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Archive for April 10th, 2010

The Golden Rock at the 2010 Hong Kong International Film Festival Edition - Part 1

As you might have been following on my Twitter, I have been spending quite a bit of time at the glorious Hong Kong International Film Festival. This year, excluding the Lung Kong retrospective I have yet to attend, I watched a record number of 28 films between March 20th and April 6th.


This is what madness - and my dining table - look like

 Out of the 28, 20 of those are Asian films (and I’m counting Israel in Asia because NHK World says so), and I will provide brief reviews for them here - 5 at a time.

1) A Better Tomorrow (Hong Kong, 1987) - Directed by John Woo, Produced by Lung Kong

This is the first time I’m watching the gangster classic film on the big screen (as part of the festival’s focus on Lung Kong), and it’s every bit as enjoyable as one can expect. I’ve seen this movie and the references to it throughout the years many times, and I’m surprise to hear the audience just as involved with it as if they were watching it the first time. A true Hong Kong cinema classic.

2) A Brand New Life (Korea, 2009) - Directed by Ounie Lecomte, Produced by Lee Chang-Dong

This aut0biographical debut film by Korean French director Ounie Lecomte has a stunning performance by the young Kim Sae-Ron, but it doesn’t quite escape the stablish cinema verite style of her producer. The life in the South Korean orphanage ultimately goes through the motions and is ultimately a little too much into its own detached style.

3) Ajami (Israel, 2009) - Directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani

This film about the Palestinian-Israel relationship is what Quentin Tarantino might have made without the gimmicky obsession with old movies and self-indulgent dialogue. It’s a frequently powerful examination of different types of people in the region, though its non-linear storytelling can be disorienting at points. It’s an ambitious film and that makes it worth watching, even though it doesn’t really deliver in the end.

4) Monga (Taiwan, 2010) - Directed by Doze Niu

Doze Niu’s follow-up to What on Earth Have I Done Wrong is a million times more ambitious and even more engaging. However, it doesn’t follow through with the burst of adrenaline it delivers in the first 30 minutes and falls back on unintentional homo-eroticism, gangster clichés, a hooker with a heart of gold, and the idealist talk about brotherhood. At least it looks great with really impressive production values.

5) Last Train Home (Canada, 2009) - Directed by Fan Lixin

This compelling documentary by former Chinese journalist Fan Lixin looks at the lives of migrant workers who make the trek every year from their jobs in the big city back to their rural homes during Lunar New Year. It’s not only a look at the migration itself, but also a look at how rapid development and centralization of industry in China has broken up families. Starts off slow, but gets much, much better later on.

That’s part 1. Next is some Yuya Ishii, a Singaporean dark comedy, and of course, a little Japanese animation. Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen