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The Golden Rock at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Day 12+13

Can finally cover two days of the festival and become officially caught up once again:

Starry, Starry Night (2011, Taiwan-China, Dir: Tom Lin)

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If there’s only one good thing about Mainland China’s Huayi Brothers bankrolling this coming-of-age drama by Taiwanese filmmakers based on a Taiwanese graphic novel (Yes, if you can call comics graphic novels, we can call picture books graphic novels too), it’s that Huayi was able to pour the extra money in to make this film look good. Every yuan of the rumored 80 million yuan budget for this enchanting youth romance from WINDS OF SEPTEMBER’s Tom Lin is on the screen, from special effects that enhances rather than overwhelm to the beautiful art direction, and to top it all off - It’s actually a good film.

Lin, who said that he stayed as faithful to the source material as possible, tells a very simple story about a troubled teen girl (Xu Jiao, getting better and better), her relationship (or lack thereof) with her feuding parents, and her quiet romance with the new male classmate (new actor Lin Hui-Min, also good). All this essentially leads to the end of adolescence and the bittersweet memories one carries away when leaving it behind. The film’s emotions may be too subtle for a commercial audience, but Lin makes up for that with a splendid imagination and equally dazzling camerawork by cinematographer Jake Pollock. It probably won’t make its budget back, but it certainly deserves to, for Lin, Huayi, and everyone who has any investment in this film deserved to be rewarded for their work here.

Branded to Kill (1967, Japan, Dir: Seijun Suzuki)

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Too many scholars have already said what needs to be said about this crazy masterpiece from cinematic rebel Seijun Suzuki. It defiantly breaks cinematic conventions along the way for a dizzying cinematic experience. It’s not a film for everyone (what film about a rice-sniffing assassin is?), so you’ll have to tune your expectations if you’re watching it the first time. It looks like it’s supposed to be taken seriously, but it’s really a barrel of laughs that may be funnier than it was intended to be. Essentially, I’d say it’s a watchable experimental film, which is something you don’t see anymore.

Tomorrow: Korea does shojo animation.

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