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From Italy with Mild Affection

Hi from Udine.

Lobby of the Teatro Nuovo
The lobby of Udine’s Teatro Nuovo

Nearly through the Far East Film Festival and today was the most important day thus far: laundry day. In an effort to make everyone else’s stay here far more pleasurable, I’m washing my clothes. This is proof that I’m always thinking about other people.

 Wash and dry
When I did this I could have been watching RULE NUMBER ONE again

The 11th Far East Film Festival is now over half over and unfortunately, the number of new Asian films I’ve seen thus far is rather low. Some highlights:

one million

The gentle road trip comedy ONE MILLION YEN GIRL is a lovely, if occasionally slow-paced little film starring the wonderful Yu Aoi. I enjoyed it mostly due to Aoi’s subtle, emotional performance, and the glimpses of rural Japan locations were nice too. Not essential, but quite enjoyable.

 General Rouge

Also, I’ve taken the time to see the sequel to last year’s GLORIOUS TEAM BATISTA, titled THE TRIUMPHANT GENERAL ROUGE. Starring the same team of Yuko Takeuchi and Hiroshi Abe, it’s a film that I’ll likely be reviewing sometime on the main website. Featuring the year’s best use of lipstick.

Ge You
Fan Bing-Bing and a dead animal-wearing Ge You

Other than those two, the only new film I’ve seen is the mainland comedy DESIRES OF THE HEART, another candidate for site review. It stars two of my favorite ugly Chinese actors, Ge You and the awesome Guo Tao. Fan Bing-Bing also makes an appearance, but it’s very small and her character image is purposely not pretty. If you’re at the cinema only to catch Fan’s glamorous looks, I’d suggest another viewing of CONTRACT LOVER.

I also tried to take in Miki Satoshi’s new INSTANT SWAMP, but a nap attack at the theater did me in. When I woke, my row was completely empty. That’s it for new films. A big fat three plus one aborted attempt. Conversely, the number of repeat viewings has been quite large. For second viewings, I’ve taken in ONG BAK 2, BEAST STALKER, FISH STORY, K-20 and THE WAY WE ARE. I almost saw DEPARTURES again, but that would have been my third time.

Recent HKFA Best Actor winner Nick Cheung and director Dante Lam showed up for a panel before the evening screening of BEAST STALKER and both were great guests.

Nick and Dante
“No questions about fashion, please.”

Thus far, the main portion of my time here has been spent viewing Ann Hui’s terrific television work from the seventies, which was produced for TVB, RTHK, and the ICAC. I took in about ten episodes total - with the minor jet lag-induced dozing reducing it to probably eight and a half - and while quality varied, it was all certainly educational.

Carol Cheng and Damian Lau from Ann Hui’s ICAC television work

Curated by good friend and FEFF Hong Kong consultant Tim Youngs, the selection of television work demonstrates Ann Hui’s skill with and respect for characters and local Hong Kong issues, and were smart and very entertaining. These are great for anyone who likes Hong Kong for more than its genre works, and are daring for their made-for-television status. The ICAC films, made as essentially PSAs for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, are particularly fun, mixing true-life tales and education with some surprising characterization and a complex look at real issues and events.

Ann Hui also showed up for a panel. Here she is alongside Hong Kong Cinema historian and jack-of-all-trades Law Kar, plus Tim Youngs:

Ann Hui panel
(left to right) Law Kar, Ann Hui and Tim Youngs

The ICAC episodes are also varied enough to be great fun - one episode intercuts a construction bribery case with Damian Lau’s relationship woes, and even features a great TJ Hooker moment where an ICAC officer rides on a car hood. Another episode features a young Dodo Cheng as a new ICAC recruit who questions her job, noting its grey-shaded decision-making and how her new position alienates her from friends and acquaintances.

Another photo of Ann Hui from the panel:

Ann Hui

The Ann Hui television work screened in the smaller Visionario, which has much more comfortable seats than the opulent Teatro Nuovo. Anpanman likes the Visionario too.

 Anpan at the Visionario
Anpanman is a big fan of Ann Hui

The ICAC films can be screened at the ICAC’s website, but not with English subtitles. That I was able to see what I did was invaluable.

Coming up are a few more films. Perhaps the Korean films CRUSH AND BLUSH, THE ACCIDENTAL GANGSTER, and The SCANDAL MAKERS, capped off by a big-screen viewing of THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD. Director Kim Jee-Woon is in attendance.

For China, I may take in Cao Baoping’s 2006 work THE TROUBLE MAKERS. Japan offers Sion Sono’s LOVE EXPOSURE and Takashi Miike’s YATTERMAN. For Thailand, I’d like to check out the basketball-death match hybrid FIREBALL and perhaps the comedy-drama THE BEST OF TIMES.

Beyond that, I will likely just be relaxing here. Being here also affords me the time to step back and take a look at my shortcomings with what I do, e.g. my lack of knowledge on certain key portions of Asian Cinema, or simply my increased laziness towards Being in Udine reminds me that I have A LOT of work to do if I want to continue with this whole online Asian film thing.

Alternately, I can just take it easy and put on some pounds:

Me and cheese
Mmmmm…fried cheese.

Pictures time! I did not visit Venice this year, so there are no shots of Yotsuba wandering the canals and meeting stray dogs. I’ve been stuck in screenings and at dinners, but luckily I have Anpanman to keep me company.

Anpan square
Anpanman does his Jackie Chan impression.

As is usual, food is a big deal here. Other than fried cheese, the local gelato is a key attraction. Anpanman helped me sample various flavors.

Anpan Gelato
The “Pocket Coffee” flavor was quite good.

My impression of the local gelato selection:

This is a flavor and not an adjective.

In this photo, Anpanman poses with a potato appetizer that looks like a stone:

Anpan stone
It comes with cheese sauce.

Finally, the requisite photo with a celebrity:

Nick Cheung and some guy
Nick Cheung and me

Not to be outdone, Anpanman takes a photo with a celebrity too:

Anpanman and LGM
Anpanman poses with a Pixar supporting actor.

Visiting the Far East Film Festival is something I’d recommend to anyone. The audiences and Teatro Nuovo viewing experience are among the best I’ve seen, and the enthusiasm and love for Asian Cinema felt here are infectious. It’s all a nice change from the usual cynicism that I get when attending cinemas in Hong Kong. Being here these past two years has been an exceptional privilege.

One final photo:

Anpan FEFF
Hopefully, we’ll both be back next year.

25 Responses to “From Italy with Mild Affection”

  1. glenn Says:

    Well done with Nick! Was he watching over your shoulder there as you typed this post?

    Glad to hear the name Yu Aoi again; I thought she was quite good in Hula Girls and was wondering why I hadn’t heard more from her (though I don’t follow Japanese film as closely as HK film).

    Fan Bing-Bing is doing too many movies! (I’m still a fan, though)

  2. Eliza Bennet Says:

    Great post (as usual)!

    And I like Anpanman better than Yotsuba :)

    Having recently seen (and LOVED) The Way We Are, I would have loved to watch Ann Hui directed TV shows.

    Thanks for the update and keep having fun

  3. laicheukpan Says:

    Do you know if Nick Cheung knew about this website?

  4. anotherlonelyday Says:

    i was going to post a thread in the forums but i couldn’t be arsed.

    anyways doesn’t the trailer for johnnie to’s new film ‘vengeance’ look like a cross between anh hung tran’s ‘i come with the rain’ (when will this get a release?!) and the luc besson produced ‘taken’?!

    i’ve only seen the last film, which is pretty awesome but judging purely on the trailers..

  5. kiboushinjitsu Says:

    Wow, Nick Cheung huh. I like it when he plays the more serious roles. How did you get to take a picture with him?

    I look forward to reading the review of THE TRIUMPHANT GENERAL ROUGE. Abe Hiroshi is one of my fav Japanese actors.

    I also like food pictures (before eaten). I hope you continue to have fun and that there will be more noteworthy films.

  6. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    Glenn, I was actually typing this blog entry when Nick Cheung sat down next to me, so good guess. That was a few days ago. And Yu Aoi is a wonderful young actress. If I were female I’d have a lesbian crush on her.

    Eliza, long time no hear. :) How have you been keeping?

    laicheukpan, I don’t believe either Nick Cheung or Dante Lam knew about before, but I guess they do now. They had a chuckle over Nick’s people page - I forgot that there’s a photo of a dog on it from EVERY DOG HAS ITS DATE.

    kiboushinjitsu, it was easy to get a picture with Nick Cheung. Udine is very relaxed and staff can easily spend time with festival guests. The relaxed atmosphere is one of the reasons the fest is so special.

    And to go off topic for anotherlonelyday, I can’t really comment on the VENGEANCE-I COME WITH THE RAIN-TAKEN similarities because I haven’t seen trailers for any of them save VENGEANCE. TAKEN hasn’t opened in Hong Kong, though I guess if I wanted to I could import a Region 1 DVD. Should be out any day now, right?

  7. Gabriel Says:

    Why would Nick Cheung come over & sit next to you? Did he perhaps think you were a celebrity journalist? Did he start speaking to you in Cantonese?

  8. Gabriel Says:

    And that’s a big wineglass.

  9. anotherlonelyday Says:

    well i’ve done the hard work for you good man:

    I Come With The Rain



    i’m not accusing JT of plagiarising etc, it’s just a random-come-surreal realisation/obvservation i made..

    to keep on topic: i just saw warlords on dvd (legit!1one) and after reading reviews of mixed reactions from ‘omg it rockzed’ to ‘underwhelming’, ‘muddled’, ‘commercially good but lacks soul’ etc..i found it pretty good and more in tune with the last quote.

    however, i guess it helps that i absolutely no background knowledge on the history and significance of the real life characters being etc. it did seem weird to me, there was a cross being used as some sort of symbol throughout the film but otherwise all the historical nuances (for better or worse) was lost on me..

    so all i had to judge on was the performances and filmmaking, which was very decent.

  10. V Says:

    I’m looking forward to your review of “Desires of the Heart”. Ge You makes up in acting what he lacks in looks.

    Nice picture with Nick Cheung! What did Nick Cheung and Dante Lam think about What other celebrities did you meet this time?

    Love the expressions on Anpanman’s face! He looks like he’s having lots of fun :D Yotsuba didn’t get to go this time?

    Does the potato appetizer taste good? The presentation is nice. And it does look like a river stone- smooth and matte.

  11. LW Says:

    IIRC, you don’t speak Cantonese fluently? Did you talk to him in English?

  12. LW Says:

    *him = Nick Cheung

  13. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    About Nick Cheung, he sat next to me because by the time the photo was taken he was at least familiar with my face if not my name. Udine is small and relaxed, and I traveled over from Hong Kong with both he and Dante Lam. Even sat next to them on the commuter flight from Rome to Udine. We spoke in English, as he speaks it quite well.

    Gabriel, wine and cheese are staples here. Kind of like milk tea and rice in Hong Kong.

    anotherlonelyday, I’m about to head off to see THE STORY OF CLOSETOOL, so I’ll take a look at the trailers later on.

    And V, the potato appetizer was really good. That restaurant was quite special with really interesting dishes that I’ve not seen before. I rate it a three-pound restaurant, because that’s the amount of weight you put on there.

  14. 1lau Says:

    Sweet report! Did Nick say anything about his next projects, maybe Election 3? :P

  15. anotherlonelyday Says:

    oh don’t feel obliged to study/analyse it or whatever, i was just making a random comment.

    but to keep on topic again, erm can you enlighten us about the actual festival? is it aimed for audiences? it is a social networking place for the ppl with connections? it is a middleground? it is relaxed? it is business like?

    as you’ve said it’s such a refreshing experience but for ppl with no other connection (like with yourself, you’re a known reviewer) other than liking the films, it is a friendly atmosphere for fans?

  16. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    1lau, I think Nick Cheung’s next project is also with Dante Lam. There was some local HK news about them making a film with Francis Ng and Lau Ching-Wan, plus maybe Anthony Wong. Should obviously be one worth looking forward to.

    anotherlonelyday, the Far East Film Festival is generally for audiences, with most films being commercial ones from their home territories. It features one screen for all the big screenings, plus a smaller one for retrospectives (e.g., the Ann Hui TV screenings). There are also media events, such as seminars with the filmmakers and also a conference for industry types.

    It’s exceptionally friendly for fans here. There are evening parties for people to attend, plus you can just hang out in the lobby or on the Teatro Nuovo lawn to smoke and meet people. Walking up to a Nick Cheung or a Dante Lam is easy at the screenings. Only a few people here have really heard of or know what I do, but they’re friendly to me nonetheless. Because I’m Asian, I sometimes get mistaken for some sort of filmmaker or industry type.

  17. TheGoldenRock Says:

    Actually, you can find all 7 episodes of the ICAC stuff with English subtitles in the English version of the website:

    But the TVB stuff are very very valuable, since I don’t think there’s any subtitled copies of the CID episodes out there. Murder is especially great, and has an interesting parallel to Hui’s Night and Fog.

    Glad you’re having fun in Udine, Kozo, but we miss you here in HK too. Even Wong Jing does, I’m sure.

  18. anotherlonelyday Says:

    thanks for that. sounds like something i wouldn’t mind going to.

    btw you should take more photos. i’m not sure if you already have done but i usually just spam the crap out of my camera when i’m away. for example taking 500 pictures, good, bad, rushed or staged is always going to leave some decent ones.

    maybe you could incorporate a slideshow or something? or you could even do a video blog with some annoying holiday-style narration haha.

    really informal like i.e don’t pressurise yourself to ‘represent’ for lovehkfilm but it would add an another angle on your enjoyable blog.

    just suggesting btw because i’m in the mood!

  19. Gabriel Says:

    Well, that explains the size of the wineglass.

  20. ryanuy Says:

    damn i love this website!(and blog by extension)

  21. 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather Says:

    […] Nick Cheung Ka-Fai celebrates his HKFA Best Actor win On May 9th, Nick Cheung celebrated his HKFA Best Actor win with a party at a Tsimshatsui area restaurant. Among the attendees were his wife Esther Kwan Wing-Ho, their daughter Brittany, Ann Hui On-Wah, Julian Cheung Chi-Lam and Anita Yuen Wing-Yi, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Danny Lee Sau-Yin, Wong Jing, Francis Ng Jun-Yu, EEG boss Albert Yeung Sau-Sing and EEG manager extraordinaire Mani Fok Man-Hei. No word on whether or not his pal Kozo attended the party. […]

  22. David Harris Says:


    Nick Cheung, Lau Ching Wan, Francis Ng & Anthony Wong in the same film? OMG I just messed myself

    Do you tell Mr C that Exodus was the best film of the year (the year it came out of course)? I would have done! :)

  23. 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather Says:

    […] recently told everyone that he went to “Italy” for a “film festival” but, c’mon, look at the picture of Kozo with Nick Cheung.  Was that really taken in Italy?  […]

  24. al Says:

    Actually, I think Anpanman looks like Nick Cheung. It’s the cheeks and nose.

    Thanks for the report!

  25. s h a w Says:

    Actually, K and Anpanman are more “leng zai” compare to Nick.

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