Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In the Heat of the Sun

In the Heat of the Sun (Jiang Wen, 1994, China)
with Xia Yu, Ning Jing, Geng Le...

Based on the novel written by Wang Shuo, this is the debut film as a director by famous actor Jiang Wen (he played in several 5th generation directors' films such as Red Sorghum, The Last Eunuch and in several recent Chinese films, Green Tea, A Letter from an Unknown Woman...).

Narrated by the voice-over of the now adult, Ma Xiaojun, "Monkey", the film tells from his memories the story of his youth in the 70s during the Cultural Revolution in Beijing while most of the adults were sent out to the countryside. He hangs out with the same group of young teen-agers, gets into fights with other youngsters and discorvers love and desire.
But as the narrator himself admits it's hard to tell what's imagined from what's real... The adult Xiaojun (Jiang Wen) questions his memories, sometimes even comments
with a ironical and distant tone on how foolish he could have been.
Great performance from all the cast, excellent cinematography (by Gu Changwei), brilliant story-telling with a strong melancholy and nostalgic feeling.
I may even prefered it than Devils on the Doorstep (his second direction film).
Highly recommended.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Vancouver International Film Festival

yes, another festival....

festival website

and another impressive Asian line-up :

Cinema of Our Time
- Bhutan :
Milarepa (2006) by Neten Chokling Rinpoche (director of The Cup and Travellers and Magicians) website
- India :
Footsteps (Padakshep, 2006) by Suman Ghosh
The Riddle (Paheli, 2005) by Amol Palekar
- Iran :
From Afar (2006) by Ramin Mohseni
Men at Work (Kargaran mashghoole karand, 2006) by Mani Haghighi website
Offside (2006) by Jafar Panahi

Dragons and Tigers
- China :
Betelnut (Binglang, 2006) by Yang Heng
Dong (2006, doc.) by Jia Zhangke
Karmic Mahjong (Xuezhan Dao Di, 2006) by Wang Guangli
The Post-Modern Life of My Aunt (Yima de Houxiandai Shenghuo, 2006) by Ann Hui
Still Life (San Xia Hao Ren, 2006) by Jia Zhangke
Taking Father Home (Bei Yazi de Nanhai, 2005) by Ying Liang
Walking on the Wild Side (Lai Xiaozi, 2006) by Han Jie
Withered in a Blooming Season (Shaonian Hua Cao Huang, 2005) by Cui Zi'en

- Indonesia :
Kara, Daughter of a Tree (Kara, anak Sebatang Pohon, 2006, short) by Edwin
Love for Share (Berbagi Suami, 2006) by Nia diNata
Opera Jawa (2006) by Garin Nugroho
Serambi (2005) by Garin Nugroho,Tonny Trimarsanto,Viva Westi,Lianto Luseno
A Very Slow Breakfast (2006, short) by Edwin

- Japan :
Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Shijuroku Okunen no Koi, 2006) by Takashi Miike
Cain's Descendant (2006) by Oku Shutaro
Day Night Tower(2006, short) by Hirata Takahiro
Desktop (2005,short) by Satoh Yoshinao
Dog Days Dream (Hayabusa, 2006) by Ichii Masahide
Hana (Hanayori mo Naho, 2006) by Kore-eda Hirokazu
Light (Hikari, 2006, short) by Hamamoto Toshiharu
The Lost Hum (Hanauta Dorobo, 2006) by Hirosue Hiromasa
Lost in Tokyo (Tokyo Shikkaku, 2006) by Ikawa Kotaro
My Prince (Watashi no Oji, 2005, short)
Single (2006) by Nakae Kazuhito
Suzie No-Name (Suzu no Na-wa, 2005, short) by Morufuji Toru
Sway (Yureru, 2006) by Nishikawa Miwa
Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast-Food Grifters (Tachiguishi Retsuden, 2006) by Oshii Mamoru
Trot(2006, short) by Toyama Mitsuo
Yokohama Mary (2006) by Nakamura Takayuki

- Malaysia
The Last Communist (Lelaki Komunis Terakhir, 2006) by Amir Muhammad
Rain Dogs (Taiyang Yu, 2006) by Ho Yuhang
South of South (Nanguo yi Nan, 2006, short) by Tan Chui-Mui

- Philippines
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, 2005) by Auraeus Solito
Todo Todo Teros (2006) by John Torres

- Singapore
Passabe (East Timor, Singapore, UK, 2006) by James Leong, Lynn Lee

- South Korea
Talk to Her: Digital Shorts by Three Filmmakers
Alternative Anime: Crossing Borders
Car Sex (2006, short) by Lee Jung-A
Dancing Boy (2006, short) by Bae Ji-Yeong
A Day Out (Oey-bak, 2005, short) by Lee Jong-Yoon
Faceless Things (Eolgul Eopnun Geotdul, 2005) by Kim Kyong-Mook
Geo-Lobotomy (2006) by Kim Gok, Kim Sun
The Host (Goimool, 2006) by Bong Joon-Ho
The King and the Clown (Wang ui Namja, 2005) by Lee Jun-Ik
Me and Doll-Playing (Nawa Inhyeong Nori, 2006, short) by Kim Kyong-Mook
My Scary Girl (2005) by Sohn Jae-Gon
No Mercy for the Rude (Ye-Ui-Up-Nun-Gut-Deu!, 2006) by Park Chul-Hee
Request (short) by Kim Ki-Hyun
Woman on the Beach (Haebyuneui Yeoin, 2006) by Hong Sang-Soo

- Taiwan
Do Over (Yi Nian Zhi Chu, 2006) by Cheng Yu-Chieh
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006) by Tsai Ming-Liang
My Stinking Kid (Wo De Chou Xianohai, Tv film) by Tsai Ming-Liang, Lee Kang-Sheng

- Thailand
Stories from the North (Reang Lao Jak Meangnue, 2005) by Uruphong Raksasad
Syndromes and a Century (2006) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Nonfiction Features of 2006
- India
John & Jane (2005) by Ashim Ahluwalia
South Korea :
And Thereafter II (South Korea, USA, 2006) by Hosup Lee


Friday, September 15, 2006

Hong Kong Asian Film Festival

The Hong Kong Asian Film Festival (23.09-08.10)

Presented by Ying E Chi and Broadway Cinematheque, the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival is one of the biggest film events held annually in Hong Kong. Many new films, shorts, features, fictions and documentaries from Hong Kong, the Mainland, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Iran, India and the Philippines will be presented in different sections : New Talent Award, Local Power, Cineaste Delights, Asian Wide Angle, Director in Focus (Hirokazu Kore-eda), Docu-Power, Shorts Program...

Hong Kong Asian Film Festival

The Opening film is My Mother is a Belly Dancer (Hong Kong, 2006) by Lee Kung-lok and the festival will end with two closing films, Exiled (Hong Kong, 2006) by Johnnie To and Hana (Japan, 2006) by Hirokazu Kore-eda. A special presentation is given to Paprika (Japan, 2006) by Satoshi Kon which was also selected at the Official Competition, Venice Film Festival 2006

The line-up.

New Talent Award :
New Talent Award is presented to a film that demonstrates originality on the subject matter and uniqueness in the way of representation. It highlights the creative force among the up and coming directors in Asia. The selection this year are coming from five different Asian regions, all of which are first or second film of the director, and are considered as independent productions that display a high degree of autonomy in the process of filmmaking.
Rain Dogs (Malaysia, 2006, HD) by Ho Yu-hang
A young Chinese-Indian young man searches for his brother in the city, only to discover that his brother has died from an accident. Attempting to hold on to his family, whose only member left is the mother, the disoriented youngster runs away to a fishing village to be with his uncle, an act that reminisces his dead brother's break from the family before. From the quiet encounters in his peaceful home village to the chaos and excitement of urban centers, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery filled with love, loss and sadness.
Selected also at the Toronto Film Festival 2006
see also site

Reunion (Hong Kong, 2006, DVCam) by Risky Liu
Cantonese opera actor Gei is about to retire and hopes that his daughter Hiu-lam can continue his career. Hiu-lam, however, abandons her Cantonese opera study and becomes a single mother at a young age. Gei and Hiu-lam find themselves in estrangement even after Little Suen, Hiu-lam's daughter, is born. Hiu-lam understands that it is her father's dream to go back to the stage, but she can only rely on him to take care of her daughter. Chance has come when Gei is invited to perform on stage again, but when he gets injured during practice, Hiu-lam decides to act in her father's place.

Reflections (Taiwan, 2005) by Yao Hung-I
Gin is a singer of an underground group. When her emotions are very strong, she takes the “masculine” role in a lesbian relationship. She is with Mi and they agree that their relationship will terminate once either one of them finds a boyfriend. Mi later meets Hau and considers him as the one. Gin feels that Mi is getting away from her. Things get more complicated when Gin's mother leaves Gin for her boyfriend. Gin decides to take vengeance on Hau and gets Mi back. Before making into this film, REFLECTIONS had already inspired director Yao's mentor, Hou Hsao Hsin to make the last segment of his award-winning film, THREE TIMES. If you like Hou's aesthetics, don't miss this one.
Selected at Official Selection, 3 Continents Film Festival in Nantes 2005, Rotterdam Int'l Film Festival 2006, Barcelona Asian Film Festival 2006

Water Flower (Japan, 2005) by Kinoshita Yusuke
A portrait of the relationship between Minako, a high school girl deserted by her mother when she was young, and Yu, Minako's younger half-sister who loves to dance ballet. On a whim, Minako takes Yu to the house of their late grandparents near the sea. As she spends time taking care and playing with her little sister, Minako takes on the role of a mother. While reminiscing on her happy childhood, Minako has reached the age when she feels more and more distant from her father, but holds a deeper resentment for her mother who eloped with another man, deserting her husband and Minako.
Selected at the Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival 2006, PFF Scholarship, PIA Film Festival Japan 2005

The Unforgiven (Korea, 2005) by Yoon Jong-bin
One hot summer night, Tae-jeong receives a phone call from his high school friend Seung-young, who was under his command during their military service in the army. When Tae-jeong meets up with Seung-young, the two estranged friends find themselves haunted by the memories of their army days. A vivid portrayal of men who are both the aggressors as well as the victims, the film examines the dilemma between masculinity, violence and conscience.
Selected at the Official Selection, Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival 2006, Winner of FIPRESCI Award for Best New Asian Film, the Best Korean Feature and Audience Award, Pusan International Film Festival 2005

Local Power :
Local Power is the new section and highlight of this year's HKAFF. This is to showcase a group of young directors and cast, who have been in the mainstream film industry and yet not entirely being absorbed. They continuingly demonstrate their edge and uncompromising attitude in making film, unleashing their powerful energies so as to make their vision seen, their noise loud! With their unyielding passions, we can foresee their future works arriving HKAFF again. Let's feel the local power!
Local Power 1
Local Power 2
Local Power 3

Cineaste Delights :
Time (Korea, 2006) by Kim Ki-duk
Takeshis’ (Japan, 2005) by Takeshi Kitano
Memories in the Mist (India, 2005) by Buddhadeb Dasgupta
The Willow Tree (Iran, 2006) by Majid Majidi
3 Digital Short Films by 3 Filmmakers: Talk to Her (Korea, Singapore, Kazakstan, Thailand, 2006) by Eric Khoo, Darezhan Omirbayev, Pen-ek Ratanaruang
An omnibus project catered for the Jeonju International Film Festival in Korea, the program features three digital short films by Asian filmmakers.

Asian Wide Angle :
Citizen Dog (Thailand, 2005) by Wisit Sasanatieng
First Love (Hatsu-koi) (Japan, 2006) by Yukinari Hanawa
Chocolate Rap (Taiwan, 2005) by Chi Y. Lee
Blue Cha Cha (Taiwan, 2005) by Cheng Wen-tang
Cave of the Yellow Dog (Mongolia, Germany, 2005-6) by Byambasuren Davaa
The Lost Hum (Japan, 2005) by Hirosue Hiromasa
Poet of the Wastes (Japan/Iran, 2006) by Mohammad Ahmadi
Cavite (The Philippines, 2006) by Neill Dela Llana, Ian Gamazon
What the Snow Brings (Japan, 2005) by Kichitaro Negishi
Tokyo Zombie (Japan, 2005) by Sakichi Sato

Dong (China, 2006, HD) by Jia Zhang-ke
Fengjie, China, 2005. Painter Liu Xiaodong visited the Three Gorges area to create his oil painting series Warm Bed. Twelve local deconstruction workers became the models on his live sketch. Bangkok, Thailand, 2006. Under the Warm Bed series, Liu invited Twelve tropical women as the models on his next painting. Both cities have their own river running across the city centre, galloping forward and never return.
Selected at Venice Film Festival 2006

Junior High (Hong Kong, 2006, DV) by Tammy Cheung
Veteran local documentary filmmaker Tammy Cheung explores the lives and difficulties confronting students, parents and teachers in China rural area in her latest project JUNIOR HIGH. The documentary takes place in a rural area middle school, following the daily life of the students and the teachers of an under-funded school. Adopting the direct cinema approach, the film also attempts to examine the present condition of China's education system in rural areas.

798 (China, 2006, DV) by Shen Xiao-min
798 Art Centre has played important role in the contemporary Beijing art scene. Shen Xiao-min's 798 began the shooting of the documentary in October 2002, when 798 was first transformed into an artists' commune. Through interviewing the artists who witness the transformation of the art space, the documentary records the ups and downs of 798 until its closure last year.

Paigu (China, 2006, DV) by Liu Gao-ming
Life is hardly easy for Pai-gu, a young man who wishes to lead a better life in Shenzhen. He makes his living by selling pirate DVDs of artistic films. With low self-esteem, Pai-gu never believes that he will understand the movies he sells, nor does he believe that he will find an ideal girlfriend. The film illustrates how rapid economic growth shapes urban life and personal goals.

To Live is Better than to Die (China, 2003, DV) by Chen Wei-jun
For Ma Shen-yi and his family, life is nothing but agony. Among the five members of the Ma family, four of them have been infected by HIV and are on the verge of death. This documentary follows the numbered days of the ill-fated family which is torn apart by the fatal disease. Filled with sorrow and sympathy, TO LIVE IS BETTER THAN TO DIE is a requiem for the deceased members of the family.
British Documentary Award 2004, Nominee of Joris Ivens Award. Int’l Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2004, World Cinema: Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2003

Shorts Program
see website

A good quality line-up with some solid films. The documentary section presents a standing, interesting choice with some good documentaries, such as the memorable To Live is Better than To Die.
I was a bit mixed for Reflections which to me was too closed to HHH's Millennium Mambo's style. Citizen Dog was okay.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Notes on some Asian films

Quick entry..
Recently seen :

China :
- Baober in Love (Li Shaohong, 2004) with Zhou Xun, Huang Jue...
A married bored salaryman unexpectedly finds true love and passion in an egnimatic, crazy but beautiful woman, Baober....
Starting like a light romantic tale, the film turns into a darker psychological drama dealing with Baober's past and memories, almost as as if it were two different movies. Visually excessive (too many effects, overdose of colours, fast-editing), if the sub-subject of this movie is also to show the massive changes of China today, the excess of camera works and visual effects makes the characters too superficial and the point too unclear. Good performance from Zhou Xun though.

HK :
- The Longest Summer (Fruit Chan, 1998) with Sam Lee, Tony Ho...
The longest summer is the 1997 summer, the summer of the handover of HK to People's Republic of China. Another story on HK by Fruit Chan (this is the second of the trilogy which includes Made in Hong Kong and Little Cheung), the film follows a group of soldiers, who after losing their job in the British Forces Overseas Hong Kong, decides to set up a robbery. The film focuses on two brothers Sam Lee, the younger one who introduces them into the triad gang and Tony Ho (the ex-soldier), capturing a sense of disjunction, loss of marks and alienation. The end reminds me of Taxi Driver. Recommended, but Made in Hong Kong is still my favourite.
Other post on Fruit Chan.

- A Fishy Story (Anthony Chan, 1989) with Maggie Cheung, Kenny Bee...
A suprising and refreshing love story set in the 60s with an historical backround inspired by the riots in HK in 1967 after the Cultural Revolution in Mainland China. Maggie Cheung plays a fresh, young aspiring movie star who is moving in a flat whose neighbour is an unlicensed taxi-driver (Kenny Bee).
Entertaining, well directed, and as usual it's always a pleasure to see Maggie Cheung!
This movie won some awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1990 : Best Actress (Maggie Cheung), Best Cinematography (Peter Pau), Best Art Direction (Szeto Wai Yung).

South Korea :
- Public Ennemy (Kang Woo-Suk, 2002) with Sol Kyung-gu, Lee Sung-jae...
A good solid dark thriller. Well acted.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Venice Film Festival - the results

JIA Zhangke received yesterday the Golden Lion for his feature film Still Life at Venice Film Festival.
With Sanxia haoren (Still Life), Jia Zhang-Ke returns to competition at the Venice Film Festival for the third time in recent years, having participated in 2000 with Zhantai (Platform), and in 2004 with Shijie (The World).

Sanxia haoren (Still Life) was shot in the old village of Fengjie, which has since been upset by the building of the Three Gorges Dam. In Jia Zhang-Ke’s film, the old village of Fengjie has already been submerged, but a new district, set to spring up in the surrounding area, is still under construction. Some things are to be saved, whilst others are to be left behind. Han Sanming, a miner, comes to Fengjie in search of his former wife, who he has not seen for 16 years. They meet by the Yangzi river, and decide to remarry. Shen Hong, a nurse, comes to Fengjie to look for her husband, who has not been back home for two years. They embrace before the Three Gorges Dam. Although they do share a dance together, they sadly give up and decide to divorce.

Venice Film Festival

Ma Bei Shang De Fa Ting (literal: Courtroom on Horseback) by LIU Jie has been awarded with the Horizons Prize. This is his first feature film as a director about a judge who travels to remote villages to take small cases. Ma Bei Shang De Fa Ting is inspired by real life stories and shot with documentary style.

Official Awards of the 63rd Venice Film Festival


The Venezia 63 Jury of the 63. Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, chaired by Catherine Deneuve and comprised of José Juan Bigas Luna, Paulo Branco, Cameron Crowe, Chulpan Khamatova, Park Chan-wook and Michele Placido, having viewed all twenty-two films in competition, has decided as follows:

GOLDEN LION for Best Film:
Sanxia Haoren (Still Life) by Jia Zhang-Ke

SILVER LION for Best Director:
Alain Resnais for the film Private Fears in Public Places

Emanuele Crialese for the film Nuovomondo - Golden Door

Daratt by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

for Best Male Actor:
Ben Affleck in the film Hollywoodland by Allen Coulter

for Best Female Actor:
Helen Mirren in the film The Queen by Stephen Frears

for Best Young Actor:
Isild Le Besco
in the film L’intouchable by Benoît Jacquot

for Best Technical Contribution:
Emmanuel Lubezki
Director of Photography for the film Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón

for Best Screenplay:
Peter Morgan
for the film The Queen by Stephen Frears

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet for innovation in the language of cinema

The Horizons Jury of the 63. Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, comprised of Philip Gröning (President), Carlo Carlei, Yousri Nasrallah, Giuseppe Genna and Kusakabe Keiko, has decided to award:

Mabei shang de fating by Liu Jie
The Horizons Prize is supported by Groupama with a cash prize of 10,000 Euro.

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts by Spike Lee

Premio Venezia Opera Prima “Luigi De Laurentiis”
The Opera Prima Jury of the 63. Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, comprised of Paula Wagner (President), Guillermo Del Toro, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Andrei Plakhov, Stefania Rocca, has decided to award the:

LION OF THE FUTURE - Premio Venezia Opera Prima “Luigi De Laurentiis” to
Khadak by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth
Aurelio De Laurentiis and Filmauro award a cash prize, of 100,000 USD, to the winning first film (50,000 to the director, 50,000 to the producer). To the director, an additional film voucher for 40,000 Euro will also be awarded, offered by Kodak.

The Corto Cortissimo Jury of the 63. Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, comprised of Teboho Mahlatsi (President), Francesca Calvelli, Aleksej Fedorcenko, has decided to award:

CORTO CORTISSIMO LION for Best Short Film to:
Comment on freine dans une descente? by Alix Delaporte

PRIX UIP for Best European Short Film to:
The Making of Parts by Daniel Elliott

Adults Only by Yeo Joon Han


Monday, September 04, 2006

Lou Ye banned for five year from making films

A few years ago, Tian Zhuangzhuang received a ten-year ban on making film because of The Blue Kite.
Today, Lou Ye has been banned for five year from making films after showing Summer Palace in Cannes without government approval.

BEIJING (AFP) - China's censors have banned director Lou Ye from making films for five years after he showed his "Summer Palace" at the Cannes Film Festival without government approval, state press have said.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television banned the up and coming director for showing the film without getting the administration's approval for general release, Xinhua news agency reported Monday.

The movie was presented at Cannes in May and stood for the prestigious Palme d'Or prize.

The film is set around the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests and follows the open and sexually free lives of Chinese students before the protests and how they deal with the bloody quelling of the demonstrations and its aftermath.

The ban essentially means that Lou, 40, will not be able to shoot movies in China for the next five years, film industry sources said earlier.

The ban began on September 1 and also included a five-year ban on the film's producer Nai An, Xinhua said.

Officials with the film administration were not immediately available for comment.

The 1989 democracy protests -- which saw hundreds of unarmed students and protesters killed in the streets of Beijing by the military -- remain a taboo subject in state-controlled media, including on the Internet.

Lou had given a copy of the film to censors for official approval before the Cannes showing, but officials said that due to the poor audio-visual quality of the copy submitted, they were unable to give the approval.

In an interview with AFP in Cannes, Lou defended the film, insisting it is first and foremost a love story and not a political tract, and said he decided to show it without Beijing's approval because he felt it "belongs to everyone".

State censors insist on approving all domestic films to be screened at overseas film festivals.