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Archive for November, 2010

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Week 2 Edition

Skipped a few films and slept through a few as fatigue start to wear in at the 2010 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival:

The Days (China, 1993, Director: Wang Xiaoshuai): Something tells me the accolades and acclaim showered on Wang Xiaoshuai’s low-budget directorial debut was more due to what he was able to do under the circumstance rather than the actual quality of the film. Afraid the case of the Mondays sent me to sleep 10 minutes in, but I’ll say that the state of the married couple in the film was already in trouble when I fell asleep, only for me to wake up to see them disintegrate the rest of the way 40 minutes later. What did I miss?

Sawasdee Bangkok (2009, Thailand, various directors): This festival version showcases four of the nine short films originally made for television to highlight the city of Bangkok:

Wisit Sasanatieng’s short film is a magical realist story about the life of a homeless blind girl who is taken on a tour across Bangkok by an “angel” is well-shot and well-paced, but misses some of the old Sasanatieng visual charm that I enjoyed so much in CITIZEN DOG. A solid start to the set of the films.

Aditya Assarat’s short about a man and his recording of cities is a little too subtle for me. There’s a certain down-to-earth charm with the characters, but don’t remember it amounting to that much.

Kongdej Jaturanrasamee’s short about a walk across late-night Bangkok has an affecting love story, though its outcome was very predictable. It still hit its target in terms of emotions, though the acting is a little weak.

Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s short about a woman’s miraculous encounter after a night out starts off a little slow, but becomes surprisingly powerful by its conclusion. Not sure if I can say it’s my favorite one (all of them have their solid points), but it’s definitely the one that’s sticking with me even now.

Overall, Sawasdee Bangkok is a very solid set of short films about Bangkok, but I would hesitate to say that it made Bangkok a more attractive place for anyone to go.

Poetry (2010, South Korea, Director: Lee Chang-Dong): This quiet drama about an old woman learning to express herself through poetry in the face of her grandson’s shocking crime and its fallout is now signature Lee Chang-Dong. It is quietly emotional, devastating, and has a brilliant lead performance. It is not a film for everyone, but it is rewarding for anyone looking for an absorbing story. However, it does feel like it was meandering a bit by the middle (which made me like SECRET SUNSHINE more), even if it recovers by its powerful ending. Lee is not just one of the best directors in South Korea, but in Asia.

Rail Truck (Torocco) (2010, Japan, Director: Hirofumi Kawaguchi) - This directorial debut - based on a short story that’s set in Japan - means really well, as it tries to do too much and ended up not achieving much. Runs way too long, and the story didn’t really go much places for it. A film that I appreciate was made, but it’s too bad it ended up not being very good. Mark Lee’s cinematography too warm for its own good, but solid.

Udaan (2010, India, Director: Vikramaditya Motwane) - I’ve only seen three films from the HKAFF New Talent Award Section, but this is definitely choice for the best film of the section. A coming-of-age story that is entertaining, emotionally intense, and very endearing, this directorial debut work within with the father-from-hell cliche box, but ends up creating something very likable out of it. An excellent film that proves Indian movies don’t need silly musical sequences to set itself apart from the rest of the world. It just needs directors as good as Motwane.

In the next few days, the final entry of HKAFF, and a wrap-up.

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 8 Edition

Two films today at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, both competed in Cannes. However, I started the day idiotically breathing in some dust and set off my allergies, so I went to the cinema hopped up on allergy medicine, which doesn’t make me a good audience for a film like:

Uncle Boonmee Recalls His Past Lives (2010, Thailand, Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul): I managed to wake up for the last hour of the film, and it was a hypnotic trip into the jungles of Thailand. A slow fantasy film filled with stunning images, there are moments in that film that I will not forget soon, though it’s surely not everyone’s cup of tea. Looking to sit through it again if I have the chance.

Outrage (2010, Japan, Director: Takeshi Kitano): Kitano does commercial gangster cinema with a violent, bad-ass films about bad people killing each other until there’s no one left. Lots of yelling (you may not know Japanese, but you will know “yaroooo” means something bad in it), finger-cutting, stabbings, and shootings. It’s also darkly comedic, Kitano-style. The exposition-only storytelling style is a little alienating at points, but the badass-ery totally makes up for it. Nothing particularly meaningful (I can see why Kitano thinks it’s imperfect as well), but serviceable genre stuff for fans hankering for some Kitano-style gangsta-ing.

Will be condensing the weekday movies for a later entry in the week as we get into the second half of the HKAFF. I miss it already.

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF - End of Week 1 Edition

Finished my first week at the 2010 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival with 16 films so far. I’m condensing everything since Tuesday into one entry to make the length worth your while.

Vengeance Can Wait (2010, Japan, Director Masanori Tominaga) - This Japanese comedy feels like a stage play (and it was), as most of it is set in one location. The strange rivalry story between two woman and a really creepy guy starts out a little too dry for me, but it ends with some really great set pieces. Tadanobu Asano gives an awesome performance as a man who has a really weird ways of exacting revenge. OK, but forgettable indie stuff.

The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman (2010, China, Director: Wuershan) - The MTV editing and flashy images sent my tried eyes straight to sleep, but what I stayed up for was OK, though over-the-top acting was borderline annoying. Will revisit this when it comes out in March 2011.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003, Japan, Director: Satoshi Kon) - My favorite film of Satoshi Kon’s so far (sans MILLENNIUM ACTRESS). A real crowd-pleasing urban adventure filled with miracles has plenty of likable characters and humor to make it a delightful treat of a movie. It even has an unreal action sequence in the end to earn its animation form.

Johnnie’s Got His Gun (2010, France/Hong Kong, Director: Yves Montmayeur) - When the gunshots came over the film’s title, I was already groaning audibly at this fanboy project about Johnnie To’s cops-and-robbers movies. Not only does it simply feature fluff material about Johnnie To (interviews on a festival’s press junket?), its portrayal of Hong Kong (guy smoking at his window? oooooh, shady!) reinforces the worst stereotypes about To’s movies. Worst “documentary” I’ve seen all year. Guys, he made movies that didn’t have guns too.

Taipei Exchanges (2010, Taiwan, Director: Hsiao Ya Chuan) - A really pleasant dramedy about a woman who opens a cafe in Taipei that becomes a bartering business. Guey Lun Mei and Zaizai Lin are great, and the film has plenty of charm, but characters feel underdeveloped and story lacked substance. Still, an enjoyable film for what it is, and I’m a sucker for urban stories.

Dabangg (2010, India, Director: Abhinav Singh Kahyap) - Despite all the shoddy storytelling, lackluster script, and bad subtitles, DABANGG is a hell of a time at the movies. It’s loud, fast, and totally ridiculous, but I somehow got the idea that the filmmakers know it, too. Salman Khan stars as a corrupted cop who becomes kind of a good guy and defeats corrupted politicians. The action is over-the-top as hell, and the final fight is even straight out of FLASHPOINT. Still, any movie where cars are propelled as they explode just for visuals is a hell of a good time for me, especially when there’s vibrating seats in the theater.

After watching this, who doesn’t want to be like Salman Khan?

Tomorrow: Booooooonmee, and Kitano yakuza badass-ery Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen