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Archive for the ‘Hong Kong’ Category

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Sawasdee Bangkok (2009, Thailand, various directors): This festival version showcases four of the nine short films originally made for television to highlight the city of Bangkok: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

The Golden Rock - SQUATTERTOWN Edition

Did watch VENGEANCE CAN WAIT at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, but since there’s only one film on Friday and one film last night, I will condense the two into one entry this weekend.

For now, would like to point your attention to SQUATTERTOWN, which I have talked about on the East Screen/West Screen podcast and on my Twitter. Mr. Sparmberg has sent out a press release, and I will now reprint it here, with his permission:

Press Release SQUATTERTOWN

 

October 12, 2010

Hong Kong 10.10.10 – The production crew of Hong Kong’s first Dim Sum Western web series started its elevated location scouting on the rooftops of Hong Kong for the highly anticipates shootout of SQUATTERTOWN.

Headed by trans-media filmmaker Marco Sparmberg and Digital Media Expert Juergen Hoehbarth SQUATTERTOWN is about to be a wild mixture of film genres, art forms and new media technology. Run as multimedia project with an open source character, SQUATTERTOWN is a sole crowdsourced and crowdfunded project which engages its audience and contributors right from the start. Since August the project is worldwide looking for funding on various internet based collaborative fundraising platforms like Indiegogo.

Within the past years of their professional work in Hong Kong, Marco Sparmberg and Juergen Hoebarth set up a very own concept of local crowdsourced independent film production and a so-called “reverse distribution model”. Touring and promoting their vision throughout the city as well as international new media arts festivals like this year’s Ars Electronica, both were able to raise extreme awareness of their recent project SQUATTERTOWN.

Currently the projects core crew is assembled with independent filmmakers and experts in film related fields from all around the globe, ranging from China, the US, Germany, Austria and Portugal. This diversity is even stronger within SQUATTERTOWN’s daily increasing follower base throughout all the projects internet channels.

The web series is designed as 5 episode release, during its first season, for mobile devices and internet platforms. Not only the way how SQUATTERTOWN approaches its audience is unique, but also the dramatic genre via a gripping apocalyptic story will be told. Merely conceived as so-called Dim Sum Westerns, basically a mixture of the visual aesthetics from Spaghetti Westerns and Hong Kong films during the 1980s, the series will draw a gritty fictional picture of a desperate future society.

Set within the unique rooftop squatter housing structures of Hong Kong, SQAUTTERTOWN will also tackle a severe local social issue: the gradual disappearance of a very own culture, hidden in the dark for decades. Due to Hong Kong’s rapid urban renewal process the series’ director Marco Sparmberg admits, “This phenomenon has to be dealt with by the most modern mass media tools available otherwise it will vanish even before we can communicate and translate it to a broad global audience.”

Hence, the project turned out to be a race against time as some locations are soon about to be demolished, others already no longer accessible. The team around Marco Sparmberg and Juergen Hoebarth are scouting for suitable locations till mid of November 2010, principal photography is scheduled for first week of December. Till the cameras roll SQUATTERTOWN’s fundraising campaigns on are still running. “We welcome every single piece of support. Even just telling a friend or writing a tweet is already bringing the project one step further!” says Juergen Hoebarth.

For more information and details on the project, tune in and subscribe to one of the projects various internet channels like Twitter or Facebook. And to take direct action in helping this ambitious and talented crew SHOOTING SOME DIM SUM contact donateadimsum@gmail.com

 

So spread the word and join a worthy cause!

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 4 Edition

After a packed weekend, only two films for night 4 of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival

Asian Shorts 1 - This program consists of 6 short films, totaling about 75 minutes:

Now - A 2-minute short film made by friend Edmund Yeo for Prada is short, nice-looking, and to the point. Not much else to say about that.

The Artist and His Magic - 8-minute short film is shot with 3d animation and still photography. Looked ok, but abstract “story” didn’t do anything for me.

Heaven and Hell - Risky Liu returns from his previous bad publicity incident for this strong one-take film based on the Liu Yi Shang story. The camerawork could be a little better, but it’s still quite well-made for what it is.

Shinda Gaijin - This short from Waseda University starts off with some good dark humor, but ends kind of flat. Wonder what the family of Lindsey Hawker would think about this film (look her up).

Kids in the Dark - This short film from Mainland China simply shows two people sitting in an apartment writing notes to each other. The director obviously forgot content.

Crimson Jade - KJ director Cheung King Wai’s first foray into dramatic narrative is beautifully shot some powerful images. Half an hour works fine for his quiet, minimalist style, but would not sustain feature length. Anti-drug message feels a little insincere, but otherwise a strong short film.

Paprika(2006, Japan, directed by Satoshi Kon) - Satoshi Kon’s final film is light on story, but heavy on imagination. Some really strong images and great ideas keep this entertaining sci-fi mystery immensely entertaining. Animation format feels fully utilized, and great pacing for a wild ride. Wish I had caught this earlier.

Tomorrow: Tadanobu Asano in VENGEANCE CAN WAIT

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 3 Edition

The second consecutive day of three films sadly didn’t match the previous day’s stuff, but some interesting stuff nevertheless.

The Time To Live The Time To Die (Taiwan, 1986, director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien) - Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s autobiographical film about his childhood is slow, ponderous, and lack a clear story. It is 138 minutes connected by moments, and some of them are quite good. Like I tweeted in August about several Iranian films, this is a film that I can admire, but can never truly like.

Let the Wind Carry Me (Hong Kong/Taiwan, 2009, directed by Chiang Hsiu-chiung and Kwan Pun-leung) - This documentary about this year’s retrospective focus Mark Lee Ping-Bing is a fascinating look into a more normal cinematographer (Wong Kar Wai’s comparison of Lee and Christopher Doyle is spot on). However, it feels like it’s strictly for film buffs, with interesting tidbits about Lee’s technique. Still, strictly for film buffs and aspiring filmmakers only.

My Ex-Wife’s Wedding (China/South Korea/Hong Kong, 2010, director: Lee Kung-Lok) - Fun commercial fluff has a strong MTV style, a very polished look, plenty of expensive stuff, and an Aloys Chen Kun mugging it up as a comedic lead. There are plenty of things that this sometimes ridiculous romantic comedy, but it manages to make itself likeable all the same. The surprisingly honest Q&A with producer Daniel Yu and writer Szeto Kam-Yuen helped make me like the film better as well. Nothing special, but nothing too embarrassing, either.

Tomorrow: Some short films, and Satoshi Kon’s PAPRIKA

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 2 Edition

The Hong Kong Asian Film Festival is now in full swing for its first weekend. There’s at least two more weekends of all-day movie watching, but let’s just get through this first day of three-or-more screening days:

Perfect Blue (1997, Japan, director: Satoshi Kon): Animated or otherwise, PERFECT BLUE is an interesting psychological thriller about the price of celebrity, especially in the Asian pop world (I’m looking at you, too, Korean pop). The layers of real and unreal and all those in between keeps the audience riveted, and the directorial tricks will keep people going back to watch it. The violence is a little much (doubt it would’ve made it to live-action), but it’s a rewarding ride to sit through that also broke the types of storytelling that could be done on the animation format.

Villain (Akunin) (2010, Japan, director: Lee Sang-Il): This emotionally intense drama from the director of HULA GIRL feels like two films: A great ensemble drama about the fallout from a crime with an exceptional supporting cast, and a ho-hum love story. While the core is the journey of the film’s protagonists - a murderer and his new girlfriend - the parts that really worked is the side stories with the older supporting actors, especially Kirin Kiki as the murderer’s grandmother. Lee’s point of exposing all kinds of villainy in the world really drives the film thematically. Overlong at 139 minutes, but surprisingly involving for its duration.

The Drunkard (2010, Hong Kong, director: Freddie Wong): The writings of novelist Liu Yi-Chang inspired Wong Kar Wai for IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and 2046, and it’s quite obvious from film critic/festival curator Freddie Wong’s directorial debut THE DRUNKARD. It includes a writer in 1960s Hong Kong heading for career self-destruction and makes it up with alcohol, smoke, and women. Similar themes - especially about professional compromises - have been seen in 2046 with better production values. While episodic in structure with stilted dialogue and problematic acting, THE DRUNKARD really serves more as an intellectual curiosity than a real film. Fans of the novel are apparently pleased with how closely it stuck to the novel (which I haven’t read), but I found it too self-important.

Tomorrow: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Mark Lee documentary, and Aloys Chen & fans.

The Golden Rock - HKAFF 2010 Day 1 Edition

We’re off and running. It’s the 2010 edition of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, and this blogger is moving up and down the Kowloon peninsula (plus Central) to check out this year’s offering of Asian cinema. I’m trying to update daily with the help of my shiny i P a d (that was to avoid spam), so pictures and links are sparse to ensure efficiency.

For more info about any of the films I’m covering, check out www.hkaff.asia

Day 1 was the opening films. I attended the opening ceremony with Boss Kozo, but please check out photos on the YesAsia Facebook or in the upcoming news item on YesAsia instead.

Lover’s Discourse (Hong Kong, 2010, directed by Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan) - This collection of love stories with interconnected characters is a strong debut by two-thirds of Pang Ho-Cheung’s screenwriting team (Pang serves as producer). While the acting is mostly hits with some misses, the film overall is well-made. The first half starts out really strong with some great spots of humor, then a little dragged down by a more serious second half. At nearly two full hours, the film also runs a little long. Still, a strong local youth romance that is sadly almost guaranteed to not make a lot of money.

Revenge: A Love Story (Hong Kong, 2010, directed by Wong Ching-Po) - This gory exploitation thriller feels like what Josie Ho wanted DREAM HOME to be - a loud, violent, nihilistic exploitation revenge film that rocks it’s audience into shock. What Ho and producer Conroy Chan didn’t expect was that Wong Ching-Po has an art film ambition in his script. Star Juno Mak, a self-proclaim fan of exploitation cinema, wrote this story that would’ve made an ok entry in 90s category III cinema, but his writer-director couldn’t avoid his penchant for creating meaning. The result is utterly ridiculous, but entertaining in its own sadistic way. Aoi Sola gives it her all, performing a graphic rape scene that no HK actress with dare to touch. Review for LoveHKFilm coming.

Note: Star Juno Mak pointed out that the festival version of the film is the “director’s cut” and that they’re in negotiations with the censorship board about possible edits needed. Yay, us.

Day 2 will be 3 films, including VILLAIN and THE DRUNKARD, whose original author reportedly influenced Wong Kar Wai greatly. I expect to catch some sleep in between.

The Golden Rock - 2010 48 Hour Film Project Edition

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The 48 HOUR FILM PROJECT is a yearly event happening around the world where filmmakers gather and make short films within 48 hours (rather straightforward, isn’t it?). Having been in film school and around people involved with film, this is the second year in a row that someone I know is involved in the contest’s Hong Kong stop. The filmmakers have worked very hard, and they will be screening the fruits of their labor on Saturday, October 23rd, at Hong Kong’s The Grand Cinema.

While I won’t be at the screenings myself (HKAFF!), I am showing my support for my friend Seth and the contest as a whole by encouraging you all to make it to the screening if you’re in Hong Kong. One of last year’s winners ended up being screened at this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival, so amateur filmmaking this ain’t.

Don’t believe me? Go to The Grand Cinema on the 23rd and check it out yourself.

Tickets can be bought here.

The Golden Rock - Triple-header of Suck Edition

The title says it all: This coverage covers the three films I watched in the last two weeks, all sucking (for the lack of a more eloquent word) in varied degrees:

Kung Fu Hip Hop 2 (2010, China, Dir: Lau Bao Xian)

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It’s like the Hawaiian version of ONG BAK

Get those fingers resurrected. The terrible KUNG FU HIP HOP was elevated into “so bad it’s good” territory with its infamously bad English subtitles. Sadly, the screening the official LoveHKFilm movie group (which sometimes go by other names like “The Gang of Film” or “People Who Watch Movies so You Don’t Have To”) attended included no English subtitles. Fortunately for the Chinese-impaired, the story’s plot is so simple that they didn’t need to know the dialogue to understand most of the plot.

Sadly, for the rest of us, we had to sit through the dialogue.

A sequel in name, KUNG FU HIP HOP 2 comes with a brand-new cast led by Wilson Chen, Zhou Qiqi (who shows off quite a bit of, ahem…talent in the film), Prince (of Taiwanese boy group Lollipop) and Michael “Laughing Gor” Tse (former backup dancer and the winner of a television celebrity dancing contest). For fans of any of these actors, the film is practically review-proof. This is especially the case for Prince (no relation to the artist who formerly goes by that name), who seems to believe that the harder he squints his eyes, the better his acting is. The Prince fans that made up most of the film’s audience thought that it was charming to the max, which would make me the old geezer.

In addition to the film’s weak acting, directing, and editing, director Lau also makes the misguided decision to hire real dancers to go up against Chen, Prince, and his dance crew. As the actors stay in the back while the other dancers do the real dancing, the opponents - in more case than one - end up performing even better than the main stars and still manage to lose the competition. They must’ve gotten the judges from FIFA.

Nevertheless, the dancing is just about the only redeemable thing left in this film, as even the unintentionally hilarious humor of the first film is gone. I probably should go easier on it, since it’s just disposable, teen-oriented time filler. Then again, any teen should have better things to fill their time than this.

Actually, I take back about the film having only one redeemable thing - the film features Wilson Chen doing parkour. Price of admission: earned.

Triple Tap (Hong Kong, 2010, Dir: Derek Yee)

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“That Golden Rock guy is just coming around the corner…”

As I mentioned on my Twitter, Derek Yee said that this isn’t really his film, but a film for the commercial audiences of China. Audience elsewhere might be wondering why a film so cerebral and so talky would ever be commercial, but the film has now topped Chinese box office for two weeks in a row, showing that Yee and his two co-writers ended up being quite successful.

A continuation of DOUBLE TAP (which Yee produced), TRIPLE TAP deals with similar themes about human nature and the power of the gun, except it does so in a far more talky, didactic manner than the first film. DOUBLE TAP was a tense, violent action film that went a little far in portraying its psychologically abnormal villain (played by an over-the-top Leslie Cheung). TRIPLE TAP is a film that pretends to be clever by hiding information from its audiences, and ends up frustrating that very same audience by not going anywhere for a very long time.

Its characters are shallow, unconvincing, and worst of all, bland. Louis Koo the financial genius is boring, even when he hits the point of insanity; Daniel Wu has little charisma as the righteous cop; the return of the Alex Fong character from DOUBLE TAP and ONE NITE IN MONGKOK was good, but even he’s forced to indulge in Yee’s silly depiction of crime solving reminiscent of Simon Yam the Jedi Cop in BLACK RANSOM. Running a full two hours, Yee stretches the story to the point of boredom without much to get its audience to its inevitable ending. For a film by any other filmmaker, this is a failure of a film. For a Derek Yee, it’s a betrayal against audiences outside China. There may not be a billion of us, but we pay to see your movie, too.

Flirting Scholar 2 (China/Hong Kong, 2010, Dir. Lee Lik-Chi)

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Director Lee Lik-Chi wants you to remember this movie…

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The problem is he wants you to do it while watching this.

The worse Chinese (intentional) comedy since HERE COMES FORTUNE is an embarrassing affair for everyone involved, and the fault all go to director Lee Lik-Chi and its producer Charles Heung. The prequel, which follows the adventures of Tang Bofu (played in the original by Stephen Chow, who we now know should take credit for the first film’s success) before he became one of the four famous scholars, rides on the fact that the first film was funny by recycling jokes that no longer work, especially when the actors from the first film are now 15 years older. All of it is exhausting to watch, and like a clown hopping all over the place to get you to laugh to no avail, it’s exhausting to watch.

It’s hard to point the finger at the actors, though, since many of the actors from the first film and various cameos are just people looking for a payday and did what they were told to do. Star Huang Xiaoming tries his best to do comedy, but he’s obviously in no position to be in a HK-style mo lei tau comedy. Zhang Jingchu, who has been sharing promotional efforts between AFTERSHOCK and this film, is so good here that the only way she could’ve pulled off this performance is if she pretended that she was in a much better movie.

There have been reports that Lee Lik-Chi was kicked out of the editing room because he wanted to make the film more of a romantic tragedy than a mo lei tau comedy. Sorry, buddy, the best decision you or anyone would’ve made is to have not made this movie at all.

 
 
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