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Archive for the ‘Vacation Photos’ Category

What happens in Udine - pics and notes from FEFF12

It’s been nearly a month since I attended the 12th Udine Far East Film Festival, but I have yet to post more than one or two photos detailing the trip. In past years, I’ve usually written quickly about the experience, but this year? It didn’t happen. Besides a podcast I did over at Paul Fox and Kevin Ma’s KongCast, all I did was put up one photo of LGM and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here’s a photo of me taking that photo:

Me taking photo
That’s GALLANTS co-director Clement Cheng in the background,
wondering why I’m interrupting an interview to take toy photos.

Obviously, I act in a completely professional manner while I’m over there.


From Italy with Mild Affection

Hi from Udine.

Lobby of the Teatro Nuovo
The lobby of Udine’s Teatro Nuovo

Nearly through the Far East Film Festival and today was the most important day thus far: laundry day. In an effort to make everyone else’s stay here far more pleasurable, I’m washing my clothes. This is proof that I’m always thinking about other people.

 Wash and dry
When I did this I could have been watching RULE NUMBER ONE again

The 11th Far East Film Festival is now over half over and unfortunately, the number of new Asian films I’ve seen thus far is rather low. Some highlights:


The ones that got away

While I’m wasting time between my Italy vacation updates - a trip which, by the way, is now one full month old - I figured I could quickly discuss the progress or lack thereof concerning the site’s review backlog. After all, it’s that and the merciless day job that are keeping me busy. You all want to hear about it, right? It seems that Fiona Sit is interested:

Fiona is curious
“Hmm, why are those blog updates taking so long, anyway?”

It’s comforting to know that Fiona cares. I’m not too sure about the guy next to her, though.

After Udine, I added up all the films I’d seen and not reviewed, from the Far East Film Festival (FEFF), the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), and just regular theatrical release. The number came out to a whopping twenty-five. Factoring out Coffee or Tea, which I mentioned in an earlier HKIFF post, the number dropped to twenty-four.

Now, some fourteen written reviews later, there are only ten left on the list. Of the ten, I have decided to excise three. The reason? I got sleepy while watching those three films, meaning three possible things: A) I may have missed something important while dozing off, B) any confusion I felt may be due to grogginess and not film quality, or C) the movies were boring, thus putting me to sleep because hey, a thrill-a-minute film would definitely have kept me awake.

Sleeping kitty
This is what happens when a movie lacks action

Regardless of the reason for my nodding off, I feel it’s hard to let people know my opinion on a film if I don’t end up catching all of it. It’s not very responsible - though to be honest, I hear that a few Asian Cinema publications were written using this “I saw only half of the film” reviewing technique. I did it once, for a movie called Hong Kong X-File. The shame stays with me today.

I’m not a fan of partial, uninformed opinion. Hell, sometimes I even change my mind after seeing a movie three or four more times. The best example of this is probably Running Out of Time 2. At the time I considered the film to be a disappointment, but I now feel it’s a very fun, entertaining, and smart chase movie - albeit with an overly-arch sense of humor. Also, given Ekin Cheng’s career slide, I now feel like being charitable towards every film he makes.

The main lesson: I’m not always on my “A” game, and reviewing a movie that I partially slept through would be somewhat disingenous. These films deserve an actual viewing while awake and sober - something that will hopefully happen one day if they get released on DVD with English subtitles. If not, I’ll have to be content with the following memories, which I’m sure are wholly innaccurate and probably proof that I should change my profession to professional paint scraper.

Feng Xiaogang disapproves of sleeping at films:

I point at you
“You! In the front row! Wake up!”

I’ll take his advice, but frankly, the director of The Banquet is in no position to ask his audience to stay awake.

Anyway, here are my mini-impressions of the three films that I fell asleep at. DISCLAIMER: the following mini-reviews are not really reviews, and fully belong in the blog format. That’s because I did minimal research, and made zero attempt to talk about the films or the filmmakers outside of my own instant experience. If I blogged about my dinner or coffee before or after these films, it may actually be appropriate because that’s what blog posts like these are like. Web Film Criticism 2.0: the online version of dinner and a movie.

Film I slept at No. 1: In Love We Trust

In Love We Trust
Yu Nan wakes up from a nightmare where
she appeared in a megaflop directed by
the Wachowski Brothers

Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai, this Chinese drama proffers up a particularly fun premise: adultery for a good cause! Basically, a divorced couple consider siring a new child to provide an organ transplant for an older one whose illness is fast becoming terminal. Of course, each person has a new partner, who may not go for extramarital action, even if the cause is a good one. Human emotions can be tricky things.

The great things about this film: the screenplay, the acting, and the approach, which sidesteps the Curse of the Asian Tearjerker(TM) and features unspoken realization and complex characterization in place of bile-spewing Oscar clips or egregious displays of weeping. This is a film about decisions, not outcomes, and it deserved to be lauded at the Berlin Film Festival.

I fell asleep when the half-hour setup began to drag. When I woke up, I wasn’t sure which couple I was watching, so I had to reacquaint myself with them on the fly. By the time the plot kicked in, I was hooked, but I do feel that I missed a lot. If I spoke Mandarin, I could solve this issue because there’s an unsubbed DVD available in China. I don’t speak Mandarin, so I am a waste of space.

Donnie is mad
“I told you not to fall asleep! Why must you make me so upset?!?”

By the way, this film featured small turns by Gao Yuanyuan and Tian Yuan, and stars Yu Nan from Tuya’s Marriage and - get this - Speed Racer! No Rain, however.

Film I slept at No. 2: Your Friends

Your Friends
No, they’re not my friends, they’re your friends

Shojo manga alert! Your Friends tells the could-be-very-sappy story of a disabled girl, her friendship with another girl who has a terminal disease, and her search for the perfect cloud to honor that friend. My description does the film an incredible disservice, however, as Your Friends is actually sensitive, well-made, and quite restrained - though the overt symbolism of the clouds was still a bit much for my sleepy brain cells. Your Friends sounds like a ten-ton weepie requiring about sixty tissues, but thankfully it stays restrained enough to qualify as something a bit more accomplished. I’m sure it would have worked equally as well as a manga, however.

This one put me to sleep immediately because it features lots of shots of clouds and blue skies, and only serves up tinkly music when it’s time to cut to a new segment featuring yet another of “your friends”. This is a flashback-filled tale with many young actors all wearing school uniforms. Not that I couldn’t tell them apart - I could, but after waking up forty minutes into the film, it took me an extra ten to realize that the film had shifted segments on me, and was concentrating on a new girl instead of a previous one, though one of the girls hanging around was the same.

What the above means: there were three young girls featured in the first forty minutes of the film, and not just two, but my nap required me to perform some extra mental gymnastics to realize that we were following one girl’s experience with two different friends, and not just two girls all the time. Director Hiroki Ryuichi made things even more difficult for my sleep-deprived brain because he decided to shoot his film in mostly long shots and long takes, meaning I had to wait an age for the rare close-up to get a good look at anyone. Frankly, the wait was sometimes so long that I was able to take a nap.

For the record: one of the three girls was also in Adrift in Tokyo - which I didn’t fall asleep at. There are also a bunch of boys, including a guy who was in the Nodame Cantabile drama. I’m not using their real names here because I didn’t do any research before writing this blog post - in which case I would have dug up a name or two. Call it me being lazy, but there are many online film reviewers who don’t do the proper research before writing their reviews. A note to those reviewers: we’re all on the same level.

Everyone in this photo has a film-related blog:

We support Hilary and review Asian film
“We support Hilary AND we blog about Asian movies!”

I think the lesson here - besides check who’s writing those blogs you frequent - is that responsible journalism is hard to practice, and I’m not a complete saint in that department. Truthfully, Your Friends has plenty of fans, so my sarcastic sleepy-eyed review should be taken with a couple thousand grains of salt. Maybe our actual friends deserve to be insulted, but Your Friends is better served by respectful quotes like “a new wave classic” and “I see my friends in the clouds, too”. It’s better than the damning, “It was okay, but then I fell asleep” judgement that I would probably otherwise make.

Honestly, I will try to see this movie again someday. I’m getting a venti Starbucks beforehand.

Film I slept at No. 3: Ta Pu

Ta Pu
If you cheat, they shoot you

The tale of a bunch of overage students taking university entrance exams in rural China, Ta Pu is a film definitely worth watching - but I’ll have to see it again, because this time I completely messed up and fell asleep a total of THREE Times during the film. The first time was about ten minutes after the film started, the second time was when the students were all sitting in a classroom, and the third time someone had already failed the exam and the other students weren’t doing so hot themselves. Not really a commercial film, Ta Pu relates a post-Cultural Revolution time in Chinese history, when all those sent-down laborers got the chance to get out of the sticks and get themselves their long-delayed education. NOTE: a friend told me that info and I remember it - no research required!

The message of the film seemed to be that the best intentions of Chinese youth won’t help them get into University, and lots of everyday, China-specific stuff will get in way of that new-fangled progress thing called an education. Yes, I’ve just insulted a fine motion picture with an insincere synopsis - but that’s what happens when you fall asleep in a movie and struggle to recall exactly what went on. The moral: someone should fire me from this website. The other moral: seeing five movies a day can kill almost anyone, especially a person who doesn’t sleep that much anyway.

The positive is that I stayed awake in Italy long enough to take this photo of Kelly Lin and Lau Ching-Wan:

Sitting behind the cast of Running Out of Time 2
Her hair is blocking Johnnie To’s profile

The negative: I totally shafted Ta Pu because of my nap attacks, and even though my memory seems to tell me that it was a film worth seeing, I can’t recall enough specifics to piece together why exactly I thought that. Rather than faking it and going for the three-paragraph review, I’ll come clean and admit the truth: I probably saw only 40% of the film in a lucid state, and my impressions are mostly gleamed from a personal fill-in-the-blank exercise involving the fest catalog, a blank notepad, and a diagram meant to describe the character relationships. I never did figure out all the details, but this is what I drew up:

I think it’s a dog

As punishment, I’ll promise to review movies responsibly, honestly, and with more integrity than I did last week. I’ll get started on it right away.

Fiona is glad we had this conversation.

Fiona’s thumbs up
“I’m Fiona Sit, and I approve of this blog.”

Kozo & Yotsuba in Italy: Part 1

I figured I had to get this thing started sooner or later. I’ve neglected to write about so many things that this blog will soon turn into some sort of 20/20 hindsight memoir. I still haven’t blogged about the Aaron Kwok concert experience - and that was like 4 months ago.

Aaron again
“What, you still haven’t blogged about me?
But I’m just so bloggable!”

You sure are.

Anyway, since I’m now 10 reviews into the 24 movie backlog I’ve amassed - with absolutely no guarantee that I will actually be able to review all 24 films - I figured I should get started with the blogging too. It’s not like I have to get my whole trip out in just one post. Worst case scenario is I only get one part done and I forget the rest. It wouldn’t be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done online. The dumbest thing? Probably admit that I enjoy Seven Swords.

Tsui Hark lives
“Thanks! You may be the only person in
Hong Kong who still thinks I can direct!”

Anyway, on to the trip.

I think Hong Kong people primarily take pictures of two things: toys and food. Not to be outdone, I did exactly the same during my trip to Italy. I also took pictures of people and buildings, but I consider that a moot point because we all take pictures of people and buildings. I just didn’t take any photos of myself.

Regardless, this is a rare photo without food or Yotsuba in it.

First night in Udine
In Italy, the cars are small

Not too long ago, I managed to journey to Italy for the Udine Far East Film Festival. This photo-essay is pretty much all I brought back, besides a copy of the 10th Anniversary Book and the Festival Catalogue, which features more information about Asian films than I could ever pretend that I know. And I can pretend that I know a lot.

Before I left for Italy, Yotsuba sat on my office desk with a couple of her friends:

Yotsuba in Office
Having a plush CJ7 may somehow be more
satisfying than owning the DVD

After we got to Italy, this is what she looked like:

Yotsuba in Venice 2
“This canal behind me smells great!”

Yotsuba is a fine toy to bring on trips. Not only is she small and poseable, but she’s got an interchangeable head so you can pretend that she’s experiencing mood swings. It’s like bringing another person along, except this one doesn’t speak or hit you up for money.

Oh, yeah, I went to a film festival. From the outside it looked like this:

Far East Film
Nobody in this photo enjoyed Empress and the Warriors

The fest is located in Udine, a small city about a two-hour train ride from Venice. My photos of Udine are like the one four photos up: empty and quiet. Udine is a peaceful place, and much nicer to walk around in than, say Venice. Just compare these photos:



Big difference, eh? I’m not a crowd person, so yes, I much prefer Udine to Venice. So does Yotsuba. When faced with crowds, she gets murderously angry. This is Yotsuba with her unhappy face:

I will shoot someone
Someone must pay

I went to Venice on the film festival’s Horror Day, so I ended up skipping a whole day of blood and screaming and exchanged them for wall-to-wall tourists and overpriced gelato. One could argue it was exactly the same experience, only with more walking.

Anyway, since I was on vacation, I had gelato at 12:16 pm.

Gelato at noon
My crappy Swatch is proof of my poor eating habits

I had some nice food in Italy, too - like this insanely huge calzone that ended up counting as 2.5 meals.

Mmmm, calzone
I ate this in three bites

Of course when you’re on vacation you have to eat well. I was lucky and got to attend many nice dinners with insane spreads that tripled my calorie count. Like this one:

Wow…that’s a lot of food
The reason for my current two-month period of fasting

If I were to rate my trip on the food experience alone, I’d probably give it an A-minus. I won’t give it a solid A because I never give anything a solid A. The film reviews I write are proof of that.

No trip to Italy would be complete without a shot of a gondola in a canal:

Required photo of Venice canal
Rush hour!

A picture of a dog chained to a wall is required, too:

Dog in Italy
The black terror of Venice

In the interests of equal time, here’s a cat:

He’s relaxed because the dog is chained up

I also took a picture of one of these:


Plus another one of food:

Green Risotto
To clarify possible confusion, I should note
that this picture was taken BEFORE eating.

By the way, the above picture is of wild herb risotto, and it was excellent - though a quick glance may make someone think ”partial digestion”. I shan’t elaborate. 

That pretty much wraps up Part One of my Italy trip. Part two will probably talk more about movies and my general impression of the Udine Far East Film Fest. Here’s a spoiler: I enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, none of the enjoyment mentioned in this post has anything to do with Asian film, meaning I’ve broken the #1 rule of Blogs: stay on topic. The #2 rule is try to blog at least once a week. Looks like I’ve broken that rule, too.

Let’s leave with this photo:

Lam Suet and some other guy
Me and some guy I met at the airport

I hear he had a good time in Italy too.

Back for more

Hey, I went to Italy. Yotsuba went too.

 Yotsuba in Venice
I took more pictures of this toy than I did of myself.

Back from the Far East Film Festival, and already my calendar is jam-packed. Aside from a pile of stuff at work,  some social obligations, many loads of laundry, and the potential time-sink of Grand Theft Auto 4, I now have a review backlog totaling 20 MOVIES. That’s 20 films that I could potentially write about, starting with the HK independent movie The Way We Are all the way through Johnnie To’s Sparrow. In between are movies from Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and even more Hong Kong. I better get started writing. Right now.

Sadly, I’ll likely write about only 10 of the 20 movies, and leave the others to never, as I’m not sure what my memory capacity is. I didn’t take many notes, and am relying mostly on festival catalogs to refresh my memory. If I find that my impressions of any of the films have faded too far, I’ll have to throw those to the wind. Hopefully Sparrow won’t be one of them.

Johnnie To
“ can’t remember my movie?
Yay! That’s one less negative review!”

In any case, this is the other stuff I will do over the next two weeks.

- See Happy Funeral, Barbara Wong’s sequel to Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat
- See My Wife is a Gambling Maestro, the new Wong Jing-Nick Cheung epic
- Skip The Forbidden Kingdom, because it’s leaving Hong Kong in a hurry and I know it’ll be on video damn quick. With English subtitles.
- See Besieged City, the Lawrence Lau-directed film that I missed at HKIFF because I was sick.
- Get a haircut.
- Go on a diet to shed some of the 50 pounds of cheese and ham I ingested in Italy.
- Look at the possibility of two more LoveHKFilm Blogs.
- Get coffee with a friend who I put off getting coffee with for over one month.
- Solve one of those pesky content sharing deals I seem to get roped into all the time
- Arrange for the LoveHKFilm Awards Jury Dinner. Hot pot is a possibility.
- Sleep. Maybe.
- Write a review and update this blog.

I may publish a few photos from my trip to Italy, though I must warn people that they’re not very Asian-film related. At the very least, I took this one:

Big Shu Qi ad
Man, those are some huge lips. Copyright © 2002-2021 Ross Chen