of all the works by Kurosawa I've seen, Yojimbo was the weakest, not really sharing the artistry of his previous films, and also probably the one that engaged me the least (and also thought it was the least entertaining of his). It lacked a certain magic that something like Hidden Fortress. It came a big surprise to me then when I massively enjoyed its quite superior sequel. Better action, better dialouge, better Mifune, wittier and funnier script and a more engaging plot. It might not feature something as brilliant as the montage at the end of Yojimbo, but it's massively entertaining from start to finish and the ending is agian, a killer.
Deviation

I've been an ardent fan of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo for going on a year and a half now, so it was about time that I watched Sanjuro, its sequel of sorts. Toshiro Mifune reprises his role as the crafty and blunt-mannered Sanjuro, a roaming samurai whose shacking up wherever sees him tied inextricably to a group of idealistic samurai trying to expose corruption within their clan. His performance here is just as sharp and entertaining as that in Yojimbo, and while the narrative allows for less of the playing of two sides that brought out the full appeal of Sanjuro in Yojimbo, Mifune is nevertheless a captivating figure who provides a brilliant centre for the film's tricky storyline to revolve around. Tatsuya Nakadai returns again as the mad-eyed villain (though a different one this time), and he's just as good as he was in Yojimbo, even if the charisma and arrogance he had in that film is slightly dulled here, and Takashi Shimura is barely recognisable as the traitor Kurofuji but excellent all the same. The cast are gifted by Kurosawa a strong, intelligent script, one that isn't as enjoyable or as consistently funny as Yojimbo's, but one where the satire is far more refined (particularly in the clash between Mutsuta's wife and Sanjuro, and in the portrayal of the prisoner the samurai hold) and where the focus is more on the negotiating of a minefield of traps and counter-traps rather than the crosses and double-crosses of its predecessor. It works very well, but at the end of the line, Sanjuro isn't Yojimbo. It's a lighter, less entertaining affair than its predecessor, and while it is undeniably great, it just isn't amazing.
Pigeon Army


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Post #: 111
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:12:23 PM   
elab49


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An Actor's Revenge (Ichikawa, 1963)
 
I've rarely had such a strong reaction to a film on first viewing – but it shouldn't be that surprising when the film is a masterpiece.

I don't know enough about Kabuki to comment knowledgeably enough on a lot of this. What is clear though is that the lines between film and theatre are very very blurred - I can't remember the last time I saw a film that so obviously understood and played with the conventions of both. Shakespeare is the normal touchstone for us for these things and it is recognising conventions from that kind of staging that you begin to see what Ichikawa is doing - the monologuing, the commentary to the side - all seamlessly included within the story that moves from set shots to scenes which could be on a stage in front of you (eg the long wall of Dobe's palace). The lighting manipulates the shots constantly, zeroing in on individuals, making it seem like shadow play at times as people move in and out. The editing is superb (the flashback to the hanging is a beautifully flowing series of shots). The music isn't the normal period Japanese plinky plonk but sounds more like 50s melodrama - certainly Namiji (an extremely beautiful young woman) is shot like a character out of Pillow Talk.

I feel very dumb as it was only in the last minutes that I realised the roles played by the lead - Japanese idol Kazuo Hasegawa who played the same parts in the original film from 1935 (one I hope to be able to dig out of somewhere for a comparison). Apparently Ichikawa was forced to do this film – his 'one for the studio', so he dialed up the camp notch as a form of revenge. I can only wonder if he realised that in letting go in this way he ended up making the best film of his and most other director's careers?

It is just an absolutely amazing film. I put  it in my top 100 on first watch and it has cemented its position there on every subsequent viewing. Everyone should see it.

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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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 112
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:12:29 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Battle Royale (Fukasaku, 2000)
 
"Battle Royale", Kinji Fukasaku's 2001 adaptation of Koushun Takami's equally controversial 1999 novel, has at its heart possibly the finest concept of the decade – a class full of unruly schoolkids kidnapped and forced to kill each other, by any means possible. There are no rules: except if there’s any more than one person left at the end, their explosive tracking collars go off, messily. It's such a simple but effective conceit; if this were a lesser film then it might be able to coast by on the idea alone. Fortunately though, the film more than matches it.

Perhaps BR's greatest achievement is that it made a film about schoolchildren murdering each other such bloody good fun (pun not intended... well, kind of). The film is suitably brutal and unsettling throughout - this viewer winced more than once - but "Battle Royale" is tempered by a strong dose of pitch-black satirical humour that gives an extra dimension to proceedings, and serves to highlight the absurdity of what is a disturbingly plausible scenario. One particular early sequence involving a child-like TV presenter explaining to the class how to "fight right and with gusto", interrupted by teacher Kitano (Beat Takeshi) throwing a knife into an unfortunate student’s forehead, is unforgettable.

Asking valid, thought-provoking questions about academic competition, violence’s role in society and "blame culture" (perhaps more relevant today than on its release), "Battle Royale" offers plenty beyond the gloriously OTT violence; and of course it always asks the same question to any viewer – given a gun (or a pot lid, as the case may be), a timebomb round your neck and only one way out... what would you do?

Olaf.
 
In an alternate future, Japan is a society on the edge of collapse.The young are particularly effected by the chaos in the country and start acting out in school, either not attending or attacking their teachers. The government introduce an act that enters all schools into a lottery, randomly choosing one class to enter the Battle Royale. To take part in the Battle Royale, the class are taken to a deserted island, given a weapon, fitted with an electronic collar, and told to fight to the death until only one survives. Part satire on the way the educational system pressures children to succeed, part black comedy, part over-the-top horror-actioner, Battle Royale is a wickedly funny little film from one of cinema's great rebel directors. It's not up to the standard of some of Fukasaku's earlier work, but as an edgy piece of exploitation it's pretty special and it has more to say about teen politics and interaction than a hundred John Hughes films. 
Rawlinson
 
At the turn of the millennium Japan clearly had concerns of an increasingly disaffected youth. Here Fukasaku took a controversial novel about a totalitarian state using a game to help control the populace and twisted the background to make it a way for the nation as a whole to deal with problem kids. What he produced comes across like a messed up cross between And Then There Were None and The Most Dangerous Game.

Each year a class is chosen to take part in Battle Royale. Taken to a deserted island they are given a range of weapons, explosive collars and three days to kill each other. Overseen by former teacher Kitano, the students either get with the program, try to pretend it isn't happening or try to beat the system. Teenagers die suddenly and/or grotesquely at their own hand or others. A psychopath from a previous Battle joins in the fun, seeming to prove the point of the adult's concern. And you can see a similar path for a couple of this year's protagonists, principally loner Mitsuko who uses any and all means to kill and seems to get a good deal of enjoyment out of it. There is also one brilliant moment when an adult appears in the game and, just for a second, Mitsuko remembers this isn't fantasy and there is a real world to get back to. So the question to ask is does having a young multiple killer actually help improve a generation? Does it prove anything at all, or is it simply a form of revenge on the younger generation.

And this is the other theme that seems to run through it. The key character, Shuya, has been let down and deserted by adults. The first boy killed was a roommate in foster care. So what support do the younger generation get? The ending would tend to make one think that this is more Fukasaku's view, I think. Especially when you wonder why Kawada got dragged back because he didn't play the game and he didn't end up as another nutjob or trauma victim to present as a winner? But balanced against this is the reason the odd (especially his art) and lonely Kitano joined up – we hear a depressing version of family life on the other end of the phone and a flashback shows him being physically attacked by one of the class.  

If you ignore all of this you still get a fantastic blackly comic, shocking and exciting action film that's a brilliant watch. Pity about the sequel though.
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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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 113
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:12:35 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Hero (Zhang, (2002)

A sumptuous visual feast and an incredibly affecting melodrama, Zhang Yimou's Hero is basically the archetype modern wuxia film - big, operatic emotions, sword fights with a dubious sense of gravity, incredible and striking use of colour. There's a lot of talent working on this, and it shows, with Doyle's Ashes of Time-lite cinematography, the exceptional performances from Li, Leung, Cheung and Ziyi, and the haunting traditional score from Tan Dun. However, the film's held back by something that you wouldn't expect from Zhang - the politics. Given how critical of Chinese nationalism he has been in the past (To Live's tragedy-of-errors approach to Communism's demands of sacrifice for the nation got it banned in China, for christ's sake), Hero's critique of 'greater good' mentalities is toned down in a rather cheap Scarface-esque style (the epilogue, in particular, a thudding reminder that Zhang still has censors to pass). The film's quite clear on the tragic effects of unification by force - Jet Li's naive Nameless spares the King of Qin, telling him that many will die so he may live - and it's also rather uncompromising about the vague and seductive nature of political rhetoric, with Broken Sword's appealing refrain of "Our Land" both wholly contradictory (how can it be our land when it's governed by a ruthless tyrant from another land) and the indirect cause of hundreds of deaths. However, with every punch Zhang pulls, the effect of his message is diluted, and that, on top of a ponderous pace during the martial arts sequences, hurts Hero more than it should.

Pigeon Army



Police Story (Chaen, 1985)

In a film tutorial yesterday, our tutor asked to decide who was more representative of Hong Kong national cinema, Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. While some argued Bruce, I argued Jackie, not just because he represents how stars of Hong Kong cinema are royally fucked over by talent-blind Hollywood producers when they make the 'transfer'. I argued Jackie because he seems to mirror a larger part of the Hong Kong cinema canvas than Lee - while Lee's cocky bravado and warrior-scholar masculinity is representative of a certain time and place in Hong Kong cinema, Chan's balancing of broad comedy, serious fighting and heightened drama is more reflective of the balancing of styles inherent in Hong Kong cinema. In that sense, Police Story presents the perfect Jackie Chan, allowing him to play to his three strengths with great style and likability. What Police Story isn't, however, is a perfect Jackie Chan film, far from it. Chan is an excellent leading man as committed and talented rookie cop Ka-kui Chan, but the film around him seems more structured around his skills than around the aim of creating a good film. It feels like we're thrown smack-bang into the middle of the story with Police Story, as if the filmmakers lost the opening half-an-hour of footage and hurriedly slapped exposition on the front of the film in order to compensate. While that hurried exposition does put us in a good position to take in the enthralling opening action sequence, including Ka-kui's hypocritical approach to keeping the slum-dwellers safe and his escapades on a bus, it quickly becomes clear that the film has a frequently uneven tone, and while Jackie gets to show off what he's good at, the comedy, action and heightened drama lurch into each other with little sense of pacing or coherence. The action sequences are fantastic (the mall fight, the aforementioned opening sequence and the fight with the hitmen especially), the comedy is hilarious (Ka-kui's pig-headed ramblings about his relationship while his girlfriend is, unknown to him, in the house; the back end of the court sequence), and the drama works, even if it is overblown (it's not hard to feel for Ka-kui when he's accused of murdering a fellow cop). However, they don't gel with each other, and on top of that, the film has its fair share of egregious moments, from the utterly bizarre cross-examination of Ka-kui by the antagonist's lawyer to the way Jackie's phone hijinx feel wedged into the film (his treatment of a rape victim and a battered wife is a bit off, too). When Police Story hits, it scores with aplomb, but it feels far too uneven and misses too often for it to go unnoticed.

Pigeon Army


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quote:

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


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 114
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:12:41 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
 
Tokyo Story, slow and deliberated as it may be, is one of the most engrossing and entertaining films of all time. This film, the story of two parents (Chishu Ryu and Cheiko Higashiyama) who visit their children in Tokyo only to find themselves neglected by everyone except their daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuku Hara), is often maligned for its slow and rhythmic pace - but for sheer emotion and its ability to inflict a mood on its audience through its characters, its unrivalled within the cinema. Ozu, directing from low angles and seldomly moving his camera, knows exactly what he is doing. He is crafting a masterclass in character. In fact, the film lives and dies on its characters and its emotions, and if its not succesful in identifying with you personally through its characters, then it won't suceed as a film. The theme is family, one that doesn't seem to be out of the ordinary or anything special, but it's one that will resonate with everybody. It's about how, in all cases, children will eventually drift away from their family, and there is nothing that parents can do but accept. But, seen as everybody pretty much accepts this as a fact anyway, the film cannot suceed on the strength of that alone. As I've said before, it's all about the characters and how emotive they are. Whether it's whilst a spoiled daughter is claiming her inheritence in the form of clothes only seconds after her mother's funeral or the sad acceptance of a faithful daughter - Kyoko - that she will, too, one day drift away from her parents, Ozu has suceeded in getting under the skin of his audience (or at lease me), and how gut-wrenchingly heart-breaking this film is is there for all to see. Oh, and about it being slow, I prefer David Bordwell's description of it being "calm". Because, after all, this isn't a film that confines itself within the time frames and pacing conventions of the decided set of "rules", instead it's one that attempts to re-construct the pain-stakingly brutal processes of acceptance and grieving. And I, personally, think it's sucessful in doing that.
Piles

Tokyo Story is about an elderly couple, Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) and Tomi (Chieko Higashiyama). They live in a small town with their youngest daughter, Kyoko, but decide to travel to Tokyo to visit their adult children, but find the children too wrapped up in their own lives to spend any time with them. They want to see their parents but work, family and the rest of their lives takes over and Shukichi and Tomi find themselves passed around from child to child. Only their widowed daughter-in-law, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), spends any real time with them. The children plan to get them out of their hair by paying for a visit to a hot spring spa, but they find the nightlife disturbs them. When they realise that their children are too busy for them they return home but Tomi is taken critically ill on the journey. Their children rush back to see them but Tomi dies soon after. After the funeral, the children rush back to Tokyo, leading Kyoko to confide in Noriko that she finds her siblings to be selfish, but Noriko tells her that sometimes life brings distance. Before Noriko returns home, Shukichi thanks her for treating them better than any of their blood children and advises her to remarry and be happy. He gives her Tomi's watch, a symbol of the connection between the two women.

The distance that can grow between parents and children provides the thrust for the drama in Tokyo Story. This was especially a worry in Japan where society was rapidly changing post World War 2, with the future seeming an unknown and worrying place. Despite often being described as the most Japanese of directors, the problems Ozu explores are universal, the film focuses on the expectations that parents place on their children, the need for children to become independent, the way family relationships can drift apart so easily and the way the closest thing to family we have may not be blood relationships. Ozu doesn't blame anyone for the distance between the generations, something made clear through Noriko, he's interested instead in the way life can bring the change in the first place.

Like most of Ozu's work, Tokyo Story's pacing could best be described as serene or contemplative. Despite the potential for great sentimentality, the film is more meditative than anything else, filled with a sense of loss and regret, but also acceptance that this is just the way life is sometimes. Ozu is possibly the most compassionate of all directors, even finding moments of grace for the most selfish of characters, such as the daughter, Shige. This is possibly because in Tokyo Story the characters are more important than the story. Their lives are mundane but you feel a part of them, Ozu is interested in the small details and moments that make up life, not everything in his films drives the plot forward, but the incidents do add to your understanding of the characters and of the generational conflict that can cause children to come to see their parents as liabilities. Ozu understood human relationships and how endlessly complex they could be and he uses that understanding to grip the emotions in a way that few other directors are capable of. He's of course aided greatly by the actors. The performances, especially from Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, are beyond superlatives and are among the finest ever captured on film. Ozu left a great cinematic legacy, but he never created anything more heartbreakingly profound than Tokyo Story, there's a good reason why it's often considered one of the greatest films ever made.

Rawlinson.

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quote:

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


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 115
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:12:47 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




 
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter...and Spring (Kim, 2003)

It's a testament to Kim's exquisite writing and direction and the magnificent performances from all involved that this 100-minute meditation on human nature, morality, and  redemption that is light on dialogue and action is rarely boring. In fact, Spring, Summer is a highly engaging, introspective look at Buddhist philosophy and human nature and the conflict between the two, and how morality and redemption play into this conflict. Set in the deepest part of a valley hidden in the South Korean wilderness, two monks live in a floating monastery in the middle of a lake surrounded by breathtaking forest and mountain ranges, and the film spans fifty years as the cycle of life goes through a metaphorical cycle of seasons. As the Young Monk loses his innocence, becomes aware of the wonders and tragedies of love, learns to take responsibility for his actions and discovers his calling in life, the Old Monk looks on, giving the Young Monk the chance to experience life for himself rather than influence him, only intervening to assist the Young Monk in his enlightenment. The relationship between the two Monks, clearly a fiduciary one, is wonderfully understated, as are the emotions and the enlightenments experienced by both Monks - Kim Ki-Duk clearly wants the audience to take from the film what they see, not what they're shown, and such an approach conveys his themes clearer than any telegraphing could ever do. The setting only assists in the conveyance of these themes, a tranquil and beautiful locale untouched by time or modernity, one removed from the real world but not entirely so. This ethereal place is stooped in spiritual energy, perhaps even crossing into supernatural energy, but it never feels unreal - it's a retreat that allows us a look inside our normal world and see the flaws and the wonders in their all their glory (or lack thereof). Spring, Summer is a beautiful and subtly magical film, one that can only offer more with every viewing.
Pigeon Army
 
SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A Buddhist monk passes his wisdom to his young student.

There's no real plot to speak of in this beautiful film, we just follow the life cycles of two monks. We never find out the names of the characters, but then the names aren't really important. Of far greater importance is the spiritual discipline the adult monk is trying to instill in the child. Spring... is a film composed of five vignettes, each one linked to a season. The seasons are linked to both the wisdom of the older monk and the changes we all undergo through our lives. The film emphasises the circular pattern of nature and human behaviour and experience.

In the first chapter, Spring,  the young monk, still a child, ties stones around the bodies of several animals. In punishment, the older monk ties a large stone to the child and tells him it'll be removed only when the animals are set free, and if any of the animals have died that it'll put a larger stone in the child's heart, one that he'll carry with him forever. A simple lesson, but an effective one.

In Summer, the child has grown into a teenager, a young girl comes to stay with the monks to recover from an illness. The monk and the girl start a love affair, despite the warnings of the older monk. This chapter marks the young monk's fall from innocence, as he leaves to be with the girl.  In Autumn the young monk returns as an adult filled with rage. He has murdered the girl in a jealous fit and he is pursued by the police. To calm him and reawaken the spiritual discipline, the older monk orders him to carve Buddhist sutras into the floor of the house.

In Winter, the monk returns again, an older and wiser man. His master has died but he wants to resume his training anyway.  Through meditation and discipline he manages to regain the teachings of his master.  A young girl arrives and leaves a baby with the monk, she tries to flee but falls through the now ice covered lake and drowns. The film ends with a return to Spring, the young monk, now an old man has a protege of his own, the child left with him in Winter. He watches as the child torments animals and the cycle begins again.

There's something profound about Spring... something that's missing in Kim's other films, fine as they are. Life is always in transition and Kim demonstrates this, but at the same time he realises that there is something permanent within the changes, as contradictory as that may sound. Transformation is important to this film, but it understands that even as we transform we still take a plce within the established cycles of nature. Spring... is a rare thing, A film that's as beautiful in its message as it is in its visuals. A moving and thought-provoking experience.

Rawlinson


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quote:

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


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 116
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:21:48 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, 1954)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Sansho is a folk tale of the feudal period in Japan. A kind provincial governor, Taira Masauji has been exiled for his kindness. Before he departs to his prison island, he tells his son to remember, "Without mercy, a man is not a human being." Six years later, Taira's wife and children make a journey to see him on his remote island, along the way they meet with a deceitful woman who conspires to seperate Tamaki from her children. Tamaki is taken to a brothel on Sado Island while the children Zushio and Anju are forced to be slaves to the ruthless tax collector Sansho. Broken by the cruelty he witnesses, Zushio forgets his father's words and becomes one of the overseers who cruelly punishes other slaves. Zushio grows up hard until one day when he's asked to dispose of a dying slave and Zushio remembers his childhood and escapes from Sansho.

Sansho depicts the barbarism of the feudal age, focusing on the way people were degraded and turned into slaves. Anyone, even the most aristocratic, could be forced into a life where hard labour and starvation were the norm. It's also a film of immense visual beauty, the imagery standing in contrast to the despair on display. It's also a beautiful meditation on individual freedom. Mizoguchi was one of cinema's great humanists and he brings compassion and poignancy to an emotionally distressing tale. But it's also a beautiful character piece, with finely drawn roles and strong performances from the cast.

Sansho should be a top 100 film and if we were talking about the greatest achievements in cinema it would be among the very best, but, like Bergman's Cries and Whispers, it's a film I find too heart-wrenching to rewatch often and as a result it falls outside my 100 favourites.

Rawlinson
 
“Sansho Dayu” tells the story of two children who are sold into slavery by their kidnappers. They come from a well off family, whose father has gone into exile. Their mother and children attempt to join him, but they are separated and the kids sold to a life of oppression. “Sansho Dayu” is the third Mizoguchi film I’ve seen, and rivals “Ugetsu Monogatari” (1953) as his best so far. It’s amazing that he made two films so incredible in the space of two years, and although they share their similarities (both praise woman, are taken at an elegiac pace, and are shot beautifully), but in a narrative sense they are worlds apart. Whilst “Ugetsu” spoke about humble families attempting to get rich, “Sansho Dayu” talks about a rich family who are sent the other way. It speaks of themes of the equality of man, and how – when it comes down to the essentials – a rich slave is just as tragic and as helpless as a poor one. It also lords women and challenges the oppression of them, questioning the assumption of them as the inferior species. It treads similar ground in that area as both “Ugetsu” and “Miss Oyu” does, and you can see why Mizoguchi is often renowned as one of the earliest feminist directors. Aesthetically, the film is wonderful, creating some breathtaking visuals (the scene where Anju descends into the lake is astounding), great direction, fantastic pacing (Mizoguchi takes it at a trademark slow pace, allowing the emotion to build and build and build), and beautiful performances from Eitaro Shindu (as Sansho), Kyoko Kagawa (as Anju), and Yoshiaki Hanayagi (as Zushio). The one problem I had with it was the runtime, which is slightly overlong. I don’t mind films that trot over two hours, but when Mizoguchi could have been more punchy with his point – particularly in the slavery sections when the director seems overly obsessed with showing as much branding as he can; surely just once or twice is enough and just as effective? – you wonder why he seems resolutely intent on making the film epic. But this is just a minor quibble, and I was never once (contrary to Eivind’s opinion) bored or unimpressed. It’s a film of beauty, brains, and breathtaking atmosphere, and one of the best Japanese films I’ve ever seen.
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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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 117
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:21:54 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Memories of Murder (Bong, 2003)


In the late 80s a serial killer started murdering young woman in a rural part of South Korea. In the real world thousands of police officers helped out on the case and thousands of suspects were interviewed. In Bong Joon-Ho's fictionalisation we get 2 cops and a pretty temperamental boss.

Memories of Murder may be the first modern South Korean film I remember seeing. I remember Ross talking it up on Film, presumably, 2003 (it wasn't at the time of general release I think) and also talking about the wealth of great films that seemed to be coming out of South Korea at the time (a couple of years later he did the Asian Invasion series).  Anyway, I headed to Ebay and bought it and got it and watched it and brilliant it was too.

Bong manages to squeeze so many genres into a single perfect script it must make lesser writers weep. In the background we hear the political situation of the day, but it never comes to the front of screen. We have the mismatched cops – the hick and the city slicker, paired up and not getting along until the case brings them together. We have elements of broad comedy, particularly at the crime scenes and interrogations ("you didn't kill them", "I think I did"). A poignancy that most cop tales simply don't reach as years later Park revisits the scene or the genuine desperation the cops begin to show as they fail to catch the killer. And a tale that just doesn't have an answer with an overriding mood that suggests Mr Fincher must have seen this film, IMO. According to Wiki they are even now trying to change the statute of limitations in South Korea to ensure this killer can still be prosecuted if he's caught.

Rewatching this I also discovered something odd. First time we tried to watch this the DVD broke but when I replaced it my husband said he wasn't that bothered and didn't finish it. But this time – after I've made him watch lots of Korean films and he's gotten more used to them and also recognised the lead this time – he really really liked it. I guess some films really do need more than one go to get into them.
Elab49
 
This is one of those films that I have had recommended to me countless times but never got round to getting hold of.  Currently
 
The film centres around a spate of murders in a quiet factory town in Korea's Gyunggi province between 1986 and 1991.  The local police are struggling to even find evidence let alone come up with a suspect, so a detective from Seoul is drafted in to help out.  As is usually the way with this sort of thing, the city cop finds the brutal (and frequently superstitious) methods of the local detectives distatsteful, and the locals are suspicious of the outsider.
So far, so generic.


Fortunately, this film has a whole bunch of aces up its sleeve.  Firstly, the murders and location are factual - a total of 10 women were raped and murdered by the same person, who was never caught.  The story is one that really resonates with the Korean public, and still does.  Secondly, the cast (especially and as always, Song Kang-ho) is exemplary throughout, giving depth to their characters and adding an occasional much-needed touch of humour at times.  And lastly, Bong's direction is brilliant, concentrating less on the victims (for the squeamish, it's pretty much completely gore-free) and possible perpetrator and more on the lives of those trying to bring the killing to an end and the people around them.  It's important to be completely believable and plausable at all times with this type of film, and the natural feel throughout - mixed with some unbearably tense sequences - gives it an almost documentary quality at times.


And of course, with this being a Bong Joon-ho film (he also did The Host, which was full of fingerpointing), there is politicking by the spadeload.  Korea during the time of the murders was under military dictatorship, and the point that is most hammered home during the whole film is that the government of the time were so driven to control the general populace that nobody really gave a stuff about a few women being raped and murdered.  A key example of this is during one of the frequent blackout drills, where the townsfolk were ordered into their homes to lock the doors and turn off the lights, while the most shocking of the film's killings was taking place just a short distance away.

All in all, a very dark story that gives a great insight into 1980s Korea.  With the real-life story lacking a conclusion, it was always going to be hard to satisfactorily end this, but the last two scenes are wonderfully constructed and the only disappointment for me was that it wasn't another 2 hours longer.  Brilliant stuff and very highly recommended.
Foz
 
Another quality South Korean film. Song Kang-ho was excellent as usual, though in a different sort of role than I'd seen him before (i.e. incompetent). Kim Roe-ha played a bit of a nutter again (as he previously did in A Bittersweet Life), this time using the "flying kick" method of police interrogation...

A film with serious content, whilst containing slightly disconcerting elements of humour. Highly recommended.
Gram123.

Unlike the very similar Zodiac (both films are based on real-life unsolved serial murders), Salinui chueok doesn't deal with obsession as much as it does the differences between small-town and big-city culture and when conviction becomes compulsion. Bong Joon-ho’s thematically-strong, fantastically-acted, beautiful film captures everything that a police procedural should, and does it without feeling clichéd or like it’s treading worn ground. The Hitchcockian way in which the dark, bleak film progresses, with evidence not supporting the choices of suspects and the fierce clashes between the two main detectives on the case, acts as testament to Bong’s skill – as a director, he’s chameleon-like, shifting between comedy and crushing tragedy with impeccable skill and establishing himself as one of the world’s foremost genre directors with The Host, Mother and this film.
Pigeon Army.


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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.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 118
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:21:58 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi, 1953)
 
“Ugetsu” is the story of two villagers, Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa) and Genjuro (Masayuki Mori), who dream of making it rich. Genjuro is a potter, and Tobei is a wannabe samurai, but both of them are pretty hapless – living with their wives and with no real chance of getting any real wealth behind them. That is until war hits the village, and Genjuro’s pottery is suddenly in high demand. After fleeing the village in attempts to sell the pottery in a bigger setting, the men send their wives home to meet unpleasant fates. “Ugetsu” has many big ideas and themes behind it, but I don’t think these ideas come anywhere close to rivalling the sheer emotion that the characters and the story evoke. This may be the most tragic, heartbreaking film ever made, but it is still riddled with hope. The theme of dreams and ambition is well explored, with Mizoguchi weighing up the pros and cons of the unconditional drive that seems to possess these men. Their tunnel vision and their ignorance of everybody else around them is what they believe will help them attain their dreams – Genjuro’s to be rich and Tobei’s to be a samurai – but in truth the relationships that each of them share with their wives. Relationships that get left by the wayside. Mizoguchi’s direction is astounding, and Rawlinson’s description of it as ‘flawless’ is just about perfect. He manages to evoke a dream-like reality, and in the supernatural scenes which take place in the film’s latter half, his pacing – coupled with the score – really create an eerie lyricism. The best sequence, though, comes as the families flee the village in the fog, crossing the river to be greeted by a phantom-esque ship. It’s a testament to the film’s beauty, and nothing else can come close to matching this wondrous scene. Great performances, expert writing, breath-taking visuals, and amazing direction make “Ugetsu” just as good as anything I’ve seen from Ozu or Kurosawa.
Piles

Quite possibly as close you'll ever come to seeing a perfect film, Ugetsu Monogatari is Mizoguchi's take on how war can destroy people both physically and spiritually. Two neighbours, Genjuro and Tobei live in a small village. Genjuro is a potter, while Tobei dreams of being a samurai. A civil war is raging and, taking advantage of the shortages caused by the war, Genjuro suddenly finds his pottery in high demand. When the village is overrun by rampaging soldiers, both men and their wives flee the village in order to try to sell Genjuro's pottery. In the face of danger, the men send their wives back, but both women return to the village to meet unpleasant fates at the hands of the soldiers. Meanwhile Tobei uses his profits to become a samurai, while Genjuro finds himself seduced away from his family by the ghost of Lady Wakasa.

The film is ostensibly a ghost story, and it skilfully evokes an otherworldly quality, but even as it creates this ethereal and dreamlike state, it still manages to set the supernatural firmly within the context of the real world. It mixes the real and the supernatural until there's nothing that clearly separates them. The film accepts the supernatural as part of everyday life, the otherworld exists within our world, and it uses this duality it creates as an allegory for the dichotomy in the human soul, the split between our pragmatic and our spiritual natures.

Mizoguchi's direction is flawless. He combines a restrained feel to the characters with poetic sequences like the justly celebrated scene where the characters flee from the village through the night fog, encountering a ghostly ship drifting down the river towards them. It is a stunningly beautiful film, combining a lyrical and serene nature with an at times brutal realism.

Mizoguchi was always a director who displayed a great deal of sympathy for his female characters and here he again explores the role of women in a patriarchal society. Here, both of his female leads are tragic figures. Destroyed by rape, murder and the cruelty of men. Yet Mizoguchi wasn't a sexist director, destroying his female characters for some sense of noble suffering. He uses their fate as an attack on chauvinistic attitudes. But despite his seeming despair and disdain for men, Mizoguchi was one of cinema's great humanists. At its heart, Ugetus is a moral tale about appreciating the things you have. It's a simple story of greed and betrayal, men abandon their wives for sex and for dreams of glory. Yet this simple narrative takes on subtle and transcendent qualities that make it one of cinema's great tragedies.

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 #: 119
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 31/3/2011 7:22:01 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54574
Joined: 1/10/2005




Infernal Affairs (Mak/Lau, 2002)
 
Between my first and second viewings of Infernal Affairs, I watched Scorsese’s remake, The Departed. Some people only like one film, and usually it’s the original. Personally, I like both films, though the original definitely edges it.

It’s stylish and well-acted, and the plot is smarter than the average HK crime drama. Andy Lau and Tony Leung are both great as the moles working undercover on opposite sides of the law. It’s also good to see Eric Tsang doing something other than be the fat idiotic one in 80s kung fu films.

Gram123.


Infernal Affairs isn't what it appears to be on first glance - it's ostensibly a Hong Kong cop thriller, but very little shooting or general action occurs; on top of that, our first impression of the film, the opening credits, appear to have nothing to do with the main film. But Infernal Affairs' apparent duplicity works to its advantage, and the opening credits – eventually revealed to be symbolic of the eighth ring of hell according to Buddha, that of Continuous Suffering – are the perfect example of this, swooping shots through eerily-lit CGI statues that seem to have nothing to do with the film until you get to the end. Which leads me to why I love Infernal Affairs; because, on first watch, it was one of the few genuinely surprising and unpredictable films I've seen, and on repeat watches it loses none of its thrills, while prompting the audience to look again and see how they crafted such a fantastic film. 

Unlike its bloated and ultimately ineffective Hollywood remake, The Departed, Infernal Affairs is an economic thriller, every second of the ninety-seven minute runtime contributing to the plot. And what a plot it is – Inspector Lau is an ambitious cop, and Chan Wing Yan a trusted associate of crime lord Hon Sam. However, Lau is a mole in the police for Sam, and Yan is an undercover cop, and when the two are alerted to the other's existence during a tense drug deal, each must find out who the other is in order to guarantee their survival. Directors Lau and Fai Mak handle the potentially unwieldy story with skill, never losing the threads and ensuring you, the audience, are there and knowing what's going on every step of the way. 

The film, which swept the floor at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards for good reason, also has lots of other great aspects that come together to create a virtuosic thriller. The acting is uniformly superb, a great ensemble cast including Andy Lau, Tony Leung and Anthony Wong shining with the great dialogue rolling off their tongues. Special mention, however, must go to Eric Tsang, for not only showing up Jack Nicholson by playing the same role better (Nicholson played the American version of Sam in The Departed), but by being one of the most frightening and unpredictable crime lords ever put on screen. The cinematography is excellent, and every little scene seems to count, coming together to paint more complete pictures of our protagonist and antagonist, if you can even try and pigeon-hole Lau and Yan in such restrictive narrative roles. And you'll be reeling from that ending for days. Infernal Affairs is a modern masterpiece in a very unassuming way – minimalist in design, challenging thematically, it's not just a perfect cop thriller, but an astounding film in its own right.

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 #: 120
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