Friday, March 31, 2006

The Soong Sisters and other Asian movies

been a while..
Firstly, spring is coming, the forum, Fragments, has just been moved to another place.
A special place has been made for cinema discussions and particularly Asian cinema. Hopefully, it will be more active...

movies seen recently :

The Soong Sisters by Mabel Cheung, 1997... okay but could have been better
The movie is based on the true story of the three Soong sisters : Ai-ling (Michelle Yeoh), the eldest sister who married one of the richest Chinese men of the time, H. H. Kung (Finance Minister under Chiang Kai-shek power), Ching-ling (Maggie Cheung), Sun Yat-sen's wife, and May-ling (Vivian Wu), the youngest and Chiang Kai-shek's wife.
The Soong family was one the most influential and powerful families in 20th Chinese history. Their father (Jiang Wen) was Charlie Soong, who made a fortune by selling Bibles in China. The last of the three sisters, May-ling died in 2004 at the age of 105 in New York. Despite that they had also three brothers, none of them are mentioned in the movie at all.

The movie tells the sisters' lives from their childhood (beginning of the 20th century), through the years of the Republic of China, from the revolution and the founding of the Republic of China in 1911 by Sun Yat-sen, the northern expedition in 1927, the sino-japanese war and the civil war between nationalists and communists. It focuses on their love and family relationships, their different political ideas (although not too heavily developped....) while the historical changing of China still remains in the backround.
They are presented as the future women of the New China : One loved money (Ai-ling), and one loved her country, (Ching-ling, surnamed as the Mother of China, and was the First Lady), one loved power (May-ling, the ambassador for China and then Taiwan to the Western world).

I personnally thought this historical epic, which lasts over 2 hours (some scenes were cut, and the movie was shot in Mainland China at the time of the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC), could have been better, but it's interesting to see at least for the history. However the cast gathered some of the most known movie personalities (Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Vivian Wu, Jiang Wen as the father, Winston Chao as Sun Yat-Sen, Wu Hsing-Kuo as Chiang Kai-Shek) and everyone played very well. The set is somptuously well done, and the direction is classic, but the music is too present and too dramatic, and overall the film is a bit too "academic".

Others :
Taga tameni by Taro Hyugaji, 2005... only worth for Tadanobu Asano
Cocktail by Herman Yau, 2006... not great, watchable though
The Art of Fighting by by Shin Han Sol (first feature film), 2005... (basically a young guy who's being constantly bullied by stupid boys at school, meets an odd elder, who excels in the art of fighting, wants to learn from him...). Nothing really outstanding or different from any other movies of this genre (comedy/action although no so much action, a bit of fighting mainly), but it was okay, and the cast played well : Baek Yoon Shik (Save the Green Planet, President's Last Bang) and Jae Hee (3-Iron).


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

[DL] - Directors Lounge 2006

Impressions of Directors Lounge 2006 - Berlin

The impressions of the DL event, held in February 9-19. 06, in Berlin is now online on the website :

"Over the next ten days we screened more than 200 films and about 25 installations/video-loops.
The fact that many of our visitors became regular guests was especially encouraging as was the attendance of several directors and artists. The move into a bigger space proved to be wise.
The subtle red illuminated venue served as a perfect setting to share not only fine movies but thoughts and ideas.
Victims of the annual Berlinale frenzy welcomed it as relaxed hideaway while film buffs feeded their addiction."


"These eleven days proved our concept of an open realm, where the movies are not caged into a black box, but connected to an area of discourse, as a promising way that we will continue and expand through our forthcoming screenings."

"Even so we welcomed about 100 - 200 guests each night it never became anonymous.
Again Directors Lounge was characterised by a friendly and familiar atmoshere."

More on the page.... + many pics!

Labels: ,

Monday, March 20, 2006

Great Prize to Dream Walking

Dream Walking, an independent Chinese documentary, has just received the Great Prize of the festival "Cinema du Reel" held in Centre Pompidou in Paris (March, 10th to 19th).

Since its creation in 1978 by the "Bibliotheque publique d'information", Cinema du Reel has developped into a major documentary cinema festival, a reference event in which the public as well as the professionals discover new films and new filmmakers, in which today's documentary filmmaking confronts with the best of documentary cinema history. Workshops and special events complete a program supported by a numerous and enthusiastic audience.

Dream Walking (Meng You) - Huang Wenhai, 85min, China, 2005
They are painters, musicians, poets, performers. In the suffocating Beijing summer, they improvise a film, invent their life, discuss literature, art and religion. If they enjoy nakedness so much, it is perhaps in order to abandon the absurd roles that society imposes on them.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

World of Geisha

World of Geisha by Tatsumi Kumashiro (1973).

My second movie by this director, the other being Street of Joy. Both of these movies are called as "nikku roman porno".
Starring Junko Miyashita, prolific actress and queen of the nikku roman porno who also performed in A Woman Called Sada Abe, Watcher in the Attic, Street of Joy (three of them are recommended) and many others that I still haven't watched yet.

World of Geisha is rather short like many of the genre - it runs just over 60 mins.
It is set in 1917, just before the Russo-Japanese war in a geisha house.

As an introduction, a voice of a woman sings "Princess Anju asked the girl : How did you feel ? As if intoxicated, she answered, I felt as if I were a little bird waiting for spring". Then a few words which are like a tip and an advice from an older geisha to a novice are written "About men, it's not their man's looks, About men, it's their money that matters to them", "Don't get cheated by a man's looks, About Men, money's all that matters to them", words that are repeated by the older geigha to her young, unexperienced geisha.
Yet, the rule will be broken when Sodeko (Junko Miyashita), an experienced geisha, receives a new client for the first time.
As they are about to live an intense pleasure, news about the rice riot are announced...
The guest wisely proposes "Let's go to bed while it's still safe."
Title and credits... World of Geisha.

Despite the warning of beginning "Don' fall for your first client" (they only must pretend to be excited), she got sexually excited... several times.
While they are having sex, short portraits of the everyday life of geishas are intermingled and sexual, erotic scenes are associated with the current events of the time depicted by still images of rice riots, Korean uprisings, and the Japanese invasion to Siberia in 1918.
Some of these scenes are rather historical and politically evocative, such as the scene of a man, named as buffoon, who entertains a guest with several geishas by telling him some erotic, until the guest asks him to hang himself in order to demonstrate how women feel when they get too excited : his hanging is directly connected with another hanging scene, "the banzai incident". Other scenes also depict the relations between sex and money, such as the quite funny scene of a geisha performing a danse, sitting on a pile of coins which she manages to push up her vagina and then let the coins out one by one...
Shot mostly in sequence shots (making more like a succession of short scenes), with eventually some close-ups, and mainly indoors and hardly lit (especially for the sex scenes), the film finishes quite abruptly.

Also recently seen : Jigoku (Hell) by Nobuo Nakagawa (1960), a horror film in which the second part offers some quite interesting visions and imagery of hell.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Everlasting Regret

Everlasting Regret by Stanley Kwan (2005).

Despite the negative comments or reviews it received, I wanted to see it.
The movie is set in Shanghai and covers the times from 1947 up to the 80s, mostly shot indoor. It follows a linear narrative structure, cut by period of times, sometimes accompanied by a sentence or two. Every now and then, the story is narrated by the voice-over of Tony Leung's character.
So. 1947. In Shanghai, when all beauties were glimmering, a photograph, Mr Cheng, (Tony Leung Ka Fai) spotted a young girl, Qiyao (Sammi Cheng) whose beauty is even qualified as pure. Introduced to this new world, she encounters Officer Li (Hu Jun) whith whom she starts a love affair, her first love. However, Li, being a Nationalist officer, when the communists won, he has to hide and flee. Qiyao is devasted by the loss of her first love...
The story continues depicting other love relationships with other men in the 50s (Daniel Wu, short appearance though), during the end of the Cultural Revolution, up to the beginning of the opening of China in the 80s (Huang Jue)....
Sometimes it reminded me of HHH or of WKW. However, I'm sure it could have been better. I thought that Tony Leung Ka Fai acted very well and I liked his deep voice and Hu Jun, even if he was mainly present at the beginning gave a short, but well-acted presence. I prefer the last part of the movie, it seemed to be better handled and better played. I wasn't impressed by Sammi Cheng who I thought was too blank (it didn't feel like she was fully in her character) - and I kept thinking especially for the first parts of how it would have been with Maggie Cheung! I was surprised that all the historical facts or elements related to historical events were left very behind. It's easy to follow though.