April 12th, 2010
Here we go, another five Asian films viewed at the Hong Kong International Festival 2010.The Blue Mansion (Singapore - 2009), Directed by Glen Goei
This dark comedy from Singapore mixes the supernatural and an Agatha Christie mystery, and interestingly, it’s just about completely in English. That might be the problem, as the actors did not have the comic timing to deliver some of the nastier punchlines, and there’s no character that’s actually likeable enough to connect with - not even the dead guy. Interesting attempt, but not quite a success.
Sawako Decides (Japan - 2009) - Directed by Ishii Yuya, starring Mitsushima Hikari
Yuya Ishii is back with this Pia Scholarship film after his win at with Bare-Assed Japan. It’s a hilarious, deadpan comedy that Ishii is no stranger to. Add that with a great performance by Mitsushima Hikari of Love Exposure, and you’ve got one of the funniest Japanese comedies of the year. Response wasn’t as enthusiastic as I had hoped. Maybe I just really dig the dry humor.
I’m in Trouble! (South Korea - 2009) - Directed by So Sang-Min
This dry Korean comedy, on the other hand, doesn’t work nearly as well as other comedies in this style. It starts off with a not-so-likeable lead and his not-so-important problems with the ladies (which he screwed up himself anyway), and director So Sang-Min expects us to automatically care for him. Just because he’s an artist doesn’t make him immediately worth caring about. Still, not a total loss, with some funny moments, and some of the performances are quite…well, likeable.
Tokyo Onlypics (2008 - Japan) - Directed by Mashima Riichiro, etc.
As one might expect from an anthology mixed with animation and live-action, this parody of international sports events (which opened in Japanese theaters the same day as the opening of the Beijing Olympics) is somewhat inconsistent in quality. But when it’s on its game, it is as seriously funny as it is irreverent. Some of the sketches go on too long after it delivers the laughs (the samurai calling one above included), but events like the sms texting and the mom throwing ones are the funniest comedy sketches I’ve seen this year. This version is apparently a shortened version from the 130-minute Japanese version, which is a wise choice, as its 117-minute length was just perfect.
The Actresses (2009 - South Korea) - Directed by E, J-Yong, starring Youn Yuh-Jung, Choi Ji-Woo, Ko Hyun-Jung, Kim Ok-Bin, Lee Min-Sook, Kim Min-Hee
For anyone who has no idea who these people are, the film will simply be an interesting experiment exploring the real persona of actresses. Those who have at least a vague idea of these people will have a far better time as this mockumentary (written/improvised by the 6 actresses) slyly plays on the stars’ respective persona and what it’s like to be a star. Still, it still feels insignificant, as there’s not really much of a story (the second half consists almost entirely of the six stars sitting around talking). Nevertheless, the fact that it still works is an achievement already.
Next time, an anti-war film, Bollywood, and more Yuya Ishii.