Saturday, January 28, 2006

[non-Asian] -A New Life (Une Vie Volée)

A New Life (Une Vie Volée) by Philippe Grandrieux (2002).

Yes, this is not an Asian film, but it's a great, experimental and strange film. First of all, this is my second Philippe Grandrieux film. I once saw Sombre which was his first fiction film. Philippe Grandrieux isn't a filmmaker very appreciated in France, and he's almost unknown outside of this country.
I guess the particular and tense world and the ambiguity of his works can easy make people uncomfortable or even can be too disturbing.
However one can not deny his artistic and cinematic approach and his personal exploration on human nature, and more particularly on the hidden, dark side of human soul.
A New Life can be seen as a visual and sound experimentation to create an emotive and sensory tension, and like Sombre, the film is raw, rather physical with a certain expression of the body and in which passions, torments and obsessions merge with the opacity of the cinematography, the lights and shades. Some powerful and amazing shots will always stay. The atmosphere is so tense that it almost feel claustrophobic in a world which seems to be like a dream but where women are for sale, somewhere in Eastern Europe. The narrative is completely torn to part, and isn't the matter and the purpose here since it's the sound and the visual that structure the film itself.

A surprising work of art.


Friday, January 27, 2006


Canary (Akihiko Shiota, 2004/2005)

This is my third movie by this director.
Akihiko Shiota isn't a director very well-known. I discovered him in 2001 with Harmful Insect which was in competition at the 3 Continents Film Festival. It actually won Special Jury Award and Best Actress award. Already this movie dealt with a young girl of 12 years old who had a complicated family life and had an early love experience with an ex-teacher. She quitted school after her mother's suicide attempt and met other drifted people.
Canary deals also with young kids, and inspired by the cult wave, a subject that has been recently used on screen. With Canary, Akihiko Shiota is in the vein of Hirokazu Koreeda, Shinji Aoyama and Kyoshi Kurosawa (more like Bright Future type).
It's even closer to Nobody Knows since the main characters here are 2 youngsters of 12 years old, a boy, Koichi and a girl, Yuki.
The cult in question in this film is called Nirvana but highly recalls of the Aum cult that made the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack. Koichi's mother decided to join the Nirvana cult, a strict religious sect, with her two children, Koichi and his younger sister. As soon as they arrived, the children are separeted from their mother, and they have to stay with the other children in order to follow the rules, the practices of the cult. After a murderous gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the authorities arrested most of the members, the cult was disbanded. The children were placed into child welfare. But Kiochi escaped from it, still believing in the dogma and rituals. His only goal is to find the remnants of his family. On the road, in the countryside, he runs across Yuki, a young girl who's having a difficult family life.

This road movie develops the relationships between the characters and their progression, changings in their belief, character and behaviour. The narrative is very well handled by offering every now and then, but at the right moment, some flashbacks. The two leading young actors deliver a very great performence - as great as in Nobody Knows. The cinematography and the camera work are both well thought. And I found the movie particularly moving. I much prefered Canary than Harmful Insect and Yomigaeri, his work has very well improved since, he's surely a director to follow.


Citizen Dog, The Adventures of Iron Pussy

Two Thai Movies...

Citizen Dog by Wisit Sasanatieng (2004).
Wisit Sasanatieng got known for its debut film Tears of the Black Tiger (2000), which was like a pastiche Thai western in the 40s using Thai popular culture. (Good and funny movie by the way).
Citizen Dog keeps the same excessive colourful visual style and popular imagery but goes a bit more surreal. The movie could be like a fable, to me, it sometimes reminds a bit of Amelie. The film is told by a voice-over (narrated by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, director of Last Life in the Universe) and introduces to us the story of Pod.
Pod is a young man raised in the coutryside who decided to go to Bangkok despite his grandsmother's warning about people who move to Bangkok end up growing tails (!!!).
He first finds a job in a factory where he has to chop the sardines and put them in their tins, but one day the machine went crazy and so fast that his finger got cut. He, then, tries to find the tin containing his chopped finger. And this is how he met his best friend, and co-worker. He changes his job and becomes a security guard. This is when he meets his love, Jin, and many adventures are about to start again and a gallery of characters is presented to us ....

The movie is constantly accompanied by Thai music (modern, rock...), which sometimes may do your ear after a while but it goes very well with the style of the movie. The second part gets a bit more "critical" by becoming more aware of the environment through one of the character.
Some very inventive and surreal scenes are found that make the film rather original.

The Adventures of Iron Pussy by Michael Shaowanasai and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2004).

Imagine a transvestite glamour secret agent called Iron Pussy who is sent on a mission for an undercover operation in a remote mansion but falls in love with the bad guy....
Not only she's beautiful, pious and full of good intentions, but she also knows how to fight and how to sing (since the movies contains musical scenes)!
Highly stylized, intentionally kitsch, and over-exaggerated, the film has also a certain sense of humor. A curious film to discover.
Director' s statement :
When I had an opportunity to direct this latest episode, I proposed to cast Iron Pussy in a popular film context, through an old Thai film genre, so worn-out (and deemed cheap) that nobody’s made it anymore. There are numerous references to old Thai films of Lavo Studio in the past. We also dubbed the voice of all actors by the voice talent veterans of the old Thai film industry. For me, the fun of making this film is to see this a-go-go boy trap in the past when sexual representation is restrained. She is explicit in her determination to fit in the perfect past. This conceptual piece aims to add another life for Iron Pussy. It is the life she cannot have in contemporary landscape, where she is busy fighting sex crimes against foreign mafias in Bangkok.
- Apichatpong Weerasethakul

link :


Monday, January 23, 2006

Top 10 of Asian Movies in 2004

Top 10 of Asian Movies in 2004

Only Asian movies made in 2004 (although most of them were seen in 2005...). 2004 was a rich year, the best came probably from Japan and Tadanobu Asano was surely the best actor who played several films in 2004 (Survive Style 5+, The Taste of Tea, and Vital which I still haven't seen yet).
The list may change since I'm so indecisive with lists.
Movies of 2004 that I still haven't seen : A Letter from an Unknown Woman (Xu Jinglei) - seen in 2006, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol (Lu Chuan), seen in 2006, The Foliage (Lu Yue), Shanghai Story (Peng Xiaolian), Two Great Sheep (Liu Hao), Vital (Shinya Tsukamoto) - seen in 2006, One Night in Mongkok (Derek Yee) - seen in 2006, Shutter (Thailand) and more...
The 2005 list will come later...

10. Day and Night - Riri yeye - (Wang Chao, Mainland China).
09. 3-Iron - Bin-jip - (Kim Ki-duk, South Korea)
08. Kungfu Hustle - Gong fu (Stephen Chow, HK)
07. Nobody Knows - Dare mo shirana - (Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan)
06. Survive Style 5+ - (Gen Sekiguchi, Japan)
05. The World - Shijie - (Jia Zhangke, Mainland China)
04. Café Lumière - Kôhî jikô - (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan)
03. The Beautiful Washing Machine - Mei li de xi yi ji - (James Lee, Malaysia)
02. A Taste of Tea - Cha no aji - (Katsuhito Ishii, Japan)
01. Tropical Malady - Sud pralad - (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)

Other movies I liked and that are worth being mentioned (and from "big Asia") : Barbecue (Jun Geng, Mainland China), Passages (Yang Chao, Mainland China), Pirated Copy (He Jianjun, Mainland China), Schizo (Guka Omarova, Kazakhstan), Earth and Ashes (Atiq Rahimi, Afghanistan), Bitter Dreams (Moshen Amiryoussefi, Iran), 15 (Royston Tan, Singapore), Citizen Dog (Wisit Sasanatieng, Thailand), 2046 (WKW, HK), Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, Japan), Cutie Honey (Hideaki Anno, Japan) ...


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A couple Shaw Bros movies

A couple Shaw Bros movies...

Have Sword Will Travel by Chang Cheh (1969).
Starring the usual and best ones : David Chiang, Ti Lung, Li Ching and Ku Feng.

Like every year, Lord In, assisted by the 'Invincible Village', has to transport an important amount of government gold across China. As Lord In is ill and has lost his martial arts skills, he recruits 2 disciples of a famous master, to accompany the escort safely. Those swordsman and woman are Siang (Ti Lung) and his martial sister Yun Piau-piau (Li Ching) who are in love and are thinking to get married. But of course, this year, the escort is in danger since a fearless band of thieves, the Flying Tiger Stockade (led by Ku Feng) plans to ambush the convoy and steal the gold. At the same time, a lonely, wandering swordsman, Lo (David Chiang), whose martial arts skills are more than impressive, happens to bump into Siang and Piau Piau. Obviously Piau Piau can not resist to this mysterious, valiant knight who is also touched by her trust and kindness. Siang who notices the mutual, yet, unsaid, sympathy shows directly his antiphathy and suspicion towards Lo. But Lo is a heroic, righteous man and will get involved to their difficult task....

The film starts with an opening sequence which actually forshadows the story while presenting the characters and showing the credits with someflashy colours before that we discover the young couple lying in the hay. The story is rather simple and straightforward and delivers a long bloody and final fight for the end. This movie is highly influenced by western (and even the music theme underlines this influence). The film uses several slow-motion (especially during the fights or while Lo is imagining his end), but the pace and the editing is rather fast and to the point. I like David Chiang in this role, very stoic, charismatic and mysterious outsider (typical anti-hero). I also liked the music. Well, I won't say more, but it's a solid and enjoyable swordsplay movie very well made.

Another Chang Cheh... The Assassin (1967)
The movie was directed at the same year than the most known Chang Cheh's movies One-Armed Swordsman. The Assassin features again Wang Yu or Jimmy Wang Yu and Chiao Chiao.

The movie tells the story of the legendary Chinese assassin, Nie Zheng, during the times of the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), based on The Records of the Grand Historian. Like Zhang Yimou's Hero, Nie Zheng is an assassin whose dream is to achieve great deeds for worthy cause in History and whose aim will be to assassinate the Prime Minister of Han.

The movie contains a much more slow pace in order to take time to develop the different steps of the story : Nie Zheng, student of Master Wu until the fall of the school, Nie Zheng flees in another kingdom with with mother and sister, but without his lover and becomes a butcher, the brotherhood with Official Yen, his farewell with Yen (nice scene actually), and so on.... up to the assassination (which could remind us of Hero).....
The movie is of course heroic, more of historical than action movie (there is more dialogue too), yet, it reserves some swordfight scenes and a bit of blood splashing (I liked the close-up on the blade with drops of blood falling down).

All Men Are Brothers by Chang Cheh and Wu Ma.
Made in 1973, the movie only got released in 1975.
With a title as such we could expected the worse (or laugh).
The movie is actually the sequel of The Water Margin movie made by the same directors.
Seven heroes are chosen for a mission to get rid of a rebel general based in Hangchow after several defeated attempts by other "brothers". The new recruited outlaws are led by Yen Ching (David Chiang again) who with the other six (well apart Black Whirlwind who's too impulsive and whose capacity of thinking a bit further than his muscles and fights is rather slim, but he's a good old lad.. err.. sorry I mean brother) are trying to figure out a way to take the city from the inside. Among those seven fighters, there is a couple, a man and a woman. She's the second woman in the film; the first being a courtisean who introduced the outlaws to the Emperor and made him sign a letter promising the pardon. Actually the first scene, the meeting of the courtisean and David Chiang, is rather implicitly erotic. Knowing that women aren't really seen in their bright sides in most Chang Cheh movies (or their roles are subdued), I guess here there is at least a female warrior. After several flashbacks on the stories of each outlaws, they are heading to this fortress and working out a plan to seize the place....

The movie is a bit more bloody, and goes right into the action, the story is simple, the characters aren't that developped either. The fights, quite a lot, are, I guess, okay. David Chiang is also okay (but I prefer him in Have Sword Will Travel for instance). I was wondering what happened to Ti Lung since he mainly appears, and still briefly, towards the end (it must be because of his costume and the haircut style.... which didn't suit him at all!).
Overall I didn't find the movie very great or memorable (even if it's not bad).

The Wandering Swordsman by Chang Cheh (1970)
with David Chiang and Lily Li.
Very briefly, I liked the movie which stars in a solo leading role David Chiang, with a constant grin on his face, quite playful and arrogant yet naive and for who action precedes thought. A shame that the female role is basicaly inexistant (she keeps crying, even if she once proves that she can fight, but still, and as David Chiang says to her she isn't beautiful when she cries so she should stop crying!). The movie is worth for the music and for David Chiang. Sometimes it really reminds me of some westerns. The last 30 minutes ( two main swordsfight scenes) are rather good too.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

First Post !

ok. first message, because there is always one.