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The Golden Rock at the HKAFF - Part 1

This past weekend, this blogger spent roughly 8 hours at the movies because it’s time for the yearly Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. All the politics aside, this year’s picks were solid enough that I bought tickets to 14 films. Unfortunately, I found out that three of the four movies I saw over the weekend already have Hong Kong distributors. One even comes out this week.

Anyway, here are some brief reviews of the films I saw, sans those that I plan to write longer reviews for:

Tokyo Sonata (dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Japan, 2008): I don’t really watch much horror films, which means I’ve sorely missed out on the most popular K. Kurosawa films over the years. But I fairly enjoyed Bright Future, and have been looking forward to his take of the family drama, especially after its win at Cannes. I’m happy to say that despite a dragged-out third act, it definitely didn’t disappoint. Heartbreaking but darkly comedic, this is the work of a master. A longer review possibly to come.

Accuracy of Death (dir. Masaya Kakei. Japan, 2008): This sentimental look at death and destiny would’ve been a drag to sit through without a surprisingly charming performance from Takeshi Kaneshiro and co-writer/director Masaya Kakei’s sense of humor throughout. An episodic look at how a Grim Reaper finds life through three different cases, the fantasy drama is obviously going for a very sentimental approach (I still shudder at the Japanese English title: Sweet Rain) at a grim subject. The plot twists and how these three stories end up connecting are foreshadowed about two miles away, but they get the emotional effect they’re going for. I just wanted more. I’m not sure of what, but I just wished there was more.

Crows Zero (dir. Takeshi Miike. Japan, 2007): It’s weird to see Accuracy of Death has a higher body count then this film. Takeshi Miike is another Japanese director I’ve missed out on over the years. Crows Zero marks the third complete Miike film I’ve seen (after Ichi the Killer and City of Lost Souls), and it’s by far the best and the most entertaining of the bunch. The 2-hour+ film starts off furiously and keeps the blood pumping most of the time. Miike knows how to do the tough guy thing, and does it well.  But the romantic thing with the R&B-singing is a little too awkward for a film where overgrown high school boys beat up each other in the rain. Nevertheless, it’s great fun to watch in a packed house, and it shows how good Miike can be with a budget. Bring on Crows Zero II.

Happiness (dir: Hur Jin HoKorea, 2007): Hur’s Christmas in August is an all-time favorite and one of my first exposures to Korean films. Its follow-up One Fine Spring Day remains one of my favorite depiction of a relationship. So imagine the expectations I had for his first film since April Snow, which I never finished watching for some inexplicable reason. The sights are pretty, but Hur’s attention to detail and his central relationship are not as poignant this time around, instead going for a more melodramatic approach. Still, it’s interesting to see him turning the gender bias of One Fine Spring Day completely around, putting the man at fault. By the way, the film is loooooooong, even by Hur Jin Ho standard. Perhaps a longer review eventually.

This week is 6 more movies spread out over 5 days, including Parking and Cape No. 7 from Taiwan, Herman Yau’s True Women For Sale, and Kenji Uchida’s After School on Sunday. It’s looking to be one of the best movie-going weeks all year. Unless all the movies suck, then it’ll be one of the worst.

Catch you on the other side.

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