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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... - 1/4/2011 1:16:03 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1950)
"Homer, you'll love Japan. You loved Rashomon"
"That's not how I remember it"

That exchange, possibly the highest brow joke from The Simpsons, shows the powerful affect that Rashomon has had on popular culture. In 1950 it was a sensation, and introduced the genius of Akira Kurosawa - and Eastern Cinema in general to the western world. For my money, despite the many many masterpieces he made,Ran, Ikiru, The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and so on, it is Rashomon that still stands as his very best.

And its because that, despite its reputation as so revolutionary and important (which is undoubtedly is, more on that in a second) it is primarily incredibly entertaining, even now, when its style has been knocked off by endless films (from the spectacular Hero, to the deeply unspectacular Vantage Point).

The story is told by three men passing the time from a typically Kurosawan rainstorm. Two have just witnessed a trial, of a known bandit in a particularly nasty murder-and-rape case. All the protagonists tell the story differently, via flashback and contradict one another. The shakiness of Eye Witness Testimony is put on full display.

The amazing true-ism that Rashomon presents is that Humans cannot tell stories without exaggerating or making them different, more impressive, making their own role different or whatever. Stories, are more interesting that reality, and Kurosawa proves it so with this very film.

The way the story is told, of course was revolutionary. Indeed the word Rashomon has come to mean what the film portrays, because there isn't an easier way to express it. Its impact on the world of cinema was incredible – it was made for little money and its producer took his name off it, and yet it broke box office records for a subtiled film around the world and won an Oscar for best Forigen Language film.

But the key is this - the people telling the story don't do it in a way that makes them seem better. Each one absolves a different person of the blame in a different way. They don't all lie so that they seem better, they make concessions, and try to explain why they behaved the way they did, however that was. Which turn of events is true? Who knows. But it isn't important.

But more than the way its told, the way the way its told is the key to Rashomon's brilliance. The cinematography is gorgeous, from the torrential Kurosawa rain to the tropical heat of the forest, you certainly get a sense of it. The film contains some of my favourite shots in all of cinema. The famous scene where the woodcutter walks through the forest before seeing the bandit is magnificent, the camera free to view from above from the treetops and staring into the sun

A special mention should go out to the acting, who uniformly make you forget you are watching a really cheap film, and make you remember you are watching a masterpiece. Toshiro Mifune in particular, shocked audiences with his portrayal of a very real madness, his crazy laughs and yelps and he fills the screen. Even when he's tied up, those ropes cannot hold him.


Rashomon is one of the greatest films of all time, a hypnotic film, and one of the greatest musings on the idea of truth. and though Kurosawa made many, many masterpieces, I think this one is his best. Which is the highest compliment I could possibly pay.

Rhubarb
 
Everyone and their mother is familiar with the structure of Rashomon, so much so that it has become its own descriptive: films with a similar structure are often referred to as "Rashomon-like". (See Hoodwinked - Rashomon for children.) The beauty of this film lies in its simplicity. And the rain. The story itself could be told of anytime, and anywhere. Three men, sheltering from the rain share a story they've all been involved with somehow from three days previously. Each has a different part of the story, and a different perspective, and through the differing accounts we build a picture of what really happened. Or, what didn't happen. Or we never know. The depth of the film, over the beauty of the simplicity (and the rain) comes then, from one's own perspective. One's own understanding of the events, of who we believe, and indeed whether, ultimately, it is important. Honour, betrayal, fidelity, truth, deceit - these are heady themes with which to deal, but significant within the story, and indeed with Japanese culture as a whole. Our occasionally misogynistic characters (women aren't held particularly highly by these men) are bound by ancient ideals, and their actions are predisposed by them. Whether you believe they acted honourably depends largely on which story you believe. Indeed, we are not getting these stories 2nd hand, but third hand. Each of the men sheltering in the rain (which, I should add, is stunningly beautiful) is telling their story as recited by one of the three characters at the centre. There is potentially two layers of deceit to peel away. Although, like the proverbial onion, if one peels away all the layers, one is left with nothing. Arguably this is what the story is saying - that irrespective of all lies, truth, what remains is what will always remain: human nature, an intangible thing so often seen as nothing. And by the time the (stunningly beautiful) rain storm ends, the three men have found, through all the deceit, some fundamental truths about themselves, and about each other.

And did I mention the rain?

 
HomerSimpson_Esq


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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 #: 121
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 1/4/2011 1:16:08 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)

If there is someone reading this who is in any way cold on this film, I don't think I can ever be friends with them. Kurosawa's take on Hammett's Red Harvest is one of the best of a crowded field, a sly comedy that doubles as an immensely intriguing game of luck, Toshiro Mifune's enigmatic samurai playing the two gangs of a small town against each other for a myriad of reasons, each one more susceptible than the last. Mifune's the star of the show here, his laconic, cocksure samurai hilarious, cunning and eminently watchable. There's never a dull moment when he's on screen, and his lazy charisma suits the character down to a t. He has great rapport with the large cast of characters, the highlights including Tatsuya Nakadai as the crazy-eyed gunfighter Unosuke, Eijiro Tono as Gonji, the tavern keeper tired with the violence in the town and worried over the promise of more violence that Mifune's arrival brings, and Susumu Fujita, brilliant in his brief role as Homma, the instructor who skips town with a cheeky little grin to Mifune that pretty much says, "Good luck, you're fucked now". The actors have a ball of a time, and Kurosawa's and Ryuzo Kikushima's shifting of Red Harvest in late-1800s Japan works perfectly, the plot intoxicating in its twisty-turny nature. Yojimbo is sublime entertainment, a killer story and killer performances making it worth every minute.
Pigeon Army
 
I've had the boxset of this and Sanjuro since xmas, finally got round to watching this tonight and I thought it was great!

I never expected anything less, from all the praise it receives and the director and cast involved. Interesting to see Nakadai Tatsuya as a bad guy (in fact, I don't think I really liked him in the role of pistol-wielding upstart), Mifune was excellent of course, but some of the supporting players were really good too, playing well-imagined archetypal or comedic characters. From the fed-up restaurant owner Gonji and the hand-rubbing opportunist constable to the mono-browed Inokichi and the giant Kannuki.

I particularly liked some of the shots in the film, none more so than Yojimbo's return to the town as the dust whipped up around him in the wind, and then the pull-back to reveal the advancing baddies, and in centre frame Gonji suspended from the ropes.

Ah, I'm not going to say any more about it, other than it was highly enjoyable and would immediately enter my top 3 Kurosawa films (so far).

Gram123


_____________________________

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

quote:

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


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 122
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 2/4/2011 8:41:29 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Peppermint Candy (Lee, 1999)  

Peppermint Candy is an achingly poignant tale of a young man's loss of innocence, filtered through two decades of political turmoil. It takes those two decades of South Korean history and shows the devastating effect the troubles of a nation, with especial relevance given to the Kwangju massacre of 1980, can have on the individual.

The film opens near a railway bridge in 1999. A group of friends are having a reunion and then they see the lead character,Yong-ho, they remember him as someone who worked with them 20 years earlier. Yong-ho is unable to fit in and after turning belligerent he climbs onto the bridge and leaps in front of a train, screaming about going back. The film then unfolds in reverse chronology. Over a period of 20 years, we witness the events that have led him to his suicidal state. Just a few days earlier he was a victim of the Asian economic crisis and had lost all of his money. He also finds out an old girlfriend is dying in hospital. The next jump back goes to 1994, where he was a thriving businessman stuck in a loveless marriage. Through further leaps back we find out Yong-ho used to be a policeman who would brutally beat and torture suspects. We last see him as a sensitive young man who dreams of being a photographer. We're shown how Yong-ho is degraded and broken over time until all his idealism is lost and he lives a life of suffering and bitterness.

Trains are a running theme in the film, they're a way of showing time passing and as the means of suicide, time stopping and reversing. Footage of trains running in reverse is used to link the moments in time, capturing the natural link between the progress of a train and the passing of time without it seeming like a cliche. The reverse motion actually suggesting a life that will never reached the dreamed of destination with great skill.

The episodes are often rather ordinary, but they all give a deeper insight into Yong-ho, each time revealing a little more of the man and undercutting what we thought we knew. The little moments are important though as they make Yong-ho who he is, it's telling that for all the darker themes in the film, the titles comes from the sweets given to Yong-ho by his first love Sun-im. The shift from innocence to brutality and callousness is heartbreaking and the film works far better than similar themed movies like Irreversible and Memento (although that's not to say they're not great films in their own right) as this feels more painful, more broken somehow. It's aided by the emotionally draining lead performance from Kyung-gu Sol, surely one of the best performances in the last decade. We end on a shattering note of the young Yong-ho dreaming of a future we know he'll never achieve. It's a damning verdict on the recent history of Korea, and one of the finest films to come out of the recent wave of South Korean cinema.
Rawlinson.

The film works backwards from Kim Youngho's suicide at the 20-year reunion of a group of friends. Each step back in time is represented by an image of a train travelling in reverse. At the first step back, Kim is shown as a desperate man, his life in tatters, divulging his woes and threatening murder. The story could quite simply have shown just how his wife came to leave him, his partner cheated him, he lost his money and home etc. However, Lee's screenplay is more intelligent than that, showing instead how he came to be what he has become at the end of the film, the events that shaped him and changed him from the sensitive, creative, hopeful man he had been 20 years earlier.

Events late in the film (and therefore earlier on in his life) have the greatest resonance for the character, so we only learn quite why he has become who he is at the end of his life towards the end of the film.

The star, Sol Kyung-gu (Silmido, Oasis) plays a more emotional role than usual, though his time as a violent cop is somewhat reminiscent of his role in Public Enemy.

Through the early part of the film I initially felt a bit of disappointment, as the protagonist was a bit of an arse in some scenes. As the film progressed, though, I began to understand what Lee was doing with the character, and it became clearer that particular events had scarred and changed him, and by the end I totally changed my opinion.
Gram123.  

Peppermint Candy (1999) seems to be the best known of Lee's 4 films, no doubt helped by the strong advocacy of posters like Jasiri. And it deserves to be recommended as widely as possible. We begin with a man, an ex-cop, on the point of killing himself having harmed most everyone else he knows. But gradually, going backwards step by step, we get a feel for what external processes shaped the man we ended with. Failed businesses, infidelity. A loss of innocence working in a corrupt and brutal police force after an unhappy period in the army. And the loss of his childhood sweetheart, who remembered him even as she was dying. But there is still the question of personal responsibility – the question of choice. Knowing what made him doesn't necessarily redeem him and his occasional acts of wilful cruelty. But we do feel more sympathy as time goes in. Here the train scenes are used as a metaphor for each leap into the past.
Elab49

< Message edited by elab49 -- 2/4/2011 8:43:10 PM >


_____________________________

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 #: 123
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 2/4/2011 8:41:36 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A young girl finds herself trapped in a spirit world.

Ten year old Chihiro and her parents are moving home and travelling through the Japanese countryside. Chihiro is sullen and unhappy about the move. Stopping along the way they discover a deserted amusement park where her parents feed themselves on fresh food. Chihiro wanders off and meets a boy named Haku. Haku tries to warn her to escape but when she returns to her parents she finds they are turned into pigs as a punishment for their gluttony and a river blocks her way out of the park. The amusement park leads to a health resort for the Gods and spirits soon fill the grounds. Chihiro has to get a job in the bathhouse from the owner, the evil witch Yubaba. Chihiro enlists the help of the spider-like Kamajii in order to gain employment, but finds she is forced to give up her name so that Yubaba can keep her in slavery forever. Chihiro is put to work bathing the clients of the bathhouse, she has to come to terms with her new world if she is to ever save herself and Haku from Yubaba's clutches.

Spirited Away is often described as Alice in Wonderland reimagined, and I can understand the comparison. Both works use a rift between worlds as a metaphor for a young girl's journey to adulthood. The surreal, spirit-filled, worlds they enter are the transitional phase in their lives, a necessary rite-of-passage if they are to overcome their childish ways. When Yubaba steals Chihiro's name it's the symbolic death of her identity until that point in time. When Chihiro regains her name it's because she's suffered and matured.  Miyazaki also takes on a recurring theme in his work, the pollution and destruction of nature, here personified as a river spirit who has been so heavily polluted that it's become a foul, stinking wretch. Chihiro's ability to cleanse the river spirit speaks to the faith that Miyazki still has in people, even though he acknowledges that it is people who first cause the pollution.

But beyond any of the film's deeper themes, it's an exhilarating tale. A work of dark fantasy that's multi-layered, beautiful, distressing, intelligent and has the ability to work on a number of different levels, meaning adults and children can take away different things, but still know they've watched something amazing. The supporting cast of characters, from the melancholy No-Face to the vile Yubaba are a testament to Miyazaki's imagination. Miyazaki deserves to be acknowledged not just as one of the greatest creators of fantasy currently working, but one of the greatest who ever lived. Spirited Away owes a debt to Carroll's Alice, but I think it deserves to stand alongside it as a work of equal brilliance and importance.
Rawlinson
 

Is Spirited Away Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece? The answer is, quite possibly, though I myself prefer Porco Rosso for sheer fun and enjoyment, not that Spirited Away isn't a glorious piece of cinematic animation. It certainly looks a whole lot prettier than Rosso; the digital animation is beautiful. Luckily the film does not rely on technology alone, no there's a story too, and a far more complex one than it initially appears as lead character Chihiro slowly begins to forget that her parents have been transformed into pigs as she works in a (corrupt, greedy and excessive) bathhouse for spirits. The spoiled Chihiro has exchanged her identity and name for the job; she has become separated from everything she knows and must try and make her way back to her own reality, she must move on from childhood as her own past begins to slowly slip away, on the way she will experience discrimination at the hands of the spirits, neglect and loneliness. Impqueen

< Message edited by elab49 -- 2/4/2011 8:43:12 PM >


_____________________________

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 #: 124
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 3/4/2011 11:53:48 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Oldboy (Park, 2003)
 
One day, Oh Dae-Su is abducted and put in a small prison cell. He has no idea of who his kidnapper is, nor does he have the slightest clue of what he has done to deserve this. As he makes a list, he realizes that there are quite a few suspects, but when he is released 15 years later, he is still no closer to finding out who and why he given his treatment. He knows one thing, though: if he gets his chance, he will exact his revenge, and it won't be one that will be forgotten. Unfortunately, he only has five days to find his enemy, and as time becomes increasingly sparse, Oh Dae-su uncovers more than he could possibly have predicted.

Read the back of its cover and you might be fooled to think that Oldboy is just another revenge drama, so let's get things straight: Oldboy is anything but just another revenge drama. It would be mean of me to say why it isn't just another revenge drama, so all I really can say is: trust me. See the film for yourself and slowly (but surely) realize that a masterpiece is unfolding before your eyes. The experience will leave you battered and bruised, maybe even emotionally drained, but at least you'll know never to judge a film by its DVD cover. Wait, wasn't that the original saying?

Dantes Inferno
 
Probably Park Chan-Wook's most celebrated film in the West, Oldboy is worthy of all the praise it gets. It's extremely well made, with Park balancing the bloody action and the character work well. Min-sik Choi plays the lead role excellently, being the perfect bad-ass up until the last 20 minutes, where he shows how a desperate man acts when faced with the most horrible truth someone could face. His actions in the final few minutes though leave a bitter taste though. I can understand him not wanting Mi-do to find out, but he could just have gone away and not come back. Instead he does the selfsh thing, and presumably continues their relationship.
Pigeon Army


< Message edited by Pigeon Army -- 29/7/2011 1:03:54 PM >


_____________________________

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 #: 125
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 3/4/2011 11:53:53 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2000)

Hong Kong in the 60s. Partly because of immigration from Shanghai, living space is short. Two married couples rent rooms next door to each other, in flats lived in by the owners. They move in on the same day with their belongings being mixed up back and forth and with the owners being regular mah-jongg partners live, to an extent, in each other's pockets. Mrs Chan's husband is often abroad on business, so is Mr Chow's wife. Over time they come to realise that their spouses are having an affair and the couple get closer as they play out scenarios that might have brought their cheating partners together.

I think it is easy to see why In the Mood for Love is Wong's most successful film. You can't help but get caught up in the dance between the central couple as the waltz plays moving them together and apart again. Gorgeously shot with Maggie Cheung often shown as a still centre, surrounded by movement, austerely styled and controlled. The film makes their partners as elusive to us as they are to them – Mrs Chow only seen from the back (with the same hair down style that Miss Yu, the boss's mistress has), Mr Chan only heard. The camera often observes them at work through windows, oval or square. This pair are kept at a distance so we, like the central couple, only get a feel from them as they try and play-act a relationship (who would have made the first move, how would they make love?), realising a little too late that they may be going down the same route themselves. This is one film where you really do, I think, need to get a DVD with the deleted scenes – they are actually an extension of the story that makes us wonder how far the relationship did go. It catches up with them in later years and when they finally meet, and we get a rather important speech from Ah Ping on what love is and whether simply knowing it is enough. What these scenes show us is that the dance never stops.

The central performances from Cheung and Leung are often left unremarked beside comments on the style of the film, but watch Cheung as she tries to make excuses to keep Mrs Chow at the door or that beautifully constructed sequence in the restaurant as they admit their discoveries out loud. Both performances are understated and perfectly nuanced – two controlled people trying to deal with pain, discovery and then their own revelation.

It also reminds me in some respects of Terence Davies's work – I think mostly because of the way the film uses music, and constructs it round the domestic life. I think it is obvious how personal this is and Wong does talk elsewhere about it, suggesting that it is very autobiographical for him, remembering the Nat King Cole songs his mother listened to when he was a boy at that time. And the soundtrack is a stunner – one of the few (along with that for the sequel 2046) that I listen to regularly.

In the Mood for Love is a beautiful film – an aural and visual delight, yes. But that's not to forget the nuanced performances at the centre showing us restrained people dealing with both pain and possibility.
Elab49


_____________________________

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

quote:

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


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 126
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 3/4/2011 11:55:10 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, 1988)

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Apart from some incredible anti-war films of which Grave of the Fireflies is no exception and is perhaps one of the strongest out there. Also titled Tombstone for Fireflies, Grave is an incredibly somber film about the hardships faced by two children struggling to survive during World War II. Seita and his younger sister Setsuko are left on their own, having to survive when when their mother dies from burns inflicted by the American fire-bombing of their town, Kobe. Their father is away with the Japanese navy, and Seita and Setsuko haven't heard anything from him for a while. Initially the children are living with a distant aunt which, while practical, isn't the best situation for the children to be in and after finding themselves having to sell items belonging to their mother the children leave and try to make it alone.

Grave of the Fireflies is based on a semi-autobiographical novel which the author wrote as a way of trying to make amends for his own sister dying of malnutrition during wartime Japan and as a way of helping him come to terms with the tragedy. Because of this Grave of the Fireflies is not a film that should be watched expecting a light hearted animation - despite originally being shown as a double bill alongside My Neighbour Tortoro!

Above all else, Grave of the Fireflies is absolutely a film that must be watched with a box of tissues at the ready. It will wring your heart, it will make those tear glands work and it will absolutely leave a mark on your soul.

Funkyrae

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A brother and sister struggle to survive during WW2

Set during the tail end of World War 2, a Japanese brother and sister try to survive the air raids and life on the streets after their mother dies during a bomb attack. The two children, 14 year Seita and 4 year old Setsuko, first go to live with a spiteful aunt, but they find themselves unable to live with her resentful nature and move themselves into a cave near a lake, but slowly starvation begins to set in. There are times when a plot description can't begin to do justice to the power, beauty and tragedy of a film. Grave of the Fireflies is deceptively simple on the surface. What makes the film so powerful are the little scenes and moments, such as capturing fireflies that die all too soon, and the container of sweets that will come to contain ashes. Seita and Setsuko are outsiders, the villagers reject them out of self-preservation and they reject the villagers as they retreat into their make-believe world.

There's no false hope in this film, we're shown from the opening scene how things are going to turn out and we know it's going to be a hellish experience at times. As Seita dies in the opening, we see that he's not alone. The train station where he passes away is filled with others just like him, and the train passengers treat them all with the same mixture of ignorance and revulsion, determined to not acknowledge them and their own responsibility. The fact that the film is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, who lost his own sister in similar circumstances, just adds to the oppressive weight that hangs over this film.

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the saddest films ever made, a profoundly devastating account of the toll war takes on the innocents, and a slap in the face to any idiot who claims these kinds of casualties are acceptable. It's often been questioned why this was an animation rather than live-action, I don't even see why that's an issue except for people who think animation can't hold any power. I think this is one of those films that everyone needs to see at least once, just to experience its heartbreaking power and its condemnation of human selfishness and stupidity.
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 #: 127
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 4/4/2011 12:02:32 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005





Ikiru (Kurosawa, 1952)
 
In Kurosawa's greatest film, Takashi Shimura gives one of the greatest performances in history as Kanji Watanabe. Watanabe is a middle-aged bureaucrat. He's been in the same job for decades, his family life is strained, in short, he has very little of meaning or worth in his life. After learning he is dying of stomach cancer, he tries to come to terms with his mortality. His plans to tell his son about the cancer fail and he tries to lose himself in Tokyo's nightlife, but he realises this isn't the solution. Watanabe decides to accomplish something worthwhile before he dies and decides to transform a wasteland into a children's playground. After we see Watanabe's wake, we flash back to see the iconic scene from before his death, where he sits on a swing in his park as the snow starts to fall.

Kurosawa created a classic humanist tale without ever falling victim to sentimentality. This is a celebration of the potential we all have to give our lives some meaning. Watanabe's life has revolved around not making waves and now he finally sees the chance to do something important before it's too late. The scene where Watanabe sings in a bar is one of the most heartbreaking and sorrowful scenes in cinema, but when the song is repeated at the end of the film, it's a moment of pure joy. That song sums up the film, life is something than can be terrifying and sad, or it can be joyous and celebratory of the good moments. The potential for mawkishness is evaded by Kurosawa's focus on small moments and emotional truths, this isn't a Hallmark made for t.v. movie, it's honest and heartbreaking.

Shimura's performance is remarkable. It's not hyperbole to call it one of the greatest screen performances of all time. Shimura plays a man decades his senior, but manages to convince absolutely. It's a performance of great depth and feeling as Shimura conveys not only the brevity of life but also the inner feelings of a man who feels unable to die until he's figured out how to live.

There's an argument that this film was Kurosawa's criticism of post-war Japan and the decision to build a park in this urban sprawl marks a desire to move away from the western influence to a more traditional meditative Japanese environment. I can understand the logic, but I think it's too narrow-minded to look at that as the sole purpose of the film. Ikiru really is an ode to what it means to be fully alive. It's an incredibly powerful and emotional film with scenes of beauty and reflection that have rarely been equalled in cinema. It's a draining experience, but it's a film everyone needs to see.
Rawlinson.

Chilling, haunting, uplifting and inspiring, Kurosawa's best film (it overtook "the Seven Samurai" on its first watch last night) is the story of one man and his struggle to capture the essense of life after he's told that he's about to die. It's a beautifully sad film, and his initial attempts to find out what life is - first going for base pleasures and then female company - are as heartbreaking as anything I've seen in a film. But it's the final hour that makes this truly unmissible. Kurosawa jumps from Watanabe's (Shimura - brilliant) lowest point to his death, and plays what happened between out in flashbacks. It's a wonderful trick and one that pays off brilliantly, because we only get second hand opinions on Watanabe (a trick Kurosawa used before to good effect in "Rashomon"), until the only reliable opinion comes along; that of the saddened policeman who feels guilt for Kenji's death and wants to confess to his friends for his sins and neglect. We only get one image; Watanabe sitting on the swing, going back and forth, singing his favourite song. It's beautiful and haunting, and something that will live with me for a long time to come. I don't know why Dante hated it so much, because I don't think this film does anything outrightly bad. I can see why someone would think it was average, but to me it was something special; that rare film that comes around every now and again and shows you why you loved films in the first place.

Piles


Ikiru is about a man who decides to live life to its fullest capacities after he has been diagnosed with cancer of the stomach. A meets a man at a bar and asks him to show him how to live a good life; the man duly obliges. Together they visit gambling parlours, the red lights district and a dancing hall, amongst other locations of enjoyment. However, he soon realises that this is a selfish way to go about his last six months of life, so he attempts to help others by giving them opportunities which they would otherwise not have.

Often overlooked for his samurai epics, Ikiru is one of Kurosawa's most humanistic and moving features (I haven't seen enough of his to say that Ikiru is the most moving of his films). As has often been said, Takashi Shimura gives one of the greatest performances in film, playing Watanabe, a Tokyo City Hall worker who has yet to achieve anything in his life barring having children – he was known by his colleagues as simply 'that man who never takes a day off.' Though his performance often involves staring into space and having a croaky voice, Shimura expertly portrays a man fearful of his death occuring before any sort of achievement in life whatsoever. Unappreciated and mocked by both his family members and his colleagues, Watanabe attempts to reconcile and reform a relationship with his son. Indeed, it is during the scene of his attempted reveal of the truth to his son and daughter that we are treated to the greatest emotion-stirring scene so far. As he says that he has something to tell them, his son/daughter cut him off by assuming that he was to say of his affair with a young girl he has enjoyed life with for a while. Watanabe then continues with his living of the high-life, resulting in the famous scene at a bar of some sort where he requests a pianist to play 'Life is Brief' ad sings along; everybody else watches the man, his quiet and tearful voice halting everybody's enjoyment.

The latter parts of the film revolve around a group of men at his funeral. They argue as to whether Watanabe knew he had cancer – some saying that it is the reason for his creation of the park, others say that there was simply no way he would have known; the doctors did not inform him. When a policeman enters the area where the funeral is taking place, he informs the folk present that he witnessed Watanabe singing the song 'Life is Brief' while swinging away on the swing. This is perhaps the most moving scene of the entire film, as it is reminds us of the bar scene when he people around him. We realise, then, that he had lived a lonely a life, it didn't necessarily matter to him that he died without anybody around him. The end scene, of course, shows his final and only accomplishment in his life.

Quite comfortably one of the most moving films in the history of cinema, Ikiru should long be heralded as one of the true greats of 20th century cinema. -- Fritzlfan.

Is one of the director's more modest efforts in terms of its logistics (no 1,000-extra battles here), but astoundingly ambitious in its theme, which roughly translates as: 'What is the purpose of life?' Frequent Kurosawa star Takashi Shimura is a civil servant who finds out he is dying. At first stumbling into debauchery, he then slips into self-pity, before discovering what he really wants to do, devoting his final days to creating a children's playground. Built around Shimura's towering, restrained performance, the film is doggedly unsentimental and straightforward, with a particularly satisfying denouement.

Favourite bit: It is snowing. An old man sits on a swing, gently rocking back and forth.
Rick_7.

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


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 128
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 4/4/2011 4:43:11 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
 
Ran depicts the fall from power of Hidetora Ichimonji (Nakadai), an aging warlord who decides to abdicate his throne and give the power to his three sons, Taro, Jiro and Saburo. Taro is given leadership of the clan while Jiro and Saburo are given other castles and told to support their brother, while Hidetora remains leader in name only. Saburo disagrees with his logic, thinking it is too easy for his sons to betray him, an act Hidetora mistakes for a threat, something that leads to Saburo's banishment. Once Hidetora abdicates, Taro's wife starts pushing for him to take complete control of the clan. When Hidetora kills one of Taro's guards after he threatens his fool, Taro demands that Hidetora renounce his title. He seeks refuge with Jiro, only to find he is only interested in using him as a pawn against Taro. Hidetora tries to travel to the Third Castle, vacant after Saburo's banishment, only to be attacked by his sons. Hidetora's bodyguards are massacred and Hidetora left to commit seppuku. He descends into insanity, left to wander in the wilderness. Hidetora discovers the few that remain loyal to him and they hide out in the ruins of a castle but he begins to hallucinate visions of the people he destroyed to gain power. When Saburo learns of his father's plight, he returns to aid him and go to war with his brothers.

Kurosawa's final epic was the most expensive film produced in Japan up until that point and it's one of the most astonishing visual spectacles in cinema. The magnificent battle sequences are quite possible the finest ever filmed. But unlike so much bad cinema where spectacle is mistaken for great film-making, Ran also tells a great and tragic story, filled with intelligent writing and sublime acting. The story takes its inspiration from legends of the warlord Mori Motonari. Monotari was famous for having three loyal sons, but Kurosawa tried to picture the results if the sons were disloyal. Kurosawa merged the story of Motonari with Shakespeare's King Lear in order to create one of cinema's great tragedies. Kurosawa had already proved himself capable of directing great Shakespearean adaptations and Ran is the pinnacle of not just his Shakespearean films, but also of his epic, period cinema.

Tatsuya Nakadai gives a remarkable, vanity-free performance as Hidetora. He is vain, arrogant and a ruthless warmonger who acquired his power through slaughter and treachery. We should despise him, and Nakadai refuses to play for audience sympathy. When Hidetora slips into insanity we begin to feel pity for him through the power of Nakadai's performance, a lesser actor may just have left the viewer with the feeling that Hidetora is getting exactly what he deserves. Nakadai shows us the warlord's regret and his sadness and creates a great sense of empathy with the character. He's ably supported by a strong cast, but the only performance that comes near to his level is Mieko Harada's astounding turn as the power-hungry and murderous Lady Kaede. This tale of ambition, pride, loyalty, betrayal and regret is one of cinema's true, undisputed classics, and while it's not quite the pinnacle of Kurosawa's career, it's a film that deserves a place in anyone's top 100.

Rawlinson.

I don't know about others but I tend to find it harder to review films I've known and watched for years, particularly trying to explain why I agree the great ones are great.

Kurosawa initially took this idea from Japanese history. A lord with 3 good sons. But what, he wondered, if they hadn't been so dutiful? From there it was a fairly short step to Lear, and it is to Shakespeare that the greater debt is clearly owed (and not just to Lear – elements of Prospero and certainly Macbeth are clearly also at work. Here Kurosawa presents us with a play – not playing with theatrical conventions like Ichikawa's An Actor Revenge does, it is straighter than that, but still much more than simply putting stage settings before a camera in a powerful take of hubris, superbly told with some astonishing setpieces, particularly the initial silence through the battle at the 3rd castle as lives are lost and soldiers hurry hither and thither mixing and matching the red and yellow flags and then the burst of noise and brother turns on brother. Landscape is also a key part of the film, beginning on the lush hills on a hunt and ending up in a wasteland as Hidetora wanders to his death, but when Saburo returns it becomes verdant again and the greenery is used by his man to defeat Jiro.

On screen we see very contrasting acting styles – the 2 greatest performances are from Nakadai as the self-deposed great lord and Mieko Harada as  the disturbed and vengeful Lady Kaede, both of whom have similar more formal acting styles (I'm told from Noh theatre), that makes them stand out in each scene and pointedly links the 2 characters (one wonders why he feels such remorse for killing Sue's family but not Kaede's e.g.). Most of the other performances are more naturalistic, but the 3rd great performance – from Peter – can be a halfway house, and he certainly has most of the best lines, making the most of them. This was really interesting for me as it was the first time I'd rewatched Ran since seeing Peter's debut for the first time (in Funeral Parade of Roses). As well as his frustration in trying to deal with a lord, whom he genuinely loves, gone mad, Peter is responsible for much of the humour in the film but I still think the funniest scene is as Kaede and Taro finally sit in silence in the main castle and she looks to her left and comments her mother killed herself there, looking at the spot as if the body still lies there – Taro's reaction is priceless.

I'd say there is a difference watching it on the big screen. According to the festival director and Optimum this is the current best available print, and it isn't perfect, but no matter. The big difference, I think, is the impact of Kurosawa's use of cloud's to separate and foreshadow events – the calm and stormy skies and, in one case as watch the transition to Hidetora's starving camp in the sun, the screen suddenly brightens and blinds you, shrinking your pupils as you look into the sun, and you just don't get that on the small screen.
Elab49

 
As a massive fan of King Lear, I approached Ran with a certain degree of trepidation, trepidation I initially thought would be justified when I saw how Kurosawa was approaching his substitute for Cordelia in this adaptation displaced to feudal Japan, making Cordelia/Saburo brusque and disrespectful. However, I needn't have worried, as while Ran does away with some of my favourite parts of Lear - the Gloucester subplot, in particular, is cut up and doled out like it was pie a dinner party hosted by a Roman general - it is ultimately just as thrilling and tragic a drama as the play it derives inspiration from. Over two-and-a-half hours, Kurosawa takes Shakespeare's text and fleshes it out, expounding on the motives of everyone from Hidetora/Lear to the Fool to even made-for-the-film minor character Prince Tsurumaru. It's grand in scale and yet a work that thrives on humanity and the dissipation thereof, as we're riveted to the screen watching people stab each other in the back and the goodness of the world slowly dissolve. However, Kurosawa understands exactly what makes Lear tragic, and it's here in spades - Hidetora's infallible pride, the machinations of vengeance-seeking Lady Kaede (assumedly the film's Edmund), the loyalty-to-a-fault of characters like the Fool, Tango and Kurogane, the last-minute tragedies, etc. etc. It's a depressing work despite its riveting nature, and Kurosawa manages all this while putting together some spectacular visuals (the siege on the third castle), crafting some brilliant action sequences (again, that siege) and soliciting some outstanding performances, not in the least Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora and Peter as Hidetora's loyal, sardonic jester. Ran is an epic film that puts a surprisingly excellent spin on Shakespeare's Lear, and while it may not improve on the source material, it's certainly not inferior to that masterpiece.
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 #: 129
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 4/4/2011 4:43:14 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005




 
Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
 
Re-made, re-hashed, and referenced millions of times, Akira Kurosawa’s epic samurai flick "the Seven Samurai" remains amongst the great director’s best works. It’s the story of a farming village who are in constant danger of invasion and ruin from a group of bandits who are after their supplies. Enter the Samurai who, after some expert recruiting from the villagers, come to help fight off the army of bandits. This operatic film is sublime, flitting from drama to comedy to action to romance with the greatest of ease, and creating tangible tension whilst it goes. It’s also highly influential, using slow-mo shots to heighten the agony as a samurai falls to his death, a technique re-used in hundreds of (lesser) action films since. Even the plot echoes through the history of cinema, as it’s been re-used in heaps of films, most notably the western "the Magnificent Seven" and Pixar animation "A Bug’s Life". The performances are all solid, particularly from Shimura as the leader of the seven, exuding authority at every turn, and Mifune, the hot headed samurai with a chip on his shoulder. It’s the latter of Kurosawa’s frequent collaborators who delivers the film’s best moment; as the group of warriors discuss tactics, Mifune unveils why he really took up the sword. It’s a devastating, iconic, and tragic scene that pushes this film up to classic status. All of this, and some of the most finely orchestrated battle scenes in the history of cinema, and what you have is one of the greatest films ever made, and certainly one of the director’s very best.
Piles.
 
Clocking in at three hours and twenty minutes long, Akira Kurosawa's epic tale of a band of samurai protecting a farming village from a horde of bandits covers a surprisingly large amount of ground, more than one would anticipate its narrative capable of. In those three hours, we're given a thorough grounding in the class politics and gender politics of feudal Japan, along with a stunning examination of what it means to be a hero - or, more specifically, what it means to be a samurai - and a presentation of feudal Japanese life that is both depressing and hopeful. On top of that, the dense and thoroughly entertaining narrative is complemented by some magnificent characterisations across the board and an hour's worth of action that stands as one of the most brilliant action setpieces of any film ever made. Takashi Shimura takes the lead as the canny and thoughtful Kanbe Shimada, a samurai more interested in the honour of his profession than in money or fame. It's the kind of role Shimura shone in, even when he was phoning it in (*cough*Godzilla*cough*), and here he thankfully puts his all into it, giving us the second-best performance in the film and a solid rock of emotion and reason to invest in. Toshiro Mifune also offers a stunningly off-the-chain performance as Kikuchiyo, a renegade wannabe-samurai with an irreverent and highly entertaining approach to everything he does. The best performance in the film, however, is Seiji Miyaguchi's - as stoic swordsman Kyuzo, his is a silent yet undeniable presence, and it's that kind of quiet masculinity that makes those flickers of emotion we see (NB: the moment when he sees Shino in the rain, or the moment when young samurai Shichiroji tells him how much he admires him) all the more affecting. He gets a bitch of a death, but his is such a calm and measured presence that he makes an indelible mark on the film; he is clearly my favourite of the samurai. There's so much to talk about when it comes to the reasons for Seven Samurai's greatness (though its occasionally laborious pacing and Kurosawa's irritating love of wipe-cuts are not included in those reasons), but, put simply, it is sensational, a funny, thrilling, inspiring, emotional and genuinely awesome epic in the truest sense.
Pigeon Army
 
SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: A group of masterless samurai are hired to protect some poor villagers.

Kurosawa's thrilling film is often considered to be his masterpiece. While I think he's bettered this film, more than once, I have a lot of sympathy for people who hold it up as his greatest work. You can feel the inspiration of John Ford running through this tale of seven masterless samurai who protect a small village against bandits during a civil war. The bandits raid the harvest of the village of poor farmers every year. This year they are persuaded to wait until the crop gets ripe. The village elder advises them to hire hungry samurai who will be willing to work for food. They hire the selfless Kambei (Shimura) and he recruits the other swordsmen. The samurai teach the villagers to fight and prepare for their final showdown with the bandits.

Seven Samurai is often regarded as the foreign film that it's ok for the subtitle-phobic to like. It's sold on its battle scenes and in truth those action sequences are incredibly impressive. But I think it's selling the film short to focus solely on the action. The film is actually about brotherhood, redemption and finding your purpose in life. The samurai are lost until they're given this chance to prove that they're still noble and still have honour.

The film is near flawless. Kurosawa has a great eye for period detail, the shots are perfectly composed, the cinematography is crisp and despite the lengthy running time it never feels like Kurosawa is wasting time with filler material. The film is always fluid, always dynamic, even in its quietest moments. The performances, greatly influenced by Japanese theatre, are the film's greatest asset. Mifune's near-crazy wannabe is usually singled out as the stand-out performance, and it's true that he turns in his usual masterful work. But for me it's Takashi Shimura's quieter performance that steals the film. Seven Samurai is an epic film, but only in the best sense of that tainted word.

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 #: 130
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 4/4/2011 4:47:46 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005
Countries

There are a couple of mixes, but ignoring them

Japan -          87
Hong Kong - 26
Sth Korea -   21
China              8
Taiwan           5
Thailand         3

Makers

Ghibli (17, if you include Goshu)
Kurosawa - 11
Ozu - 8
Park - 5
Naruse/Mizoguchi/Kon - 4

Decades

30s  - 1 (our earliest film was Humanity and Paper Balloons)
40s - 4
50s - 21
60s - 19
70s - 7
80s - 14
90s - 31
00s - 53

Only 1 of our pre-70s films wasn't Japanese - Spring in a Small Town.

< Message edited by elab49 -- 4/4/2011 5:05:05 PM >


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quote:

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


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 131
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 5/4/2011 2:04:27 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005
Credits
 
I just wanted to add our thanks to everyone who took the time to put a list together and hope the finished product gives everyone lots of ideas to fill out their DVD rental queues!
 
Additional thanks to the following people whose reviews/blurbs Rawlinson and I appropriated.
 
 
Miles Messervy 007
Pigeon Army
Gram123
Piles
Chris_scott01
Seenoevil
Hobbitonlass
Director's Cut.
Curtain Twitcher
Jasiri
Wrenster
Moth
Foz
HomerSimpson_Esq
Rhubarb
Rick_7.
The Godfather
Dante's Inferno
Deviation
RW
Beetlejuice!
Hozay
TRM
Pherlygwen
Olaf
Impqueen
Funkyrae

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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 #: 132
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 29/7/2011 12:44:36 PM   
Jasiri


Posts: 2496
Joined: 23/10/2005
Such a good list,although Floating Clouds should obviously be no 1.Peppermint Candy in the top 10 i'm so happy.

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 133
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 29/7/2011 12:54:09 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005
Hello! Hope you're well 

And glad you enjoyed the list. I think PC was the nicest surprise in the top 10 - helped, thankfully, by its Hall of Fame nomination probably. Have you seen Poetry yet?


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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 Jasiri)
Post #: 134
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 1/8/2011 11:05:18 AM   
Jasiri


Posts: 2496
Joined: 23/10/2005
I have Poetry but like so much else haven't watched yet. Have you seen it?

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 135
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 21/4/2012 12:40:52 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005
Yes, and it is as wonderful as you'd hope. 




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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 Jasiri)
Post #: 136
RE: Top 150 Films from East Asia, as voted by Empire Po... - 16/8/2012 9:23:01 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54428
Joined: 1/10/2005
For anyone looking to catch up on some of these Film 4 is running some of them around 11pm over the next week or so.

Tonight at 10,50pm is Park Chan-Wook's Thirst starring Song Kang-Ho.

Hansel and Gretel - a spooky and very watchable Korean film - is on Saturday at 23.35

The stonkingly brilliant Confessions, from Tetsuya Nakashima - is on at the ridiculous time of 1am on Sunday. (Ie the wee hours of Monday morning).

All are shown under the Frightfest banner - which is a bit confusing for Confessions - and there are quite a few other foreign horror-ish films on around the same time.




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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 #: 137
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