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Old 21-03-2007, 08:28   #1
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2007 Hong Kong Intl Film Festival + 1st Asia Film Awards

Figured I'd start a thread and just let you know about what is going on here.

The festival kicked off on Monday night with screenings of:

Eye In The Sky (HK) - A police surveillance thriller from Herman Yau, starring Tony Leung Ka Fai and Simon Yam (Very Johnnie To-esque but got a bit dull and repetitive as it struggled to be a HK-based The French Connection)

I'm A Cyborg, But That's Ok (Korea) - the lastest from Park Chan Wook, Starring Rain and Lim Su Jeong. Mostly very cool, screwball comedy set in a mental asylum. Plays like Raising Arizona meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but dragged a bit and should have ended about 15 minutes beofre it did.

Tuesday night featured the first ever Asian Film Awards ceremony, which saw The Host pick up 4 out of the 10 awards, followed by a screening of:

Sakuran (Japan) - A pop-art styled geisha movie from Ninagawa Mika, starring Tsuchiya Anna and Kimura Yoshino, very much like a Japanese Marie Antoinette, with lots of bright colors and hot girls backed by a contemporary pop/jazz soundtrack.

The stars and directors were all in attendence and gave little speeches beforehand. The entire cinema suddenly seemed full of hysterical teenage girls when Rain appeared (and then every time he appeared on screen as well! Not your typical Park Chan Wook crowd - but then, it's very very different to his other movies) and the director of Sakuran was hot!!!

I went to all of these and will be bingeing for the next three weeks. Will add fuller reviews when I get time, but for the time being check out the website - loads of cool stuff showing:

http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/index.php

Last edited by marshy2004; 21-03-2007 at 09:53.
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Old 21-03-2007, 09:32   #2
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Jeez, for a moment I thought that was a festival in the UK..! Would kill to see the new Park Chan Wook..

Was excited there for a minute..
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Old 21-03-2007, 09:53   #3
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Eye in the Sky! Here's hoping for an Alan Parsons Project soundtrack.
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Old 22-03-2007, 10:34   #4
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Thanks for posting, it completely passed me by. Looking forward to your write-ups.
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Old 22-03-2007, 18:15   #5
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ditto
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Old 22-03-2007, 19:50   #6
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Thanks for this Marshy.
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Old 23-03-2007, 10:26   #7
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Last night I saw:

Bubble Fiction: Boom Or Bust (Japan) - which was a very funny time traveling comedy caper starring Abe Hiroshi and Hirosue Ryoko as a girl sent back to 1990 to prevent te economic crash. Had no idea what this was going in, and don't often find Asian comedies all that rewarding, but this was laugh-out-loud funny.

and

Bugmaster (Japan) - A live action film from Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo, starring Joe Odagiri, which unfortunately I did not enjoy. It was painfully slow telling a story that was bizarre, but could have benefitted hugely from a bit faster pacing. A period set tale of a kind of rural exocist who can see and remove "bugs" which possess and destroy people. Not a failure, looked great and there was definitely skilled hands at the helm, but just dragged. Shame.
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Old 28-03-2007, 06:11   #8
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Last Night I saw:

Love & Honour, the third in Yoji Yamada's series of Samurai films. So far it is the overall best film I've seen at the festival. I loved Twilight Samurai when I saw it at the festival here a few years back (but must confess I haven't watch The Hidden Blade yet), and this is very similar in tone and style. Again we are invited into the domestic lives of a lowly samurai and his wife. Mimura is a "poison taster" - a food taster for the local clan lord and he's getting bored of his job, wanting to set up a Kendo school instead. However, before he has a chance to fulfill his dream he is struck down by a dodgy piece of sashimi and after a vicious fever, he loses his sight.
Essentially stripping him of his manhood, Mimura's new affliction sets in motions a series of events that will culminate in a deadly duel to the death in the name of...well, Love And Honour.

The film has plenty of humour considering its potentially tragic subject matter, and builds slowly to an awesome climax and highly moving finale that had me blubbing in my seat. Great film!
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Old 29-03-2007, 06:29   #9
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Last night I saw momma kissing santa claus

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Old 29-03-2007, 09:50   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david080664
Last night I saw momma kissing santa claus
I had to warn her about that beard rash last time, but did she listen...

Anyway...

The marathon continues, saw a very cool Hong Kong indie last night called Ming Ming, starring Zhou Xun, Daniel Wu and directed by Suzie Au - who all sat right behind me for the screening, which was kind of cool as it meant I could glance over my shoulder and nod approvingly at the end.

Anyway, Zhou plays Ming Ming, a sultry femme fatale who swipes $5 Million in cash from a Hong Kong gangster, along with a wooden box with mysterious content, and high tails it to Shanghai with the help of a hapless street punk...only she doesn't.

In the chase, the punk (who's name completely escapes me, good as he was!!) falls foul of mistaken identity, and given the cash to run with, grabs the wrong girl, orange-haired Nana (also played by Zhou) and they board a boat to the mainland.

Ming Ming spies what happens and follows from a safe distance whilst trying to track down the man she loves, a mysterious playboy/boxer/hitman character called D (played by Daniel Wu), who Nana is also in love with.

If it sounds confusing, it really isn't, but the plot actually plays second fiddle to the eye-popping visuals, that splash cartoon blood across the screen as sparkle as if watching a Seijun Suzuki movie. The retro-techno synth-opera score from Anthony Wong and Veronica Lee is also well worth mentioning.

The film was not perfect by any means, but Suzie Au is definitely going to be one to watch in the future. A curious and memorable experience.

I also saw a video-shot amateur mainland drama called Basement - which was turgid, absolutely dreadful, uninspired, amateurish and incomprehensible. If you see it comin, run the other way...and I was one of the few who stayed to the end to be supportive to the director. Sorry....but it was pants.
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Old 02-04-2007, 06:10   #11
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Saw a couple more interesting new Asian flicks over the weekend:

The Pye Dog (Hong Kong) - Starring Eason Chan this turned out to be a really cool flick, in the style of Leon or Isabella. Eason plays a low-level gangster who is assigned to kidnap a young lad from a local school so his bosses can flush out the boy's father. Eason poses as the janitor at the school, making friends with a bizarre young lad who hasn't spoken since the disappearance of his father and his Mom's suicide.

Together these two outsiders form a camaraderie, along with the young, pretty substitute teacher, until the obvious connections are made and poor Eason is faced with some tough decisions. The young director has a keen eye and good sense of pace and style, even if the story isn't anything new or revelatory. I didn't know what this film was about before going in and found it to be one of my favourites so far.

On sunday I saw:

The Amazing Lives Of The Fast Food Grifters (Japan) - the latest anime from Mamoru Oshii, director of Ghost In The Shell and Avalon.

The style of animation is bizarre, using chopped up still photographs and animated backgrounds to tell a staggeringly bizarre, yet amusing pseudo-documentary. It's a really really weird premise, a look at how, since WWII, a breed of street punk, called a Fast Food Grifter, emerged and how, in their own special ways, have developed ways of blagging free meals from restaurants. The Grifters are presented as wandering warriors, like samurai, but they don't fight, just use different methods to blag free food. It's very hard to really describe what the film is actually about, but it is certainly intriguing, amusing and very cool to look at out.

Last edited by marshy2004; 02-04-2007 at 09:36.
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Old 04-04-2007, 04:07   #12
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It's getting a bit lonely on this thread, but as Magnus Magnuson used to say...I've started so i'll finish.

Luxury Car (China) - This mainland drama I believe played at Cannes last year and it was really quite interesting. It tells the story of an old father who comes to the big city (Wuhan) in search of his son. His wife is dying and she wants to see her son again before she karks it. The daughter is already living in the city, working at a local Karaoke club and the story examines the economic changes between rural and urban China, the plights befalling innocent folks flocking to the big cities in search of money and how, more often than not, they fall into crime and prostitution.

I'm not a big fan of Mainland dramas normally, as I find them unnecessarily bleak and tedious for the most part, but this was surprisingly accomplished, keeping the story moving along while examining some very real socio-economic issues in a dramatic and entertaining way.

The Go Master (China/Japan)

Chang Chen stars as the real-life Chinese Go champion Wu Qingyuan, who moved to Japan to study his art, took Japanese citizenship and remained there for almost his entire life, even though Japan went to war with his homeland during this time. The film has been praised as a cerebral poem, or contemplation on the nature of faith and dedication, but I think that people are being too forgiving to the film.
Very little really happens in the film, the Go matches themselves - which often took days to complete - are barely even shown, with much of the film spent watching Wu sit and think and pray...and not much else. Fans of the film will say that I "didn't get it", or that it was too high-brow, but I disagree. Long tracking shots of waves crashing on beaches and tall grass blowing in the wind as a skinny bald man stares off into the distance whilst fingering a bowl of white counters does not make this film intelligent. I was well-prepared to examine faith, restraint, commitment and all the other topics that this film wanted to talk about, I was even ready to learn a little about the strategy of this inherently tricky game (I was never once able to beat my ex when we used to play it!!) but the film really didn't accomplish half of what it wanted to. It's not a terrible film, and Chang's performance deserves a measure of praise for its minimalism, but really I think what the audience come away with after this film is the same as if they really had sat and simply watched a windy beach for two hours.
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Old 04-04-2007, 09:20   #13
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Thanks for these reviews, marshy - the Mamoru Oshii in particular sounds intriguing.
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Old 04-04-2007, 10:49   #14
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Yes I'm still reading even though I'm not posting. Keep at it!
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Old 04-04-2007, 17:18   #15
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Quote:
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Yes I'm still reading even though I'm not posting. Keep at it!
ditto
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Old 05-04-2007, 07:24   #16
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Cheers guys, good to know I'm not talking to myself

Seen a couple of English language movies too, like Arthur and the Minimoys, which I really enjoyed despite myself, and Bobby, which tried valiantly to cover far too many of the demographics of the period in two hours and emerged as entertaining if ultimately a little inconsequential. Last night however, I saw a really good NZ movie called Out of the Blue. It tells the true story of a tiny beach community that was deeply scarred when an introverted loner named David Grey suddenly embarked on a violent rampage, slaughtering 13 innocent people, including a number of children, with his arsenal of automatic weapons. Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings, Bourne Supremacy) stars as the local copper who is thrown into a high-risk situation that he and his men are neither equipped or trained to deal with.
The film is made with a strong sense of respect and reverence for what happened, trying to humanize Grey and his actions, despite no one seemingly knowing much about him or his motives, and also to defend the police who struggled valiantly to protect their community however they could.
It was a very moving, exciting and well staged film, showing how, in even the most peaceful and beautiful of places, violence is always lingering just under the surface. Well worth seeking out.

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Old 11-04-2007, 11:00   #17
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Okay, final update:

Over the long Easter Weekend (five days off in Hong Kong - nice!) I saw:

Black Book - Thought this was great fun.
Freesia: Bullets Over Tears (Japan) - Based on a manga, this is a neo-futuristic Tokyo where revenge crimes are permitted, carried out by contracted hitmen. The main character is one of these "guns for hire", a man left emotionally cold after a top secret military experiment when he was a young cadet. The "Freeze explosion" also left two other people frozen on the inside, his mate, and a young girl. The girl, now grown up, is out for revenge against the General who sanctioned the weapon test (which killed her little brother) but the other dude is hired to protect him, pitting the old friends against each other.

I'm terrible at remembering Japanese character names, but I think the main guy is from SMAP or something similar. Anyway, it was a pretty cool film, mixing emotion with action and romance in a way the Japanese do so well. It's a bit slow, but that tends to be their style, and while it might sound rather dull to watch a film in which the three main characters are emotionally cold, it was all pretty good fun.

Cashback - Pretty amusing English rom/com about an art student working nights at Sainsbury's.

Days Of Glory - This was a pretty impressive war movie, although it did feel like Saving Algerian Private Ryan on more than one occasion. Also a bit like Glory, this examines the hardships befalling Algerian soldiers fighting for the French during WWII, and the crappy hand they were dealt by the country they were supposed to be defending. All good solid moving stuff, if not entirely new.

Tekkon Kinkreet - I think I read somewhere this is the first JP Anime movie to be directed by a non-Japanese. It still feels very Japanese, and the animation, kind of rougher Mayazaki in style, is excellent and full of amusing details. The story centres around two street urchins, Black and White, who get caught up in a Yakuza turf war, only to make a stand and declare the city is theirs. It all goes a bit Akira in the end, with inner demons manifesting themselves and conflicting the soul, but was very enjoyable along the way.

Princess - Danish anime about a priest who decides to take on the porn industry single-handedly after his sister (a porn star) dies, leaving her toddler in the hands of her pimp. The animation is quite crude, and is mixed with live action home video footage, but the overall effect is mostly good, with plenty of cutting edge humourous moments drawn from putting the kid into highly unsuitable situations.

The Painted Veil - For a stiff upper lip imperialist costume drama, I actually quite enjoyed this. Naomi Watts is the English gal who marries dull-as-a-board doctor Edward Norton to escape her over-bearing mother, only for him to move to Shanghai and then to a cholera colony - nice. Worth mentioning in this thread for the appearance of Anthony Wong Chow San as a Chinese officer in a rare English language performance. Pretty good, in that sunday matinee kind of way.

Right - that's it. I saw 22 films over the last couple of weeks and now need some fresh air.

Still not sure which my favourites were, although can't shake Mamoru Oshii's The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters from my mind nearly 2 weeks on.

Last edited by marshy2004; 11-04-2007 at 11:02.
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Old 11-04-2007, 14:38   #18
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That's quite an achievement Marshy well done and thanks again.

I could never get tickets to see the films I wanted to see at the HK film festival. How did you manage to get so many tickets?
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Old 11-04-2007, 23:01   #19
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cheers Marshy, glad you enjoyed it.
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