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Archive for October 30th, 2011

The Golden Rock at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Day 9

Tried to catch up, but only have energy to do one day:

The Yellow Sea (South Korea, 2010, Dir: Na Hong-Jin)


Director Na Hong-Jin’s much-criticized follow-up to THE CHASER starts out as a compelling crime thriller. Filled with tension and led by a great physical performance by Asian Film Awards Best Actor Ha Jung Woo, the first hour of THE YELLOW SEA is easily as good as THE CHASER. While the setup is fresh (Koreans living in China committing crimes in South Korea), it then turns into a typical man-on-the-run story that spirals into a crazy, violent free-for-all with plenty of stabbings, impaling, and running.

The more intense Na tries to make the film, the more it spirals out of control, with the extreme violence becoming as liberal as the use of fake shaky-cam. Soon, Na loses sight on his story just as he loses restraint, unleashing one last mean-spirited moment to show how much he hates all of his characters after 135 long minutes. One wonders how Na initially pitched his film at the HAF, and how much of his final product matched his vision.

Note:  The version viewed is the 140-minute cut that Na took to Cannes (and reportedly his “director’s cut”, as opposed to the 156-minute theatrical cut).

Kaidan Horror Classics - The Nose (Japan, 2010, Dir: Lee Sang-Il)


Four renowned Japanese directors each adapt a short story from a Japanese literary master (Yes, I can use this sentence because I wrote it for the festival catalog). HULA GIRL and VILLAIN director Lee Sang-Il chose Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s THE NOSE, about a priest with a disfigured nose who kills a child out of anger. The priest is essentiallly consumed by visions of the boy, whom he brings back from the dead to please the boy’s mother.

Lee’s direction is safe and even a little cold. Here, Lee fails to let us connecct to the characters, which is especially disappointing since that was the strength of his two previous award-winning films. In addition to the chilling score, which is essentially responsible for generating almost all the tension in the film, the most effective moment is the final moment of realization by the priest. Too bad the 30 minutes before that is a bit of a slog.

Kaidan Horror Classics - The Days After (Japan, 2010, Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda)


Kore-eda’s installment, adapting a story by Saisei Muro, has zero tension and zero horror. Instead, it’s a quiet story about pining and loss that’s sparsely written, but meticulously directed - almost like a kaidan film as imagined by Yasujiro Ozu. Familiar Kore-eda style framing can be seen throughout. It’s slow, but one can see that Kore-eda doesn’t let one single shot go to waste, as every cut reveals new information. It’s a brilliant exercise that should be used in film school classes to show how to tell a story visually, and the bittersweeet story is simple, but heartbreaking. One of the best things I’ve seen all year. 

Out of energy today. Tomorrow: Indian education, prostitutes in the third world, another Giddens movie, some Taiwanese epic, and a movie about a raid Copyright © 2002-2023 Ross Chen