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Title: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on September 13, 2008, 04:18:34 PM
We'll need this thread soon enough.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on September 25, 2008, 10:40:24 PM
A Confucian Confusion
vs.
Mahjong

A Confucian Confusion

As with most Yang films, A Confucian Confusion, although described as Comedy, defies standard genre conventions. There are some really funny laugh-out-loud moments (which I suspect were even more effective on the big screen) but the film also has a lot of sharp social commentary about the clash between tradition and a modern materialist society, the nature of art versus business and the vagaries of human relationships. What is even more amazing is how Yang manages to do all of this while still making them all part of a coherent whole that is amazingly well-constructed and detailed. In contrast to The Terrorizer, which starts off mostly silently as a bunch of what seem like somewhat disjointed images, A Confucian Confusion puts us right in the middle of the action at the very start. We are introduced to a ensemble of characters and we are very quickly pulled into the world they live in and their various entanglements, both personal and professional. One of my favorite parts about this film is how the various facets of the central theme (the relevance of traditional Chinese values in a modern society) are illuminated by various cast members throughout the film while being completely relevant to the situation they are in. While all this sounds like it could be heavy-handed and pedantic, the film never comes across as either of those. The film has several layers of humor and comedy and also manages to be really personal. The characters all seem to be grappling with the problem of feeling misunderstood by everyone else and seem to be really lonely despite the hectic nature of their lives and in the end, everyone seems to find some sort of resolution and a renewed sense of hope. I also love how the careful choreography of events in the film leads in the end to a brilliant realignment of points of view and romantic pairings.

Mahjong

Hmm, so this matchup pretty much ended up being the two Yang comedies pitted against one another. It's a pity I only get to choose one because I genuinely wish these films would get seen by more people as they deserve to be. All I can say is that I hope pix has some ideas on how to have resurrections for this bracket.

While Confucian Confusion focuses mostly on upperclass Taipei yuppies, Mahjong switches around and looks at the darker underbelly of taipei by choosing gangsters and other shady types to focus upon. When I said that A Confucian Confusion defies genre conventions, Mahong switches genres, characters, languages and moods at various points during the film. I don't want to belabor the point but once again Yang demonstrates his mastery at being able to maneuvere a dense plot and a slew of characters. I absolutely loved the start of this film where we are very quickly introduced to all of the characters and see a bunch of plot threads being set in motion within the first 10 minutes or so. At this point we have no idea as to how these characters and threads are going to come together and part of my enjoyment of this film came from seeing this master director set up little clues throughout the film on how this will come to be. One common idea that I felt I saw in almost all of the Yang films is this idea of alternate outcomes. So Yang frequently sets up a series of events and brings us to a point where characters make a choice and the choice determines the resolution of the film. However, rather than choose what one would consider the most likely outcome, Yang seems to want to investigate a relatively less likely but potentially darker outcome. Initially, while watching this film (and maybe others as well), I was a little uncomfortable with this. I felt like certain choices weren't consistent with the character development. After seeing this pattern in multiple films, however, I think this is a deliberate choice on the part of Yang. He seems to want to investigate just what a character is capable of when pushed to the limit and it's almost like the movie is presenting us with one possible chain of events while still suggesting that a slightly different choice could've set off a completely different chain. Similarly, at a more micro level, he sets up a rather risque (and disturbing) scene sometime in the beginning of the film where a character is made to go through a rather demeaning experience. He then sets up another scene much later in the film where a completely different character is made to go through almost the exact same experience but somehow on this occassion it is funny and at least relatively less disturbing. So once again, one minor change in who is at the center of these events changes the very nature of the entire experience.

My one quibble with this film is the performance by one of the actors who plays a Westerner in Taipei. The actor is terrible and hams his way through the film. The rest of the cast is mostly all good or at least decent. However, this one bad performance really sticks out in the movie and makes it seem not as good as I think it actually is.

I found it extremely hard to choose between these two films. Both of them are similar in that they have both a lighthearted vein and a dark side and put you in hermetic, sealed worlds that you get completely pulled into. However, although I loved Confucian Confusion, I think Mahjong is a riskier, more ambitious and ultimately more satisfying film. So with a heavy heart, I have to leave A Confucian Confusion behind for the time being and move Mahjong on to the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: ses on September 25, 2008, 10:45:01 PM
Great write up worm!  I can't say on whether you made the right choice, but you made me want to see both of them. 
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on September 25, 2008, 10:48:14 PM
So it begins...

I don't know if I agree or not cuz I haven't seen Mahjong but it's gonna have to be pretty great to top good ole Confucius Say :(
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on September 25, 2008, 11:03:35 PM
Bullet To The Head (John Woo, 1990)

(http://i.imgur.com/SPw4ctd.jpg)

The story is simple, three friends get themselves in trouble in Hong Kong and flee to Vietnam to avoid police. They get embroiled in the war and boredom ensues...

Seriously this movie is a yawn-fest. Not at all what I expected from such a highly touted film by a "master" of the action genre. The problems are many. I've never seen such a clunkily edited movie. You're here, you're there and all the while I'm willing myself to keep up in hopes I'll become engaged. Unfortunately I never felt any connection with the characters. The acting ranges from uninteresting to laughable to sappy.

The action is alright I guess. Some enjoyable gunfights and whatnot but nothing amazing or groundbreaking. If you're not interested in the story what's the point, right? The story would be compelling if it was handled differently, I'm sure. And plot sets up what should be a heartbreaking climax, it's a shame it fails to make an impact.

If you can imagine John Woo meets the Three Stooges meets Deer Hunter you'll have a pretty good idea of what Bullet In The Head is like. Bad!


Country Teachers (Qun He, 1994)

(http://i.imgur.com/18VB5vX.jpg)

The story centers on a young woman who becomes a teacher in rural China. It's a tough gig. The school is underfunded, the kids are poor, the teachers are paid little if at all, and it's located in a remote area.

It's a wonderfully told story, and I was with it every step of the way. It feels too real for me to start picking it apart as if it were just a movie. What's important is that I enjoyed it a great deal!

Verdict: Country Teachers moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on September 25, 2008, 11:08:08 PM
Let's keep it going! w00t!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on September 26, 2008, 12:02:43 AM
I will step forward and defend Bullet in The Head as the real treasure in John Woo's cannon.  It's unapologetically a HK action film (just like how Bollywood films will always have musical numbers no matter what the subject matter.)  But Woo's (at the time) amazing talent for action fits in nicely with his most emotionally complex story.  The editing keeps everything hopping and his approach of Vietnam from soldiers on the inside (not the usual American "what are we doing here" outsiders) makes for an insightful story.

Woo starts out with his characters (including Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung), builds into a full blown epic and in the final Act, pares it back down to his characters while keeping the emotional pitch on an epic scope.

I'm not posting to say smirnoff is wrong, but to hopefully prevent people who read the verdict from crossing the film off their list.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: facedad on September 26, 2008, 12:32:41 AM
It may be a really really long time before the stamp of approval comes out again. Damn unavailability of Asian cinema in the west.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on September 26, 2008, 06:30:33 AM
I can't wait to watch Country Teachers but I'm definitely not scratching Bullet to the Head off my list. That screenshot that smirnoff posted from the film alone makes me want to watch that movie!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on September 26, 2008, 07:24:02 AM
I will step forward and defend Bullet in The Head as the real treasure in John Woo's cannon.  It's unapologetically a HK action film (just like how Bollywood films will always have musical numbers no matter what the subject matter.)  But Woo's (at the time) amazing talent for action fits in nicely with his most emotionally complex story.  The editing keeps everything hopping and his approach of Vietnam from soldiers on the inside (not the usual American "what are we doing here" outsiders) makes for an insightful story.

Woo starts out with his characters (including Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung), builds into a full blown epic and in the final Act, pares it back down to his characters while keeping the emotional pitch on an epic scope.

I'm not posting to say smirnoff is wrong, but to hopefully prevent people who read the verdict from crossing the film off their list.
There's certainly no shortage of people who agree with you 1SO.

MI:2, Face Off, Broken Arrow and Windtalkers are the Woo films I'd seen before this one. I quite like MI:2 as an action movie. Broken Arrow or Faceoff... meh, I might watch em if they were on tv. Windtalkers was forgettable. At this point I feel Woo is a capable though hit & miss action director whose films don't transcend the genre. I'm not at all excited to see the legendary Hard-Boiled or The Killer. Despite all the praise they receive I'm betting they simply can't compare to todays best.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on September 26, 2008, 08:03:26 AM
Through some divine fluke of heaven or some off chance after making one of the most controversial choices in the U. S. Brackets I am allowed to enter the Far East. Or maybe it's just you want to distract me from offing even more beloved 90's American films. DIE INFIDEL FILMS! (Sorry for my Achmed the Dead Terrorist moment) Is the samster about to receive the scorn from filmspotters once again? Can he seek redemption? Or is he out once again to tear down a beloved film? But most importantly what the hell is Rainy Dog about anyway and does it even hold a pineapple candle to the beloved Chungking Express? Read on, if you dareÖ

Rainy Dog
(http://i35.tinypic.com/2wmkne8.jpg)

So here you got your typical urban hitman film. Cold as ice hitman Yuuji taking to the streets of Taipei shooting up some bad, and not so bad dudes all in the name of some cold cash so he can have a glamorous life of snorting drugs in some dump apartment and hit up some prostitutes in backwater building. So Nick Cage he ain't but at least he's tough as nails.

Then we get the twist (because every hitman movie is naked without one). Some old girlfriend drops some baggage from their relationship in the form of a young dumb boy. And from that point on it all goes down predictable lane. I don't think I'm spoiling anything (and even if I am this is the spoilers thread) when I say he eventually warms up to the boy in the endÖaww, Disney ending! Lame, lame, lame, lame, LAME!

However, it takes a couple of twists and goes into some really dark places. First of all until the end Yuuji treats the boy like a dog. He leaves him out in the rain while he's snorting drugs and banging a prostitute. He even performs assassinations in front of the kid (which is whacked, but also morbidly funny in my demented mind).

But as dark as this film is it is also ridiculously silly. One early scene has a cop chasing Yuuji peeing of the roof while holding his *ahem* accessory and swiveling his hips. And it's not like for a few seconds but a whole half minute. Furthermore, it censors his naughty bit with what looks like crayon drawn on the negativeÖno I'm not joking. The punching sound effects sound cartoonish, except even Saturday morning cartoons have better sound effects and the climax as well strikes me as hilariously contrived and goofy.

All I can really say good about the film is that it's got some strong cinematography and the lead performer is great at looking really, really macho.

In the end this strikes me as a very pedestrian film. It's clichť, average, run of the mill, all those good words and catchphrases. Yet it's actually worse because it's just a really unpleasant experience overall. The action scenes even aren't that good, itís ridiculously goofy (in a bad way) and fails to really do anything you werenít expecting the moment the movie started.

VS.

Chungking Express
(http://i35.tinypic.com/fxgm69.jpg)

If I could put into words why I liked--no loved--this film I might consider myself a decent writer. Director Wong's Kar Waiís off beat story about two unlikely couples that meet speaks of the deeper effects of loneness and isolation. Yet while it sound like the thematic premise of every Krystoz Kieslowski film ever made it's more light-hearted in approach.
Chungking Express kicks plot off at the first bus stop, creating a more idyllic and meandering sense of pace (like a Malick Film (shameless Malick plug, I know), but without all the trees :( ). And you know what, it works! From scene one I was in this film for the long haul. Never did my interest fall off or wane.

What this film lacks in plot it makes over twofold with interesting characters. Granted they aren't particularly deep or fully developed, in fact they are rather shallow at times, but they are interesting. The investigator was probably my favorite as he attempted to find a girl, any girl, to go out with (as long as they have long hair). And the pineapples. Probably my favorite scene is when he offers the homeless lady the expired can. Just brilliant. Then he meets this mysterious American chick in a bar who just had a bunch of drug runners (ironically) run out on her with all her dope. He tries to strike up a conversation with her but she sees intent on not speaking. The air of mystery and the sense of fem fatal oozes from every part of her trench coat covered body. And then he gets her to a hotelÖwhere nothing happens.

Cut toÖthe girl working the food stand. She secretly falls for a police officer who is pretty much oblivious to her existence. He's too caught up in the girl he just lost and for the most part just wishes to be left alone. Bit by bit she forces herself into his awareness. She begins creepily and humorously sneaking into his apartment and redecorating. And in typical male fashion he doesn't notice a single thing, although he goes on having hilariously funny conversations with his bar of soap, dish rag and giant stuffed animal. I'll say that I enjoyed the first half much more but I still really liked this section as well.

If I've got a criticism it's that Wong Kar Wai doesn't seem to realize that there are more than two American songs as he keeps playing them over and over and over and over again. If you have even a slight dislike of "What a Difference a Day Makes" or "California Dreamin'" you should probably not watch this film. I mean once is good, twice, maybe, but by the fifth time we hear "California Dreamin'" it gets stale. But itís a minor complaint. If it was "La Vie en Rose" and "Hotel California" I wouldn't be complaining at all. But as it stands it's a minor complaint and didnít taint the experience for me at all. I imagine that soundtrack labels were more up in arms about it (What! Only 6 songs! How can we sell a soundtrack with 6 tracks!? ).

Verdict

If you just skipped down to the verdict you are probably biting your nails in nervous anticipation. Shame on you, I had to write this crappy thing so you better read it. :P If you read it all ignore this. And if you havenít donít worry.

So I gotta say Iím gonna go with Rainy Dóyea right! Seriously, did anyone think I wouldnít be picking Chungking Express to move on? And has anyone even seen Rainy Dog? So there you go. Chungking keeps chugging along while Rainy Dog gets left out in the cold.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on September 26, 2008, 09:05:54 AM
Great write up worm!  I can't say on whether you made the right choice, but you made me want to see both of them. 
Yes, great reviews worm. I too look forward to seeing these. Mahjong sounds particularly worthwhile. Perhaps I'll wait until I watch both CC and Mahjong before I get to Yi Yi.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on September 26, 2008, 09:08:43 AM
Hotel California?! I hate the -ing Eagles, man!

But nice write-up. You reminded that I have actually seen Rainy Dog and completely forgotten about its existence until now. Which means you must have done the right thing putting Chungking Express through. But then, you knew that already.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on September 26, 2008, 09:21:42 AM
Thanks ses & smirnoff :D. Yi Yi is one of my favorite films and while these are both really great films, I think Yi Yi may be a great place to start if you haven't watched anything by him already.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on September 26, 2008, 09:22:25 AM
I'm happy to see Chung-king move on. Anything can happen in these brackets.

Sam it's funny, what I liked most about Chungking was the second half and the repetitive use of California Dreamin' yet we both seem to like the this film a great deal. Something for everyone I guess. I was pretty cold on the first half by comparison.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on September 26, 2008, 09:26:54 AM
And how cool is this bracket! It's already got 2 Yangs, 2 Wais, 1 John Woo and 1 Miike film and we have barely even begun  ;D.

Nice writeups sam and  somehow I don't mind the repetition of California Dreamin (this repetitive use of a popular American song seems to be a trend in more than one of my favorite Asian films). I used to think the second half of Chungking is my favorite (no Tony Leung vs. with Tony Leung is an easy choice) but after several viewings, I now really love the first part a lot too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on September 26, 2008, 10:54:20 AM
Hotel California?! I hate the -ing Eagles, man!

Yeah, I've certainly heard that song about 500 times more than I would've liked.

As far as the repetitive songs go, Dennis Brown's "Things in Life" is GREAT (that's the reggae-ish song that often plays in the bar).

Glad you enjoyed it, I think it's about time I watched it again.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on September 26, 2008, 11:19:20 AM
The California Dreaming song didn't bother me so much in Chungking Express. Wong's character is sort of off beat most of the times, so she's entitled to her own particularities.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on September 26, 2008, 11:22:33 AM
Rainy Dog VS. Chungking Express

Great write up even if it's kind of obvious which film's gonna win.  I will say that I liked Rainy Dog, but I think it's because I see the really great film that it could become.  You were very focused on the plot which is agreeably pedestrian, but I think the potential of the film lies in its mood and the mindset of the lead character, who I think is a very interesting version of the lonely hitman.  I think if you drop some of the quirky Miike-ness and deepen the characters it could be a much better film.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on September 26, 2008, 11:26:51 AM
Love all the writeups so far.  Several movies added to my "wanna see" list and not just the ones that got passed onto the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on September 26, 2008, 11:55:28 AM
And how cool is this bracket! It's already got 2 Yangs, 2 Wais Wongs, 1 John Woo and 1 Miike film and we have barely even begun  ;D.

Seriously, if we're going to do this, lets make some effort to call people by their proper names.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on September 26, 2008, 12:00:51 PM
And how cool is this bracket! It's already got 2 Yangs, 2 Wais Wongs, 1 John Woo and 1 Miike film and we have barely even begun  ;D.

Seriously, if we're going to do this, lets make some effort to call people by their proper names.

Yeah, it's proper to watch out for the old 'what I thought was their first name is actually their last name' situation. Wong is the man's last name , it just isn't writen as such according to Western standards.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on September 26, 2008, 12:39:09 PM
And how cool is this bracket! It's already got 2 Yangs, 2 Wais Wongs, 1 John Woo and 1 Miike film and we have barely even begun  ;D.

Seriously, if we're going to do this, lets make some effort to call people by their proper names.

Yeah, it's proper to watch out for the old 'what I thought was their first name is actually their last name' situation. Wong is the man's last name , it just isn't written as such according to Western standards.

I knew that and still made that mistake. Oh well. Thanks for the correction!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on September 26, 2008, 12:42:32 PM
You're not the only one.  People were doing it all day yesterday (and driving me nuts).  It's a pet peeve of mine.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on September 26, 2008, 12:44:48 PM
I'm now of the opinion that I like the first half more than the 2nd half of Chungking. Both are excellent though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on September 26, 2008, 01:00:29 PM
And how cool is this bracket! It's already got 2 Yangs, 2 Wais Wongs, 1 John Woo and 1 Miike film and we have barely even begun  ;D.

Seriously, if we're going to do this, lets make some effort to call people by their proper names.
See, it's the fact that they call each other by their last name first. Soo confusing to us silly Americans.

Great write up even if it's kind of obvious which film's gonna win.  I will say that I liked Rainy Dog, but I think it's because I see the really great film that it could become.  You were very focused on the plot which is agreeably pedestrian, but I think the potential of the film lies in its mood and the mindset of the lead character, who I think is a very interesting version of the lonely hitman.  I think if you drop some of the quirky Miike-ness and deepen the characters it could be a much better film.
I saw the potential to but I wanted to focus more on what the film was and less on what it could have been. And I also found that juxtaposed with the silly stuff the contrast made both extremes unpleasant when mixed together.

The California Dreaming song didn't bother me so much in Chungking Express. Wong's character is sort of off beat most of the times, so she's entitled to her own particularities.
In some ways I'm a bit hypocritical for criticizing the musical repetition because it doesn't bug me at all that the same motif is played over and over again in Three Colors: Blue. But there it's a very obtrusive character and directly effects points in the plot. And I really never got tired of "California Dreamin'," I just thought he could have used some other great American songs as well.

Hotel California?! I hate the -ing Eagles, man!
To each his own. They are like the only band I listen to. No, I'm not kidding.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on September 26, 2008, 01:22:00 PM
You're not the only one.  People were doing it all day yesterday (and driving me nuts).  It's a pet peeve of mine.

Apologies to sdedalus and half of the Far East filmmakers who've been in my polls.  It's too late to correct Park Chan-wook when he comes up.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on September 26, 2008, 01:58:41 PM

Hotel California?! I hate the -ing Eagles, man!
To each his own. They are like the only band I listen to. No, I'm not kidding.

Just more fodder for my suspicion that you are actually a 60 year old father of 4.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on September 26, 2008, 02:26:50 PM
And how cool is this bracket!

Very cool.  I thought I knew that already, but seeing these verdicts come in made me realize that I'd underestimated just how cool this all is.

Nice writeups, everyone.  Don't forget to pick yourself out another pair of films, if you haven't already.  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on September 26, 2008, 02:56:16 PM
Hotel California?! I hate the -ing Eagles, man!
To each his own. They are like the only band I listen to. No, I'm not kidding.

Just more fodder for my suspicion that you are actually a 60 year old father of 4.
I act like one, but no, I'm very much a demented 19 year old.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on September 27, 2008, 10:37:06 AM
Ashes of Time (1994, Wong Kar Wai) versus Kikujiro (1999, Takeshi Kitano)

Two heavyweights of the Far East go head to head in this clash. In one corner, an unforgiving tale of love lost and duty. In the other corner, the simple but sweet tale of bonding between an old man and a young boy.

Ashes of Time
I havenít seen many Wong Kar Wai films, but judging from the ones I have seen, he concentrates very much on telling tales about people falling in and out of love using superb aesthetic qualities to translate the emotional resonance he intends on sharing with the viewer.
Well, Ashes of Time of Time is undoubtedly a tale of about love (among other things), and itís clear from the get go that visually and musically Wong is prepared to serve the dish with a particular flare. Ashes main character is a swordsman, Ou-yang Feng played stoically by Leslie Cheung, who lives in the desert and acts, for the lack of a better term, as a gun for hire. People know he Ďsolvesí problems, they come to him, offer a wage, and heís off with his sword to take care of business, literally. Other times he sub contracts his job to other swordsmen. The story behind the story is far more complicated however, probably intentionally so from Wong, and actually involves and old lover who Cheung never told he loved her and has now married his elder brother. This aspects haunts Feng throughout the film.
Wongís film will challenge the viewer, especially if he or she has trouble remembering names. There really are a lot of characters in the film. It was, admittedly, a bit difficult figuring out who was who. Tony Leung (from Chungking) plays a blind swordsman (interesting, since the other film I had to watch was a Kitano filmÖ), another Tony Leung plays a swordsman who has stumbled upon a wine that causes memory loss, Brigitte Lin plays a women Tony Leung was supposed to marry but didnít AND plays a women disguised as a man who wants to avenge Tony Leungís behavior, etc. The list could go on for a whileÖ  To make matters worse, not all of the story arcs retained my interest. The ones dealing with loves that had turned to tragedy did however. There is something rather poetic about the script, the characters and the tone of the film. It certainly isnít easy to sit through, but if you can make it all the way through, youíll be rewarded with a special experience. Many of these characters are stoic towards their love, yet itís clear that many of them are suffering in some way or another. The main character for instance has made a conscience decision to leave his past and now must live with the consequences, despite the emotional scar he carries with him. If he could forget his past, then things would be fine, but forgetting such a past as his is next to impossible. Interestingly, this is shown in two clever ways in the film, although I wonít spoil them here. Thereís no turning back. To add to the mood is the visual splendor of the film. Several shots would be worthy of having as posters. I also didnít know what to expect from the action sequences. They arenít of the highest quality overall, but there are some interesting surprises, one of them being a character who blows fire off the tip of his sword. No, that last phrase wasnít a typo.
Not my favorite Wong movie amongst those I have seen, but still worth your time if you like your sword fighting movies to have a rather psychological and introspective flavor to them.

Kikujiro

Kikujro begins with a young lad, Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) at the start of his summer vacation. He lives with his grandmother for his father has passed away and his mother left him at the earliest of ages. Masao stumbles upon a photograph of his mother and suddenly has a newly found urge to finally meat her, even though sheís in another city. To reach her, Masao is accompanied by Kikujiro (played by the director but credited as Beat Kitano), a friend of the family and a real grump. Oh, the adventures these two seemingly incompatible characters will have!
   Kikujiro is played in rather straightforward fashion. It goes for emotion, whether through laughter or tears (none shed by this reviewer unfortunately) through a series of episodes that highlight the bonding relationship between Masao and Kikujiro. At first it seems like this may be the young boyís movie, but I could tell why Kitanoís character gets the title of the film ( I watched the film with French subtitles, and the movie was called ĎKikujiroís Summerí a nice title I might add). Masao's character doesnít really develop at all throughout the story. It isnít a Ďcoming of ageí film for him. Rather, we see Kikujiro, who at first we detect as impolite, impatient, brutish and at times and opportunistic, as the character who changes and grows as the movie moves along. He speaks in rather vile terms towards most people they come across and even little Masao, but eventually just like in all bonding that should abide by a formula, Kikujiroís temperament shifts eventuallyÖ to a certain degree. I think thatís why I liked the character of Kikujiro. Obviously he canít possibly remain the same ogre he was at the beginning, otherwise the story arc will have gained nothing. But Kitano doesnít change him too much, he still keeps his hard edge, even though it becomes obvious that heís rather fond of the boy by the end. Kitano sells the character convincingly thankfully.
The movie rests on his shoulders and he delivers, even though many of the Ďcomedyí moments didnít necessarily satisfy my sense of humor (it was a bit too cutesy at times for me). There is a host of secondary characters that we meet along the way, and, while they are fun to a certain extent, I had the impression that they didnít always feel real, or well developed. It felt as though they were merely there for Masao to have fun. I understand and even like the idea of the Ďunforgettable summerí in which you meet new people and interesting people with whom you become friends, or at least keep in your memories, but I didnít have the impression that the supporting cast was playing full fledged people. For those who have seen the movie, I know that thereís a host of counter arguments for what I just said, but thatís where I stand nonetheless.

It was an odd matchup. One movie certainly was different, but was perhaps a bit too convoluted at times. The other doesnít do much wrong but doesnít go for anything new however.

A hail Mary pass into the end zone: caught by Ashes of Time! A desperate, last minute victory for Wong Kar Wai. Not sure this one will last long thoughÖ
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on September 27, 2008, 11:26:14 AM
woohoo!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on September 27, 2008, 01:09:24 PM
Kikujiro is bad. But it does have this guy (http://static.rateyourmusic.com/images/one?id=460548&size=f) so it's all cool.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on September 27, 2008, 01:43:06 PM
Kikujiro is not bad at all. That harsh criticism. That's stuff I would say about David Lynch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on September 27, 2008, 01:51:40 PM
I've blocked most of it out but the things I remember (besides the score and Octopus Man) weren't good at all. I mean, I like jokes about kids getting molested just as much as the next guy... but seriously.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on September 27, 2008, 01:57:07 PM
I didn't understand what the child molester scene was doing in that movie either to be honest.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on September 27, 2008, 02:28:32 PM
I've blocked most of it out but the things I remember (besides the score and Octopus Man) weren't good at all. I mean, I like jokes about kids getting molested just as much as the next guy... but seriously.

Sorry, I couldn't resist:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7mn4mo-QYE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7mn4mo-QYE)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on September 27, 2008, 02:55:16 PM
It's okay. I forgive you.
Title: Re: 1990s US Bracket commentary
Post by: smirnoff on October 01, 2008, 10:25:05 PM
Postmen in the Mountains vs. Lost And Found

Postmen in the Mountains is easily understood. It's a story of a son's first day on the job. He's just inherited his retired father's mail route. The father feels it would be prudent, this first time, to accompany his son on the 3 day, 80 mile trek. The movie goes along just as you might expect. The father and son start out somewhat at odds with each other and by the end the relationship is one of respect, love and understanding. Pretty typical stuff, but it was all well done. The movie has a genuine look and feel and the acting is good. Overall a okay movie. It had moments of beauty and emotion that showed what it could've been, but too few.

Lost and Found is infinitely more interesting by comparison. A terminally ill young woman searches for meaning, hope and love in what time she has left. Okay well that actually sounds rather ordinary I admit, but this movie has something going for it... some magic. The acting was pretty poor at times and some of the scenes awkwardly handled but the story kept me watching. In the end this movie was also just okay.

In general neither film hit home emotionally in a serious way. It's disappointing and also frustrating because it's not something I can come up with an explanation for... it just is. If I weren't duty bound to select one film over the other, I might not bother.

Verdict: Lost and Found moves on. More complex and waaaay more intriguing.

Additional ramblings: I feel the single most important task of any movie is to engross the viewer. All my mind should be occupied. When I take the time to sit down and give a movie my complete focus the film in turn must reciprocate an equal amount of material for me to focus on. My brain can't go into automatic standby while a movie putters around attempting to get to point B. A good movie lays down the tracks faster than the oncoming train of thought.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on October 01, 2008, 10:58:36 PM
A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991) vs. Be There or Be Square (Xiaogang Feng, 1998)

A Brighter Summer Day

How do I even begin to talk about this film? A film that I couldn't stop thinking about for days after I was done watching it. A film that pulled me in so deeply into the world it created that I was desperately unhappy to have to get out of that world and back to real life.

The person introducing the film mentioned that the film was inspired by a true incident that happened in Taiwan and received a lot of media attention. However, what is incredible and amazing is what Yang manages to do with that incident. In fact, I'd argue that the incident forms a very very small, albeit critical part of the film. This film really highlights Yang's talents not only as a filmmaker but as a storyteller. At a running time of nearly 4 hours and with nearly 30+ characters, A Brighter Summer day recreates a year in the life of a group of schoolkids in a Taiwanese town. It's a coming of age film but it also explores a bunch of other themes including the increasing influence of American culture on Taiwan in the 60s. The theme of betrayal and its impact on people that I noticed in The Terrorizer and Mahjong seems even more focal to A Brighter Summer Day. Yang simulates an entire world of characters and stories and things and events that could be a world where an incident like this could occur.

Despite the fact that the film didn't have a pre-determined intermission point, I still felt that the film breaks up into two parts. In the first part, the character of Xiao Si'ir, who we understand as being the protagonist of the film, seems to be merely a bystander. He becomes the observer and it is through his eyes that we learn about all the other characters and the world they live in. This world is explored extremely intricately in the film. Si'ir's life at school, his involvement in the local gangs that a lot of the schoolkids are a part of, his family life, his friends, the local band that plays Elvis covers at a local restaurant, the family of the girl Si'ir falls in love with, the new boy at school that Si'ir befriends are all fleshed out and form important narrative threads and they all come together in the end to lead up to the tragic climax. This style of storytelling really rewards the attentive viewer because Yang treats space and objects the same way he does characters. He makes them really familiar to us over time and uses them to help us see the connections between different story threads. So objects that are important to the story are introduced early on and have as much of a reason to exist as any of the key characters. I just love the amount of thought and attention to detail that has so clearly gone into this film. It's rich and vivid and just transports the viewer so that it's almost impossible to notice the length of the movie.

I mentioned earlier that a major part of this film is viewed by us through Xiao Si'ir's eyes and we realize later that this may have colored our point of view. We notice that we may only have seen parts of the whole and that there may even be situations where we are not even quite sure of what we saw. Yang hints at this right at the start of the film by starting with a dark room and then switching a lightbulb on thereby making us suddenly aware of what we are seeing. An important plot point at the start of the movie involves a girl who is seen running away when Si'ir switches the classroom light on and we don't know for sure who the girl is for a large part of the flm. There is also a rather literal reference to the fact that Si'ir has problems with his vision and Yang manages to tie this in perfectly naturally into the rest of the narrative. However, I think these are also clues for us to realize that our protagonist may be unreliable and that we may not be perfectly able to distinguish truth from perception.

Over the course of this 4-hour film, we see Si'ir being betrayed in every dimension of his life. Each of these threads contributes to breaking Xiao Si'ir's faith and resilience and in a brilliant sequence we see a foreshadowing of his eventual disintegration. The undercurrent of violence, danger and tragedy gradually creeps up on us over the course of the film. The movie is bookended by a radio announcement where the names of the students graduating from Si'ir's school that year are being read out suggesting that although a lot has changed in the life of our central character, the rest of the world remains unchanged.

I think my write-up doesn't do this movie any justice. Watching it is just an awesome experience and I am just happy that more people here are likely to share this experience thanks to this bracket. 

Be there or Be Square

This was quite a contrast from A Brighter Summer Day. A breezy comedy about two Chinese immigrants in LA whose paths keep crossing over time. They keep facing a series of terrible misfortunes which makes it even harder for them to adapt to life in the US. They also seem to be just wrong for each other with disaster striking everytime they meet. Big surprise... they eventually fall in love.

To be honest, I found the movie rather cheesy and predictable. It didn't really strike me as all that funny or romantic. The problems they face as immigrants in a foreign land didn't come across as nuanced at all.

When I got back from A Brighter Summer Day, I was a bit afraid that watching the other movie in the matchup in avi format on the small screen would just make this an unfair comparison. My fears were unfounded. It's not even a contest.

A Brighter Summer Day moves on and now I too am rooting for it to win this bracket.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on October 01, 2008, 11:02:18 PM
Okay, now I gotta watch it for sure. I think it might happen on Friday...

Maybe.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on October 01, 2008, 11:15:11 PM
Don't worry Worm@Work, your write up is quite good. It really is a brilliant film, and I'm so glad that I took the gamble and saw it when it screened at MIFF recently. I too am rooting for it to finish number one.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on October 02, 2008, 12:19:54 AM
Additional ramblings: I feel the single most important task of any movie is to engross the viewer. All my mind should be occupied. When I take the time to sit down and give a movie my complete focus the film in turn must reciprocate an equal amount of material for me to focus on. My brain can't go into automatic standby while a movie putters around attempting to get to point B. A good movie lays down the tracks faster than the oncoming train of thought.

I haven't seen those specific films, but I'd say your brain is looking to focus on things the film isn't particularly interested in, if you're having a boredom problem.  Not all films are about a narrative drive from A to B.  My unsolicited advice is to relax and let the film take you where it wants to go at whatever pace it wants.

There are a lot of films in this bracket that treat pacing and plot much differently than American cinema, both much slower and much faster.  It'd be a shame if we eliminated them all because they didn't match our own expectations of how a film "should" move.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on October 02, 2008, 07:43:14 AM
Great Job Worm@Work, you made me want to watch it. But 4 hours. Man, I had a hard enough time carving out enough space to watch the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven. there's always Thanksgiving holiday. ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on October 02, 2008, 09:13:24 AM
I haven't seen those specific films, but I'd say your brain is looking to focus on things the film isn't particularly interested in, if you're having a boredom problem.  Not all films are about a narrative drive from A to B.  My unsolicited advice is to relax and let the film take you where it wants to go at whatever pace it wants.

There are a lot of films in this bracket that treat pacing and plot much differently than American cinema, both much slower and much faster.  It'd be a shame if we eliminated them all because they didn't match our own expectations of how a film "should" move.
That was, at times, a problem for me in the past. I've learned that lesson though. I say to myself now "this film was made by a professional, they won't lead you into a dead end", and that's enough for me to let go of the reigns. I'm fine with a movie deciding it's time to stop and smell the roses. I think in this case it's more a matter of the quality and effectiveness of each scene, the freshness of the story and ideas (relative to the viewer), and the room for improvement.

I feel like I should say, I'm not just looking to kill off films willy nilly out of spite or just for the sake of imposing my will on the bracket. I'm merely an ardent viewer looking for greatness.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on October 02, 2008, 09:16:14 AM
Thanks Sam & Fifthcitymuse. For anyone who is daunted by the long running time, the film is constantly engaging and never slows down.

I also wanted to give a special shoutout to Chang Chen who makes a stunning debut in this film as Xiao Si'ir and has since appeared in several Wong Kar Wai films and also in Hou Hsiao Hsien's Three Times. Both Si'ir & Cat worked with Yang again in Mahjong and it's really nice seeing their transition from childhood to youth across these two films.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on October 02, 2008, 10:50:26 AM
Thanks Sam & Fifthcitymuse. For anyone who is daunted by the long running time, the film is constantly engaging and never slows down.
I'm not daunted by it, I just don't know if I have the time for it. :-\
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on October 02, 2008, 11:17:28 AM
I'm definitely making the time. This Friday!!!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Verite on October 02, 2008, 12:31:48 PM
A Brighter Summer Day moves on and now I too am rooting for it to win this bracket.
Me, too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on October 02, 2008, 01:39:57 PM
I haven't seen those specific films, but I'd say your brain is looking to focus on things the film isn't particularly interested in, if you're having a boredom problem.  Not all films are about a narrative drive from A to B.  My unsolicited advice is to relax and let the film take you where it wants to go at whatever pace it wants.

There are a lot of films in this bracket that treat pacing and plot much differently than American cinema, both much slower and much faster.  It'd be a shame if we eliminated them all because they didn't match our own expectations of how a film "should" move.
That was, at times, a problem for me in the past. I've learned that lesson though. I say to myself now "this film was made by a professional, they won't lead you into a dead end", and that's enough for me to let go of the reigns. I'm fine with a movie deciding it's time to stop and smell the roses. I think in this case it's more a matter of the quality and effectiveness of each scene, the freshness of the story and ideas (relative to the viewer), and the room for improvement.

I feel like I should say, I'm not just looking to kill off films willy nilly out of spite or just for the sake of imposing my will on the bracket. I'm merely an ardent viewer looking for greatness.

Fair enough.  I didn't mean to single you out, just something that was on my mind.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on October 02, 2008, 02:54:08 PM
Fair enough.  I didn't mean to single you out, just something that was on my mind.
I'm always happy to take advice and hear your comments sdedalus. Your a particularly thoughtful member when it comes to this sort of thing imo.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on October 04, 2008, 04:40:52 PM
Thanks.  I try not to sound like a jerk.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on October 05, 2008, 08:49:10 PM
Sleeping Man (1996, KŰhei Oguri) versus Ghost in the Shell (1995, Mamoru Oshii)


Sleeping Man

There was a discussion on the boards a few days ago about the pacing that dictates Asian films sometimes and how it differed from that which guides North American films. Perhaps some Asian films take things a little bit slower than their American counterparts, but does that hurt the film or a North Americanís viewing experience? Sleeping Man is the reason to believe that it doesnít.
Briefly, the story revolves around the citizens of a small, predominantly quite Japanese town snuggled between some high mountains. One of their own, a man named Takuji, had an accident while in the mountains once and is now in a coma. For how long? We donít know. The people of this town worry dearly for him, although that emotion is not shown over dramatically in their speech.
Conversations about Takuji, his accident and the area in general take center stage here. The dialogue is soft spoken and very insightful about the customs and habits of these townspeople. Historical fables, the soul, the meaning of names and other particularities are all discovered as the movie goes along through their conversations. Whatís interesting is how these tidbits come into play later on. One intriguing scene has Takujiís soul Ďblown awayí in the wind. His family and friends then begin a hunt for his soul, searching and making loud noises in the hopes that they may attract it back. It sounds silly but these people are taking this very seriously and itís fascinating to see unfold. Thereís a brilliant sequence of shots which shows all the places we have visited to be empty: everyone is searching for the soulÖ
All these discussions are permitted to flourish thanks to the deliberately slow pace. Scenes are allowed to breath and we, as the viewers, all invited to admirer it all. The location shots are oftentimes impressive for the natural beauty they put on display. The conversations themselves are the perfect window into the lives of these citizens. Their slow pace allowed me to imagine and ponder what was being discussed. Director Oguri pulls off a real coup here because despite the fact that their really isnít a lot of dialogue, one canít help but feel that a lot is being said. When someone is talking, the viewer can hang on to their every word and learn more about this beautiful world.
Sleeping Man is not for everyone. Anyone who is averse to slow pacing may not find this movie digestible. Anyone who wants their movies to serve up intricate plots and twists wonít find this entertaining in the least. But for anyone who just wants to sit back and explore a world, its customs, its people and their stories, I implore you to get your hands on this movie.

Ghost in the Shell

Sometime in the future, cyborgs will serve and protect as members of law enforcement. They are ultra sophisticated, meaning they are equipped with the capability to communicate via internal radio at great distances, are impressive athletically and can work with and within computers at a rapid pace. Even Ďordinaryí humans will be slightly altered in order to properly fight crime alongside these Ďmachinesí. I use quotations marks because there is something special about them. They are entrusted with brain cells, thus enhancing their capabilities to think and even feel. Rather than having a soul, it is said that the cyborgs have ghosts, hence ghost in the shell (the shell being their manufactured exteriors).ł
A master hacker, known only as the Puppet Master, is hacking into cyborgs and computers. He must be stopped, and itís up to two detectives, a female cyborg and her male, almost human, partner to catch him.
Ghost in the Shell attempts to unfold on several levels. It displays some interesting action sequences, whether their fast paced chases through the streets of the city and all out gun fights. It is a detective story, as our two main protagonists must somehow snatch the Puppet Master before he causes irreparable damage to various computers systems. But it also has several scenes in which the female cyborg detective engages in some rather intellectual and philosophical discussions (some of which are one-sided) about herself. What is she and how can she behave the way she does? What exactly are her limitations as a cyborg. Basically, where does the human aspect end and the cyborg aspect begin? Or vice versa even? How does she know what she is and what constraints are preventing her from being anything else?
All these questions have their merit. Given the speed with which technology is evolving in the real world, how much longer will it be before us humans begin to ask such questions?  Having said that, the dialogue sequences that do indeed tackle this issue feel a tad heavy handed. A movie such as Blade Runner for instance, which essentially deals with the same topic, feels much brisker and relevant than does Shell. The plot comes to a full halt when the issue of cybernetic life is touched upon. Not that it isnít interesting, but it kills the story telling aspect of the film. So much so that the entire case revolving around The Puppet Master feels a bit like an afterthought. The climatic battle sequence which pits the female detective against a giant spider type robot feels terribly uninspired, although in the filmís defence, what takes place afterwards is pretty sensational. Another failure was to provide the story with well developed characters. This isnít terribly necessary for female cyborg because she is questioning her own being anyways, but nobody else is all that interesting.
Ghost in the Shell, for all its visual splendour (and it does look pretty slick), doesnít quite deliver in the end. It canít decide whether it wants to be a philosophical dissertation or an action/detective story. I know that a counter argument can be: ĎWell, it can be both you idiot!.í The problem is I think that when Ghost is trying to be one, it sacrifices the other unfortunately.

Sleeping Man, which I guarantee will put no one to sleep, is moving on. Now excuse me while I ponder some of the philosophical perspectives and intellectual possibilities of cybernetics while popping in my Blade Runner DVD.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: facedad on October 05, 2008, 08:55:47 PM
(http://i34.tinypic.com/27xmrew.jpg)

As 95% of films are better than Ghost in the Shell.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on October 05, 2008, 08:59:41 PM
Great reviews, edgar.

I want to have sex with this bracket.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on October 05, 2008, 09:12:37 PM
While I may not share your enthusiasm to have sex with this bracket pixote, I must admit that I'm having more fun with the Far East bracket than the US one, and I've only had two matchups!


Face, I wouldn't throw Ghost in the Shell in the dumps like that, but there is something strangely hollow about it. I can't embrace a visual feast for the eyes if the other aspects of the film are too uneven.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on October 05, 2008, 09:29:19 PM
Noooooo!!! Ghost in the Shell is a brilliant film! I'm sorry to say that I disagree with practically every point you made. Shell tells this story so well. The Major's philosophical problems are essential to the resolution of the Puppet Master plot line, and the plot is completely useless without it. How can the Major worry about whether she is human or not without the double of the Puppet Master who is an AI (for want of a better term).

This is going to sound rude, and I don't mean it to, but judging by how much you skim the surface in the review, I'd give it another go. There's so much more going on, especially if you only recognised the Major and Togusa. There's a whole team at section 9 who are fighting the Puppet Master, and while most of them remain fairly underdeveloped, it's within reason. Batou, Aramaki, Togusa and the Major are all given room to breathe.

Also, it's not just the police who have cybernetic bodies. They can afford the best, but the whole suggestion of the world is that many people have cybernetic bodies.

I'll be so upset if this doesn't get resurrected. The scene where the Major rides the boat down the canal, watching the crowd, including a body double, is reason enough for that. It's gorgeous.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on October 05, 2008, 09:40:51 PM
To each his own my friend.

As for the rest of Section 9, I didn't mean to completely ignore them, but I did have to keep my review to a respectable length. had I ventured into a description of everyone's motives, then no one would have bothered to read the darn thing.

As mentioned in the review, I did find the questioning of cyborg life well worth exploring. The issue I had with the film was that is killed the moment of anything else going on. It didn't feel like a complete movie experience.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on October 05, 2008, 10:03:47 PM
I know... Sorry, it did seem a little like a personal attack. My point about Section 9 was that the characters who needed to be developed were.

I really really really like this movie. The sequel is also awesome and truly gorgeous. The manga are a whole lot of fun as well, although Man Machine Interface makes zero sense.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on October 05, 2008, 10:13:07 PM
I'm also sad to see Ghost in the Shell go out so early - it reminds me of being 14 and me and my friends thinking Manga was the shit. May hve been something to do with the naked female cyborgs. But I haven't seen Sleeping Man and have since realized that Manga is not always el topo, so I look forward to catching up with Sleeping Man at some future point in this bracket.

btw - I'm halfway through The Scent of Green Papaya (feel asleep last night while wondering "where is this going" but quite enjoying it...) and still haven't settled on a match-up - i'm welcome to suggestions...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on October 05, 2008, 10:19:26 PM
I'm also sad to see Ghost in the Shell go out so early - it reminds me of being 14 and me and my friends thinking Manga was the shit.

I still like Manga :(

I haven't seen Ghost in the Shell in years so I can't really say you're wrong... but who knows...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on October 05, 2008, 10:30:16 PM
Don't trouble yourself. I'm not wrong.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on October 05, 2008, 10:43:20 PM
Darn, I wanted to trash Ghost in the Shell. Some people have all the fun.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on October 06, 2008, 12:45:20 AM
Wow... I'm surprised how little love there is for Ghost in the Shell on these boards... After it got seeded I thought it would do better. Ah well. My favourite is still in the running, so I'll just have to make do.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on October 06, 2008, 12:49:24 AM
Wow... I'm surprised how little love there is for Ghost in the Shell on these boards... After it got seeded I thought it would do better. Ah well. My favourite is still in the running, so I'll just have to make do.
I remember when I saw GITS, it was visually impressive, but it didn't feel like it would date very well.  Something about the story was very "now" and not lasting.  I think time has finally passed the film by.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on October 06, 2008, 12:56:07 AM
Wow... I'm surprised how little love there is for Ghost in the Shell on these boards... After it got seeded I thought it would do better. Ah well. My favourite is still in the running, so I'll just have to make do.
I remember when I saw GITS, it was visually impressive, but it didn't feel like it would date very well.  Something about the story was very "now" and not lasting.  I think time has finally passed the film by.

I would've said it's more pertinent now than ever. Conversely, at what point does it stop being pertinent to discuss what makes a human being?

But I think it's been proved by now that my opinion on this movie is quite different to most. And I'm not saying that it's better than Sleeping Man. Ah well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on October 14, 2008, 09:46:58 PM
Eagle Shooting Heroes vs. Fong Sai Yuk II

Two wacky kung fu comedies that will likely lose in the second round as they won't make a bit of sense to anyone who hasn't seen two other films.  For Eagle, that'd be Ashes Of Time, for Fong Sai Yuk II, quite naturally, it's Fong Sai Yuk Part I.

Eagle Shooting Heroes

One of the happy byproducts of the epic Ashes Of Time shoot (along with Chungking Express), Eagle is a parody of the same Louis Cha novel.  The legend is that Wong Kar Wai produced this film, reusing his cast and under the direction of Jeffrey Lau, to cover up the cost overruns on the way over-budget Ashes.  The result is anarchic, slapstick nonsense with brilliant serious actors like Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung and both Tony Leungs hamming it up and generally being as silly as possible.  The story, such as it is, is actually easier to follow than some of the kung fu comedies I've seen (and more comprehensible than I found Ashes a decade ago).  Basically, Tony Leung (the short one, from 2046) and Veronica Yip conspire to overthrow the Emperor.  In order to consolidate power, they must kill his daughter (Brigitte Lin, from Chungking Express).  She runs away in search of a kung fu book, and along the chase they all become entwined in the complicated love lives of a pair of young kung fu students (Leslie Cheung, from Happy Together, and Joey Wang), a beggar king (Jacky Cheung) in love with Wang, a kung fu master (Carina Lau, from Days Of Being Wild) in love with his old comrade and a monk looking for his true love so he can achieve immortality (the other Tony Leung).  Tangentially related to all of this is Maggie Cheung (from In the Mood For Love) as a sorceress and three monsters (guys in comically bad ape, bird and dinosaur costumes).  There are songs, self-references to the film's Lunar new Year premiere, snatches of English, stagey sets shot in a cartoonish hypercolor by cinematographer Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and some fine kung fu action choreographed by the great Sammo Hung.

Fong Sai Yuk II

After the success of their first Fong Sai Yuk film in 1993, Jet Li and director Corey Yuen reunited later that year and made this sequel, continuing the story of the legendary kung fu hero.  Again, Josephine Siao plays his mom, Miu Chui-fa, and again she almost steals the show.  According to the legend, Fong's mom taught him kung fu, having learned it from her mother, who was one of the five Elders of the Shaolin Temple that dispersed when the Temple was destroyed by the Manchus.  Siao plays her as a comic figure, forever getting her son into and out of jams.  Li plays Fong as a confident and honest hero ("Canton's Young Man Of The Year"), who is nonetheless terrified of women.  At the end of the first film, Fong has ridden off with his new wife, Ting Ting (played by Michelle Reis, from Fallen Angels) to join the Red Flower Society, one of the underground anti-Manchu groups attempting to restore the Ming Dynasty to power (these groups eventually evolved into the criminal triad gangs familiar from modern HK police thrillers).  This sequel chronicles Fong's attempts to defeat the criminal element in the RFS, led by Yu, the son of the Society's founder who was passed over for the leadership position by Chan, an honorable man with a secret past.  Basically, Fong has to protect Chan, defeat Yu and save his mom.  This involves a lot of great wire-fu and the seduction of the governor's daughter (a much more difficult task for both Fong and the always chaste Li).  Li's stunts are pretty good (as always), but there's nothing as transcendent as the first film's fight across a crowdful of heads.  Siao's performance might even be better in this film than the first, with a bit more emotional range to her character, though there's lots of slapstick as well.

All things considered, this is a tough choice.  This was my first time watching Eagle Shooting Heroes, while the Fong Sa Yuk films were some of the first kung fu movies I ever saw.  The DVD of Eagle is pretty good, at least in image quality, whereas the version of Fong Sai Yuk II I have is poorly subtitled, non-anamorphic and pretty fuzzy.  But even with a better transfer, I think Eagle would prove to be the better looking film, in addition to being better acted (you can't really beat the great Tony Leung impersonating a duck).  Both movies are a tremendous amount of fun, and I'd recommend them both to any fan of the genre.

But I guess I'll cast my vote for Eagle Shooting Heroes.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on October 14, 2008, 09:52:31 PM
(you can't really beat the great Tony Leung impersonating a duck). 

Hello top of queue.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on October 14, 2008, 10:02:15 PM
(you can't really beat the great Tony Leung impersonating a duck). 

Hello top of queue.

I was thinking the same thing.

Really nice verdict, sdedalus.  I'll make sure to watch the original Fong Sai Yuk before checking out the resurrection-worthiness of the sequel.  Maybe I can find a better version of it, too...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on October 14, 2008, 10:14:59 PM
Thanks.  The DVD I have is the Universe Laser & Video version from yesasia.com.  I have their version of the first one as well, and IIRC, it isn't as bad.  The Dimension (Miramax) versions (retitled The Legend and The Legend 2) probably have better images, but they have English-only audio tracks and appear to be 11 and 4 minutes shorter, respectively.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on October 14, 2008, 10:31:34 PM
Great verdict, sdedalus. I am hoping to catch Ashes of Time Redux on the big screen soon.. so maybe I can source Eagle Shooting Heroes and watch them both in close succession.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on October 14, 2008, 10:47:32 PM
I might be more excited to see Ashes Of Time in the theatre than I am for the Criterion Chungking Express Blu-Ray.

It's going to be a great month.

(http://i443.photobucket.com/albums/qq159/theendofcinema/20001_box_348x490.jpg)

(http://i443.photobucket.com/albums/qq159/theendofcinema/ashesoftimeredux67.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on October 15, 2008, 03:21:16 PM
I haven't seen Eagle Shooting Horses but i'd be the first to champion the resurrection of Fong Sai Yuk 2. No disrespect to the verdict - It's just a really fun film to watch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on October 16, 2008, 11:47:44 AM
The Blue Kite vs. Kite

I'm not one of those people who find it difficult to compare/contrast wildly different types of movies.  I picked this match-up because they both had the word "Kite" in the title and I figured that would be the only thing they would share.

And boy was I right.

Kite is a trashy, uber-violent action movie with all of the disturbing sexual context that was wisely cut from Leon.  It's so uninspired in it's plotting that it plays like those Bollywood films that steal whole plots and scenes from big Hollywood films.  At one point our underage assassin is sent after a big movie star who looks exactly like Bruce Willis.  I wish there was more imagination in the plotting.

However, the movie does have its share of sleazy fun.  For one thing, the bullets here don't just shoot.  They lodge inside a person and then explode.  (Oh, yeah!)  A lot of the action is wildly over the top and I bet a DVD copy sits on Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer's shelf.  (They probably brag over who showed it to who first.)  There are moments of visual flair and a sort of Paul Verhoeven "how much can we get away with" attitude to it all.  But the moments between the set-pieces are very dull - bad for a film that only runs 60min - and it left me feeling a smidge dirty.

I'm not the right person to be watching The Blue Kite.  If you were to meet my friends they would tell you I have a strange aversion to political films.  I just don't care for politics in my movies.  However, I really liked how this film focused on the people.  It's basically a "family (and a village) trying to get through life" kind of drama, but the shifting political sands keep bringing setbacks and tragedy to their doorstep.  The film is heavily political and I had trouble staying connected, but that's me... not the film.  The film is visually flat and neo-realistic in style, but it has something to say.  You can feel the filmmakers need to tell this story.  And the final shot is really powerful.

This is an interesting one for me to decide, because I had a lot more fun with Kite, and it's certainly the film I'd be more likely to rewatch.  But I'm also smart enough to step back from my personal tastes and realize that The Blue Kite is definitely the one that deserves to go forth.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on October 16, 2008, 11:51:05 AM
A lot of the action is wildly over the top and I bet a DVD copy sits on Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer's shelf.  (They probably brag over who showed it to who first.)

Haha, nice.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on October 16, 2008, 01:52:00 PM
Well, you made me want to see Kite. Which i'm not sure was your intention.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on October 16, 2008, 02:05:08 PM
Well, you made me want to see Kite. Which i'm not sure was your intention.

I enjoyed Kite, but it's more of a guilty pleasure.  I wouldn't hold it up against real cinema but I liked it for the most part.  But I also liked...

Hollow Man
Starship Troopers
Ricochet
Planet Terror
Streets of Fire
Transporter 2
and Hostel.

So take it from where it's coming from.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on October 16, 2008, 02:46:10 PM
I like Verhoeven....
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on October 16, 2008, 03:21:10 PM
Well, you made me want to see Kite. Which i'm not sure was your intention.

I enjoyed Kite, but it's more of a guilty pleasure.  I wouldn't hold it up against real cinema but I liked it for the most part.  But I also liked...

Hollow Man
Starship Troopers
Ricochet
Planet Terror
Streets of Fire
Transporter 2
and Hostel.

So take it from where it's coming from.

Oh man, you and I wouldn't get along very well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on October 16, 2008, 03:22:35 PM
What is "real" cinema? :)

uh, did you watch the uncensored version Kite? I hear it's pretty, pretty AWESOME  8)

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on October 16, 2008, 03:26:10 PM
What is "real" cinema? :)

uh, did you watch the uncensored version Kite? I hear it's pretty, pretty AWESOME  8)

No. I saw the easier to find, shorter version, but I read about the two versions and I'm glad.  I read that even the director prefers the softcore version.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on October 21, 2008, 09:44:53 PM
Fist of Legend (1994, Gordon Chan)  versus Justice, My Foot! (1992, Johnny To)

After some fairly heavy entries that went head to head in the bracket, I chose to take things a little easy for my third matchup. It's historical kung-fu versus wild comedy!


Fist of Legend

Jet Li, one of the most gifted martial arts actors to ever graced, or kicked his way, onto the screen, plays a young but remarkably talented martial artist studying in Japan in 1937. He learns of his former master's death at the hands of a a rival Japanese clan (or school to be more precise) and thus returns to Shanghai to right this wrong by avenging the death through various 'challenges' issued between his Chinese kung-fu school and Japanese karate schools in Shanghai. Of course, during his stay in Japan, love blossomed between himself and a lovely Japanese student, which causes considerable tension between him and his former martial arts classmates.


Fist of Legend
, on paper, is a fighting/martial arts film. There are a great number of massively impressive fight sequences and anybody who has taken a liking for this kind of film should feel right at home here. Jet Li has always been an A1 action 'actor' and Fist of Legend only reinforces that argument. the choreography of the battles is sharp and fluid. The camera allows us to see the action. The cuts are for the sake of clarity, to permit the viewer to really see what what each fighter is doing. In our age of rapid fast cuts which, in this viewer's humble opinion, often detract any pleasure that should be had in a good ruff housing scene, Fist was a welcome change of style. Now, I do not wish to say that there was any intentional comedy injected into the combat scenes, but I did find myself chuckling at times, only because what took place on screen was so fantastic, such as when Li and an older Japanese teacher go head to head with blind folds on. There was one genuinely funny scene in which Jet Li, going in for a punch but not quite in reach, opts to slap his opponent in the face instead. Gold.

What I respect in an action movie is when the writer and director try to add some genuine context to the proceedings. Here, for Fist of Legend, the movie is set in 1937 China (with a few early scenes occurring in Japan). For anyone familiar with the history between these two titanic nations, 1937 was a time of terrible strife between the two. Japan, with a rabid desire to expand its empire, had begun its 'invasion' or more properly its occupation of China (for more info, I would suggest some reading regarding the two Sino-Japanese wars that took place in the early 20th century). Therefore the rivalry existing between the Chinese kung-fu and Japanese karate schools feels all the more genuine. This historical context actually adds a bit of intelligence to the story. There is no confusion as to who wants what once the backdrop of the plot is understood. The stakes, both character-specific and national, are well set up.

The love story feels a bit obligatory and not totally original. It even leads to some rather groaner scenes. It wasn't that that their love is unbelievable, it's rather touching in fact. However, it added little to the story. to make matters worse, the Japanese girl leaves with about 20-25 minutes left in the movie and is never mentioned again, even though (no spoilers) something quite dramatic occurs during those final 25 minutes.

Overall, a highly entertaining martial arts diversion that is set up in a political context that I found quite interesting. Jet Li shines with his talent, dedication and fist...his Fist of Legend!





Justice my Foot!

Stephen Chow plays a devious, charming an intelligent lawyer in China who, after a long and somewhat complex set up, is asked to represent a woman who is poor, down on her luck, and now framed for the  murder of her late husband by some inlaws. This despite the fact that early on in the film, his wife (Anita Mui) forced him to retire from his law profession and help set up a hotel business.

Justice My Foot! has an entire host of crazy characters, some of which are interesting, others who aren't at all. There's the woman that Chow is representing, who finds every possible excuse to start whining and crying (not interesting), the magistrate who initially overseas the case with a foul mood and farts all the time (not interesting), Chow's wife who obviously took the same martial arts lessons as the characters from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (interesting), the inlaws who are also on trial, a couple of homosexual goons who are hired by the mother of the inlaws to bribe the magistrate, etc. There are too many to mention here.

Comedy is arguably the most subjective of film genres. The movie, characters, dialogue, are either funny  or they aren't. You can't quite put your finger on it, can't quite explain it, but you're either chuckling mildly every one in a while, laughing out loud or being tortured by boredom. I don't want to say that I was bored, since that would be a lie. But I did not find the story, the characters, or the dialogue particularly funny. The performances aren't the least bit subtle. Every actor is making facial expressions that are as elastic their skins permit. I apologize to those who enjoyed this movie, but I don't find that kind of comedy funny. A magistrate who's farting all the time? Slaps in the face that leave what look like paint marks? A character falling in a pile of s***? What is going on here?...
The case Chow is working on is very complicated, so much so that it feels like the writers just made a silly excuse to attempt some jokes. The set up is also strangely long. Chow doesn't start representing the framed women until about the 40 minute mark. A lot of what occurs prior to that point just doesn't feel that important in the grander scheme of things.

In the film's defense, there a few gems, such as a sword fight scene involving Chow's pregnant wife (the notion of it made me laugh, not so much the execution), and a few good lines tossed around between characters (most notably between Chow and the magistrate, whose characters go a long way back). But they are far and few between. More often than not I enjoy the movies I watch, either very much or at least moderately. I don't ever make a choice to pick on a movie. Therefore my reaction to Justice My Foot is disappointing even for me. I don't like 'not enjoying' movies, but unfortunately that's what happened.

The movie is going for laughs and it didn't get very many from me. If anybody wants to resurrect this film, be my guest and cherish it. No funny bones were tickled here though.


Fist of Legend moves on, hands down and fists up.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on October 21, 2008, 10:55:25 PM
Topping a movie with a name like Justice, My Foot! says something. Good reviews edgar :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on October 21, 2008, 11:34:03 PM
There's a meaningless verdict for Fist of Legend vs. Justice, My Foot! posted now.

I'm not sure what you mean by meaningless, but I feel like I got a crystal clear view of both films from your verdict, and I really enjoyed reading your commentary.  I'm also now looking very forward to catching up with Fist of Legend at some point.

So, yeah, very nice, meaningless work there, edgar.  Looking forward to see what two films ou pick out next.  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: JokerXgg on October 27, 2008, 06:37:02 PM
Kids Return (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116767/) vs. My Secret Cache (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116534/)

Kids Return

Summary

"Two buddies visit the schoolyard of the high school they used to attend, and remember their young and dumb days. They used to be the bullies in the school, until they find their own ways of life; one as a boxer, and the other as a member of the yakuza." —{H@jime} @ IMDb

Thoughts

This movie seemed to be very interesting, and although the plot didn't seem to resolve much, it was still fascinating to view the kids grow up to what they were. It was enjoyable to watch the roles of both students and how they affected each other (submission and domination played a big role). The acting is fair enough that one can actually believe the story, but it no Oscar winner. The type of genre that one could place on this movie would be drama. It truly shows the differences between the good and the bad as well influences on both actors.

One last thing I would like to point out about this movie was the introduction of the friends. I really thought the bicycle ride was what connected the past to the present.

This film was good enough to be watched once or twice.

My Secret Cache

Summary

"Sakiko's single-minded obsession with money, her outlandish and relentless efforts in search of a lost suitcase full of bills, leaving flabbergasted observers in her wake--all are straight out of manga, and retain the light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek humor of that medium (the better manga, anyways). And there is a kind of gradual maturation process thrown in as well, as Sakiko comes to realize that she's not drawn to money itself, so much as to the hunt for it." —KFL @ IMDb

Review

Did not enjoy this film mainly because of the acting, the story, and the acting. Half of the time that I was watching this movie, I had no idea what was the point of it. The story is lame, even though it is based on a Manga. One did that I want to point out in this movie is the use of rag dolls and how hard they actually try not to hide them. There were a couple of times that I actually fell asleep during the movie, because of how boring it was. The acting was pathetic and the ending was pointless.

In the end
Kids Return moves on

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on November 05, 2008, 10:48:43 PM
Sonatine
vs.
Serpent's Path

(http://i36.tinypic.com/258pe7t.jpg)
Sonatine (1993)
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
IMDB Link (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108188/)

I went in to Sonatine expecting a pretty conventional yakuza movie, and as I started watching it, that's exactly what it looked to be delivering. Murakawa (Takeshi Kitano), a successful yakuza, is sent with a group of underlings to mediate a clan war in Okinawa. Upon arrival they find that the situation is not all that serious, and begin to wonder why they have been sent. Shortly thereafter there are a series of attacks where many of their group is killed. Realizing they have been double-crossed, the survivors escape to a secluded beach house where they decide to stay while they deal with the situation.

It's at this point that any semblance of a "conventional yakuza movie" is completely stripped away. In fact, much of the remainder of the film seems to have no immediate bearing on the story at all. The amount of time spent digressing from the plot to focus on the characters is both jarring and completely rewarding. Watching the characters improvise entertainment for themselves is pure fun, but with enough subtext and foreshadowing that it didn't feel like wasted time. When the plot does pick up again, you are so much better off for it.

Needless to say, I loved this movie. It is really beautifully shot, and there are some truly memorable sequences. One of the things I found most interesting is the way violence is portrayed. Almost without exception, everybody involved in or witness to the violence shows complete indifference to it, both to the outcome and in their emotions. It's really startling.

9 / 10


(http://i38.tinypic.com/301eph4.jpg)
Serpent's Path (1998)
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
IMDB Link (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0254378/)

Serpent's Path is primarily a revenge story. As the movie opens, two friends, Nijima and Miyashita, are already in the process of kidnapping a man, revealed to be a minor yakuza. They imprison him in a large warehouse, and Miyashita explains that his daughter has been brutally murdered, and he believes that this yakuza is connected. The rest of the movie follows the trail from there, as they hone in on the men responsible, and new evidence emerges in the circumstances around it.

I enjoyed Serpent's Path, but ultimately it left me underwhelmed, largely due to the last quarter of the movie which included a completely ineffective shootout climax, and a less than revelatory twist.

The most interesting aspect of the movie is certainly Nijima, the mild-mannered schoolteacher. Though it is Miyahsita's revenge they are after, Nijima is clearly running the show from the start. He is calm and resourceful, but also manipulative and, clearly, there is more to him than meets the eye.

Interestingly, I read afterwards that Serpent's Path is one of two films Kiyoshi Kurosawa made, each in a week, back-to-back, with the same cast. With that knowledge it's a more impressive, achievement, but I still have to judge it on it's own merits.

6 / 10

Clearly, Sonatine is moving on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on November 05, 2008, 11:13:10 PM
Excellent choice.  Sonatine is an amazing movie that thrives on Takeshi Kitano's laconic rhythms.  The elevator scene is one of my favorite scenes "of that type" ever filmed.  I also love the casting of the contract killer.  He couldn't look more against type, but that's what makes him so fascinating.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on November 06, 2008, 01:05:08 AM
:D
I like you.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on November 06, 2008, 08:09:56 AM
Yay for Sonatine!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on November 06, 2008, 03:18:51 PM
I aim to please. ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on November 06, 2008, 10:59:51 PM
Melvil is my new favorite person.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on November 09, 2008, 04:21:28 PM
Perfect Blue (1998, Satoshi Kon) vs Sleepless Town (1998, Chi-Ngai Lee)

Twists are a tricky thing in movies. Done right they can be an effective tool to, say, demonstrate the uncertainty of one's environment, or perhaps to reveal the schizophrenic nature of a character. On the flip side they can feel like a cop out or a gimmick. They can confuse an audience or make them altogether give up on a movie. One of these films gets it just right, and the other, unfortunately, comes up short.

(http://i.imgur.com/NJySwjp.jpg)

The plot of Sleepless Town is typical. A man is scratching out a life for himself in the criminal underworld. It's a world of drugs, women, disputed territories, deceit, revenge, blah, blah, blah. He falls in love with a strange woman. That this movie was not going to break any new ground became apparent early on. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, there is no shortage of cookie cutter movies that are capable of being entertaining, I just want to make clear that at no point in the first 20 minutes or so does anything happen that makes you sit up straight and double your focus because you feel your watching something special.

The film has multiple twists worked into a watchable love story. At first I was intrigued by them, then I was confused by them, and finally I was annoyed by them. After the movie over I felt as if my brain had been wrung out like a wet towel. There is very little action in this movie, it's all about the relationship between Kenichi (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Natsumi (Mirai Yamamoto), which wasn't enough. There is an effective sense of tension that slowly increases throughout the film as Kenichi works tirelessly to keep his head above water, but when I got the the climax of the film I was so lost (and/or disinterested) by twists that all the tension was wasted.

A couple more gripes:
-Takeshi Kaneshiro, though cool, didn't work in this role for me.
-Pacing was invariably slow.

*thumbsdown*


(http://i.imgur.com/RR6q8EC.jpg)

Giving a brief explanation of Sleepless Town's plot without being facile wasn't possible. Summarizing Perfect Blue accurately isn't just impossible, it feels wrong. So I won't do it. Perfect Blue will be moving on in this match-up and if you haven't seen it I don't want to put any ideas in your head.

In retrospect the director, Satoshi Kon, pulled off something pretty special with this movie. After watching it and sort of rolling it around in my head, thinking of all the elements that had to work together successfully to make this work, I'm quite astonished. Every moment, big or small, felt important. It's a very tight film, a very mature film, and very good film.

*thumbsup*

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: duder on November 09, 2008, 04:30:21 PM
That is the one Satoshi Kon film I haven't seen. I really should get around to it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on November 09, 2008, 04:32:33 PM
I was meh on Tokyo Godfathers, and really liked Paprika. I have Millennium Actress sitting here waiting to be watching.

I wonder what he's gunna do next.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 09, 2008, 04:33:06 PM
Well, it's the best one so you should probably do that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on November 09, 2008, 09:16:50 PM
Suicide Bus (1998, Hiroshi Shimizu) versus Vive LíAmour (1994, Ming-liang Tsai)


Suicide Bus


In the running for the Ďmovie with the silliest titleí prize is Suicide Bus, a drama comedy about 8 men and one girl ( who are riding, what else, a bus and who are, what else, on a trip to commit suicide. No, that synopsis was not a joke. Thatís really what happens in this movie.

To be fair however, the raison díÍtre of the story is a bit more developed that my intentionally silly resume. The bus ride is a camouflaged tour guide around Japan, but in reality is the scheme of an insurance broker, willingly agreed upon by the 8 men, to commit suicide altogether, thus permitting their respective families to pick up healthy insurance checks. A sick premise, yes, but one with some surprising results. Notice however that I wrote that the 8 men have agreed to this plan. What about the girl? Well, sheís not in on the plan. Her uncle supplied her with his ticket because he could not participate in the trip. Little does she know that by stepping into the bus she is risking her very life!

How could such a premise lead to comedy? Iím not entirely sure but let it be said that director Shimizu succeeds in injecting some hardy laughs into the story. Credit should also go to the actors, who all perform admirably in giving their respective roles distinct characteristics. Some of the men are more joyful, almost happy go lucky (hey, thatís a movie!). Others are more stoic by nature and refuse to take the trip so frivolously. The mere fact that there are characters who appear as Ďhappyí in of itself makes for a peculiar viewing experience. Havenít these people taken the crucial decision to kill themselves? Well, they have, but that decision was taken with two matters in mind. Firstly, such an act would bring an end to their personal misery. Secondly, it would be remarkably beneficial to their families in the economic sense. Therefore these men are genuinely feeling some relief. It really is a movie that needs to be seen in order to comprehend. I can understand if any of you reading this are having difficulty seeing how this could play out on screen.

The final half hour venture into serious drama however. The kick starter to this is when the girl finally learns the true nature of the voyage. The insurance broker prohibits her from leaving, and thus, in a sense, is murdering her. The initial purpose of the trip was to commit suicide, but now they are to participate I murder. Emotional conflicts arise, as do doubts about their collective suicide. I wonít give away the climax, but letís just say there is a certain poetic justice to it. Again, without giving anything away, I wasnít totally convinced about what the girl brought to the group that perpetrated theÖevents that transpire in the final few minutes of the film. Not that it wasnít good, but I wasnít completely sold on it. A minor complaint perhaps, but climaxes that donít work, especially when almost everything else was so good, always get under my skin.

Despite this, you can take a ride on the Suicide Bus if you feel like it. Who knows, it might even Ďchange your lifeí. That was terrible.



Vive LíAmour

A retail estate agent named May Ling, played with surprising elegance and ease by Muei-Mei Yang, lives day in and day out by performing the same drill with potential buyers. Her life isnít glamorous in the least, but she gets by nonetheless. Early in the film she encounters a street vendor named Ah-jung (Chao-jung Chen). He may not be getting ahead too much in the world, but heís making some money, heís handsome and confident. Whatís not to like for a girl? Together they make love in one of the apartments Ling is trying to sell. Ah-jung doesnít have a home however. After their initial love making session, he steals one of the keys to the apartment and sleeps there at night without her knowledge. All the while this has been happening, a urn seller, Hsiao-kang (Kang-shen Lee), has already stolen one of the keys to the same apartment and sleeps in one of the other rooms.

Vive LíAmour
is a funny and admittedly odd movie. Is there a real point to this exercise? Perhaps not, but sometimes telling a fun story, which involves a solid script/dialogue and convincing acting is more than sufficient. I never even tried to think about what the overarching themes of the film were because I was having too much fun with the characters to begin with. All three are perfectly individual and fleshed out enough for the viewer to understand them and maybe even relate. The acting is strong across the board. There really isnít a weak link to be found. If I may, I would give special mention to Muei-Mei Yang as the real estate agent. She shows a range that I think few actresses or actors can pull off with such conviction. She playful with her new boyfriend, tired, engaging but at times apparently bored when given giving her clients a guided tour of the various apartments under her charge. Given that I donít ever watching any Taiwanese films, I had never heard of her, but sheís on my radar now.

A word of caution however. For those who may be sold on the movie based on what I have written thus far should understand that the story takes its time developing. The pace is deliberately slow. This may be an immediate turn off for some movie watchers, but for those who enjoy movies in which the plot and character relations are allotted the time to grow and mature, regardless of how long it may take, will be rewarded for their time. Nor is this a typical romance comedy. In fact, I'm not even sure if this a romance film or a comedy for that matter, despite their being a relationship between May and Ah-jung and a few scenes that I laughed very, very hard at. One scene in particularly which has May Ling resting on the bed before a client arrives while Hsiao-kang sneaks out from underneath caught me by surprise not only because I didnít know that he was hiding there, but because I never expected to find such comedic gold in the film. For all intents and purposes, Vive LíAmour cannot be pigeon holed into a specific category of film, and all the better for it. That last time I was similarly hit by a movie was a few months ago when duder suggested I watch Targets from Peter Bogdanovich (in fact, if I may take this moment for a plug, go into the archives at http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/ and read my review for the film. Then watch it.).  The lessons I learned? Twofold: a) to look under the bed whenever I get back home after work or when Iím going to have sex b) not to underestimate Taiwanese cinema.

This proved to be a highly entertaining matchup and one that I wonít soon forget. Alas, one film must fail the test while the other receives the privilege of living to fight another day. That privilege goes to Vive LíAmour.

Vive LíAmour.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on November 09, 2008, 09:42:16 PM
Nice writeups, edgar & smirnoff! I really want to watch Perfect Blue after reading your verdict and hey, now I can (thanks netflix instant watch)!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on November 09, 2008, 10:13:25 PM
Great writeup, Edgar. I really want to see both now (how can a movie named Suicide Bus fail?).

I'll have to check out Perfect Blue as well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on November 16, 2008, 12:27:32 PM
(http://i36.tinypic.com/fyhlxw.jpg)

Porco Rosso (1992, Hayao Miyazaki) - IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104652/)

Set in the 1930's, Marco Paggot, now known as Porco Rosso, is a former World War I fighter pilot who has been transformed into a man with the head of a pig. Now a bounty hunter, he makes his living chasing air pirates and performing other odd jobs in his red sea plane.

Through the course of the story, Porco becomes rivals with an American pilot name Curtis, who a group of pirates have hired to take Porco out after he foiled one of their thefts. Porco also teams up with Fio, a young mechanic. Together they become entangled in a contest with Curtis, all the while on the run from the Italian airforce.


As a huge fan of Miyazaki and needing to catch up with a few of his movies yet, I picked Porco Rosso for the first film in this matchup. You can always count on Miyazaki to deliver a vastly imaginative world, unique characters, and a clever kind of fun in the story. Porco Rosso is no exception.

The main character is half man, half pig. It's not so important why or how, he just is. Like many of Miyazaki's stories, concepts are embraced and brought to life in a compelling manner, and as a viewer you just accept them and go along with the ride. Also as I've come to expect, the environment is as much a part of the story as the characters in it, and I really enjoyed the dynamic of water and sky used here.

The title character himself is interesting enough, and his relationship with Gina, and later Fio are spot on. The weakest link in the movie is undoubtedly the "villain", Curtis. He is a rather one dimensional character, portrayed as the hot-shot American who is too caught up with himself to realize he's kind of a dolt. Unfortunately, his rivalry with Porco Rosso becomes the centerpiece of the story, and without more of an investment in the conflict, was not all that interesting.

I read after watching this that it was based on a manga, and honestly it felt a little like it was an "episode" of a larger story. The subplot with the airforce felt incomplete and unnecessary, and while I appreciate the ambiguity of the backstory and conclusion, it felt like there was more to the story than I was being given.

I did enjoy the movie, but finished it feeling slightly disappointed. It's possible my expectations were unfairly high, but I just didn't find it as good as many of Miyazaki's other films.

-----

Ame Agaru / After the Rain (1999, Takashi Koizumi) - IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181960/)

Ihei Misawa and his wife are delayed in their travels by rainstorms that have flooded a river in their path. They take lodging in a small inn nearby, filled with poor guests who are out of work until the river becomes passable again.

Ihei, a masterless samurai and an expert swordsman, is a good natured and kind hearted person. He takes it upon himself to cheer up the inn and collects food to share with the hungry guests. Meanwhile, he attracts the attention of the fief's lord, who has become interested in making Ihei his new fencing instructor.


Next up, I picked After the Rain at complete random. Happy surprise: It was written by Akira Kurosawa, and opens with a dedication to him. The story begins with a melancholy montage of the downpour that sets the events to follow in motion. The main character of Ihei is instantly likable because of his cheerful personality and commitment to helping people. His personality is the driving force for the story, both thematically and narratively.

At risk of being portrayed too simply, After the Rain handles the material beautifully, presenting a deceptively straightforward character in an original and surprising way. Ihei's story is a very personal one, exploring his past, his ambitions, and ultimately his nature as a person that might be too kind for his own good.

I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I liked this one. It's a lot of fun and uplifting, but also contains some unexpected elements such as a spine-tingling scene where things take a dark turn.

-----

And so, it is with great surprise (and a little bit of guilt), that I'm putting After the Rain through to the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 16, 2008, 12:38:33 PM
Didn't After the Rain come out in 2000? ;)

I am deeply saddened but it's okay, Melvil. It's okay.

Let's get this thing going!!! I'll chime in with my own verdict later today.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on November 16, 2008, 12:47:42 PM
I'll be interested to see where After The Rain goes from here. Nice write-up Melvil.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 16, 2008, 01:18:58 PM
roujin's first verdict in the Far East Bracket!

Postman Blues vs. Made in Hong Kong

(http://i38.tinypic.com/iftjqx.png)
Made in Hong Kong (Fruit Chan, 1997)

There's a lot of stuff that's kinda off about this film for me. There's lots of cliched stuff abount, and it really does have atrocious music. But I can get behind it for the most part. At its heart, it is not a gang film or a film about violence or anything like that. It's simply a film about young people. Autumn Moon is at the center of it all. He deals with gangs but doesn't join one. He's an outsider. The film depicts him at this really cool guy in some moments while in others he's just a gawky little kid trying to be cool. At one point, we're shown a fake killing and then we're shown what happened to make clear the contrast between the physical and mental state of Autumn Moon. The film is shot in a great kinda DIY Wong/Doyle style. At points, it comes off silly and amateurish but sometimes, the film gets it right and we're left with some pretty good images. Mostly, I just appreciate the fact that it was actually trying something visually even it felt discordant at some points. The film sometimes deals in cliches but at points it really does get down the heart of the matter and we come to realize that the environment around them has beaten down these kids so much that they feel like they have no other choice. It's about hating adults, wanting to be free from everything and then realizing that it's all bullshit. Yeah, I liked this. Plus, he looks pretty cool right here:

(http://img160.imageshack.us/img160/7835/snapshot20061010170930bj5.png)




(http://i36.tinypic.com/14n09sm.png)
Postman Blues (Sabu, 1997)

Wow, this movie starred That Guy (http://img78.imageshack.us/img78/6136/tsutsumi2ee1.jpg). I've been wondering who the hell this guy is. I keep seeing him in movies... Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise. But, on to the movie. Easily to me the most interesting thing about the film is its treatment of the police. They're portrayed as morons who will quickly jump in and label someone a drug runner/murderer/sexual deviant and then go after them without any substantial proof (or a misunderstanding of the facts). They're buffoons and they're treated as such. That's all on the background though. Center stage is the story of a postman who's fed up with his job and while making the rounds meets up with and old friend who just happens to be a Yakuza. From then on, misunderstandings, traditional meetings taking place in the rooftops of buildings, more Yakuza, more silliness, more of everything. It's very inconsistent in its tone but it almost seems to be willful. There's also a love story that feels very dumb and cliched ('cept for one part... in the picture above) (and, of course, the girl is dying). I was really into the film at the beginning when it was quieter and less concerned with throwing in wacky stuff (although that was amusing in and of itself). There seemed to be a lot of potential here and I'm not sure how it all fizzled out as the movie went on but it did. Anyway, I think the best part was the totally random (and awesome) Chungking Express part as seen in the following screencaps:

(http://i35.tinypic.com/2youxdk.jpg)

Then:

(http://i34.tinypic.com/15eecl1.png)

The ending seems to end on a strong note even if it's kinda saccharine. Is it a condemnation of the police force or did it seem like the right way to end it after you've painted yourself into a corner....? I don't know. Maybe one of you could tell me.

I liked both films. I'm glad I watched them. But, at this point, I would rather rewatch/have other people watch Made in Hong Kong so I'm going with that!

uh, pix, another match-up plz?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on November 16, 2008, 01:27:39 PM
Awesome :). Its pretty clear that I liked Made in Hong Kong more than you did. I agree with the fact that it frequently deals in cliches but there were moments that I really really liked. If it ever needs to be resurrected, maybe I'll post more details on why I loved it as much as I did. That whole sequence where Autumn Moon is trying to prep himself for the murder was pretty surreal and I really loved it.

Nice verdict Melvil. I really liked Ame Agaru as well and was pleasantly surprised by it. I don;t know why i haven't yet watched Porco Rosso though :(.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on November 16, 2008, 01:39:39 PM
Good to see the reviews coming in. Nice job roujin.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on November 17, 2008, 01:04:56 AM
The Last Dance (Juzo Itami, 1993) vs. Dong (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1998)

(http://img101.imageshack.us/img101/9553/die1iq7.jpg)
The Last Dance

The website I stole this image from describes The Last Dance as a meditation on death and dying. It is indeed a film about facing one's mortality, about one's right to die with dignity, about family and the parallels between movies and real life. Oh and did I mention that its a comedy? I was a bit worried when the movie began given all the campy dialog and acting and then I realized that things would probably work out ok because what I was watching was really the melodramatic movie within the movie! The movie has it's heart in the right place and I think the whole idea was to criticize the Japanese custom where doctors hide details about the diagnosis from terminally ill patients. However, I'm not sure it really succeeds very well at this. Both the humor and the melodrama felt rather over the top to me. I didn't really find the comedy funny enough and the shift to drama felt all over the place as well. There are some dream / mystical sequences towards the end that I quite liked and that did improve the movie for me. The lead actor's performance was really good as well. Overall, the movie was watchable but it's definitely no Ikiru and given that, I kept wishing I was watching Tampopo instead!



(http://i34.tinypic.com/11hv5zl.jpg)
(http://i36.tinypic.com/142eh6o.jpg)
Dong

This movie is such a trip! For almost the first 25 minutes of the movie, no one speaks a word. The only thing we hear is the sound of the television newscaster and the sound of dripping water. At one level, the film is an apocalyptic vision of a city plagued by a virus where only a few people remain that refuse to leave the quarantined area. But like in the other films I've watched by Tsai (What Time Is It There and I Don't Want to Sleep Alone), here again he seems more interested in exploring themes of alienation and loneliness and people's need for human connection. The movie is simply stunning in its brilliant portrayal of this dystopic world. Everything ALWAYS looks really wet and damp and dirty and I could almost physically feel that world as I was watching the movie. Secondly, there is the continuous sound of pouring rain and dripping water in the background that is haunting and serves to illustrate the relentlessness of the situation these people are under. And I'm only just getting to the best part about this movie. Into this bleak and disease-ridden world, Tsai inserts these amazing fantasy sequences set to Grace Chang's songs. There are quite a few of these in the movie and these are not just individual scenes but full-blown song and dance sequences with lavish, glittery costumes, lights, groups of dancers et al. No description can do justice to the complete awesomeness of these sequences in the movie or to the complete and utter surprise I felt when faced with the first of these. My jaw just dropped as I started to comprehend what was happening. Another amazing aspect of these sequences is that despite being fantasy sequences, they are all set in the same decrepit apartment complex and desolate shopping center and these surroundings don't undergo any significant transformation even in these dreams. These song sequences really distinguish this film from any of the other Tsai films I've watched. Apart from these sequences, there are several other really sweet touches of humor in the film. It's interesting to me that both the films in this matchup try to examine serious social issues with a somewhat light hand and that despite the fact that Dong has far fewer obvious jokes in it, I found Dong far more life-affirming and optimistic than The Last Dance. Finally, Dong just has one of the most amazing ending sequences ever! It perfectly combines the real and fantasy aspects of the film and just left me smiling and happy.

Ok, this hasn't been very suspenseful. Dong moves on to the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on November 17, 2008, 07:10:12 AM
Well I'm certainly interested in this Dong Movie now. Good reviews worm.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on November 17, 2008, 07:36:52 AM
I'm pretty sure worm is going to dominate this bracket.  :P

But great verdict, and keep em coming.  ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: skjerva on November 17, 2008, 12:26:04 PM
worm, glad you loved it.  i am a huge fan of Tsai though have yet to experience a few of his films, including this one.  check out I Don't Want to Sleep Alone for another wet masterpiece with a nice ending.  i agree that his work is very "life-affirming"
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on November 17, 2008, 01:16:37 PM
But like in the other films I've watched by Tsai (What Time Is It There and I Don't Want to Sleep Alone)...

:)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on November 18, 2008, 03:35:05 PM
Fight Back To School - A Stephen Chow comedy written by Barry Wong (Hard-Boiled and the ridiculously prolific writer/producer/director Wong Jing, and directed by Gordon Chan (Fist Of Legend).  The plot is in the Kindergarten Cop/Hot Fuzz vein, with Chow playing a supercop who has to go undercover at a high school to find his boss' lost gun (shades of Stray Dog).  Hilarity ensues.

The humor is much more subdued relative to Chow and Wong's The Royal Tramp, which mixes its slapstick with a dizzying array of puns that barely make it into the English subtitles.  The film also lacks the over-the-top visual inventiveness of Chow's later films like Kung Fu Hustle or Shaolin Soccer.  But it's a pleasant and entertaining comedy, with typical fine performances from Chow and his perpetual sidekick Man Tat Ng and the occasional fun action sequence.

Days Of Being Wild - Wong Kar-wai's breakthrough second film, winner of five HK Film Awards (Picture, Director, Cinematographer (Christopher Doyle), Actor (Leslie Cheung), and Art Direction) and rated #3 on the HK Film Awards 2005 list of the Best Chinese Films of All-Time.  It's the first film in the trilogy that concludes with In The Mood For Love and 2046 (a film which makes a lot more sense if you've seen this one, BTW).

There isn't a plot so much as a dense web of character relationships (Su Li Zhen loves Yuddy, Mimi/Lulu loves Yuddy, the cop loves Su Li Zhen, Zeb loves Mimi/Lulu, Yuddy hates his mom).  It's also arguably the most mellow of Wong's films, without the distortions of perspective, camera speed and film stock that he'd play with in his later films, or the overwhelming soundtracks of those films (or anything like the "Take My Breath Away" sequence of As Tears Go By).  Instead, the recurring song on the soundtrack is a light Latin number, contributing to the mellow vibe.

The cast is wonderful, only Wong's collection of talent in Ashes Of Time really tops it.  Leslie Cheung plays Yuddy as a kind of nihilistic James Dean: apathetic and irresistibly attractive.  Maggie Cheung's restraint brings out the desperation in the quiet Su Li Zhen, while Carina Lau chews up the screen as the vivacious Mimi/Lulu.  Jacky Cheung isn't given a lot to do as Zeb, but his goofy charm still manages to work.  And Andy Lau is solid as the stand-up cop, given a difficult task in that Wong constantly films him with the brim of his hat covering his eyes.

This was Wong's first collaboration with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, and while it isn't as flashy as their later work (there is one nice tracking shot towards the end of the film, but no slow-motion, for example), it is always interesting.  They suffuse the film with a greenish light, giving the film a dreamlike haze and adding to the sense to mustiness and humidity of the time and place (some video transfers filter this out, beware).

This is the first Wong film to tackle what have become his thematic obsessions: time, memory, lost love, travel, Hong Kong in the 60s.  And while later films have dealt with these subjects in more depth, they've also been more direct.  The obliquity of Days Of Being Wild is part of its laid-back charm, the characters are often desperate, but the film never is.  Wong consistently asserts self-defeating repression among the members of the generation that came of age in the '60s (as opposed to the hyperbolic young people of the '90s as seen in Chungking Express, Fallen Angels and Happy Together, many of whom achieve happier endings than the characters in Days, In The Mood and 2046).  In Days that repression finds its most general expression, going so far as to assert a kind of generational ubiquity to its events with the film's coda (featuring the great Tony Leung getting ready for a night on the town).


This really isn't much of a contest.  Nor should it be, this being the first round.  Fight Back To School is a nice and enjoyable film.  Days Of Being Wild is a masterpiece, one of the best films of the 90s, Asian or not.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on November 18, 2008, 03:43:37 PM
(http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/1535790/2/istockphoto_1535790_i_agree.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 18, 2008, 03:46:11 PM
I'm going out on a limb here... but don't you think you should've let someone else hage Days of Being Wild. I'm pretty sure you're well acquainted with the film already and I'm guessing the reason why you got it was to make sure it got moved on (and to revisit it, of course) so as to avoid the early huge upsets of the US bracket. Isn't it more satisfying for other people to discover this masterpiece who might've otherwise never seen it? Of course, I'm pretty sure I agree with your decision and I do agree that this film should go pretty damn far in the bracket. I'm just lightly suggesting that perhaps next round you check out something that you're not familiar with.

I might regret this.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on November 18, 2008, 03:49:40 PM
I'd actually only seen it once before, and didn't remember it all that well.

Plus, i just bought the Blu-Ray and wanted to watch it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 18, 2008, 03:55:06 PM
I'd actually only seen it once before, and didn't remember it all that well.

Ah, I thought you had watched it again with the New Asian Cinema marathon.

I'm a bad reader. Sari.

Anyway, was the DVD awesome or what?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on November 18, 2008, 04:06:39 PM
Image = great, Subtitles = terrible.

On the whole, it was worth the double dip.  The subtitles on the Kino standard DVD edition aren't that great either (though they are better).  The Kino also fails to deliver the greenishness.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on November 18, 2008, 04:15:13 PM
I'd actually forgotten it was part of that marathon.  The thread (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=2269.15) has some really great (spoilerific) posts, for anyone who hasn't seen them.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: philip918 on November 18, 2008, 08:23:58 PM
Finally, Dong just has one of the most amazing ending sequences ever! It perfectly combines the real and fantasy aspects of the film and just left me smiling and happy.

Ok, this hasn't been very suspenseful. Dong moves on to the next round.

Yay!  Dong is one of my all-time favorite films.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on November 20, 2008, 08:02:50 PM
My Rice Noodle Shop (1998, Yang Xie) versus April Story (1998, Shunji Iwa)


My Rice Noodle Shop

The year is 1949 and times are difficult. China is plagued by internal strife between the communists (who as you may know would eventually be lead by Mao Tse-Tung)  and the nationalists (KMT). Supporters of the former were many to flee to Taiwan in the hopes that soon their side would overthrow the communists.

Such is the backdrop for Yang Xieís story about a 40 something noodle shop owner, Rong Rong (Carol ĎDo Doí Cheng). She grew up in the small but lovely town of Guilin, where her grandfather owned his own rice noodle restaurant. But with the emergence of the communists, she and several other colourful characters from Guilin moved to Taipei. My Rice Noodle Shop functions as a series of episodes, although linked in the narrative sense, about Miss Rongís trials and tribulations as the rice noodle shop owner. Among the cast of characters who frequent her establishment are an ex state officer, a formerly wealthy real estate business man and a school teacher, Mr. Lu (Kevin Lin).

For the most part, the movie functions as a drama. The reasons for this are evident. All these people had far more respectable and wealthy lives back in Guilin. This is shown through a series of flashbacks which set up each individual nicely. Having left it all behind out of fear of persecution, their current lives meander in poverty. Some of them who come to eat everyday do not even possess sufficient funds to pay for their meals and owe considerable debts to Mrs Rong. The film does make certain brief attempts at comedy, but they are rather painful and consist mostly of cussing, kind of like bad Kevin Smith dialogue (although that may have been more about the quality of the subtitles I found). Drama for realismís sake is something I very much support. However, I was a tad disappointed so witness the fates the movie reserved for each of the customers. While I shanít spoil everything, allow me to alert anyone curious about the film that none of the customers comes out all smiles. In fact, each of their individual fates is quite sad, depressing and pathetic. I can understand the logic behind this decision by Xie and the writers given the economic and political conditions of the time, but it was a bit much too handle. When writing this, I have in mind especially the up and coming school teacher, Mr. Lu, who has been saving money for years in order to set up a nice wedding and marriage for his sweet heart who is still living in mainland China. What happens to him is so depressing it almost feels as if the film was being too manipulative.

By I have criticised the film enough. I did, in fact, enjoy it a fair bit. The filmís strength lies in the strength of its central character, Rong Rong. Her flashbacks show a time when she was deemed one of the prettiest girls in Guilin and became the beautiful wife of an army general. She was wealthy and happy, even though there was every now and then the fear that her husband may not return from battle. Today she has lost the beauty that provided her such high esteem, her husband (dead) and much of her wealth. I was pleasantly surprised that the story spends most of its time with her at this stage in her life. In another movie the story would have been about her youth when she was a beauty. In another still she would have possibly been relegated to a supporting role only. None of that here. Instead, this 40 something, less beautiful than before women takes center stage. And she becomes all the more beautiful for it. Sheís a business woman first and foremost and needs to keep her shop running with a profit. She grows weary of her regular customers not being able to pay, but she still lets them come and eat out of compassion. She keeps a loving and watchful eye over her niece, who plans to marry a soldier, just as she did back in her youth. Mrs. Rong warns her niece of the possible heart breaking fate that may await her husband. This is done in a loving manner, much in the way a mother would do it towards her daughter. The movie treats Mrs. Rong very fairly and makes her an interesting and complex character. Her flashbacks and reactions to them hint that she longs for her home town of Guilin and for the better days of her past. But she still finds the energy to see through every day. Itís her determination and will to succeed that keep the restaurant afloat, and herself out of depression. It is also obvious that she takes great pride in her business and often boasts that her rice noodles are the finest in Taipei. Carol Cheng gives a complete performance, thus making Mrs. Rong a fully realized character with ambitions, fears, and dreams. The end does not say whether or not she will one day find the happiness and security she seeks, but her story ends on a more hopeful note than those of her compatriots. Her story is far more fulfilling and engaging.

I love it when a movie can provide a strong central female character, so My Rice Noodle Shop was still, despite the shortcomings I discovered, a good movie. Carol Cheng carries the film with an inspiring performance which at times shows the right amount of energy, and at other times sublime subtlety. For the acting alone this is a worthwhile film.



April Story


A young adult girl, Uzuki Nireno (Takako Matsu), is leaving her small island home of Hokkaido to study in college in Tokyo. It seems she has rarely left her home is a bit uncomfortable at first in her new surroundings.

On the first day of classes, the students are invited to share names one by one and say a little bit about themselves. Some are energetic and outspoken, others less so. But Nireno is clearly the shiest of the bunch. Her reactions when spoken to consist mainly of Ďhuh? and Ďhmm?í I donít speak Japanese but I doubt those are enough to hold a conversation with the chick at my work. She makes few friends, with the exception of a pouty girl, Seako Sono (Rumi) who, I suppose, also hasnít made many friends of her own because she seems to only hang out with Nireno. When pressed to explain why she chose this particular school, Nireno stutters and fails to deliver a satisfactory answer. Oh, but she has her reasons, doesnít she? Choosing a university is one of the biggest decisions of a young adultís life, correct?

Well, it turns out her reason for attending the school in question is an unfulfilled crush on a boy who was a year higher than her back in high school. She had adoring goo-goo eyes for the boy and, when she discovered that he went to Tokyo for his future studies, well, the logical solution was to follow suit. To warm our hearts even more (as if they havenít warmed up enough already, ha! ha!), the boy she is working at a bookstore. So what does she do? She visits the said bookstore as frequently as she can naturally.

After that she has-Ö

Wait a minute.

I need to know that you fine filmspotters out there are seeing where Iím going with this. Youíve read my reviews before, you know how I typically dissect the films I watch. Has the punch line set itself in enough already? You want to come out and just say it? *Sigh* Very wellÖ

This movies sucks. First and foremost, the premise. Remember that comment I made about oneís choice of a university being a big decision? YeahÖso this girl makes that decision based on an unfulfilled high school crush that may, or may not, be realized now. And how am I so supposed to relate to this character exactly? Now, forgive me for being perhaps abrasive, but isnít what Nireno does in this movie normally considered stalking? I think so. Yeah, if a person who canít get over the fact that the one they desired but never had left for another town and decided to do everything possible to get to that person even though the target never knows about it, that sounds like stalking to me. Any counter arguments? Anyone? Man, there may have been (or not) a girl that I found cute and maybe even had crush on (or not) back in my last days of high school (Iím not giving Edgarís History 101 this semester. Tough). But I didnít base the decision of where I would study on her choice. In fact, I ended up going to a different school altogether. What the heck is up with this girl? I grew weary of her Ďhuhs? and Ďhmms?í every time someone approached her. She must have been thinking about this guy 24 hours a day, which doesnít see to healthy a past time to me. There are no interesting secondary characters either. In fact, the only one is Saeko, who seems content to wine about the food in the cafeteria and put on such a face youíd think she had a rash up her-.

The one thing the movie could have pulled off, but of course failed, was to provide the viewer with the satisfaction of what their relationship could like. She does make a hello to the boy in the bookstore eventually (oh, did I just give away a plot point? I donít give a sh**), but thatís all we ever see. The entire movie is about how she musters up the courage to hello to this boy. You want to know why I think the film limits itself to that one goal? Of course you want to know why. Because I think the boy, who obviously made an educated decision about his future when he made his choice of college, eventually dumped Nireno when he found out about her stalker mentality that was hidden behind all those Ďhuhs? and Ďhmms?í What kind of conversations would they strike up anyway if she always takes half an hour to come up with something constructive to say? This movie is 67 minutes in length and wasnít short enough.

The sky was the most interesting, three dimensional character in this movie.


Enough! For the love of Mike, let My Rice Noodle Shop go through! Granted, there were a few elements that did not quite work for me, but it had an intelligent story and such an attaching central character. Besides, Mrs. Rong makes the best rice noodles this side of Taipei, and thatís good enough for me.

Hmm, I think Iíll head down now to that Chinese restaurant down the street for some take out.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: facedad on November 20, 2008, 09:50:40 PM
You're gonna incur some wrath for this one.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on November 20, 2008, 10:22:11 PM
You're gonna incur some wrath for this one.

That's the least of my worries.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: facedad on November 20, 2008, 10:22:58 PM
You're gonna incur some wrath for this one.

That's the least of my worries.
What's the most?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 20, 2008, 10:58:18 PM
Yeah, I don't really like April Story either.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on November 21, 2008, 11:51:16 AM
Sigh, these things are subjective.  Of course if you can't find any way to empathize with the main character, you're not going to like the movie.

But I don't think that's the film's fault.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on November 21, 2008, 04:12:06 PM
Given that we see the main character for about 90% of the running time and that the plot revolves around her, I hope you understand why my dislike for her led to my dislike of the movie. I also make mention of how silly I felt the premise itself was. That has to do with writing more than with the individual character.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on November 21, 2008, 07:34:55 PM
Sigh, these things are subjective.  Of course if you can't find any way to empathize with the main character, you're not going to like the movie.

But I don't think that's the film's fault.

I agree, it's not the film's fault. It's films' fault. Annoyingly, they don't please all the people all the time. (T2  :'()

Tastes, and the rules of this bracket being what they are, I think we've got to keep in mind that rather than simply seeking the cumulative total of personal favourites (filmspotting's top 100 list), ultimately these brackets will determine the most widely compatible movies. Now of course compatibility is no measure of a film's goodness according to any individual's opinion, indeed I'm sure we all like what we like regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. But as a compass for others I think it will serve quite well. Heck even for ourselves it will be a bonding experience. Hopefully we'll all be able to rally around the winner... maybe not anyone's favourite, but a darn good film.  :) Imma go sing some kumbaya now  ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on November 22, 2008, 12:28:39 AM
Hopefully we'll all be able to rally around the winner... maybe not anyone's favourite, but a darn good film. 

I've already placed a substantial wager on Chungking.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on November 22, 2008, 12:42:32 AM
Hopefully we'll all be able to rally around the winner... maybe not anyone's favourite, but a darn good film. 

I've already placed a substantial wager on Chungking.

No way. It's GOT to be A Brighter Summer Day.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on November 22, 2008, 12:52:01 AM
I regret to inform you that I'm backing neither of those two. Sleeping Man, directed by KŰhei Oguri, was the eye opener for me in the tournament so far.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on November 23, 2008, 01:31:58 AM
Hopefully we'll all be able to rally around the winner... maybe not anyone's favourite, but a darn good film. 

I've already placed a substantial wager on Chungking.

No way. It's GOT to be A Brighter Summer Day.

Well that was based mostly on the fact that everyone I know that has seen Chungking loves it.  I've not yet seen A Brighter Summer Day but I certainly wouldn't be upset if Yang won.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on November 26, 2008, 05:39:16 AM
New verdict: Memories vs Whisper of the Heart

Memories, Katsuhiro Otomo/Koji Morimoto/Tensai Okamura, 1995, Japan

Memories consists of three separate films, Magnetic Rose, Stink Bomb and Cannon Fodder presented together. Each deals with a different situation, has a different look and was directed by a different director, and, in a way, this worked against it from the beginning.

Magnetic Rose, the first part, is easily the most impressive. In fact, if all three parts were this good, there would definitely be an upset here. It tells the story of a space freighter that goes to investigate a distress signal. When they arrive, they find an abandoned... something. They discover eventually that it hold the memory/essence/spirit of an opera diva who has created this structure to relieve the memories she has of her lover. The section cleverly deals with philosophical issues as only anime can. The nature of memory, the loss of love, respecting the past vs being consumed by it, as well as many other issues. It is very fine indeed, and I could have watched this story for a feature length.

The second story, Stink Bomb tells of a young man who works at a research facility. He goes in sick one day, after getting a shot at the doctor, and a colleague tells him to take a certain pill. This pill turns out not to be for fever at all, but rather turns him into a biological weapon, knocking out any one who gets within a certain distance with his smell. It’s a simple comedy, but overall rather ineffective.

Finally, Cannon Fodder is about a family who live in a town made of cannons. They fire each and every day at an elusive target. Children are trained to aim and load the cannons. This is the story with the potential for the most meaning and impact, and is perhaps the most important story, but loses something in the telling.

Whisper of the Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995, Japan

Whisper of the Heart is the story of a young girl who is, one might say, obsessed with reading. She notices one day that many of the books she reads have already been read by an unknown man. One day, when riding a train, she sees a cat, and when she follows the cat, she finds an antiques store that is full of strange articles, and a beautiful old clock. She later discovers the store is owned by the grandfather of the young man who has read all the same books.

This is a beautifully told story, and I enjoyed seeing an anime that was fairly grounded in reality, unlike a lot of anime which has a sci-fi/fantasy bent. The characters are well drawn, and the story progresses really well.

All that said, I walked away feeling a little like this was nothing special. While there were parts I loved (the recurring motif of “Take Me Home, Country Road” I really enjoyed, and loved that she was trying to decipher a suitable translation (the catalyst for my question about Subs v Dubs)), I thought, as a whole, the story was very... soap-operatic/melodramatic, and I don’t know that it worked.

Adam often mentions how animation makes what would otherwise be unbearable bearable in Grave of the Fireflies, and I believe it does something similar in this film. If this was live action, I cannot imagine any circumstance it which it would not be overly saccharine or melodramatic. I think subtitles may also help to lessen this affect.

The ending had aspects that I both liked and disliked. I won’t go into too many details here, but I will say that I found the final moments entirely childish and annoying, and whilst they may work for a 14-year-girl, the second the audience has an inch of cynicism, it falls apart.

---

I don’t know that I feel entirely happy with the above reviews, but they cover, for the most part, the way I feel about the films I saw as part of my matchup. I’m glad I saw both, but for me, the greatest response I had was to Magnetic Rose. However, as I’ve already suggested, the other two stories in Memories let Magnetic Rose down, and on its own, can’t progress past Whisper of the Heart, which works better as a whole film.

Whisper of the Heart moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on November 26, 2008, 09:29:21 AM
Phew, I'm not sure I'd have survived an upset on this one. I think I see why you had a problem with the ending and remember finding it a bit odd as well but in an amusing way. I wasn't really annoyed by it at all. I really love this movie and am saddened by the fact that you didn't find it special. The whole idea of not knowing what it is you are really good at and trying to figure it all out really resonated with me. I fell in love with these characters and was really rooting for Shizuku to figure out what she wants to do with her life. I loved all the little details like the fact that her apartment felt so real and lived in to me, the relationship that Shizuku and her sister share with their dad, the magic and beauty of the antique store and just everything. The ending scene when she sees Seiji from the window and the following scene is just so great (barring the one thing that I agree doesn't work in that scene). Love this movie and am glad to see it move on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 26, 2008, 09:38:17 AM
Second all of what worm said.

I love, love, love this movie.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on November 26, 2008, 09:58:47 AM
I love, love, love this movie.

Have you seen Memories, too?  If so, did you have a similar response to Magnetic Rose?

Nice verdict, FifthCityMuse.  Hope your video store comes through so i get to read more from you.  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 26, 2008, 10:02:17 AM
I love, love, love this movie.

Have you seen Memories, too?  If so, did you have a similar response to Magnetic Rose?

Nice verdict, FifthCityMuse.  Hope your video store comes through so i get to read more from you.  :)

I haven't seen Memories but I have it right here and I've wanted to watch it for a while now cuz of the Koji Morimoto connection.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on November 26, 2008, 11:28:02 AM
The Peony Pavilion (Kuo-fu Chen, 1995) vs. Secret Love for the Peach Blossom Spring (Stan Lai, 1992)

The Peony Pavilion

This film is, apparently, a modern take on a classical Chinese play about an official's young daughter who falls in love with a man she sees in her dreams. In this version, we instead have a modern day Chinese schoolgirl who keeps having the same dream where she sees an actor from a Chinese Opera that she can't seem to forget and perhaps falls in love with. The entire first half of the movie sets up the angst-ridden life of these two teenage girls. Unfortunately, nothing from this episode worked for me. I found the silly conversations between the girls mostly uninteresting and the gravity of the issues faced by the girl just didn't ring true for me. Consequently, the first half, which I think is supposed to be tragic and affecting left me mostly bored :(. In the second half, the movie turns into a more psychological ghost story of sorts. This features an entirely new protagonist in the form of a young pop singer who ends up living in the same apartment that the young girl used to live in. No points for guessing what goes down after that. Most of this stuff didn't really improve the movie for me either. I don't understand why anyone would leave an apartment untouched for a few years (at least I thought it was a few years later). Overall, the movie fell completely flat for me. I have to add a disclaimer here. One of the reasons I picked this matchup is because my library had a DVD copy of the movie which I believe is extremely hard to find. However, the subtitles on the dvd were appallingly bad. There were lots of subs missing including situations where two characters would be having a conversation and only one side of the conversation would have subs! This was really frustrating but sadly, I don't really think perfect subs would have helped improve this movie for me. On a related note, either the existing subs were really bad as well or the movie just has a lot of really random innuendo. For instance:

This is a conversation between two apparently virginal schoolgirls where they are discussing a boy form a neighboring school:

Girl 1: So how would you rate him?

Girl 2: 68

Girl 3: That low? But..... he has so much stamina!

 ???  ???  ???

In another scene, this woman is sitting in her bedroom looking really pensive when her boyfriend comes into the room and says "How can you be so out of it? What if a rapist comes in?"

HUH?
Anyway, pretty odd movie overall. On the good side, I quite liked the Chinese Opera scenes that she kept dreaming about!

Secret Love for the Peach Blossom Spring

When pixote and me were picking movies for my matchup, we picked this pair based on the fact that I had access to Peony Pavilion and peonies and peach blossoms sounded good together! I was really pleased to find that this matchup was appropriate for more reasons than that. Like Peony Pavilion, this film too features both a Chinese play and Chinese Opera. The premise of the movie is really promising. Two plays (a tragedy and a comedy) are rehearsing simultaneously on the same stage and after an initial period of conflict, the two plays find it increasingly hard to stay separate and end up drawing from one another. Frankly, I think I mostly like this movie in theory rather than execution. A large part of the movie is just scenes from these two plays both of which are really rather melodramatic. Consequently, it was rather hard for me to separate the over-the-top acting in the play from the actual performances in the movie. Secondly, I didn't find the situational comedy of the two troupes each trying to assert their rights over the stage very funny either. What I did like about this movie though is the way the two plays gradually blend into one another. This was done pretty creatively and I enjoyed seeing that blending of comedy and tragedy, traditional and modern. There are two strange women wearing sunglasses who appear intermittently in the movie and I am not sure I know what their role is supposed to be. It is entirely possible that I didn't get some major political metaphor in the movie though.

Overall, I can't say that either of these films won me over completely but Secret Love for the Peach Blossom Spring was definitely the more interesting viewing experience and that's why it moves on to the second round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on November 26, 2008, 10:33:45 PM
Peony Pavillion sounds hilarious.  I can't wait to see it.  :)

Sorry these films weren't great discoveries for you.  They sound interesting on paper, anyway (the paper here being your writeups).

"How can you be so out of it? What if a rapist comes in?"

I'm determined to use this line in real life at least three times before the end of the year.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on November 26, 2008, 11:20:05 PM
Well, it turns out her reason for attending the school in question is an unfulfilled crush on a boy who was a year higher than her back in high school. She had adoring goo-goo eyes for the boy and, when she discovered that he went to Tokyo for his future studies, well, the logical solution was to follow suit.

I just kinda noticed this. This kinda shit turns up all the time in tv dramas and animes over in Japan. I don't know if it's just cuz I'm familiar with those tropes that it no longer bothers me... but it was funny that you brought it up. Anyway, the movie isn't good... unlike Iwai's Chou-Chou but something like that is the least of its problems.

I'm pretty excited about both my films but I can't watch them until after school ends. Oh well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on November 27, 2008, 07:55:40 AM
That's what bothered me the most about the film because it's basically the entire set up. Now that you've pointed that such a plot point occurs frequently in Japanese movies and books, I'm beginning to wonder if my dismissive attitude towards the film was the result of the cultural divide (I'm born and raised in North America). If that is indeed the case, then I'll admit that I am perhaps beginning to feel a bit sorry for my treatment of the film in my write up. Still, where I come from that's good old fashioned stalking, not something I look upon very highly and certainly not a character trait that will get me rooting for the hero or heroine.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on December 02, 2008, 07:43:52 PM
I'd just like to remind pix of my verdict of "Whisper of the Heart" winning out over "Memories".

I'll also say that my review of "Whisper of the Heart", looking back, doesn't entirely convey how I really felt. I liked it more than I let on there. And large parts did work.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 02, 2008, 08:29:12 PM
(http://i38.tinypic.com/1zovvo4.jpg)

Village of Dreams (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112923/) (1996, Yoichi Higashi)

The story of troublesome nine-year-old twins, Seizo and Yukihiko, growing up in a country village in Japan.

The twins are first introduced as middle-aged men, collaborating on an illustrated story book of their childhood. Scenes from this time nicely bookend the film, but the rest is set 50 years in the past as a recollection of their childhood.

Growing up, they live with their mother and older sister, and attend school in the mornings. The story is, primarily, about ordinary life and the bond between the two brothers. The performances of the two boys are really worth watching for alone. I'm not sure how old they are, IMDB says 9, but that can't be right. I'd say 5 is closer. Anyways, they are completely natural on screen, and there are a few scenes that are so genuine I can't imagine how they could have been staged. They are a lot of fun to watch, and the supporting cast (including a few of the other children) are really good as well.

One aspect of the movie that didn't work for me is a supernatural element, primarily revolving around three spirits in the form of old, gossiping women. It seemed completely unnecessary, and I think I would have liked it more if it had stuck to being a strictly realistic portrayal. Or since the story is being told by the twins, they could have played the supernatural up more as a way to express the imagination of the kids at the time. There was a point where I thought that was the direction it was going, and I thought it might work really well, but as it is it's just kinda pointless.

But that's really a very small element of the film, and the rest was really enjoyable. 



Comrades, Almost a Love Story (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117905/) (1996, Peter Chan)

Jun arrives in Hong Kong from mainland China, hoping to be able to earn enough money to marry his girlfriend back home. He meets the streetwise Qiao and they become friends. As friendship turns into love, problems develop, and although they seem meant for each other they somehow keep missing out.

Almost? There's no almost about it, this is a love story. :)

It's appropriate that these two movies are facing each other, because both of their central themes deal with relationships (granted in two very different ways). The relationship between Jun and Qiao is the one that carries the film here, and it does it magnificently. They have amazing chemistry, and the story is just beautifully told. All of the characters feel genuine, and it treats them all very fairly, which a movie like this could have easily screwed up.

I don't want to go into detail on the story, which I would have to do to discuss it more, but I really loved this movie. When it wasn't getting a little dusty it had me grinning. Fantastic.



Verdict

I'm really glad I saw both movies, and I would recommend them both, but there's a clear winner here. Comrades, Almost a Love Story moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 02, 2008, 08:32:20 PM
HAHHAHAHAHHAH

you got no luck at all, pixote.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 02, 2008, 08:39:05 PM
Nice writeups Melvil. I apologize for saying this but based on your writeup I am so excited to watch Village of Dreams!!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 02, 2008, 08:47:21 PM
Nice writeups Melvil. I apologize for saying this but based on your writeup I am so excited to watch Village of Dreams!!

No, you should be. Maybe I needed to make it more clear, but I really liked it. I just had a much stronger emotional response to Comrades.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 02, 2008, 08:49:00 PM
I'm glad you liked both films.  That was the specific point of that matchup after all.

Too bad I hate you now.  :P

How about Strange Story of Oyuki vs. The Underground Banker for your next matchup?  Jerk.

(Just kidding about that suggestion.)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: °Keith! on December 02, 2008, 08:52:14 PM

(Just kidding about that suggestion.)

pixote

(http://img242.imageshack.us/img242/4424/ohoq9.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 02, 2008, 09:32:26 PM
That matchup sounds epic. I'm half tempted to take it (but not really). :D

Sorry to let you down, pix. But thanks for giving me two great movies! There's always the resurrections, right? :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on December 02, 2008, 09:37:31 PM

How about Strange Story of Oyuki vs. The Underground Banker for your next matchup?  Jerk.


I could get into that match-up...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 02, 2008, 09:41:05 PM
Sorry to let you down, pix.

It's all good.  Your graphic still owns.  (Plus, I got an in with the person in charge of resurrections.)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on December 04, 2008, 10:06:59 AM
Melvil has way too much free time making awesome graphics like that. I'm so depressed by my visual inferiority I don't even want to post my verdict now.  :-[
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 04, 2008, 10:09:43 AM
I can't wait until I'm through with my exams so I can go crazy with this bracket :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Thor on December 04, 2008, 10:30:51 AM
Melvil has way too much free time making awesome graphics like that. I'm so depressed by my visual inferiority I don't even want to post my verdict now.  :-[

Maybe if Melvil made us a cool "90's Asian bracket" graphic that we could all use there would be more verdicts.

This comment would hold more water if I had watched Picture Bride, wouldn't it?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 04, 2008, 10:34:43 AM
Yes.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on December 07, 2008, 10:50:03 PM
Fallen Angels (Wong Kar Wai, 1995, Hong Kong) vs. Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (Joan Chen, 1998, China)

Check out roujin's awesome screenshots that are pretty much the same ones I would've used (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=3241.msg139640#msg139640)
Fallen Angels
I won't get as in-depth with this one since many of you are probably already familiar with the film (it's certainly been talked up by certain people on this board...), but Fallen Angels is the story of a hitman in love with his partner (who he's never met) and his decision to leave the business.  Also there's a mute who goes around causing after-hours havoc.  Basically it's a companion piece to Chungking Express.  Here Scott Tobias writes about how awesome it is (http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/the_new_cult_canon_fallen).  It's a whole lot of fun and I found that I keep thinking about it, well after I've seen it.  There is this energy to everything (the performances, camerawork, etc.) about it that is just infectious.  While it's not quite up there with Chungking or In The Mood For Love, it certainly is a great film. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpfXGxrOMJc (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpfXGxrOMJc)


(http://i38.tinypic.com/2dutlw.jpg)(http://i33.tinypic.com/2emzitu.jpg)(http://i34.tinypic.com/34q67bt.jpg)
(http://i33.tinypic.com/23tksjb.jpg)(http://i33.tinypic.com/1y1n2p.jpg)(http://i36.tinypic.com/vpkh78.jpg)
Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
The opening titles inform: "Between 1967 and 1976, China implemented an educational movement known as "Educated Youth go up to the mountains and down to the countryside". The goal of the movement was to build a New China by eliminating the economic and social disaprities between the cities and the countryside. During these nine years, over seven and a half million young students left their homes and families in the cities.  Some were sent to the most deserted areas of the country.  These young boys and girls accepted the mission of transforming themselves by uniting with workers and peasants. The success of the movement was intended to symbolize the powerful ideals of Communism."  Xiu Xiu tells the story of one such girl, Wen Xiu, who is sent to the countryside.  She starts working in a factory but is then shipped out to the middle of nowhere to learn how to herd horses.  There she shares a tent with Lao Jin (his resemblance to Mifune is striking), a middle-aged man who is rumored to have lost his genitals during fighting in Tibet.  Xiu acts like a bratty teenager stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, but eventually she develops a bond with Lao Jin.  Soon six months have passed and Xiu is ready to return home, but circumstances prevent this from happening.  A succession of men from the city come and promise they can get her a ticket home.  It is implied that she is raped, and by the time the second, third, and fourth men come, she has given over her body completely in the hope that it will be her ticket home.  Lao Jin, played by Lopsang, is the bedrock of the film.  He has this quiet strength and it's obvious that what When Xiu is putting her body through is killing him but he doesn't really know what to do about it.  Several characters suggest that he's just jealous that he can't sleep with her (that lack of manhood problem) but his love really seemed more fatherly to me.  I won't spoil everything that happens in the last 20 min. or so of the film but I found it pretty heartbreaking.

Xiu Xiu is the directorial debut of actress Joan Chen and it's quite an assured debut.  The film is beautifully shot; plenty of rolling meadows and clouds and all that nature stuff.  My only real problem with the film was the subtitles.  There were plenty of distracting misspellings and a few omitted words that undercut the dramatic impact of the story on a few occasions.


Verdict:
Wong is my #2 favorite director so obviously the odds were stacked against Xiu Xiu.  Looking back, I wish I hadn't taken a Wong film (even though I'd never seen it) so early because I really did enjoy Xiu Xiu, but I'm definitely more drawn to Wong's kinetic style over Chen's tranquil work.  Fallen Angels feels like a film that will only get better with repeated viewings.  Fallen Angels moves on, but Xiu Xiu is worth resurrecting.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 07, 2008, 11:07:20 PM
Very nice write-up bizz! I completely understand how you feel about your verdict but Fallen Angels is just so great! Xiu Xiu sounds pretty amazing as well and I'm now really curious to check it out based on your verdict. Who knows, maybe pix will resurrect it and I'll get to watch it in another round.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 07, 2008, 11:12:45 PM
Great reviews, jb! I urgently need to see Fallen Angels after falling in love with Chungking. Xiu Xiu sounds great too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 07, 2008, 11:19:01 PM
You know I kind of want to see Xiu Xiu now. You made it sound interesting, maybe even more so than Fallen Angels.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: THATguy on December 08, 2008, 02:11:27 PM
DREAMS (YUME) vs. JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/c/c6/Kurosawasdreams.jpg/200px-Kurosawasdreams.jpg)

This movie, as described, is a collection of Dreams from various times in Akira Kurosawa's life, all with only the slightest connection via the themes about the ecological struggle between nature and man.

Some of the segments I'd hold up against anything Kurosawa's done, particularly The Tunnel and Crows (save the really weird Marty Scorsese cameo).  However, as you might expect with an episodic film, there are some segments that you could spend all day with, and others that feel like they run too long.  The Blizzard, in particular, feels like it's about an hour long on it's own.

The visuals are just breathtaking, and that's not a surprise with Kurosawa, but is impressive with his loss of sight. 

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/11/Affiche_Jin_Roh_La_brigade_des_loups_1998_1.jpg/200px-Affiche_Jin_Roh_La_brigade_des_loups_1998_1.jpg)

I don't know where to start with this.  I don't want to get too into the plot, because so much of the film's enjoyment to me came from not knowing where the story was going, but basically, in an parallel universe of Japan, where they'd lost the Second World War, not to the Americans, but the Germans, and the Germans proceeded to occupy the nation for over a decade.  Although they are self-governing, the government has created a police state, and there is a strong leftist movement against it.  The protagonist, Kazuki Fuse, is part of the law enforcement.  When chasing a group of rebels through the sewer with orders to eliminate, he encounters a "Little Red Riding Hood", an underaged girl used to supply bombs to the resistance.  When he hesitates shooting her, she kills herself with the bomb she's carrying.  Fuse ends up taking the fall for the incident, and is sent back into training.  Meanwhile, he also meets, and develops feelings for the girl's sister, who he meets at the girl's grave.  He's now bothered by strange dreams and seems to be losing his mind.

The story borrows heavily from Little Red Riding Hood.  While Fuse reads the story, the facts of the story seem to play out on screen.  Although it's not a new technique in film, it works very well here.

I really had no idea what to expect going into this.  I admit that I love Ghost in the Shell, but had heard next to nothing about this, and to be honest, I'm glad I hadn't.  The level of animation is about what you'd expect, from Production I.G., which is to say excellent.  The tone of the film is matched by the colors used, mostly grays and blues, with the occasional red, primarily for the "Little Red Riding Hoods" and for the blood in the action sequences.  The voice acting is excellent here, especially Yoshikatsu Fujiki as Fuse.  He shows a lot of range and inflection in his vocal work, and the movie would've been worse off with a different lead here.

Overall, it stradles the line between action and contemplation piece, much like the Ghost in the Shell types, but in my opinion, it might just pull it off better than both.

VERDICT:

I fully expected to put Dreams over here, and really came close, as I do find it to be very fascinating, but shockingly, I find myself more drawn to Jin-Roh.  While Dreams is very much like that, a dream that floats through, is quite enjoyable, and then goes away, Jin-Roh is like a kick to the gut that really came out of nowhere.  Dreams would be an excellent candidate for resurrection, but I'm moving Jin-Roh on here.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 08, 2008, 05:13:57 PM
I haven't seen Dreams yet, but any Kurosawa being beaten is a surprise! It sounds like you made the right choice from your experience though. Jin-Roh sounds pretty interesting, I'm looking forward to checking out both movies. Nice writeup!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 08, 2008, 05:17:45 PM
Jin-Roh is really, really GOOD. I'm still curious about Dreams cuz it's Kurosawa but I support this!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 08, 2008, 05:20:59 PM
Jin-Roh is really, really.

Really?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 08, 2008, 05:22:13 PM
It's really, really BANANA.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 08, 2008, 05:25:13 PM
I figured that's what you meant.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 08, 2008, 07:01:15 PM
Jin-Roh sounds awesome.  Glad you enjoyed most of Dreams, too, THATguy.  Really nice writeup of both films, especially the winner, which I'm now totally anxious to see.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 08, 2008, 10:51:10 PM
Round One Resurrection Forecast, Films 1 - 5

(http://i34.tinypic.com/2u61oy8.png)
A Confucian Confusion (Edward Yang, 1994)
Lost to Mahjong (verdict by worm@work) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg163570#msg163570)
As a big fan of Yi Yi, I've long been anxious to check out Yang's earlier work (especially That Day on the Beach, which I have yet to track down), but A Confucian Confusion proved very disappointing for me.  My ungenerous reading of the film is that it's pretty much about how the rapid modernization of Taipei turned everyone there into an asshole.  As a result, the bulk of the film consists of these very unlikeable characters saying pretty nasty things to each other, with the occasional slap across the face thrown in for good measure.  I never quite figured out the complete web of connections between all the characters (confusion!), but I think that's mostly because I didn't quite care enough about them.  I really wish I shared worm@work's enthusiasm for this film (or roujin's (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=1028.msg162461#msg162461)), but, on this first viewing at least, I was nowhere close.  I'd like to give the film another look before the end of the round one ó the one shot of cars passing below an overpass gives me hope for the movie ó but as of right now (October 10), I can't quite see myself resurrecting A Confucian Confusion, except out of deference to worm and roujin.

(http://i33.tinypic.com/2a0icn4.jpg)
Bullet in the Head (John Woo, 1990)
Lost to Country Teachers (verdict by smirnoff) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg163578#msg163578)
What an insane film.  I think, just based on the title, I was expecting a gritty little film about hitmen or something.  Instead I got this totally epic melodrama with a war backdrop, a billion extras, and a ridiculous amount of care detail in these large-scale action set-pieces ó just like these random explosions that were probably a total pain in the ass to add to a shot but are all the cooler for being totally unnecessary.  That said, the film itself is a little bit of a mess.  Watching it is like flipping channels and catching cool individual scenes from different films that don't gel together all that well.  Although I enjoyed how easily the film could be totally brutal in one scene then beautiful in the next, this choppiness made for some rough storytelling.  The melodrama itself seemed pretty flimsy to me.  I never bought into Paul's descent into gold fever or whatever.  His character consistently brought the movie down.  Frank's character wasn't all that much better.  Really, I just wish it could have been Tony Leung and Simon Yam being ultra-cool together for two hours.  Still, I liked the film a lot more than smirnoff, right up until the finale, which was just godawful, totally spoiling the film's chances of getting resurrected.

(http://i35.tinypic.com/14sflah.jpg)
Rainy Dog (Takashi Miike, 1997)
Lost to Chungking Express (verdict by lotr-sam0711) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg163670#msg163670)
It seems like everyone loves this film ó everyone, that is, except for me and lotr-sam.  I really have few disagreements with his verdict.  This is a very thin film.  There's occasionally some nice atmosphere, but the trope-riddled narrative makes it all sort of a chore to sit through.  Making things worse, the dark textures of the cinematography are largely wasted on DVD; I feel bad not giving this movie a chance in 35mm, even though at this point I'd probably turn down that opportunity.  But, I mean, sam's right, that Disney moment at the end is really painful and not at all redeemed by the final turns of the story.  The characters here are almost stubbornly two-dimensional, lacking not just depth but even personality.  It's all surface.  For a while, I tried to read the whole thing as a comedy, just as a way to excuse some of the filmsier aspects of the narrative, but that approach failed when I realized I had only laughed once.  Anyway, yeah, I'm really glad this wasn't the film to take down Chungking Express.  That would have been awkward for all involved.

(http://i37.tinypic.com/rvgkdz.png)
Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999)
Lost to Ashes of Time (verdict by edgarchaput) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg164009#msg164009)
edgar was fairly nice to this movie.  I will be a little less nice.  The first half of the film is borderline horrible.  The script feels like something Kitano just jotted down on a napkin one Friday night then called up some people to film that same weekend.  The story has very little rhythm.  Kitano divides the film into titled chapters, as if to create the illusion of structure, but the whole thing still feels like semi-improvised scenes strung together with whatever weak narrative connections first popped into someone's head.  However, by the second half, I did warm to the film a little.  It never gets great, but it at least gets almost pleasant.  For one thing, it feels like the actors had a ton of fun working together ó I bet the young actor who played Masao was constantly cracking up between takes ó and some of that carried over to me.  Not enough, though.  Still, Takeshi's character is an intriguing comic creation; I could see myself really loving him in a different film.  The humor here, though, as edgar said, is mostly too cutesy, just as the emotional beats are mostly overly sentimental, precious, and predictable.  Joe Hisaishi's score is no help in this regard; it's probably a pretty good listen in a separate context, but in the film it just adds to the saccharine tone.  I respect Kitano's willingness to experiement ó to throw in, arbitrarily, a point-of-view shot from an insect or a dream sequence of demons dancing ó but even those ideas feel like unrefined first draft elements.  Oh, did I mention there's a comic scene of child molestation, where the Scary Man tugs and tugs and the kid's underpants but can't quite get them off?  Yeah.  Not that funny, actually.

(http://i38.tinypic.com/ankevk.png) (http://i33.tinypic.com/16ihz7q.png)
Postmen in the Mountains (Huo Jianqi, 1999)
Lost to Lost and Found (verdict by smirnoff) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg165651#msg165651)
I started off watching a DVD version from the library, published by something called the Centre of International Cultural Exchange.  I'm not sure the first still above captures just how muddy the DVD transfer was, but it totally killed the movie.  But about half an hour in, I switched to watching a different version (see the second still above), and the whole experience improved considerably.  In fact, I probably enjoyed this movie more than I should have just because the DVD so lowered my expectations.  The story is, as every reviewer says, very simple and sweet ó sometimes too by-the-numbers and borderline schmaltzy (the score is no help there) ó but also really effective.  It's no surprise that it won a few audience awards at film festivals.  I just recently watched The Straight Story for the US Bracket, and Postmen in the Mountains covers a lot of the same thematic ground with a lot more success.  The main draw, though, is the remote landscape of Hunan province and the film's great feel for that locale.  I mean, I really really want to go on a hike right now.  Teng Rujun is perfect as the father; I'm now curious to watch Red Sorghum again soon and compare his performance in that.  Liu Ye, playing the son, is just okay, but usually good enough.  Overall, it's a very solid film ó one that definitely belonged in the bracket and possibly even deserves a chance in the second round.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 08, 2008, 11:56:26 PM
Great writeups as usual, pix and thanks for doing this! Am bummed about A Confucian Confusion but I think I could always see its flaws as well. Somehow, I did not find the Criticism of Modern Society in Taipei aspect of the movie as lacking in nuance as you seem to have. I think that the film succeeds for me, more in terms of what I felt to be a very carefully constructed structure (something I noticed with all the Yang films I watched at HFA) than in terms of its core content. I have to admit that watching it on a big screen probably contributed to making it easier for me to keep track of the various characters and plot threads and I suspect that the subtitles on your version could also have been less-than-perfect :(. I also loved all the various things I felt the movie was about - modernity versus tradition, art vs industry / business, what we really want vs what we think we want.

I still have Kikujiro here from the library but am increasingly convinced that I'm probably going to return it unwatched :(.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 09, 2008, 12:03:08 AM
I also think it's awful, if that helps.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 09, 2008, 12:05:13 AM
I also think it's awful, if that helps.

I think you should clarify that you mean Kikujiro and not A Confucian Confusion! Or have you gone and changed that evil mind of yours?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 09, 2008, 12:10:42 AM
Kikujiro is awful.

Its score is very good though. Outside of the film. Not in it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 09, 2008, 03:18:19 AM
Wow, pixote really likes this bracket.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on December 09, 2008, 09:02:59 AM
I'm glad you're putting in the time to watch those movies pix. It means so much more to hear the perspective of another member rather than some anonymous imdb reviewer.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 09, 2008, 12:37:33 PM
pixote = awesome. Your resurrection forecast reviews are great!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 09, 2008, 12:43:33 PM
Wow, pixote really likes this bracket.

pixote understands, duder. pixote understands.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 10, 2008, 06:17:56 PM
I'll probably post a Red Dust/King of Masks verdict sometime by Friday, although it could even be tomorrow.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 11, 2008, 10:00:45 PM
(http://i34.tinypic.com/5flmqo.jpg)

Cure (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0123948/) (1997, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Detective Takebe is head of an investigation into a series of strange murders taking place around Tokyo. The murders all appear unrelated, but share several undeniable characteristics. Furthermore, in each case the murderer admits their guilt, but is unable to explain their actions. The investigation is at a dead end until an amnesiac (and possibly psychotic) young man named Mamiya is discovered as the only common link.

Throughout the first half of the movie the story is divided into two threads, one following Takebe and his investigation, the other following Mamiya and the wake of death he seems to leave behind. The narrative works really well here with each sequence of Mamiya revealing a little more of the puzzle, just before Takebe pieces together the same information which in turn pushes the investigation forward.

Kurosawa does a good job of giving you just the right amount of information and then playing with your expectations to build suspense. Playing for surprises would be the more obvious choice, but there are some very effective scenes where all of the clues lead you to knowing exactly what's going to happen. The sound design is also really interesting. There is practically no music, instead Kurosawa uses the ambient sounds of the locations to set the mood. It also has the effect of making things seem slightly disjointed since scenes don't flow into one another. I'm not sure how intentional that was, but considering the themes of the movie it works.

It's a pretty dark story. There is some disturbing imagery and violence, but most of it is psychological. The character of Mamiya is very unsettling and is the driving force for an examination of certain aspects of human nature. Half way through the movie the two threads of the story converge, and that's when the movie really delves into the psychological themes. I wasn't entirely won over by the change of direction, largely due to the complete loss of narrative momentum. The idea it presents at the end also works much better on a symbolic level than a literal one, so the story suffered as a result. Still, it was interesting enough and executed well.

So while Cure didn't pull off everything perfectly, it's a solid film with some interesting ideas.




The D-Slope Murder Case (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0220379/) (1998, Akio Jissoji)

Fukiya, a transsexual and master art forger, is commissioned to forge duplicates of rare drawings depicting bondage-torture of a woman. Hilarity ensues.

Ok, that last part was a joke, but the movie is as strange as that (weak) synopsis implies. There is a lot more to it, but some of the story points are loosely defined or too complex to neatly sum up. The movie is classified as an "erotic mystery" but I'm not sure either of those terms describe it accurately. Sexuality is a major theme, and there are multiple "R rated" scenes of S&M, but I found nothing erotic about it. There is a side-plot that is only loosely connected to the main story used almost solely to introduce more of those scenes. I couldn't find any reason for it, so I'm assuming it was completely gratuitous, which bothered me a bit. Handled better is the sexuality of the main character, Fukiya, which is much more complex and drives the story.

The "Murder Case" doesn't begin until pretty far into the movie, but it's not really a mystery because we've seen what happened and the events leading up to it. At first the detective, Akechi (apparently the literary equivalent of Sherlock Holmes in Japan) is working towards finding answers we already know, which made me lose interest for a little while. But after that there are some really good scenes, and he manages to become an interesting character and shed some new light on the story.

Putting aside the few problems I had with it, it's hard to ignore how beautiful this movie is. It's a very visual film, and the use of light and shadow is really striking. The composition is often clever and unique, with much of the movie shot with the camera tilted at odd angles. Sound effects are used to emphasize actions on screen, and the music adds the final touch. All of it together creates a distinctive, somewhat odd, and sometimes surreal feeling.

It's also interesting to watch Fukiya's artistic talent used on screen. We are shown several scenes of him drawing, including much of the process of duplicating the commissioned artwork (all by hand), which is really fascinating. There are other aspects like these that I really enjoyed, so it's a bit unfortunate that all of the attention is drawn to the more...questionable content. I would still recommend it, but cautiously.




Verdict

It was a good matchup, both films have their strengths and weaknesses, but I was more consistently interested in what Kurosawa was doing, so I'm choosing Cure to move on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 12, 2008, 01:29:28 PM
It was a good matchup, both films have their strengths and weaknesses, but I was more consistently interested in what Kurosawa was doing, so I'm choosing Cure to move on.

Cool.  I've seen the Cure but don't remember it much at all.  Except, notably, the sound design and how unsettling it was, especially in contrast to what you get in a typical Hollywood film in the genre.  The absence of the usual spooky music starts to feel oppressive after a while, like some anti-Pavlovian thing or something.

Anyway, another very nice verdict.  :)  Very curious to give The D-Slope Murder Case a look.  In fact, I guess I'm sort of glad it lost, so I have that reason.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 14, 2008, 08:39:13 PM
Red Dust (1990,  Ho Yim) versus The King of Masks (1996, Tian-Ming Wu)


(http://community.travelchinaguide.com/photo/7092/70920043821497.jpg)

Set in China during the events of World War II, director Ho Yim Wu tells the story of author Shen Shao-Hua (Brigitte Lin) who as a girl was locked up the attic of her home under the order of her father. Now a grownup, Shao-Hua has fallen in love with a handsome Chinese man, Chang Neng-Tsai (played by Han Chin), employed by the Japanese ruling authorities as some kind of informant, a spy if you will (Japan had at this point invaded mainland China). Understandably, this relationship is frowned upon by onlookers, most notably her good friend Yueh-Feng (Maggie Cheung). Think of the story as Romeo and Juliet, but with national pride at stake as opposed to family honour.

I may have just committed a grave mistake by comparing this story to Romeo and Juliet, because Red Dust will most likely never go down as a classic example of story telling. In fact, it was the structure of the storytelling procedure that had me shaking my head about half way into the film. I appreciated the setting of the Japanese occupation because it enabled for a worthy dynamic between the two leads. Shao-Hua is very much in love with Neng-Tsai but is also well aware of the difficulties involved with their relationship given her manís allegiance to the occupiers. However, with a good 40-45 minutes left in the movie, the setting changes to the revolution (between Kuomintang and Communists). Neng-Tsai having worked for the Japanese only a few years ago doesnít seem to be a major factor in this section of the film, which is odd. Wouldnít traitors like him be searched for and put on trial? Their relationship doesnít carry as much weight in this chapter either. There is nothing wrong with telling a story in this setting (My Rice Noodle Shop did so with moderate success), but the dynamic that existed before is lost. There is also the issue of Neng-Tsai leaving on duty for several parts of the film, and in his absence the male lead becomes Shao-Huaís neighbour, a shy, somewhat clumsy looking man who has always had adoring eyes for her. His presence was a cause for concern for two reasons. The first being that he isnít terribly funny, even though the movie is hoping he will be, and the second being that he doesnít carry nearly the acting chops or presence that Han Chin does. These were poor directorial choices, among others, made by Ho Yim I felt.

I seem to recall Filmspotting host Adam, when commenting on the score for Milk, mentioning something in the nature of Ďthe music in film should be felt but not heard.í Well, unfortunately, I Ďheardí the musical score in Red Dust. I heard it loud and clear. The music is dictating how the viewer should feel in almost every scene. In fact, I would go so far as to say that overall subtlety is not the filmís strong point. The climax, which sees Shao-Hua and Neng-Tsai attempting to board a steam ship to flee China, is one of many scenes that are, for my tastes, over the top and far too flamboyant with emotion. The movie wears its emotions on its sleeve. Think Pearl Harbour minus the special effects and Ben Affleck.

That isnít to say Red Dust has no redeeming qualities. The two leads are more than capable of holding their own (although I would say they get together a bit quick). Both are good looking, articulate and interesting characters in their own right. Maggie Cheung has a good supporting role, although she isnít in the movie for long. Being a historical buff, I did like the context in which the story takes place. Maggie Cheungís character warns Shao-Hua that she mustnít stay with her lover for he has betrayed the nation, which is absolutely true after all.

As a package, Red Dust went for in your face emotion as opposed to something more mature, which is not a style I tend to find appealing.

(http://cssa.mit.edu/chineseculture/images/movie/mask.JPG)

In Tian-Ming Wuís The King of Masks, an elderly street performer named Bianlian Wang (Xu Zhu) who puts on brief but impressive street shows during which he dances around and changes paper masks faster than you can chomp down that spring roll youíre looking at. But his talent is fast becoming a forgotten art. No one else can perform that trick as well as he can and to make matters worse, he has no heir since his son passed away close to 30 years ago. His commitment to his work is so strong he politely refuses an invitation to join a theatre group lead by a famous actor, played by Liang Sao Lang (who plays a woman in the show). What he wants is a young lad to teach and pass his skills on to. Donít ask why (patriarchal society I suppose) but it has to be a boy.

As luck would have it, one night poor a man sells the King his son (Renyin Zhou) for 5 dollars (yeesh, asking for a lot there arenít you?). Happy beyond belief, the King takes the youth back to his barge along the water where he lives. Relief turns to shock one day when Doggie (the affectionate name given to the youth) reveals the he is really a she. Zoink! No teacup spout! At first this disappoints the King, but eventually he warms up to the precious child who needs a home. But will he dare one day teach her his art? Will he remove his mask of prejudice and show a more humane and just face? Ooh, Iím on fire tonight!

Despite that the premise of the movie may sound far too Ďcutesyí for someone like me to appreciate, I will admit that the relationship between the elderly man and the child did, to a certain extent, win me over. I suspect that had a lot to do with the culture that surrounds the characters. There is prejudice to the point that men are playing the roles of women in theatre. I also found the mask show put on by the King was fascinating. He really looks good earning his living, however meagre it may be. The entire setting had me hooked enough to enjoy the film. The culture they lived in made their personal relationship worthwhile for me. In addition, both Zhu, as the King of Masks, and Zhou, as the young girl, are pretty decent actors, with perhaps a higher nod going to the former. Certain scenes are melodramatic and try to force feed some obvious emotions, but others are played quite straight, which was nice. Overall, it felt real enough. It was just nice to witness them bonding in this setting which at times is beautiful but also lonely and unforgiving. Bonus points for the monkey who accepts the tips.

The plot in the second half of the film rests on slightly less sturdy ground. At one point it is learned that a young boy has been kidnapped. This sets off a series of events in the film that propel our two main characters to the storyís conclusion. This might read a bit strange and Iím not sure if Iím explaining myself clearly enough, but the final 40 or so minutes of the film felt like a compilation of scenes which, individually, were purely meant to get to the next scene. The tone of the film was more comprehensive and satisfying when Doggie and the King were getting to know each other. It was interesting to see the relationship blossom, whereas in the final third of the movie the viewer is basically a witness to various forgettable incidents that didnít necessarily make the characters more interesting. The one exception would have to be when, once the King has been jailed (no more spoilers than that) Doggie seeks help from the famous theatre actor. There is a certain understanding, or connection, between the two. He makes a living by playing a women and Doggie was searching for a home by pretending to be a boy. Itís loose, but it was kind of neat. The climax is a bit of a dud though. There is an idea that comes full circle in the climax, but overall it was flat. Not too mention that the final few scenes feature cringe inducing emotional dialogue.

Regardless of whatever short comings plague The King of Masks (and it does have its share of faults), there was just, and I mean just enough for me to like it.


The King of Masks dances circles with a joker face around an unfocused and confused Red Dust. By the time the dance is done, The King is wearing a happy bird face and challenges Red Dust to entertain the audience. Red Dust canít. Little monkey collects the tips and audience goes home moderately satisfied, knowing full well that despite the victory, The King of Masks will most likely have a short career in the Far East brackets.


The King of Masks

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on December 14, 2008, 10:11:37 PM
I never know how you guys find so much so say about a film, but it makes for a good read.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 15, 2008, 12:55:37 AM
Nice job handling what sounds like a pretty awful matchup. edgar.  I caught The King of Masks on DVD a few year's ago after reading some rave reviews, and I just absolutely hated it.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for the cutesy elements you described, but by the time it was finished I was literally mad about how disappointing the film seemed, cursing Ebert and Maltin and whomever else mislead me.

All that being said, I'm kind of glad The King of Masks won this first-round matchup because, well, I'm in no rush to revisit it, obviously, but I probably wouldn't feel right not giving it a fair chance for resurrection.  Red Dust doesn't sound like a great time, either, but at least it'll be something new.

Anyway, like I said, props to you for putting together a good, engaging verdict for two films that might not have merited the effort.  A nice read, for sure.  You deserve two excellent films for your next matchup.  I hope you find them.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 15, 2008, 12:57:02 AM
I'm kind of glad The King of Masks won this first-round matchup because, well, I'm in no rush to revisit it,

lol
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 15, 2008, 11:41:57 AM
Quote
The King of Masks dances circles with a joker face around an unfocused and confused Red Dust. By the time the dance is done, The King is wearing a happy bird face and challenges Red Dust to entertain the audience. Red Dust canít. Little monkey collects the tips and audience goes home moderately satisfied, knowing full well that despite the victory, The King of Masks will most likely have a short career in the Far East brackets.

Nice.

Good reviews, even if the movies weren't so great. Hopefully you'll have better luck with your next matchup.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on December 18, 2008, 10:46:58 AM
I'm Baaack! ;D

I'm gonna keep this short, sweet and simple.

Good Men, Good Women

(http://i42.tinypic.com/xp4evb.jpg)

Hou Hsiao-hsien, from what I've seen so far, is probably one of the greatest living visual directors. He knows how to manipulate each scene in such a way that it is visually engaging and distinct. However, as a storyteller, at least in this film, I think he need some work. The main problem is that the film never fully bridges the two parallel storylines, one in modern times, another during a war in Japan (which one I could never figure out). There's a difference from being ambiguous and unclear and I think this film falls into the second category. I also never really cared much for the story set in modern times mainly because the film never really gave me a reason to care about the characters. But this film looks absolutely amazing and fans of Hou Hsiao-hsien will probably love it on that level alone. I just wanted more of a story.

V.S.

Lifetimes (or To Live)
(We really need to change the title in the bracket for this film to Lifetimes. It's a title that makes much more sense than To Live after seeing the movie.)

(http://i42.tinypic.com/9uw7wm.jpg)

Lifetimes is akin to the storyline of societal turmoil in Good Men, Good Women in that it follows an Chinese family through the period in which China shifted from Feudalism into Communism. I don't really want to get into specifics of the plots because as the title suggests this is more of a big picuter film, following the overall lifetimes of a married couple. From their early years as a couple to their last days Lifetimes captures something rarely seen on film: the joys of living. This film is vibrant, joyous and alive, capturing the sheer ecstasy of being alive and being part of a family, no matter how tough the hardships ahead. And the hardships are harsh. Lifetimes pulls no punches. What this family goes through is brutal and more than once it got a little dusty in the room. Yet even in the face of hardships the family finds time to reach out to those around them, sometimes to their detriment. And there's one scene in this film that will forever be etched into my mind as a scene so unexpectedly bittersweet that I wasn't sure whether to laugh with joy or cry in pain. Lifetimes captures both emotions as well as capturing life, a feat not to be taken lightly.

Verdict:

Before entering these brackets I didn't have a film I was pulling for, but now I do. Lifetimes is a film I'm really excited to revisit and really have a desire to share with my friend and family. If you haven't seen it put it up on your queue high. It's an amazing film that I can honestly say is one of the rare films I think everyone should watch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 18, 2008, 10:50:21 AM
Good to see you back, sammy. Stick around!

I have no opinion on this matchup but Hou is great so we'll see.

Anyway, where is your Do the Right Thing review?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 18, 2008, 10:51:37 AM
Lifetimes (or To Live)
(We really need to change the title in the bracket for this film to Lifetimes. It's a title that makes much more sense than To Live after seeing the movie.)

I tried to use the DVD titles so that there wouldn't be too much confusion tracking down the films.  Where'd you see the title "Lifelines", by the way?  That's new to me.  I've only seen this movie referred to as To Live before.

Anyway, so glad you found a movie to champion.  That's awesome.  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on December 18, 2008, 10:55:13 AM
Nice one Sam.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 18, 2008, 11:01:24 AM
Very nice writeups sammy and welcome back :). I haven't heard it referred to as Lifetimes either but regardless of title, the movie sounds fantastic. pix, I call dibs on this one for the second round (May I?) since I'll either love it like sammy does or I'll get a chance to bug Sam .. eitherways, I can't lose :p.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on December 18, 2008, 11:30:25 AM

Anyway, where is your Do the Right Thing review?

YOU OWE ME.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on December 18, 2008, 03:38:45 PM

Anyway, where is your Do the Right Thing review?

YOU OWE ME.
Sorry. Just know it is coming. Probably tomorrow morning.

Lifetimes (or To Live)
(We really need to change the title in the bracket for this film to Lifetimes. It's a title that makes much more sense than To Live after seeing the movie.)

I tried to use the DVD titles so that there wouldn't be too much confusion tracking down the films.  Where'd you see the title "Lifelines", by the way?  That's new to me.  I've only seen this movie referred to as To Live before.
Both IMDB and Cricketer have it listed that way. I'm just saying after seeing the movie Lifetimes makes more sense. 
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 18, 2008, 04:41:56 PM
That was an enjoyable verdict sam. Despite your reservations about Good Men, Good Women, I think I may still watch that movie sometime in the future.

It's nice to have you back, you racist bigot.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 18, 2008, 06:36:30 PM
Heya, sam, nice having you back. I'm really interested in checking out To Live / Lifetimes now, sounds great.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on December 18, 2008, 07:02:49 PM
The Soong Sisters vs. Bounce KO Gals

Interesting pairing.  The Soong Sisters is an oh-so-careful telling of the heady days of Chinese revolution between the 1900s-1930s and the role played by three sisters in a wealthy and powerful family.  The family were Methodists and the daughters all went to school in the United States, returning as cultured ladies at home in China and in the West.   One of the sisters married the wealthiest banker in China, who helped finance the various revolutionary movements; one married Sun Yat Sen and the other married Chiang Kai Shek.   The movie focuses on the ways that the alliances and fallings-out in the political movements (particularly between Sun Yat Sen's and Chiang Kai-Shek's political priorities) affected relationships within the family.

If you don't have a rudimentary knowledge of the history of that period in China, it will be very hard to know what's going on.  I had studied it a long time ago in college but still had to stop the movie and go read the Wikipedia article to refresh my memory.  It helped. 

The movie is one of those glossy, beautifully shot historical epics where the costumes and settings are fabulous, but the story itself becomes a bit stiff and stilted.  Gorgeous to look at but a little dull and the characters turn into mannequins.  I imagine that it was partly a function of the genre (I can think of a lot of historical costume dramas that have similar problems) and partly a function of how oh-so-carefully the story had to be structured and slanted to be approved by the current-day Chinese government.  I think a documentary about how the requirements of the Chinese government affected the making of the movie would be 10 times as interesting as this turned out to be.

From the story of women with important political power and abilities in the early 20th century, we move to an utterly different movie about a whole 'nother kind of "girl power."  Bounce KO Gals is a "ripped from the headlines" topical movie made in the mid 1990s in Japan, about the practice of "enjo-kosai" wherein older men pay high school girls in cash and/or expensive gifts to spend time with them.  Sometimes there is actual sex, sometimes just companionship (and karaoke!), and sometimes things are somewhere in the middle.   The story follows several of these girls, two of whom are old hands at the exchange (although they have different standards for what they will and won't do) and one who tries it "just the once" to get some extra cash before she leaves to go live and study in New York.  Instead she is taken advantage of and loses the nest egg she had carefully saved to take with her.  The rest of the plot follows her and the other girls through a night in which they try in various ways to get her money back or earn some to replace it. 

The most boring part of the movie is the actual relationship between the girls which is filled with scenes of giggling and otherwise bonding together.  While the plot is pulled this way and that to work in illustrations of various activities the girls engage in (here they are filming an erotic video!  here's one selling her panties!) and the dangers they face (here they nearly get raped!  here they are threatened by yakuza!) it is an enlightening look into the way that the total sexualization/fetishization of young girls intersects with the unaffordable material desires of actual flesh-and-blood young girls.  They are constantly ogled, groped and propositioned whether they participate in enjo-kosai or not--why shouldn't they get some compensation for it?  Like many other movies that try to show all the shocking things going on out there in the world, Bounce KO Gals has its cake and eats it--the plot clearly demonstrates disapproval of this practice and is supposed to show the dangers to the girls and the skeeviness of the men participating in it--but at the same time those men can rent this movie and see those poor exploited girls giggling, flashing their panties and oh-so-slowly pulling up those sexy loose socks over and over and over again...

In the end I wasn't blown away by either movie and wouldn't really recommend either of them, but Bounce KO Gals at least had some life to it.  The Soong Sisters was much prettier but ultimately flat and bloodless....send Bounce KO Gals through to the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 18, 2008, 11:01:13 PM
Another film about the enjokosai scene is Love and Pop. It's also in this bracket. And it's directed by the most CINECAST!ed up person in the world, Evangelion director, Hideki Anno. Needless to say, I want to see it.

Anyway, it sounds like you picked the most interesting one here :)

Great verdict.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 18, 2008, 11:05:46 PM
Interesting. I'm telling you, once I'm done playing catchup for the filmspots I'll be make sure to catch a lot of these movies people have taken the time write about. January will be Asian cinema month for me.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: skjerva on December 19, 2008, 02:55:17 PM
Interesting. I'm telling you, once I'm done playing catchup for the filmspots I'll be make sure to catch a lot of these movies people have taken the time write about. January will be Asian cinema month for me.

I think Jan should still be filmspot catch-up, right?  when are the ballots due?  when is the filmspot ceremony? (uh, i'l go check...

winners announced Feb 15th, but i didn't see when ballots were due, i'm guessing all of Jan and some of Feb will still be catch-up for me, and other responsible filmspotters ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Basil on December 19, 2008, 04:07:57 PM
The FAQ (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4089.0) will tell you that nominating ballots are due January 18th. Due date for the final ballots isn't determined yet, but probably a few days before the ceremony (Feb. 15th).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: skjerva on December 19, 2008, 04:11:04 PM
The FAQ (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4089.0) will tell you that nominating ballots are due January 18th. Due date for the final ballots isn't determined yet, but probably a few days before the ceremony (Feb. 15th).

thanks, boss.  i reckoned the final ballot date would be closer to the ceremony, thus being the more important date here, since we'll all want to be cramming those last few films in at that point :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on December 21, 2008, 01:03:51 AM
Wow, Zhang vs. Hou in a first round matchup.  That's a real shame.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 21, 2008, 02:31:28 AM
In the end I wasn't blown away by either movie and wouldn't really recommend either of them, but Bounce KO Gals at least had some life to it.  The Soong Sisters was much prettier but ultimately flat and bloodless....send Bounce KO Gals through to the next round.

Aww, sounds like I got more enjoyment out of reading your verdict than you did out of seeing the films.  Remind me next time to pick you out something can't-miss super cool!  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 21, 2008, 05:52:50 AM
Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991)
vs.
Tokyo Biyori (Naoto Takenaka, 1997)

So pix assigned me the task of choosing between two movies about one of my favorite themes in the world - the power of memory and nostalgia.

Tokyo Biyori

(http://i44.tinypic.com/t7idzp.jpg)

Tokyo Biyori is a film adaptation of Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki's own account of his marriage to his wife Yoko. The marriage itself seems to have been really passionate and loving but made more challenging because Yoko seems to be suffering from some kind of nervous disorder that causes her to behave rather unpredictably and do some really strange things. The movie plays like a retelling of key episodes from their marriage beginning with what seems to be the episode that triggered off Yoko's subsequent instability.

So the first half of the movie is pretty much a series of episodes that illustrate Yoko's problems. Essentially, everything we see is from the point of view of a bereaved husband recalling some of the most difficult times from their marriage. One of the things I really liked about the movie is that Yoko's actions are never played out for melodrama or to evoke sympathy either for her or for the husband. Even in her most off-kilter moments, Yoko is always recalled with warmth and love. However, I was rather disturbed by this matter-of-fact retelling of an episode where Yoko befriends an 8-year old boy and insists on dressing him up as a girl! Through all this, the husband seems to have been entirely supportive and never seems to lose his devotion to her. There is a subtle hint that the husband being a busy freelance photographer may have been a little neglectful of his wife but other than that, he pretty much does seem like the perfect mate. Maybe it's just my inherent cynicism that makes me uncomfortable with this portrayal. Secondly, since we never get to see what their relationship was like before all this, we are not privy to all of the stuff that makes this relationship as strong and passionate as it seems to be. Nor do we ever get to understand what could be behind Yoko's sudden loss of balance. The second half of the movie is mostly about a trip that the couple took to a Japanese inn in a remote town where they spent their honeymoon. There are moments of great tenderness in this part of the movie and here finally we do get to see small glimpses of Yoko's playfulness and charm and perhaps start to understand why this entire thing works. All of this is further helped by the movie's score which I quite liked. For me, it was mostly too little too late though and while I did enjoy the movie for its quiet and sweet portrayal of a loving marriage, I never quite got into the characters and never bought into the relationship. So, the entire experience was only partially successful for me.

Another minor gripe - I wish we had gotten to see more of the photographs that the husband took of his wife during their trip to the inn. We learn that he published those pictures as a book of photographs and every time he clicked a photograph, I found myself hoping that the movie would end with a montage of the photographs, clichťd as that sounds.

Unnecessary trivia - During my mostly unsuccessful attempts to find Araki's photos of Yoko on the internet, I learnt that Bjork is a big fan of his and that, at her request, he photographed the cover and inner sleeve of Telegram. There's also a documentary about Araki from 2005 called Arakimentari that I am now curious to check out. I am also now rather needlessly curious about Kinbaku (http://vernissage.tv/blog/2008/05/08/nobuyoshi-araki-kinbaku-jablonka-gallery-berlin-gallery-weekend-berlin-2008/)!

Only Yesterday

(http://i43.tinypic.com/29igd4.jpg)

Warning: Sappy reviewer alert

I think we all recognize and acknowledge how powerful memories can be. However, we are seldom able to control what we want to remember or the feelings these memories conjure up inside us. Often we find ourselves remembering not our biggest successes or failures but rather random little things - an embarassing conversation with the boy one liked in class, that ugly dress one was so proud of, a fragment of lyrics from a song heard a long time ago - and what is amazing is how overwhelmingly strong and vivid these memories can be. I never cease to be amazed by how certain seemingly trivial memories never fail to bring a lump to my throat. At first glance, Only Yesterday seems to be just about all of this. We basically follow the introspective Taeko as she takes a vacation from her job in Tokyo and travels to the Japanese countryside. This journey gives her the time and space to reflect on the past and bathe in the glow of childhood memories.

Throughout the movie, we travel in and out of Taeko's childhood and witness Taeko as a child covering the usual bases of childhood crushes, wanting to fit in, puberty and disagreements with the family. I can't stress enough just how effective and wonderful these childhood scenes turn out to be. Even while covering extremely familiar ground, Takahata manages to infuse these scenes with so much real emotion and such an incredible amount of detail that every scene in this half of the movie is brilliant.  I love the episode involving Taeko's crush on another boy in school. The way the entire basketball game plays out perfectly captures all of the discomfort and fear and joy of first love. I love the sequence involving the girls' emerging puberty and emergence into womanhood; it's both endearingly funny and sobering. I'm endlessly enamored with Taeko's short stab at acting. It's a masterpiece of editing and pop montage. The final moment is deeply redemptive and triumphant and wonderfully sums up Taeko's whole life.

Through all of this, we also get the sense that Taeko is perhaps less-than-happy with her life in Tokyo and that retreating into the past is her way of not focusing on what is missing from her life in the present. I love that the final epiphany that helps Taeko let go of the past and take a chance at finding real happiness is shared by both the adult Taeko and the schoolgirl Taeko simultaneously and that allows this major turning point in the movie to also contain one of the funniest scenes in the entire film.

As for the present, Takahata never idealizes this life in the countryside that Taeko is so enamored by. He never makes the work seem light or trivial and goes into great detail to explain the process through which safflowers are converted into red dye. This entire sequence is followed by one of the most visually amazing scenes from the movie where all we see is these people picking safflowers as the sun rises from behind the mountains.

Takahata has a really deeply personal and quiet, reflective style that reminded me more than anything else of the Ozu or Apichatpong Weerasethakul films I've watched. The past and the present intertwine so smoothly in this movie and almost seem like they're all dancing to a well-orchestrated tune. They inform and comment on one another constantly and it is this ability, to put us in the characters head and help us see how these memories are affecting them in the present, that makes this movie so special.

Thematically, this movie is more real than most live-action films I've seen. So should it have been a live-action movie then? Most definitely not. Takahata totally uses the medium to make this movie even more memorable than it would be otherwise. He uses two very different styles to depict the past and the present. The past is animated very sparsely and I love the way the colors and the details fade away at the edge of the screen mirroring the way we only focus on certain aspects of a memory and the rest is fuzzy and indistinct. All of these scenes look like they've been loving painted with watercolors. On the other hand, the scenes from the present use bold colors and are extremely realistic to the point of being almost documentary-like. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the one that immediately follows Taeko's first real conversation with Shuji. It's a scene that's only possible in an animated movie and best describes the sense of magic that we sometimes feel in real life.

It's been almost a month since I watched this movie and even at the time, I knew this would almost certainly be a slam dunk. Tokyo Biyori turned out to be a pretty pleasant viewing experience overall but it was absolutely no match for Only Yesterday.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 21, 2008, 10:46:30 AM
Awesome reviews, worm. I'm totally excited to check out Only Yesterday now, sound like just my kind of thing. Next round perhaps? :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 21, 2008, 10:54:46 AM
Only Yesterday sounds pretty good. I haven't seen either of these two movies but Only Yesterday sounds more like my kind of film.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 21, 2008, 03:43:13 PM
Only Yesterday should go really, really, really far into this bracket. So good.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 21, 2008, 04:18:55 PM
roujin's 2nd verdict in this wonderful bracket? Oh no! Super magical happy funtime!

A Touch of Fever vs. In the Heat of the Sun

(http://img520.imageshack.us/img520/4994/vlcsnap3026024ar3.png) (http://i40.tinypic.com/1pt3xg.png)
A Touch of Fever (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, 1993)

This is actually available on netflix under a different title, Slight Fever of a 20-Year-Old (http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Slight_Fever_of_a_20-Year-Old/70040453), for all that are curious.

Anyway, this is a really fascinating film. It details the everyday of life of a couple of guys who have found themselves selling their bodies to older gentleman at a club named Pinocchio (yeah). One of them seems pretty ambivalent about his sexuality. He has no problem with selling his body because of the money and because it's never personal. It's not enjoyable for him but it isn't bad. The other boy is much more emotional than him and grows to dislike everything associated with the place. Of course, one falls in love with the other. This is all told in almost typical Japanese minimalist style with lots of extremely long shots of people just doing random things. I mean, there was like a 8-minute take of a family eating around one of those cool little tables (http://i42.tinypic.com/ncxmo3.png) just depicting subtle behavioral changes and shit which was awesome and I kept wondering how long they would keep it going for (I think there's a name for the tables but I forgot what it was, anyway, they are awesome and I want one). The film is pretty fascinating because of its thematics, honestly, and not because of any cool visual stuff that it has going and at the end it becomes really clumsy in what's arguably its most important scene. The director appears in the pivotal scene as a john and what follows could've been handled better if he were behind the camera instead of in front of it, but it's like this weird exorcism shit that happens as the guy breaks down (this is supposed to be autobiographical, I think, and one or two of the characters could be him) and he addresses them talking about this all stuff and it's so bizarre and clumsy and heartfelt and so goddamn fascinating. I loved it. Anyway, I was surprised to see that this film was a hit in Japan and is a landmark in gay film over there (and it only has 96 votes on IMDB!). Surprised because it's so slow and patient in how it develops and stuff. I just can't see that sort of thing happening here (unless it's with Cowboys or something :D ).


and...

(http://i41.tinypic.com/1t9bn8.png) (http://i40.tinypic.com/o6cpjr.png)
In the Heat of the Sun (Wen Jiang, 1994)

This was actually sort of similar to A Brighter Summer Day in its depiction of teenagedom in a past decade (not 60s but 70s). However, that film employs a very oblique still camera thing while this is full of free-flowing camera movements and lots of visual goodies. I'm surprised this isn't more well-known cuz it seems pretty seminal (:D) in its depiction of a certain time period in China. It's the cultural revolution and all the parents are away working hard! It appears to be summer and the teens around here have nothing to do but explore, fool around, and get into crazy ass fights. It's also very funny and stuff (http://i42.tinypic.com/2ajwg75.png) or something or not or perhaps (http://i44.tinypic.com/2w686ds.png).The film is mostly about the past (it's narrated by the central figure many years later). There are times when we see scenes and wonder how real they are because the narrator keeps doubting himself saying that things may have not happened this way and he gives fictionalized accounts as well to make himself look braver. However, while this is certainly a coming-of-age film, it doesn't really end up where you expect it at all. And, that's what I like the most about it. I'm not sure. You should tell me.

Anyway, these are both very, very good but for entirely different reasons...

I'll be interested in what pix says of Touch of Fever when he reviews it cuz it's out and I'll be interested to see what someone else says of In the Heat of the Sun cuz it's moving on.

I might as well have flipped a coin.

Well, I guess In the Heat of the Sun is much more assured in its direction and handling of themes... plus... it's pretty... so... yeah...

(http://i44.tinypic.com/2el8gfm.png)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 21, 2008, 04:30:32 PM
Intriguing.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 21, 2008, 04:35:09 PM
I have A Touch of Fever here to watch! In the Heat of the Sun goes into my ever-growing list of films I want to try and call dibs on for the second round!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on December 22, 2008, 02:26:25 PM
Happy Together vs. Happy End

This is why I love Filmspotting. I just watched two movies back-to-back that I would never have seen if it were not for the show and these boards. I have very little experience with Asian cinema, as I am not a fan of martial arts movies at all, and these constitute the bulk of Asian films that get released in North America. By chance I was in chat last night and people were talking about the brackets and I asked if I could get in on the fun. Since I knew nothing of Asian cinema, I asked Pix for some suggestions. We ended up randomly paring these two films, mostly because they both had the word Happy in the title. This accidental paring could not have been better!

Happy Together


(http://img5.allocine.fr/acmedia/medias/nmedia/18/60/03/45/18861880.jpg)

This is the first and only Wong Kar-Wai I have ever seen, which is sad given his high ranking (#11) in our recently completed best directors list. This is a deceptively simple film about a turbulent relationship. In many ways it reminded me of Paranoid Park, in that the film is more about style and ambiance than plot. Really the details of the plot are not very important in gaining an appreciation for the film. It essentially consists of a series of somewhat connected scenes showing the relationship between two ill-fated people. They breakup and get back together several times in the film, and the ending is fairly anti-climactic but perfectly fits the tone of the film. Happy Together is really a masterclass in creating mood, style, visuals, and great acting. The film is absolutely beautiful. Every trick in the cinematographers book is used in the film. Black and white, slo-mo, over saturation, fish eye lenses. These are used to enhance the emotional strength of the film. In some ways it almost feels like a documentary it is so real. I will be making a point of seeing more Wong Kar-wai films in the very near future.


Happy end

(http://filmbrain.typepad.com/filmbrain/images/happy_end.jpg)

I had never heard of this film or director before I choose it in my bracket. It does, however, star Min Sik Choi, who played Oldboy. This film is a perfect companion piece to the Wong film, in that both examine ill-fated relationships and how people deal with them, however, the lovers in each find very different ways to end their relationships. Happy End has been called controversial mostly because of the fairly graphic sex scenes, of which there are several. In fact, the sex scenes are some of the best shot I have seen in some time. They are not used as pure titillation, but to illustrate the connections people have between their various partners. Unlike the Wong film, Happy End in shot in a traditional straight forward manner with little flourish. The story and actors provide the emotional depth which is gripping. The film drives towards its ending with a sense of longing, rage, fear, and dread that I have not experienced during a movie in quite awhile. We are left to ask: Happy End? This is simply a great film.


Verdict: Wow this is so hard. Before I watched these films I assumed it would be a slam dunk for Happy Together. If I was to judge based on style and film craft then it would be Happy Together. If I was to decide based on pure enjoyment of the film then I would have to choose Happy End. Damn, I hate Sophie's Choice! I think that while I loved Happy End, and would highly recommend it, it seems to me the point of these brackets if the elevate the best of cinema and I must therefore advance Happy Together. But seek out Happy End.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 22, 2008, 02:30:30 PM
I could feel my heartrate rising as I was reading your verdict! Happy Together is one of my all-time favorite films and while Happy End sounds pretty great as well, I don't know that I could've survived Happy Together losing its first round matchup!

Lovely writeup Clovis and welcome to this awesome bracket! At the rate you're going, I am going to have to work very hard to be able to call dibs on any of the second round films!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on December 22, 2008, 02:42:28 PM
Phew.. that was a close-call.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on December 22, 2008, 02:45:17 PM
I could feel my heartrate rising as I was reading your verdict! Happy Together is one of my all-time favorite films and while Happy End sounds pretty great as well, I don't know that I can survive Happy Together losing its first round matchup!

Lovely writeup Clovis and welcome to this awesome bracket! At the rate you're going, I am going to have to work very hard to be able to call dibs on any of the second round films!


Yeah I was worried for a minute there.  Very nice Clovis.  Hopefully Happy End gets resurrected.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 22, 2008, 04:13:53 PM
Holy shit, did you just complete your matchup within 24 hours of getting it from pixote?


Best. Christmas. Ever.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on December 22, 2008, 04:37:53 PM
That's actually a good thing because I won't get to mine in 2008. Very early '09, promise.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 22, 2008, 09:44:57 PM
Wow, that writeup was informative, clear and straight to the point, something I could never accomplish. A very warm welcome to the bracket (*cough cough, better than U.S. 90s, cough*).

You think that matchup was fun. Wait until you see the film featuring the raccoons with over sized nut sacks.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 22, 2008, 10:06:37 PM
Awesome, Clovis, welcome to the bracket! Great writeup, I've been wanting to see Happy Together, glad it's sticking around.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 22, 2008, 11:29:22 PM
Just echoing what everyone else has said:  That was awesome.  Not just the amazing turn-around time, but the fact that you discovered two new favorite films, wrote about them well, and included some awesome screenshots.  Really nicely done.  Plus you shamed a lot of other people, which is always a good thing.

So... you got your eye on another matchup?  Because I already told my mom that's all I want for Christmas. She was all, "Who the f—k is Clovis Eight?"  I wanted to answer, "A figment of Brad Pitt's imagination," but I don't think she would have gotten the combined references to that film, your avatar, and that old Junior post (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=779.msg65213#msg65213).

Anyway.  Very awesome.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on December 22, 2008, 11:29:37 PM
Holy shit, did you just complete your matchup within 24 hours of getting it from pixote?


This is not standard? hehe :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 23, 2008, 06:48:37 PM
I'm gonna keep this short, sweet and simple.

The Quiet Family

http://vimeo.com/2607279 (http://vimeo.com/2607279)

This movie's all plot, so here's some plot: a family of six moves to the mountains and sets up a lodge near a hiking trail. Soon enough they get their first costumer, a strange man who ends up committing suicide in his room. Common sense would suggest calling the police, but they worry that they will suspect foul play and close the place down, so they decide to bury the body and keep it a secret instead. Oops. What follows is a wacky sequence of events ó accidents, misunderstandings, ironic coincidences ó during the course of which the body count will rise to double digits (it may be less, though it felt like more). I guess it's supposed to be a 'dark comedy' or whatever, but I wasn't laughing. And if you're not laughing, there's really not much else to hang on to. It's just kind of sadistic and unpleasant. Some nice shots, though.

Pickpocket

http://vimeo.com/2607329 (http://vimeo.com/2607329)

Pickpocket is another type of film entirely, one that goes out of its way to avoid heavy dramatic conflict (though not completely) and builds on the accumulation of seemingly meaningless quotidian events instead of a conventional story arc. Xiao Wu leads a mostly passive existence, he picks pockets to get by, he hangs around with a prostitute at a karaoke bar, he shoots pool, he sits in a coffe shop wondering why he wasn't invited to his friend's wedding. He doesn't really care. The film mimics this by just following him around as he does whatever. Hanging from some sort of bar in the middle of the road (http://i44.tinypic.com/k21sf6.jpg), even. Helped by the naturalistic approach ó non-professional actors, shot on location, etc. ó, it's a deliberate effort to immerse you in his world completely, which I loved because 1) it caters to my voyeuristic tendencies, and 2) it hits much harder when his routine is abruptly brought to an end and he is made to realise that there are consequences to his actions. I'd go into more detail, but I'd rather people discover it for themselves. May it have a long life in the bracket.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 23, 2008, 06:50:44 PM
Awesome.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 24, 2008, 04:23:09 AM
Hmm, can't say I'm looking forward to watching The Quiet Family, but that's okay because I'm now totally looking forward to my first Jia film ... which I guess could be 24 City, if not Still Life.

I'm also looking forward to your upcoming thoughts on From Beijing with Love.  (I can't believe you didn't grab that one first, edgarchaput!)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 24, 2008, 10:52:22 AM
Very cool verdict duder. I am carrying all these Jia films with me on vacation and am hoping to share the Pickpocket love soon hopefully.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 24, 2008, 09:33:17 PM
Gohatto (Nagisa Oshima, 1999) vs. Yumeji (Seijun Suzuki, 1991)

Gohatto

(http://i39.tinypic.com/14c7c7b.jpg) (http://i43.tinypic.com/9g93ye.jpg)

After watching Death By Hanging and from everything I had heard about Oshima, I knew that a Samurai film by Oshima wouldn't be anything like what I'd expect from a Samurai film. The movie is set in 1860s Kyoto amongst the elite Shinsengumi Samurai militia. I didn't really have any historical perspective on the role of this elite police force till after I got back from the movie but the film works pretty well even without all the background imo.

At its surface, Gohatto feels like a gorgeously photographed chamber piece about homosexuality amongst the Shinsengumi militia. But that would be a gross oversimplification. It's really examining the codes that governed the Samurai lifestyle and the sexual (and otherwise) politics within this group. At some level, I think Oshima is not just setting out to question the sexuality of these revered ideals of masculinity but to highlight the fragility of this very code of conduct that seems to be held in such high esteem. The entire tale is really about how the mere presence of a newcomer can put the structure set in place by this code in jeopardy.

As such, Gohatto has a simple plot - a beautiful androgynous young Samurai, Sozaburo (Ryuhei Matsuda is really perfectly cast as the handsome young Sozaburo with a slender physique and the arms of a superb swordsman), gets recruited into the militia and ends up setting off a chain reaction triggered by love, jealousy, desire and deception amongst the remaining officers.

What is interesting is the way Oshima depicts Sozabura not so much as a person but as an idea almost. Even though his presence forms the crux of the film and all the major events in the movie occur around him, he does not himself directly seem to interact with the events for the most part. He simply glides through the film, looking like some kind of beautiful apparition, while everything around him falls apart in his wake. In fact, he is depicted as being perfectly law-abiding, respectful of his seniors and a skilled swordsman to boot. It's the rest of the Shinsengumi that seems to be on the verge of collapse. Everyone's motives seem to be suspect and all characters seem to be untrustworthy and biased. One thing I have to mention here is that it took me a while to start taking all of this seriously. This might just be a case of loss in translation but there's a significant portion of the movie where all this suspicion is voiced aloud with several characters casting doubt on someone else by asking the question, "Does he too lean this way?" (this line gets repeated at least about 25 times in the movie) and it wasn't easy for me to get over the cheesiness of this line. To add to this, the Shinsengumi officers in the movie seem obsessed with each others sexuality and Sozabura's possible virginity and there's a lot of discussion about trying to get Sozabura interested in women. Who'd have thought that Shinsengumi militia share a lot in common with high-school kids!! Thankfully, I was soon sufficiently wrapped up in the story to be able to ignore the corniness of the dialog and the audience laughter that accompanied it.

Ultimately, the movie turns into a whodunit with an ending that is both frustratingly cryptic and incomprehensible and yet aesthetically really cool and beautiful (there's a scene in Kill Bill that I think might have been inspired by this ending scene).

While I enjoyed watching this movie, the experience wasn't perfect by any means. For one thing, there's far too much talking and like I mentioned earlier, a lot of it feels cheesy (at least in English) and really doesn't add to our understanding of all that's going on. Secondly, I felt like there was quite of bit of Samurai (and other) law and practices that are referenced here that are not at all obvious to those of us not familiar with these things. Per se, I'd be okay with this except that I found myself distracted by it wherein I'd end up trying to understand what these customs could possibly be. For example, there seems to be a formal code to gay relationships in feudal Japan wherein the younger partner is the object of love while the older partner is the lover of boys. This status, in turn, seems to be signified by the fact that the younger partner does not cut his forelocks. All of this is never really explained in the movie but there's some oblique reference to them. To balance all this out though, the movie is almost achingly beautiful and poetic and sustained sufficient erotic tension to keep me interested till the very end.

I think the biggest reason this movie works for me is that the movie does a great job of highlighting the outdatedness of the period in which it is set and makes the feeling of claustrophobia and pressure that probably accompanied all the formality and code of the Samurai lifestyle palpable and does all of this while being amazing eye-candy.

Yumeji

(http://i39.tinypic.com/25tgsbr.jpg) (http://i41.tinypic.com/2woxcgg.jpg)
(http://i44.tinypic.com/282l5eh.jpg) (http://i42.tinypic.com/t0244g.jpg)

So Wikipedia informed me that this movie is a semi-fictional account of Japanese poet and painter, Takehiso Yumeji. I was utterly captivated and charmed by the images in this movie in the beginning. In fact, in the very opening shot, we see these dozens of brightly-colored balls being thrown up into the sky by a group of Japanese men and women in Western dress. Yumeji tries to push through them in Japanese attire. Suddenly, we see a woman in a kimono suspended from a tree like a puppet. Then there's a bizarre pistol duel where Yumeji is shot after which he is revived and told that he can't possibly be dead! Just seeing that colored ball soiree sent me rushing to the random screenshots thread and at that point, I had a big smile on my face and I was ready to give myself in to the craziness that I felt sure would ensue.

For all those people expecting a historically accurate account of a man's life, this is definitely not your conventional biopic. Suzuki isn't really concerned with the particulars of Yumeji's life. Rather, the movie seems more concerned with finding out what exactly goes on inside a borderline-insane and yet brilliant and talented artist's head. Mostly sex and nudity according to Seijun Suzuki apparently :D!

Here again, there's not much to describe by way of plot. We learn early on that Yumeji is about to elope with a woman but gets distracted by several other women along the way, especially Tomoyo, a beautiful woman who is in search of the body of her recently slain husband who later on in only one of the many logic-bending moments in the film randomly comes back from the dead! Basically, the entire film feels like a feverish dream in which we explore Yumeji's twin obsessions, art and women. The good part is that all of this is done in a really stunning and beautiful way. The entire look of the film seems to be inspired by Japanese art. There's a lot of use of colors and textures and aesthetically, the movie ends up being really interesting.

The narrative, on the other hand, is completely fractured and switches between surreal imagery (which I at least found interesting) to random slapstick (which wasn't really funny at all). For a while, it felt as though the narrative was becoming more cohesive once Yumeji meets the beautiful widow. But even this affair is conveyed to us in anachronistic fashion with Tomoyo being demure and chaste in one scene and then all sexual and libidinous in another! Similarly, Yumeji's interest in her shifts from scenes where he jumps on her and gropes her to viewing her with the eyes of an artist. Oh, there's also sex and nudity, of course. By the time a scythe-swinging bandit appeared on the scene, I was all but lost in terms of keeping track of characters and story. In addition to all this, Yumeji also keeps meeting projections of himself which only adds to the confusion.

Despite the chaotic narrative, I really can't say that I was totally disappointed by the film because the ending few moments of the film are just sublime and beautiful. Even without fully understanding what exactly the movie was trying to say, the ending just felt perfect to me. I just wish the 2 hours leading up to the ending had been more consistently engaging.

Neither of these two films is without its flaws. At the same time, both films have specific moments that were utterly cool and made me want to freeze them for posterity. Both filmmakers clearly have a distinct and really individual style and I am glad I got to explore their work through this bracket. Unfortunately, Suzuki's exploration of an artist's tortured soul drew inevitable comparisons in my head to Andre Rublev, which I loved, which didn't help Yumeji's cause at all. Gohatto just feels more successful in what it set out to do than Yumeji, at least to me. So Gohatto moves on.

Btw, the theme music from Yumeji, it sounds so much better here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lrFRG-rJ8s
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 24, 2008, 09:40:27 PM
That was one of the best verdicts ever. So much was covered and your writing was very much to the point. I absolutely want to see these two movies now.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 24, 2008, 09:47:26 PM
1) Good writeup.
2) Happy for Gohatto, which I remember liking.
3) I want to see Yumeji so much right now.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 24, 2008, 09:59:23 PM
That was one of the best verdicts ever. So much was covered and your writing was very much to the point. I absolutely want to see these two movies now.

1) Good writeup.
2) Happy for Gohatto, which I remember liking.
3) I want to see Yumeji so much right now.

Thanks so much you guys!
duder, Yumeji = one crazy mindtrip :). You should definitely watch it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on December 24, 2008, 10:11:47 PM
Good work as always.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 25, 2008, 01:02:39 AM
The narrative, on the other hand, is completely fractured and switches between surreal imagery (which I at least found interesting) to random slapstick (which wasn't really funny at all). For a while, it felt as though the narrative was becoming more cohesive once Yumeji meets the beautiful widow. But even this affair is conveyed to us in anachronistic fashion with Tomoyo being demure and chaste in one scene and then all sexual and libidinous in another! Similarly, Yumeji's interest in her shifts from scenes where he jumps on her and gropes her to viewing her with the eyes of an artist. Oh, there's also sex and nudity, of course. By the time a scythe-swinging bandit appeared on the scene, I was all but lost in terms of keeping track of characters and story. In addition to all this, Yumeji also keeps meeting projections of himself which only adds to the confusion.

Despite the chaotic narrative, I really can't say that I was totally disappointed by the film...

Haha, I totally read all that about the confusing nature of the film as a very positive thing ... until I got to the start of the next paragraph, that is.  Did you have that same reaction, duder?

Great verdict, worm.  I must say, though, it always confuses me when the film with the awesomer screenshots loses.  :)

Oh, and remember— no more new matchups for you unless you promise to have a great time in Spain.  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 25, 2008, 01:09:48 AM


Haha, I totally read all that about the confusing nature of the film as a very positive thing ... until I got to the start of the next paragraph, that is.  Did you have that same reaction, duder?

Great verdict, worm.  I must say, though, it always confuses me when the film with the awesomer screenshots loses.  :)

Oh, and rememberó no more new matchups for you unless you promise to have a great time in Spain.  :D

pixote

Even as I was writing my verdict, I was totally thinking that people are going to want to watch Yumeji more than Gohatto based on everything I'm saying. As for the screenshots, I watched Gohatto at HFA and had to rely on whatever screenshots I could find on the internet whereas for Yumeji, I had the film here. Gohatto is pretty great to look at but for some reason, there don't seem to be a ton of good screenshots available online.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 25, 2008, 02:13:00 AM
I'll chime in with my own thoughts regarding Gohatto soon. Yumeji sounds crazy awesome though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on December 25, 2008, 02:14:42 AM
crazy-yes, awesome - no :D.
You watched Gohatto already?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 25, 2008, 02:19:38 AM
No, but it's available on Instant Netflix for anyone who's curious.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 25, 2008, 07:32:18 AM
Haha, I totally read all that about the confusing nature of the film as a very positive thing ... until I got to the start of the next paragraph, that is.  Did you have that same reaction, duder?

pixote

Absolutely. It sounds good.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 25, 2008, 10:35:28 AM
Awesome writeup, worm. Yumeji does sound pretty awesome. Way to build up interest in the losing film. ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Gobman on December 26, 2008, 05:52:28 AM
Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki vs. The God of Cookery

Riki-Oh

(http://www.upmyownass.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/riki-oh-smash-head-explosion-picture.png)


It's the year 2001 and because of the increasingly capitalistic nature of the world all government institutions, including prisons, have been privatised.

Thank God for that opening narration otherwise the one line where this comes up would make no sense, much like the rest of the movie. The acting is horrible, the plot can basically be summed up as "Riki goes to a crappy prison and fights people" but there are attempts at a real storyline and characters we're supposed to feel something about, which all fail miserably. All that being said though, I'm having trouble thinking of the last time I enjoyed a movie I knew to be this bad at all, let alone as much as I did. If you like shlock, cheese and hilariously inventive blood and gore (a man gets his face planed off and another man uses his own intestines as a weapon, to name some of the best bits) you should definitely watch this, actually you probably should even if you don't because this movie will make you. It should be noted that the version I watched had a pretty bad english dub that sounded like a bunch of Australians trying to do American accents but even if every line of dialogue was a million times better in the original language it'd still be a bad movie. To summarize, I recommend this terrible, terrible movie to absolutely everyone.

The God of Cookery

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2187/2072789732_a05e2e7255.jpg?v=0)


(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2007/2072027527_85dc2e25b5.jpg?v=0)


Stephen Chow plays a character called Stephen Chow, a chairman Kaga-like figure who is currently the 'god of cookery', the winner of an iron-chef style competition to find the best chef in Hong Kong, unfortunately the competition is rigged, he's supremely arrogant and not even a very good cook. All of this soon gets found out, he hits rock bottom and he has to work his way back up the ranks to become the god of cookery once more. This was an enormously enjoyable film, very funny with both slapstick and situational elements to the comedy. It wasn't quite what I was expecting from Stephen Chow, the only other film by him I've seen is Kung-Fu Hustle but this is much less action oriented. The climax is very strange and I wish I could talk about it but I don't really want to spoil it, I'll just say I really liked it and found it fitting with the bizarre humour of the rest of the film but some may find it a tad cheap. The acting was generally well done, though a little cheesy and broad on occasion but I believe this was intentional. The only complaint I have is that I wish I had watched this yesterday instead of Riki-Oh because the denouement is quite Christmas-y. I watched this in the original language with some subtitles that occasionally slipped into engrish but it was generally understandable.

Verdict

Well, God of Cookery was undoubtedly the better film, in terms of film making and in terms of enjoyment, though I think I'd be more likely to watch Riki again for it's sheer ridiculousness. I think anyone interested should watch both of them, but as fun as it is I cannot in good conscience send Riki onto the next round.

God of Cookery wins.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 26, 2008, 11:16:39 AM
I like sheer ridiculousness.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 26, 2008, 11:50:06 AM
Both of those look like a lot of fun. That Riki-Oh screenshot is great :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 26, 2008, 12:55:06 PM
Both of those look like a lot of fun. That Riki-Oh screenshot is great :D

Quoted for great truth.  It sounds like if you could combine these two films, it would maybe be the greatest movie ever.

Very nice verdict.  I love that you watched Riki-Oh on Christmas.  That's hilarious.  I'll try to find a subtitled version to watch for my resurrection review, see how the dialogue compares.

Welcome to the bracket!  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 26, 2008, 03:59:31 PM
I expect a prompt resurrection of Riki-Oh, pix.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 26, 2008, 06:11:56 PM
The God of Cookery looks like the best thing Stephen Chow ever did.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on December 28, 2008, 01:08:19 PM
Ringu vs Fudoh: The Next Generation

Ringu
(http://www.barrettchase.com/Ringu.jpg)

This is the first J-Horror film I have ever seen. I am not much of a horror movie fan. I saw the remake (The Ring) several years ago and remember enjoying it for its creepy atmosphere. I am sure most of you have seen the remake/original so I wont go to deep into the plot. A videotape exists that will kill you 7 days after you watch it. Upon hearing of some recent deaths a reporter comes to investigate the tape, watches it, then must try to figure out what it is to save her life and that of her family.

The original is better than the remake (as is common). The creepy atmosphere that I remember from the remake is more intense here. It is slow to begin, but pays off in the final act with a genuinely creepy conclusion. The reason I keep saying creepy, is that the movie is not very scary. It is more of a disturbing mystery than a true horror film. I would say it is effective in creating atmosphere but no real scares.


Fudoh: The New Generation
(http://www.walkerart.org/archive/E/AD73713393B17E126164.jpg)

This is my first "Yakuza" film as well (Boy I am ignorant of Asian cinema). It is directed by Takashi Miike, probably more famous for Audition and Ichi the Killer (neither of which I have seen). After seeing the film and reading a little about Miike, it appears that subtlety in not a word he holds dear. Fudoh is silly, ultra-violent, ridiculous, stupid, laughable, gory, predicable, misogynistic, and yes, even fun, in a few parts.

The plot is simple and standard; 1) Boy sees father kill his brother; 2) Boy vows revenge; 3) boy grows up; 4) boy enlists a group of psychotic children, hermaphrodites,  strippers with superpower vaginas, and giants, to exact said revenge. Oh wait, maybe number 4 is not standard!

Over-the-top is a serious understatement for this movie. At first I was going with the movie and smiling at its audacity. But Miike continues to amp up the violence until it is cartoonish. When people are shot they are shot dozens and dozens of times at close range and still do not die. When they bleed they bleed oceans of blood; enough to fill a car in one scene. All woman in this world are both beautiful and psychotic killers. There is a ridiculously laughable "love scene" between a woman and a hermaphroditic child. It is perhaps the worse sex scene in motion picture history. Then in one final attempt at subtly, the movie ends in a pathetic attempt at a cliff-hanger, the result of which is utterly obvious and completely irrelevant. Time magazine called this one of the ten best films of 1997. All I can say to that is WTF!

Verdict: I would not say I loved either film. Ringu is perhaps a B level film, while Fudoh is a C/D level film. So really this makes the verdict simple and Ringu must move on. I will, however, be very surprised if it makes it too much further. Compared to my last bracket matchup, these two films were terrible.

P.S. One of my favorite American genre's is gangster films so I was really looking forward to seeing a Yakuza film. Perhaps someone could point me to a good/great one. Perhaps more along the lines of "The Godfather" than "Mickey Blue Eyes". :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 28, 2008, 01:41:42 PM
I think I'll pick a Miike film for my next matchup.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 28, 2008, 02:15:08 PM
I have never seen Fudoh: The Next Generation, so I shan't comment on your verdict. I have seen Ringu however, and it was one of the most boring movie watching experiences of my life.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on December 28, 2008, 02:20:27 PM
I have never seen Fudoh: The Next Generation, so I shan't comment on your verdict. I have seen Ringu however, and it was one of the most boring movie watching experiences of my life.

Ya, its kinda boring. Like I said neither film was very good.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 28, 2008, 04:03:49 PM
I dunno, Fudoh sounds pretty awesome from your description, even from a negative angle. ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on December 28, 2008, 05:53:28 PM
I dunno, Fudoh sounds pretty awesome from your description, even from a negative angle. ;)

I will admit I can see an audience for this movie. I am sure it could be called a good example of its genre but just not for me. It is similar in some ways to Kill Bill I and II, movies I liked but did not love.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 28, 2008, 09:31:52 PM
roujin's 3rd verdict in this shindig? say what...

 Metade Fumaca vs. Peppermint Candy

(http://i44.tinypic.com/wi4hvo.png) (http://i42.tinypic.com/rb9szr.png)
Metade Fumaca (Yip Kam-Hung, 1999)

This was alright at first. Hitman comes back for revenge after living in exile for god knows how many years. At first, the story is enlivened by some cool little quirky details (they occasionally pop up during the story) but it really just is completely weighed down by too many cliches and other crap. By film's end, it turns insulting and downright bad. Which is a shame because at the film's core there are some cool touches and charismatic leads. Nicholas Tse is pretty charming and badass at the same time. Eric Tsang is fat and that's cool. There's also this one hitman guy who just came back from L.A. and will interject with random ghetto English. Those things and those elements are fine. But they're tied down to a really dumb story. Probably the best part of the entire affair is a flashback sequence to the fat dude's younger days and his competition with a guy named Nine Dragons (who's played by Autumn Moon from Made in Hong Kong (http://i44.tinypic.com/2ltsm4m.png)). It's all set to this really cool song and there's lots of creative deaths and general goofiness (plus Shu Qi!!!!). Anyway, this could've been a pretty cool little flick but instead stupid plot stuff got the better of it.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/n4cbnm.png) (http://i43.tinypic.com/28a6dc5.png)
Peppermint Candy (Lee Chang-Dong, 1999)

This is pretty much amazing. No suspense here, folks :) Basically, the film is about a guy who kills himself. We then go back into certain parts of his life (in backwards chronological order) to see how he got to this point. We're witness to his marriage, his affairs, his business ventures, his army service and everything. Apparently, the film closely follows recent Korean history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppermint_Candy#Analysis) which adds another level in which to see the film. And the backward chronology thing ain't no gimmick. It's utilized perfectly with moments in the film's early moments gaining great significance as they're given context in the scenes in the past. I also loved the train going backwards in time thing, giving the whole movie a structure (complete with its own cheesy music). However, the film works best for me as a drama, first and foremost. It's incredibly engaging with fantastic performances. The lead actor, Sol Kyung-gu, is required to be so many things and he pulls them off perfectly. In the opening scenes, all he can do is scream in agony. We are clueless as to why. At points, he's cold and icy. At others, he's innocent and smiling. Then he's brutal and violent. We are witness to all his changes (korea's changes?). And, while the film works perfectly on the dramatic level, on the formal side, it ain't too shabby either. It utilizes the long-take style a lot but it's far more dynamic than a lot of other films of its ilk. Anyway, it's consistently compelling and dramatically engaging and CINECAST!ing ambitious in spades. I cannot wait to watch Oasis.

For a better review: samfuller's take (http://cinephileforeignerinkorea.blogspot.com/2008/02/peppermint-candy-bakha-satang-lee-chang.html)

Peppermint should go deep into this bracket. Yes, it should.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 28, 2008, 09:35:37 PM
Sounds about right. Good show old boy.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on December 28, 2008, 10:41:04 PM
Peppermint Candy sounds awesome. Must watch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on December 28, 2008, 10:47:41 PM
Peppermint Candy sounds awesome. Must watch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 30, 2008, 01:08:14 PM
P.S. One of my favorite American genre's is gangster films so I was really looking forward to seeing a Yakuza film. Perhaps someone could point me to a good/great one. Perhaps more along the lines of "The Godfather" than "Mickey Blue Eyes". :D

I caught up with Kinji Fukasaku's Sympathy for the Underdog earlier this year and was pretty impressed with it.  And if you like that, there's the five-part Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which I also recommend.

As for films remaining in the bracket, I'm not sure if Shanghai Triad quite qualifies as a yakuza film, but it's pretty good and close enough, so maybe worth a look.  Most of the other remaining crime films seem to be from Hong Kong more than Japan.  I'm particularly interested in The Longest Nite and The Longest Summer, myself.  That'd be a perfect next matchup for you, probably, given your success with semi-randomly paired films sharing a word in their titles.

Nice verdict, by the way.  Sorry you didn't love either film, but it sounded like maybe they were worth watching anyway.  For the experience.

Eric Tsang is fat and that's cool.

He was awesome in something I saw recently.  Infernal Affairs, I guess it was.

I'm really loving the winter vacation pace of your verdicts.  Movies movies movies!

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 30, 2008, 01:11:02 PM
Yeah, Eric Tsang is cool.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 30, 2008, 05:46:00 PM
roujin's 4th verdict in this shit? wtf is this shit?

Ley Lines vs. An Affair

(http://i44.tinypic.com/wbuonq.png) (http://i40.tinypic.com/2eod444.png)
Ley Lines (Takashi Miike, 1999)

hmmm, Miike. What a weird man. Bouncing from low-budget Yakuza films to weird body horror stuff to children's films to whatever. Ley Lines finds him deep in arthouse mode. He takes what could be an ordinary thriller and slows it down, way down. Apparently, this is the culmination of Miike's Black Society Trilogy (thematic trilogy about alienation, identity and uh... urban violence or something; the other two entries are 95's Shinjuku Triad Society and 97's Rainy Dog). The film follows a couple of youths who have Chinese ancestry and are looked down upon in their own little community (check this out for context (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_issues_in_Japan)). They figure that the way to better themselves is to go to Tokyo and try it out. However, Tokyo is pretty much a horror show. Sex and violence are everywhere. Quickly, they start selling some kind of chemical drug, hook up with a hooker (who's in many scenes beaten -- and takes part in what's probably the most disgusting POV shot I've ever seen (http://i42.tinypic.com/256gu52.png) (nsfw and ewww)). The scene has a purpose (to show how much she's being exploited -- she's from Shanghai, they're exploited even more in Tokyo!) but it still reeks of some of the shock stuff that Miike is known for doing. The youths find moments (http://i41.tinypic.com/333kb40.png) of happiness (http://i41.tinypic.com/2upagkp.png) in it all but the film has a fatalistic streak to it and we wonder if they'll be able to set themselves apart from this world. The film has some pretty striking cinematography at points and Miike def knows how to stage a scene (I took many screenshots) and that makes the film better. There's also some other interesting stuff like whenever the characters say a racial derogatory term, it's bleeped out on the soundtrack, whenever genitals are shown the way they blur them out is hilarious (http://i39.tinypic.com/2hnz6lf.png) (more context (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_in_Japan#Censorship_laws)) and there's four uses of this really great tango music that are just sublime. Also, Naoto Takenaka (http://i39.tinypic.com/24lmmih.png) (one of my favorite that guys from Japanese cinema is in this and it turns out he directed Tokyo Biyori? wtf). Anyway, while a lot of things were really good about this movie, I still have major issues with Miike's pacing. I like that he slows things down a notch but, at points, it's just ridiculously slow (which makes scenes of Takenaka speaking in Chinese (without subtitles -- might just be my copy) really hard to sit through). So, yeah. I want to check out the rest of the Trilogy now.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/rbfcba.png) (http://i43.tinypic.com/2lkwqh1.png)
An Affair (Lee Je-yong, 1998)

This was alright throughout its duration. It tells the story of a 38-year-old married woman who begins an affair with her sister's fiancee. This is all told using almost Korean Drama aesthetics. Very bland (although I also took a lot of screenshots of this one, mostly cuz the staging of the actors was nice). At first, we are shown her daily routines and how she goes about her day. We sense a desperation there. She drops off her kid for some summer camp thing. She sits at some business dinner of her husband's. She stares off into nothingness. And then comes the younger man. At points, their affair didn't amount to much other than "hey, they really enjoy having sex together!" (but, to be fair, it's pretty hot) but other points we do sense their fear of stagnation. The acting is pretty good. Mostly very low-key which I enjoyed. The two leads do have some chemistry and the heat in their scenes together is palpable. Everything plays out mostly realistically. But, then it ends. And that ending, I feel, does away with the stuff that came before. It suggests something that I don't think would've really happened. Me = conflicted.

Anyway...

Next round needs some Miike.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on December 30, 2008, 06:44:47 PM
I wonder if you'll like Rainy Dog more than sam and I did.  Ley Lines sounds a least a little more interesting and maybe grittier, too, but still not all that appealing.

Your review of the totally boring-sounding The Affair makes me think you would have bumped Sense and Sensibility up a star rating if you'd watched an Asian dub of it.  Or maybe it was the sex.

Yeah, it was probably the sex.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on December 30, 2008, 06:55:53 PM
 ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on December 30, 2008, 09:51:27 PM
Ley Lines sounds like something Cronenberg would make. roujin, would he say this Miike guy is the Japanese version of David Cronenberg or am I reading this wrong? Regardless, you've made me want to watch Ley Lines.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on January 01, 2009, 05:04:11 PM
(http://i39.tinypic.com/2a7eerk.jpg)

Give It All (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0203515/) (1998, Itsumichi Isomura)

Etsuko - a typical Japanese high school student, who's unlucky in love, an academic failure, and plain bored with life. That's until one day, the view of a boat gliding gracefully in the sea inspires her to take up the oar. Since she's rejected by her school's all-male rowing team, she decides to form her own all-women team.-IMDB

(http://i39.tinypic.com/9fpapx.jpg)

Here we have a movie about rowing.

It's tough to explain this movie. It's not a particularly unique story, but it's presented in a way that really impressed me. It's very focused, and spends little time on anything it doesn't deem important.

Etsuko is at the center of the story. Little effort is spent explaining her interest in rowing, it is just accepted, and I give it credit for not creating arbitrary obstacles for her to overcome. A girls rowing team is unprecedented in her school, but the school is willing to help her get one started. Even the boys team, which has to share the boathouse and practice times with the girls team, is supportive and helps train them.

Recruiting the other 4 girls for the team is dealt with quickly. Two of them we don't meet until the first day of practice, because that is when they become relevant to the story. If I have one complaint about this, it's that we never get much of a look at any of the other girls outside the context of the team. Their dynamic as a group is fully fleshed out, but they're mostly ignored as individuals. I have no doubt this is by design, but it was one instance where I felt it was a disservice.

Once the team forms, the remainder of the movie is spent with them as they bond, train, and eventually compete in tournaments. The heart of the story is in their journey as a team, and it spans several years (starting in freshmen year) so it's pretty extensive. It's all nicely done and most of it was enjoyable to watch, but all of the races become repetitive (a complaint I usually have about any sports movie). Everything leads up to their final competition, and their last chance to succeed as a team. The movie is solid all the way through, but it's the way the ending is handled that made me really regard it higher than I thought I would.

No way to keep going without spoiling a bit, but let's just say the ending is not all candy and rainbows. It's quite a downer, actually, but is much more meaningful and subtle than I had expected.



Not One Less (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0209189/) (1999, Yimou Zhang)

The school teacher in the remote mountain village of Shuixian has to leave for a month, requiring the mayor to bring in the only substitute available, 13 year old Wei Minzhi. With minimal instruction and no experience, she is left in care of 28 children, and the challenge of keeping all of them attending school, not one less.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2llzn80.jpg)

There is a lot I liked about this movie, but the characters are the biggest strength. Yimou Zhang uses a cast of non-actors that are basically playing themselves, and it comes through in the performances. There's a simplicity to them that I was really drawn to. The story opens with the introduction of Wei, and from the start she is an unusual protagonist. She is immature and completely irresponsible as a teacher. The only thing she seems to care about is the 50 yuan she was promised for the job, and the 10 more if all of the kids are still attending when the month is up.

So when a young boy named Zhang is absent from role call one morning, Wei becomes obsessed with getting him back. She visits Zhang's mother and finds out he has gone to the city to find work so he can help pay off the troubled families debt. Despite this, Wei takes it upon herself to go to the city and find (kidnap?) him.

She recruits the rest of the students to help her get money for the trip, and with this new found motivation (misguided as it may be), Wei finally steps up to being a real teacher, and she and the class come together for the first time. The kids in the class are awesome, and every scene with them is a ton of fun. My favorite scene is where, after raising the money, they have enough extra to buy 2 cans of coca-cola which they share between all 27 of them. It's a simple scene, but incredibly touching. The small role of teacher Gao and especially the mayor are also great characters.

In the second half of the movie Wei finally reaches the city and sets out to find Zhang, which looks more and more like an impossible task. The second half is way too drawn out in parts, and without the supporting cast I grew to love in the first half it really suffered for it. It's actually used to pretty good effect to communicate what Wei is going through, running into dead end after dead end, but it's just not as enjoyable as the first half.

Wei's character is the oddest, but most interesting part of the movie. She's not a very admirable character, her motives appear to be entirely selfish. Of course, eventually she saves the day, and her motives do evolve into something more noble, but it's ultimately her stubbornness and self-interest (plus some dumb luck) that paves the path. The end is a little over the top as well, but it's a feel-good ending, so what can I say?



Verdict

I really enjoyed both movies. Give It All is more solid all around, but Not One Less is more interesting, and at it's best the better entertainment. So Not One Less wins. Yay!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 02, 2009, 01:18:57 AM
I seem to remember watching the Japanese television show that was basically the same story as Give It All. Was it good? I have no idea.

I think I approve of this.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 02, 2009, 01:22:22 AM
Nice, Melvil.  Sounds like the matchup was the pleasant but not life-changing experience it looked to be on paper.  I've seen and enjoyed Not One Less, and I don't think it'll seem out of place in the next round — but it'll probably need the right set of circumstances to go beyond that.  I'm looking forward to Give It All, though I bet my review will be very similar to yours.  Even without having watched the movie, certain of your criticisms rang very true with me, both positive ("Little effort is spent explaining her interest in rowing, it is just accepted, and I give it credit for not creating arbitrary obstacles for her to overcome.") and negative ("Their dynamic as a group is fully fleshed out, but they're mostly ignored as individuals.").

Curious to see if you will choose something life-changing for your next matchup...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 02, 2009, 09:56:31 AM
As usual, I've never heard of those movies, but Give It All sounds kind of boring. I'm glad to see Not One Less move onwards.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on January 02, 2009, 11:51:19 AM
(http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B00005RDRN.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg)(http://www.sancho-asia.com/IMG/jpg/picture_bride_affiche2.jpg)

"A story of beauty, passion and forbidden fruit!" v "Two Thumbs Up the Highly Sensual!"

Soooo... neither of these films are really what the mid-1990's faintly-racist-marketing tin they were packaged in - designed no doubt to lure a mix of the arthouse patron and the perv - says they are. Beyond this similarity they have related period-set narratives, with one concerning the arrival of a village girl into a city family that is falling apart, and the other of a city girl moving into the farmlands of a new country and a forging a new Ďfamilyí. Here's what I think of them:

The Scent of Green Papaya (Anh Hung Tran, 1993)

One of the most potent examples of arthouse ponce ever perpetrated, the high reputation of this film (Camera D'Or winner at Cannes, Nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar, a Cesar for best debut) is baffling to me. I can only assume that the entire world of film was beset by an affliction for bird chirps and a love for scenes of Asian women washing their neck and face.

Filmed entirely on a sound-stage in France, the film is set in 1950's Saigon, with the turbulent events of that period of Vietnam's history forming a subtly alluded-to background. In the first-half, we follow a young country girl named Mui, who enters a middle-class home to be their servant. The family is dysfunctional in lots of deliberately ambiguous ways that are drawn out interminably amid scenes of the young girl's naive introduction to life, the family's quirks and dark secrets, and their gradual adoption/adoration of her. To be fair, these scenes were quite pleasant, if a little lifeless, and I liked the young actress' performance, the scenes of kids being kids, the compositions. So far, so arthouse minimalism. Very slow, very slight in the plotting, cutesy, some nice visuals of sap dripping, papayas being peeled.... quite enjoyable when its on the girl, boring as hell when its about the family. But absolutely nothing special at all when compared to what other filmmakers are able to achieve with this same style and with far less pretension.

Hello part two of the film! 10 years later, we have Mui aged 20. The family patriarch disposed of at the end of act one, Mui is left serving Khuyen, a family friend who she fancied the pants off of when she was a kid. Will he ever notice how great she is and what a shit his current Westernized girlfriend is? Because the audience did within 1minute of the segmentÖ The part of Mui is played in this segment by an actress who completely derails the film with her wooden performance. Oh my god is she awful. She does however have a nice technique when washing her face, or something, so we get a lot of that. A lot. And we get a lot of very, very, very, very, drawn out scenes of the building of the 'forbidden love' that the poster promised us that are so excruciatingly poorly handled, so obvious in the plotting and so disturbing in its sexual politics as to completely ruin whatever goodwill the first-half had created. Just like the first half, thereís more to it than the surface, some good cultural digs and historical references and social resonancesÖ whatever Ė the surface is so poor, I would never revisit this film to find out what they were.

I really hated the second half of this film so much. If you want a fairly pleasant, romanticized view of childhood and/or 1950ís Vietnam, then you could enjoy the first half and just turn it off before part two, I guess.

Picture Bride (Kayo Hatta, 1995)

Picture Bride is an unassuming, crowd-pleasing movie. Your mum might like it. Itís very Hallmark channel meets Merchant Ivory, and plays sort of like a less melodramatic/sexually fraught Wild Is The Wind. It concerns the real story of the thousands of women who left Japan for Hawaii between 1901 and 1923 to marry Japanese men who had already made the trip. The introduction and increased accessibility of photography revolutionized the practice.

We follow Riyo, a young ďcity girlĒ with a ďdark secretĒ that, just like in Wake me if I smell like green papaya, really isnít that big of a thing when itís revealed either. That bothered me somewhat, but not as much as in the other film.

Anyhoo, Riyo sees a photo of her husband to be, and after having her photo taken, sheís off to Hawaii! Except when she gets there she finds the sugar cane field worker sheís lumped with is not like the handsome geezer in the photo. So, their relationship is from the start based on betrayal and unease. The rest of the film follows a fairly predictable path as Riyo first rejects her husband and the tough lifestyle but grows to appreciate both, along the way forming an important friendship with Kana, one of the other picture brides already on the island.

But unlike its competitor here, itís not pretentious at all, and just tells its old-fashioned story with efficiency. The pleasure of the film is again in the incidental details (Riyoís childlike biting of her husbandís hand under the covers on their wedding night, male and female workers in the sugar fields singing their sexual politics to each other), but here they all feel germane to the story, rather than just displaying style for the sake of it. For example, though the film is set in Hawaii, it has no desire to picture-postcard the setting, and itís over an hour before we even see a beach or the Ďsexy waterfallí of the poster.

It also has a body-washing scene! This one has a quiet, cheeky nod to Psycho, but doesnít fixate on endless neck-soaping, thank god. A very old Toshiro Mifune also shows up for a bit as well, which was fun.

To its detriment, it has a horrendously misjudged dream sequence before the final acts, and an unnecessarily cheesy final voiceover. Again, the sexual politics of the ending didnít please me greatly, but it felt natural to the story Hatta wanted to tell, and at the end of her long journey, Riyo was shown to be more than just a cipher for male desire. Good for her, and good for Picture Bride.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on January 02, 2009, 12:48:58 PM
Thanks, everyone!

Was it good? I have no idea.

Too bad. I saw it was remade in 2005 as a tv series, not sure that was entirely necessary, but I wondered if it was any good.

Nice, Melvil.  Sounds like the matchup was the pleasant but not life-changing experience it looked to be on paper.  I've seen and enjoyed Not One Less, and I don't think it'll seem out of place in the next round ó but it'll probably need the right set of circumstances to go beyond that.  I'm looking forward to Give It All, though I bet my review will be very similar to yours.  Even without having watched the movie, certain of your criticisms rang very true with me, both positive ("Little effort is spent explaining her interest in rowing, it is just accepted, and I give it credit for not creating arbitrary obstacles for her to overcome.") and negative ("Their dynamic as a group is fully fleshed out, but they're mostly ignored as individuals.").

Curious to see if you will choose something life-changing for your next matchup...

Pretty much dead on in all regards. Life-changing would be cool, but I'm still picking at random, so it's luck-of-the-draw. ;)

Good for her, and good for Picture Bride.

Nice reviews, Thor. Sounds like neither movie was too exceptional (unless you're really into body washing), but you clearly made the right choice with Picture Bride.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 02, 2009, 11:44:16 PM
roujin's 5th or so verdict...

Swallowtail Butterfly vs. Young and Dangerous

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2r3wfo7.png) (http://i39.tinypic.com/14mrzb7.png)
Swallowtail Butterfly (Shunji Iwai, 1996)

This is without a doubt one of the weirder movies we're likely to encounter in the bracket. I have no idea what this is. I'm not sure how to describe it. Basically, it follows immigrants who have gone to Japan because the Yen was really powerful at the time and they hope to strike it rich. The film explains in this in the [noembed]opening minute in a cool Chou-Chou-esque thing majigger (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxNNGHpBP6o)[/noembed] that was getting me all excited because I'd been disappointed in Iwai's other films. Anyway, the film then goes into the story of Glico and Ageha and how they meet and whatever. Then they meet other Yentown-ers who are living in some weird makeshift town outside the city. It's paradise. The movie tells us is paradise by shooting it all like a CINECAST!ing music video. Granted, it (http://i39.tinypic.com/2cxxab8.png) looks (http://i41.tinypic.com/zwhv1i.png) awesome (http://i42.tinypic.com/6hopxy.png) but when you follow it up by two other performances by Chara (the actress who plays Glico) (http://i43.tinypic.com/2hmodbb.png), [noembed]it gets a bit ridiculous (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMrLI300cAk)[/noembed]. After this, the film turns to the struggle of these Yentowners to start some band and have a club. Then [noembed]some random dude pops up 40 minutes in and starts asking questions and pointing fingers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwkEzaAjIP4)[/noembed] in what's probably the best scene in the film. This movie is just really surreal, honestly. There's such erratic shifts in tone and such blatant self-indulgence at display. I mean, what happens when you have scene after scene of stuff that doesn't gel together at all, a very distraught roujin (http://i40.tinypic.com/2ch6c1i.png). More interesting stuff: the film is mostly in English. Apparently, most of the characters can't speak Japanese (cuz they're immigrants) so they speak in English, or, rather, Engrish. Some scenes are incomprehensible to me cuz of the accents at display. Plus it's just surreal. And you get such great lines as "let's see your stomach, you CINECAST!ing kangaroo." Great, great entertainment. I'm pretty sure this movie is awful (in a Southland Tales kind of way) but it's so damn entertaining and weird and doesn't bring up retarded political bullshit (at least not totally incompetently like in ST), that I can still enjoy it. I'm not sure what all of this means, actually. I really don't.

Why is the song "My Way" used as a recurring motif? lol

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2w57zev.png) (http://i42.tinypic.com/2jfmusx.png)
Young and Dangerous (Lau Wai-keung, 1996)

uh, young guns join the triads and do good. Interesting! Apparently, this guy was also the cinematographer on Chungking Express so I expected some interesting visuals, hopefully. But, it seems that was for naught. At points, there's cool neon-stuff + slo-mo stuff but that's about it visually. The camera is jumpy and kinetic and that's cool but there's not much happening otherwise. Apparently, this film was the basis for something like nine sequels (two of them in the same year) so apparently it was a big deal. I can see why, sort of. The story is pretty basic. The young guys try and make good in the triad but get CINECAST!ed bcuz they're young and some old dude is like "hell naw, motherCINECAST!er, I got this" or something or other and plot stuff happens and whatever. It's pretty conventional. It reminds me of the movies I used to see on Saturday afternoons on the WB cuz I had nothing else to do and it was on. Probably, the movie's interesting aspect is that it was based on a manga and the film pays homage to this by sometimes fading into stills from the manga (directly reproduced as live-action film). It was pretty surreal and awesome watching [noembed]the introduction of the characters (http://www.vimeo.com/2703815)[/noembed]. It gave me hope that it would do something interesting with this. But, it seemed content in just randomly doing it without purpose (although it definitely was pretty cool at the end, even if the ending is totally stupid and awesome). uh, points off for having totally awful music. Plus points for having totally [noembed]awesome dialogue exchanges (http://www.vimeo.com/2703914)[/noembed]. Uh, yeah.

Anyway, I think I want more people to watch Swallowtail if only cuz it's so bizarre. Although, I did consider killing it off just to get pix's opinion on it quicker. But, it's just more interesting and there's more going on. So, it moves to the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: jbissell on January 03, 2009, 12:47:53 AM
I want more blue next time.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 03, 2009, 03:23:43 AM
Me, too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on January 03, 2009, 03:47:31 AM
I addition to his co-cinematographer credit on Chungking Express, Andrew Lau Wai-keung also co-directed (and shot) Infernal Affairs.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 03, 2009, 03:50:14 AM
I addition to his co-cinematographer credit on Chungking Express, Andrew Lau Wai-keung also co-directed (and shot) Infernal Affairs.

Yeah, I've seen that. I liked it.

I've also seen The Storm Riders which I hated. ]

+ The Duel which I fell asleep through.

I'm going to watch the prequel to Young and Dangerous. It was shot in 1998 with a totally different cast (a lot of the same people from Metade Fumaca, actually). Should be fun.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on January 03, 2009, 03:55:05 AM
David Bordwell writes a lot about the Young & Dangerous films in "Planet Hong Kong".  As much about them as examples of how the HK film industry works as how they work as film art (or not), IIRC.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 03, 2009, 12:02:27 PM
I should check that out. Bordwell's pretty cool :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 03, 2009, 01:32:19 PM
"A story of beauty, passion and forbidden fruit!" v "Two Thumbs Up the Highly Sensual!"

Nice dissection of the great arthouse ponce, Thor.  A friend of mine, from Vietnam, warned me off seeing that movie a while back.  I was hoping he was wrong, but I guess not.  I'll find out for myself for sure soon enough.  I think Papaya was maybe the first Vietnam film to break through in the international arthouse circuit, right?  I wonder how much that played into some of its accolades at Cannes and elsewhere.

Picture Bride sounds a little like Wide Sargasso Sea, from what I remember of that pretty good book and less good but more sexy film.  I have nowhere to go with this comparison; just something that popped into my head.

Something about your verdict made me wonder what you'd think of Spring in My Home Town.  Maybe I'll find out in some future matchup.

Swallowtail Butterfly vs. Young and Dangerous

This seems like it was a totally fascinating matchup, especially comparing the "Yentowns in Yentowns" clip from Swallowtail with the urinal dialogue exchange from Young and Dangerous.  I should maybe have a marathon of these wonderfully awful films some day — Swallowtail Butterfly, Southland Tales, The Happening, Gran Turino, A History of Violence ...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 03, 2009, 02:27:22 PM
One of those films is not like the other ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on January 03, 2009, 04:51:40 PM
Well, I've seen three of them and didn't think any of them were awful, enjoyably so or otherwise. . . .  :'(
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on January 05, 2009, 11:46:35 AM

Something about your verdict made me wonder what you'd think of Spring in My Home Town.  Maybe I'll find out in some future matchup.

Just looked this up. Sounds intriguing. I'll perhaps give it a go if I can easily find a copy.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Gobman on January 08, 2009, 10:58:27 AM
Black Mask vs. Eat Drink Man Woman

Black Mask
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2hf545h.png)

In the not-so-distant future there is an elite super soldier unit created by removing people's nerve centers, rendering them impervious to pain and various usually death causing moves.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/21e0wpl.png)

See?

Anyway, Jet Li escapes from the unit and wants to feel again, so he escapes and becomes a librarian under the alias Tsui Chik, however, something is rotten in the state of Hong Kong, namely the super soldier unit is still going without any government influence, so their leader is killing all the drug lords to establish themselves as the top drug dealers, Jet Li isn't too pleased about this and sets off on an epic journey of kung fu to fix it.

This was, up and down, a kick-ass martial arts movie, the action was expertly done and I can definitely understand why Jet Li is so well regarded. The actors all do their jobs well and it's very well shot, edited, etc.

Okay, confession time, this dvd was cropped to fullscreen, dubbed and shorter than any edit I've seen listed on imdb, so I'm not really sure if I can properly say I've seen this movie, that being said, screw downloading another version, it was fine the way it was and actually still pretty damn good.

Also, the bad guy looks like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and Yoko Ono.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/mh7v9d.png)

Did I call it or what?


Eat Drink Man Woman

(http://i44.tinypic.com/euhh93.png)

This movie was a hard one to figure out, is it a romcom? chick flick? melodrama? well, yes, and in that order too.

Chu is an old man and brilliant chef for a big restaurant who has lately lost his sense of taste and has to rely on old friends to assure his meals end up satisfactorily.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/51zn8p.png)

Meanwhile, his three daughters (who all live at home) are all unlucky in love, his eldest, a school teacher has never gotten over a broken heart from her highschool days, the middle child, a business executive for an airline is too absorbed in her worklife to have a serious relationship and his youngest, a student/fast food worker is just discovering love.

This film was wonderful, brilliantly acted and wonderfully shot (it seems that those are the only two ways that i judge films but whatever) the climax and denouement, despite containing many surprises, left me utterly elated and satisfied, every character ended up where I wanted them to be and who I wanted them to be with.


Also, lots of really nice chinese food porn (a lot of it in the opening credits, which I can safely say are the best opening credits of any movie I've seen)

(http://i41.tinypic.com/ddwrq.png)

See?


Verdict:

How in hell can I compare these two? Well, Black Mask was a lot of fun, and probably the best serious martial arts movie I've seen. Eat Drink Man Woman though, if the last few scenes were the slightest bit different this wouldn't be nearly so easy, but they weren't, so it is.
Eat Drink Man Woman goes on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 08, 2009, 11:42:35 AM
One Jet Li down, but the other still lives! Wassup Fist of Legend!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on January 08, 2009, 11:51:33 AM
One Jet Li down, but the other still lives! Wassup Fist of Legend!

Fong Sai-Yuk is still in as well. I love that film.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on January 08, 2009, 05:11:05 PM
I somehow lost notification of verdicts and haven't been following along for a few weeks.

I want to stand up and say that Fudoh is one of those "gotta check it out" films if you love fearlessly bizarre cinema that's not too difficult to follow.  It's a true original.  Even as I write this, I am thinking back fondly on the blowdart vagina.

If you need more convincing, check out this highlight reel.

"http://www.youtube.com/v/KKGGu0tHqcE&hl=en&fs=1
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on January 08, 2009, 05:24:51 PM
I somehow lost notification of verdicts and haven't been following along for a few weeks.

I want to stand up and say that Fudoh is one of those "gotta check it out" films if you love fearlessly bizarre cinema that's not too difficult to follow.  It's a true original.  Even as I write this, I am thinking back fondly on the blowdart vagina.

If you need more convincing, check out this highlight reel.

"http://www.youtube.com/v/KKGGu0tHqcE&hl=en&fs=1


It is original.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 08, 2009, 07:21:11 PM
(http://i42.tinypic.com/21e0wpl.png)
Aw, I am so excited to watch this now.  Is it gonna be everything I wanted out of Unleashed minus all the super dumb stuff?  'Cause that's what I'm picturing.

I actually don't remember how Eat Drink Man Woman ends.  It was pretty good, though; I remember that.  If any Category III films make it to the next round, someone should be sure to do a food porn vs. porn porn matchup.

Glad you caught up with some good films, Gobman.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 11, 2009, 01:28:56 PM
Blues Harp (1998, Takashi, Miike, Japan) against Green Fish (1997, Chang-don Lee, Korea)

Itís January and there is a frigid breeze haunting the city I live in, so much so that it freezes the tears that roll down my cheeks when I step outside. The ski and Premier League seasons are in full swing, yet as much as I adore the Gunners and respect the other English clubs, January can mean only two things in truth: NFL playoffs and the Far East bracket. Why not spice up the elements by fusing the two together?

Put your game faces on Filmspotters because weíre going assess this matchup play by play and blow by blow. It will be like Primetime but hosted by a white boy. Uh, we do what we do!



(http://www.cine-east.com/catalog/images/blues.jpg)


Storming out of the tunnel is Blues Harp, a story about the newly found friendship between three very different people in urban Japan. The first of these three is Chujii (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), a half Black half Japanese (thatís right) bartender in a pub that puts on music shows every night. A little known fact is that he very much enjoys playing the harp (or harmonica), but only in his private quiet time, not in front of any significant audience. He also deals drugs for a gang member in order to earn some extra money on the side. The second is Kenji, a young, resourceful but perhaps too brash Yakuza gang member. The third is Tokiko, a perky Ďglass is half fullí type of girl who visits the same pub Chujii works at to see the music shows. One night, their fates become intertwined when Chujii not only helps out Tokiko from some customers but hides Kenji, who is on the run from some rival gang members who he has irked.  Pretty soon, Tokiko and Chujii start dating and move in with each other. The former becomes inadvertently involved in a plan Kenji has concocted to overthrow a Yakuza leader. The players are fired up and ready for kickoff.

First and foremost, Blues Harp has a great sense of style, a style that serves the storytelling very well. This isnít a three hour epic drama, but a 100 (give or take) minute film that tells a compact and interesting story. There are few scenes here that do not serve any purpose in the narrative, with perhaps a couple of exceptions that I will assess a bit later. The character development on display is also well up to par with what one would at least hope for in a Yakuza film. Chujii is of the laid back type. From his demeanor it appears as if very little can rile him up. Tokiko on the other hand is very expressive. To reference to a recent film, she is very much in the same vein as Poppy, from Happy Go Lucky. What the film does well is not make her perkiness unbearable. Her reactions and comments to the people and events around her tickled my funny bone more than once.

Perhaps the most ambiguous character is Kenji, the Yajuza gang member. At times, there is an appearance about him that denotes confidence and a know-how that should make him a formidable foe. And yet, from the very get go, there are hints that indicate he may be getting in over his head. He is highly loyal to those he believes he can trust, as is demonstrated in the scene during which he repays (literally) Chujii for helping him out when he was in need early in the film. Interestingly enough, the movie makes a semi-subtle reference to something that may be cooking under the surface with regards to how Kenji views Chujii. I wonít give it away here, and the movie never explicitly provides an answer, but it is an interesting theme that the story toys with a bit. Put some easy points on the board with these fun characters. Add a little bit of subtlety and you get a quarterback sneak the defence just didnít see coming. Another set of downs, letís keep on rolling.

The films greatest strength, its leader on the field, is in these relations that unfold. It is possible to argue that there is a slight sense of Ďbeen there, done thatí but we spend enough time with these people that by the time the third act begins, the viewer is fully invested in them, which is more than I can say for many other films Iíve seen. Chujii and Tokiko, as different as they are, do form a good looking couple. Her inherent goodness inspires him as does his work ethic (minus the drug dealing) and laid back attitude make her feel good. The determination that fuels Kenji to honour this new friend and ally he has found in Chujii is a nice element. Rather than have Kenji drag Chujii into his plot to shake up the Yakuza, he wants to protect him. One thing leads to another, and when it is Kenjiís driver, who out of jealousy, brings Chujii into the plan and subsequently into great danger, Kenji feels compelled to do all he can to save him. The final scene has a strong dramatic effect because of everything that came before it. The viewer has come to like these people so much that seeing them in any danger raises the stakes to a remarkably intense level. Instead of an overtly gritty, glum gangster movie, what we have is a surprisingly effective character driven story. The Yakuza element merely serves as the starting off point for the character moments that follow. A wise decision which is nicely put into effect by director Miike. Blues Harp makes a Ďwildcatí play and strolls into the end zone yet again.

One last point Iíd like to make. Eventually Chujii is invited to the stage one night at his pub to play the harmonica with the band. We have already seen the band play some grand blues/rock at the beginning of the film. The singer takes a backseat and Chujii starts blowing the heck out that little harp of his. Itís great stuff to watch and listen to. There are maybe 3 or 4 scenes like this in the movie that show off great blues musical numbers for 2-3 minutes. Every one of them is a treat to listen, doubly so if you like that kind of music. A great, great soundtrack for the movie. Onside kicks, full backs throwing passes, wide receivers finding ways to get openÖ Blues Harp is brimming with confidence.

Blues Harp had a game plan and stuck to it. There is no cop out at the end, it isnít trying to be Ďimportantí in any particular way. It simply wants to tell a story with compelling, memorable characters. It does just that but with a confident sense of style as well. A well coached product with players ready to give it their all.

After scoring senselessly, a kickoff toÖGreen Fish

(http://img105.imageshack.us/img105/2887/photo8438fa4.jpg)


In Chang-dong Leeís Green Fish, Makdong (Suk-kyu Han) is a 26 year old single guy coming home following a term he served in the military. Just because he was in the military doesnít mean he can handle everything though. In one of the movieís initial scenes, Makdong, while taking the train home, decides to come to the aid of a damsel, Mi-ae (Hye-jin Shim) who has caught the attention of some annoying blokes. She gets away fine but Makdong gets slapped around a fair bit. The Korean Jason Bourne this guy certainly ainít.

Still, Makdongís curiosity about Mi-ae propels  him to go look for her. A string of luck has our skinny hero come across her at a lounge where she is a popular singer it turns out. Finding her finally leads him to Mi-aeís lover, an entrepreneur/mob leader named Bae Tae-kon (Seong-kun Mun). With no job and a big question mark all around regarding his future, he snags a simple job in Baeís organization. Is Makdong really cut out for this kind of work? Well, Iíll let Filmspotters find that out if they choose to watch the movie, but rest assured that is doesnít start out promising. Whatís more, it becomes apparent that Mi-ae is ready to start a fling with this young gun, which makes Makdong feel somewhat awkward at times. Thereís no question he finds her attractive, but believes he owes his loyalty to Bae who saw enough in him to land him a job within his organization. A promising lineup, no doubt. But how will it stack up in the Far East brackets, Asian cinemaís version of the playoffs?

The movie isÖfine. ItísÖgood, Iíll go with that. I think the issue lies in the fact that as the story evolves, the writing and directing feel slightly unfocused. This works to the detriment of the main character. For example, quite early in the film it is evident that it is through Makdongís eyes that we will see this world, this culture. He is an awkward fellow, particularly with women. His family as some eccentric characters, such as one of his elder brothers who drives an egg truck around Seoul to earn a living. This leads to one of the funniest scenes Iíve had the privilege of watching in quite some time. They get involved with a couple of police officers andÖ Iíll stop now. It really needs to be seen. What I thought was compelling about such a sequence, as well as others, was how they stressed Makdongís immaturity in many situations. He doesnít seem to have fully evolved into a mature 26 year old. When Mi-ae begins to make some moves on him later on, he becomes as stiff as a rod! Itís kind of funny and Suk-kyu Han should be commended for the performance. So far, Fish is making some plays to march down the field. They still have their 4 downs left.

Itís at about the half way mark of the film that things go astray a little bit. The film doesnít fall apart by any means, but it looses something. When a rival mob leader/entrepreneur starts challenging Bae, there are more and more scenes that focus on him rather than Makdong. I wouldnít say that Bae becomes the main character, but suddenly his presence (key word: presence, not necessarily screen time) becomes much more intriguing and worthy of dramatic effect within the narrative than Makdongís. For about the final half hour of the movie, Suk-kyu Han is relegated to standing with a somewhat numb look in his eyes. In fact, merely due to the final 30 minutes, I preferred Seong-kun Munís performance to Hanís. There is nothing wrong with a catalyst event propelling the film into the final third, in this case the appearance of the rival mob boss, but it really takes the wind out of the sails of he who, at the start of the film, was the dominant character. When Makdongís final fate is sealed, I didnít care so much for him anymore. Oh no, fumble! The other team has the ball!

There are some scenes that, for all intents and purposes, didnít work for me at all. The second time Mi-ae attempts to seduce Makdong not only feels predictable, but has a terribly awkward feel to it. Perhaps this was Leeís intention, but it certainly didnít make the scene a pleasure to watch, even intellectually. There was another cringe inducing moment during which Baeís henchmen, including Makdong, bring a poor sucker to dig his own grave. There is an atrocious attempt at comedy that rang terribly false. Another disappointing scene has a drunk Mi-ae greatly anger her lover Bae. While not a terrible scene per say, it felt forced. I was under the impression that its only purpose was to set up the next scene, incidentally the seduction scene I wrote about earlier. And it isnít even as though her flirtation with Makdong makes much of an impact throughout the film. Not that it didnít have its place in the story, but I was not under the impression that the writers knew exactly what to do with it. I imagine it was part of Makdongís growing and process of maturation, but I never felt its importance. The defence is reading the quarterback like a book. Heís scrambling, sacked and overthrowing late in the game hereÖ

The movie does have one spectacular final scene which almost saves the Makdong/Mi-ae relationship. Effective and touching, it really works. I also enjoyed the visual style of the film. It felt at times like a movie from the 70s, one of my favourite cinematic decades. The lighting, the camera work, there was something about them that reminded me of that era, even though this is a 1997 film. I donít know whether that was intentional or not, but it worked for me. There are of course elements of the film noir genre here, with a femme fatale seducing our hero, and plenty of slimy characters lurking in the shadows. There are several scenes that occur at night and they all look great. Good stuff for sure, but that was more like that a touchdown a team scores in the final minute when theyíre already down by 21.

Green Fish
had me interested for its entire running length, but mostly because I hoped the story would get back on track with the strong start it had with Makdongís character. That never happened unfortunately. I started to feel as though the writers had perhaps ran out of ideas for him. The weight of the Makdong/Mi-ae affair is never felt to its true potential either. A decent film, one that Iím sure many of you can like if you one day choose to watch-oh, Iím sorry, experience. For me, it didnít quite fire on all cylinders. A worthy effort, but it could have used some extra drills during training camp.

Final score: Blues Harp 30-17 Green Fish. A respectable effort by the Fish, but Blue had too much fire power and a stout defence that sealed the deal in the late stages of the game. Blues Harp earns its trip to the next round. Director Miike is given the Gatorade treatment. Green Fish is left to ponder on the journey in the Far East bracket that could have been...

Fish are Green,
Harps are Blue,
I preferred the latter
And so will you.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 11, 2009, 04:32:55 PM
Very entertaining verdict, edgar.  Glad you found it in you to recreate the work you lost.  It sounds like Blues Harp should be the next Miike I watch.  He hasn't won me over yet, but I really like the sound of it from your description.  You had me at "half Black half Japanese" no doubt.  :)  Plus, I find the poster strangely appealing.

I'll be curious to see what you think of Lee Chang-dong's second film as a director, Peppermint Candy, which roujin was just raving about (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg196107#msg196107).  I didn't realize, until checking his filmography just now, that he wrote a couple screenplays before Green Fish, including the one for A Single Spark, one of the films in worm's current matchup.  (I hope you like it more than you liked Oasis (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=3488.msg106347#msg106347), worm!) Love these tidbits at his IMDb page:  "Born in Daegu, the most right-wing city in South Korea, 1954. Former high-school teacher and acclaimed novelist, turned into cinema over 40 years old."  Interesting.

There was another cringe inducing moment during which Bae’s henchmen, including Makdong, bring a poor sucker to dick his own grave.
Some typos are funnier than others.  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 11, 2009, 04:37:34 PM
That's an awesome typo. I'm actually glad I did that. I still thought it best to correct it though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 12, 2009, 02:50:50 AM
Cool verdict. I'm hoping to catch Green Fish film someday as I've enjoyed the director's later films.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 12, 2009, 11:31:10 PM
roujin's 6th verdict, I think

One Evening After The War vs. Ordinary Heroes

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2i7lpjl.jpg) (http://i44.tinypic.com/286sche.png)
One Evening After The War (Rithy Panh, 1998)

This was good. Maybe even great. It tells the story of some dude who fought in the Cambodian Civil War. Once the conflict ended, he comes back to his town and tries to start over again. This involves burying his gun next to a tree, befriending a small child and laying the mack on a bar girl. Things unfold sort of predictably but I don't hold that against the film mainly because of its hugely appealing characters. The dude at the center, Savannah, is one of thet most likable leads I've encountered in a long time. The girl he falls for is no slouch either. She tells the story several years after it's ended. The pain her face shows is heartbreaking. The framing device is clunky but I think the acting sells it. We follow Savannah as he gets a bike (a sign of upward mobility), as he tries out kickboxing, as he woos the girl (these scenes are so poignant), as he lives. It's old territory, you know but I think this film sold me enough on its story and characters that I don't mind how familiar it felt. I'm finding it hard to talk about this film too much, actually. It seems that all I'm being able to say about this film relates to its story and characters. Nothing much besides those surface level things. Maybe it only has those things to offer. I'm not sure. I don't know. Blah.  :'(

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2md32x5.jpg) (http://i41.tinypic.com/2mzb4ef.jpg)
Ordinary Heroes (Ann Hui, 1998)

This was interesting if not entirely satisfactory. There's two films at play here, honestly. One of them is about the struggle to change HK law regarding boat brides (http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/more.php?id=1372_0_3_0). The second one plays in the background. It's about Lee Kang-Sheng (from the Tsai Ming-Liang films who is very clearly dubbed) falling in love with a woman who is involved in that cause. The film begins in the present as the dude and the girl are adults or whatever. Then it goes into the past to detail the beginnings of the cause and the way that it progresses. We meet a Communist Italian Father played by Anthony Wong who also joins the cause and his constant fastings (uh...) are displayed. It's in the scenes of protests, of politics at work, that I feel the film works best. The rest isn't very interesting. The acting is good, actually. Particularly, Wong who is appealing in a way I can't understand. What I personally found the most interesting is kind of wondering in my head how this story would play out if it were remade. First, they would speed it the hell up. This film takes its time and there are scenes that are pretty superfluous that go on for longer than usual just to build character. Secondly, some of the obliqueness of the opening minutes would probably be gone. In fact, the narrative would become way more streamlined and some of the subtleties would be done with. I mentioned that Lee Kang-Sheng's character falls in love with woman. Yeah, this is ostensibly what happens. But the film never really makes a big deal of it and the two don't even officially meet in the story until a while in (in their flashback, I mean). So, the romance angle would probably be ramped up way more. These are things I sort of thought about. Just how different the sensibilities at display are from normal Hollywood cinema. harumph.

One Evening After the War moves on.

Note: I'm very dissatisfied with these writeups. I may rewrite them at some point when I can think or something.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 13, 2009, 12:47:28 AM
 :-\
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 13, 2009, 08:02:26 AM
The topic of boat brides (I read the article) is an interesting one. I'm not sure how good a movie about it could be though. Sounds as if Ordinary Heroes wasn't up to par though. Still, I may watch it more as a curiosity down the road.
One Evening After the War sounds more like a film down my ally. It's a topic that deserves strong character development. You mention it only has 'story' and 'characters' as elements to chew on, very surface level aspects of the film. I'm willing to be there may be a bit more.

On a semi-related topic, I just got Peppermint Candy from Chang-dong Lee. Some thoughts might be posted by the end of the week.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on January 13, 2009, 11:44:34 AM
Note: I'm very dissatisfied with these writeups. I may rewrite them at some point when I can think or something.

I dunno, I think you got the important bits across. :) One Evening After The War definitely sounds more like my kind of film, so glad to see it moving on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 18, 2009, 01:40:32 AM
One Evening After the War moves on.

Yay, there will be a Cambodian film in round two!  :)  And one I'm already charmed by, just on account of the screenshot.

I wonder if Rice People can make it a Cambodian sweep.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 20, 2009, 01:35:22 AM
Way to churn out those verdicts!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on January 20, 2009, 12:27:50 PM
Way to churn out those verdicts!

Just wait until the filmspots are over. I'm gonna be a far-east verdicting ma-chine!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 20, 2009, 03:02:41 PM
Right on Melvil, this thing will be exciting when we get into the second round. And Hopefully more popular too :)

I had to give in yesterday and look to the internet for the second half of the match-up I'm currently working on. And even then it was very difficult to track down. I've been waiting patiently for many weeks with it on top of my queue, but it must be a missing disc or something. For finding it online it really didn't help matters having an English title like The Contact and a release date in 1997, identical to the scifi movie of the same name  ::) Oh well, I hope to have a verdict up before the week is out.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 'Noke on January 20, 2009, 03:23:53 PM
I have seen both princess mononoke and rhapsody in august and now for sure which one is passing. I'll get write-ups asap but i've got lots on my plate right now, specially filmspots.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 20, 2009, 04:32:13 PM
I had to give in yesterday and look to the internet for the second half of the match-up I'm currently working on. And even then it was very difficult to track down. I've been waiting patiently for many weeks with it on top of my queue, but it must be a missing disc or something. For finding it online it really didn't help matters having an English title like The Contact and a release date in 1997, identical to the scifi movie of the same name  ::) Oh well, I hope to have a verdict up before the week is out.
I've tracked everything (http://bt.avistaz.com/details.php?id=0e3e99f4d1880ab73e5b2b7cd9431434aa618afe) down, so let me now if you have any trouble in the future.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 20, 2009, 09:13:16 PM
I've tracked everything (http://bt.avistaz.com/details.php?id=0e3e99f4d1880ab73e5b2b7cd9431434aa618afe) down, so let me now if you have any trouble in the future.

Thanks pix. That's where I ended up getting it too :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 22, 2009, 05:09:04 PM
                                    Christmas In August             The Contact                 
IMDB Score7.87.5
DirectorJin-ho HurYoon-Hyun Chang
Country of OriginSouth KoreaSouth Korea
GenreDrama/RomanceDrama/Romance
Awards4 wins 2 noms3 wins
Lead ActorsSuk-kyu Han &
Eun-ha Shim
Suk-kyu Han &
Do-yeon Jeon

(http://i.imgur.com/2BBdchD.jpg)

Christmas in August is a movie worth watching. It tells the story of a 30 something man who works at a photo store (you know, the places you went to in the 90's to get pictures developed and portraits taken?) The movie doesn't go out of it's way to build him up as the nicest of nice guys, but instead depicts him as a rather ordinary, personable fellow. Early on in the film you see the man (Jung-Won) take some pills, but nothing said of it. As the film progresses you pick up tidbits that don't give you much specific detail, but you come to suspect that Jung Won's ailment is more severe than he is letting on. Around 2/3 of the way through the movie you see Jung Won do some things that leave no question as to what's coming. The movie isn't entirely about discovering what is wrong with Jung Won, in fact that's handled with just a few short scenes. No, the meat of the movie is about how he spends these final days, weeks, and months. It's a rather common premise now that I think about it. Heck, one of my earlier match ups used the same situation as a base. But this isn't you average last days of glory kind of film. Jung Won proceeds rather resignedly. He doesn't rush out and travel the world, and he doesn't spend all his money. He restrains himself when it comes to his love life, and he continues to work at the photo shop. Perhaps these are more realistic actions under the circumstances. In anycase, it is what it is. He chooses a quiet withdrawl from the world. It's a compassionate movie, with a rather melancholy tone.

I understand what the movie was going for, and it does get there, but I did find it lacking in one way. I had an inkling pretty early on that Jung Won was terminally ill but the movie takes over half the running time to confirm it, and in the meanwhile I just took that suspicion and shelved it. This wouldn't be a problem necessarily if it wasn't for the first large portion of the movie being rather too slow. If I'd been watching the first 60 minutes with the knowledge I had in the last 30, I feel it would've added some much needed weight to the goings-on. I suppose it makes an excellent candidate for a rewatch! And in fact, that is what I've done. I watched it again while I was sitting here thinking what to write. And sure enough it was a fair bit better the second time through. The thumb-twiddling scenes from before now had more importance. So who knows, maybe the way I watch movies really had a negative effect on this one. Tastes are tastes. It's just my opinion that the sequence of events should've been arranged differently, to give a stronger sense of purpose to the entire movie.

Ultimately I think the movie was good. I feel like I've considered it thoroughly, and understand it. It's interesting if not all that engaging. Neither of the main characters were overly charming, Jong Won or his love interest. Their relationship was rather peculiar; because of John Won's choices it is never allowed to fully blossom. And in some ways that's true of the whole movie. I felt John Won's lack of fight, while totally understandable, doesn't give us the kind of hope that would better carry this movie (even if it is destined to end in sadness). The whole movie is subdued. Like I said, it's interesting, but you don't get a whole lot to rally around.

That's about all the noteworthy aspects I can remember. It's a 3/5 as far as my own overall enjoyment goes, but a 4 or 4.5/5 when it comes to achieving what it set out to do. I think depending on your tastes, you may really love this movie. A lot! I look forward to hearing others thoughts on this one. It will be moving on to round 2.
--------------------------------

I've seen The Contact described as a not-so-lighthearted You've Got Mail. I haven't seen YGM in full, but I understand the general plot and can say it's a fair comparison. You've got two people, troubled in their own love lives, and they happen to strike up a friendship via email. To be honest, I was a little confused as to how exactly all this comes about in The Contact. Maybe it was the subtitles which seemed rather crudely translated. Or maybe I was just getting names confused. I had to rewind a bit but eventually I sorted it out. In any case, they find themselves online together about 20 minutes into the movie. There's a bit of deceit at first, then apologies, then advice. Amongst the brief email scenes, the film continues to focus on the independent lives of the two major parties, mainly their love lives. It comes to pass that both of their pursuits don't pan out. They console each other, and eventually decide to meet for the first time. But of course, in true movie style, a misfortune strikes just then that threatens the meeting from ever taking place.

This movie sticks to the playbook for the most part. It's even got a musical montage complete with lead characters casting longing looks from their apartment windows.... no rain though.  ;) Fortunately this film throws in a few ingredients of it's own into formula. Most memorable was the supercool soundtrack. It's more than just a soundtrack actually. One of the songs has importance within the plot. There's a few other unique quirks added in to break things up a bit. This movie isn't a romantic comedy. Acutally it wasn't even all that romantic. It's just a low-key relationship drama.
 
On the whole I thought it was somewhere between okay and good. Maybe a 2.5 or 3/5 on the enjoyment scale. The beautiful lead actress gives a performance worth mentioning. Suk-kyu Han wasn't asked to do much. He was almost perpetually calm. I just didn't buy his character. Nevertheless, I guess I could recommend it. If nothing else, it's got good music, a good ending, and it's not too long.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 22, 2009, 05:09:32 PM
Next!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on January 22, 2009, 05:29:58 PM
Cool, nice writeup smirnoff! I haven't seen either of these, but I'll look forward to seeing where Christmas in August goes from here.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on January 22, 2009, 05:47:10 PM
Why is it that the crime/gangster/violent flicks from South Korea are so easy to find and the sublime melodramas are so difficult?  I mean I know why, but it's a shame I have trouble tracking down films like Christmas in August, Oasis and April Snow
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 22, 2009, 06:19:36 PM
There's not a market for them, I guess. Although you can buy Korean dramas (which are the most melodramatic/weepy shit ever) online with Eng. subs... if that's your thing : :P
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 22, 2009, 06:53:40 PM
Having never seen either of those two films, I would say that at least based on the synopses of each, the verdict seems sensible.

Good show.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 22, 2009, 08:26:17 PM
Thanks guys.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 31, 2009, 08:59:22 AM
Christmas in August is a movie worth watching... I think depending on your tastes, you may really love this movie. A lot! I look forward to hearing others thoughts on this one.

You know, I've actually seen this movie twice.  I rented it last year, right before this bracket started, and I made it pretty much the whole way through before I realized I'd seen it already about three years before.  Not too memorable, it seems!  I have no idea what I thought of it that first time — I clearly wasn't blown away — but in the second viewing the movie was definitely a disappointment for many of flaws you pointed out in your verdict.  Afterwards, I read all these gushing comments over at IMDb, and I really just didn't understand where these people were coming from, how they were so moved by the film.  About twenty minutes into my screening, I just stopped caring for the most part.  There were a few good moments after that, here and there, but, I dunno, it mostly just didn't work for me.  Despite that, I stiill agree with your last comment there:  I can definitely see the right person on the right day totally falling in love with the movie.

Nice verdict, by the way.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 31, 2009, 10:36:29 AM
Thanks pix.  :)

Yeah, many of the people on imdb were downright gaga over this one. I believe I read one comment that said it was the best movie ever even. Anyways, I'm really glad to hear your thoughts. I wonder which filmspotter might really enjoy this one most...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on January 31, 2009, 01:22:51 PM
The Longest Nite vs The Longest Summer

The Longest Nite


(http://www.lovehkfilm.com/reviews/ab3219/longest_nite.jpg)

Directed by Patrick Yau Tat-Chi, this is a crazy uber-violent mix of Bad Lieutenant, The Shield, and Pulp Fiction. It tells the story of a very bad cop in the middle of a raging Triad gang war with very high stakes, both bodily and financial. Like many Asian movies (based on those I have seen) there is an over-the-top quality to this movie, however it does not cross into Miike territory. There are several interconnected story lines, which turn back on each other, reveling many twist and turns. I dont want to say more for fear of spoiling the fun. Its a very fun ride.



The Longest Summer


(http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc49.2007/FruitChan-class/images/fruitchanimages/longest_summer_a.jpg)


Directed by Fruit Chan, this film tells two stories. One, about the upcoming (1998) turn over of Hong King to China and two, its effects on a few of its citizens. Losing their  positions in the army due to the handover, a group of former soldiers are forced into a life of crime with the triads. Really this is two movies. The scenes telling the story of the handover were affecting, while the triad story seemed forced at times. There are some beautiful scenes in this film but the two story lines are never well connected forcing you in and out of the movie as the theme changes. The violence in this film is much more subtle than the former movie, but because the characters are not well developed, it actually has less impact that the surreal violence of The Longest Nite.


Verdict: For me this is not close, I had a great time with The Longest Nite. Its a great crime movie, over-the-top, violent, surreal, funny, and just plain fun. The Longest Summer is much quieter but more flawed.

The Longest Nite moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on January 31, 2009, 02:22:12 PM
I think I spot Sam Lee in that pic for The Longest Summer. That's reason enough to watch it.

Good verdict. I should watch my films...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on January 31, 2009, 02:26:37 PM
The Longest Nite vs The Longest Summer

The Longest Nite


(http://www.lovehkfilm.com/reviews/ab3219/longest_nite.jpg)





The Longest Summer


(http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc49.2007/FruitChan-class/images/fruitchanimages/longest_summer_a.jpg)



Verdict: For me this is not close, I had a great time with The Longest Nite. Its a great crime movie, over-the-top, violent, surreal, funny, and just plain fun. The Longest Summer is much quieter but more flawed.

The Longest Nite moves on.

Are you sure? Based on the pics you just kicked out the movie with more and bigger guns in it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on January 31, 2009, 02:36:47 PM





Are you sure? Based on the pics you just kicked out the movie with more and bigger guns in it.

oh no, The longest Night has WAY more guns. Don't worry. :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 31, 2009, 02:38:45 PM
The Longest Nite

Directed by Patrick Yau Tat-Chi, this is a crazy uber-violent mix of Bad Lieutenant, The Shield, and Pulp Fiction.

If other people are as intrigued by The Longest Nite as I am, you should know that Yau's followup film, Expect the Unexpected, is still waiting to be matched up with something (and is also available from Netflix).

Nice writeup, Clovis!

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on January 31, 2009, 02:45:31 PM
Longest Nite sounds pretty good. Nice job with the matchup.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 31, 2009, 04:10:17 PM
P.S. One of my favorite American genre's is gangster films so I was really looking forward to seeing a Yakuza film. Perhaps someone could point me to a good/great one. Perhaps more along the lines of "The Godfather" than "Mickey Blue Eyes". :D

Not technically a yazkua film, but did The Longest Nite kinda fit what you were looking for anyway?

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on January 31, 2009, 04:14:31 PM
P.S. One of my favorite American genre's is gangster films so I was really looking forward to seeing a Yakuza film. Perhaps someone could point me to a good/great one. Perhaps more along the lines of "The Godfather" than "Mickey Blue Eyes". :D

Not technically a yazkua film, but did The Longest Nite kinda fit what you were looking for anyway?

pixote

Yes it did. I liked it alot.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on January 31, 2009, 04:15:14 PM
Awesome.  Let me know what you're in the mood for next.  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on January 31, 2009, 04:22:12 PM
Awesome.  Let me know what you're in the mood for next.  :)

pixote

I think I will wait for round two. I wouldn't mind getting a match up in the American bracket.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on January 31, 2009, 09:20:59 PM
If other people are as intrigued by The Longest Nite as I am, you should know that Yau's followup film, Expect the Unexpected, is still waiting to be matched up with something (and is also available from Netflix).

Critics Stephen Teo and David Bordwell wrote that Johnnie To directed most of The Longest Nite and credit him as director, more or less.  The former confirms it through To's partner and also Yau's superior, Wai Ka-fai.  As far as Expect the Unexpected, Bordwell does count it as a To work as he took over directorial duties while Teo also does in a less direct way by implying Yau could only have directed it with deference to To.  For what it's worth, both have To's fingerprints all over them.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 01, 2009, 12:18:52 AM
Huh, interesting.  Let me try my pitch again:

If other people are as intrigued by The Longest Nite as I am, you should know that Yau's followup one last To film, Expect the Unexpected Lifelife, is still waiting to be matched up with something (and is also available from Netflix).

:)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 04, 2009, 08:40:58 PM
(https://i.imgur.com/kS0F158.jpg)This is a symbolic plodding movie. There's 3 different storylines, all representing some time or aspect of postwar Vietnam. Apparently there is some meaningful use of colours in there too. Of course, I wasn't aware of any of this going in.

I watched attentively without it dawning on me that this was a great big metaphor. But so what? That shouldn't matter. It's still a movie isn't it? It still has to entertain. Emotional engagement, compelling stories, that sort of stuff. Three Seasons was none of these things. It's just an drawn out, dull, glimpse at like in Vietnam. The metaphor is merely supplementary. Icing on the cow-pie.

If the director had spent as much time making a good movie as he spent trying to make a meaningful movie then I wouldn't be so peeved.  We all like to make the most of a movie I'm sure. I mean 2 Hours of your life, you might as well try to enjoy yourself right? But the movie has to hold up it's end of the bargain... meet you in the middle, at least. You provide the lemons, I'll do the squeezing.

The metaphor isn't interesting anyways. The acting was fine, it's a very pretty looking movie, and there are one or two touching scenes, but it still comes up short. I wouldn't mind putting it through to the next round for someone else to take a shot at it, but I really don't think it's worthy. Pardon my ungracious review, but it's hard to find anything worthwhile in a boring movie. It should be noted that some people absolutely love this movie, so don't write it off on account of my grumblings. Your going to have to see it on your own though, because as far as the bracket is concerned Three Seasons is done.



This is about an old Tai-Chi master, Mr. Chu, who moves to America to live with his son. He's retired, and he speaks no English. His son is married to an American woman who speaks no Chinese. Mr. Chu and his son's wife Martha are home together all day long. She writes, he practices Tai-Chi. They don't speak to each other, they can't. Mr. Chu very presence irritates Martha. The way he eats, the way he watches tv, everything he does seems to distract her from writing. Tension builds.

Excuse the humdrum description of the story, but that's just how the start of the movie felt. It took me a good 10 minutes to get into it. It was the lead actress, she just wasn't that good. No matter, things start to pick up pretty shortly. I came to enjoy this one.

Mr. Chu is an interesting character to watch. At times stubborn and selfish, but also warm and mystical. A pleasure to see. The climax of the movie is totally, magically, awesome! Ang Lee's debut film is a decent one. Not perfect, but it get's the job done. A 2.5 or 3/5.
(https://i.imgur.com/52N6TtU.jpg)

Pushing Hand's wins.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 04, 2009, 08:44:17 PM
;D

I haven't even read yet.  I'm just excited about the formatting.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 04, 2009, 08:46:05 PM
Tables. A bit of a lost art perhaps  8)  ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 06, 2009, 06:46:47 PM
I'll make sure to watch the original Fong Sai Yuk before checking out the resurrection-worthiness of the sequel.  Maybe I can find a better version of it, too...

Better version = 35mm, as it turns out.  :D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 06, 2009, 06:49:44 PM
So the Far East film with the white chick moves to the next round. Affirmative action!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on February 07, 2009, 02:57:26 AM
I'll make sure to watch the original Fong Sai Yuk before checking out the resurrection-worthiness of the sequel.  Maybe I can find a better version of it, too...

Better version = 35mm, as it turns out.  :D

pixote

woo!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 08, 2009, 08:59:05 AM
Sting of Death (1990, Kohei Oguri) versus Passage to Buddha (1993 Sun-Woo Jang)



(http://i42.tinypic.com/2m7bvgy.jpg)
Sting of Death

Kohei Oguri presents the poisoning of the family environment to the greatest degree. Toshio (Ittoku Kishibe) is a shy, pacifist and rather quiet husband. Miho (Keiko Matsuzaka) is a viciously jealous and possibly demented wife. Shinishi and Maya are their two children. Jealous and unfaithfulness donít go hand in hand, particularly with a wife who can be as verbally and physically violent as Miho. But thatís precisely what Toshio has done wrong, he has had an affair. After a drawn out argument, he pleads to remain true to his wife and do whatever she desires. But old wounds do not perish easily.

Oguri is gifted at setting moods and tones. In Sleeping Man, he offered a quiet exploration of a communityís culture as they mourned the loss of a loved one. In Sting of Death, the tone is decidedly more dark and pessimistic. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Miho seems incapable of moving on from the past and is consistently suspicious of her husbandís motives, to the point where it is clear she is freakishly paranoid.  Both leads are strong, but extra credit goes to Keiko Mtsuzaka for unfusing her role with such energy. Ittoku Kishibe is more reserved but handles the material well enough, even though he seems more like a statue than anything else most of the time. Oguriís direction is professional and honest. He doesnít try to cop out with anything. The two heads of this family are destroying it apart and we are witnesses to the almost inevitable final blow. Itís a challenging piece  because Oguri doesnít provide any ray of light whatsoever, making the film a difficult, uncomfortable watch, but one that has its rewards.



(http://www.avistaz.com/wp-content/2008/02/passagetobuddhatj2.jpg)
Passage to Buddha

http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-passage-to-buddha.html (http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-passage-to-buddha.html)

Following the passing of his father, a young boy named Son Je (Tae-kyung Oh) sets out on a quest to find his mother. He has no idea where she may be and how to find her, but he is quite the determined little lad. As soon as he meets a certain monk in a restaurant however, the nature of his voyage morphs into something different, more spiritual in nature. The monk shares some spiritual comments about the world and tells the boy to meet a certain doctor who lives by the sea. With each new encounter, Son Je is told to go see another person, and another, and so on.

Soon, it becomes clear that Son Je is not even on a quest to find his mother, but rather has embarked on a journey of spiritual enlightenment. Knowing little of Buddhism, all I can say is that the film is meant to be a fictionalized telling of the Avatamsaka Sutra of Buddhism, which relates to the interdependent phenomena that makes the universe what it is, and of course the passage to full Enlightenment. The story becomes a series of odd encounters with characters who share wisdom with the boy, and he begins to grow as a person and spiritually. Son Je doesnít seem to have much of a personality however. His role seems to be the blank page upon which all the supporting characters will offer on their knowledge and experience. Some are intriguing, others are downright strange, at least to this Western viewer who knows little of the subject. Still, there is a dreamlike quality to the picture that director Jang handles very well. What begins in straightforward manner turns into something far more fluid and organic by the end. Even the reason of his trek seems to morph eventually. Itís all well done and insightful, in a strange kind of way given how incompetent I am in the subject matter.


I confidently allow Passage to Buddha into the following round of competition.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 08, 2009, 09:43:52 AM
Passage to Buddha sounds like a unique experience. I'll be interested to hear others' thoughts as the bracket progresses.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 08, 2009, 10:58:42 AM
Awesome. How much did you like Sting of Death? It sounds pretty bleak, but you say it has its rewards, just wondering if you would recommend it based on them or not. Passage to Buddha sounds really interesting, and about a subject I'd like to learn more about.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 08, 2009, 11:17:09 AM
Awesome. How much did you like Sting of Death? It sounds pretty bleak, but you say it has its rewards, just wondering if you would recommend it based on them or not. Passage to Buddha sounds really interesting, and about a subject I'd like to learn more about.

It was difficult for me to wrap my arms around Sting of Death. The destructive nature of the couple's relationship infests the narrative to no end. Think of it as the Japanese Revolutionary Road, but without the happy moments. I like being challenged in that way. It gives me hope when I know people are aren't like that, particularly the husband. The wife is another story altogether since she is basically ill in the head. I thought her performance was full of power, which is what carried that character throughout. Oguri also capturs moments very well, be it aesthetically or purely narratively. There are several captivating images in the movie, but there are poignant dialogue driven scenes as well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 08, 2009, 10:27:05 PM
[Three Seasons]

This is a symbolic plodding movie.

[Pushing Hands]

The climax of the movie is totally, magically, awesome! Ang Lee's debut film is a decent one. Not perfect, but it get's the job done.
I admit, I was worried about this matchup being a total bore, so it's nice to hear that Pushing Hands has its moments.  As for Three Seasons, it sounds no more appealing than Scent of Green Papaya.  Not really looking forward to either.

It's sort of amazing how many films in this bracket involve either America or Americans abroad.  I feel like those generally haven't fared too well so far.  I'm curious what the last one standing will be.

Sting of Death

Oguri is gifted at setting moods and tones.

Passage to Buddha

http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-passage-to-buddha.html (http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-passage-to-buddha.html)

The story becomes a series of odd encounters with characters who share wisdom with the boy, and he begins to grow as a person and spiritually.
I think I'm going to like this Oguri fella.

As for Passage to Buddha, for a second there you're review conjured up images of Kikujiro.  I'm assuming Jang's film is a little better than that, right?  :)

At first glance, I missed the link to the longer review of this film at your blog.  Going to read that now...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 08, 2009, 10:35:43 PM
So you're still determined to see all of the ousted films eh pix? That's really cool of you. I look forward to hearing what you think.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 08, 2009, 10:50:02 PM
Awesome. How much did you like Sting of Death? It sounds pretty bleak, but you say it has its rewards, just wondering if you would recommend it based on them or not. Passage to Buddha sounds really interesting, and about a subject I'd like to learn more about.

It was difficult for me to wrap my arms around Sting of Death. The destructive nature of the couple's relationship infests the narrative to no end. Think of it as the Japanese Revolutionary Road, but without the happy moments. I like being challenged in that way. It gives me hope when I know people are aren't like that, particularly the husband. The wife is another story altogether since she is basically ill in the head. I thought her performance was full of power, which is what carried that character throughout. Oguri also capturs moments very well, be it aesthetically or purely narratively. There are several captivating images in the movie, but there are poignant dialogue driven scenes as well.

Yeah, sounds like a hard watch, Revolutionary Road was hard enough for me. Still, the positive points you mention make it sound morbidly interesting, which can work if you're in the right mood. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 09, 2009, 02:20:46 AM
Round One Resurrection Forecast, Films 6 - 10

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2vwfql0.jpg)
Be There or Be Square (Feng Xiaogang, 1998)
Lost to A Brighter Summer Day (verdict by worm@work) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg165663#msg165663)
It's early yet, but already the "star-crossed lovers" portion of this bracket is starting to wear me down.  I went into this one vaguely remembering that worm didn't much care for it but not remembering any of the details as to why.  With those lowered expectations, the movie started off as something of a pleasant surprise.  Not great, mind you, but showing potential.  The United States setting definitely added some early interest (I proved very dumb early on when, seeing a Los Angeles street, I thought, "Wow, I didn't realize China had suburbs that looked so similar to those in the States.").  The film doesn't really cash in on that aspect at all — or, as worm wrote, "The problems they face as immigrants in a foreign land didn't come across as nuanced at all."  Ha, that's a nice way of putting it.  For the record, that lack of nuance involves our protagonists being victimized by not one but two armed robberies in the first half hour.  The script tries explain this away by making bad luck (and chance meetings) an integral part of the story, but that just comes across as flimsy rationalization for poor plotting.  I also agree with worm's assessment that the film isn't "all that funny or romantic."  The film's idea of humor is take to take the story in really awful directions for ten minute stretches and then be like, "Haha, just kidding!" or "Psych!  That was just a dream!"  Despite all that, I still thought the film was alright, in a TV drama kind of way, through the first hour or so; only in the last thirty minutes did it start to get on my nerves.  Prelude to a kiss, indeed.


(http://i35.tinypic.com/vcw9yw.jpg)
Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995)
Lost to Sleeping Man (verdict by edgarchaput) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg166782#msg166782)
I agree with FifthCityMuse (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg166799#msg166799) that the totally visual canal sequence is gorgeous, but otherwise it sounds like my reaction is more in line with edgar's verdict.  Ghost in the Shell plays with some interesting ideas, but the presentation of those ideas never really grabbed me.  There's not a ton of drive to the story, nor much grace to the script.  Most of the exposition is really lazy, along the lines of "You're new here, so let me explain" and "Since you were late, let me catch you up."  That kind of writing infects most of what transpires, and as a result the movie never feels that cohesive.  It was really cool, however, to see Rainier Wolfcastle in the role of Batou.  I hadn't realized he actually existed outside the world of The Simpsons, but here he was doing pretty good work in what I assume is a rare supporting role.  Nice job, Rainer!


(http://i40.tinypic.com/333e2w4.jpg)
Fong Sai Yuk II (Corey Yuen, 1993)
Lost to Eagle Shooting Heroes (verdict by sdedalus) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg169868#msg169868)
I might have to watch this again before the end of the first round, when it won't be so in the shadow of my 35mm viewing of the first Fong Sai Yuk.  I still like the sequel, but a couple things are holding me back from loving it (and, at this point, resurrecting it).  First, I wish it didn't follow the formula of the first film as closely as it does.  In addition to the many concrete examples (another competition to find a husband, another adulterous scenario for Josephine Siao, another martyred friend, another finale involving Sai Yuk saving a parent from execution), there's also the similar structural shift from a more comedic first hour to a more serious and even tragic final thirty minutes.  I didn't really want that here.  The ending of the first film really had me hoping the sequel would start in more dramatic territory.  I just really wanted to see Chan (who's set up to be such a badass in his brief appearances in the first movie) take Sai Yuk under his wing and mold him into an even greater badass.  We sort of get that, but really only in implied fashion and secondary to other shenanigans.  In fact, I don't remember offhand Adam Cheng (Chan) doing anything supercool in the second film, which seems like a huge waste.  But, putting all that aside, let me emphasize that Jet Li is totally awesome (and funny), Josephine Siao is awesome (and hilarious, especially her big leap during the competition), and this is definitely a film worth checking out.  The original Fong Sai Yuk is still available for a first round matchup, by the way; someone should really get on that soon.  And that film has Vincent Chiu Man Chuk, which is a huge plus.  He's such a more interesting antagonist (and fighting opponent) than Chi Chuen-Hua is in the sequel.


(http://i34.tinypic.com/qmxthu.jpg)
Kite (Yasuomi Umetsu, 1998)
Lost to The Blue Kite (verdict by 1StrongOpinion) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg170458#msg170458)
1StrongOpinion's verdict had me pretty excited to see this one.  I blocked out his talk of uninspired plotting and remembered only the mention of uber-violent action, sleazy fun, and, yes, exploding bullets.  But, as I actually watched the film, the uninspired plotting stole the day.  Kite, running less than an hour, includes about ten minutes worth of story and another ten minutes of coolness, leaving about thirty-five minutes of wasted potential.  The set-ups to the action sequences are sometimes lame and illogical and sometimes just nonexistent; either way, they almost always undermine the setpieces that follow.  Despite the image above, the animation here is surprisingly bland, which I guess matches the incongruous soft jazz score.  Anyway, it's not a horrible movie; just a pretty boring one.  And the hardcore sex in the uncut version doesn't really help matters in that regard.  Sigh.


(http://i41.tinypic.com/2vru7f5.jpg)
Justice, My Foot! (Johnnie To, 1992)
Lost to Fist of Legend (verdict by edgarchaput) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg172301#msg172301)
So this is Stephen Chow, huh?  I think I like this guy.  Definitely an appealing screen presence and a definitely a talented performer.  In Justice, My Foot!, he's like equal parts Cary Grant and Groucho Marx, and the film is definitely at its best when he's front and center (though with a little more screen time, Wong Yut Fei might have stolen the show as loyal servant Fu).  I liked the film a lot more than edgar, but I still can't quite recommend it.  The first unfunny, minute-long fart joke tipped the scales in that direction; and the second one cinched it.  It would have been a different story if those particular jokes had worked.  Others certainly did.  The movie earned scattered laughs from me throughout, both with low comedy and high.  I was expecting mostly just gag-oriented visual humor, but it's a surprisingly witty script.  Given the English title, I was also expecting, the movie to be eye-rollingly awful (like a parody of a parody of Judge 'I Am the Law' Dredd), but it's way better than that — though not by so much that it deserves resurrection.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 09, 2009, 02:24:48 AM
w00t! This makes me happy to be awake at 3:30 a.m. on a weeknight. So basically, none of these are likely to be resurrected? Sorry, but all subtlety seems to be lost on me today.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 09, 2009, 02:26:57 AM
So basically, none of these are likely to be resurrected?

All signs point to no.  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 09, 2009, 02:29:13 AM
I need to watch Ghost in the Shell again so I can make some sort of case for it... or something.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 09, 2009, 02:30:08 AM
I need to watch Ghost in the Shell again so I can make some sort of case for it... or something.

Nah, watch Chinpira instead.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 09, 2009, 02:32:50 AM
 >:(

Yeah, I probably should.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 09, 2009, 02:34:48 AM
I mean, FifthCityMuse made a strong case already ... unfortunately, it just didn't match my experience with the film much at all.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 09, 2009, 02:36:45 AM
I haven't seen Eagle Shooting Horses but i'd be the first to champion the resurrection of Fong Sai Yuk 2. No disrespect to the verdict - It's just a really fun film to watch.

I'm all ears.  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 09, 2009, 02:43:31 AM
I mean, FifthCityMuse made a strong case already

Well, it's also been a while... and I am curious to see how it holds up.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 09, 2009, 02:44:13 AM
I mean, FifthCityMuse made a strong case already

Well, it's also been a while... and I am curious to see how it holds up.

Rebels of the Neon God!

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on February 09, 2009, 05:58:56 AM
I'm actually kinda glad it's gone... I mean, I still think it has some great stuff going on, but really, pix and edgar are right in the dialogue is reasonably clunky. I don't necessarily agree that plot is sacrificed, but I don't necessarily feel that it's going to be a massive loss to the bracket if this doesn't continue.

In fact, I would probably be more inclined to put Memories up for resurrection at the moment. The philosophical was certainly better handled in that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 09, 2009, 08:16:37 AM
Sting of Death

Oguri is gifted at setting moods and tones.

Passage to Buddha

http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-passage-to-buddha.html (http://betweentheseats.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-passage-to-buddha.html)

The story becomes a series of odd encounters with characters who share wisdom with the boy, and he begins to grow as a person and spiritually.
I think I'm going to like this Oguri fella.

As for Passage to Buddha, for a second there you're review conjured up images of Kikujiro.  I'm assuming Jang's film is a little better than that, right?  :)

At first glance, I missed the link to the longer review of this film at your blog.  Going to read that now...

pixote

Passage to Buddha is much better than Kikujiro. I enjoyed the mystical quality the film had. Like I mention on my blog, all this might have a lot to do with the fact that I was easily drawn in since I didn't know what anyone was talking about. It's not really the plot itself that matters by the end, but rather all these weird little encounters Son Je has had.

Sting of Death was pretty good, but it didn't knock my socks off. Sleeping Man, his other movie I watched for the bracket, was captivating from start to finish. This felt more linear. The narrative was fine, but nothing to shout about. It's all about performance and mood, both of which it did well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 09, 2009, 11:16:19 AM
This is awesome. The resurrection forecasts are a lot of fun, thanks for taking the time to watch all of the losers. :D I wasn't around for the original verdicts on these, so going back and reading them first makes it even better.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 09, 2009, 12:01:42 PM
A Single Spark (Kwang-su Park, 1995)
vs.
Rainclouds over Wushan (Ming Zhang, 1996)

(http://i42.tinypic.com/30msw06.png)
A Single Spark

So, this is essentially a biopic aout Jeon Tae-Il, a young labor activist who strove to unionize workers sufffering horrendous working conditions in Korean sweatshops and ultimately ended up immolating himself in protest of labor law violations. This really isn't a spoiler since its pretty much on the dvd cover.

What is nice about the film is that rather than being a straight-up biopic that simply chronicles Jeon Tae-Il's life, the story is told from the point of view of a young journalist / scholar / academic who is writing Chun's biography. This in turn structures the film along two separate time periods and allows us to contrast the past with the present. Plus, it lets the film do some interesting things (albeit not very original) like depicting the past in Black & White.

Seriously, I wanted to like this film so much. I really appreciate the intention here. I understand and appreciate the idea of chronicling the life of a man who seems to have been completely self-driven and who took the initiative to teach himself the labor laws (which seem to have been written in the Chinese script which most Koreans cannot read) and at a young age ended up sacrificing his life for a cause he truly believed in. Unfortunately, the film felt far too jingoistic to me. The dialogue came off as terribly didactic where it was always pointing out its political agenda. In an effort to really bring home the horror of the working conditions at the time, the filmmaker shows us the workers suffering from TB due to inadequate ventilation, the amphetamine injections to keep workers awake and so on. Secondly, the conversations at the secret meetings are just too poignant and idealistic. The villains are all evil ogres who don't think twice about beating up women and the heroes are all uniformly selfless and noble. This is not helped by the fact that I found some of the acting to be pretty sub-par, especially the actress who plays the journalist's young pregnant girlfriend. My problems with the dialogue could just be a case of poor translation too though (which I'm always afraid of while reviewing movies for this bracket).

This interlacing of two different time-periods lets the movie run a parallel track where the biographer and his girlfriend are also in a bunch of trouble for their own involvement in the labor movement. The idea here is to highlight how nothing has changed since Jeon Tae-il's death. Here again, this is done in a really obvious way. The couple is always being chased around by the police, being threatened, beaten up and so on. I really could've used a deeper examination of how despite changes in the regime or the laws underlying conditions remain the same or something along those lines.

My favorite parts were the black & white parts which are shot really beautifully and have a documentary-like feel to them. It helps that the story of Jeon Tae-il is inherently powerful and rousing.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/ayojs1.jpg)

The final shot of his self-immolation is striking to look at. I felt a pang of guilt for admiring the filmmaking in display when the scene being portrayed is such a tragic event. Anyway, so the film has a lot of memorable imagery that made it worthwhile for me. At the end of the film, thousands of people are thanked for contributing funds that went towards the making of the film. It's clear that Jeon Tae-Il is a hero and this is a part of Korea's history that people want to acknowledge and remember . As an outsider, however, I found the movie watchable and interesting but it really didn't blow me away.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/i3vu5z.png)
Rainclouds Over Wushan

After recently watching and raving about Still Life and Up the Yangtze, I was skeptical about finding something new and interesting n yet another movie set in one of the villages that is soon to be submerged in service of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. In a way, this is reminiscent of those films in that like both of those films, here again, we have parallel narratives where we follow three different protagonists. Initially, we are introduced Mai Qiang, a somewhat naive and lonely signal operator who is being visited by his more worldly friend, Ma Bing and his female friend Li Li. The beginning of the film is just these three people spending time at the isolated signal station, watching television even though there doesn't really seem to be anything to watch and trying to come up with ways to spend time. The pace is desultory and sluggish but it didn't bother me at all. I felt like it perfectly captured the way time seems to have come to a standstill in that town and the sense that everybody is just waiting for something that is about to happen (the flooding of the village in this case, I suppose). Then suddenly we go from these mostly indoor scenes to the outside world and get introduced to a single mother who works at a hotel in a nearby town. She is contemplating marriage and ends her affair with her boss which obviously doesn't leave him very happy. Somehow, out of seemingly no plot, a story starts to emerge and we finally meet the third protgonist, namely a cop, who comes in to investigate an alleged rape.

Zhang Ming just seems to have this amazing ability to paint this really vivid and intimate portrait of these people's lives in a really economic way. We don't get any backstory nor do we hear much exchange of dialogue but somehow the quiet desperation with which these people are living their lives comes across so clearly. In that sense, this movie felt like the antithesis of A Single Spark. Here, the director seems to almost want to avoid telling us what to think to an extent where I think some people may find the pace too slow or conclude that nothing really happens in this movie. I didn't feel that way at all. I found it incredibly powerful and tragic and poignant. The performances are all really good especially Xianmin Zhang who plays Mai Qiang and Ping Zhang, who plays the hotel receptionist.

I am not very good with suspense anyway. So yeah, this is exactly the kind of movie that I think I would never have discovered if it weren't for this bracket but that I know will stay with me for a long time to come. A Single Spark is definitely worth watching but Rainclouds over Wushan moves on easily.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 09, 2009, 12:22:54 PM
Excellent writeup, Worm. I have a feeling I would like Rainclouds, and probably agree with you on A Single Spark too. Cool that you discovered a new film here that has left an impact on you!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on February 09, 2009, 02:05:17 PM
So many films I haven't seen but want to catch up with. Love this bracket.



I haven't seen Eagle Shooting Horses but i'd be the first to champion the resurrection of Fong Sai Yuk 2. No disrespect to the verdict - It's just a really fun film to watch.

I'm all ears.  :)

pixote

I've got nothing. FSY2 is really fun. The first one is better. If that survives, i'm happy.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Wilson on February 09, 2009, 06:17:05 PM
Iron Monkey
(https://developer.mozilla.org/presentations/eich-ajax-experience-2007/images/iron-monkey.jpg)

Iron Monkey is a movie about the eponymous modern day Robin Hood in a small chinese village.  Iron Monkey regularly steals from the corrupt officials in this village, giving food and money to the poor and hungry of the village.  Eventually the officials hire/force travelling physician to bring Iron Monkey to justice.

That's about it as far as story goes and in a movie like this, that's about as much story as one can reasonably hope for.  This is, in essence, a series of fight scenes stapled together with the aforementioned 'story'.  The Kung-Fu action in all of the fights are pretty good and remarkably for so much fighting there's not a whole lot of repition in the choreography which deserves praise.  Though in order to avoid the repition, they do go up in levels of ridiculousness to pretty laughable levels.  It has a very comic book/cartoony feel to it overall, with nothing to grab you on any more than a superficial level unless you absolutely love kung-fu.


Tokyo Fist
(http://www.bergen-filmklubb.no/images/Tokyo_Fist_2.jpg)

This movie has a lot going for it, and quite a bit going against it.  It's a story of an overworked salesmen, Tsuda who's in a sexless marriage and has a chance meeting with one of his old high school friends.  Following this meeting, we then delve into the relationships of these three people.

There's a slightly Lynchian style to the way the interactions between the three characters are handled, and there's one scene in particular that is absolutely standout head and shoulders above anything else in this film, which involved Tsuda and his wife in what appears to be an alley or a parking lot.  I don't want to say much else about that incase I spoil it.

This movie quite brilliant techinically with nice fast editing, pretty good sound (though it can be overbearing once or twice) and really lovely use of blue lighting almost entirely throughout.  The gives it a great style and makes me want to see more films from Tsukamoto.

The drawbacks are that there is a lot of boxing and training scenes which tend to slow the whole thing right dow, with the exception of one or two short fighting scenes, and took me almost right out of it.  So much so that I had to pause the film for like 30-40 minutes and watch something else before I ready to get back into it.  Also, a rather smaller fault was the subtitling on the version I got which was really bad at times.  Not a fault of the film of course, but a slight warning to anybody else who will be viewing this.

That said though, I did quite enjoy this film and felt it was lot more interesting than the straightforward mindless kung-fu of Iron Monkey.

Verdict

As indicated above while I feel that Iron Monkey is a good viewing for kung-fu fans it doesn't really offer anything else than a bunch of creative, if slightly cartoonish, wire work while Tokyo Fist is a lot more interesting with a great style to it.

So with that said, Tokyo Fist moves on.



Sorry for the not great write up.  I couldn't really think of much to say about Iron Monkey.  Hopefully it'll be better next time around.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 09, 2009, 06:27:25 PM

Sorry for the not great write up.  I couldn't really think of much to say about Iron Monkey.  Hopefully it'll be better next time around.

Huh? I loved the write-ups! Iron Monkey doesn't sound like it had too much for anyone to take away and write about! Tokyo Fist sounds pretty awesome though. The subtitles have been pretty crappy on quite a few of the bracket films I've watched so far but I guess that's inevitable given that a lot of these are not even proper US releases.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 09, 2009, 06:36:03 PM
Hey, look, a movie in a matchup I've previously seen! And it lost! :D

Actually your writeup is very accurate of what I remember, lots of pretty cool but over the top fighting, but not much else. I remember thinking there might be some lore behind the character of the Iron Monkey I was missing out on, but I can't be certain of that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 09, 2009, 07:19:41 PM
I know I've watched Iron Monkey before and yet for the life of me I don't remember a thing about it. Ah well.

You had two fight movies in that matchup. After 8 verdicts, I think I've only watched 1 fight movie. I should pick some more before the 1st round is over.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 09, 2009, 07:22:08 PM
worm- Rainclouds Over Wushan sounds great. Having recently see both Still Life and Up the Yangtze, this should make for compelling viewing. If I'm quick enough, that will be the first 2nd round movie I choose.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 11, 2009, 01:13:03 AM
(http://i42.tinypic.com/vsood5.jpg)

The Birdcage Inn (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190268/) (1998, Ki-duk Kim)

Let's cut right to the chase; this movie is terrible. Usually I would let that little factoid reveal itself throughout the course of the review, but the only approach I can take in reviewing this film is flat-out mockery, so best to get it out in the open now.

It is about the residents of an inn somewhere near a beach. This is made obvious because pretty much every scene that doesn't take place in the inn takes place on the beach, even when it makes no sense to. The inn is a family business run by a middle-aged couple and their two children, a high-school boy and a girl in college. The fifth resident is the central character, Jin-a, their hired prostitute.

The daughter, Hye-mi, despises Jin-a, and is deeply ashamed that their family employs her. This is the main conflict of the movie. Matters worsen when Jin-a has sex with basically everyone Hye-mi has ever met, including her father, brother, and boyfriend. A creepiness factor comes into play several times in the sex scenes. The brother, Hyun-woo, puts a hidden microphone in Jin-a's room so he can masturbate while listening to her service clients. Later, the sister discovers the microphone and uses it for the same purpose. Hyun-woo convinces Jin-a to let him take nude pictures of her (on the beach), which he accidentally publishes in a porn magazine. Then there's the scene where the father and brother run into each other at the doctors where they're receiving treatment for the STD's they got from Jin-a (seriously, I'd love to be wrong on this, it's not explicitly stated, but I can find no other interpretation).

There's also a subplot involving some guy who gives boat rides or something, and becomes obsessed with Jin-a.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/29wn61z.jpg)

They have sex on that. Which is in plain view of the beach, but that works out great because Hye-mi is there to watch. The absurdity goes on and on, but it reaches its apex at the end of the movie. Somewhere along the way, Hye-mi's fiery hatred for Jin-a inexplicably burns out and she decides they should be BFFs. The happy ending of the movie takes place when Hye-mi whores herself out in place of Jin-a for no particular reason. This is even more ridiculous because through the rest of the movie she has been adamantly insisting she remain a virgin until married. The next morning, everybody is all smiles over how great things turned out.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/242aiwl.jpg)

The only good thing I can say about The Birdcage Inn is that it was bad enough that I couldn't hate it, I just laughed at how ridiculous it is.

(http://#IMG @ 800x250px#)



The Geisha House (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0205963/) (1999, Kinji Fukasaku)

I really don't have any interest in the whole geisha culture thing, but I was willing to give The Geisha House a shot to see more of Kinji Fukasaku's work.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2ni7m0k.jpg)
It's a geisha, and a house. Aren't I clever?

The movie follows Tokiko, a young girl who is in training to become a geisha, and the other members of the geisha house that she is employed with. I found the movie at it's strongest when it wasn't dealing directly with the geisha lifestyle. A lot of it explores the political and practical issues surrounding the house, and Tokiko as a person; her reasons for becoming a geisha and the family life she left behind. That stuff I was able to get into, unfortunately there are other parts that I couldn't. Most notably, the last 15 or so minutes felt really overdone.

The whole film is really well made, I think it was just the subject that distanced me from it at times. The cast is pretty good, Maki Miyamoto as Tokiko is a great character that I could really feel for, and the senior geisha (probably not the right term) she works for is also an interesting character. I think if I knew more about the traditions and whatnot I may have had less complaints with the parts I mentioned, but as it stands I still enjoyed it.



Verdict

Do I really need to say it? The Inn is out.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 11, 2009, 01:15:15 AM
man, The Birdcage Inn sounds great!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 11, 2009, 01:17:38 AM
Or, at least, more interesting than the other film...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 11, 2009, 01:21:43 AM
Actually I probably sold The Geisha House a little short, it's actually more interesting than I make it sound.

Birdcage Inn is interesting on a whole different level. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 11, 2009, 01:23:17 AM
I'm very much a man of Birdcage Inn's level.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 11, 2009, 01:24:24 AM
I really don't have any interest in the whole geisha culture thing, but I was willing to give The Geisha House a shot to see more of Kinji Fukasaku's work.

You should definitely track down Sympathy for the Underdog or the whole Battles Without Honor and Humanity box.  Or, better yet, watch Under the Flag of the Rising Sun so I'll have yet another reason to finally see it myself.

I'll add Birdcage Inn to my "this resurrection forecast thing is stupid!" pile.  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 11, 2009, 01:30:38 AM
"this resurrection forecast thing is stupid!"

Never say this again. Not even in quotes.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: zarodinu on February 11, 2009, 02:08:57 AM
I love Kim Ki Duk and love Birdcage Inn.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on February 11, 2009, 09:27:16 AM
Just did some reading on Birdcage Inn. Sounds pretty interesting. I'd check it out, even though Melvil might be right that it's terrible. Just sounds like there's more to it than the bizarre plot. Apparently:

Quote
Kim claims that Koreans "are not free-thinkers" and that "there are social problems in Korea that need attention" (Jung Seong-Il 2002), it seems that the director views his own society like the young girl Jin-a, locked in a birdcage and unable to escape.

Because of this, it is important to break out of a set mindframe when watching Kim's films. The viewer should think about the characters' backgrounds and motives instead of only becoming entangled with the presentation of violence. Kim proves that every character, despite one's actions, is still a human being and that all are the same, despite social background. As Kim says, "the social system is governed by prejudice" (Jung 2002), just as everyone in Birdcage Inn has a negative perception of Jin-a because of her occupation as a prostitute. No one seems to care about gaining insight into her personality, nor raising the question why she ended up making her body available for sexually frustrated men.

It's not only Kim's characters who foster this prejudice, however. Through an interesting visual juxtaposition at the beginning of the film, Kim transfers this notion to the general perception of his uncomprehending audience: Arriving at the seaside village with a large painting under her arm, Jin-a stops at the beach and props up the painting in the sand. The painting (Schwarzhaariges Mšdchen by Egon Schiele) shows a skinny, black-haired girl who leans her salacious-looking face playfully on her left hand. Looking not only at the girl's long black stockings and her red-tinted genitals, but also at Schiele's oeuvre, we realize that the girl belongs to the series of prostitutes Schiele painted during his short career. While Jin-a looks at the ocean, Kim films her face from the front, but also juxtaposes it with Schiele's black-haired girl. This shot is not relevant in showing the two persons' common social background, it is merely to demonstrate how even the viewer thinks in social categories, and blames or will blame the girl for what she is. Social division and categorization is for most of us self-evident. On the contrary, for people like Kim Ki-duk -- not only in Birdcage Inn but also throughout his oeuvre -- it seems to be the ongoing motivation to make films.


Did you get any sense of that, Melvil? Or did the ridiculousness of it all overshadow it? Not attacking you - It might have for me, too (there's plenty of people who want to read a lot of depth into Scent of Green Papaya that never had a chance of registering for me because of how the film was presented).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 11, 2009, 12:25:19 PM
You should definitely track down Sympathy for the Underdog or the whole Battles Without Honor and Humanity box.  Or, better yet, watch Under the Flag of the Rising Sun so I'll have yet another reason to finally see it myself.

I'll add Birdcage Inn to my "this resurrection forecast thing is stupid!" pile.  :)

Battle Without Honor and Humanity is something I really want to check out.

Thor, I did read that article and a few others after finishing the movie, and honestly...it doesn't really change anything for me. Maybe I should've been fairer to it in assessing the themes and everything, but it's just that none of it worked for me. It was all very hamfisted, and even if there is merit to the themes I couldn't get over how silly the characters are handled.

Zarodinu, I hope my opinion on it hasn't offended you, but if you would be willing to go into a little detail on why I'm wrong about it I would love to hear your perspective.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on February 11, 2009, 01:19:17 PM
Fair enough.  :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 11, 2009, 05:08:21 PM
Wow, it sounds like director Kim was aiming for a socially relevant movie that would hit home, but through a completely ridiculous plot. What was the buzz in Korea when it was released? Perhaps there the film was accepted for what Kim had attempted. I have to admit, the plot sounds pretty stupid however.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 12, 2009, 01:17:31 AM
Wow, it sounds like director Kim was aiming for a socially relevant movie that would hit home, but through a completely ridiculous plot. What was the buzz in Korea when it was released? Perhaps there the film was accepted for what Kim had attempted. I have to admit, the plot sounds pretty stupid however.

Everything I've read said it was a failure locally but gained some international attention.

I have to say, now I'm more excited for pix's ressurection forecast review than ever. :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 12, 2009, 01:19:34 AM
oh, yeah, I have to write one of these...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 12, 2009, 08:07:22 AM
Wow, it sounds like director Kim was aiming for a socially relevant movie that would hit home, but through a completely ridiculous plot. What was the buzz in Korea when it was released? Perhaps there the film was accepted for what Kim had attempted. I have to admit, the plot sounds pretty stupid however.

Everything I've read said it was a failure locally but gained some international attention.

I have to say, now I'm more excited for pix's ressurection forecast review than ever. :D

Ha! Even the Koreans didn't like it but the international critics said 'Oh, how lovely!'
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 13, 2009, 07:37:41 PM
I just sat down and caught up on some of the recent vedicts.

Pix I had a great time reading your Round One Resurrection Forecast, Films 6 - 10. Some day I'm gunna check out Justice, My Foot!

Worm, you always do a good job. To me A Single Spark sounds like it would've made a better documentary. I'm going to look for one, because the story of Jeon Tae-Il sounds interesting.

Wilson
, maybe it's just the picture but something about Tokyo Fist gave me a fight club vibe. Am I way off?

Melvil, your breakdown of Birdcage Inn cracked me up.

Well done everybody.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Wilson on February 13, 2009, 08:34:17 PM
I just sat down and caught up on some of the recent vedicts.



Wilson
, maybe it's just the picture but something about Tokyo Fist gave me a fight club vibe. Am I way off?

Well done everybody.

No, there is a slight Fight Club feeling in there with the director seemingly trying to portray the idea that the characters lived are only alive when they are boxing.  It's not anywhere near effective as Fight Club, but it's interesting nonetheless.  You could also draw comparisons to Fight Club, Raging Bull and David Cronenberg's Crash and while I didn't think it was great, it's definitely worthy of a place in the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 13, 2009, 10:27:24 PM
roujin's 7th excursion into this wilderness of downloading and musicality of the spirit... or his 7th verdict

Rebels of a Neon God vs. Chinpira

(http://i41.tinypic.com/aw562v.png) (http://i43.tinypic.com/2ytptw9.png)
Chinpira (Shinji Aoyama, 1996)

hmmm, this movie. This Movie. Oh, yeah. It's all over the place, basically. It's sort of this asshole-meets-older-guy-who-takes-him-under-his-wings-moviefilm with dashes of yakuza crap and dashes of weirdo romance and dashes of some good ole Asian Minimalismô. Really, it starts off with him beating up some random guy in a really dumb-lookin' set cuz he was doing some drug (and because he just can't control his own badassness!). In reality, the guy's just a douchebag. Gets in everyone's business looking to prove how badass he is. "I'm not against the boss, I'm against you..." OH CINECAST!. It culminates in this really weird scene on the top of a parking garage where he defends the wife of some random Yakuza. It's shot from a distance in a single take that goes from conversation to random fighting to stabbing to crying. I think it's a stupid scene (since it really has almost no point to it) and it's distracting because all you can think about it is "oh, wow, they really held this shot for a long ass time..." plus I don't think it even serves a purpose narratively or stylistically... it's just clumsy and useless... although its oddity is probably what makes it interesting to me. The film's relationships and characters are completely weird, too. The Young Douchebag from the Country is so tired and devoid of any personality aside from his behavior. Sure, he's assigned a back story (which is shown at random intervals... and we don't even realize it's a flashback until later...) and given some sort of motives... but it's really hamfisted and the guy just basically starts being a prick to everyone. Not interesting. His mentor person is some random old dude who (CINECAST! I gotta upload this now... their first meeting is so rife with homosexual intent that it's kinda ridiculous) has him join his bookie business out of the blue and their "bonding period" is spent in children's playgrounds, hanging out, being weird together (sounds good but it isn't). The old dude won't join the Yakuza because he's too old and a coward (something his protege calls him a million times). But, of course, when given the opportunity to seduce his boss' wife HE TAKES IT (in one of the most awkward sex scenes I've ever seen... its inclusion... totally mindboggling...). Anyway, enough rambling about stupid plot elements. All these things made the experience of watching this film kinda weirdly entertaining to me. The weird rhythm, totally unmotivated story, clumsy visuals (to me) make it sort of bad but I still had some kind of fun with it (mainly cuz I thought the parts with the Douchebag and his girlfriend were cute) but then comes the ending which is stupid in all the bad, bad ways. Not even charming stupid like Young and Dangerous... more like offensive stupid that just ruins an okay movie like Metade Fumaca. I'm guessing Aoyama only started to be interesting with Eureka then...

oh, this movie is worse than Kikujiro. HAVE FUN, PIX!!!

oh, oops did I just spoil the verdict? too bad.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/21btcap.png) (http://i40.tinypic.com/r0ulax.png)
Rebels of a Neon God (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1992)

So, Tsai does a Wong Kar-Wai movie? Cuz this is kinda what this feels like. Or, more accurately, it's his youth picture. There's that trademark stillness and stuff but there's so much movement than in any of his latest films (musical sequences in The Wayward Cloud not counted). And when I say youth film, I think you should get the idea that it's basically about young dudes riding bikes, lot of smoking cigarettes, staring off into space Asian Ennui ô. But it's good! Very good! For all those reasons and more, I guess. Basically, well, there's no basically, actually. Now I feel weird about this. There's two parallels stories being told. One about Hsiao-Kang about how he's quitting his school and about his general awkwardness around his parents. The other about a couple of dudes who steal coins from phone booths and other stuff and use the coins to play arcade games (and then a girl comes along...). Of course, these story lines intersect... but in a totally weird and playful way (which turns into something else later on...). It's just Lee Kang Sheng observing. And going places just to see these people there. And, weirdly, that's something I can relate to... (like there's this one scene where they all get drunk and go to a motel cuz they don't know where the girl lives, they throw her on the bed and just sit around watching porn on the TV for a little while, just exhausted... THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE TO ME AND I DON'T KNOW WHY). People are strange and weird and the things they do or don't do don't make sense to me but when the film finishes and you see a door opening you know things might just turn out awwwwwriiiiiiiiiiiight. You're all horrible people. Now watch this and stuff.

Now let's jump around in our undewear. Okay? okay. (http://i40.tinypic.com/9krsw8.png)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 13, 2009, 10:31:51 PM
Rebels of a Neon God (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1992)

So, Tsai does a Wong Kar-Wai movie?

Okay, I am officially turned on by this statement!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on February 13, 2009, 10:39:23 PM

oh, this movie is worse than Kikujiro.


Worse than one of the more delightfully playful good time films in recent asian cinema?  Many films are worse then that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 13, 2009, 10:39:39 PM
roujin's 7th excursion into this wilderness of downloading and musicality of the spirit... or his 7th verdict

Rebels of a Neon God vs. Chinpira

(http://i41.tinypic.com/aw562v.png)


Huh? That first screenshot with the mirror looks pretty great though!

Quote from: roujin
Chinpira (Shinji Aoyama, 1996)

His mentor person is some random old dude who (CINECAST! I gotta upload this now... their first meeting is so rife with homosexual intent that it's kinda ridiculous) has him join his bookie business out of the blue and their "bonding period" is spent in children's playgrounds, hanging out, being weird together (sounds good but it isn't).

Hmmm, I can't believe you :(. That sounds truly awesome .

Quote from: roujin
Rebels of a Neon God (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1992)

And when I say youth film, I think you should get the idea that it's basically about young dudes riding bikes, lot of smoking cigarettes, staring off into space Asian Ennui ô. But it's good! Very good!  You're all horrible people. Now watch this and stuff.

This sounds soooo perfect. I was rooting for Tsai without watching either of the movies. I need to watch this now.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 13, 2009, 10:46:17 PM
His mentor person is some random old dude who (CINECAST! I gotta upload this now... their first meeting is so rife with homosexual intent that it's kinda ridiculous) has him join his bookie business out of the blue and their "bonding period" is spent in children's playgrounds, hanging out, being weird together (sounds good but it isn't).
Hmmm, I can't believe you :(. That sounds truly awesome .

I think I made it sound too good. It's really stupid. There's a scene where they run around the playground laughing like crazy FOR NO REASON. Then one of them starts calling the other Daddy, and the older dude slaps him and the young one slaps him back. THEN THEY ALL LAUGH ABOUT IT.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 13, 2009, 10:48:01 PM
His mentor person is some random old dude who (CINECAST! I gotta upload this now... their first meeting is so rife with homosexual intent that it's kinda ridiculous) has him join his bookie business out of the blue and their "bonding period" is spent in children's playgrounds, hanging out, being weird together (sounds good but it isn't).
Hmmm, I can't believe you :(. That sounds truly awesome .

I think I made it sound too good. It's really stupid. There's a scene where they run around the playground laughing like crazy FOR NO REASON. Then one of them starts calling the other Daddy, and the older dude slaps him and the young one slaps him back. THEN THEY ALL LAUGH ABOUT IT.

Yeah, Still sounds so great :D! *lol*
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 13, 2009, 11:00:25 PM
Martial Arts Movies & Me
(disclaimer: feel free to skip all this, but for some reason I feel the need to outline my history with Martial Arts Cinema before I get into the specifics of this match up)

It was only matter of time before I got a match up like this one. With eighty plus years of film history to it's credit, the martial arts genre has covered as many themes, styles, countries and cultures one can imagine. It's a vast category of film when you stop to think about it. If I say martial arts movie, one might first imagine of old men with long white beards, soaring sabre fights, and cryptic dialogue. But of course if you keep thinking about it you realize it encapsulates so much more than that. It's a genre unbound by time and location, unlike, say, westerns, and it's influence on cinema as a whole is at least as pervasive. Yes, love 'em or hate 'em, there is no arguing their legitimacy.

Personally, I love 'em, though my experience with the genre isn't extensive. My first exposure, as far as I can remember, came when I was 11. That may sound kind of old, but my family wasn't really into movies back when I was still counting my age in half-years. We rarely went to the theatre and at home we had a small 13" fuzz box with rabbit ears. Video rental was unheard of at our house, and we didn't own a VCR anyways. Frankly I don't know how we survived :). However, thinking about it now I do recall borrowing a VCR from my grandparents on a few special occasions. Like New Years Eve, oh what a great days those were. The one night of the year when bedtime didn't exist, and to make matters better we'd watch 3 or 4 movies back to back! It was a treat I tell ya.

But enough of that. At 11 years old I watched Rumble in the Bronx (IN THEATRES!) with my dad. I don't recall what the old man thought of it, but I certainly enjoyed it. The notion that one man skilled in the martial arts could subdue both a gang of street thugs AND a major crime syndicate by himself, without a gun (which previous action movies taught me was essential), never struck me is far-fetched. What was so great about it was the inventiveness of the fighting. Beating people up with not just his fists and feet, but using skis, refrigerators, grocery carts, and whatever else was lying around. It was like nothing I'd ever seen. And to top it all off you get that signature blooper real at the end. It was one of the funnest theater going experiences I've ever had. I went on to watch all of the Jackie Chan I could get my hands on (which wasn't that much), and in later years discovered Bruce Lee for the first time in Enter the Dragon. From there I saw the Bloodsports, Karate Kids, and other popular movies.

Like I said earlier though, my enjoyment of the genre hasn't been all that extensive. I've really only seen the stuff that was strongly marketed to, or made for, western audiences. And despite the ease with which you can now get your hands on obscure, but important, landmarks in martial arts cinema, I've not been motived to do so.  I've always been content with what I could find in theatres or on DVD. Between the recent films like Crouching Tiger, Hero, and Flying Daggers, and the endlessly rewatchable classics, I don't find myself starved for content. With that in mind, I'll take on this match up.


The Blade aka: Dao (Hark Tsui, 1995)

Hmm, how best to convey what experiencing this movie was like...

Think of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Ah, what a sublime bit of work that was. Okay, now visualize watching it at x2 speed, and x8 zoom. Got it? On top of that imagine the cameraman has the worst case of the shakes ever known to man. If you have a particularly vivid imagination I apologize, but it was necessary. I'm hardly exaggerating either. Visually this is one of the most incomprehensible action movies I've ever seen. I'd read that it had incredible fight choreography, but I'm not sure how anyone would know it! And it's not just the fights that are hard to follow. Each scene is so loosely stitched together you end up having to rewind if you care enough to keep the story straight.

If you read a history of the groundbreaking directors of Kung Fu movies you might come across the name Hark Tsui. Behind Wong Kar Wai, Hark Tsui has the second most films in the top 100 Chinese Motion Pictures list (5 in total), as ranked by the Hong Kong Film Awards. He was recently just the fourth Chinese director to sit on the board of judges at Cannes. I should say though, his reputation did not precede him. I read all of this after watching the film. Nevertheless, the man clearly has a feather or two in his cap. That's why I'm so perplexed by this movie. I think of traditional Kung-Fu movies and certain things come to mind; Wildly melodramatic acting, grandiose legends of Arthurian magnitude, and ingenious choreography. The Blade contains these elements to varying degrees. Had they not been torpedoed by the crumby camera work and editing I think this could've been a serviceable film. In my eyes, it's a creative disaster. Maybe that's just me though. I guess it's possible the director was intentionally vague when showing the combat, believing that out of the chaos of sound and quick cuts one would imagine the scene as he or she saw fit. If that's the case, which I strongly believe it is not, then I just have no taste for it.

It's apparent that this movie isn't exactly working with the budget of a hollywood blockbuster. Not a problem necessary, in fact I was expecting it, the stereotype for kung fu movies is that they require a larger than usual leap of the imagination. That can be part of their charm, whether you make the leap or not. Sort of like a good B movie. The problem with The Blade is that it does not intend to be a B movie. It takes itself seriously. So you lose out on the cheesy fun, and you are left with sub par production. An unfortunate exchange. Add to this the problems I mentioned earlier and you end up with an rather tiresome experience.




(http://i.imgur.com/I7OvDmH.jpg)


(http://i.imgur.com/biHL2QU.jpg)
Supercop aka: Police Story III (Stanley Tong, 1992)

Have I seen Police Story I & II? No. Does it matter? Not in the least.

This movie is downright fun. Jackie is recruited by Interpol to go undercover and infiltrate a crime syndicate. They ask for a Supercop and they get one. The plot doesn't really thicken, but it works well enough to drive the movie forward. Just like so many of Jackie's movies this one is pretty lighthearted. People are getting punched, and kicked, and shot, but only the bad guys ever get killed. There's three types of action in this movie (hand to hand combat, gunplay, and stunts) and you get an equal dose of each. It's all handled with the usual comedic touch. At times it does get a little silly, but even then it's charming. The stunts, from themost innocent looking to the most hair raising, are all pretty impressive.

One the of the best parts of this movie was Michelle Yeoh. Gorgeous, lethal and smart. I pretty much fell in love. She's always great. Her and Jackie had good chemistry together. It was a nice change of pace to pair Jackie up with somebody just as capable as he is. She performed some awesome stunts of her own.

There's really not much else to say about this one other than it's fun and it's moving on to the second round. It might be said than if you've seen one Jackie Chan movie you've seen 'em all, but that's just not true. There are some stinkers and some really good ones, and even the bad ones are passable because the action is always new and creative. This wasn't the best but it's still something I'll probably watch again when I feel like having a good time.

Oh and there aren't any Apache helicopters in this movie like the poster suggests, so don't get your hopes up.  :D


Conclusion: SUPERCOP wins easily.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 13, 2009, 11:09:00 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed that preamble smirnoff :D. Nice verdict too!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 13, 2009, 11:11:21 PM
It's Tsui Hark :P

I've actually heard good things of The Blade.

Quote from: smirnoff
think of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Ah, what a sublime bit of work that was. Okay, now visualize watching it at x2 speed, and x8 zoom.

This being one of them.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 13, 2009, 11:18:28 PM
Rouj, I know I know. You are just going to have to trust me and not the thousands of gah-gah fans on this one.  ;)

Thanks worm.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on February 14, 2009, 01:31:07 AM
Yeah, the thing with Tsui Hark is that he's totally insane.  He'll try anything, whether it works or not.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on February 14, 2009, 04:46:23 AM
Rebels of a Neon God (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1992)

So, Tsai does a Wong Kar-Wai movie?

Okay, I am officially turned on by this statement!

Just in case, keep in mind that there isn't the lyrical romanticism of Wong's cinema in the Tsai film.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 14, 2009, 07:04:50 AM
The Blade sounds like a movie I would absolutely loath. I'll take your word for it smirnoff and say I'm glad it's out. Besides, a movie like that could never take on a Jackie Chan (in his prime) flick and win, right?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 14, 2009, 07:07:26 AM
With regards to roujin's verdict, I haven't seen either, so it's hard to say. From your descritpion of the zaniness in Chinpira, it almost sounds like a movie I had in the first round, Justice My Foot!, although that movie was mostly an unfunny comedy. Your movie sounds a lot more violent.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 14, 2009, 07:58:13 AM
It's not zany, actually. It just has moments that make no sense then the rest is serious. Although the serious parts don't make any sense to me, either.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on February 14, 2009, 01:05:26 PM
From Beijing With Love (Stephen Chow, 1994)

http://www.vimeo.com/3214044 (http://www.vimeo.com/3214044)
So smooth.

Yes, it is a take on the Bond movie, thanks for noticing. Something along the lines of Austin Powers, if you need to compare it to something, except more nonsensical and deadpan. And much, much more violent. Not really like Austin Powers at all, actually. I'm not even sure I'd call it a spoof, it's more like they threw Stephen Chow and co. in the middle of a straight up spy movie (which sounds better than it is). It's a little like Austin Powers though :)

(http://i42.tinypic.com/1zmktw7.jpg)

Either way, it's got none of the style or wit of the more recent Chows (Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, both of which I really like) and it's not nearly as funny as those, either. But perhaps those expectations were unrealistic. It's hardly a bad movie. It's kinda funny that the bad guy's plan is to steal a dinosaur skull (this is 93-94, so I guess we're meant to assume he bought into the Jurassic Park-generated dinosaur craze :D)

(http://i44.tinypic.com/phc3.jpg)

It's also kinda funny to think that the good guy who is actually the bad guy manipulates the lighting in his office to regulate how evil he looks. 

(http://i44.tinypic.com/akz4zs.jpg)

(http://i41.tinypic.com/vg5ugi.jpg)

And Chungking references are always fun

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2cy3cih.jpg)

So it's amusing. My problem with it are the awkward tonal shifts, especially the scene in the mall ó kinda hard to be in the mood for Chow's antics after a man gets shot in the head, execution-style, while holding his son in his arms.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/213glfn.jpg)

I guess something like this is necessary, because it's what springs the dumb-looking butcher-turned-spy into action

(http://i44.tinypic.com/144d9as.jpg)

but CINECAST! it, it was pretty tasteless. I'm doing the clips and screenshots though, and this is looking like a much better movie than it did when I watched it a couple of weeks ago, so much so that I'm not sure I should be writing about it anymore. What great action sequences.

http://www.vimeo.com/3214198 (http://www.vimeo.com/3214198)
Err... I guess I need to rewatch it? :-\



Forbidden City Cop (Stephen Chow, 1996)

http://www.vimeo.com/3213777 (http://www.vimeo.com/3213777)
Heh, it's the same joke. Pretty good joke though, hum? Anyway, From Beijing With Love never stood a chance. Equal parts hilarity and kung fu awesomeness...

http://www.vimeo.com/3213898 (http://www.vimeo.com/3213898)

...ninjas...

(http://i39.tinypic.com/qqpbad.jpg)

...aliens...

(http://i42.tinypic.com/3449rpz.jpg)

... a rat-powered sex machine (hello Burn After Reading)...

<I can't find this screenshot>

...faceless vilains...

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2vigqkm.jpg)

...impromptu award cermonies...

(http://i41.tinypic.com/24wqyd5.jpg)

...ó complete with first hand loser reactions ó...

(http://i40.tinypic.com/kb7fkg.jpg)

...I don't even remember what this is...

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2sbqwz6.jpg)

... and more (including a magnet-based fight that has to be seen to be believed); this is the Chow I know and love. May it, too, have a long life in the bracket!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on February 14, 2009, 01:06:31 PM
CINECAST! me, that took a while and I couldn't even make all the screenshots the same size >:(
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 14, 2009, 01:15:28 PM
Awesome, duder. Awesome.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 14, 2009, 03:01:30 PM
Hahaha... amazing verdict duder :D!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 14, 2009, 03:12:47 PM
Forbidden City Cop looks absolutely ridiculous...which is why it probably deserved to win.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 14, 2009, 03:45:19 PM
I like your choice duder. Forbidden City Cop definitely looks better.  ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 14, 2009, 03:46:47 PM
I wasn't sold on the verdict until I saw this (http://i40.tinypic.com/kb7fkg.jpg).

He's so damn likeable.

Now I have to go check if the other guy in that still in Tiger Lui from the Fong Sai Yuk films.  (edit: IMDb says no.)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 15, 2009, 12:54:01 PM
Out of the Dark (1995, Jeffrey Lau) against Gojitmal (1999, Sung-Woo Jang)


(http://image.bbs.cnxp.com/attachments/month_0612/Out.Of.The.Dark_8wE3wEFuUl4F.jpg)


If thereís something strange and it donít look good, who you gonna call?... Bill Murray or Stephen Chow?
-Edgar's sweded version of the Ghostusters theme song.

Out of the Dark comes from crazy mind of writer director Jeffrey Lau. If I were to unashamedly attempt to compare it to what North American viewers see at the local multiplexes, I would say it resembles the Scary Movie series. Any efforts at dissecting the plot and analyzing the film would be wasted.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/t8lz0p.jpg)
-Just in case you were wondering so stop asking!


In essence, a condo building is haunted one night by the ghost of a tenant's mother. The ghost is powerful enough to possess (or Ďobsessí as the characters in the film explain) people. The ghost takes over the body of the coupleís young son in an act of vengeance and wreaks ridiculous havoc in the building. The local security guards, a rebellious teenage girl (Karen Mok) donít know what to do about itÖuntil a strange, self-described ghost buster (Stephen Chow) comes along. His look closely resembles a famous movie character we all know and the spoof is clearly in full swing when he gives his name: Leon.


(http://i41.tinypic.com/23w644g.jpg)
-A guard's reaction after kicking off the head of a ghost.


Armed with his trusty plant sidekick and a great amount of saran wrap, Leon recruits the security guards and the teenage girl to be his ghost busting crew. He trains them to overcome their fears, which in turn would enable them to be less impressed by whatever hallucinations the ghosts throw at them. Touching shit, kissing a drag queen, learning to fly with a bicycle helmet, all these and more mould this sorry cast of character into ghost fighting machines.


Iíd be hard pressed to argue that the movie is any good. There were indeed moments that caused belly laughs, but there is so much thrown at the viewer that it would be next to impossible for all the jokes to hit their mark. Most donít sadly, but those that do are quite hilarious. Iím making it sound like I didnít laugh that much, which isnít true. The issue at hand involves the English language subtitles. They are so ill conceived, poorly translated that I laughed frequently. What transpired on screen alone would not have made me rejoice, but accompanied by the horrid subtitles, I had a good time. The problem is that isnít a credit to the filmmakers. They had nothing to do with making me laugh. The buffoons who wrote the text I applaud, not the craft of the filmmakers.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/11c45tt.jpg)
-A security guard's argument as to why they should rape the florist.

I wonít comment on characters or plotting since, as I have already mentioned, this is a Hong Kong version of Scary Movie. Joke after joke after jokeÖall depends on which ones (and how many) bring laughter. I'll maybe accord  a few style points to Stephen Chow. His version of Leon is pretty funny and cool, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go. Everyone else involved exists merely to be the subject of or enforcer of humiliation, crass jokes and slapstick humour. Whatever floats your boat I imagine.

So here I am with a comedy that may or may not reach the second round depending on my feelings at thoughts towards it. I laughed a lot, but about 50% of the time it was mostly due to the subtitles. A weird situation that I donít appreciate.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2rclus5.jpg)
-Some Shakespearean English as the headless horseman searches for his steed.


In the film's defence, here are some moments that did make me laugh (although at times helped by the subtitles. What else is new):

-A rough first night in the condo building:
http://www.vimeo.com/3224323 (http://www.vimeo.com/3224323)


-Performing a ghost checkup:
http://www.vimeo.com/3224337 (http://www.vimeo.com/3224337)



-Revenge of the drag queen (he had appeared earlier in the film)
http://www.vimeo.com/3224607 (http://www.vimeo.com/3224607)


-Urination defect
http://www.vimeo.com/3225630 (http://www.vimeo.com/3225630)






(http://www.avistaz.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/kk82.jpg)
Gojitmal

The English language title of Sung-Woo Jangís Gojitmal is Lies, a curious title for a curious film. As the film opens, a director (Sang Hyun Lee) explains the theme of his most recent script. Spirituality, purity, fantasy, etc. All subjects that can grab peopleís imaginations, satisfy their desires, and strike their curiosity, either through genuine teachings or, as is often the case, through lies. Intriguing, I wonít deny it.

From here Gojitmal becomes a film within a film to a certain degree. The director we saw at the beginning stars in his own film as an architect, J. He awaits at a train station for a girl, Y (Tae Yeon Kim), 20 years younger than himself. They had inadvertently begun a discussion on the phone a few days a go (J had originally wanted to talk to Yís best friend) and found each otherís voices to be incredibly sexy. On the train, Y speaks to the camera and makes no attempt to hide the fact that she asked J if he would like to CINECAST! her and that as he spoke to her, she became more and more wet.

Their first encounter is a far calmer one that what follows. She is a virgin awaiting to be deflowered. J proceeds to do so (not before a quick cut to the actress portraying Y who explains her thoughts about undressing nude on camera). Pleasure and pain intertwine for the first time. Once the act has been committed, they embrace and leave for their respective homes. But that one encounter creates an greater spark between the two. They arenít done with one another and neither is ashamed at admit it. Well, they arenít ashamed to admit it to themselves at least. Showing in public the physical relationship between a 38 year old and an 18 year old is another matter altogether. We witness few scenes them in the midst of genuine conversations. Only once does this occur if memory serves me right, and immediately afterwards J tells himself what a boring and vapid conversation it was. With his wife living halfway across the world in Paris, all he wants is to devour Y, to have her body above all else,  and she in turn wants to be devoured. Their sexual excapades go from innocent to violent, but in the highly stimulating sense. Yes, masochism becomes the flavour of the day, then the week, and then some more still.



Valentine's weekend between:
(http://i43.tinypic.com/53llhw.jpg)
J


And:
(http://i42.tinypic.com/348r9ew.jpg)
Y



All this transpires in the opening 30 minutes. For the remaining 75 minutes the viewer sees Y and J engage in a series of masochistic encounters, nurse their wounds and then intensify the dosage. Yís friend becomes accepting of the relationship (she had wanted J to be her first lover, but alas, it was not meant to be). There are a few scenes thrown to mix the elements up a little bit. What happens when Y admits she has been unfaithful. What happens when J spends time with his wife in Paris, who wants nothing to do with masochism. What happens when the tables turn and Y begins to inflict erotic pain on J. Director Sung-Woo Jang, with some of those moments, adds a certain layer of complexity to this questionable relationship. Both become so obsessed with the mutilation of each otherís bodies that little else holds their relationship together. Itís like a couple whose attractiveness to one another rests primarily on the great sex they have and nothing else. That would seem quite vapid and prone to self-destruction, and yet here, it exists and consistently finds energy to fuel itself, whether it be by feeling the pain, inflicting the pain, seeing each otherís bodies, etc.

-The aftermath of the first encounter:
(http://i40.tinypic.com/2isa790.jpg)

The Ďfilm within a filmí technique becomes almost non-existent in the final hour of the film, which brings me to question its usefulness in the first place. Or perhaps its noticeable absence (noticeable in the sense that we no longer have interview scenes or shots of the crew) relates to the obsessive sexual fantasy that these two creatures are living. Money, work, school, family members, none of these are of any importance anymore. Everything has become so obsolete that we, in fact, no longer receive any hints that this is a Ďfilm within a filmí. Through the renting of hotels rooms and due to his absence at work, Jís funds begin to run out. The intensity of the relationship has overpowered everything else, even reality. The reality of the film world and the reality of the filmís Ďreal worldí have disappeared into the background, they have been left shipwrecked out at sea with little hope of finding a way back. Not only have the characters in the story fallen into an abyss but they have taken the crew and the viewer with them as well. The poisonous flowers fruits can be the most beautiful at times. And now we have touched on the English language title: Lies. To the outside world, whenever they are in genuine contact with it, they are living lies. When together, they have, in their own sick manners, reached a state that to them is pure. Their fantasies, their desires have become not only the ends, but the means to those ends as well. Little else matters and they are consumed by it to an almost spiritual degree. They want it, then take pleasure in it, and then want some more. Is it the pleasure or the pain? The answer to that has become inconsequential for both have been fused together and are now tightly interwoven.

Gojitmal is a difficult film to assess. It seems tantalizingly complex and yet its complexity is protected, or perhaps hidden is a better word, by a faÁade of soft and occasionally not so soft pornography. Anyone unwilling to think about what exactly transpires onscreen will surely, although I guess not necessarily, find little to chew on. I beg to differ. I think obsession, particularly in circumstances as dark discomforting as the one the viewer is invited to see, it always a fascinating subject.

I have chosen to limit the number of pics and avoid any clips out of precaution more than anything else. Granted, most of the time, either Y or J wants to receive pain, relishes in the reception of the physical abuse, therefore making some of the scenes more digestible than others. For the sake of peopleís propriety however, I avoided any overtly graphic examples.

I question whether Gojitmal goes deep enough into the road it embarks on. I believe some discussions between certain characters on the nature of masochism, discussions that could have been as little heavy handed as possible, would have made the exploration more compelling. Is there a way to write non heavy handed material dealing with masochism, a practice so disgusting and discomforting to many, a practice so explicit in its very nature? I havenít the slightest idea and therefore I may very well be asking for the impossible for all I know.

In the battle between the film that made me laugh mostly for the wrong reasons (although there were genuinely funny moments as well) and the film that didnít go deep enough for my taste but that is riddled with potential, I support the latter, Gojitmal. I know people who think otherwise. The movie that fails to exploit its potential isnít worth it and the movie that may not be trying to do anything but is still fun is the more worthy. I simply do not abide by that philosophy. I always prefer the film with potential, the film that is trying to do something.

I give Gojitmal a ticket into the second round, and anxiously await another Filmspotterís thoughts on, however long it may take.


-They aren't about to play cricket, I can assure you.
(http://i43.tinypic.com/2chs39l.jpg)

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 15, 2009, 01:00:20 PM
How bizarre!

Well, good job with the write up.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 15, 2009, 01:22:37 PM
It's easily my worst verdict ever. I don't even know what I'm talking about more than half the time. While Gojitmal is going through, I really feel like re-writing the review.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 15, 2009, 01:34:09 PM
Sometimes there just aren't the words....

Don't beat yourself up over it :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 15, 2009, 02:33:16 PM
My version of Out of the Dark seems to have much better subtitles, so this could be interesting.

"Why would a sex maniac want him?"
"Sodomy."

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 15, 2009, 02:41:30 PM
My version of Out of the Dark seems to have much better subtitles, so this could be interesting.

"Why would a sex maniac want him?"
"Sodomy."

pixote

The sodomy line is in the copy I have.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 15, 2009, 02:46:54 PM
Let's go and steal it tomorrow night

"No, the florist next door is better."
"Why?"
"The girl there has a big bosom.  Rape her."
"You are so useless.  Let's do it tomorrow night."
"Then we rape her afterwards."
"After the heist you'll have money, then you could get a hooker.  Come on, have some principles in life, okay?"
"We'll rape her after we've had fun with the hooker."
"Ohh!"

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 01:44:39 PM
THE JAPANESE PORN MATCHUP



That heading should get some attention! I asked Pixote for a couple "odd" movies and got exactly what I asked for. Both these films are very odd, but in very different ways.


The Strange Tale of Oyuki


(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_rvXfgY6v37o/RvPpInbRvZI/AAAAAAAABDk/ge64JQFnyHs/s320/BokutoKidan.jpg)

Imagine mixing a masterpiece theater episode with soft core pornography and you have a good idea what this movie is like. Its the story of a lonely, aging, writer in need of human contact. He meets a very young Geisha and they begin a relationship. The story is very simple. There are no plot twists or surprises. It ends where you imagine it will end. It has some touching moments, but ultimately it does not have a strong emotional impact.

The mix of very subdued pacing and dialogue, with very explicit sex, is jarring throughout most of the film. The sex scenes are shot in the least erotic manner imaginable, which I guess is truthful to sex for money relationships. It is very matter of fact.


Upskirt: The Movie   (real name: Love and Pop)


(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YXWWJ822L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

This movie is disgusting, repulsive, creepy, and terrible!

It tells the story of a group of 15-17 year old school girls who sell their companionship and bodies to older men. There is little plot in the film. It mostly consists of a series of scenes where the girls meet creepy older men who pay them for their time.

The "point" of the film is the experimental camera work which permeates the film. Every shot is from some odd angle, or with a moving camera. Here is clip of the film to give you an idea what it is like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grKqStqJ5g8&feature=related#hq (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grKqStqJ5g8&feature=related#hq)


The camera work adds nothing to the film. It is not used sparingly either. It is every shot in the film. Various lenses are used and the aspect ratio even changes throughout. It is in-your-face and destroys any chance of getting into what little story is there. Which brings me to by mock title of the film; Upskirt: The Movie. The director offers us, literally, dozens of shots up the skirts of the young actresses. It is pointless and creepy as hell.

The film gives you the strong impression that the director and writers find child prostitution and pedophilia perfectly acceptable. I felt dirty watching this and wanted to turn it off several times.

Did I mention I hated this film with the burning intensity of a thousand raging suns!



Verdict:  Neither of these films is very good. However, Love and Pop is one of the worst movies I have seen in a very long time. Therefore, it is an easy decision and Oyuki moves on. I doubt it will last long though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 16, 2009, 02:01:16 PM
Wow, that sounds like a really painful matchup. :P I could only watch about half that clip from Love and Pop, I'm impressed you made it through the whole thing. So, uh, good job? :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 16, 2009, 02:09:20 PM
It's pretty much assured that I'm going to resurrect Love & Pop just because Clovis' reaction will be priceless.  ;D

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 02:11:04 PM
It's pretty much assured that I'm going to resurrect Love & Pop just because Clovis' reaction will be priceless.  ;D

pixote


I'm ok with that. Just make sure you make someone you hate watch it. Misery loves company.


I am actually curious if someone could like this movie.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on February 16, 2009, 02:12:07 PM
Some downskirts too, apparently.

(http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/7024/kbscap0023is2.jpg)

I've never seen that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 16, 2009, 02:14:09 PM
Wasn't there some other film in this bracket with a similar point of view shot?  I'm thinking Miike...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 02:15:41 PM
Wasn't there some other film in this bracket with a similar point of view shot?  I'm thinking Miike...

pixote

It was Fudoh, with the girl who shoots darts from her vagina. I reviewed that too and thought it was ok. However, next to Love and Pop, it is The Godfather!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 02:16:48 PM
Some downskirts too, apparently.

(http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/7024/kbscap0023is2.jpg)

I've never seen that.

Oh god this movie CINECAST!ing sucks so CINECAST!ing bad!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on February 16, 2009, 02:17:54 PM
I am actually curious if someone could like this movie.

Well, I can't not watch it now. I'll let you know.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 02:21:27 PM
I am actually curious if someone could like this movie.

Well, I can't not watch it now. I'll let you know.

I apologize ahead of time for introducing you. Actually, its really all Pixote's fault. What type of punishment would be appropriate?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 16, 2009, 02:23:04 PM
Actually, its really all Pixote's fault. What type of punishment would be appropriate?

Well, I'm committed to watching it too (for the resurrection forecast).  :/

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 02:24:39 PM
Actually, its really all Pixote's fault. What type of punishment would be appropriate?

Well, I'm committed to watching it too (for the resurrection forecast).  :/

pixote

Actually, yes! Watching it is the worst punishment I can imagine.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 16, 2009, 02:24:53 PM
Haha, quite a match up. Nice job clov.

It always impresses me how vastly different some of the things are that come out of Japan. Their game shows only scratch the surface I reckon. I wonder if Japanese people feel the same way about the western world.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 02:27:05 PM
Haha, quite a match up. Nice job clov.

It always impresses me how vastly different some of the things are that come out of Japan. Their game shows only scratch the surface I reckon. I wonder if Japanese people feel the same way about the western world.

Watching Love and Pop, all I could think about was those vending machines that sell used panties in Japan. It is the cinematic equivalent of those machines!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 16, 2009, 02:34:30 PM
Upskirt shots, dart-throwing vaginas, 1h45 minutes of masochism, this bracket is absolutely killing the U.S. 90s.


Which reminds me, whatever happened to the movie with the raccoons (I think) and their gigantic nut sacks?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 16, 2009, 02:35:31 PM
Which reminds me, whatever happen to the movie with the raccoons (I think) and their gigantic nut sacks?

Junior is set to watch that some weekend when he doesn't have papers to write and basketball to watch.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: °Keith! on February 16, 2009, 02:43:14 PM
Which reminds me, whatever happen to the movie with the raccoons (I think) and their gigantic nut sacks?

Junior is set to watch that some weekend when he doesn't have papers to write and basketball to watch.

pixote

so june?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 16, 2009, 02:54:25 PM
THE JAPANESE PORN MATCHUP


The Strange Tale of Oyuki





Upskirt: The Movie   (real name: Love and Pop)[/b]


Incidentally, it sounds as if you made the sensible choice. Now we awate pixote's take on the kiddie prostitute film.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Wilson on February 16, 2009, 02:56:21 PM
Am I glad I couldn't find Love & Pop!  I figured it would be some hip Asian take on music and relationships, something like High Fidelity, based on the title.  I guess I was wrong.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on February 16, 2009, 02:58:00 PM
Upskirt shots, dart-throwing vaginas, 1h45 minutes of masochism, this bracket is absolutely killing the U.S. 90s.

I have bondage.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/33omlbr.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Junior on February 16, 2009, 02:59:15 PM
Which reminds me, whatever happen to the movie with the raccoons (I think) and their gigantic nut sacks?

Junior is set to watch that some weekend when he doesn't have papers to write and basketball to watch.

pixote

If I had known there would be giant raccoon nut sacks I would have watched it years ago!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: °Keith! on February 16, 2009, 03:00:10 PM
Am I glad I couldn't find Love & Pop!  I figured it would be some hip Asian take on music and relationships, something like High Fidelity, based on the title.  I guess I was wrong.

No you were right -- it just focused mainly on the music and relationships of Jerry Lee Lewis.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 03:02:06 PM
Am I glad I couldn't find Love & Pop!  I figured it would be some hip Asian take on music and relationships, something like High Fidelity, based on the title.  I guess I was wrong.

No you were right -- it just focused mainly on the music and relationships of Jerry Lee Lewis.

BADA BING!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on February 16, 2009, 03:08:50 PM
If I had known there would be giant raccoon nut sacks I would have watched it years ago!

Quote from: some guy's blog (http://www.xopl.com/blog/2006/01/26/tanookinuts.html)
Ok... so, in my movies.txt file (where I keep my list of movies I need to see) was a gem I didn't think I'd get to see anytime soon. Here's how it appears in the file:

Pom Poko (raccoon balls... testicles... movie)

A bit weird, you might say? Well, you see... it's accurate. Pom Poko is an anime film from Japan about shape-shifting raccoons with magical balls.

I shit you not.

And it was just on Turner Classic Movies tonight. It's actually pretty Emo, I gotta say... reminiscent of some Rankin Bass shit.

You still don't believe me about the magical testicles, do you? Well... allow me to show you then:

(http://www.xopl.com/blog/embedded/pompokoballs2.jpg)

Yes. That really is a scene from Pom Poko involving raccoons using their scrotums as parachutes. You still don't believe me, do you? Look... where is that skin connecting back to the raccoon?

This is a CHILDREN'S CARTOON.

You know what happens right after the scrotum parachuting? The raccoons' balls swell up to enormous proportions, and they divebomb riot police. They divebomb riot police, and then the raccoons PUMMEL THE COPS WITH THEIR NUTS.

(http://www.xopl.com/blog/embedded/pompokoballs1.jpg)

I know this is hard to imagine. How could such a fantastic film have slipped past you all these years? Well, let me tell you, it has... and you will come to thank me for finding it for you.

I'm telling you, that's their balls. In many other scenes in the cartoon, the raccoons are sporting big Peter-Griffin's-chin BALLS between their legs.

It's on again tonight. TCM. 1:45am. Pom Poko.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 16, 2009, 10:19:20 PM
Like Grains of Sand (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, 1995)
vs.
Umi ga Kikoeru (The Ocean Waves) (Tomomi Mochizuki, 1993)

This bracket just gets better and better. I've had the fortune of having (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg194312#msg194312) found (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg182044#msg182044) multiple (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg165663#msg165663) matchups (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg216736#msg216736) where I've really loved one of the films and am excited about championing it through the course of this bracket. And yet, this is probably the toughest and yet one of the best matchups I've had to do for this bracket yet.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/ayuetx.jpg)
Like Grains of Sand (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, 1995)

At first glance, this movie could appear like just another Japanese adolescent drama with a love triangle (or even some more complicated geometric figure) set in a high school with the usual tropes (rumors, humiliation and the like). What is rare is a film that deals with these issues and yet escapes the trappings of being clichťd and superficial.

Like Grains of Sand totally succeeds in that regard. Sure, it's moving and heartfelt but more importantly, it's respectful and nuanced and doesn't offer any easy answers to the questions it raises about sexuality, friendship and relationships in general. But the reason I really really loved this film is not even just that. That is because despite belonging to a genre that I already really love and therefore tend to watch a disproportionate number of films in, it managed to constantly surprise me. There were several occasions during the film where I found myself expecting things to go a certain way and then they wouldn't and yet, whatever actually happened would feel completely true and consistent with the characterizations and let the plot go to some unexpected places that really raise it above most films in this genre.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/f1k1g6.jpg) (http://i41.tinypic.com/k4a442.jpg) (http://i42.tinypic.com/33djhbr.jpg)

The movie essentially explores the relationship between a group of Japanese high school students over the course of a few months (or so). One other thing that I found enjoying about the movie is that it never seems to rely on "a-ha" moments to sustain our interest. I have nothing against plot twists and surprise endings but it's a pleasant change to see a movie that could withhold information so as to maintain more dramatic tension choose to instead keep the viewer on the same page as the characters in the film and allow us to discover things along with them. I don't think I'm articulating this too well unfortunately but for instance, the key relationships in the film are apparent very early on in the film. Likewise, there are characters with secrets in their past and these secrets are revealed ever so matter-of-factly. This really makes the film seem so much more real and consequently, so much more affecting.

The movie primarily deals with four central characters and like in the case of Wild Reeds (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=1028.msg194684;topicseen#msg194684), they always feel like real flesh-and-blood characters. The casual banter between the boys always feels completely real and evocative, like for instance:

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2qtwtqh.jpg)

That totally made me smile because me and my best friend would hope for our school to blow up all the time! I also loved the way the three boys are quite different from one another and yet seem to be good enough friends to be able to just hang out and just *be* with each other. The movie also does a really nice job of showing us the lives of these boys outside of school, with their families at home and just enough of it to help us understand who these people are but without letting these complicate the plot too much.

There are some early scenes in the film where we just see Ito being silently in love, possibly for the first time ever, and the movie depicts his pain and longing so perfectly.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/4vrcso.jpg) (http://i39.tinypic.com/raw6q0.jpg)

Even if none of these things worked (which they totally do), the movie would be worthy of recommending just for this one scene that comes at about the one-hour mark. This is probably the most touching moment in the entire film. It's a difficult and awkward scene that packs a ton of complex emotion and everything about the scene from the way it's set up to the performances and the reaction it evokes is perfect. It could've felt exploitative or daring and somehow it doesn't. It just feels poignant and it sorta reminded me of the awkwardness of high-school relationships and how first kisses are often accompanied by sweaty palms and raw nerves. It's a long drawn-out scene that feels even longer than it probably really is and is really quite brilliant. Just prior to this is another scene that depicts just how cruel high-school kids can be to anyone who stands out for any reason. Heartbreaking.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/21f0f8y.jpg) (http://i42.tinypic.com/rrr1w3.jpg) (http://i39.tinypic.com/2dso9oo.jpg)

Likewise, the film really takes it's time developing the friendship between Aihara and Ito. I wasn't too sure I understood Aihara's characterization entirely but the scenes where she and Ito are just getting to know each other are just so great. Little details like the way Ito accepts Aihara with all her craziness and her inscrutable ways and the way he's quick to come to her defense when Shimizu makes an unkind remark about her - they're just full of authenticity.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/qzhwde.jpg) (http://i42.tinypic.com/zitvgj.jpg)

And finally, the last act. Again, it's disturbing and unsettling and the last couple of scenes especially are really quite perfect.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/9vb23s.jpg) (http://i40.tinypic.com/1zn02l2.jpg) (http://i42.tinypic.com/2nuhvlc.jpg)

So yeah, this movie is really great. There were still a few small things that bothered me. For one thing, some of the acting on the part of some minor characters is pretty terrible (especially the girls that keep collecting money under false pretexts). Talking about which, that whole side-plot didn't really seem necessary. The entire sequence about the kid being taken to the doctor to be cured of homosexuality seemed a tad heavy-handed but it's also possible that this was the prevailing norm in Japan at that point in time. Finally, while I found the last act pretty effective emotionally, some of it was really confusing to me and at some level, I felt like even the screenwriter(s) weren't sure of exactly what they were trying to convey here.

But most of this criticism wouldn't even have come up if the movie didn't remind me of Wild Reeds - a movie that I found to be nearly perfect. This is a truly wonderful film and one that I think has a shot to be competing right till the very end of this bracket.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/rk2881.jpg)
Umi ga Kikoeru (The Ocean Waves) (Tomomi Mochizuki, 1993)

While my introduction to anime was via the magical, fantastic world of Hayao Miyazaki, I am also quite the fan of the super-realistic simple slice-of-life anime movies like Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday. This is definitely reminiscent of those two films, especially the latter film. Like those flms, this has a really simple plot. It's basically just a tender recollection of memories from a year in high school. It's surprisingly similar to Like Grains of Sand in that here again we have a relationship triangle between three friends, albeit of a less complicated variety than the other film.

Another thing that's common to both films is that they are both, at their core, movies about friendship. Not teenage romance, not love triangles, not homosexuality (or otherwise) but just friendship - how it develops, how it can challenge us and how it can save us. And both movies do this really well. Here again, we start off by seeing two friends Taku and Matsuno and the story of how they meet and become friends is just really endearing. Then of course, a new girl joins the school and much drama ensues. So you know how this turns out, right? Maybe not.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/5p39tl.jpg) (http://i43.tinypic.com/2hppqq1.jpg) (http://i41.tinypic.com/x29aaa.jpg)

While the plot itself may not be new, the way the story is told is totally fresh and inventive. The characters are developed really nicely and it's really just this sweet tale about being young and falling in love and not being able to understand yourself or others around you properly. It's about growing up and just beginning to understand that the world is more nuanced and complex than you had originally thought.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/jtqc1y.jpg) (http://i40.tinypic.com/2ly22qs.jpg) (http://i39.tinypic.com/98u5x1.jpg)

Another huge highlight is the animation which is detailed and beautiful to look at. The scenes of nature and the cityscape stand out especially. The soundtrack is pretty nice too and suits the mood of the movie.
(http://i40.tinypic.com/285zf9.jpg) (http://i41.tinypic.com/315mpmt.jpg)

I loved the ending school-reunion sequence. This is not your typical movie school-reunion. People are not still harboring old grievances and coming to extract revenge from those who tormented them in the past. Instead, like in real life, the characters here have grown and evolved and moved on. They are happy for each other's successes and eager to reach out and patch up old wounds. Plus, the drunk guy is really hilarious.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/24vjz3k.jpg)

I think my only complaint with the film is that perhaps on account of it's short length, some of the plot remains underdeveloped. In particular, we don't really get to see much of Matsuno or get to know how he feels about everything that's going on between Taku and Rikako. At the start of the film, I got the impression that Matsuno is just really cool and I was pretty disappointed to not get to know him any better. Similarly, some of Rikako's actions were a little inexplicable to me from time to time. Given that the whole movie has a voiceover narration, we only get to see Rikako from Taku's PoV and this might be why I never felt like I got to objectively get to know Rikako and form an opinion about her.

Both these movies are significantly better than at least some of the movies I've helped move forward in this round of the bracket. I know that pix loves one of these films and I was tempted to be strategic and let the other movie win convinced that pix would resurrect the other. But that just doesn't seem fair.

So like I mentioned earlier, this was a tough matchup for me. Umi ga kikoeru is a really splendid and beautiful film but Like Grains of Sand just tackles something really complex and does this in a totally original way. They are both memorable experiences but I can't in good conscience dismiss Like Grains of Sand from this bracket.

pixote, I am really relying on you here because I'm going to be heartbroken if Umi ga kikoeru doesn't get resurrected!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 16, 2009, 10:26:46 PM
Somehow I knew this would happen.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 16, 2009, 10:33:10 PM
Awesome writeup, worm (with great pictures)! You've gotten me excited to see both movies, always cool to see such a good matchup.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Clovis8 on February 16, 2009, 10:34:34 PM
Very nice worm. We should have swapped matchups :D .
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 16, 2009, 10:38:16 PM
Somehow I knew this would happen.

:'(
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 17, 2009, 12:58:31 AM
...the movie would be worthy of recommending just for this one scene that comes at about the one-hour mark...

I hope to find time to comment more tomorrow, but I just have to say YES! to that real quick.  Seriously, if the rest of the movie were only half as good as it is, I'd still recommend it enthusiastically just for that one scene.

I found the last act to be really, really awkward, but almost charmingly so.  I kept hoping that it would fit together more with a second viewing.

Great verdict, worm.  I'll try not to disappoint with Ocean Waves.  Can't wait to find out.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 17, 2009, 06:51:15 AM
It wasn't long ago that, while choosing a new matchup, I came within a hair of choosing Like Grains of Sand. I don't remember what I chose instead, but perhaps I made a mistake.

Once the second round begins, I'll make sure to snatch Like Grains of Sand.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 17, 2009, 07:08:18 AM
Great verdict worm. I'll be keeping an eye out for both of those films.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 17, 2009, 11:22:19 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2repj5t.jpg)

A Scene at the Sea (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103704/) (1991, Takeshi Kitano)

A Scene at the Sea is about Shigeru, a young man working as a garbage collector, and his girlfriend Takako, both of whom are deaf. In the opening scene, Shigeru finds a broken surfboard among the garbage in his route. He takes it home, repairs it, and begins taking it to the beach to learn how to surf. Shigeru is the heart and soul of the movie, it is about his relationship with Takako, his discovery of something he has a passion for and his determination to succeed at it.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2vvoqdi.jpg)

In Kitano's filmography, A Scene at the Sea is something of a departure from what he is best known for, but if you're familiar with his other movies you will recognize it as his work instantly. His movies, despite typically featuring graphic violence and dark humor, often have an overt sentimentality to them, so the romanticized vision of A Scene at the Sea doesn't feel too far out of place. His distinct directorial style is as apparent as ever, featuring a minimalist approach with lots of still shots, sparse compositions, and deadpan performances (more on this later). There is also humor that's pretty typical of Kitano (and quite funny), but it's decidedly lighthearted.

This movie is probably not going to be for everyone. The two leads never speak, and the pace is very slow and deliberate. Some people might call it boring, but I call it visual poetry. The framing of each shot is beautiful, and the lingering takes give you a chance to really study the characters. Joe Hisaishi's always excellent score enhances the experience further, making it almost mesmerizing at times.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/t8uuld.jpg)

The slow pace gives you time to reflect on the events that are transpiring and find the meaning to seemingly incidental things. For one example, Shigeru enters a surfing contest, but not hearing his name called misses his chance to participate. There are other similar things that seem to indicate how unfair and occasionally cruel the world is to him, but as events unfold you can follow how they lead to better things that otherwise wouldn't have come about.

The performances of Shigeru and Takako are, as I said, very deadpan. It's a little annoying at times, but it also makes discovering who they are through their actions and the people around them much more interesting, and when they do show emotion it's that much more rewarding for it. Here's a quote I came across while reading about this film that I found insightful;

Quote
The exchanged looks between Shigeru and Takako hold more emotional weight than a ream of spoken dialogue, which here seems so sparse and superfluous that when it does appear it is almost intrusive.

That nails it exactly for me. There is a very serene quality created by the soundscapes, the music, and the use of quiet, and in a way I think it makes you relate to the deaf main characters. When other characters speak, it is almost obnoxious.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/npmh6r.jpg)

I haven't mentioned the supporting cast yet, but there is quite a few other characters that have subplots running through the story. Some of them are used for comic relief, offer different perspectives on things, and some help drive the story, but by the end there is an importance bestowed on all of them for merely existing and influencing Shigeru's life. The end, something else you might expect from Kitano, is beautifully bitter-sweet, and a little ambiguous, giving you plenty to think about.

Clearly I was very taken by A Scene at the Sea.




The Emperor's Shadow (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125994/) (1996, Xiaowen Zhou)

The Emperor's Shadow is set around 200 BC during the rise-to-power of China's first Emperor, Ying Zheng. I suppose you would call it a historical epic, although there is some controversy over how accurate its historical accounts are. The director addresses this to my satisfaction:

Quote from: Zhou Xiaowen
I don't like history; I just like the buildings, the palaces, the dress.

So now that that's out of the way, let's get to it. The story opens with a bit of non-linear storytelling, starting at the end of the Emperor's life with a nice bit of setup, and then jumping back to when he was a child and but a wee prince. Here we meet the other central character, Gao Jianli, a young but already talented musician. It's not very well explained, but for some reason Zheng has been raised with Jianli in one of the states he is not the prince of. Eventually the boys are separated when Zheng gets taken back to his own state to become king.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/aazqs4.jpg)
Little Jianli and Zheng, Big Jianli and Zheng

The rest of the movie takes place after a 26 year leap, when Zheng, now a king, is near to conquering all the states of China, and aims at uniting them and becoming the first emperor. The main plot of the movie is set in motion when Zheng, nearing completion of his war campaign, is seeking somebody to write the national anthem for his united China. Largely due to his past friendship with Jianli, he becomes convinced that there is nobody else for the job. But having lived through the fighting and seen the death that Zheng is responsible for, Jianli refuses to cooperate and is eventually taken as a slave.

Sorry for such a long setup, it's not an easy story to summarize, and I've still simplified it way too much, but on to reactions.

The scale of the movie is pretty impressive. The "epic" bits aren't the majority. but they leave an impression.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/snex4i.jpg)

But to its credit, the story is able to remain intimate as well, dealing with the relationships between Zheng, Jianli, and Zheng's daughter Yueyang (the latter two inevitebly falling in love). I thought the story was entertaining enough, but it dragged in a few spots. The thing I most enjoyed is the performance by Jiang Wen as Zheng. He has a terrific presence and is a fascinating character that is villainous, but sympathetic. And I should mention there are some horrors on display here. One of the early scenes features a multiple-execution that is absolutely chilling in how its shot, only later to be outdone by a sequence that was almost enough to make me feel ill.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2cmqm8w.jpg)

The quality of the production is really top-notch, apparently this was the most expensive movie made in China at the time, and it looks it. The visuals are gorgeous. There's also a pretty nice orchestral score.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2chmhb9.jpg)

As a final word, I'm not sure if this counts as points for or against it, but in the scene where Yueyang loses her virginity to Jianli, the precise moment is intercut with a massive battering ram breaking through the doors of a fortress. Just sayin.




Verdict

I really enjoyed both movies, this was a great matchup. The Emperor's Shadow just can't stand up to my sublime experience at the sea, but depending on the competition it could have a chance in the resurrections.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 17, 2009, 11:27:26 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/aazqs4.jpg)
Little Jianli and Zheng, Big Jianli and Zheng

:D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 17, 2009, 11:31:22 PM
 

As a final word, I'm not sure if this counts as points for or against it, but in the scene where Yueyang loses her virginity to Jianli, the precise moment is intercut with a massive battering ram breaking through the doors of a fortress. Just sayin.


lol :D. Awesome verdict, Melvil! A Scene at the Sea looks and sounds amazing and definitely seems like a better film overall but The Emperor's Shadow sounds like a fun watch too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 17, 2009, 11:41:42 PM
Both movies sound pretty watchable to be. The Emperor's Shadow maybe more so. And lucky you for finding a film with a Joe Hisaishi score. :) Nice write up.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on February 18, 2009, 12:20:29 AM
I've never disguised my love for Kitano. A Scene at The Sea is a great film for those who doubt his abilities and don't get the effect of his minimalist style.  Plus the considerable contribution by Joe Hisaishi cannot be over-praised.  Dolls is also very good for the same reasons, plus it has much better cinematography.

This movie is probably not going to be for everyone. The two leads never speak, and the pace is very slow and deliberate. Some people might call it boring, but I call it visual poetry. The framing of each shot is beautiful, and the lingering takes give you a chance to really study the characters. Joe Hisaishi's always excellent score enhances the experience further, making it almost mesmerizing at times.

Agreed.  I generally hate slow, deliberate movies but Kitano's work just hypnotizes me.
I'm so happy to read that it gets to move on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 18, 2009, 12:30:23 AM
Thanks worm, smirnoff, and 1SO!

It's awesome to hear some love for Hisaishi, the man is a genius.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 18, 2009, 12:34:26 AM
My first Kitano film was 2003's Zatoichi. That gave me a decent indication that the man was interesting.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 18, 2009, 12:39:36 AM
Additionally, A Scene At the Sea sounds like a fantastic film. Just the kind of film Kitano would make.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 18, 2009, 01:03:18 PM
Dolls is also very good for the same reasons, plus it has much better cinematography.

The latest Left Field Cinema is about Dolls, and his review of it sounds a lot like my review of A Scene at the Sea. I've gotta check it out.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 18, 2009, 01:10:07 PM
Dolls is also very good for the same reasons, plus it has much better cinematography.

The latest Left Field Cinema is about Dolls, and his review of it sounds a lot like my review of A Scene at the Sea. I've gotta check it out.

There was a time last year when I listened to Left Field Cinema every single week. I don't think I've begun a single episode for a month now. His style seemed provocative at first and now he just feels pompous. I haven't even posted on the boards in month I think.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 18, 2009, 01:13:08 PM
Dolls is also very good for the same reasons, plus it has much better cinematography.

The latest Left Field Cinema is about Dolls, and his review of it sounds a lot like my review of A Scene at the Sea. I've gotta check it out.

There was a time last year when I listened to Left Field Cinema every single week. I don't think I've begun a single episode for a month now. His style seemed provocative at first and now he just feels pompous. I haven't even posted on the boards in month I think.

Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of his, but the podcasts are short enough I've stayed subscribed and just delete them if I'm not interested in the subject.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on February 18, 2009, 07:45:52 PM
He's alright.  I love the very British way he mispronounces any foreign word.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 19, 2009, 07:27:12 AM
He's alright.  I love the very British way he mispronounces any foreign word.

Download the episode in which he reviews No Country for Old Men and pay attention to his pronounciation of Javier Barden. It's like he's never heard a Spanish name in his entire life. I've noticed the French do the same (in their own way of course). A name simply cannot be said with a trace of its actual pronouciation. It must be said in a very British or French way.

Also, I was a bit harsh in my earlier comments. I would agree that he is obviously knowledgeable about film. This man watches a lot of movies, both current and from yesterday. His choice of topics per week is usually pretty good because they tend to be unorthodox. I think it's when he criticizes a film negatively that he grates me. He comes off as rather pompous as I said.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on February 19, 2009, 11:25:57 AM
That might just be his Britishness again.

One thing that's great about filmspotting is the dialogue.  You can't help but sound a bit pompous when you're just one person talking about what you think.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 24, 2009, 01:04:40 AM
Round One Resurrection Forecast, Films 11 - 15

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2q1ffar.jpg)
My Secret Cache (Yaguchi Shinobu, 1997)
Lost to Kids Return (verdict by JokerXgg) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg174350#msg174350)
Apart from the fact that My Secret Cache is a comedy with no real laughs, there's not a lot wrong with it.  The goofy, slapstick style reminds me more of indie comedies from Australia than from Japan, though maybe the unexpected Celtic soundtrack just threw off my associations.  Joker was very, very mean to this movie, and I don't disagree with him all that much.  The shenanigans are pretty tedious and the acting is very broad, with a lot of exaggerated facial expressions and sing-song line deliveries, but I still rather liked Naomi Nishida in the lead role.  Her deadpan energy (yay for oxymorons?) kept me from hating this movie.  She's like a poutier, more energetic version of Audrey Tautou.  She's also a former supermodel or something, leading to a running joke in the movie where everyone calls her ugly.  Ha! right?  I'm curious to see her in something else, especially as I don't remember Godzilla 2000 much at all.  Anyway, My Secret Cache might actually have something interesting to say about the pursuit of wealth, but that's sort of irrelevant when there are maybe four or five too many jokes about throwing up.


(http://i42.tinypic.com/2h6ufqp.jpg)
Serpent's Path (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, 1998)
Lost to Sonatine (verdict by Melvil) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg177906#msg177906)
After watching a string of comedies and anime films for this bracket, I found it so refreshing to reimmerse myself in Kurosawa's textured visual style.  Seriously, for maybe the first fifteen minutes of this movie, I was smiling dumbly just over the tone and atmosphere, thinking, "Ahh.... this is nice."  Then, starting about halfway through, in the midst of some pretty grim details in the story of father seeking revenge for his daughter's brutal rape and murder, I somehow found myself laughing with more frequency than I did during My Secret Cache.  There are some really wonderful, subtle moments of dark comedy here.  This was my third Kurosawa experience, after Cure and Pulse, and tone is definitely his strong suit; in fact, the tone by itself is really enough to recommend Serpent's Path.  I agree with Melvil, however, that the film's narrative is ultimately rather underwhelming.  In the last lines of the movie, someone asks, "Do you get it?" and another character answers, "No..."  That's my answer, too, but I'm not convinced there's much of anything to get.  In retrospect, it seems like the filmmakers had the germ of a good story but then started filming without bothering to flesh it out.  Kurosawa's style makes it work for a while, but in the end it all just feels like an empty tease.  I'm very curious to see how License to Live and Charisma compare.  Looking forward to those future verdicts.


(http://i43.tinypic.com/21nqqlt.png)
Sleepless Town (Lee Chi-Ngai, 1998)
Lost to Perfect Blue (verdict by smirnoff) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg179122#msg179122)
Some cool opening credits (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0YyLfjTKtc#no) here: a continuous shot, stripped of most of its color, following main character Takeshi Kaneshiro through the city at night as he transacts some minor yakuza business.  The credits themselves appear in these bursts of neon that look pretty damn cool against the greyed out background.  Sleepless Town is all downhill from there, unfortunately.  It's a gradual descent, but also a steady one.  I agree with everything smirnoff wrote in his verdict, but one line is especially perfect:  "At first I was intrigued by them, then I was confused by them, and finally I was annoyed by them."  Exactly.  Even through the one hour mark I thought maybe, after the film was over, I'd go back and rewatch the first twenty minutes to try to untangle the web of criminal relationships; by the two hour mark, I couldn't have cared less.  The narrative complexity just feels like one of many ways the film imitates neo-noir tropes for their own sake, without really understanding them.  Mirai Yamamoto's manic femme fatale incestuous pixie rape victim dream girl character offers another example.  The whole thing is just way too drawn out as well.  When the last "cool" moment unfolded, I said aloud, without really meaning to, "Ugh."  It's not a horrible film overall, but I admit I was glad for it to be over.


(http://i44.tinypic.com/2ihldue.png)
Suicide Bus (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1998)
Lost to Vive L'Amour (verdict by edgarchaput) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg179222#msg179222)
I paused this film about twenty-five minutes in just to check if it was Japan's official submission to the 1998 Oscars.  The style, tone, humor, and themes all just seemed to be perfect Oscar-bait material.  Japan went with Begging for Love instead that year (a film which would be in this bracket if I could track down a copy), and that's probably for the best, given the way Suicide Bus goes on to sabotage itself after its first act.  Sabotage is too strong a word.  There are just a few unfortunate moments, really, but they are so needlessly and frustratingly misguided as to sour me on the film.  No, that's too strong as well.  I still kind of like this film.  It's really wonderfully cast and has some good laughs and a touch of beauty, and I wanted to spend a lot more time with all the characters.  If I could resurrect just 70% of it and film new scenes to fill out the other 30%, I'd totally do that.  I actually wish Hollywood would remake this one.  Weird, I know, but this is a film that would actually benefit from being a little more predictable.  Every time that I saw the cute girl at the back of the bus (the one character who doesn't realize that it's a suicide mission) sitting near the one cute boy her age (who's not ruining away from debt like all the older men but from the pain of a love lost), I couldn't wait for them to start talking and slowly fall in love.  It makes me happy now just thinking about those imagined scenes.  The film never goes there, though.  It's more concerned with the less interesting, ill-defined, cultish zealotry of the trip's organizer, a role played by the screenwriter, which maybe explains a few of the script's odd choices.  I'd love to get my hands on the source novel by Nakahara Fumio to see if it plays out differently.


(http://i41.tinypic.com/2lig8wk.jpg)
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)
Lost to After the Rain (verdict by Melvil) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg181892#msg181892)
There's something very appealing about watching a pig smoke a cigarette.  I could almost see that being the starting point for this film.  Making the pig a pilot would have been the logical next step because any time Miyazaki renders flight it's one of the most enjoyable things ever.  Those two things together are enough for a pretty entertaining movie, but that seems have been the extent of the narrative brainstorming.  As Melvil says in his verdict, it's a shame the extent to which the Curtis character dominates the story.  I kept hoping he was just a minor subplot, but he kept popping back up like Piston Honda in Punch Out.  The story and the world of the story both feel disappointingly slight, especially for a Miyazaki film.  I don't think that's just an expectations thing, either.  I mean, this isn't that far removed from a very special two-part episode of Tailspin, except with a pig instead of a bear.  I love me some Tailspin, sure, but I'm not convinced it belongs in the second round.  DuckTales on the other hand...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 24, 2009, 06:59:01 AM
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)
There's something very appealing about watching a pig smoke a cigarette.  I could almost see that being the starting point for this film.  Making the pig a pilot would have been the logical next step because any time Miyazaki renders flight it's one of the most enjoyable things ever. 

Yes! what a charming moviefilm...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 24, 2009, 07:25:56 AM
That was great to read. Way to go pix.

Ah Tailspin, I enjoyed that too. I thought Kit Cloudkicker was about the coolest character I'd ever seen when I was young. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 24, 2009, 08:19:54 AM
Pity the rest of Sleepless Town isn't that great because I really liked the opening credits clip you posted and it immediately made me want to watch the rest of the movie! Serpent's Path sounds interesting too and Porco Rosso looks and sounds terrific.

So, am I right in reading your verdicts to mean that apart from Porco Rosso, the rest don't really have a shot at being resurrected?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 24, 2009, 08:33:09 AM
Definitely right about those opening credits. I think those got me pretty excited when I watched it as well.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on February 24, 2009, 09:26:58 AM
My Secret Cache (Yaguchi Shinobu, 1997)
Lost to Kids Return (verdict by JokerXgg)

Serpent's Path (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, 1998)
Lost to Sonatine (verdict by Melvil)


The Emperor's Shadow
Lost to A Scene at the Sea

Takeshi Kitano seems to be a one man wrecking crew in this bracket.

And I have Getting Any? vs. God of Gamblers 2.   Will the streak continue?  Find out soon.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 24, 2009, 11:59:39 AM
Yay, another resurrection forecast! Featuring two of my movies no less!

It sounds like we had similar reactions to Serpent's Path. I was really excited about it early on too, but somewhere along the way it lost me. I'm also glad to hear some support on Porco Rosso, which I still feel guilty about. :-[

I'm more intrigued by Suicide Bus than ever now.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 24, 2009, 12:20:05 PM
So, am I right in reading your verdicts to mean that apart from Porco Rosso, the rest don't really have a shot at being resurrected?

Serpent's Path, Suicide Bus, and Porco Rosso are all worth seeing despite being occasionally frustrating and/or ultimately disappointing.  That's all I really know at this point.  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 'Noke on February 27, 2009, 04:26:52 PM
Rhapsody in August vs. Princess Mononoke


(http://www.weirdwildrealm.com/filmimages/rhapsodyaugust.jpg) (http://www.ezydvd.com.au/g/i/p/229240.jpg)

Rhapsody in August
             Rhapsody in August starts of simply. We open on a boy, about 17 or 18 years old, trying to fix a piano. His sister, about the same age, then comes in, holding a letter from the one, the only, Hawaii. We learn that their grandmotherís brother is on his deathbed and wants Grandma to come visit him in Hawaii. The rest of the movie is the kids getting their Grandmother to try and go to Hawaii, with some atomic bomb drama on the side.
             This movie is a mess. We are introduced to this group of kids as them being naÔve, a real bunch of brats, with the only things on their minds being getting grandma to stop cooking bad meals and to go to Hawaii, the child actors being annoyingly loud and abrasive(itís like a group of Ben Lyonses). It also contains great lines like this one, said by the older boy to Grandma. ďTo put it simply, Grandmaís cooking is driving us to despairĒ It was really just a movie to grate on my nerves. I didnít think it could get worse. It got worse.
(http://i43.tinypic.com/zwciko.png)
     
            How? Well, would think your annoying 4 year old cousin would show any interest in the dropping of the atomic bomb? Never mind spend the whole day researching the event of their own accord? Well these kids do. We get introduced to them as naÔve, and then weíre expecting them to take a delicate look at the atomic bombings? I expected these kids to act like Colin Farrell does in In Bruges.
           And this is the problem with the film. I think that this subject has to be dealt with delicately, but Kurosawa just clumsily throws it away. We donít know whether he is making a family drama or a farce, and when the movie is about something as terrible as the atomic bomb, doing that is a screenwriting sin. Plus thereís the fact that all the characterís are stereotypes, and awful ones at that, like the greedy parents to the kids who are naÔve but learn something in the end!
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2wly7wm.png)
Not to mention the fantastically hideous moments of unintentional comedy. Like the time when the older brother and sister go to the forest to look at two trees that were struck by lightening and the boy jumps on the girl. Or the moment where the grandmother describes the eye of the bomb and Kurosawa cuts to the bomb cloud AND A GIANT EYE POPS OUT! Also, pay note to the ending, which is so over the top hilarious and fits in with nothing that had happened before it, except for the fact that none of it was good enough for Kurosawaís DVD cover.
          Two things I liked about the movie though. I have a tiny soft spot for Richard Gere, and while he isnít terrific in this movie, he definitely stands out because he doesnít grate on your nerves (unlike the rest of the, and the Grandmother played by Mitsunori Isaki(I should say Iím not sure if this is the actress, because IMDB didnít give photos and the credits were in Japanese) who is very good. She invests her lines with gravitas (or at least as much gravitas as can be pulled off with these lines) and reminds me of someone like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, who also had to make us believe that such bad dialogue is actually coming out of these peopleís mouths (now just for the record, Iím going with popular opinion on Gran Torino, cause I havenít seen it) However, Eastwood is a commanding presence on screen, While Mitsunori Isaki is really only a supporting performance.
   And though the cinematography is nice, none of these minor pros really saves most of the acting, directing, and script decisions. I could not stand this movie.
   
Princess Mononoke

   About a year ago, one boring afternoon, I decided to make my list of the movies I was most looking forward to see. It included about 101 films, ranging from pulp fiction to there will be blood to the dark knight. But I was surprised to find that I was most looking forward to finally sitting down with a copy of Princess Mononoke. Normally Iím not too excited about animation movies. I am usually interested in the next Pixar, but never really excited. But something about this made me really wanted to see it. So when I did, I was kind of disappointed. It had a fantastic ending, but I didnít fall in love with it like I should have. Looking back after seeing it for a second time, I donít know why I would ever dislike any part of this movie. There is no contest. Rhapsody is a mess. Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece.
            Why? We can start at the beginning. Pixote said when talking about
Posco rosso on his recent resurrection forecast that any time Miyazaki renders flight it's one of the most enjoyable things ever. I think that itís really whenever Miyazaki renders motion that itís beautiful. This is shown in the great opening scene, where, after a quick narration telling us there are gods in this world, we get thrust into the attack of some sort of demon on the village where our hero, Ashitaka, is chased by a giant pig demon creature (much like the one in Die Hard 2) Itís a short sequence but one thatís beautiful to watch unfold, with The demon creature moving so fluidly through the landscape itís amazing.
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2lmw2uw.png)
           The next 20 or so minutes are spent getting to the land where the movie takes place. They call it Irontown, a human settlement where, well, iron is produced. Run by one lady Hiboshi, Itís a place that can stand in for the capitalist world we live in now, where people are so power hungry they will upset the balance between nature and the human world. While the movie does have its anti-capitalist message, it decides not to put us on either side. While the gods are put in a better light, itís because of their position, not the position Miyazaki puts us in. We are following Ashitakaís journey as he witnesses this epic struggle, torn between trying to save two groups of people who cannot live while their opponent is still alive.
           There are just so many beautiful sequences to choose from. You have the walk though the land of the gods, the fight on the hillside during the rain, the final fight between the boar gods and the humans, and the absolutely brilliant final creature that appears in the film. My favorite though, is the raid on Irontown at nighttime by Sen, the wolf girl. Not only is it intense, with each of the characters weaving in and out of each other through the maze of irontown. We then see Ashitaka in full badass mode, breaking up a mano y mano swordfight between Lady Hiboshi and Sen without breaking a sweat. One of the ladies of the bathhouse shoots him as heís walking out, and he just flinches, and then keeps on walking. Then proceeds to open a door that can apparently be opened by ten men. With a bullet wound in his stomach. Badass.
(http://i44.tinypic.com/5f4tok.png)
And I mean there is so much more I can praise this film for, but one thing that did annoy me is the voice acting. I watched it dubbed, and usually Miyazakiís dubbing is very good, but here, sometimes it feel flat to me. Some lines just rang a bit false. That, however, is the only minor flaw I saw in the movie.

Verdict: Is it not obvious? Fine then, Mononoke moves on
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 27, 2009, 04:44:17 PM

(http://www.weirdwildrealm.com/filmimages/rhapsodyaugust.jpg) (http://www.ezydvd.com.au/g/i/p/229240.jpg)

Princess Mononoke
Ashitaka, is chased by a giant pig demon creature

I was sold at that part.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on February 27, 2009, 05:23:14 PM
Tremendous point about Miyazaki and motion, Gman. When I'm trying to explain to people why I find Miyazaki so astonishingly awesome it's things like his ability to make motion into a magical event that I try to get across.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 27, 2009, 05:29:41 PM
I've only actually ever seen Mononoke dubbed. One of my favorite parts was Billy Bob Thornton going something like, "This soup takes like donkey piss." Good times.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on February 27, 2009, 06:59:13 PM
I love how they got Keith David to read the opening text in the dubbed version. Such a great voice.

Anyways, I wish I could say more, but I'm heading out. Loved the review Gman
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 27, 2009, 07:09:35 PM
Dubbed is bad, but good review. :) Rhapsody sounds pretty bad, which I'm a little surprised about. But I can't complain about Mononoke going through!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 'Noke on February 28, 2009, 03:43:36 AM
Dubbed is bad, but good review. :) Rhapsody sounds pretty bad, which I'm a little surprised about. But I can't complain about Mononoke going through!

I'm interested to see what other people think about Rhapsody. And I agree dubbed is usually bad, I said that in my review, but Miyazaki usually gets some good talent behind it. I watched rhapsody subbed btw.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 28, 2009, 04:28:42 AM
I'm interested to see what other people think about Rhapsody. And I agree dubbed is usually bad, I said that in my review, but Miyazaki usually gets some good talent behind it. I watched rhapsody subbed btw.

I've seen Rhapsody before and thought it was alright, not great, but all I really remember is the twisted metal of a playground appartus turned into a memorial or something.  So I'll be curious to see it again.  I bet I'll still like it more than you did, though your verdict seemed pretty persuasive.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 28, 2009, 08:08:28 AM
Dubbed is bad, but good review. :) Rhapsody sounds pretty bad, which I'm a little surprised about. But I can't complain about Mononoke going through!

I'm interested to see what other people think about Rhapsody. And I agree dubbed is usually bad, I said that in my review, but Miyazaki usually gets some good talent behind it. I watched rhapsody subbed btw.

How strange. I was reading the verdict at the library downtown. I posted a little bit more then when to the top level to see what movies were available. Staring at me right in the face was a copy of Rhapsody in August. The library doesn't even have that many Asian films (no Chungking for example), so I have no idea what this one was doing there, but I thought it to be pretty ironic.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 28, 2009, 09:03:23 AM
Mononoke is still probably my favorite Miyazaki film, so this makes me very happy. Haven't watched Rhapsody but would like to.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on February 28, 2009, 12:07:54 PM
It's time for my first far east write-up,

HŰhokekyo Tonari No Yamada-kun (My Neighbors The Yamadas) (1999)

(http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/4074/index2.jpg)
(http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/5320/index5.jpg)
(http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/8002/35718696.jpg)
(http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/6121/yamada61.jpg)

It's hard to fathom that My Neighbors The Yamadas was directed by the same man behind Grave Of The Fireflies. Isa Takahata managed to devastate me with Grave, just rip my guts out and step all over them and depress the hell out of me. Yet with the Yamadas he has delivered such a joyous story full of laughter and sweet tender moments. It really boggles the mind, but it is the sign of a great director that he can helm two disparate yet brilliant films. The Yamadas immediately capture you because of how realistically sweet and loving they are. Even in their worst moments when they have screwed up beyond all hope there is a sweetness to it all. Any movie that features a remote controller versus paper ninja showdown automatically wins my heart.

The animation style is certainly something to get used to, as opposed to a traditional anime style Takhata opted for a digital watercolor effect that ensured the film would look just like the comic strip it is based on. At first it seems odd, but as the film progresses the simplicity of the style matches the simplicity of the story and the down to Earth style is the same as the down to Earth family.

Overall Yamadas is just about perfect, because it feels real and it is funny. There is a tender moment between Shige and her friend at the hospital that is sorrowful, but handled in light fare. The only moment when the movie loses its focus is in the extended Mr. Yamada as Hero Rider dream sequence. But, it quickly gains back its focus and remains a splendidly sweet and heartfelt film that will make you laugh, a lot.

Vs.

Burakku Jakku (Black Jack) (1996)

(http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/2640/blackjackmovie.jpg)
(http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/9436/blackjackmovie1.jpg)
(http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/2263/blackjackmovietn02.jpg)
(http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/4655/blackjackmovietn04.jpg)

Medical dramas can be good, when they are actually medical dramas. Black Jack is a medical drama at first, with a solid medical mystery. Then for no reason, at the time at least, a car chase happens, people start shooting at each other and a cheesy as all get out group of medical soldiers known as the MST make an appearance. Black Jack loses its focus far too often, so much so that near the end it isn't even a medical drama anymore, instead the focus is on a shootout at a research facility. A very disjointed film.

The character of Dr. Black Jack is also highly underdeveloped, and never seems to matter to the story other than to move the plot along every once in a while. The animation is very average overall, and I wasn't a big fan of the still style they went for in a lot of scenes. Black Jack ends up a mishmash of ideas and genres and never comes together for anything resembling a good picture.

Verdict:

(http://img408.imageshack.us/img408/8510/verdictmid.jpg)

This shouldn't be in doubt and it's really not fair to Black Jack in any way. My Neighbors The Yamadas blows it out of teh water and easily moves on to the next round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 28, 2009, 12:18:58 PM
Nice verdict, Bill. I've heard nothing but good things about Yamadas, so this sounds right but I have to admit that I do find the idea of an animated medical drama - murder mystery at least mildly intriguing :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on February 28, 2009, 12:33:29 PM
I was intrigued by it as well, especially because I loved what I did read of the manga. But, I don't know, I thought the film went too over the top and too cheesy and didn't focus on the medical mystery drama aspect enough, I'm sure others will like it more though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 28, 2009, 12:56:44 PM
Nice writeup Bill, I'm looking forward to seeing My Neighbors The Yamadas someday.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 28, 2009, 01:08:28 PM
Nice writeup Bill, I'm looking forward to seeing My Neighbors The Yamadas someday.

Agreed on both counts!  But I will watch Black Jack first because I'm a martyr or something.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on February 28, 2009, 01:41:36 PM
Pikunikku (1996, Shunji Iwai) against Love in the Time of Twilight (1995, Hark Tsui)

Pikunikku

Three young mentally challenged people, 2 boys and 1 girl, all patients at an institute, confuse the publication date of a bible copy to be the deadline for the end of the world. They set out in an attempt to find the perfect spot to view the spectacle. They do not take roads or sidewalks but rather stroll on ramps, walls and the rails of bridges to make it to their destination.

Combining drama, some laughs, dynamic camera movement and editing, strong acting and an impressive score, Pikunniku challenged me like few movies can. I was very impressed with the film as a whole, its story and how the latter played out in the end. I was unsure of what to expect when I chose the film for this current verdict. The result was a very pleasant surprise. It is a strong story with characters that I grew very found of by the end.

I donít know what to say about this film. I just really like it. It finds a balance between character development and storyline within a very particular context, that of having three mentally ill characters as protagonists as opposed to secondary characters. Here there is no choice but to have them as layered people rather than cardboard crazy cut outs. It is an intriguing premise and the end product rewarded me with dividends I wonít soon forget. A good example of a film that has interesting potential but doesnít squander it. Rather, it finds continuous inspiration from it.






Love in the Time of Twilight

Fooled by an attractive title, I yet again subjected myself to a film that, much like Justice My Foot! And Out of the Dark, sends more time offering gags on a level of humour that my funny bone is heavily shielded against.

A young woman who is a member of a dance theatre group, and a young male bank clerk stumble upon each other early in the film in rather bumbling fashion and take a great disliking to each other. Desperate to find a lover, the bank clerk hooks up with a complete stranger that same night. The stranger presses him to deposit some jewels at the bank the next day. It turns out she handed him pistols, as she was merely part of a scheme with a band of thieves to rob the bank in question. The bank clerk perishes in the process and, for reasons Iím not entirely clear on, returns as a spirit to the theatre dancer he hated at the beginning to help him rewrite history and prevent his death.

As mentioned above, the elastic face, Ďshit ghostí, intentional funny voices, slapstick humour rarely, if ever, earns any warm reception from me. I tend to go into these Far East matchups Ďcoldí as they say, which is a strategy Iíll need to change since 30% of my matchups so far have involved movies like this. I did begin to have fun once the theatre dancer and the bank clerk travel into the past in a wild attempt to rewrite history. As one can guess, there is a BTTF II vibe, with both characters trying to avoid contact with the past versions of themselves. It makes for some clever moments. Another sequence as both characters stuck on each otherís bodies, with their fronts sticking out on both sides (no backsides basically. I wonít explain how. If anyone is curious enough they can check the movie out). That also is funny, but the story shoots itself in the foot immediately afterwards with an overly dramatic romance twist. All in all, good moments, but just not the kind of film I like.

Verdict: Pikunikku
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 28, 2009, 02:07:05 PM
Nice verdict, edgar and you really made me want to watch Pikunikku! Plus, I loved All About Lily Chou-Chou. I think I might try and snag either April Story (if it gets resurrected) or Pikunikku in the next round and Pikunikku definitely sounds like the better choice :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on February 28, 2009, 02:09:36 PM
April Story (if it gets resurrected)

...which edgar hated!  There's just no telling with this Iwai character!

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on February 28, 2009, 02:14:58 PM
April Story (if it gets resurrected)

...which edgar hated!  There's just no telling with this Iwai character!

pixote

Yeah, which is sorta why i'm so curious :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on February 28, 2009, 02:16:16 PM
It's so good.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on February 28, 2009, 02:27:05 PM
Nice verdict, edgar, Pikunikku sounds awesome!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on February 28, 2009, 04:54:00 PM
Black Jack is awesome.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on March 07, 2009, 09:29:08 PM
Undo

Clocking in at a mere 47 minutes, Undo doesn't offer much in the way of plot. Basically, it tells the story of a young couple, Yukio and Moemi, and their struggle in dealing with the latter's increasingly problematic knot tying obsession. Not terribly interesting until about two thirds in, when Yukio gives up on trying to understand Moemi's condition and decides to start indulging her whims, at which point the movie devolves into a sort of pseudo-'bondage erotica' with increasingly high stakes, as Yukio keeps tying Moemi tighter and tighter and Moemi keeps saying it's not tight enough.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2hykmeo.jpg)

Cute, eh? :)

It's Iwai's treatment of image and sound that sets the movie apart, however. Plenty of sensuous close-ups of teeth licking...

(http://i41.tinypic.com/aky7sy.jpg)

...and water splashing...

(http://i39.tinypic.com/vnl9vs.jpg)

...and drills going into turtle shells...

(http://i42.tinypic.com/r7qd7m.jpg)

...as well as generally beautiful images.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/11iflo1.jpg) (http://i39.tinypic.com/otqgx2.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/oiujxu.jpg) (http://i39.tinypic.com/vdcolg.jpg)
(http://i44.tinypic.com/206myxi.jpg) (http://i44.tinypic.com/o6mgxg.jpg)
 
Yes?


The Underground Banker

Ehm, no.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2gsqqys.jpg)

Truth. I can't even figure out what it is they're going for ("welcome to CAT III, duder!"). I mean, it plays like a sex comedy, but rape is not very funny ó especially not when it's supposed to double as erotica ó , and neither is this:

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2ryja7m.jpg)

This excerpt from my comments on From Beijing With Love applies here:

Something like this is necessary, because it's what springs the dumb-looking butchertruck driver-turned-spycrazy psycho into action but CINECAST! it, it was pretty tasteless.

And this one from my comments on The Quiet Family applies as well:

I guess it's supposed to be a 'dark comedy' or whatever, but I wasn't laughing. And if you're not laughing, there's really not much else to hang on to. It's just kind of sadistic and unpleasant.

I need to do a better job of picking my movies from now on. Is there anything on the list with flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate where the children dance and laugh and play with gumdrop smiles? Because that's what I need right now  :-\

(http://i39.tinypic.com/11giy42.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on March 07, 2009, 09:36:26 PM
erotica!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 07, 2009, 09:47:50 PM
You could have merely posted those 3 screen caps from The Underground Banker with no text at all and I'd still say Undo should move on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 08, 2009, 10:21:09 AM
Better luck with your next matchup, duder. Awesome screenshots though. :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on March 08, 2009, 11:51:19 AM
I always want to see whatever duder has just watched.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 08, 2009, 10:00:31 PM
(http://i43.tinypic.com/wmflus.jpg)

Deja Vu (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910579/) (Kin-Nam Cho, 1999)

The primary theme of Deja Vu is fate. In the opening scene, this crazy clown lady sets up the movie through a magic act she is performing for some kids. She makes several appearances in the film, using her tricks to interject some pearls of wisdom about fate, love, luck, and the unpredictability of it all. After her introduction, we meet two young women, Vicky and Hung (cousins), in a shopping mall as they each have a chance encounter with different guys, Nicky and Peter respectively. When the scene ends, we see it a second time, but with a small change. The two women have swapped positions, so that their encounters end up pairing them against the opposite guys.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/w8aog3.jpg)

In the scenes that follow, it is shown how the story would go based on both of these possible starting points, essentially showing each scene twice. The not-so-subtle difference is that in one of the threads both couples end up working out (Vicky and Nicky, Hung and Peter), while in the other the couples don't get along at all and call it off before too long (Vicky and Peter, Hung and Nicky). I like the general idea used, but I think it could've been handled a little better. It works better once you have the big picture at the end, but watching it at the time I had some problems with how the different relationships were portrayed.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/29mw3us.jpg)

Once the couples in the second thread break it off, there's really nowhere left for it to go, so logically enough it ends, and the rest of the movie follows the 'successful' thread. Once again, it makes perfect sense thinking back on it, but at the time it felt strange that the structure was dropped barely half an hour in.

The characters are generally likable, but the pair pictured above is given a lot more to work with than the pair pictured below. Technically, there's not much to be impressed with, it's very rough around the edges. Many of the scenes are heavily tinted, and it's very artificial and not very attractive. The music and editing also has problems that are occasionally distracting. For some reason I still found the movie to have a certain charm to it.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/27x4euw.jpg)

Storywise, I'm a bit torn on it. The majority of it is pretty standard relationship drama fare, nothing great. The structure of the first act felt like more could have been done with it, but the way the story concludes plays off of it nicely, and genuninely made me appreciate the purpose of it. It makes a simple point, but it got me thinking about how and why things work out the way they do in life, so it must have done something right.

Credits roll...Unfortunately there's one downfall yet to come. Crazy clown lady is back! She stops the credits for an epilouge-montage of the story where she lays out a complete explanation of the characters and why their relationships played out the way they did. Ugh! Completely unneccesary.

http://vimeo.com/3521915 (http://vimeo.com/3521915)
One of the more interesting examples of the dual-storyline technique. Also, more scenes needed actors playing kites.



Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120541/) (Ka-Fai Wai, 1997)

The strangely named Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 is a Hong Kong crime comedy, following a character named Kau and an assortment of fellow triads he falls in and out of company with.

The first thing worth talking about is the cinematography. Almost all of the movie is shot with a really wide angle lense, and it has a very distinct and unique style. It doesn't always work, especially in the first half some of it is really aggravating to watch. One action scene is shot upside down, until the cameraman apparently falls down a flight of stairs. But over the course of the movie it improved and grew on me, and some of the camera work is really cool and inventive.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/9anzok.jpg)

Either by strange coincidence, or the mad genius that is pixote, this movie is also based around two diverging paths of the same story. When the movie starts, Kau gets involved with a group of small time criminals in a job to transport cars for a local clan boss. Due in part to a decision Kau makes, things go very wrong very fast, and he and his partners find themselves caught up in ever escalating chaos. Things don't end well.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/x0o846.jpg)

Then we're back at the beginning again. We relive the first few scenes, but are shown different pieces of them which helps build the story and keep it from being repetitive. It's also pretty cool how there are a lot of repeated shots showing how things change this time. At the point where the first story took off, Kau makes a different decision and drastically changes the events to follow. The majority of the movies screentime is devoted to this second story. This time, Kau gets talked into partnering up with Matt (someone else from the first story who dropped out of the plan with Kau this time), who has taken a hit job. Once again, things keep escalating as they get caught up in ever more complex situations.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/3313u5z.jpg)

Oh yeah, so this is a comedy, mostly of a darkish nature, but I didn't get a lot of laughs out of it. It was more 'fun' than 'funny' with a lot of absurd and sometimes just stupid stuff happening, and at times it leans almost into parody. The first story is the movies biggest weakness, with a plot that's not that interesting, involving a lot of stupid stuff, and the worst offenses with the camera work. It also focuses more on the ensemble cast, but the group dynamic is never that good. In the second story Kau is clearly the star, and despite an odd role, he carries the movie much better.

http://vimeo.com/3525154 (http://vimeo.com/3525154)
Interesting camera work, crimelord brothers named Blackie and White, and a shootout in the dark. What's not to like?



Verdict

I enjoyed both movies (better the second time!), but they both have their flaws, and neither of them are great. My second viewing of Deja Vu almost changed my decision, but I still think TMWTB No. 1 is the stronger movie. Sorry crazy clown lady!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 08, 2009, 10:42:08 PM
Too Many Ways to be No. 1 sounds pretty bitchin'.

I just felt like saying that.

I'm going to bed.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on March 10, 2009, 08:49:25 PM
Full Contact vs. City Hunter

For this match-up, I wanted some popcorn movies after wading through the heaviness of Oscar/Filmspot season.  I chose to match up Full Contact, a Ringo Lam action flick starring Chow Yun Fat, with City Hunter, a Jackie Chan vehicle.  Both date from roughly the same time.  Full Contact has a 1992 date (although the fashions look about 3-4 years older) while City Hunter was released in 1993.

Full Contact

Chow Yun Fat plays Jeff, a small time crook in Bangkok who nevertheless has a conscience.  He is loyal to his friends and doesn't use unnecessary violence.  His close friend is Sam, who owes a lot of money to a local boss who runs a criminal gang.  After rescuing Sam from the boss, Jeff agrees to go in with Sam and the thug gang on a heist of a large amount of ammunition from a convoy.  He sends his girlfriend home to Hongkong with a promise to rejoin her after this one last project.  Of course it all goes wrong, the real bad guys double-cross the sort-of bad guys (Jeff and friends), and Sam betrays Jeff at a crucial moment and flees, leaving Jeff to die, or so he believes.  The rest of the plot traces Jeff's recovery and quest for revenge, in true action movie fashion.  There are montage sequences of Jeff mourning, nursing his anger and bitterness and training hard to recover his skills.  He then goes to HongKong and sets his plan into motion, in the process discovering that his love has found solace in Sam's arms, and Sam has become a true member of the criminal gang--or has he?  Will Jeff get his girl back?  Will all the bad guys die horribly?  Will Sam redeem himself?

The movie is very reminiscent of similar John Woo movies of the time, with explosions, bullets flying, slo-mo action sequences, interspersed by several moody music sequences where heartfelt ballads describe the characters' feelings during montages. 

Cheesiness is not objectionable to me in this sort of movie; in fact it adds to the experience, and Full Contact brings the cheese.  Chow Yun Fat is young and pretty, although he has an unfortunate NKOTB style wardrobe involving way too many bandanas.  The direction is not Woo level but it gets the job done.  It's a movie that engages the brain undemandingly for 2 hours and then vanishes, leaving only a memory of some yummy shots of deltoids and the humor of the recurring cameo by a Boston terrier.

City Hunter

Yikes.  I hadn't read up on this film before I watched it or I would have had second thoughts about choosing it. 

City Hunter features Jackie Chan as the titular character, a sort of cross between James Bond, a private eye, Bruce Lee and one or more of the Three Stooges.  The plot involves Jackie being hired to find a Japanese gazillionaire's runaway teenage daughter.  Jackie is aided by the niece of his dead partner, who he secretly lusts after and who is secretly in love with him.  Blatant and stupid plot machinations put all of these folks, plus several others who are not well explained, on a cruise ship out at sea.  Unbeknownst to all, a gang of terrorist criminals is also on board, about to take the ship hostage. 

There's a bit of extremely basic cliched action movie standard plotting but the whole thing is mainly played for laughs.  There is a LOT Of slapstick, and Jackie goes awkwardly from being competent and skilled in one scene and a complete klutz in the next, generally injuring his crotchular area in the process.

The movie is based on a manga series from the late 80s which spawned an immensely popular cartoon series, and I get that the comic and cartoon were generally pretty light and played for laughs, and the movie is trying to capture that cartoon feeling.  Chan hams it up, making faces, getting beaten and tossed around, succeeding in some fights almost accidentally.  A few bits got smiles from me but not much more.  The clumsy characterization--is he a womanizer or truly in love with his partner?  Is he an idiot who gets lucky in fights, or a skilled fighter playing dumb? -- detracts from what little enjoyment there is.  The physical humor is very much on the 3 Stooges level with more crotch injury and boob jokes. 

One sequence that was probably the most technically impressive at the time, but which now dates the movie horribly, is a sort of dream sequence in which Jackie, one of the bad guys and several side characters transform into Street Fighter characters and carry out Street Fighter style fights complete with accurate sound effects and actions.  It was a technical achievement but not terribly amusing, at least not to me.  Maybe if I was more familiar with the game it would have meant more.

Chan apparently disowned and badmouthed City Hunter immediately after finishing it, but in an interview that was included on the disk and which was recorded more recently (he makes references to Rush Hour) he seems more kindly disposed toward it, talking about what he was trying to get at in the movie while implying that it didn't quite work out as he'd hoped.

Jackie Chan's appeal is that he has perfected the character of the well-intentioned but somewhat foolish guy who succeeds in part because of his good heart and in part through dumb luck.  There is something of that persona in City Hunter, but the character is too much foolish and not enough heart; that coupled with the lame plot and one-note supporting characters makes the movie a chore rather than a pleasure to watch.

No competion:  Full Contact goes forward.  It might be something of a guilty pleasure, but I did enjoy it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 10, 2009, 09:46:29 PM
Nice writeup Colleen. Full Contact sounds fun. City Hunter sounds like it should be fun, but when those types of movies fail they tend to fail horribly.

Quote
One sequence that was probably the most technically impressive at the time, but which now dates the movie horribly, is a sort of dream sequence in which Jackie, one of the bad guys and several side characters transform into Street Fighter characters and carry out Street Fighter style fights complete with accurate sound effects and actions.  It was a technical achievement but not terribly amusing, at least not to me.  Maybe if I was more familiar with the game it would have meant more.

I almost want to watch it just for this. :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on March 11, 2009, 06:01:32 AM
No need:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVx8l_-nn6c# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVx8l_-nn6c#)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on March 11, 2009, 06:25:10 AM
And just for fun, the training/recovery montage from Full Contact.  For the record:  Chow Yun Fat's character is nearly killed in an explosion caused by the bad guys; he saved the burned girl and the dog from the fire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr643Z5uR80# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr643Z5uR80#)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 11, 2009, 07:01:02 AM
Whoa. That street fighter bit was unreal. lol

Good verdict.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on March 11, 2009, 07:20:35 AM
No need:

<awesomeness>

I can't believe you killed this, Colleen!  :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on March 11, 2009, 07:48:26 AM
C'mon did you *see* the dog in the other movie?  That took it over the top right there.

Plus, I was never a Street Fighter fan.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on March 11, 2009, 11:22:44 AM
Can we resurrect just that Street Fighter clip? I could see it moving quite far in the bracket.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 11, 2009, 11:30:05 AM
Seeing Jackie Chan dressed up as Chun-Li hurts. That guy is a good sport though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 14, 2009, 01:03:13 PM
The Road Home

A man finds out his father has died, and he returns from the city to the village he grew up in. His mother is grief stricken. She insists that her husband's body is carried in the traditional manner (by hand) along the road leading into the village. The village where she still lives. The village where they fell in love. As the son makes arrangements to fulfill his mother's wishes he takes a moment to reflect on the story of how his parents met. This is when the movie really starts.

It's a simple but beautifully told love story, much of it narrated by the son. There's a great deal of striking landscapes and imagery on display in the film. This was absolutely welcome, but it didn't come as a major surprise being that the director is Yimou Zhang (Hero, House Of Fly Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower). In fact that's pretty much the only reason I selected this movie. It's clear the guy isn't afraid to show off a little scenery.

(http://i.imgur.com/gAXtKFw.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/u2VRd9U.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/6g6vjam.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/1lhFkQd.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/Z5VNjbf.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/BX2QJhn.jpg)


Another aspect of the movie that I loved is how much of the story progresses while revolving around every day tasks. Every day tasks in a rural village of China half a century ago that is. I'm always interested in picking up bits of insight into how things were done differently in other places, in other times. The director seems happy to oblige.


(http://i.imgur.com/nupp9L9.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/L2VsbKB.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/apgXgDj.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/4UKymIl.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/JISqMar.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/S6iUodY.jpg)


Interesting to me was the fact that the film is based on a novel, and the screenplay was done by the author (Shi Bao). I've heard of scripts written in collaboration with authors but in this case she has the only writing credit. I can't think of another movie where this is the case. I do get the sense that the book would be better... of course that would be nothing new.

Aside from the visuals the other highlight of the movie is Ziyi Zhang. Her enthusiasm, or I should say her character's enthusiam, is the driving for of the movie. The love story itself wasn't especially engrossing, but the narration goes a long way to giving it meaning. The nature of the story is such that you pretty well know how it's going to end before it starts. Even so, it was still touching.

Of the 14 films I've now watched for this bracket I would rank this #2 behind Perfect Blue. It's really lovely. I want to see it again already.


_______________________


6ixtynin9

A girl named Tum finds a box of money left in front of her door one day. She decides to keep it. Eventually, gangsters come looking for the money that went missing. Trouble ensues. All of which never would've happened if a nail hadn't gone missing.

I think I've seen this twist before.
(http://i.imgur.com/57PxriP.jpg)

Things play a bit like a Guy Ritchie film, full of coincidences and comedy. It's nowhere near as slick or funny, but it manages to keep things interesting. One shortcoming of the movie though is that the mood doesn't keep pace with the events on screen. When the story at its most frenzied the tone was comparatively sedate. After 90 minutes of winding up I was really hoping for something better.

And then there's the ending. I won't spoil it because there is a small chance it might get resurrected, but I will say that had the climax been more satisfying it would've been fitting. Instead I feel it didn't earn the right to end the way it did.

There's really isn't any aspects of the movie that made a big impression. At nearly two hours long I can't say I was ever bored, but I wasn't fulfilled either. A 2.5 or 3 out of 5 sounds about right.

____________________________


Verdict: The Road Home wins.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 14, 2009, 01:18:02 PM
The Road Home looks and sounds like a beautiful movie. I should really try and check out some more of Yimou Zhang's films. Maybe I'll try and grab it in the next round. :) Nice writeup, smirnoff!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 14, 2009, 01:26:26 PM
Thanks mel. I hope you do.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 14, 2009, 01:46:01 PM
I very muched liked both Hero and House of Flying Daggers, so The Road Home is a definite must for me.

Pixote, if you're reading, shotgun on Road Home in round 2! Edit: kidding.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 14, 2009, 01:49:51 PM
The Road Home looks and sounds like a beautiful movie...Maybe I'll try and grab it in the next round.

Pixote, if you're reading, shotgun on Road Home in round 2!

Jerk! :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 14, 2009, 01:50:48 PM
Maybe I'll try and grab it in the next round.

Pixote, if you're reading, shotgun on Road Home in round 2!

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Nice verdict, smirnoff.  I've seen and liked The Road Home, yet I'm still sort of awestruck by how gorgeous it looks in those screenshots.

As for 6ixtynin9, that's on my DVR already, waiting for me to catch up with some of these losing films.  Yeah, definitely seen the "the 6 on the door is really a 9" thing a few times before.  Most recently in a sci-fi movie, I think.  Minority Report?  Dark City?  I forget.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 14, 2009, 01:52:41 PM
There's still one Zhang Yimou film up for grabs in round one, by the way — Keep Cool.  It's supposed to be quite good, yet it never got released in the States.  Sort of curious.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on March 14, 2009, 02:24:42 PM
Nice writeup and good verdict.

Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 14, 2009, 02:29:03 PM
Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?

Minority Report

Definitely in that one, I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 14, 2009, 02:31:34 PM
Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?

Minority Report

Definitely in that one, I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too though.

I can picture it on a mailbox in some film, too...

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 14, 2009, 02:33:09 PM
City Hunter

Yikes.  I hadn't read up on this film before I watched it or I would have had second thoughts about choosing it. 

Looks like I'll be checking this one out a midnight screening in 35mm soon.  Hooray for unfair advantages!

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Colleen on March 14, 2009, 02:35:31 PM
I've never seen Minority Report.  For some reason I'm remembering it as a cartoon, maybe a Bugs Bunny or something...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 14, 2009, 03:00:05 PM
Very nice verdict smirnoff and just gorgeous screenshots. I just ate but those dumplings are making me hungry again!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 14, 2009, 03:09:27 PM
Maybe I'll try and grab it in the next round.

Pixote, if you're reading, shotgun on Road Home in round 2!

Fight! Fight! Fight!

 :D

Quote from: pixote
Yeah, definitely seen the "the 6 on the door is really a 9" thing a few times before.  Most recently in a sci-fi movie, I think.  Minority Report?
Ah yes! That'd be the one I was thinking.

Thanks folks for the kind words.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on March 14, 2009, 07:56:53 PM

As for 6ixtynin9, that's on my DVR already, waiting for me to catch up with some of these losing films.  

I liked it!

Maybe not as much as the Road Home, that was a harsh matchup.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on March 14, 2009, 08:50:26 PM
Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?

Minority Report

Definitely in that one, I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too though.

Identity? Memento?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 'Noke on March 15, 2009, 05:51:17 AM
Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?

Minority Report

Definitely in that one, I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too though.

Identity? Memento?

Pretty sure it isn't in memento.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on March 15, 2009, 06:13:42 AM
I'm 95% sure it is used in Identity.

I did like that movie. Maybe I should revisit it...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on March 15, 2009, 07:58:32 AM
Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?

Minority Report

Definitely in that one, I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too though.

Identity? Memento?

Pretty sure it isn't in memento.

Why does he kick in the wrong door when he goes to the motel looking for Dodd?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 'Noke on March 15, 2009, 07:59:13 AM
Where have I seen that 6/9 twist before?

Minority Report

Definitely in that one, I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too though.

Identity? Memento?

Pretty sure it isn't in memento.

Why does he kick in the wrong door when he goes to the motel looking for Dodd?

does he? I don't remember that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on March 15, 2009, 08:08:53 AM
Damn you for making me go look! :) It's not the same twist, but it' there.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/ieqrkw.jpg)

(http://i39.tinypic.com/14x1o9u.jpg)

(http://i42.tinypic.com/fxqr6f.jpg)

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2hexdg6.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 'Noke on March 15, 2009, 08:30:14 AM
Damn you for making me go look! :) It's not the same twist, but it' there.

 ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 15, 2009, 12:26:13 PM
Quick, to the Deja Vu thread! ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: maŮana on March 16, 2009, 12:38:37 AM
The Mission (To, 1999)

The first half of the film is a shoot Ďem up. Five professional killers are recruited to protect a mob boss whoís just survived an assassination attempt. Over the course of their time as a team of body guards, the disparate crew bond and later proclaim each other BFFs. This commitment is tested in the second half of the film when one of them misbehaves. If the first half is a shoot Ďem up, the second half is about the ďcodeĒ among brothers/bandits. With the exception of the above-average action sequence in the shopping mall, itís all really very OK. Do all Hong Kong action films from 1999 feel like American films from 1989? Was the dated look intentional? I'm picking on it, but it really isn't bad at all.      

Hard Boiled
(Woo, 1992)

Iíll spare you all a plot summary because Iím pretty sure Iím the last person to have seen it so I assume everybody knows what itís about. But what I will say about the plot is that undercover stories are generally pretty good and Hard Boiled is no exception.

This is my inaugural spin with John Woo and he certainly delivered what he was advertised to. The opening teahouse shootout and the closing hospital sequences provided more than enough bullets, mayhem, and slow-motion. The camera work, editing, and choreography in these scenes and others are certainly impressive, but Iíd be lying if I said I didnít at times find them tedious. I know this is blasphemous to the action fans, and forgive me, but to my tastes enough-was-enough long before they were over. Donít get me wrong, the action was cool (particularly the long take in the hospital), itís just that for me less would have definitely been more. And Iím perfectly aware that Iím missing the point. What kept my interest was actually not the shootouts, but rather was the co-stars, who are both big movie stars for a reason; theyíre great in the actions scenes and they just generally emit charisma.  

Verdict: The Mission is a not bad film, and if for no other reason is worth checking out so you can brag when the American remake comes out, but Hard Boiled is the gold standard. It may not have wowed me like I hoped it would, but Tequila definitely breezes through round 1.  
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 16, 2009, 03:25:10 AM
Five professional killers ... proclaim each other BFFs.

This sounds awesome!

Do all Hong Kong action films from 1999 feel like American films from 1989?

LOL!

I’ll spare you all a plot summary because I’m pretty sure I’m the last person to have seen it so I assume everybody knows what it’s about.

I have no idea what it's about.  My guess is it has something do with guys flying in slow motion through the air firing sideways guns in both hands.  I'm thus very intrigued.  And I assume the two stars you mentioned are John Travolta and Christian Slater.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 16, 2009, 07:06:46 AM
Do all Hong Kong action films from 1999 feel like American films from 1989?

LOL!

Seconded! Great stuff matt.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on March 16, 2009, 08:41:13 AM
Xin Buliao Qing (C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri, 1994)

I don't want to sound like I am immediately going for Cheri's jugular, but it was a very conventional love story. The idea of mopey boy falling for eccentric girl who changes him only to have tragedy take her away from him has been done a lot. So, in that regard Cheri isn't anything special. But, luckily it does manage to rise above its own genre conventions with the help of one actress and some music.

Any film that uses In The Mood by Glenn Miller Orchestra in its best scene should get a thumbs up from you, if not I fear you have no soul. That scene in particular highlights the airy quality that Cheri has. But, the music isn't just light, it's your guide to the emotions of the characters, where the story is going and the tone that the film will take. Even better than the music is the performance of Anita Yuen. I can see her falling too far into manic pixie dream girl for some, but that wasn't the case with me. I found her take on the fragile girl to be a breath of fresh air, usually actresses in such a role play their character with a pall over them. You know something bad is going to happen because the actress gives it away. Yuen didn't do that, she was full of energy and pushed that energy so far that I didn't see the ultimate end coming until her sickness was introduced.

Cheri is an enjoyable film, it isn't deep nor is it original or a film that will wow you. But, it is, sorry to sound redundant, enjoyable with the use of music and the performance of Yuen placing it above most mediocre love stories.

Vs.

Da Hong Deng Long Gao Gao Gua (Raise The Red Lantern, 1991)

It's hard to adequately explain how effective Raise The Red Lantern is, because alliterating loneliness isn't easy. But, that's what I most took away from Lantern. It started with emotional loneliness in Songlian's conversation with her mother and slowly it turned from emotional loneliness into loneliness through antipathy. It is really hard to describe, but Lantern has an overbearing tone in it loneliness, it leaves you with such a strong feeling that this woman's life ended the moment she entered that mansion and now you are watching her fight to survive slowly leave her and waiting for the inevitable to come.

Based on the above, Lantern obviously isn't the cheeriest of movies. But, it does have some moments of dark comedy and it looks amazing. The set design is beautiful, yet restrained. I loved the stylistic choice to never actually film the Master or keep him in the frame, because the story isn't about him, it's about these women and the other people around them. Not focusing on the Master also keeps him in the role of cruel taskmaster, an emotionless being who doesn't understand, or care, how his prison set-up is affecting his mistresses. The camera work is also integral to the claustrophobic prison feeling of Lantern, we never see outside of the mansion, and when we do see through a door to the outside world it is a long shot that emphasizes how something so close is actually so far away. Then there are the overhead shots of the mansion that emphasize how small it is, and how little room the women have to move around in, but that is all they have.

Li Gong is of course amazing, she always has been, yet for some reason I feel people always forget about her when listing great actresses. She conveys emotion, but she also conveys perfectly the slow death the mansion is bringing to her, and in the end she portrays the end of her breakdown just as how I imagined it would play out. Most of all, Gong never takes her character to sympathetic territory, because while we do feel for her, we also can't sympathize with her because she isn't the best person in the world, she is mean, cruel and petty and Gong never lets us forget that. The rest of the wives are also great when on screen, especially Zhuoyan, who does such a great job of hiding her true nature and then when it's revealed she turns into the character you hate.

Verdict:

(http://img408.imageshack.us/img408/8510/verdictmid.jpg)

I don't think it should come as any surprise, Cheri is a fun little film, but Lantern is a great film. It has depth, tremendous acting, feels authentic and original. I liked both films, but I loved Lantern and Lantern will move on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 16, 2009, 09:01:00 AM
Nice verdict Bill. It's been a while since I watched Raise the Red Lantern but I still remember it being very striking to look at and being struck by how well it conveyed the claustrophobia of living in that estate. I also remember a lot of the frames being really symmetric (which stayed with me for some reason) and at least one scene where Gong Li's character kicks something or steps on something thereby disturbing the symmetry and how jarring that felt at the time.

Yeah, definitely sounds like a good decision especially since Mon Cheri is reminding me of at least two movies that I wish I could forget.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on March 16, 2009, 09:08:25 AM
Yeah, definitely sounds like a good decision especially since Mon Cheri is reminding me of at least two movies that I wish I could forget.

I know the film it kept making me remember is the Mandy Moore piece, I think it was called A Walk To Remember? It's the same exact plot, just replace music with religion, and honestly I didn't have any major problems with that film either, and it did come after Cheri, but it does show how conventional the story in Cheri is.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 16, 2009, 09:08:41 AM
I like these rare matchups where I've actually seen both films and can shout, "AGREED!"  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on March 16, 2009, 09:10:41 AM
The thing I forgot to mention in my match-up is how completely different the two films were, like I didn't know they were going to be that different when I chose them. I watched Cheri first, so it was all gumdrops and rainbows, sad death, but hey life will be okay. I followed right up with Lantern, and it was all, "Man, where did the rainbows go, I don't even think a world exists outside of this mansion and if I ask for a gumdrop I'm sure some servant girl will poison me."
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 16, 2009, 09:13:14 AM
"Man, where did the rainbows go, I don't even think a world exists outside of this mansion and if I ask for a gumdrop I'm sure some servant girl will poison me."

Awesome.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 16, 2009, 09:15:18 AM
"Man, where did the rainbows go, I don't even think a world exists outside of this mansion and if I ask for a gumdrop I'm sure some servant girl will poison me."

Awesome.

pixote

*lolol*
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 16, 2009, 09:29:49 AM
Hard Boiled[/b] (Woo, 1992)

Iíll spare you all a plot summary because Iím pretty sure Iím the last person to have seen it so I assume everybody knows what itís about. But what I will say about the plot is that undercover stories are generally pretty good and Hard Boiled is no exception.

This is my inaugural spin with John Woo and he certainly delivered what he was advertised to. The opening teahouse shootout and the closing hospital sequences provided more than enough bullets, mayhem, and slow-motion. The camera work, editing, and choreography in these scenes and others are certainly impressive, but Iíd be lying if I said I didnít at times find them tedious. I know this is blasphemous to the action fans, and forgive me, but to my tastes enough-was-enough long before they were over. Donít get me wrong, the action was cool (particularly the long take in the hospital), itís just that for me less would have definitely been more. And Iím perfectly aware that Iím missing the point. What kept my interest was actually not the shootouts, but rather was the co-stars, who are both big movie stars for a reason; theyíre great in the actions scenes and they just generally emit charisma. 


I haven't watched Hard Boiled but I will soon hopefully. Maybe that'll make Clovis8 happy :)?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 16, 2009, 01:08:43 PM
Nice verdicts, Matt and Bill. Haven't seen any of the four movies, but I really want to check out both winners.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: maŮana on March 16, 2009, 01:28:24 PM
Nice verdict Bill. I haven't seen C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri, but I did really like Raise the Red Lantern.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on March 17, 2009, 08:40:55 AM
I agree with what matt said about Hard-Boiled being somewhat overloaded but I always figured that Woo wanted to leave HK with a bang. His The Killer is a similar, more balanced film, in case you're interested.
Also, Red Lantern moving on=awesome.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on March 23, 2009, 01:24:13 PM
The Killer is hilariously sappy. Stick to Hard-Boiled.  ;)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 24, 2009, 04:29:24 PM
(http://i40.tinypic.com/2zhnuko.jpg)

Alan and Eric Between Hello and Goodbye (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102886/) (Peter Chan, 1991)

Alan and Eric were best friends in their boyhoods, practically inseparable until Eric moved away with his dad to the US. Years later, Eric moves back to Hong Kong to become reacquainted with Alan. Together, they go into business by opening a chicken farm.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/ih6we1.jpg)

Meanwhile, Eric meets a woman named Olive and they hit it off, despite her being way out of his league (sorry, am I judging?). As you might guess, things complicate (as they often do) when Alan and Olive fall for each other.

This is the directorial debut of Peter Chan, who also directed Comrades, Almost a Love Story, a movie I watched earlier in this bracket and loved. This movie has a lot of superficial similarities to Comrades, but nothing ever seemed to work as well here. Even the cast, featuring the spectacular Maggie Cheung, was unspectacular.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/dcgbvr.jpg)

The story is very predictable and bland, and there were parts that were not handled well. Most notably, things were going great between Alan and Olive until he has a sudden rise to fame that consumes all of his time (apparently you can become a music idol with renditions of Moon River and My Sharona). This leads to a shift wherein Olive starts spending more time with Eric, all of which is communicated, obviously, through a musical montage. It feels like a very contrived way to create distance between the characters, and the subject of fame vs. personal happiness that it sorta deals with is really outside the scope of the movie.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/347gww1.jpg)

There are some nice moments in it, but that's about all I can say for it.



Art Museum by the Zoo (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0288621/) (Jeong-hyang Lee, 1998)

Chul-su returns home on leave from the army and settles himself back into his girlfriends apartment. The only problem is his girlfriend has moved out while he was away, and the new resident, Chun-Hi, is less than thrilled with his presence. Unable to get in touch with his girlfriend, and with nowhere else to go, he decides to stay. And I mean without permission. Miraculously, instead of calling the cops, Chun-Hi eventually consents to an arrangement they come to.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2zrhm5j.jpg)

Art Museum by the Zoo is a romantic comedy, and it's basic premise is the same as a thousand other Hollywood rom-coms. Luckily it has a slightly unique take on things that make it at least a little better than the average, and two really strong leads that make it fun to watch. Eun-ha Shim as the female lead is particularly great in her role, and there is a great chemistry between her and Sung-jae Lee, who is less likable but gives a strong performance as well.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2wm2d95.jpg)

Chun-Hi is in love with a man that doesn't know she exists, and Chul-su finds out his girlfriend is engaged to somebody else. Now living together, and both somewhat miserable from their relationship failures, Chun-Hi and Chul-su begin to form an unusual friendship. They are very different from each other and often don't get along, but eventually begin to bond in their own way.

Chun-Hi is also an aspiring writer, and is working on a screenplay for a competition. Chul-su begins collaborating with her on a new draft of the script; a romance movie with characters they base on their own unattainable loves, and which reflects parts of their own situations. Parts of this script are included as a movie-within-a-movie. Sometimes it feels really unnecessary, but other times it works.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/1z23wpk.jpg)

It's really the strength of the cast that made me like this movie, and although it does some interesting things with the characters and how their relationships are presented, it never quite breaks through into greatness.



Verdict

As you can probably tell, Alan and Eric didn't do much for me, while Art Museum by the Zoo, while not an outstanding movie, was a very enjoyable watch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 24, 2009, 04:34:26 PM
Nice verdict as usual, Melvil. I remember I was considering asking for Alan and Eric for a matchup and for some reason, the whole premise sounded so promising to me. I think I was hoping it'd be like this amazing friendship tale or something. Doesn't sound like it unfortunately :p.

Btw, I really like the first screenshot you used for Art Museum.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 24, 2009, 06:24:11 PM
Thanks, worm! I can't be too hard on Alan and Eric, because it is a really sweet story. I just thought it was too obvious in its execution to be very effective, and a couple of flaws throughout really held it back for me.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 24, 2009, 08:11:43 PM
You just kicked out a movie with Maggie Cheung. Art Museum by the Zoo better be darn good.


You know what, I kicked out a movie with Maggie Cheung as well so fŻck me.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 24, 2009, 08:51:59 PM
Not the strongest two films I guess, but I'll be interested to see where Art Museum goes from here. Nice writeup melvil :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 24, 2009, 09:14:27 PM
Thanks, smirnoff!

You just kicked out a movie with Maggie Cheung. Art Museum by the Zoo better be darn good.


You know what, I kicked out a movie with Maggie Cheung as well so fŻck me.

 :D

She was often fun to watch in this movie, but I think I'll blame the direction for her performance not being stronger.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on March 25, 2009, 03:02:20 AM
As you can probably tell, Alan and Eric didn't do much for me, while Art Museum by the Zoo, while not an outstanding movie, was a very enjoyable watch.

I guess I can't judge things by titles.  Alan and Eric Between Hello and Goodbye sounded so can't miss, whereas the title of the other film, with its implications about the zoo's proximity to the art museum, didn't sound that promising at all.  And yet your verdict totally convinced me how appealing Art Museum by the Zoo might be, maybe even moreso than you intended.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 26, 2009, 02:07:46 AM
The General's Son (Kwon-taek Im, 1990)

Like I mentioned in another thread (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=1873.msg238033#msg238033), an IMDB review really got me excited about this one. I wish I had also noticed that it was the *only* review for the film. That might've helped me adjust my expectations a bit. Anyway, so this turned out to be not-at-all Godfather-like. Mostly a mess really. The basic premise is that a famous General's son becomes a gangster but a good-hearted one who helps a whole bunch of prostitutes with their various problems. Oh and all of this is taking place against a backdrop of Japanese-occupied Korea and one of the gang leaders that our hero has to deal with is a Japanese Yakuza guy. Okay, so now that you have the basic plot, I'll be making the rest of my arguments with a liberal use of screenshots to give you an idea of what watching this film was like.

Firstly, I could never really warm up to our hero who I constantly found vain and full of himself. Some of his first few words to his friend after he has just gotten out of jail:

(http://i39.tinypic.com/vr4n03.jpg)

One of the key success factors for our protagonist is the fact that he is supposed to be a really good fighter - an expert at hand to hand combat. But somehow his metrosexual attire and his slightly pudgy appearance kept me from ever being able to buy into this completely. See screenshot below where he is just about to beat the crap out of this other guy.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/9beoht.jpg)

There are a lot of similar scenes on the street, often at the exact same location ???, where we see this guy beat up other guys. Unfortunately, given my rather limited experience with these types of films, everytime a scene like this came up, I found myself wishing I was watching Legend of the Drunken Master instead!

(http://i40.tinypic.com/10z7d7c.jpg)

The film is just chock-full of ludicrous scenes. Part of this could be just the poor subtitles (a recurring themes with the films I seem to pick for this bracket) but here again, I am convinced that the problem goes beyond that. There is no way this stuff could sound anything but laughable in any language!

This is the scene where the women in the whorehouse are being introduced to the general's son and this is what the guy has to say about one of the women:

(http://i42.tinypic.com/ejfs0i.jpg)

And our hero often speaks in Yoda-like sentences where he keeps dropping pronouns, which made him even more annoying to me:

(http://i44.tinypic.com/33jqpti.jpg)

Thankfully, the film has some important life-lessons that I think we could all do with ::)

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2dkwwer.jpg)

And our hero has values that we could all adopt. Please note that he is speaking in metaphors here!

(http://i44.tinypic.com/25q3mf5.jpg)

But I was wrong about what I said earlier, because sometimes our hero is the very symbol of humility:

(http://i39.tinypic.com/24wad5w.jpg)

Unfortunately, the Tokyo-educated intellectual doesn't get much better lines either. Incidentally, he is the only guy in the entire movie who wears glasses and shabby clothes!

(http://i41.tinypic.com/8xt1zc.jpg)

Huh?

Anyway, so bad subs and ridiculous lines are by no means the worst things about the film. Unfortunately, it is populated with two entirely uncharismatic leads. Neither the hero nor the badly made-up heroine managed to interest me at any point during the film. The camera moves around ALL the time never staying still and I just found that annoying most of the time. Then there are a whole (http://i40.tinypic.com/148hpac.jpg) bunch (http://i39.tinypic.com/ivictg.jpg) of overhead shots at various points during the film, especially of people sitting around a long table and I just found them vaguely distracting.

The plot jumps around just as much as the camera. There's a whole sequence where the guy is working selling snacks at the movie theater and there's a scene where a kid urinates in the theater and the whole thing has nothing to do with anything. It was just there and maybe it was supposed to help me learn something about the guy's character (that he is kind and benevolent?) but nah, didn't really work. Really, the whole movie just felt to me like a sequence of events with no real build-up to anything and where the individual events aren't particularly interesting.

The score is overpowering and dramatic and irritating. There are a couple of back-stories: one for the knife-thrower guy and one for the general's scene. The first one, I thought, was either sposed to make me believe that the knife-thrower is truly as badass as everyone says he is or that he is actually just human and tender-hearted like everyone else. It did neither. It elicited a meh reaction from me just like the rest of the movie. There is an episode from the general's son's childhood that is re-enacted and is equally ineffective. Plus, the whole thing about him being the son of this major hero is just hurriedly talked about for a bit at the end and has no really payoff or bearing on the rest of the film.

The women seemed uniformly loud and screechy to me and were just props. This is not a problem in and of itself but their squealing hurt my ears making the experience worse.

I know I'm being really mean to this movie and I really do mean to stop but I have to mention one last thing. Sometime around the 1/3rd mark, our hero ends up underperforming while having sex with one of the prostitutes. Later on in the film, he has sex with the prostitute he is actually in love with and this time he is totally great and she looks totally pleased and the way that scene ends is by cutting to the sound of loud applause ::).

A lot of what I've said here probably sounds like nitpicking but the movie is dull and all I could to do to stay interested was to notice all the stuff that sucked about it. The fight scenes are decent I guess. Those were definitely my favorite parts of the movie and I quite enjoyed seeing these choreographed fight scenes in a movie after a long time.

This movie reminded me of several really cheesy Bollywood movies that I've watched and that is rarely a good thing.

City of the Rising Sun (Sung-su Kim, 1999)

I have much less to say about this film because frankly, I don't think it's very good either. At least in case of The General's Son, I could pick on a bunch of stuff that were at least amusing to me in their ridiculousness. This was mostly just bland. It's about two guys who are good friends. One of them is a boxer who has given up the sport after a string of losses. The other is just a con artist, a swindler who seems to have no qualms about robbing even his best friend. These friends end up getting drawn apart and then getting back together several times during the film, mostly because of the swindler's antics and in the meantime, the boxer falls in love with a girl.

It's all rather generic and predictable and there's not a whole lot of interesting stuff going on.

But somehow, I could get myself interested in these two leads a lot more than the leads in the other film. Their friendship was sort of intriguing to me. I think their relationship might not seem credible to some people but somehow I bought into that and was even a little charmed by some of the scenes where they're just hanging out together, getting drunk or running around town.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/11v2mu1.jpg)

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2dqom8n.jpg)

Oh, and I couldn't help smiling when the film started off with "Love Potion No.9" playing over the opening credits :D! The entire film has a ton of cheesy English music that randomly starts playing from time to time, sometimes rather inappropriately turning what could be a serious scene into a comical one. I found out later after googling a bunch of lyrics that a lot of the songs are by this band called Sparklehorse that I don't think I have heard of before.

Another plus for the movie is the fact that at least one of the two leads is really fun to watch. He seems really uninhibited on screen and I think he manages to make a rather unpleasant and almost entirely negative character quite likeable! In fact, sometimes, the other guy felt far too earnest and square in comparison and consequently less interesting overall. He just seems to want to do good and work hard and be a good boxer and good boyfriend and all that whereas our man here has a penchant for this:

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2pskkzk.jpg)

(http://i41.tinypic.com/1z4h8np.jpg)

Yeah, breaking into cheesy dance moves without his pants on! So he at least managed to make me laugh

Verdict
I really don't think either of these films are particularly good. If I could, I wouldn't pass either of them on and would instead beg pixote to let me use that spot for The Ocean Waves (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg221748#msg221748). Barring that, I am going to reluctantly let City of the Rising Sun move on to the next round.

I am also really curious to see if pix is able to find something to like about The General's Son.


Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 26, 2009, 04:09:05 PM
Bummer that neither movie was very good. At least you found some enjoyment in City of the Rising Sun. Entertaining write-up though. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 26, 2009, 04:21:09 PM
I'm noticing a trend of bad subtitles in this bracket. A real shame.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 26, 2009, 04:27:53 PM
I'm noticing a trend of bad subtitles in this bracket. A real shame.

Yep, it really sucks. But believe me, it wasn't the subtitles that made me dislike The general's son so much. It just wasn't engaging or entertaining for me and I just ended up putting all those screenshots with bad subs up there because they were amusing to me. I've definitely moved along multiple films with bad subs in this bracket and now I almost auto-correct grammar and such in my head while watching them so that as long as the movie is engaging, I am not really noticing the bad subs so much.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 26, 2009, 04:34:23 PM
I'm noticing a trend of bad subtitles in this bracket. A real shame.

Yeah, a few of the movies I've watched have been a little rough, but usually close enough that it's not too distracting and the meaning comes across fine. But hey, when it means getting to watch some of these movies at all, it's a more than acceptable trade-off.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 26, 2009, 04:39:00 PM
I'm noticing a trend of bad subtitles in this bracket. A real shame.

Yep, it really sucks. But believe me, it wasn't the subtitles that made me dislike The general's son so much. It just wasn't engaging or entertaining for me and I just ended up putting all those screenshots with bad subs up there because they were amusing to me. I've definitely moved along multiple films with bad subs in this bracket and now I almost auto-correct grammar and such in my head while watching them so that as long as the movie is engaging, I am not really noticing the bad subs so much.

I can understand that.

Still, I'm a bit disappointed that you kicked out the film with dialogue like 'I don't fŻck a woman while her husband is in jail.' I almost want to watch that movie now.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 26, 2009, 04:42:08 PM
Great write up, tough luck with the movies.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 26, 2009, 07:09:42 PM
Madadayo

(http://i.imgur.com/C9L47Bz.jpg)

I get the sense that Madadayo turned out just how Kurosawa intended. Certainly a lot of different ingredients go in to making a film, each ingredient with it's own effect. Being aware of all the elements simultaneously and weaving them together in a meaningful way must be a challenge. Making it come out how you originally intended is an achievement. I feel Madadayo is just such an achievement. I've never been a fan of Kurosawa's work (seen Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Ran), but there is no question he's capable of avoiding a mishmash.

There isn't a strong narrative to Madadayo. It's about a revered old professor, his students, and their lives after he retires. It's peculiar in the way the story is told. It proceeds chronologically and is always focused on the professor, but the scenes are separated by years and have little connection to each other. There are probably a dozen such scenes in all, and they play out like lengthy anecdotes. Some interesting and some not. Everything from celebrating the professor's birthday, to the loss of his cat. Each scene observes and explores the life of this aging professor.

The professor is, to his students past and present, a marvel. They care deeply for him and respect him as if he were a living saint. They drink together, and eat together. They visit him often and see to his general well being. It's all very nice of them. Yet something about it didn't work for me. While the students were all bending over backwards to do things for the professor, I was wondering why this old man was worth their time. We are meant to believe the professor is a great man, but the movie does little to demonstrate this. When it does try to show us, it's unimpressive. This became a problem. Every scene in the movie requires that you believe (through assumption or otherwise) that professor is special. Given that I had no such belief, what follows felt disingenuous and hokey . To me he was kindly, thoughtful and perhaps a bit eccentric, but not especially so. All in all, just another old man.

Another important aspect of the movie seems to be the humour. There are countless moments when the professor and his students are laughing their asses off. It's never funny though! I get what they are laughing at but it's really not funny, and certainly not as funny as they makes it out to be. It was so over the top it took me out of the movie.

The film has heart, to be sure. The title Madadayo means "not yet", which the professor always yells back to his students when they cheekily ask him "are you ready" (for death). It's a wonderful sentiment! You can't help but draw parallels between the professor and Kurosawa himself. It's too bad the film was so frustratingly boring. It failed to evoke any emotion! The truth is I couldn't wait for it to be over.

(http://i.imgur.com/DTZ5Gt5.jpg)

______________

Operation Scorpio

Completely different movie. It's a Kung Fu comedy. I watched Kung Fu Hustle a few years ago and had a great time. I sat down with Operation Scorpio hoping for a similarly enjoyable experience. It's got all of the elements of a good Kung Fu comedy.

Unique characters

(http://i.imgur.com/nC1YxgE.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/ktiGymP.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/tmtukZ7.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/jREku48.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/nzl2d35.jpg)


Bizarre training techniques

(http://i.imgur.com/F93oIbZ.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/wc6VVwi.jpg)

And wacky fight scenes

(http://i.imgur.com/JMgrEdQ.jpg)

What more could you ask for really? Well, a lot actually. This movie just doesn't entertain. The fights are good but few and far between, the dialogue is bad but not laughable, and the generally things just aren't goofy enough!

_______________

Conclusion

Madadayo is well made but poorly conceived. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else.

Operation Scorpio is too restrained to bother with. I'm convinced that if they threw in some good music over the fight scenes, and cut out the boring bits this would've been great. I happened to be listening to some Daft Punk and had the movie playing while I made this write-up and it improved it greatly. Anyways, it wouldn't have taken a lot for me to move this one forward.

I didn't like either film but I'll do Kurosawa fans a favour and keep Madadayo around. I look forward to reading the writeup of the next match up it's in.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on March 27, 2009, 09:34:44 AM
Madadayo

(http://aloader.com/files/8/xff1%20copy.jpg)


(http://aloader.com/files/8/xff2%20copy.jpg)


It's like Ikiru in color!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 27, 2009, 09:39:01 AM
Ikiru is awesome!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 27, 2009, 09:41:30 AM
I haven't watched Madadayo but that was a very nice review, smirnoff. I just watched a couple of interviews with Kurosawa and he definitely sounded like someone who with his crew was able to achieve exactly what he wants. Too bad neither of the films did much for you. Here's to hoping both of our next matchups are totally great :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 27, 2009, 11:24:56 AM
Here here!  ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 27, 2009, 11:30:37 AM
It's like Ikiru in color!

That's what I was thinking. Sounds like it would make a good double-feature.

Madadayo definitely sounds like the more worthy film, even if you didn't enjoy it very much. I'll be looking forward to seeing how it does in the second round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 27, 2009, 11:32:42 AM
Madadayo definitely sounds like the more worthy film, even if you didn't enjoy it very much. I'll be looking forward to seeing how it does in the second round.

I think when that time comes I'll be curious to revisit it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 28, 2009, 07:30:58 PM
Artists in Wonderland (1998, Sato Makato) against Shizukana Seikatsu (A Quiet Life, 1995, Juzo Itami)



(http://i40.tinypic.com/m7x5lc.jpg)
Artists in Wonderland

Walking down the halls of a painting gallery can be a pleasant experience for many people. One observes the scenes and objects put to canvass, the technique used to create the piece (provided one understands such things), and in all likely will live some kind of emotive or intellectual response. What is the picture about? What do I think it is about? Why were such colours chosen? Why is she smiling at me? How come Goya likes drawing death and decay so much? What is that itchy feeling in my pants? Etc.

Of course, for the most part the paintings you and I study and observe at the gallery were created by respected artists, some of which are known the world over. Their art tells a story, releases or relieves frustrations, challenges. Whether the work be as clear as another one of those ĎJesus on the crossí paintings, or as abstract as that one with the spheres and the thingy, we can appreciate the effort.

Japanese director Sato Makato takes those ideas and documents them for the viewer to observe in a slightly different light with his film Artists in Wonderland. Makato visited several different mental institutions where patients were encouraged to channel their capacities and emotions towards creating art, most notably paintings and sculptures. The mind of a mentally challenged individual is fit only for the specialists to even attempt to understand, but by and large the regular societal members will agree in saying that a mentally ill individual simply doesnít Ďthinkí or Ďfunctioní as, or the lack of a better term, Ďnormalí people do. What kind of art would they create if given the opportunity? If a monkey can make art, then thereís no reason why a mentally handicapped person canít. After all, it is said that the activity of creating a work of art can be a soothing and possibly a healing experience.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/25ppvkp.jpg)
(http://i39.tinypic.com/w7irfr.jpg)

The concept of the film starts off in promising manner. The viewer witnesses a mental patient drawing an elaborate if somewhat confusing picture of a plant with one of the employees supervising him providing some comments which were recorded off screen and hence narrate this segment. Her comments are intriguing and give some insight into how these patients approach their work. She briefly comments on what techniques she, as a student, had been taught to adopt when drawing plants and various objects. Her educational background provided her with rather technical strategies and guidelines to follow and help channel whatever inspiration she had. What she notices is how the patient, lacking any formal training and probably with a radically different thought process, is creating what she sees as an impressive picture, full of detail and rich textures of emotions. Whereas she was instructed to begin a picture of a plant with a particular part of the organism, she explains that the patients tend to start their pictures with whatever leaves the biggest impression on them. It is the impression from whence the art is derived.

From there Makato takes us to a couple of other facilities, each one populated by patients who have struck a love affair with the arts. One in particular, an elderly man, invests his efforts in the moulding and solidifying of clay sculptures. He is a colourful character who, despite his overall good nature, consistently mentions Ďwhat a pity it is.í What exactly is Ďa pityí? Iím not entirely sure, but it made the chap rather comical. His works are not representations are clear, easily discernable objects or people, but rather abstract shapes and forms. Yet another patient, who demands that all name him She-chan, is a bit of an eccentric (even for his condition) who shouts that he likes high school girls in mini skirts. Although it never occurs on screen, it is hinted that She-chan sometimes becomes a bit physically violent with those around him. Yet, he channels his emotions as well as love for beaches and bikinis on a very art-house type program which features him as the star narrating whatever he feels like (usually something about high school girls in mini skirts). Each of these patients eventually sees the results of his and her efforts displayed in some galleries.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/23lmxic.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/192lo8.jpg)

The crust of the film, as you can probably imagine, is the reality that impressive, curious and noteworthy art is emerging from these handicapped minds. I donít think the film is trying to prove anything necessarily. There is no spoon fed message of Ďlook you insensitive fools, these people can create beautiful things!í The idea of simply following these people as they work on their respective projects in preparation for the expositions is a fascinating one. There is absolutely no intrusion whatsoever on the part of director Makato. He doesnít interfere with any of the depicted moments. He lets the camera, and hence whomever the camera is capturing at a given time, show reality. There are a few shared moments with the family members or friends of these patients and even a glimpse or two of She-chan being told that shouting at and pinching people doesnít leave a good impression of him with others. Mostly however, we see these outcasts artists at work. For that reason, the film does put the concept of art in an interesting perspective. As I mentioned earlier, the movie isnít hammering home any specific argument, but I was captivated by the art given life by these supposedly stupid people. Whatís more I found the fruit of their efforts to be very beautiful, at least most of the time. I was particularly taken by the sculptures created by the elderly patient (we even see him one night working with a kiln, which is a fun scene). It was equally rewarding to see that the time and efforts put into the preparations were treated with respect by and large by those helping them at the institutes. The film never tries to make up a Ďvillainí in order to construct some artificial conflict.


(http://i40.tinypic.com/29yf6gg.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/vy2x5j.jpg)

And yet, despite that major strength, I was hoping for a bit more. By the end, I longed for some more comments and analysis, the likes of which the viewer is given at the beginning regarding technique and inspiration. It would have been nice to hear from some of the visitors to the galleries once all the works are put on display. Some comments from the friends and family members would have added some context to these talented people we follow around for 90 minutes. Anything to add some meat to what is on display in the film. The value of art, what is means to different people, what it can do for these mentally handicapped people, what it might mean for them, etc. There is absolutely none of that. Itís 90 minutes of them working in their projects and putting them on display, with a few scenes featuring them in interaction with family or the people working at these facilities.

The absence of any of the above elements doesnít hurt the documentary all that much. I like the film. It has an interesting topic, it spends a lot of screen time observing the patients toiling away on their art and unlike some documentary filmmakers, Makoto chooses to remain impartial throughout. It could have been more is essentially my complaint. Good but by no means great. With a little bit more depth the documentary would receive much higher praise from me, but as it stands it is still a fine project.




A Quiet Life

In this Juzo Itami effort, a teenage girl named Maa-chan (Hinako Saeki) is responsible for the well being of her older, but mentally challenged brother Eeyo (Atsuro Watabe) while their parents are away in Australia. Recently, her father, a novelist, had been showing signs of depression in recent weeks (including the planning of a suicide), and their mother decides to join him in the down under during his emotional and psychological healing process.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2cgg02s.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2zgdhtd.jpg)
The movie opens with an intriguing scene involving Maa-chan witnessing the intervention of some facility employees when two of their patients have become Ďmagnetsí so to speak. They are hugging each other so tight that three people are needed to separate them. The scene closes with one character saying how at least Eeyo doesnít have anyone to latch on to such a dramatic degree like that. Okay, Iím intrigued. Early on in the story the viewer learns that Eeyo (or Iiyo depending on which subtitles you are using) has taken a particular interest in music and has taken lessons. He has fallen in love with classical music, particularly Mozart. This guy doesnít sound so crazy after allÖHis younger sister Maa-chan follows him around most of the time, with a few intervals during which Eeyo is provided some liberty to walk on his own. She is very devoted to his well being and while she is kind and sweet, one could argue that she is in fact a bit over-protective and possessive (remember the bit of dialogue about Eeyo not having anyone to latch onto? Ooh-ha! Subverted!) Another element to the set up is the fear in the neighbour of a child molester who, according to forensics, may be mentally challenged. This of course causes concern for Maa-chan, despite her firm belief in the goodness of her brother.

Very well then, so far so good. We have a music loving mentally challenged brother and his over-protective sister, their parents are out of the country and there is a child molester on the loose. Iím not sure where this might be going, but it could be good.

If there are board members reading this who have seen the film and enjoyed it a great bit, Iíd like to start off by offering my apologies. Unless pixote watches this film and chooses to resurrect it, this film is not going to the next round. To put it blunty before I get into the details, by the end I felt the film fell victim to two devastating flaws. The first is lost potential and the second is cop-outs.


(http://i40.tinypic.com/1z1tp92.jpg)

How does the film lose its potential however? First and foremost, by the end, I had the impression that A Quiet Life had used the character of Eeyo to tell a very plain and unfocused story. The narrative focuses much more on Maa-chan than it does on Eeyo. I was interested by this apparently kind mentally challenged brother who loves music but who may be in fact a child molester. Thatís a great concept in its own right. Our loved ones could never perform evil acts, regardless of their conditions. It appears as unthinkable. But the movie doesnít toy with that idea at all. In fact, the child molester mystery is resolved by the 30 minute mark. Not only does the film throw that potential for a great mystery out the window with only a quarter of the film done, but it does so in very pedestrian fashion. Maa-chan is just riding her bicycle one evening and notices an old man jumping a little girl in the bushes. Thatís pretty much it.

Whatís more, Eeyoís love and impressive knowledge of music (he actually writes pieces for crying out loud) is never fully developed either. Itís just seems to be some element to the character that exists because, I guess otherwise there would be nothing to him. There are a couple of scenes in which he displays his comfort with the art, but it never amounts to anything in the film. So what happens? Well, Maa-chan takes Eeyo to swimming lessons with an instructor named Arai (Masayuki Imai). I guess thatís fine, although I felt it odd that the film dropped the potential of the music and decided to start something new 30 minutes in. The lessons start off awkwardly, as Eeyo demonstrates a reluctance and even a certain degree of fear towards putting his head under water. Still, Arai seems to be a competent instructor.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2chxnwl.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2myt9n9.jpg)

One day while at the pool, Eeyoís eye catches a glimpse of a stunning woman. It turns out it is the local weather woman. Arai introduces him to her (he also likes reciting weather predictions). Shy at first, he quickly warms to her and she to him. She is quite intrigued by this man and even says heís quite handsome. It becomes clear that Maa-chan has other certain reservations, although she doesnít explicitly come between them. All four (Maa-chan, Arai, Eeyo and the weather woman) go out after the swimming lessons and end up having dinner at a restaurant. So a few scenes have gone by with the weather woman and Eeyo getting along nicely with Maa-chan showing signs of reluctance on her face. This could go somewhere. Well, it doesnít because the weather womanís ex (or current) boyfriend shows up and yells at her. The weather politely says she must leave and could never be Eeyoís girlfriend.

So the music idea is dropped (or at least remains undeveloped), the child molester mystery is dropped, as is the potential love affair/jealousy involving Maa-chan and the weather woman. Off we go to yet another storyline. This time, it turns out the swimming instructor, Arai, has a dark past. This is explained during a telephone conversation between Maa-chan and her father, who is still away in Australia. Through the help of a Maa-chanís stepparents, she learns that Arai, some years back when still a law student, had been a suspect in a murder mystery (now acquitted obviously since he is a free man) which transpired at sea on a small luxury sail boat. From here, the movie explains that their fatherís depression may be linked to a novel he wrote that was inspired by the murder mystery in which a teenage girl is molested and murdered by a shy but obsessive teenage boy, who is then saved by a drunk old man who finds the boy and the corpse, tells the boy to escape while he performs some necrophilia (this is all acted out in the film). I didnít buy that for a second. Maa-chanís stepfather goes to confront Arai to warn him not to give into his sinful ways (which is supposed to warn the viewer that he may in fact have been guilty of the murder). Arai becomes furious, beats the crap out of the man leaving him severely wounded. Guess what, a few days later, Eeyo is taking more swimming lessons from Arai. Wha?!... He even invites Maa-chan and Eeyo to his apartment to give them a swimming related book later in the movie and they actually follow him to his placeÖThere is scene in which the stepmother tells a story about a trip she and the stepfather took to Poland, which turned out poorly and led to political activism later on in their livesÖThere is another sequence during which Maa-chan and Eeyo attend their uncleís funeralÖThe movie tries far too many ideas and stories to form a cohesive whole. Perhaps Arai being a murderer and a molester was somehow supposed to tie with the molester mystery in the early goings of the film? If so, it didnít impress me much.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2nr0hzc.jpg)

Oh, and those final 40-45 minutes during which the entire ĎArai may be a molester and a murdererí plotline transpires? Eeyo doesnít really do much at all during that period. I thought this freaking movie was going to be about him! I felt the movie was absolutely all over the place, never felt sure of where it wanted to take its characters, and ultimately failed because of it. It also didnít help that the actress playing Maa-chan, Hinako Seiki, is as flat as wood in this film. Sheís only about 17 or 18, and therefore lacked some acting experience, but that didnít change that fact that her acting was terribly dry. I didnít find the script did her any favours (not her fault), but she sucked as well, so that wasnít a good mix.

Perhaps had Artists in Wonderland been lined up against a Ming-liang Tsai, Kohei Oguri or Wong Kar Wai film, I would have concluded that it was a nice little documentary, but unworthy of advancing to the next round. Here however, when compared to A Quiet Life, Artists in Wonderland is a work of art, both literally and figuratively.

Have fun watching A Quiet Life when taking care of those resurrections pixote.

Artists in Wonderland moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on March 28, 2009, 08:21:54 PM
Hmmm...A Quiet Life does sound like it's all over the place, yet your review still somehow made me feel like it has some promise to it.

They are hugging each other so tight that tree people are needed to separate them.

Maybe it's just my hope that that wasn't a typo.

Good writeup, edgar!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on March 28, 2009, 08:23:26 PM
Thorough as always edgar, but it told me just what I needed to know :) Artists in Wonderland sounds like something I could get into.

and lol at tree people!!! I was sitting here thinking "wtf are tree people"  ??? duh
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 28, 2009, 08:25:28 PM
Thanks for pointing the spelling error. It has been corrected. Seriously, the movie could have used some freaking tree people.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on March 28, 2009, 11:18:17 PM
Hmmm...A Quiet Life does sound like it's all over the place, yet your review still somehow made me feel like it has some promise to it.

My feelings exactly :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on March 28, 2009, 11:24:42 PM
That's the double edged sword aspect of a bracket. One person's new found gem could be another person's grating disaster. I didn't like the main actress and I felt that instead of dealing with a story about siblings, one of which is mentally challenged, the movie spends the better part of the second half on a boring, unimaginative molester thriller. Minus any thrills (I'm not kidding, the movie doesn't try to be suspenseful).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 01, 2009, 03:48:51 PM
Spring and Chaos

Spring and Chaos really took me by surprise. I thought I was in for a quaint little animation film based on, I donít know, some kind of boring Japanese poet who died long ago or something like that. Instead, the movie was a real roller coaster ride of suspense and adventure with some fun characters to tag along with for the ride.

The movie begins with the end of winter in the countryside of France. The sun is shining a little more than it had been in recent months and all the snow and ice has melted away. Slowly but surely, all the little animals that live in the ground begin to rebuild their underground terrain. The story follows one of these ants who remains unnamed throughout the film. She works a lot for the queen and is highly dedicated.

Sheís an antatwork.

But the earth they live in is a highly coveted field that two evil twin brothers, Rojo and Joro, are each desperate to purchase and use for development. Rojo wants to build a huge multiplex where he can show his favourite Asian films like Somewhere, Robin and The Kid who Crawled Through Space, whereas Joro wants to build a small camera repair shop which would be a front to cover his mobster empire. Itís up to the antatwork and her best pal and slacker dudeant to find a way to stop the two brothers from destroying their land. Along the way they are assisted by a strange figment of an entity only known as the Etoxip who helps them in spirit.

The action was intense and practically non-stop. Antatwork at an honest character and engaging enough to have as a heroine. Dudeant was a great sidekick with some clever one liners and quips. There was an attempt at a side story featuring worms, but it was kind of pointless and boring. Overall, it I laughed a lot and stood at the edge of my seat throughout. The animation was amazingly detailed. Great detail and cinematography. The little critters moved and looked very lifelike and while the human characters Rojo and Joro didnít really look as if they fit in this animated world, it was still pretty impressive.
Definitely a Ďmust see.í


The Power of Kangwon Province
.

Prepare to have the living daylights scared out of you! In Power of Kangwon Province, two close roommates buddies, Bourbon and Stolichnaya are thrown into a horrific tale of deceit and murder. Both are resident students of the local university beginning  their studies in scientology. In their spare time, they like to stay in their dorm room and participate in an online message board dedicated to, what else, alcoholic beverages. Their little pet rat, Paprika, is usually never far away, watching movies about political revolutionaries.

One day things take a turn for the worse when they each receive a strange email warning them about a coming day of destruction. Soon, student begin to die in terrible ways (one bloke has his head pop after listening to classical music too loud!), and with the bodies piling up and its up to the two buddies to gather the clues and oncover this supernatural mystery. Along the way they in communication with their computer tech wizard friend David, who helps them with they gadgets. Their journey takes them to strange and scary places, such as a ghost ship populated by snotty rich kids on the deck and an unforgiving winter neverland governed by the terrifying Ice gerbil king. Their final test against the fire god Wrath in the Kangwon province (where he gets his power) may mean the very death of our two heroesÖ

I was fýcking scared shitless throughout this movie. It was one of those scary movies where you want to hide your eyes and yet you canít take them away from the screen. The wrath of Wrath was frightening to say the least, but that Ice gerbil thing was really gross. Great make up and special effects. The plot makes no sense at all but I could still tell that there were heavy influences and nods towards Italian Neo-realism and French New Wave. I wish I could tell you how it all ends for hose two buddies Bourbon and Stolichnaya, but youíll have to watch the movies for yourself!

Itís really hard for me to choose between these two films. They were so impressive. I didnít even have the impression that I was really watching them at all. I was experiencing them. Thatís the only way I could describe my mood.

Even though both films are top quality material, Iím really must choose -/$%Ē&Ē**/$Ē/&%Ē&5.

I think thatís the only fair choice.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 01, 2009, 03:59:42 PM
hee hee, antatwork :D.
Wait, you found the story about worms boring >:(?
Also, I need screenshots!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on April 01, 2009, 04:12:03 PM
They both sound great. Put them both through in place of Picnic.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Emiliana on April 01, 2009, 04:34:20 PM
Nicely done edgar, that was great! ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on April 01, 2009, 05:09:02 PM
Power of Kangwon Province really is that good. I'm telling you.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 01, 2009, 07:15:21 PM
Even though both films are top quality material, Iím really must choose -/$%Ē&Ē**/$Ē/&%Ē&5.

I don't know what this means, but both movies sound amazing.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 01, 2009, 07:55:28 PM
I don't know what this means, but both movies sound amazing.

this

and nice writeup.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 01, 2009, 08:00:13 PM
If you can pinpoint all the references, kudos to you...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 01, 2009, 09:43:56 PM
That was awesome, edgar!  ;D

etoxip
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 04, 2009, 03:45:10 PM
Spring and Chaos (1996, ShŰji Kawamori et al.) against The Power of Kangwon Province (1998, Sang-soo Hong)


Spring and Chaos
Back in the first few decades of the 20th century lived a Japanese poet and author named Kenji Miyazawa. Born in a relatively well-to-do family in which his father acted as a money lender for the poor farmers in his native region, Kenji was at an early age disgusted with the practice his father had mastered, seeing it rather as a nasty, one-sided and hopelessly selfish affair. A bright man, he graduated easily in the agricultural sciences program at university, but rather than taking over his fatherís business (there was a nasty rift between the two) or becoming an assistant teacher at the university he graduated from, he chose to write stories and poems instead.

He was deeply concerned by the plight of countryside farmers and many of his writings, while perhaps seemingly childlike upon a surface reading, were layered with many thoughts and ideas about those afflicted in the lower economic strata of society. He taught agricultural sciences at high school for a short period before eventually becoming the head of a farmers association, introducing new techniques and tools to the farmers and working on some land himself. A colourful, sometimes eccentric man, an admirer of the arts and of nature, he died of pneumonia at the devastatingly young age of 37.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/5ehhja.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2m68ql3.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/qs4eps.jpg)

A touching story, no doubt, one clearly filled with potential for a dramatic feature length film that could be gunning for whatever the Japanese Oscars are. Well, director ShŰji Kawamori and his team of artists created their own short length film back in 1996, Spring and Chaos, but with some twists. First and foremost, itís an animation film mostly in 2-D but with a few sequences featuring CG technology. Secondly, instead of transplanting Kiyazawaís life to paper in ordinary fashion, this world is populated by humanoid cats. Lastly, the film focuses very much on Miyazawaís often deemed eccentricity. He is certainly a go getter, a man with his own views and ambitions, but is also a bit of an oddball at times and enters elaborate hallucinations influenced by his emotions, thoughts and experiences.

As was the case with so many of the films watched thus far in the Far East brackets, I was unsure of what to expect (which, in my opinion, is the reason why I give this bracket perhaps one extra push over the U.S. one). It was a peculiar viewing experience to say the least, but one that, once it was all over, I certainly appreciated. Spring and Chaos attempts to juggle the more straightforward biopic aspect associated with a story of this nature, the fantasy element that a filmmaker can create with an animation, it here being the world inhabited by humanoid cats, and an extra layer still, this one exploring the fantastic hallucinations experienced by the titular character. When you mix those three together and see what you get, the results are pretty darn good.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/339p09f.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/rvyq9k.jpg)
(http://i41.tinypic.com/fp32oh.jpg)

Granted, the filmís running length is a paltry 56 minutes, including credits, therefore limiting the amount of story director Kawamori could possibly cram in. This becomes a double-edged sword of sorts. On the one hand, I applaud the filmmakers for avoiding just that: not cramming in too much information in such little time, which would have, in my opinion, risked making the film a tad dry. On the other hand, despite some mesmerizing scenes, by the end, I actually wanted to see a bit more. Before watching the film I took it upon myself to discover who this man was and what constituted the storyline of his life in general terms. He was an activist, let there be no mistake about it. He was also a highly intelligent man and, lest I forget, a creative one as well. I was certainly no biographer by the time I viewed the film, but I also knew that certain things were a bit rushed. By the end of the film, I felt that a newcomer to this manís life would have gotten the gist of pretty much all the important aspects that he did and of what influenced him. However, I was nagged by the feeling that with perhaps 15 or 20 more minutes of running time, the film would have fleshed out some aspects of his life, would have given time for them to breath a little bit more. It felt a bit like classes one takes in university or in college (at least in what I studied): by the end of the hour or so, youíll have pretty much understood the topic of the day, but to really have a feeling for it, you know youíre going to have to do all those readings once at the library if youíre going to pass that exam.

What the film does remarkably well is transform all the human people into cats. Now, for the life of me I wouldnít be able to explain why exactly this stylistic choice was chosen (he had stories with animals, another film adaptation of a story of his featured humanoid cats,Ö), but it did make the world peculiar and fun. The filmmakers paid close attention in providing these characters with physical characteristics that were indeed akin to felines. When Miyazawa argues with his father over his future and that of the family business, they both start hissing at each other. When a character is taken by surprise, their tail rises quickly. When the wind blows, their whiskers move slightly. Itís all pretty cool, that is, if you care to watch a film with humanoid cats. The detail in the animation is quite impressive. The film may not last very long by the standards we are accustomed to, but there a few shots in Spring and Chaos that donít impress. Itís drawn in what I assume to be, based on my whity perception of Asian cartoons, anime style, and it looks great. There were a few moments during which I didnít feel the meshing of 2D and CG animation felt genuine however. Itís 1996, the technology wasnít what it is today, and maybe the budget on the film was nothing spectacular, I honestly donít know for sure, but when something sore stuck out, which was rare anyways, it usually had CG in it.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/w9e6c7.jpg)
(http://i39.tinypic.com/10de3hj.jpg)
(http://i41.tinypic.com/250ifi8.jpg)

Many sequences provided sheer brilliant animation however. Miyazawa goes through two intense hallucinations (or dreams perhaps, itís all in his head anyways) and both feature some really inventive creations and even some rather dark imagery, as in not Ďkid friendlyí dark imagery. Another scene involves Miyazawa telling one his stories to his ill sister and the animation jumps from one style to another, from one image to the nextÖitís this fascinating mishmash of ideas. I suspect that many of the images are nods to the actual stories Miyazawa wrote in his day, but since I havenít read any, I canít say for sure unfortunately.

Overall, Spring and Chaos is a surprising little movie. It has a solid story, an intriguing character and features creative imagination, both for the more straightforward narrative aspects and for some of the psychedelic moments. If the story had been allotted more time to breath, this would be a home run hitter.



The Power of Kangwon Province

Writer director SangĖsoo Hongís sophomore effort, The Power of Kangwon Province, offers two stories for the price of one. Both are connected in some ways however. This might not seem like the most clever device known to movie buffs like us, but as is often argued, even though all stories have been told already, the magic and merit of the film is in how the filmmaker presents it.

The story is for the most part neatly split into two halves, each one earning more or less the same running time with the link between the two being allocated the final few scenes of the movie. The first half focuses on a brief and passionate affair between Ji-sook (Yun-hong Oh), a young student currently on vacation and an older (although not terribly so), married policeman (Yoosuk Kim). Ji-sook is resting and exploring the natural sights and sounds in Kangwon, a province in the northern part of Korea. Together with two other female friends, they set about walking the trails in the forest and exploring and the hills and mountains. Upon marching back to their hotel one afternoon, they come across the policeman I mentioned earlier. Off duty, he is friendly and drives them back to the hotel. Later that night they meet again at a restaurant and share a few drinks. Ji-sookís friends leave somewhere, leaving a very drunk Ji-sook and the horny cop alone. You can guess the rest.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2zykhus.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/bhkoc6.jpg)
(http://i40.tinypic.com/6xxp4w.jpg)

The second half begins with two good friends, a professor and an aspiring professor, the latter who we learn is married, sitting at a restaurant. The aspiring professor explains to his friend that he has just cut the ties to an emotionally deep relationship he had with a much younger girl. This girl left a remarkable impression on him, and he confesses to have truly loved her at one point. His career status is on the rocks and so he decides to take a trip with his professor friend to, where else, Kangwon province. Once there, the two buddies eat, drink, try to escort a woman whom they suspect at first to be single (their assumption is eventually trumped) and hire some professional hookers to get jiggy with it for one night in their hotel room. They return home and the aspiring professorÖIíll stop here.

I canít really give any more information than that, otherwise I would be spoiling the joy of discovering this world director Song-soo Hong has in store for the curious viewer. There are hints (one of which I have actually supplied) sprinkled throughout the film that indicate how two groups of people, as well as another separate incident, are all interconnected somehow. That is in fact part of Hongís skill on display. His ability to show a very ordinary looking film but invest it with the funny, odd and sad coincidences that can affect anyone of us in life. We often walk right by people whom we may know, whom we perhaps knew or whom we even may not know until a later date in time. You might strike a conversation with someone you have never met in your life and may very well never see again, but those few moments spent with that individual will play a vital role for you or for someone you can help tomorrow, next week or next month. Of course, we donít know any of that as it takes place, nor do the characters starring in this movie. Nothing overly dramatic, apocalyptic or condescending occurs in the film, this isnít Crash, but what Hong does so well is weave these tales into the film. They donít sound like they fit, the viewer may not see why they fit at first, but by the end, it is plainly obvious that they do fit and why.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/158bgw0.jpg)
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2mgsg88.jpg)
(http://i39.tinypic.com/1979fr.jpg)

I read somewhere, and even though it wasnít from a film scholar or anyone of the same ilk I still found it intriguing, that what Hong does in this film is akin to what Kieslowski is known for. This perfection of weaving tales together that, while they can be looked upon as distinct if need be, they are in reality intertwined with one another, be it in the narrative or merely on an emotional level, Power of Kangwon Province juggling the two nicely with perhaps a bit more emphasis on the latter. For that reason I think that argument makes a lot of sense. Director Hong doesnít rush anything either, much like Kieslowski. He wants the viewer to see and witness the details of their behaviour, what they think, what they do, what their reactions are to certain things. The craft is in the detail and the calm but very assured filmmaking. Shots will rarely demonstrate any kind of dynamic movement or flair. Hong obviously knows where he wants his camera to rest to capture the essence of each individual scene and lets it sit there. If I were to be bold for a moment and attempt a comparison of my own, I think the style is quite in tune with what Edward Yang does. The shot doesnít need to move around, it can rest in one spot and capture all that is necessary to convey either the narrative or emotion or the physical beauty of a locale.

Where Hong doesnít create like Kieslowki is in the stylistic makeup of his shots. Blue, White, Red, The Double Life of Vťronique, all these films are jam packed with unbelievably rich texture in terms of colour. His films are like moving paintings. Hong on the other hand, at least in the case The Power of Kangwon Province, makes absolutely no obvious attempt at providing a scene with an artificial tint. Artificiality is not the name of the game with this film. Everything looks very naturalistic. Other than I imagine some necessary lighting and makeup choices, this looks like the real world. That makes perfect sense because I was under the impression that director Hong wanted to capture just that. Lives, stories, emotions and desires are intertwined in funny ways in the real world anyways. There was never a moment during which I felt someone was over acting, or acting just for the sake of it, to convey something that wasnít necessary. Hong gets the most out of the people he hired for the job without ever resorting to cheap tricks. In fact you can forgive me if this comes off as silly or simply incorrect, but Iím detecting a bit of neo-neo-realism here. Or just realism, I donít know.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2rz71gg.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2prwi2x.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/2njhkc7.jpg)

Understandably, the film is a bit slow. I could think of a few scenes that could have been cut out. Itís one thing to put a realistic story on film, itís another to indulge in showing things that may not really be all that necessary to begin with. Iím sure the film would have been fine with 10 minutes or so less. Nonetheless, I canít complain too much  since I was never dying of boredom. I liked the film quite a bit and there were moments that made me smile and think. Just that a few shots make me think ĎI get it, letís move along now.í

After a series of matchups that often pitted a decent/good film against what I thought was highly underwhelming, I finally had one that made me think a few times before drawing any conclusion. I think because it feels very sure of itself, because it knew exactly what is was trying to and juggled the elements very well, Iíll give a pass to The Power of the Kangwon Province. I like both films, but Kangwon is the one among the two that, for better or worse (somebody might watch it and think itís a piece of shit), that I feel deserves a shot at going deep into the bracket.





*However, for its originality and strangeness, I would nonetheless invite people to watch Spring and Chaos. Itís too short and could have benefited from some more time to let the story breath (we donít even see Miyazawa reach the end of his life even though it was pretty short), but itís a cool little film. Come to think of it, since pixote tends to give eliminated films a viewing to provide a second opinion, I have a feeling we may not have seen (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=3241.msg240980#msg240980) the last of Spring and Chaos.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on April 04, 2009, 04:16:52 PM
Hong gets the most out of the people he hired for the job without ever resorting to cheap tricks. In fact you can forgive me if this comes off as silly or simply incorrect, but Iím detecting a bit of neo-neo-realism here. Or just realism, I donít know.

You're not crazy.  There's not really any difference between "Asian minimalism" a group you could, I guess, lump Hong into, and the American films Scott and Brody are arguing about.

What Scott's detecting, really, is an international art house style of slow-moving, long take films set in real locations that attempt to represent real life.  There's nothing particularly Asian, or American, or European about it, but film festival audiences and critics seem to dig it the world over.  Directors like Hou hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang, Rahmin Bahrani, Jim Jarmusch, Hong Sang-soo, Jia Zhang-ke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Abbas Kiarostami, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Bela Tarr, etc, all seem to be working in the same broad style that's distinctly different from mainstream Hollywood films.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 04, 2009, 04:34:16 PM
Thanks for clarifying that. It seems film scholars and movie buffs have a ball categorizing these sub-genres of genres. I'm terrible at recognizing what's what unless there's a gun in it. Or a full frontal naked woman. I probably know what movie I'm watching if there is that.

We like categorizing things so much that we don't stop to think maybe different directors and different countries are doing the same thing, or almost.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 04, 2009, 06:15:12 PM
Hong gets the most out of the people he hired for the job without ever resorting to cheap tricks. In fact you can forgive me if this comes off as silly or simply incorrect, but Iím detecting a bit of neo-neo-realism here. Or just realism, I donít know.

You're not crazy.  There's not really any difference between "Asian minimalism" a group you could, I guess, lump Hong into, and the American films Scott and Brody are arguing about.

What Scott's detecting, really, is an international art house style of slow-moving, long take films set in real locations that attempt to represent real life.  There's nothing particularly Asian, or American, or European about it, but film festival audiences and critics seem to dig it the world over.  Directors like Hou hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang, Rahmin Bahrani, Jim Jarmusch, Hong Sang-soo, Jia Zhang-ke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Abbas Kiarostami, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Bela Tarr, etc, all seem to be working in the same broad style that's distinctly different from mainstream Hollywood films.

There's an abstract quality in Weerasethakul (mysterious, kinda mystical) and Tsai films (metaphysical, sometimes absurd) not found in Wendy and Lucy/Chop Shop/Ballast, et cetera.  Hong also said in an interview that he begins with abstract structures that remain in the films themesleves like Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors and Power of Kangwon Province.  I don't think those Asian filmmakers fit into what Brody and Scott are talking about.  Offhand, I see a stronger case for Hou with the exception of Good Men, Good Women and Jia Zhang-ke with the exception of his animation passages.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on April 04, 2009, 06:55:46 PM
I'm grouping them in the broadest sense.  Indeed there are differences, some major, some minor, between all these directors, and within each directors' body of work as well.  Even still, director like Jia, Tsai and Weerasethakul still use a realist style to film even the most mystical or metaphysical elements of their films (granting the animation in The World can't be realistic).

But they all share an opposition to mainstream filmmaking style, I think, even if some of them are more magic realist than purely realist.

It's very possible that I just haven't seen enough of these "neo-neo" films to make this claim, or that these films' rejection of the kind of magical elements in Tsai/Jia/Weerasethakul is a bigger determinative factor in what kind of film they are than the broader, international technique. 
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 04, 2009, 07:03:04 PM
If I may ask since, you know, I'm the idiot here, some of you have mentioned how directors the likes of Tsai, Jie and Hong to name a few are in opposition to mainstream filmmaking.

What, according to you guys, do you consider to be mainstream filmmaking? What are its basic elements just so I get a feel for this argument here?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 04, 2009, 07:09:34 PM
I'm grouping them in the broadest sense.  Indeed there are differences, some major, some minor, between all these directors, and within each directors' body of work as well.  Even still, director like Jia, Tsai and Weerasethakul still use a realist style to film even the most mystical or metaphysical elements of their films (granting the animation in The World can't be realistic).

But they all share an opposition to mainstream filmmaking style, I think, even if some of them are more magic realist than purely realist.

It's very possible that I just haven't seen enough of these "neo-neo" films to make this claim, or that these films' rejection of the kind of magical elements in Tsai/Jia/Weerasethakul is a bigger determinative factor in what kind of film they are than the broader, international technique. 

In the broadest sense, I definitely agree with you.  Classical vs. non-classical.  And Tsai does have in common with Rossellini - Bazin's idea of cinema capturing realistic time, unbroken time. 

It's just specifically in the context of the films that Scott and Brody mentioned (a scope narrower than yours), those Asian filmmakers don't fit in.  But what they do have in common is capturing unbroken time (for the most part), pace, and less dialogue (Hong's are comparatively talky).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on April 04, 2009, 07:18:30 PM
If I may ask since, you know, I'm the idiot here, some of you have mentioned how directors the likes of Tsai, Jie and Hong to name a few are in opposition to mainstream filmmaking.

What, according to you guys, do you consider to be mainstream filmmaking? What are its basic elements just so I get a feel for this argument here?

That's a big question, and the short answer is "Hollywood".

I'm a David Bordwell kind of guy.  I think this essay (http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=859), comparing the techniques of a scene in The Shop Around The Corner to the same scene in its remake, You've Got Mail, does a good job of encapsulating both the classical and contemporary Hollywood styles and the differences between them.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on April 04, 2009, 07:25:12 PM
I'm grouping them in the broadest sense.  Indeed there are differences, some major, some minor, between all these directors, and within each directors' body of work as well.  Even still, director like Jia, Tsai and Weerasethakul still use a realist style to film even the most mystical or metaphysical elements of their films (granting the animation in The World can't be realistic).

But they all share an opposition to mainstream filmmaking style, I think, even if some of them are more magic realist than purely realist.

It's very possible that I just haven't seen enough of these "neo-neo" films to make this claim, or that these films' rejection of the kind of magical elements in Tsai/Jia/Weerasethakul is a bigger determinative factor in what kind of film they are than the broader, international technique. 

In the broadest sense, I definitely agree with you.  Classical vs. non-classical.  And Tsai does have in common with Rossellini - Bazin's idea of cinema capturing realistic time, unbroken time. 

It's just specifically in the context of the films that Scott and Brody mentioned (a scope narrower than yours), those Asian filmmakers don't fit in.  But what they do have in common is capturing unbroken time (for the most part), pace, and less dialogue (Hong's are comparatively talky).

Fair enough.  Would you agree with me that Scott is wrong to highlight this as a uniquely American trend, though, right?

Seems to me we have an international film festival style of critic friendly films, that are paced very differently from mainstream films and tend to tell non-genre stories about realistic people with realistic problems, some of which are ultimately more realist than others, but taken as a whole, the movement is nonetheless more realist than the mainstream.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 04, 2009, 07:46:53 PM
If I may ask since, you know, I'm the idiot here, some of you have mentioned how directors the likes of Tsai, Jie and Hong to name a few are in opposition to mainstream filmmaking.

What, according to you guys, do you consider to be mainstream filmmaking? What are its basic elements just so I get a feel for this argument here?

That's a big question, and the short answer is "Hollywood".

I'm a David Bordwell kind of guy.  I think this essay (http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=859), comparing the techniques of a scene in The Shop Around The Corner to the same scene in its remake, You've Got Mail, does a good job of encapsulating both the classical and contemporary Hollywood styles and the differences between them.

I appreciate you posting that. It was a great read and educational. It seems silly to actually count the number of seconds each shot lasts on average, but when one reads those numbers, it's pretty fascinating. I personally really like long shots and careful edits that are made only when necessary. Obviously I'm a Bond fan so I take exception with action films, but I would agree that in non-action related films, not every single freaking reaction or movement deserves a cut for the sake of it. I haven't seen You've Got Mail, but I understood the gist of what the director did for that film.

It is a funny phenomenom in filmmaking isn't it? Really, what kind of genuine improvement is there is having a cut every 2.4 seconds or whatnot if the viewer is watching to people discuss outside on the street or at the table at a restaurant? It obviously works for some films, like an action film (although even then I've watched action movies where I thought the editing, while quick, was absolutely superb in showing the viewer what kind of action was taking place on screen. I find Bullitt to be a good example of that). A cut should be a sacred thing, not used excessively. Of course, many would disagree, but those are my two cents.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on April 04, 2009, 07:52:53 PM
I agree whole-heartedly.

For further reading on editing and action films, here is Bordwell (http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=1175) on The Bourne Ultimatum.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 04, 2009, 08:01:45 PM
I'm grouping them in the broadest sense.  Indeed there are differences, some major, some minor, between all these directors, and within each directors' body of work as well.  Even still, director like Jia, Tsai and Weerasethakul still use a realist style to film even the most mystical or metaphysical elements of their films (granting the animation in The World can't be realistic).

But they all share an opposition to mainstream filmmaking style, I think, even if some of them are more magic realist than purely realist.

It's very possible that I just haven't seen enough of these "neo-neo" films to make this claim, or that these films' rejection of the kind of magical elements in Tsai/Jia/Weerasethakul is a bigger determinative factor in what kind of film they are than the broader, international technique. 

In the broadest sense, I definitely agree with you.  Classical vs. non-classical.  And Tsai does have in common with Rossellini - Bazin's idea of cinema capturing realistic time, unbroken time. 

It's just specifically in the context of the films that Scott and Brody mentioned (a scope narrower than yours), those Asian filmmakers don't fit in.  But what they do have in common is capturing unbroken time (for the most part), pace, and less dialogue (Hong's are comparatively talky).

Fair enough.  Would you agree with me that Scott is wrong to highlight this as a uniquely American trend, though, right?

Seems to me we have an international film festival style of critic friendly films, that are paced very differently from mainstream films and tend to tell non-genre stories about realistic people with realistic problems, some of which are ultimately more realist than others, but taken as a whole, the movement is nonetheless more realist than the mainstream.

Yeah, it's not uniquely American and it's not a recent trend.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 05, 2009, 10:19:54 AM
Great writeup, edgar. Both movies sound amazing, if not quite as amazing as the first time through. ;D

The Power of Kangwon Province sounds like my kinda movie. But so does hallucinogenic humanoid cats, so...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on April 05, 2009, 12:02:56 PM
"Masumura famously adapted nearly all of Miyazawa's stories to manga form, and in doing so had to deal with the limits of putting human faces on the characters. It didn't work; the story and its scope was limited by defining the characters so tangibly. Making them anthropomorphic worked perfectly, keeping reality at a distance. (They ended up choosing cats, despite - or perhaps because - Miyazawa hated them, explaining that they're just as selfish as humans.)"

This is in regards to the adaptation of one of Miyazawa's unfinished books Night on the Galactic Railroad which was turned into an anime film around '85 (a very good one, I might add). They just kept that same stylistic choice from that film, I guess.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 05, 2009, 12:38:02 PM
Yeah, I came across a bit of information about Night on the Galactic Railroad and how it was an adaptation of a Miyazawa story using cats, although I don't know much about it. I sort of hint as to why Spring and Chaos might be using anthropomorphic characters in my review, but I fall short of mentioning Galactic Railroad specifically. Thanks for the post.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 06, 2009, 05:49:27 PM
This is my I'm in the middle of school and watching Herzog films and could really care less about orient action films verdict.  :P (In all honesty I just didn't feel like saying much more, so short verdict.  :-\)

Flirting Scholar vs. Legend of the Drunken Master

The ideological overlap of these two films greatly pleases me. Both have heavy comedic overtones and provide ridiculously silly over-the-top action pieces. However, where the two diverge is when it comes to providing drama. One goes all out with the ridiculousness while the other adds drama into the mix.

Usually I donít mention the viewing experience itself but it is worth making this disclaimer. Flirting Scholar had horrible subtitles that sometimes faded into the lighter backgrounds and generally was hard to read while Legend of the Drunken Master was horribly dubbed in English.


Flirting Scholar


Within the first few minutes of the film we witness what has to be one of the craziest things Iíve ever seen with any film. Desperate for money our incidental character goes to his brother, the famous artist Tong Pak Foo (Stephen Chow), and asks for 20 paintings within the hour. The resulting sequence sets up the movie fairly well (It's at 4:47 if the clip doesn't start there):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAU4F-CVI18#t=4m47s (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAU4F-CVI18#t=4m47s)

From there on out the film can pretty much be as ridiculous as possible and fit into the world. And it absolutely works. The acting, dialogue and action are so over the top. And the film knows it, making a joke out of itself. And it never feels like itís winking at the audience but rather just presenting an intensified world where the simplest setups result in hilarity.

However, the film feels like a hodgepodge of ideas. Part of it is a romantic comedy as Tong Pak Foo poses as a workman in order to properly court lady in waiting Li Gong (played by the fantastic Li Gong who was also in my previous matchup winner, To Live). Another part of the film are these hilariously witty musical numbers that tend to break the fourth wall. And yet another piece is an over the top orient fighting film. Compound on top of this the comedy and the film is gigantic melting pot of genres.


Legend of the Drunken Master

Having read the above youíd be right to guess this is the film that tries to be more dramatic. Wong Fei-hung (Jackie Chan) is desperately trying to keep his fatherís failing business afloat by engaging in some questionable practices on the side. He also is a strong practice of drunken boxing which his peers think is a joke style just used for show. His father strongly disapproves and then some action stuff happens.
Problem is that while the film wants to set up this serious drama it subverts it by creating this goofy world. Often scenes meant to be emotionally intense are bookended with jokes and destroy the intensity. Other times the film is too serious and comes off as a bad joke.

Jackie Chan is not a dramatic actor but a great physical actor. His characterís plight is that in order to effectively do drunken boxing he must actually be drunk. The film sets this up as a thinly veiled allegory of the follies of getting drunk on power. Problem is that the film quickly subverts this notion in the last big action sequence and destroys the entire dramatic plot.

Yes, this film has much better action sequences than Flirting Scholar. They are technically astounding and look very realistic. My jaw dropped several times as I wondered how the pulled off some of these stuns without killing anyone. Problem is the stuff in-between is dull.

Verdict:

Flirting Scholar is a hodgepodge of stuff but ultimately it all unifies in this exaggerated comedic universe. Legend of the Drunken Master takes comedic action and tries to marry it with serious drama and it simply doesnít work.
Flirting Scholar is a film I enjoyed ever moment of no matter how stupid and ridiculous it got, which is something I canít say for Legend of the Drunken Master.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 06, 2009, 06:02:30 PM
I saw Legend of the Drunken Master so long ago. I wish I could comment on the verdict. I suppose I'll pretend to be disappointed because I generally like those older Jackie Chan movies, but I'm really kind of indifferent.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 06, 2009, 06:29:28 PM
Hmmm, I haven't had time to watch that clip yet but I remember loving Legend of the Drunken Master when I watched it years ago (multiple times at that). It may just be my nostalgia talking, but I do feel bad about it getting kicked out in the very first round. I guess I can always hope for a resurrection.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on April 06, 2009, 07:10:33 PM
Verdict:
Flirting Scholar is a hodgepodge of stuff but ultimately it all unifies in this exaggerated comedic universe. Legend of the Drunken Master takes comedic action and tries to marry it with serious drama and it simply doesnít work.
Flirting Scholar is a film I enjoyed ever moment of no matter how stupid and ridiculous it got, which is something I canít say for Legend of the Drunken Master.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3y3QoFnqZc# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3y3QoFnqZc#)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 06, 2009, 07:33:00 PM
Drunken Master isn't a JC movie I'm particularly fond of. I'm curious about Flirting Scholar now though. Nice write up sam.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 06, 2009, 07:40:56 PM
I don't think Legend of Drunken Master tries for serious drama that's incongruous with the action-comedy parts of it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 06, 2009, 08:38:11 PM
I haven't seen Drunken Master, but that clip from Flirting Scholar is some kind of awesome.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 07, 2009, 11:49:19 AM
How do these Bracket Resurrections work?  How does one get Legend of Drunken Master considered?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 07, 2009, 11:52:54 AM
As per my understanding, in this round at least, pixote watches all the losing films he will eventually resurrect as many films as he thinks deserve another shot based on his own experience and the original losing verdict. So far, pixote has been posting resurrection forecasts for 5 films at a time where he basically writes a short review for the films and whether or not he thinks the film stands a chance at resurrection.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 07, 2009, 11:53:29 AM
How do these Bracket Resurrections work?  How does one get Legend of Drunken Master considered?

For this round, I'm watching all the losing films and seeing what seems worthy.  It's an ego thing or something.

It'll be my second time watching Legend of Drunken Master.  As before, I definitely won't be watching the dubbed version.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 07, 2009, 11:54:40 AM
     Resurrection Reviews

  ▪  Films 1 - 5 (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg189587#msg189587)
  ▪  Films 6 - 10 (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg216632#msg216632)
  ▪  Films 11 - 15 (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg225667#msg225667)

Delicious links!  (I'm behind, but I plan to catch up soon.)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 07, 2009, 12:03:05 PM
Thanks, Worm and Pixote. 

I checked out the US Bracket FAQ and the answer to the resurrection question was "Arbitrarily!" (Or maybe there wasn't an exclamation point.  Too lazy to check again.)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 07, 2009, 12:05:04 PM
     Resurrection Reviews

  ▪  Films 1 - 5 (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg189587#msg189587)
  ▪  Films 6 - 10 (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg216632#msg216632)
  ▪  Films 11 - 15 (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg225667#msg225667)

Delicious links!  (I'm behind, but I plan to catch up soon.)

pixote

I'm curious to read your thoughts on Spring and Chaos.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 07, 2009, 12:11:47 PM
Has anyone watched Flirting Scholar?

It's like when people gave me crap about killing Seven. I got the felling everyone had seen and loved it but only a few had actually seen both films.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 07, 2009, 12:14:38 PM
No, which is why my conclusion was that I'm indifferent.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 07, 2009, 12:15:51 PM
Yes, I have, and it's my opinion that LoDM should be resurrected.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 07, 2009, 12:37:35 PM
Yes, I have, and it's my opinion that LoDM should be resurrected.
Fair enough.

Maybe I should just stay away from beloved films.  :P

But where would be the fun in that?  ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Verite on April 07, 2009, 12:46:30 PM
Maybe I should just stay away from beloved films.  :P

Nah, man.  I like the fact that you're honest and aren't afraid to eliminate a film that has a good reputation regardless if you knew of LoDM's or not. 
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 07, 2009, 12:49:17 PM
Maybe I should just stay away from beloved films.  :P
I like the fact that you're honest and aren't afraid to eliminate a film that has a good reputation
You'd be the first.   



Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 07, 2009, 05:23:30 PM
Maybe I should just stay away from beloved films.  :P

Nah, man.  I like the fact that you're honest and aren't afraid to eliminate a film that has a good reputation regardless if you knew of LoDM's or not. 

Judging by your post count, you're relatively new to the site. lotr-sam has a very 'against the grain' attitude towards many movies. In time those little surprises will be revealed to you I'm sure.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 10, 2009, 11:43:17 PM
(http://i.imgur.com/fP2KNzF.jpg)

Red Cherry

This is about two children (Luo Xiaoman and Chuchu) who end up in Moscow after fleeing from China, where a dangerous revolution is taking place. They are brought to a school in the city and left for the principal to handle. They quickly find their place. In time they make friends, learn to speak good Russian, and everything is normal. But this is the winter of 1940 and war approaches. In the summer Chuchu leaves the school for summer camp with the other girls and the teacher. One morning they are awoken by the sounds of dozens of planes overhead. Bombs begin to fall and soon Germans arrive on the ground to occupy the camp. Everyone is rounded up. The teacher is killed. Meanwhile Luo Xiaoman who is back in Moscow does what he has to to survive. The German invasion has not reached the city so he is still able to move about, but food is scarce. He begs, he scrounges, and he donates blood, all for some bread or a potato.

The movie really jumps around, from Chuchu who is now a prisoner/servant at a Nasi HQ, to Xiaoman who is free but starving. Once it gets to this point in the film, there is little story. It's just a day by day look at life, from the perspective of these two kids. But both stories are amazing and at least partially true.

One of the most remarkable things about the film is the performance of the lead actress who plays Chuchu. Surprisingly this is her only role ever. Chuchu's is the more brutal story. While being made to work as a servant she also becomes the 'project' of the general in charge. But rather than describe it, I'll just show you.

(http://i.imgur.com/MoNr5wr.jpg)

After the Germans are defeated, Chuchu left in the middle of nowhere to fend for herself. She is picked up by some Russians and arrives in a camp where other stray children have been brought for care. It's here where her tattoo is discovered.

(http://i.imgur.com/3pkIlom.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/3pkIlom.jpg)

It's a strange moment. At first they react as if she is the Nasi. They shackle here like a prisoner. Then she tries to burn the tattoo off with a piece of burning wood that night, and in the very next scene two Russians in uniforms are explaining how she's going to get medals, be treated by the best doctors, and become a hero. It's a really unclear sequence of events. And a lot moments in the movie play out in an odd way like that. It was more than just bad subtitles. The movie doesn't flow. Nevertheless, I filled in the blanks and thought it managed to be effective. War from the perspective of children is not something you see often.

The movie really impressed me. It has a lot to offer. More than I included in this review. The jumpiness of it makes it difficult to summarize. I'm happy it will have a chance at resurrection. I would recommend seeing this one anyways.

____________________

Seventeen Years

This was a really good movie too. I liked the story, I liked how it was told, and I liked meaning of it.

The film starts by introducing us to two stepsisters and the two parents of a family. One daughter, Tao Lan, is hard working and respectful, the other is a bit of a wild child. Always out late with boisterous friends, etc. Her name is Yu Xiaoqin. One night Lan and Xiaoqin get to talking about what they are going to do in the future. Both of them express a desire to leave home, and get far away. They live is a fairly poor looking area. Later that night, when everyone else is sleeping Lan is still studying. Eventually she too gets ready to pack it in. On her way through the kitchen she sees a 5yuan bill on the table and takes it. She hides it in one of her notebooks. The next day the dad starts looking around for his bill. An argument starts, accusations start to fly, and in the kerfuffle Lan goes and takes the bill out of her notebook and puts it under Xiaoqin's pillow. Needless to say, it's discovered there.

It's an amazing story about how small things can evolve to have irreversible effects. I'm trying to decide now how much more I want to say. This all takes place in the first 15 minutes or so. If you want to know more you can read the IMDB synopsis, but I think I've gone far enough. Part of the movie's strength is the unexpected. And besides, I'm moving it into the next round.

I want to say though, even if you don't end up with this film in a future matchup I would urge you to seek it out. It's probably the best I've seen in the bracket thus far. In fact I'd say it's one of the best movies I've watched this year, period. It's full of beautiful performances. I think the strongest aspect of the film though is the storytelling. It's to the point, but not rushed. A simple yet containing relevant moral lesson. A parable really. I'm not sure I'm getting across what I'm really trying to say. I sure did like it though.

Here's some screen shots to appease worm ;)

(http://i.imgur.com/ylVrm3V.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/tjwjzIa.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/S1eUHdB.jpg)

(http://i.imgur.com/l9UZ3gH.jpg)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 11, 2009, 01:23:40 AM
Ha, it's so cool that both of these turned out to be pretty good.  I mean, they sounded good on paper ... but both the DVD covers are so awful, I was really reluctant to watch either without someone vouching for them first.

Nice verdict, smirnoff.  I'm really glad you were rewarded with some good films.  It seemed like you were due.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 11, 2009, 07:25:13 AM
Both of those films do indeed seem as if they may be worth watching at least once.  I'm curious about Seventeen Years. Your review mentioned little about the film but sold the synopsis very well.

I think I may eventually watch Red Curry anyways some day. The plot sounds neat. The idea of having Chinese characters who speak Russian (which isn't featured ever, I think, in film) intrigues me.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 11, 2009, 09:06:52 AM
Ooh, tantalizing reviews smirnoff. They both sound pretty great actually. I love that edgar calls this movie Red Curry :D and that you got a matchup where both films were good. And of course, thanks for the screenshots.. I would've been very unhappy otherwise :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 11, 2009, 10:55:10 AM
The idea of having Chinese characters who speak Russian (which isn't featured ever, I think, in film) intrigues me.

Totally. Just being in that part of the world during WWII was a pretty unique movie watching experience for me, add the fish out of water element and you've got lots to keep your interest.

Red Curry made me laugh :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 11, 2009, 10:58:47 AM
Nice reviews, smirnoff. Really cool that you enjoyed Seventeen Years as much as you did, I'm really interested in checking it out.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 11, 2009, 10:59:23 AM
The idea of having Chinese characters who speak Russian (which isn't featured ever, I think, in film) intrigues me.

Totally. Just being in that part of the world during WWII was a pretty unique movie watching experience for me, add the fish out of water element and you've got lots to keep your interest.

Red Curry made me laugh :D

I ate Indian yesterday.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 11, 2009, 11:02:58 AM
Nice reviews, smirnoff. Really cool that you enjoyed Seventeen Years as much as you did, I'm really interested in checking it out.

It's gotten me curious about what else this director has done. This is his only film to have made it into our bracket I think...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 11, 2009, 11:03:13 AM
The idea of having Chinese characters who speak Russian (which isn't featured ever, I think, in film) intrigues me.

Totally. Just being in that part of the world during WWII was a pretty unique movie watching experience for me, add the fish out of water element and you've got lots to keep your interest.

Red Curry made me laugh :D

I ate Indian yesterday.

Funny how that works!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 11, 2009, 11:13:54 AM
This is his only film to have made it into our bracket I think...
Actually, I need to update the list.  I finally tracked down a copy of Beijing Bastards — on VCD — only to have a DVD magically appear on AsianDVDClub (http://asiandvdclub.org/details.php?id=23989&dllist=1) a few days later.  Sounds like a very different kind of film from Seventeen Years.

I didn't have any luck tracking down Mama or Sons; they'd be in the bracket otherwise.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 11, 2009, 11:24:15 AM
Hmm, it does sound very different. He's done a few documentaries too, one called Crazy English (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0210677/) sorta interested me.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 12, 2009, 06:23:49 PM
Seemed like a fitting day for a resurrection forecast, but the quality of my DVD for Fight Back to School is holding me back.  I'm determined to upgrade.

DVD
(http://i41.tinypic.com/1796o2.jpg)

AVI
(http://i39.tinypic.com/1zf0rnt.jpg)

:/

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 12, 2009, 06:50:07 PM
:'(. The quality difference is indeed very stark!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 15, 2009, 02:39:19 AM
Round One Resurrection Forecast, Films 16 - 20

(http://i40.tinypic.com/23ixriq.png)
Postman Blues (Sabu, 1997)
Lost to Made in Hong Kong (verdict by roujin) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg181909#msg181909)
The opening of this sets up a movie I'd really like to see: a classic Fukasaku yakuza film filtered though a low-key, modern character study.  I was really hooked me from the first scene: the protagonist is at work sorting mail and the sound of a train running over the tracks slowly builds on the soundtrack.  It's not a groundbreaking technique or anything, but it was a nice way of conveying the suddenly unbearable monotony of the postman's job, and it made me feel like I was in very good hands, tonally speaking.  That feeling lasted all of ten minutes, until a severed finger rolled off a kitchen table in ridiculous close-up and agonizing slow motion.  Not good.  Together, those two moments pretty much encapsulate the entire film, alternating as it does between being really appealing and really mind-boggling in terms of some of its choices.  Most of the moments of sheer silliness just don't work.  It's as though the filmmakers purposefully undercut the story because they didn't have complete faith in their material.  And that's really too bad because the potential was definitely there for a great film.  As is, it's still very watchable and pretty fun.  I just wish it didn't get so damn whimsical all the time.  In other words, pretty much what roujin said.


(http://i40.tinypic.com/ok1zzp.jpg)
The Last Dance (Juzo Itami, 1993)
Lost to The Hole (verdict by worm@work) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg182044#msg182044)
A meditation on dying from the director of A Taxing Woman sounded like something I'd really enjoy, so much so that worm's faint praise for the film did little to diminish my high expectations.  Finally watching the film, it took me only about ten minutes to realize that worm was right, or maybe even overly generous.  The main character is an old, lecherous film director, and all the women around him find him initially repulsive but ultimately irresistible.  I myself managed to resist his theoretical charm.  That is, I spent the first hour of the film wishing he would just hurry up and die already.  The occasional title cards telling us how many days he has left to live just seemed to be taunting me.  The way the director's doctor and wife lie to him about his illness (they tell him his terminal cancer is just an ulcer) might have roots in reality, but in the film it plays as the flimsiest of plot devices, and one that's just drawn out forever.  The life-imitating-art stuff is almost interesting, the dream sequence worm mentioned is definitely a highlight (and the source of the screenshot above), and the filmmaking and performances are solid; but the characters and story just aren't engaging at all.


(http://i41.tinypic.com/2hxogw8.jpg)
Fight Back to School (Gordan Chan, 1991)
Lost to Days of Being Wild (verdict by sdedalus) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg182503#msg182503)
I encourage you all to keep kicking Stephen Chow films out of the bracket because I'm really enjoying watching this guy.  I found Fight Back to School to be exactly as sdedalus described — "a pleasant and entertaining comedy".  I knew the 21 Jump Street conceit would be a great fit for Chow from the moment when, told he'd been posing as a student, he whines, "I joined the police force because I hated studying."  I'm not sure it comes across in reading, but the way he delivers the line just totally sells the whole premise.  The script doesn't fully captalize on that potential.  There are quite a few short stretches that drag — never for too long, though.  Before I could ever lose interest, Chow always found a way to make me laugh.  Not just quick laughs, either, but laughs sustained for like a minute or so.  Man Tat Ng posing as his dad and beating him up in front of the principal and teachers is great.  Chow trying to pass off a condom as bubble gum is hilarious.  The maze set-piece for the climax is really clever.  And then I just really like little moments where Chow showcases his various performance skills, whether it be by drop-kicking three thugs or authoritatively solving an algebra problem on the blackboard (which reminded me of Keaton playing pool).  So it's a pretty good time overall, even while periodically losing its way.


(http://i42.tinypic.com/nn709d.jpg)
April Story (Shunji Iwai, 1998)
Lost to My Rice Noodle Shop (verdict by edgarchaput) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg183028#msg183028)
I first watched this film last June right before the bracket began.  I graded it a B, writing (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=1028.msg123123#msg123123), "Taking away the credits, this film runs almost exactly an hour, so calling it slight seems like an unfair criticism, in a way.  Those sixty minutes do contain some nicely observed moments and they create a fine portrait of shyness as the socially timid protagonist arrives in Tokyo to begin college, but, still, I wanted more.  Overall, the film is much closer in tone to Iwai's Love Letter than his All About Lily Chou-Chou, both in its romantically saccharine tone and its relative (in)effectiveness.  I love the continued concern with the self-imposed barriers that keep people from truly connecting with each other, but I much prefer how Chou-Chou doesn't coat those themes with as glossy a sheen.  I hope there's another film in Iwai's future that's as gritty as that one."
     I hadn't planned on watching April Story again for resurrection purposes, but edgar's strong pan of the film ("This movies sucks.") intrigued me enough to take a second look.  So, first off, I don't have a problem with the main idea of the movie.  There's definitely a fine line between stalking and a romantic gesture, but I think the film acknowledges Nireno's action as the very desperate move of a very lonely person.  I don't think she's even really pursuing the boy so much as using him as an excuse to escape from everyone else, leaving behind her family and friends and living alone in a city where the only person she knows is someone she's never had the courage to talk to.
     As for growing "weary of her 'huhs?' and 'hmms?' every time someone approached her," I'm definitely with you there.  That all seemed very overplayed to me.  There must be a dozen instances in the short film of her refusing someone else's offer.  The early scene with the movers, where she was so determined to help even though she was just getting in the way, that told us most everything we needed to know about her character.  The film didn't need to kept pounding away at those same traits, really.
     I think you missed a key point regarding the Saeko character, edgar.  There's this nice, somewhat subtle moment where we (and Nireno) learn that pretty much the only reason Saeko paid attention to Nireno was that she needed to bring a friend into the fishing club to get the nice reel for free.  It's kind of a tragic moment, but Nireno seems to latch onto the word "friend" and smiles at the thought that someone in Tokyo referred to her as their friend.  And that makes the moment even sadder, really.
     I have some problems with the film's structure — particularly how all the backstory is revealed through a late, unmotivated flashback, with much of the work done by narration — but I was perfectly okay with the movie ending where it did.  I like the optimistic romance of it all — the rain, the umbrellas, the awkward smiles, and the exchange where Nireno tells the boy, "You were famous!" and he replies, "I was?" and she quietly adds, "To me."  And then she pretty much runs away.  Awesome.  On the other hand, I absolutely hate the last line of the film, where Nireno narrates, "When I made it into university, my home-room teacher said it was a miracle.  But if it was a miracle, I want to call it a miracle of love."  Ugh.
     For a more positive take on the film, check out sdedalus' blog (http://theendofcinema.blogspot.com/2006/12/movie-roundup-stntang-hangover-edition.html).


(http://i44.tinypic.com/2hf7taw.jpg)
Memories (KŰji Morimoto, Tensai Okamura, and Katsuhiro ‘tomo, 1995)
Lost to Whisper of the Heart (verdict by FifthCityMuse) (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg184919#msg184919)
FifthCityMuse and roujin both cited KŰji Morimoto's Magnetic Rose as their favorite of this film's three episode, but for me the best was definitely Katsuhiro ‘tomo's Cannon Fodder.  I'm a total sucker for that more textured and raw animation style, and I loved the pace of the story here, the slow reveal of the film's unique world and the equally slow unfolding of the cannon loading process.  The underlying allegory is simple but kind of beautiful, and the shift in animation at the end is making me smile now just thinking about it.  The Stink Bomb episode was mainly interesting because it was produced the same year as the Sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway.  I haven't watched the making of featurette on the Memories disc yet, so I don't know if that was an unfortunate coincidence or if the film was turned around very quickly in response.  In watching, I assumed the latter, which added an extra layer of interest to what was otherwise a silly but mildly entertaining story.  I'm going to give Magnetic Rose another look in the next couple of days.  My first viewing left me a little cold, but FifthCityMuse and roujin were so enthusiastic I figure maybe I was just tired.  I was really with the film initially, when it was confined to the spaceship.  I liked all the characters and the soundtrack was amazing and set a great mood.  But once the two guys start investigating the SOS signal, things started to feel a little generic to me — right out of any number of fairy tales.  It did make me want to go play Zelda, though, so that's a plus.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 15, 2009, 08:30:12 AM
Hmmm, Sounds to me like you at least found something to like about 4 out of the 5 films. The Last Dance is pretty much a washout, I agree :). One of the reviews I read for this film describes it as a darker look at the treatment of cancer patients in Tokyo hospitals. Didn't really come across as a scathing social critique at all to me.

I am, however, eager to check out the others on the list - especially April Story and Memories. So I hope the prognosis for these isn't entirely hopeless.

My next film up for resurrection, I think, is The Peony Pavilion. Don't have much hope for that one.

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 15, 2009, 08:38:39 AM
Great stuff as usual pix.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on April 15, 2009, 09:16:12 AM
I'm glad you liked Memories, pix. Magnetic Rose was pretty awesome. To me, the most accomplished and "complete"? Cannon Fodder is the most interesting and definitely the oddest of the bunch. But, to me, it was more about appreciation than actually liking it. Stink Bomb was really funny to me...

Resurrection!!!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 15, 2009, 09:24:31 AM
Eh...no. Still no.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 15, 2009, 02:24:01 PM
Awesome! These resurrection forecasts are a highlight of this round for me, so many of the movies haven't been seen by anyone else so it's great to hear second opinions. Again, thanks for your dedication, pix!

Memories really intrigues me, I should check that out some time. The Stephen Chow film sounds really fun too, I've been wanting to see more of his movies. I'm not as interested in the others, but still a great read on all of them.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 15, 2009, 03:08:53 PM
These resurrection forecasts are a highlight of this round for me...

Aw, thanks!  I need to pick up the pace a little.  Luckily there are a lot of films coming up that I'm really excited to see/revisit, so that should help.

That reminds me, I need to go reserve Akira Kurosawa Dreams from the library.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 15, 2009, 06:55:58 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/i35cav.jpg)

Angel Dust (Sogo Ishii, 1994)

This movie was a real surprise for me, I really had no idea what it was going to be, but early on I was really excited to realize what type of movie I was in for.

The story goes: Every Monday at 6pm, a young woman is murdered in the subway. Setsuko Suma, a psychiatrist specializing in criminal personalities (or something), is a member of the police investigation. The story follows her path through the investigation as the mystery grows ever deeper, and brings her up against a former colleauge, a Dr. Rei Aku who now runs a controversial brain-washing practice.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/65pohx.jpg)

To be perfectly honest about it, half the time I had no idea what anything meant in this movie. It is not easy to follow narratively, and harder to make sense of intellectually. I can't easily explain the draw I had to it (although I'm going to try), but I loved it.

Firstly the movie is great stylistically. The editing, cinematography, and sound are all very slick, but not in the bad way. Visually there are some great shots and sequences, but it did a good job of not drawing attention to itself, it all felt very natural and came out of the story. The sound and music draws more attention to itself, but it was a good match for the mood. The sound would often drop out into silence, or more commonly isolate a single element in the midst of a noisy scene. Recurring sound elements would be used this way to clue you into things that were happening or about to happen.

The story maybe wasn't as important to me as the feel of the movie. There are vauge psychological concepts and elements of pseudo-science / mysticism that make it less predictable (and contribue to my incomprehension), and I basically just enjoyed what it did with it.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2l91vkm.jpg)

The character most worthy of talking about is Dr. Aku. He becomes the prime suspect and is presented very sinisterly from the start. Elements of his character gave me a Hannibal Lector vibe, although that comparison is probably not fair any way you look at it. The star, Setsuko, is very good, but she's not the kind of character you can really love. She drives the story, but the story largely happens around her and she is not the most interesting part about it.

I don't think this movie is meant to be fully understood, and really that was fine with me. It gave me enough to chew on and interpret for myself that I didn't mind being very confused.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/11ke4qh.jpg)



Jubaku: Spellbound (Masato Harada, 1999)

I thought Angel Dust had this one in the bag, but joy of joys, this movie was a nice surprise for me too. All I knew about it was "corporate thriller". What's that? I didn't know, and I don't think I've seen another movie that so neatly falls into this category, because it lives up to the name perfectly.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2ntbrkz.jpg)

The story is based on true events, apparently, although I'm clueless about them. It centers around one of Japan's biggest banks as a massive scandal has been discovered that threatens to destroy it. With a large scale investigation by the public prosecutors office underway, the top-level management is getting arrested left and right, and the rest are forced to resign to save the banks image. A group of middle-managers headed by Hiroshi Kitano steps in to take over and try to save the bank from total collapse.

If this sounds like it would be totally boring, it isn't, although it took me a little while to realize just how interesting it all is. There are a lot of layers to the story. For instance, Kitano and his associates actions are shown almost as an act of overthrowing. They are largely considered traitors, even though their goal is to come clean, weed out all illegal activity, and put the bank back on solid ground. What this means, though, is that they've essentially blacklisted themselves from employment elsewhere, so their investment in the fate of the bank is complete. Almost all aspects of the story benefit from similar complex relationships, and nothing is ever simple.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/ao9cg9.jpg)

It is also just really well made. The editing, cinematography, and the music which I particularly enjoyed, are all great. There's terrific energy in it, and at times I had to step back and realize I wasn't watching an action movie afterall, it was a bunch of guys in business suits walking around.

And there are a lot of guys in business suits walking around. The cast is rather large, and there are many scenes where they're all together. Throw in a couple hundred extras and you get the idea. The cast is all pretty great, but the size of it does make it difficult to connect to many of them, not to mention keep the story straight. It wasn't that big of a problem, but worth noting.

Other things I really enjoyed include the family life that was included for Kitano. As things get more serious later in the movie, there becomes a real physical threat to him, his associates, and their families. It's played nicely, plus his daughter is absolutely adorable. Oh, and one of the indicted managers (CEO or President or something, I can't remember) is Kitano's father-in-law, so there's that angle as well. There's still more I liked, but I don't want this to go on too long, so on to the verdict!

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2evb1om.jpg)



Verdict

I was really happy with this matchup, I'm not sure if anyone else would like these movies as much as I did, but they're so close for me that I really hate to choose. I've gone back and forth a few times now, but I guess I'll just stick with my gut; Jubaku. Maybe it's just because I watched it more recently, but if I have to choose one of them that's as good of a reason as any.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 15, 2009, 07:02:28 PM
Oh my! Awesome write-ups Melvil and really nice screenshots too. Your verdict has totally made me want to watch both films now! The last few verdicts are getting me excited about my new matchup now. Everybody seems to having a good run, so maybe I will too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 15, 2009, 07:10:30 PM
Wow, is Angel Dust your favorite of the films that you've had to kick out of the bracket?

Either way, I consider this verdict a huge victory for the random screenshot thread.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 15, 2009, 08:02:06 PM
Oh my! Awesome write-ups Melvil and really nice screenshots too. Your verdict has totally made me want to watch both films now! The last few verdicts are getting me excited about my new matchup now. Everybody seems to having a good run, so maybe I will too.

Thanks, worm! Hopefully your matchup will be awesome, although I'm a little distressed that one of them is called Bad Movie. ;D

Wow, is Angel Dust your favorite of the films that you've had to kick out of the bracket?

I think so, definitely the most conflicted choice I've had to make.

So I noticed that in your next resurrection forecast you will be doing two of my movies. So that's really exciting, except one of them is Village of Dreams, which makes me fear for my life a little.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 15, 2009, 10:19:50 PM
I almost had Jubaku this round, so I'm glad to see it move on. I'll catch it next time.Angel Dust sounds like a wild ride though. I should go fetch that sometime.

I don't know, but based on how you described Jubaku I was reminded of The Insider. Would you say there are resemblances between the two?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 16, 2009, 12:08:16 AM
I almost had Jubaku this round, so I'm glad to see it move on. I'll catch it next time.Angel Dust sounds like a wild ride though. I should go fetch that sometime.

I don't know, but based on how you described Jubaku I was reminded of The Insider. Would you say there are resemblances between the two?

I haven't seen The Insider, but after I watched the movie I did some reading on it and I think one of the reviews I came across made the comparison. I should check it out.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 16, 2009, 07:53:38 AM
Heh, corporate thriller. I immediately thought of A Shock To The System (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100602/). A pretty good film too. Michael Caine being awesome.

Anywho, I enjoyed your write-up. Both sound intriguing in their own way. Is either film gunna get you seeking out other work by the directors?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 16, 2009, 10:38:03 AM
Heh, corporate thriller. I immediately thought of A Shock To The System (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100602/). A pretty good film too. Michael Caine being awesome.

Anywho, I enjoyed your write-up. Both sound intriguing in their own way. Is either film gunna get you seeking out other work by the directors?

Thanks, smirnoff! I did check to see what else from these two is in this bracket. Gobman already snagged Labyrinth of Dreams from Ishii, but for Harada Colleen put Bounce KO Gals through (but didn't love it), and Kamikaze Taxi is unclaimed (also it's named Kamikaze freaking Taxi), so I might have to grab that one.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 19, 2009, 09:50:23 PM
The Taebaek Mountains (1994, Kwon-taek Im  ) against Down the Drain (1993, Shinobu Yaguchi)


The Taebaek Mountains

Back in high school and in college I wrote a few papers about the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953 and pitted U.S.S.R. supported North Korean communist forces against Western supported capitalist South Korean forces. Iíve always felt 20th century Korean history fascinating. Raped and pillaged during the first few decades by Japan (a result of the (Russo-Japanese war of 1904 which decidedly pushed the Russians away from having influence over the Korean peninsula) and then, following WWII, politically conquered and divided by the Soviet Union and United States.


The Taebaek Mountains
is a historical drama in the traditional sense, with its many central characters, both communist and capitalist, engaged in a unforgiving battle for the control over a moderately sized Korean town shortly before the start of the war. As the movie opens, the town is under control of the capitalist inclined forces, essentially, the forces of the current government. However, the nationalist (or patriotic, or even Ďthe cliqueí) group is proving to be quite the opposition. Control over the town shifts from one side to another at alarming speed. In their attempts at gaining or preserving control as well as hunting down members of the opposing group, members of each side demonstrate a brutality and a fervor that is at times beyond sensible reason.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/2w5vifa.jpg)
(http://i39.tinypic.com/28j86zs.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/2dgw8bt.jpg)

The film is populated by many, many characters, several of which I recognized by face, hardly any of which I recognized when their names were mentioned, so I shanít bomb you with names since, quite frankly, based on names alone I wasnít sure who was who myself. Of course, there is the leader of the communist group, the chief of police, the leader of the investigation/anti-communist group, their wives, the somewhat calmer character who refuses to partake in the violent nonsense of either side, etc.

The Taebaek Mountains is a film where I think director Kwon-taek Im has his heart in the right place, but the execution was less than impressive. Well, that sounds rather harsh, for there there were things I liked about the film. Some of the performances were admirable I will admit, particularly from the actor playing the moderate Ďnon-committalí character I mentioned earlier and from the man playing the leader of the anti-communist investigation force. The latter shows a diabolical psychology for a man who, if one chooses not to read between the lines of text books, was supposedly one of the Ďgood guysí who tried to prevent communism from spreading across the country. To a certain degree it was interesting to see because it turns someone we would want to see as noble and just into a freak. Conversely, it feels a bit too on the nose, with director Kwon-taek telling the viewer ĎLook, there were evil people on both sides. Such is the reality of war.í

That seemed to be a running issue that irked me somewhat throughout the film however. There were too many what I call Ďobvious momentsí, during which I could feel the director trying to show me a point of view, or an argument.  One scene involves a mother (capitalist supporter) showing her lightly injured son to another mother (communist supporter) whose son is the perpetrator of the injury. She scolds the communist mother calling herÖvarious names and points out how their two sides cannot coalesce. So the ideological and physical battle between the two sides is tearing the Korean population apart. Of course it is and I have no problem with a film showing that, I only felt that the scene was plagued by a heavy handedness that I disliked. Thatís only one example. There are bits of dialogue that felt forced as well. A woman shaman who performs exorcisms for the deceased is approached by the moderate character (the same I mentioned above) and she explains how her practice  is in fact a celebration of life for the dead, or to honour life for the dead, or something like thatÖwhatever. This scene takes place only hours after the Korean War as we know has begun so the moderate character replies something like ĎA celebration for the dead? Youíll have a lot to do.í I get it, but I just couldnít help but feel like such dialogue was too Ďon the noseí for me. I wonít go into more examples of scenes or dialogue which underperformed in my opinion, but there was a good handful of them.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/34q028p.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2h3zp53.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/2u5yskl.jpg)

I wasnít too impressed with the filmís attempt at helping the viewer follow the unravelling of events. Dates and brief snippets of major events, such as a takeover or a new government bill, appear at the bottom of the screen (at the top of the screen if you watch it with English subtitles) very often and very rapidly. Sometimes the news flash merits our attention, but other times less so. Even for someone who was read a few books on the subject and wrote some papers, I had a hard time following all of them. City names are tossed around in these news flashes like hot cakes and I lost interest in them quickly. The real weakness in this tactic lies in the strategy of providing the viewer with as much information as possible to understand everything that is going on and possibly affecting this town. I can understand the need to provide some context, Iím all for that, but because the story of the film spans a lengthy time period, the filmmakers thought it wise to tell the audience absolutely everything. The film even cuts to several 9 or 10 second scenes sometimes showing the consequences of the content in the news flashes and I was never sure we really needed to see them. The apex of all this exposition arrives when the moderate character takes the time to fully explain what led to the countryís current situation to a visitor in his home. ĎShow me, donít tell meí is what Matty often says. In the context of this film, boy did I have that thought in mind.  Had the film focussed solely on the stories of the central characters, to have a character driven plot within the context of the Korean War, I think the movie would have been better.

Having said that, I did admire the cinematography. I was privileged enough to watch the film on dvd and it is really well filmed. Shot compositions, camera movements and angles, lighting, all of it was pleasurable to the eye. Whether in an urban environment or in the Taebaek mountains themselves, the movie had a confident visual sense that kept many of the locations fresh and interesting to look at. There is nothing too fancy going on here, but the director, cinematographer and dp come together to give the viewer a sharp looking film.

Despite some fine performances and a surprisingly sharp visual sense, The Taebaek Mountains left me disappointed to say the least. It has its moments, there is no doubt about it. This is by no means an awful film, some things work quite well (acting, cinematography), but others fall well short of what I was hoping for, especially in a Korean War film (mainly, the writing).


Down the Drain

I take it some of you are aware of, or have even experienced situations when Murphyís law was hanging down on you. For the unaware, Murphyís law dictates that whatever can go wrong will indeed go wrong. In Yaguchiís  Down the Drain, whatever can go wrong for the young Junco (Saori Serikawa) does indeed go horribly, horribly wrong, and consistently so.

Underperforming at school with and seeing her hopes of entering college flounder before her very eyes, Juncoís friend lends her a bus pass for her to visit her grandmother. Once on board however, a ticket officer discovers that the pass is not hers (Iím not sure how that works in Japan, but I ran with the idea anyways) and asks her to come with him to a police station. Mistake number one. When the police are distracted, Junco makes a dash for it. Mistake number two. And so begins a long, long few days or so for our unlucky heroine.  A ruptured relationship with a boyfriend, a deceased grandmother, her former clique from school turning on her, a car accident, house break-ins, rapeÖ things go really downhill.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/2lj47kl.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/ftgeg9.jpg)
(http://i41.tinypic.com/27wy7tc.jpg)

Before any of you begin to think that this sounds like just a silly comedy, allow me to say two things. The first is that yes, the film is silly just by the nature of its plot. However, Down the Drain succeeds in juggling the comedic and darker aspects of the storyline. There are indeed some zany moments that stretch beyond believability, but Down the Drain also makes sure to preserve a certain tone which fits the context of the character. Junco is, like many teenagers do, experiencing a difficult period of adolescence. Her grades arenít the best, there is the pressure of a college future, boyfriend issues, and she is feeling a sense of alienation from her family. Rather than take those elements and make fun of them, a trap that other comedies would easily fall into, the film uses them to create a black comedy. Her emotional and psychological state thus becomes the inspiration for events that at times offer some hope and at other times test her resilience. I wouldnít want to make the argument that the film makes genuine attempts at being profound and thought provoking, but I nonetheless had the impression that it was making effective use of Juncoís adolescent problems, while still keeping things rather wild at times. I fear that Iím not explaining this well at all, but hopefully anybody willing to watch the film despite my horrendous argument for its quality will understand what it is that Iím trying to get at.

For the record, there are no cute laughs to be found here. As I mentioned above, this is a black comedy. The comedic quality of the movie resides not only in the absurd nature of the events that transpire but also in the dialogue. There are some brutal lines in the film, but I found myself unleashing some belly laughs for several of them. Early in the film the viewer is privy to Juncoís boyfriendís thoughts for a brief a moment as he mulls over her many quirks. He describes how she enters a trance like state when working on mathematical problems, how numbers in general seem to have potent effect on her, which at times causes her to drool. It is almost as if Ďnumbers make her come.í (actual quote). Now, some of you might not find that funny at all and I can understand that. However, in the context of the film, with this absurd, weird and dark tone set up already, I thought that was pretty funny.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/nbyy51.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/260q5v5.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2jfaque.jpg)

Saori Serikawa is quite likable in the starring role. While she may not be given that much to do seeing as how a lot happens to her rather than her doing things, I thought she was quite likable. Through it all I did support her in this mess of an adventure. The most memorable character however is a sexy and witty homeless women who, in truth, isnít really homeless at all since she sneaks into peoples homes while they are away. How Junco gets into this mess I wonít divulge so not to spoil the fun, but that entire sequence is oddly entertaining. The character returns later in what is easily the movieís most controversial scenes. I havenít seen the recent Seth Rogen comedy Observe and Report, but I am aware of the scene that many moviegoers are complaining about. There is, I would argue, a similar scene in Down the Drain. While the act itself is not funny (as pathetic as I can be at times, I do retain certain minimal standards), I must admit that the before and after scenes are indeed pretty funny. Iíve probably lost a significant amount of credibility with that confession alone, so Iíll make this short and escape with my skin intact.


Down the Drain
is not one of the funniest films Iíve ever seen, but I did find entertainment its is dark tone and strange sense of comedy. I liked the main character of Junco and understood her plight, the actress playing her was strong. Several supporting characters, most notably the homeless woman, were fun to have around. All in all, when a comedy works, I personally find it difficult to pinpoint major complaints. The film simply tapped into my own weird sense of humour.


In what I consider an upset given my propensity to appreciate historical dramas, I'm allowing Down the Drain a passage into the second round instead of The Taebaek Mountains.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 19, 2009, 10:04:09 PM
Nice verdict edgar.

Kwon-taek Im hasn't been doing very well in this bracket, has he? This heavy-handedness you refer to was definitely a problem with the Kwon-Taek Im film I had for a matchup as well. Down the Drain sounds intriguing.


Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 19, 2009, 10:08:51 PM
Which Kwon-taek Im film did you review?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 19, 2009, 10:12:55 PM
The General's Son
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 19, 2009, 10:33:55 PM
The General's Son

Oh yeah, the 'I won't have sex with a woman whose husband is in jail' movie. This Kwon-taek Im guy seems to pick interesting topics but doesn't posess any natural storytelling instincts. He makes good subjects boring.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 19, 2009, 11:37:10 PM
I'm still a little wary of Down the Drain after my disappointing experience (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg225667#msg225667) with Yaguchi's My Secret Cache, but you do make it sound quite a bit better.  As for Taebaek Mountains, your write-up matches my own expectations from the movie just from skimming through the DVD.  It'll be interesting to see how Im's other films fair in round one.  Sopyonje is supposed to be his masterpiece, I think, but it has yet to be matched up.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 19, 2009, 11:41:10 PM
Takeshi Kitano seems to be a one man wrecking crew in this bracket.

And I have Getting Any? vs. God of Gamblers 2.   Will the streak continue?  Find out soon.

I can't wait for your season to wrap up!

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on April 20, 2009, 01:24:00 AM
Takeshi Kitano seems to be a one man wrecking crew in this bracket.

And I have Getting Any? vs. God of Gamblers 2.   Will the streak continue?  Find out soon.

I can't wait for your season to wrap up!
The season wraps this week, but I think my Goodfellas vs. Glengarry Glen Ross verdict in the other bracket needs to come out first.  I hope to fulfill my duties with this bracket at the start of May.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 20, 2009, 12:40:09 PM
I'm still a little wary of Down the Drain after my disappointing experience (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg225667#msg225667) with Yaguchi's My Secret Cache, but you do make it sound quite a bit better.  As for Taebaek Mountains, your write-up matches my own expectations from the movie just from skimming through the DVD.  It'll be interesting to see how Im's other films fair in round one.  Sopyonje is supposed to be his masterpiece, I think, but it has yet to be matched up.

pixote

As a black comedy, Down the Drain probably won't be a movie that has people laughing out loud from start to finish. I don't think a lot of dark comedies do that anyways. There were indeed moments that I found quite funny, but overall I was simply having fun watching this bizarre chain of events afflict the character of Junco. By their very nature dark comedies aren't for just anyone.


Taebaek Mountains
was needlessly long. It's funny how most directors who make war films have this idea that the movie needs to be over 2 1/2 horurs long. Sometimes the story deserves that kind of running length, other times not at all. Taebaek Mountains commits too many of the same mistakes that 'message movies' do. It was really kind of you to help me out to obtain a good copy, but unfortunately it really wasn't worth it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 20, 2009, 12:46:41 PM
Would've been nice to have a Korean War story in the mix somewhere. Too bad it wasn't so good.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 27, 2009, 12:52:34 PM
*Forgive the spelling mistakes. I'll come back later to correct them*

Hakuchi (1999, Macoto Tezuka) against Nostalgia for the Countryside (1995, Nhat Minh Dang)


Hakuchi


Based on the novel of the same name from author Sakaguchi, Hakuchi is set in an undefined time period (although it is safe to assume that is more or less contemporary) and during an undefined war that is ravaging Japan. The country is frequently bombed, with several city quarters looking like what Berlin did at the end of WII. Essentially, it is an alternate universe, a dystopia if you will.

A young television show assistant director named Izawa (Tadanobu Asano from Ichi fame) is experiencing a personal crisis. He has no woman, the show he works for at the media center, a very Tower of Babel-esque structure that oversees far off into the distance, is nothing but pop culture dreck mixed with some nationalistic propaganda for good measure. He is abused by his immediate superior as well as by the frequent guest star on the show, a late teen pop sensation named Ginga (Reika Hashimoto) , supposedly just a stage name. Izawa lives in a poor neighbourhood, and although his downstairs neighbours are alright, it is quickly established that his neck of the woods is filled with oddball characters.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/219vw5u.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2lvn7n.jpg)
(http://i40.tinypic.com/5dw2mv.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/nx5ok9.jpg)

Quiet, shy and battling a personal struggle with his emotions and deepest innermost thoughts, he comes harrowingly close to committing suicide on multiple occasions. In his youth he would make short films with an 8mm camera, which he still owns, but there is currently little hope for either his artistic strengths of ever expanding, or to find general comfort and solace. As fate would have it, one day the Ďslowí wife of the literally insane next door neighbour flees her home and takes refuge in Izawaís closet. Maybe, just maybe, it is with this Ďidiot womaní (hence the title of the film, Hakuchi) that Izawa will find a glimmer of light in his life.

About half way through the running time of Hakuchi, a thought struck me. It came quickly and made me pause the film for a moment. It occurred to me that this movie was very much like the much-maligned Southland Tales. Dystopian future, the country at the doorstep of destruction, crazy settings and characters, some music videos, etc. However, while I was never able to really get into Southland Tales, I found myself liking Hakuchi quite a bit. It would be difficult to pinpoint one argument, or one theme that the movie attempts to develop. Itís a mish mash of many ideas, themes and arguments, but rather than making a mess of things, which I felt Southland Tales unfortunately did, I think Hakuchi survives the experiment, maybe not unscathed, but in good shape nonetheless. There is an existential element to the story that lends itself well to cinematic adaptation. I read that the novel itself is filled with intriguing elements of existentialism, which can always pose problems when the time comes to create a filmic translation.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/doxik3.jpg)
(http://i40.tinypic.com/2ii7gc0.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/2nc2f6c.jpg)
(http://i39.tinypic.com/xddh1.jpg)

I think what director Tezuka opts to do here is let, for the most part, the visual guide the experience. There is dialogue, some of it rather good, some of which rings quite false, but from beginning to end I felt the visual style of the film was impressive and very immersive. I couldnít possibly tell you what the budget on the film was, but I had the impression that it couldnít have been overwhelming. There are simple tricks at works here. Lighting and its colour, which consequently dictates what the shadowing in a shot will be like. Camera angles, line of vision, panoramic shots, makeup. Many of these elementary visual hallmarks of filmmaking are used to maximum effect here. In fact, when a rare shot that does not look good rears its ugly head, it usually has computer generated imagery in it. Fear not, Iím not one of those Ďoh god, CGI is so terribleí movie buffs, but of all the visual enhancement tools a film can use, that one always strikes me the most when used improperly. Notwithstanding that factor, Tezuka brings a confident visual tone to the film that really carries a lot of the load.

The characters themselves, particularly the two most important ones, Izawa and the Ďidiot womaní are a nice fit. Izawa doesnít say much in the film quite frankly, but that never bothered me a whole lot. After all, the story doesnít take place during his transition of hope to despair. Instead, as the film opens, he already finds himself in a state of depression. He cannot relate to this decadent society and therefore has little to say anyways. Itís in his actions with the idiot woman that we see the lighter side of him emerge. And what a character to find happiness withÖthis slow, incompetent woman. Sheís an oddity, but when she even rejects her own household and finds herself alone and Ďhatedí as she claims at one point, it is then that these two characters find a fit for each other. Peanut butter and bread before anybody tried for the first time. Itís a strange relationship, with many scenes occurring in what I think were dreams, but there is an underlying sweetness to it. I like it when a movieÖmaybe not pushes the envelope, but puts a twist on the old romance angle. Itís a very understated performance from Asano and one could argue that he practically doesnít do anything at all, but I wouldnít go that far and in fact thought he fit the role nicely.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/20pf3he.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/99jg5y.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/10zbuqf.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/5v3uoj.jpg)

Not all the characters are enjoyable unfortunately. The bloke who I presume is the producer of the show is very much a caricature. Dressed and behaving practically like a general, I felt many of the scenes involving him were too on the nose (interestingly, Iím noticing that a lot of the films Iíve watched in this bracket, when trying to go for something Ďpoliticalí, suffered this same fate). The first few minutes of his appearance ere amusing, but he grew tiresome after a short while. The other character that needs mention is Ginga, the cranky pop star. She is the princess, the one audiences supposedly look up to and admire (no evidence of this is ever given, which I kind of liked in fact). Her song are either pathetic propaganda or simply pathetic pop songs. Iíd love to insert a Hanna Montana joke but, honest to god, Iíve never heard one so that will have to wait for another battle. The movie makes her something of an double-edged sword. On the surface she is practically Satanís pawn, but backstage she behaves with this odd mixture of kindness and selfishness. The film eventually offers a monologue scene in which she reveals the truth behind her bitchy faÁade. Iím not sure I completely bought it however. Even a full day after watching the movie Iím not entirely convinced the film earned that moment.

At basically 2 Ĺ hours long, there is plenty to dissect and discuss (there are references to a Japanses emperor and such), but I shall refrain from continuing. A) this is getting long and b) unlike a verdict in the U.S. bracket, itís safe to suspect that most of you havenít seen the film, so why continue giving things away? Suffice to say that Hakuchi, while not a masterpiece by any stretch of the definition, is certainly a well crafted movie overall and one that has its fair share of visually stimulating and thought-provoking moments. A few loose screws, but overall a neat movie.





Nostalgia for the Countryside


From an alternate universe inhabited by a crazy cast of characters, to a down to earth film about an uncomfortable love triangle that transpires in the Vietnamese countryside.

In a very small, quaint farming and agricultural village lives the 17 year old Nham and much of his extended family. The community is for the most part kind and closely knit. His mother for instance has never even left the boundaries of the village during her entire life!

Life is pretty hard since the working hours are long, but there are deeper, more emotional impacts afflicting these characters. Nham is a bit of a dreamer who enjoys writing, most notably poetry, but never finished school and wonders what the future has in store for him. His sister-in-law Ngu is anxious to receive of her husband (Nhamís older brother) who has gone away to earn some money. In all their married life, Nguís husband has only shown up a to the village a few times. She and Nham are particularly close and keep each other company at home and in the fields. Things become complicated one day when Nhamís slightly older and beautiful Quyen cousin returns to the village after many years of working and living abroad. She has returned to see her family and friends again and, for all intents and purposes, to satisfy her nostalgia for the Vietnamese countryside where she grew up. After so much time with her husband away, is it clear that Ngu has begun to take a certain liking to Nham, but the latter clearly has his eyes set on Quyen, who arrives with a different fashion sense, different values and different experiences, not to mention a great smile.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2lueujp.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/16kuoo.jpg)
(http://i44.tinypic.com/1zdupgk.jpg)
(http://i43.tinypic.com/2dvu4yc.jpg)

To put in bluntly, this movie is quiet. It is calm, it takes its time to soak up many things for there are many things the viewer can take away and appreciate, whether they be on a more surface level or hidden thematic cues. Nham himself is an intriguing character. As Iíve mentioned earlier, he left school at an early age in order to assist his mother with the family business of agricultural. He has spent almost his entire life in this small village and is a diligent dedicated worker, but he finds his world changed just a little bit with the arrival of Quyen. What I liked about this storyline was that the film never attempted to drive home some kind of Ďcountry boy must choose between the country with family or the big city with the girlí plot. Or at least if it did I felt it was handled in rather subtle and mature fashion. There are many little, quiet moments of awakening for Nham, who I believe is at once infatuated but also just interested in Quyen. She is beautiful, but she is also so different. He opens up a little to her, but never fully. Quyen in return appreciates Nhamís company and enjoys following him around. We donít know if she unequivocally has started to really like him, but it is clear she fancies Nham to a certain degree. Itís all underplayed. Nobody gives in to great moments of passion, thus infusing the film with some added melodrama. Itís a case in where each character knows their own place in the world and where they belong, but at the same time are enjoying these new special encounters (or rekindled encounters I guess since Nham and Quyen had, as the movie points out, known each other as children). The role of the bitter character goes to Ngu, who is fed with rumours that her absentee husband has abandoned her anyways. Add to that the Nham is a fine young man himself and we have the making of a love triangle, but one that always plays itself delicately, as if beneath the surface. The hints are all over the place that a love triangle is building up, but as I mentioned before, nothing ever explodes. I felt that was a very respectful decision by writer/director Dang towards his characters. He understands what the stakes are and, given the social context of the characters, knows what buttons to push and how.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/o0bcjo.jpg)
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2i7m0.jpg)
(http://i39.tinypic.com/2hpkkcm.jpg)
(http://i42.tinypic.com/zkg9bs.jpg)

There are a slew of other great moments involving other characters such as Nhamís uncle, his little sister who wants to partake in the schoolís beauty contest and his mother. Many of these characters are easy to identify with. Every character here feels like he or she is based in reality, which I liked very much.

From a technical standpoint, both the visuals and the score are excellent. Dang captures the potential beauty of the North Vietnamese countryside aptly. Sometimes itís muddy, other times itís cloudy, but it always looks good in this film. Coupled with the score, which in my opinion is very soft, sweet and romantic, I imagine one could argue that Nostalgia for the Countryside, while portraying realistic characters, also offers a bit of a romantic vision of work and life in general in the agricultural fields. Maybe, maybe not. The movie, via the panoramic and naturally lighted shots as well as the beautiful score, certainly makes working in the fields look like an okay experience to me. Then again, we see characters sweat, we see them tired, we seem them work overtime in the evening, we see them having to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to make a trip to the city market so they can sell off their produce. I felt there was a fine balance between the romantic vision and the perhaps more difficult, realistic vision of life in the countryside. A little of influence from Days of Heaven maybe?...

(http://i41.tinypic.com/21edt9s.jpg)
(http://i44.tinypic.com/9tjnuh.jpg)

If I were to fault the film on one account, it would be with regards to the event that propels the story into the final act. I wonít give it away (which may weaken my argument) and Iím not arguing that it is impossible either, only that, after so many natural, realistic scenes, this one felt forced. Director Dang wasnít entirely sure of where to go with his story and therefore came up with this Ďeventí that Iím just not sure the movie needed. Itís something that can happen, I simply didnít understand why this story, at that particular moment, required it. Itís a shame because I feel the final 20 minutes or so arenít as good as what came before because of that.

All in all, Nostalgia for the Countryside is a very nicely put together film with engaging characters and superb visuals. If it werenít for the final 20 minutes, this could have been my favourite film of the bracket so far (which is still Sleeping Man).

This matchup feels a bit like the one I had a few weeks ago which pitted Spring and Chaos against The Power Kangwon Province. I enjoyed both films and felt bad about kicking one of them out, but I felt somewhat confident that pixote would perhaps put Spring and Chaos back into the bracket after a resurrection viewing, and thus I gave the win to Kangwon. Such a dilemma faces me once more. I liked both. Which one do I really, absolutely want in the next round and which one do I think deserves to be there, but Iíll take a gamble with and leave it to pixote?

Iím giving Nostalgia for the Countryside a golden ticket into round 2. pixote, you get to watch Hakuchi and tell us what you think next.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on April 27, 2009, 01:09:59 PM
Wow, lovely writeups edgar! Are some of those screenshots from Hakuchi dream sequences? Or maybe they're from that TV channel he works for? Both films sound so good. I don't think I've ever watched a film from Vietnam. Nicely done.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on April 27, 2009, 01:11:57 PM
I don't think I've ever watched a film from Vietnam. Nicely done.

I'm convinced Nostalgia for the Countryside is a near-masterpiece, just from fast-fowarding through the first half looking for screenshots.

Can't wait to read this verdict later.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on April 27, 2009, 03:51:25 PM
Great read as usual, edgar! Both movies look and sound really intriguing. Hakuchi sounds like an interesting movie and the screenshots make it look like a fun watch, but your writeup definitely made me more anxious to catch up with Nostalgia for the Countryside (I like understated!). Especially after the praise of it nearly being your favorite movie in the bracket so far.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on April 27, 2009, 10:15:45 PM
Wow, lovely writeups edgar! Are some of those screenshots from Hakuchi dream sequences? Or maybe they're from that TV channel he works for? Both films sound so good. I don't think I've ever watched a film from Vietnam. Nicely done.

I can't say. Not because I don't know, but because I'd be giving too much away.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on April 28, 2009, 07:07:31 AM
I look forward to round 2, when I can give reviews like this one a second read having just seen the film.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on April 28, 2009, 08:55:36 AM
I look forward to round 2, when I can give reviews like this one a second read having just seen the film.

But great work, Edgar. Both films sound great and look stunning.

I should probably watch more 90s Asian films sometime...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 03, 2009, 05:47:11 PM
Talking Head vs. No. 3

(http://i.imgur.com/a3JzPtp.jpg)  (http://i.imgur.com/BkY3iPl.jpg)

Going by the cover I thought Talking Heads was going to be an animated film. It's animated alright, but not in the hand-drawn sense. Let me show you what I mean.

(http://i.imgur.com/32NLGKL.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/9IgpiWQ.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/ljQbUHl.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/bUuFb8n.jpg)
(http://hhttp://i.imgur.com/Zd887Kz.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/HGIrN5w.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/HDgFg6A.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/ZEzDiKJ.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/GzdaJcx.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/cqJpeF6.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/6et1YiV.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/wxrQ6Bt.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/kyldkMc.jpg) (http://i.imgur.com/DW7nRhZ.jpg)

This is Dogville meets Synecdoche meets My Winnipeg. It's an exploration of film making history and philosophies. The great thing about philosophy is that it transcends any one specific topic. It's why you'll find Hockey Players reading The Art of War, or Wall Street traders reading natural history books. Some principals and ideas are bigger than the subject that spawned them.

Of course for a layperson to extract a general truth out of a specific subject will require a basic understanding of the subject in question. References to people, places and events will need to be contextualized so one can identify the similarities to their own reality. This is where I got hung up with Talking Head (and Synecdoche probably). It's about as esoteric a film as I've ever seen.

It's not the type of movie that you can enjoy at a superficial level. The plot is simply a device to get from one sub-topic to the next. I should also mention that there were times that the subtitles moved along at a blistering speed. Not that they would've done me any good had I had a chance to read them.

All in all I got almost nothing out of this one. And yet, it's moving on to the second round of this bracket. For one thing I feel that somebody could find a lot to like here (I'm sure that some of you are curious already), and secondly No. 3 is terrible.

No.3 is supposed to be a comedy, but you could've fooled me. Maybe it's satirical and I'm just not getting it, I don't know. I couldn't make sense of this movie either way. I had no idea what was going on for the first 15 minutes. I think it's some Korean Goodfellas ripoff or something. Anyways, it was lousy. I'm sorry you're going to have to watch this pixote.  :)

Talking Head wins.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on May 03, 2009, 05:59:13 PM
Oh god, I just watched The Holy Mountain today, and Talking Heads sounds like the same kind of film. I am not touching this thing.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 03, 2009, 06:00:36 PM
Haha, I had Holy Mountain in my queue, but then I watched El Topo and immediately removed it. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on May 03, 2009, 06:10:58 PM
Those screenshots are batshit crazy but I admit to being very intrigued by Talking Head :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on May 04, 2009, 11:34:31 AM
Those screenshots are batshit crazy but I admit to being very intrigued by Talking Head :).

I couldn't have said it better myself. :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 04, 2009, 12:38:14 PM
Those screenshots are batshit crazy but I admit to being very intrigued by Talking Head :).

I couldn't have said it better myself. :D

I can't wait to hear somebody else's take on this one. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on May 09, 2009, 05:24:13 PM
Wong Fei Hung (Once Upon A Time In China, 1991)

I wish I knew that the director of Seven Swords was the man behind Once Upon A Time In China, because then I wouldn't have bothered to pick it for a match-up. Once Upon A Time In China is from a genre that has produced very few movies that I feel are great, the Asian martial arts epic. Right off the bat my biggest problem with this genre comes into play, action sequences that don't feel for a second like they are tactile or real. I never felt like Jet Li was in any danger, nor did I feel his comrades had to worry about anything. If that is the case then it falls on the director to make me care in some other way, to make the action scenes dramatic. Hark Tsui never does this and because of that I never felt any connection or reality in the action scenes.

Sometimes action movies can present a good story to go alongside the action, that was not the case with Once Upon A Time In China. The story was meaningless and all kinds of ridiculously bad. The way the movie is framed I never felt any connection to the story or the characters, I had trouble maintaining any sort of interest in what I was seeing. Even the moments when the movie was doing something right, such as a great early shot in the rain, were hindered by my lack of interest in what I was seeing.

So yeah, I was very harsh on Once Upon A Time in China, but that's what happens when I watch a bloated, heavy handed action epic. Will the other movie, White Badge, move on? You'll have to come back at a later date when I post my thoughts on that movie to find out.

Ooooooh, the suspense!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on May 10, 2009, 12:12:09 AM
I smell a resurrection.  The original OUATIC deserves to last past the first round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on May 10, 2009, 12:38:31 AM
Sigh.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Bill Thompson on May 10, 2009, 09:38:43 AM
I smell a resurrection.  The original OUATIC deserves to last past the first round.

It still might, but it's really not good enough to move past the first round, it's that bloated and bad.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 18, 2009, 06:43:44 PM
The Tai Chi Master (Woo-ping Yuen, 1991) vs. Green Snake (Hark Tsui, 1993)

I'll start with Green Snake. Here's the thing about this movie, it's like a dream. It doesn't make a lick of sense, you see many bizarre things, and when it's over you think 'where on earth did that come from?' I guess where it differs from a dream is in the level of connectedness you feel. A real dream is a temporary reality into which you are fully absorbed. Green Snake is an outlandish fantasy with a shoestring budget.

Here's the plot according to wiki:
Quote
Two snake spirits have been training for many centuries to take human form and experience the love, freedom and wisdom that is supposedly only available to humans. White Snake (Joey Wong) is the more experienced one and proceeds to get engaged with local scholar Hsui Xien (Wu Hsing-Kuo), with whom she plans to have a child who would complete her passage into the mortal realm. Green Snake (Maggie Cheung) is the younger and more impulsive of the two sisters and she is not yet quite sure about the benefits of the human world. The two snakes move into their magically created house and start a successful medical practice in the town.

Their enemies are a buffoonish Taoist and an overzealous Buddhist monk (Vincent Zhao) who make various attempts to banish them from the human world. The monk thinks of himself as a keeper of the natural order of the world and is very prejudiced against spiritual beings seeking to improve themselves. He brings things to a head when he abducts White's husband from the human/spirit mixed marriage into his religious reeducation campĖstyled temple.

(http://i.imgur.com/smH3ISM.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/YotXefO.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/y5pL3qG.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/FEAXAyR.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/FccXw4s.jpg)

It's not so much unintelligible as it is hokey. Still... I'm willing to give this one credit for its fun and fantastic visuals. The giant snakes made of paper-m‚chť and monks shooting rainbows out of their foreheads may look absurd, but it's also quite amusing (at least for the first little while). I enjoyed this film in ways I wasn't intended to, so maybe it qualifies as so bad it's good. And what's more you've got the beautiful Maggie Cheung acting all sultry and seductive as some sort snake-woman demigod. Yup, there might just be something for everyone.  ;)

So it appears that yet another Hark Tsui (or Tsui Hark) film is going to bite the dust in this bracket. Sdadelus hit the nail on the head when he said "the thing with Tsui Hark is that he's totally insane.  He'll try anything, whether it works or not." Indeed  :D

_______________

The Tai Chi Master, also commonly called Twin Warriors, had me expecting pretty big things from the moment I saw the cover. Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh... that sounds good. It was.  8)

A 90's Kung Fu movie that's light on the comedy, and generous with all things fight-y. The star of the show is the action. Every fight scene is unique. A good mix of armed and unarmed combat. Each sequence bringing something new and creative to the table. Lots of what you'll see is of the gravity defying nature, and so you'll catch glimpse of the odd wire, but I had no problem overlooking that. Again, when you're having fun, who cares?

Here's 1 minute and 25 seconds of quality kung fu. (for the record I didn't watch the english dub, though now I kinda wish I did  :P)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p80ZFqKo6OM&feature=related# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p80ZFqKo6OM&feature=related#)

And most of the film is just as enjoyable. Oh yeah there's a story too. Two monks, childhood friends, grow up and go down separate paths, one good one evil. Michelle Yeoh comes into the story somewhere. Anyways, you can imagine how that ends. ;D It serves it's purpose though; the fights weren't meaningless and I felt involved.

All in all, I'm quite pleased with Tai Chi Master and happily move it on to round two.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on May 18, 2009, 06:48:02 PM
Awesome.

'Are you alright dear?'

Slap!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 18, 2009, 06:49:30 PM
So random. lol
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on May 18, 2009, 11:42:56 PM
Huh, and the Green Snake screenshots looked so irresistible. The Tai Chi Master looks like a lot of fun though. I should really try and grab a kung-fu movie for a matchup once.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 19, 2009, 09:35:39 PM
Huh, and the Green Snake screenshots looked so irresistible.

It's charming right up until you try and figure out what's going on :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on May 24, 2009, 07:18:43 PM
(http://i44.tinypic.com/2w324ux.jpg)

Keep Cool (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120543/) (Yimou Zhang, 1997)

Keep Cool is a dark comedy starring actor/director Wen Jiang (Director of Round 1 winner, In the Heat of the Sun (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg194464#msg194464)!). As the movie opens, his character (who I'll refer to as The Bookseller), is obsessed with trying to get his ex-girlfriend back. He follows her everywhere she goes, and takes absurd measures to try and get her to talk to him. It's worth nothing that his approach isn't so much how-adorable-isn't-he-sweet, but more call-the-police-psycho-stalker.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/fkqqh5.jpg)
Admittedly she does inspire stalkage.

Eventually, a somewhat shady guy named Liu Delong, who may or may not be the girl's new boyfriend, attacks The Bookseller and sends him to the hospital to teach him a lesson. The Bookseller swears revenge, and that becomes the major plot for the rest of the movie. It's also here that the remaining main character comes into the story, a man who was a bystander during the fight. The Bookseller had grabbed his bag to use as a weapon while being attacked, and in doing so destroyed the laptop computer within. At first the man is just a nag, trying to get compensation for his computer, but he inadvertently gets drawn into the bad blood between The Bookseller and Liu Delong.

As a black comedy it works pretty well, some scenes are really amusing. Much of the success should be credited to Wen Jiang's performance as the somewhat neurotic lead character, he's just really fun to watch. Unfortunately, the movie has a tendency to have scenes drag on way too long, and making the dialogue repetitive within them. I think it was going for humorous effect, but it was just an annoyance.

(http://i44.tinypic.com/r2j5ti.jpg)

Not quite half-way in, there's a scene where something interesting happens. It doesn't end! It's a simple enough scene between The Bookseller and computer-guy in a restaurant, you know the purpose of the scene beforehand, and there's no reason to expect it not to be straightforward. But it just keeps going, and going, and going, in a very organic way allowing the plot to go off in unexpected directions. The rest of the movie (save a short epilogue) plays in real-time off of this scene, and mostly in the one location. It works surprisingly well, with the chemistry between the two actors here going a long way to sell it.

The way this movie is shot is reminiscent of a previous bracket movie, Too Many Ways to Be No. 1, but not quite as extreme. It's all handheld, shot on a fairly wide-angle lens, using lots of closeups, and kept moving all the time. You adjust to it, but it's almost nauseating at first. In general, Yimou's direction is quite good, and although things get a little too ridiculous by the end, it's a fun movie.



My Sons (Musuko) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102488/) (Yoji Yamada, 1991)

This movie is separated into three chapters that encapsulate different spans of time within the story. In the first chapter, it introduces us to Tetsuo, a young man struggling his way through life in the city. He returns home to his country village for the one year anniversary of his mother's death, where we meet his father and the rest of the family that has gathered there.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/41e84.jpg)

Right off the bat something that this movie really gets right is the portrayal of this family. They've all got their separate lives now, but have traveled from their various homes to celebrate the memory of their loved one, and all the interactions just felt really genuine. The way Tetsuo plays with his nieces, the way the family sits around looking through old pictures, getting nostalgic, there's really nothing that moving about the way it's shown, but it felt so familiar to me that it was.

During this rather short first chapter, the threads of the story to follow are established. Tetsuo doesn't really know what to do with his life, he's having trouble sticking to a job, and his family kind of looks at him as a screw up. There is also discussion between his older siblings that their father, a farmer, will not be able to live alone much longer after their mother has died.

The second chapter starts not long after with Tetsuo back in the city starting a new job doing manual labor at some sort of steel plant. He has a new sense of dedication to stick to this hard work and prove his ability to make it on his own. He meets a young woman who works at one of the businesses he makes regular deliveries to, and quickly falls in love with her from afar. I hesitate to go into any more detail, but let's just say he finds out there is a barrier between them, and struggles with whether or not his fantasy of their relationship can be reconciled with the truth of the situation.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/vdfihg.jpg)

At this point I need to make it clear just how much I loved this movie. It's both fun and touching, the story is so beautifully told, calmly paced, and realistically depicted that I fell in love with the characters and slice-of-life kind of storytelling. It made me smile constantly and captured family relations in a way I could totally relate to. Another terrific surprise from the Far East bracket! :)

The third chapter switches the focus from Tetsuo to his father. At the point that it happens, I was so invested in Tetsuo's story that I was deeply disappointed in the change, but this chapter too ends up being quite beautiful. The father is visiting the city for an army reunion, and stays with his older son. During this chapter, the issue of the father living by himself comes up again, and there are some nice scenes exploring the relationship between father and daughter-in-law, but mostly it is just the image we are drawn of this old man that is most effective.

Eventually Tetsuo's story and his father's story intersect as the father visits Tetsuo's apartment. At this point I realized how brilliant it was to leave Tetsuo's story for a while and return to it fresh. I can't say more, but it's really effective. Also, by giving us such a more complete picture of the father's life the scope of the movie becomes more impressive. This is punctuated by a really beautiful final scene with the father returning to his home in the country.



Verdict

No suspense on this one, I liked Keep Cool, but I really loved Musuko. It's not perfect, but it gets so much right that the few missteps it makes are easily forgiven.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on May 24, 2009, 07:27:22 PM
Musuko sounds to be in the same vein as Nostalgia for the Countryside in terms of emotion and characters. If such is the case, then it must derserve its place in the second round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on May 24, 2009, 07:37:01 PM
You sold me on Musuko Melvil :) Real nice write ups.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on May 25, 2009, 01:24:55 PM
Thanks, smirnoff!

edgar, I'll have to try and grab Nostalgia for the Countryside in the next round and let you know. ;D I will definitely be championing Musuko in the second round and beyond, it's right up there with some of my other favorite discoveries in this bracket.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on June 08, 2009, 08:34:43 PM
Childhood Days/Shonen jidai (1990, Masahiro Shinoda)

This is easy.
(http://i42.tinypic.com/168hnhx.png)
If above screenshot looks appealing to you, you'll probably like this film.
Yes, the yellow/greenish look (that's not really sepia, is it?) is there almost throughout the film and it perfectly supports the feeling of nostalgia that runs through this picture. The cinematography here is really gorgeous with great framing, lots of wideshots, long takes and little overall movement. And just when I was growing tired of the color scheme, we switch to this:
(http://i39.tinypic.com/jgsb4y.png)
Nice.
The film pretty much delivers on the the title. It follows the story of fifth-grader Shinji, who in 1944 is evacuated from Tokyo and sent to the rural countryside where he is living with his mother's relatives until after the war. Shinji initially befriends the class bully Takeshi but later finds himself between battlefronts when Takeshi is challenged by the recovering class captain Futoshi.
I like how war provides so much of the background for the events in this film yet seldom is addressed or politicized. It comes up now and then but it's never debated. There is a scene where the class attends a screening of Japanese propaganda films and all of them start laughing at the Duck and Cover sequences. To them, war is something abstract that is taking place somewhere else and we get to take up their POV.

I was a bit surprised to see that an alternate title for this film reads 'Takeshi: Childhood Days', but I guess that makes sense too. Shinji' as the protagonist is a pretty passive character and it's his more or less secret friendship with Takeshi and their shared interest in literature that's keeps him from total isolation. Takeshi is maybe the more interesting character study here, him being the character that changes and all.
Nevertheless, Childhood Days covers a lot more ground: war, class struggle, isolation, city vs. countryside, family, friendship, loyalty, betrayal - pretty much everything I've come to associate with Japanese cinema.
At times I wish the acting were a little better and it never really goes anywhere unexpected but who cares - I was enjoying a pretty immersive trip down someone else's memory lane.

A Petal/Ggotip (1996, Sun-Woo Jang)

So this film opens with a song playing over what I presume is archival footage of the 1980 Gwangju uprising.
(http://i41.tinypic.com/2i11piu.png)
After that, we quickly cut to this brooding guy riding on a train
(http://i41.tinypic.com/2znraqx.png)
and then move over to a young girl singing the same song somewhere in the wilderness on a bright and sunny day.
(http://i41.tinypic.com/16sbbq.png)
Finally we see the girl (looking a mess now) meeting a savage looking guy who then proceeds to rape her and take her to his home.
(http://i43.tinypic.com/2q8rlex.png)
That's five minutes into the film and you've basically seen everything. The film is gonna intercut all these events for the remaining 85 min, attempting to tell the story of the young girl who, traumatized by the loss of her family in the massacre, is searching for her long dead brother who she believes to have found in the savage steelworker from the opening scenes. While she stays with him, she's dreaming or remembering both her life before the massacre (scene of her singing, with her brother) and the massacre itself. The man on the train is part of a search party following her trail.
Two things came to mind while watching: the first is last year's Waltz with Bashir. Both films follow the same basic premise of a person's journey both in the real world as well as their own mind at whose end a traumatic memory is revealed (a massacre in both cases). Both films also use trippy animation.
(http://i43.tinypic.com/291nc49.png)
The other one is Oliver Stone, just because I think he would be proud of the angry, confusing, messy and disturbingly violent trip that is A Petal. Granted, the pace is not quite as rapid but it's all just as subjective and manipulative (if you like that word) as in Stone's heyday.
It's a pretty tough watch but I think one that's well worth it. Jang doesn't manage to make it all work, there are scenes where he attempts to provide political perspective that just come off as clumsy. There is also a vision in which a ghostly reflection in a window blames the girl for the death of her mother, which is neither subtle nor particulary inventive, considering the film also (under)uses far more impressive animation sequences to visualize her state of mind.
The plotline of the curiously anonymous search party serves as something of a frame narrative but the scenes are never really involving and their implementation into the film's timeline is a bit akward. The ending is kind of nice though.
The emotional weight of the story lies on Lee Jung-hyun's shoulders and her performance is the main reason to watch this movie. She probably resorts to crazy-mode too often and the editing helps a lot but I'm pretty sure Jang breaks my heart every time he cuts to this:
(http://i39.tinypic.com/j5fthi.png)

Verdict: I liked both and while I think both should go through to the next round, apparently I'm going with the one that seems more important. I believe there are more artistic missteps in Petal but at it's best, it's also the more engrossing film.

One more thing: whoever made the subtitles for Petal must have had a pretty twisted mind. Expressions like 'Dame it!', 'time was frying' or a lynch mob shouting 'Life him!' provided some welcomed, if unintentional comedy.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 09, 2009, 12:20:34 AM
Nice writeup Tequila, but you made me want to see Childhood Days go through. :P Sounds like a nice movie. A Petal doesn't sound as appealing, but maybe it needs to be seen to be understood.

Do you think Childhood Days is strong enough to merit resurrection?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on June 09, 2009, 12:49:04 AM
Nice writeup Tequila, but you made me want to see Childhood Days go through. :P Sounds like a nice movie. A Petal doesn't sound as appealing, but maybe it needs to be seen to be understood.

I had that exact same reaction, partly just because of the pretty, pretty screenshots.

Do you think Childhood Days is strong enough to merit resurrection?

I bet he does: "I liked both and while I think both should go through to the next round..."  :)

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on June 09, 2009, 06:14:23 AM
i figured Childhood nostalgia would go down nice with pixote :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on June 09, 2009, 06:17:40 AM
i figured Childhood nostalgia would go down nice with pixote :)
Yeah, I'll try to watch it the same weekend as this (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1046173/).

Truth be told, I've never seen a single episode (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086719/), but knowing is just half the battle.

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 09, 2009, 07:15:22 AM
Real nice write up. A Petal sure sounds bizarre. I'll be curious to see where it goes from here.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on June 10, 2009, 01:34:51 PM
So another film with some sexual deviancy moves to the next round. This bracket has been quite the success so far.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on June 10, 2009, 09:15:40 PM
Oh yeah, and that's only the first five minutes.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 13, 2009, 07:44:52 PM
(http://i41.tinypic.com/20gnssk.jpg)

Dangan Runner (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116015/) (Sabu, 1996)

I'm not sure what to make of this movie. It starts out following this guy that is planning a bank robbery, showing him going through the motions of each step to get things timed perfectly. Soon, he is ready to do it for real, but things go wrong almost immediately (don't they always!). Forgetting a key item for the robbery, he stops in at a convienance store to buy a replacement. But not so fast! Our incompetent crook doesn't have his wallet on him. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and he attempts to shoplift the item in question, but is caught by the attendant. He flees, and the attendant, a guy who knows how to hold a grudge (did I mention he gets shot in the arm?), follows.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/dq6lhe.jpg)

The rest of the movie is structured around the ensuing footrace, which comes to involve a third man, and lasts from about 9 a.m. to the early hours of the next morning. Much of it is in flashbacks giving backstory on the three men, but there's also side stories involving two clans of yakuza and a group of police officers. The structure leads towards the inevitable showdown between all the parties.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/taq9fk.jpg)

As things go on, the movie gets more and more ridiculous. The story contains comedy to be sure, but I'll be damned if I can tell where it stops being intentional comedy and just becomes genuinely awful. The story is uninspired bordering on bad, and only occasionally breaks through to so bad it's good. The moments of sheer stupidity become the main source of entertainment, and while there are many, they aren't frequent enough for me to recommend it on those grounds.

(http://i41.tinypic.com/np5t0y.jpg)

I'm not sure how hard I should be on this movie, because it's intentions really confound me. If it wants to be taken seriously then the ridiculous and absurdly random elements are completely out of place. If it wants to be a jokey stupid comedy then its attempt at storytelling is horribly misguided. Either way, I wouldn't rate it too highly.



Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107382/) (Noboru Ishiguro & Keizo Shimizu, 1993)

Overture to a New War has a familiar setting, a galactic war between two powers, the Empire and the Alliance, and all the futuristic implications of such an endeavor. The story follows a handful of characters on both sides of the war, each headed up by a young military leader.

A few curiosities; The politics of the situation are never touched on, so we really don't know how the division in power came about or why. Along the same lines, we aren't given any reason to see either of them as particularly evil. Equal time is spent with the characters on both sides, and we're allowed to get to know them and see their humanity outside of the military before going into battle.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2002tr7.jpg)

The first half of the movie introduces the characters on leave, and is heavy on the relationships and backstory. Admirably, it's effortlessly communicated through implication rather than exposition. The second half of the movie revolves around a battle that eventually pits our main characters from both sides against each other. It's a bit odd that neither of them can be thought of as the villain, but it handles the idea very well. Villainy doesn't seem to have any place in this story (except perhaps for the guys who are shown to be pulling the strings of the war, but it's not a focus), it is more interested in showing the personal journeys of the characters impartially, even when they're in conflict.

(http://i42.tinypic.com/2cgix03.jpg)

The battle that comprises the last act of the movie is pretty cool, and I really enjoyed that the excitement of the fight is approached from a tactical perspective, allowing us to remain invested in our main characters as more of a personal battle of the wits.

Some people might take issue with there not being a very solid conclusion to the story. It resolves the immediate events, but that's about it. In fact, during the credits there are short scenes that set up the next part of the story. This could be considered a detriment to the movie, but I was pretty satisfied with how it was handled. Actually, I don't think it could have ended any other way without drastically altering the whole approach of the story. It makes me really interested in checking out the full anime series, but if I never do I would still be happy with the movie on its own.

(http://i40.tinypic.com/2vuefk7.jpg)

Also, terrific use of classical music!



Verdict

Unless you enjoy watching lots and lots of running, Dangan Runner doesn't have a lot to offer. Overture to a New War is another awesome bracket discovery for me, and moves on with ease.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 14, 2009, 12:15:26 AM
I'm happy to see Galactic Heroes is going to be around next round, because it sounds fascinating. Enjoyed the write up.

And lol at the nose mask.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on June 14, 2009, 08:49:54 AM
Nice verdict, Melvil. Galactic Heroes sounds pretty amazing. But something about a night-long foot race with flashbacks also sounds mighty intriguing to me :).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 14, 2009, 11:52:33 AM
Thanks, smirnoff and worm!

The nose mask thing was a moment that actually read clearly as a joke and worked as such. Those moments were few. ;) I will be very interested in hearing a second opinion on this movie though.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on June 14, 2009, 01:40:44 PM
Galactic Heroes sounds great. Nice choice.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 15, 2009, 01:21:09 PM
A preliminary tally suggests that Overture to a New War may be in my top 5 of the bracket so far (out of the 24 I've watched).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on June 15, 2009, 01:25:47 PM
Good job getting me interesting in an animated movie whose style (going by the screenshots) doesn't appeal to me at all.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 15, 2009, 01:42:22 PM
The style is pretty standard anime fare (but the unoffensive kind!), it's more than serviceable but not too noteworthy. The strength is in how the story is told. For instance, there's these great two back-to-back scenes that perfectly explain the history of three friends without any dialog. The characters talk, but we only hear the environment sound (a busy airport, music at a party), like we're watching from a distance. For as straightforward of a story as it is, I found it to have a lot of heart.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: pixote on June 15, 2009, 02:35:49 PM
Might you dig into the series now, Melvil?

pixote
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 15, 2009, 02:45:22 PM
Probably not right away, but at some point I definitely want to.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on June 18, 2009, 10:41:42 AM
roujin's hotly anticipated return to this pigsty we call the Far East Bracket... or his 8th verdict

Black Republic vs. Moe no Suzaku

(http://i43.tinypic.com/2dv66hv.jpg) (http://i42.tinypic.com/xl9coz.jpg)
Black Republic (PARK Kwang-su, 1990)

This film should be a hell of a lot more interesting  than it actually is. Right now, it seems like a wasted opportunity.  There's all this cool subtext about these rich assholes toying with the livelihood of a town (owning the mine, the owner's son going around town like he owns the place) but the film does nothing with it. The film doesn't really do much with the past of its main character. Let me explain: the main character is just some douche who's hiding out in this small mining town cuz he got in trouble with Johnny Law over in The Big City. However, his kind of trouble is of the dissident variety (he wrote some kind of anti-government pamphlet/screed and now he's in trouble). However, this is only talked about a couple of times. Maybe there's some subtext or some hidden commentary on something that's not coming thru to me but I thought this was the most interesting part of the film and nothing is done with it either. So, what I'm left with is a pretty normal story of New Guy In Town Meets Prostitute With Heart Of Gold But She Is With The Boss's Son (Who Is A Psycho?)-sort of story which I've seen a million times before. Oh, and remember, he has to keep his identity a secret! All of this is presented in pretty typical ways for your usual Asian Arthouse flick so besides being narratively uninspired (complete with terrible ending!), it goes by really slowly.

(http://i39.tinypic.com/1901u1.jpg) (http://i41.tinypic.com/eqdv2u.jpg)
Moe no Suzaku (Naomi KAWASE, 1997)

Interesting. This was actually probably a slower film than Black Republic but I think that slowness let me wander around each scene, letting it register in a much more mood-based way. Or maybe I'm just making that up. The film starts off in the Japanese countryside with this typical family. At first, I thought it would be this really sentimental sort of childhood film or whatever since it was basically a bunch of shots of the kids walking around all these beautiful looking forest-y places. Then this really intrusive piano score popped up on the soundtrack which made me ill for about 5 seconds and then made me feel all pleasant inside. It's the kind of score that gets you in the perfect mood for this kind of film and tonally is completely right for the images accompanying it. The first time it's used is actually the best moment in the film as the family walks on (http://i44.tinypic.com/v686j7.png) and the clouds tell us that time will pass before we meet them again. And, then, we cut to 15 years later. I was glad for that because I really wasn't in the mood for a sentimental childhood story at that point. What I got was probably more interesting as it is mostly about the changes that the family has to go through. I missed some of the more naturalistic details of the first 15 minutes that really showed Kawase's documentary roots such as when everyone lines up to buy fish or it was just kids playing around or whatever but the family interactions and relationships are interesting and its sometimes elliptical way of showing narrative information is interesting like with the Dad (or maybe I'm just dumb). ANYWAY, I kind of wish I was more involved emotionally with the story but I'll take my fleeting moods and barely there remembrances as a sign that this film is alright.

Moe no Suzaku moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on June 18, 2009, 10:48:57 AM
Nice. Welcome back.

This film should be a hell of a lot more interesting  than it actually is. Right now, it seems like a wasted opportunity. 

Hmmm, I think this is how I've felt about all (or most) of the Korean films I've watched for this bracket :-\.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 18, 2009, 10:50:54 AM
Hotly anticipated for sure :) I'm curious about Moe no Suzaku for that piano score you speak of. Sounds like an ok film too.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on June 18, 2009, 10:58:34 AM
Hmm, Moe no Suzaku sounds alright I suppose. Seems as though neither film impressed you all that much. I hate it when I have a matchup like that.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 18, 2009, 11:03:49 AM
Welcome back, roujin!

Doesn't sound like either were too great, but some of the things you mention about Moe no Suzaku makes it sound worthwhile.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: FLYmeatwad on June 18, 2009, 10:09:06 PM
King of Chess - Kind of an odd film, but a pretty nice experience. I really admired the choice to integrate the two time periods and gave the film a good deal of political relevance that was communicated effectively even to someone like myself who only has limited knowledge of the time. I have read Mao's Little Red Book, but my extent of the Cultural Revolution is not incredibly high so having the film show the rise and the current world during the time was pretty great. It did help a ton with character motivation as well. The direction was pretty good and mostly standard though there were a few sequences here and there that were masterfully done. The performances were all solid, but nothing actually stood out all that much and I cannot say that any of the actors impressed me immensely with the obvious exception of Tony Leung as Wang. While watching the film I was able to appreciate the whole past aspect, but when it came to entertainment, aside from the train ride, the snake eating, and the final chess match I kind of wished that the film stayed in the present. The disjointed narrative was not incredibly difficult to follow and I think that it did add a nice layer to the film, but at the same time it did not heighten the tension as much as it drew attention to it and made some of the scenes seem slow and frustrating as I waited for the film to get back to the action. The end is pretty cool as well and mighty pretty, but it did confuse me for a bit at first, though I think that the subtitles on the DVD were a bit off, or at least seemed awkward during this sequence. Either way, it was a poignant wrap up. The film has a few lower production points that provide unintentional comedy, but the story is pretty engaging and all that, and it's a nice little film to watch, just nothing that is really spectacular.

B or 3.2982140321456356023

King of Comedy - What a great film! I think I may be going a bit soft in my young age, the romance aspect here really got me during this film despite being so simplistic. For a film that is so self referential to acting, the acting is understandably great all around. I do not think there is a one performance that stands out as the best, obviously the lead actor, blanking on the name, is fantastic, but he's helped along by supporters who are all great, the guy who plays the triad boy is hysterical, and a leading actress who is not only insanely attractive but also really funny and great in her role, not to mention another supporting actress who does all she can with her limited screen time. It's really fascinating how many great performances are turned in during this film. The direction is mighty fantastic as well, making use of generic shots that are just wonderfully constructed, and some more interesting sequences like the man under the umbrella and the first kiss scene. The director is pretty versatile and shows a wonderful mastery of the craft without getting too experimental, and that is certainly something that I am able to respect. The story is really interesting as well, a pretty interesting take on the acting industry that speaks to the performer in everyone. Of course there's the romance plot as well, which is so damn beautiful, and so humorous that it puts most recent American romantic comedies to complete shame. Speaking of humor, the film is mostly hysterical throughout with the stand out scene coming about halfway through when the new triad member is being coached on how to best collect protection money. It comes at a perfect time, is wonderfully executed, and never lets up with the laughs, it's one of the best comedic sequences I have ever watched. I could go on about this film for a good while, but I'm not going to say much more because it is probably fairly obvious that I loved my time spent with the movie. I would also like to comment on the choice of music used as well though, because it adds to the humor at times but is also incredibly selected. What I think is so impressive about this film, and what really makes it a special watch, aside from hitting home with me personally, is that it takes success, failure, and determination, all parts of the human experience, and gets them to talk. The film reveals truth, as generic as that may sound, and it does it beautifully. King of Comedy is practically a perfect film.

A+ or 4.891740328167548235170129

It should be obvious which film is moving on. King of Chess is good and worth a watch, but it's too disjointed and too particular to even come close to the universality of King of Comedy. It's a beautiful film that everyone should watch and it's a damn shame that it's not more widely available. King of Comedy moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on June 18, 2009, 10:20:54 PM
obviously the lead actor, blanking on the name, is fantastic,

The director is pretty versatile and shows a wonderful mastery of the craft without getting too experimental

They're the same person :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: FLYmeatwad on June 18, 2009, 10:24:43 PM
obviously the lead actor, blanking on the name, is fantastic,

The director is pretty versatile and shows a wonderful mastery of the craft without getting too experimental

They're the same person :)

I hadn't checked, but as I was typing I thought, 'it would be kind of cool if they were the same person.' Obviously he communications this through the film somehow. What a visionary!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on June 18, 2009, 10:28:33 PM
obviously the lead actor, blanking on the name, is fantastic,

The director is pretty versatile and shows a wonderful mastery of the craft without getting too experimental

They're the same person :)

I hadn't checked, but as I was typing I thought, 'it would be kind of cool if they were the same person.' Obviously he communications this through the film somehow. What a visionary!

He's one of my favorites, and he already had two other movies on the second round, yay!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 18, 2009, 11:39:01 PM
Stephen Chow is awesome, glad to hear he's got another movie in the second round. It'll be on my list of movies to try and check out in the upcoming rounds.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: sdedalus on June 19, 2009, 03:03:29 AM
He'll have at least two more when I get around to finishing my verdicts.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on June 19, 2009, 09:00:48 AM
He'll have at least two more when I get around to finishing my verdicts.

Spoiler!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 19, 2009, 09:26:35 AM
Intriguing!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 19, 2009, 07:33:33 PM
Dr. Akagi

I wasn't able to make heads nor tails of this film at first. I stopped about 45 minutes in to do a little internet research. I was hoping to figure out what, if anything, I was missing. This isn't something I'd usually do, but I suspected that if I just continued on for the last 90 minutes I would only become more frustrated and bitter.

From what I gather this movie is typical of director Shohei Imamura. A director who has said himself that he likes to make messy films. One critic describes this characteristic as useful, in that it mimics the disorderly nature of life. I didn't find that the fractured style did much more than distract me. But mostly it was the stories told within these fragments that I had a problem with. They just weren't very interesting. We follow a handful of misfits around through a variety of escapades that are just as odd as they are. There's a lot of dark humour in these tales, but it was so goofy it made me roll my eyes. Actually, a lot of the movie made me roll my eyes. My research didn't end up helping me enjoy the movie. It probably made me even more frustrated. I discovered it wasn't so much that I was missing anything, it was just that I didn't feel the same way about it as most.

Too quixotic and silly for my tastes I think. Except the ending, which was excellent. Why couldn't the rest of the movie be that great? Also, I felt it was much too long.

(http://i.imgur.com/XJhOZw6.png)




Samurai Fiction

This movie was all kinds of cool. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. The black & white cinematography has a wonderful comic-book feel that lends itself perfectly to the action. On top of that most of the swordplay is backed by electric guitar. It sounds weird I know, but it works!

The trailer gives you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o914FQUaB1M# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o914FQUaB1M#)

It's just too bad the rest of the movie isn't as good as it looks and sounds. The acting is so crumby that it wasn't long before I was asking myself whether I was watching a real samurai flick or just a parody. Actually I think it is suppose to be a comedy of sorts, but it's more goofy than it is funny. The plot isn't much to behold either. Something about a lost sword, and a foolhardy official's son on a quest to recover it. It's got all of the usual characters. An old wise master, his beautiful daughter, and a brooding villain. It's a very uneven movie. At times it takes itself waaaay to seriously, and wastes a lot of time trying to add depth to the story with heavy dialogue. At other times it's a farce. I was more or less nodding off during any scene that wasn't accompanied by electric guitar.

I was certain that I was going to push this film on to round 2 after the first couple minutes, and by the end I wanted nothing to do with it.



Dr. Liver moves on! (that's what they call him)

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on June 19, 2009, 08:04:48 PM
Awww. nice verdict smirnoff :). I was v. curious about the Imamura but now not so much. Pity neither of them impressed you much :-\. This spate of verdicts is totally making me feel guilty about sitting on my own matchup for so long.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 19, 2009, 08:13:04 PM
Awww. nice verdict smirnoff :). I was v. curious about the Imamura but now not so much. Pity neither of them impressed you much :-\. This spate of verdicts is totally making me feel guilty about sitting on my own matchup for so long.

Thanks worm. I know I tend to sit on these far east films for a while too. For me part of it is that I don't have any idea what I'm going to be sitting down to most of the time. It can be hard to get in the mood.  :-\

Also, I am adding spate to my vocabulary. thanks :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 20, 2009, 01:54:40 PM
This movie was all kinds of cool. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. The black & white cinematography has a wonderful comic-book feel that lends itself perfectly to the action. On top of that most of the swordplay is backed by electric guitar. It sounds weird I know, but it works!

Aww, man, I got all excited when I read that thinking you were going to love it. The trailer makes it look awesome too. I had high hopes for both movies, too bad.

Love all these verdicts rolling in!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 20, 2009, 07:19:15 PM
I hope I made the right decision. I would call SF a bad film that I didn't like, where as Dr Akagi was film I didn't like but not bad film.  That said I'd be much more likely to see another film by Hiroyuki Nakano, and very unlikely to see another one by Imamura. (http://www.tweak3d.net/forums/images/smilies/icon_eyes.gif)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on June 21, 2009, 07:19:50 PM
I need to revisit SF. I liked it when I saw it a couple of years ago but maybe I just loved the weirdness of it. I lot of people seem to think about it the way you do anyway.
Dismissing Imamura however is not something I'd recommend. I've never seen a comedy of his (is this one?) but I do like some of his other/earlier films and my experience with them was nothing like what you described.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on June 21, 2009, 07:30:40 PM
I'll be really interested in hearing what the next person thinks of Dr. Akagi, it does sound like it might just not have been a good fit for you, but could work for somebody else. I'm also now more interested in hearing Zarodinu's verdict on The Eel, Imamura's only other film in the bracket.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 21, 2009, 07:35:37 PM
Every review I read of Dr Akagi made reference to The Eel, and I got the impression that was the more impressive film (even among those who really liked Dr Akagi, which was nearly everyone).
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on June 22, 2009, 09:58:09 AM
The only Imamura film I've seen is Vengeance is Mine, and it was jaw-dropping. Probably one the best serial killer films ever made, that's for sure. I'd like to see a lot more by him.

Also,
This spate of verdicts is totally making me feel guilty about sitting on my own matchup for so long.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on June 22, 2009, 09:58:55 AM
Shame!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on June 22, 2009, 10:00:38 AM
Shame!

For the record, I offered the wife the chance to watch Rice People with me over the weekend and was given a look that suggested I shouldn't push my luck.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on June 22, 2009, 10:27:14 AM
The only Imamura film I've seen is Vengeance is Mine, and it was jaw-dropping. Probably one the best serial killer films ever made, that's for sure. I'd like to see a lot more by him.
Yes.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on June 22, 2009, 10:27:36 AM
I've seen The Pornographers. Faceboy told me I didn't get it.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on June 28, 2009, 11:11:21 PM
roujin turns himself inside out and delivers his 9th verdict

He's A Woman, She's A Man vs. Sumo Do, Sumo Don't

(http://i41.tinypic.com/28irog4.png) (http://i40.tinypic.com/rlcbiu.png)
He's A Woman, She's A Man (Peter Chan + Chi Lee, 1994)

It made me laugh. What can I say? This gender-twisting comedy just really made me laugh. Maybe it was the random asides and references to Cantopop stars and the random articles of theirs that people were selling or it was just Leslie Cheung constantly saying "But I'm not gay!!!" It's probably one of the funniest movies I've seen that deals with homo panic. I don't know. I just fell for it. The premise is simple: Leslie Cheung is bigshot producer. He's going out with Carina Lau who is a singer that whose career he helped build up. He feels frustrated in the relationship and decides to find a new singer (a male singer so he won't get involved as he has in the past). Here comes Anita Yuen (in a totally wide-eyed and shiny performance) as a mega fan of the couple. She decides to pose as a man so she can audition. Thru weird turn of events, she/he gets hired, ends up moving in with Leslie Cheung and causes havoc. It's familiar stuff but the performers really sell it for me. Then there's Eric Tsang who's still fat and this time plays a gay elder named Auntie who's kinda regressive but in a weirdly lovable way (there's a scene in a buffet where he picks out what he wants from the line and then points toward a waiter's package LOL). But the film belongs to Leslie Cheung who goes back and forth, locks his room to make sure that his new gay roommate doesn't come in during the night, tears his hair out, wondering if he could possibly be... gay? He's both in love and scared shitless. It's hilarious. Besides all that, it's just fun to see Cheung and Lau back together from Days of Being Wild.

(http://i43.tinypic.com/juess4.png) (http://i40.tinypic.com/fvgxaa.png)
Sumo Do, Sumo Don't (Masayuki Suo, 1992)

I'm sure I've seen a film like this but right now I can only think of anime equivalents. Stuff like Eyeshield 21 and other crap like that. Or dramas like Water Boys (also starring Naoto Takenaka). You know, ragtag team gets together and succeeds at unlikely task. In this film, it's sumo. In Water Boys, it's synchronized swimming. In Eyeshield, it's football. I guess something like Bad News Bears (except I haven't seen that film). There's the hero who reluctantly joins, starts recruiting others with their own fears and goals, whatever. There's a tournament, too, and a possible love interest. They lose at first and then... Well, you know. It's that kind of movie and for that kind of movie, it's okay. The ending is ruined by a totally tone-altering piece of crap song. Naoto Takenaka, how many gems can I discover in your filmography? You're a director, too? Time for auteurist readings!

He's A Woman, She's A Man moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on June 28, 2009, 11:15:13 PM
Maybe it was the random asides and references to Cantopop stars and the random articles of theirs that people were selling or it was just Leslie Cheung constantly saying "But I'm not gay!!!"
----
-----
But the film belongs to Leslie Cheung who goes back and forth, locks his room to make sure that his new gay roommate doesn't come in during the night, tears his hair out, wondering if he could possibly be... gay? He's both in love and scared shitless. It's hilarious. Besides all that, it's just fun to see Cheung and Lau back together from Days of Being Wild.

Done, I agree. Even without watching the films. Btw, I don't think I've ever seen Leslie Cheung do comedy. This needs to change.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on June 29, 2009, 07:16:31 AM
I wonder this one'll do in the future.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: FifthCityMuse on July 07, 2009, 02:04:01 AM
Eighteen Springs
vs
Shall We Dance(1996)

Eighteen Springs
This is the fairly simple story of a man and a woman who work together. They fall in love, but he doesnít act soon enough, and things happen. Problems arise, people say the wrong thing, and the romance never reaches the conclusion it perhaps should. Itís a melodrama, but, for the most part, it manages not to fall into the traps of the soap opera.

And thatís one of the best things about it. It plays out, especially in the first half, so, so subtly, and thatís really beautiful. The development of these relationships between the characters is slow and careful, and it paints a picture of love lost.

Except I never felt I was watching a film I hadnít seen before. And that was a problem for me. This is a story thatís been told before in another film (Written on the Wind, maybe?) and nothing new is really added.

Thereís also problems when the melodrama goes over the top. Itís mostly in the scenes with the sister, and when it happens, it goes way, way, way over the top, and its not fun or interesting to watch.

The second half is too long as a rule also, and itís full of the stuff I mentioned above, the stuff with the sister. This is kinda long. I mean, itís only just over two hours long, but it could easily lose twenty minutes or so, and would be a far better film. The tone changes also really make it drag.

It has problems with the timeline, and the setting. Itís set in China, in Shanghai and Nanking, I believe, but thereís nothing specific to these places and the culture presented that cement these stories. It would have to be set around 30 years earlier, but it could be set as easily in England or America and nothing major about it would have to be changed. I donít know if thatís a terrible thing, but it doesnít feel good.

As for the timeline, well, it starts in the winter of 1933. At the end, weíre told itís 14 years later, and the only indication we really have of this is the aging of child characters. Thereís a few more, I suppose (we do see summer once) and the characters have aged a little by the end, but thereís major stuff missing. LIKE WORLD WAR II. I mean, really. Itís probably the single biggest problem I have with the film.

I make it sound worse than it is. It is a nice, relatively entertaining piece of populist film. But itís just not that good either. And the problems are kinda major. It also doesnít seem to have any real heft. There doesnít seem to be any overriding themes or messages, and while I donít know if I really need any, itís kinda disappointing.

Shall We Dance
In an attempt at full disclosure, I will reveal that yes, I have seen the US remake with Richard Gere and J-Lo. I think it was on TV. And I remember it being relatively entertaining, at the least.

Like Eighteen Springs, this is populist entertainment. Itís not setting out to be great art, or change the world, or anything like that. Itís shot and edited pretty conventionally. But it is very entertaining. Really, I had a lot of fun with this. Yeah, itís a very simple film, about a man and a woman who connect, not in a romantic way, despite initial expectations, and help each other reconnect with their lives.

Itís simple, and itís really effective.

I donít think I stopped smiling once during this. Itís just that fun, that nice, that simple and effective. The story develops simply and well, as do the characters, and the actors have really great chemistry, which isnít obvious at first, but develops with a really slow burn and becomes obvious when it needs to.

Thereís also something that works better with this film in terms of the cultural problems related to dancing. An opening voice over explains how dancing is basically shunned in Japan. We then see a middle class, white collar, respectable man being drawn into this world that is on the cultural outside. Thereís something compelling in that, and it makes more sense than it does in the US version, where we never quite understand why heís so uptight about the dancing.

Verdict
This turned out to be a really well matched couple. The ideas are sorta the same between the two, and the intentions. But really, it should be obvious where I stand on this one. Itís a simple film, and I really donít expect it to go to the end, but Shall We Dance is a fine film, and deserves a spot in the second round.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on July 07, 2009, 10:01:06 AM
Nice writeup, FCM. I never knew Shall We Dance was originally a Japanese movie. Who knew! Not that I've seen the remake, but it still sounds like a fun movie.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on July 07, 2009, 10:06:54 AM
Nicely done.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on July 08, 2009, 01:09:14 AM
(http://i28.tinypic.com/fu592t.png)
Timeless Bottomless Bad Movie (Sun-Woo Jang, 1997)



I love the audacity of that title and the film starts off on exactly that note proclaiming that it has no script and that none of the actors are professionals and that the entire objective is to make a "bad movie". Having set that up, it ventures into docudrama territory and I guess it ends up being this scathing exposť on this group of alienated, delinquent Korean teens living on the streets of Seoul. The film starts off recruiting them to act in a movie but then ends up just chronicling whatever it is they are upto. This in turn ends up being mostly lots of drugs, begging for money on the streets, doing drugs again, getting girls drunk and then raping them and so on. In the filmmaker's own words:
(http://i30.tinypic.com/24zj22g.png)

So, the film really doesn't do much beyond 'documenting' these kids' lives on the streets. It doesn't really investigate the "whys" (not in any depth anyway) nor does it seek to examine or offer any solutions. There is some attempt at drawing some parallels between these kids and other older homeless people living on the streets and the general message I took away was pretty much that both these groups are doomed and I guess juxtaposing these really young kids against these hobos underlines the tragedy of the situation.

When I mentioned earlier that it only chronicles these episodes without really going into the reasons or consequences, it wasn't necessarily a complaint. I always got the sense that the director was truly fascinated with these kids and wanted to just let them be themselves in front of the camera. Let the story tell itself, in some sense. But somehow this strategy did not really work all that well for me in execution. I wasn't as shocked as I was supposed to be, I think, and never felt very connected to these kids and I feel like the point was made long before the end credits were ready to roll.

There are a few scenes that pretty much condemns the adults (law-enforcement officers I think) and makes them out to be misguided and callous and maybe even worse than these kids. And there are allusions to the fact that these kids were misunderstood by the parents and thrown out and so on, but none of this is really examined any more closely than this.

I have the feeling that the filmmaker's intention is to show us that these kids aren't really all bad but are just lost and misguided. Maybe it's the schoolteacher in me but I found myself getting rather impatient with these silly glue-sniffing kids and had this huge urge to give them a much-deserved slap and ask them to pick themselves back up. This was especially true for the girls who seem to be perfectly happy being treated as mere sex objects.

The film does have a few nice moments though. The free-wheeling handheld camera style lends itself well to capturing the energy of youth. Despite the fact that these kids are wayward and doped out most of the time, they still exhibit this vivacity, at least physically, that constantly reminded me of just how young these kids are and how close they are to completely wasting their lives away. There are a couple of scenes where a bunch of these kids are the metro station and each one of them has his or her own specific style when it comes to crossing the turnstiles. Some jump over it, some bend down and crawl underneath it and some just dance their way across it.

The film also uses some crazy anime sequences to depict certain disturbing scenes which I guess is somewhat creative.

But ultimately, I can only mildly recommend the film unless you have a particular interest in drug-addled Korean teenagers!

(http://i25.tinypic.com/x0uwsl.jpg)
Cageman (Chi Leung 'Jacob' Cheung, 1992)

So just when I thought I had seen the worst of marginalized Asian people, this movie began with what by its own claim, is a fate worse than living out on the streets - namely living in a cage. Yes, that is exactly what the film is about. It's about a bunch of people who live in cages. But the awesomeness of that kinda wore off when I learnt that the whole cage thing was just a form of low-income housing in Hong Kong (so much for my plans of moving there!). So the movie is basically about a bunch of people who rent these stacked cages and live there since they can't afford better accommodations.

Anyway, so when the movie started off, I got the impression that the film was going to be a scathing exposť (seems to be a theme in this matchup) on the horrible living conditions that these cage people are experiencing. At the very beginning, we learn that one of the residents, a junkie, died in his sleep. Immediately, we see people scrambling to grab whatever he left behind and I figured the idea was that living in a cage was a dog-eat-dog world.

But then, we gradually get introduced to this motley crew of characters who live in this cage complex. There's this old man (I forget just how old he is supposed to be but he's very old) who never gets out of his cage. There's the manager who is in charge of the cages and collecting rent and so on and his son, who seems to be suffering from some kind of mental disability and a whole group of residents with their own quirks. Soon after, we learn that the building owners are about to demolish the structure, rendering these residents homeless.

In the meantime, it also becomes somewhat apparent that living in those cages isn't quite as bad as we initially thought it would be. The residents seem to share a general sense of camaraderie and they end up singing and gambling together and so on and soon the whole place seemed like a pretty jolly good time, despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

The film sorta wanders about aimlessly like this for a while and eventually turns into an admonition of the corrupt city officials. All of this is handled pretty good-heartedly for the most part. There's some comic relief in the form of a couple of officials who decide to spend a few nights in cages themselves for the sake of publicity.

There's also this side-plot about an ex-con who rents one of the cages and is constantly being harassed by the cops. I guess his character is sort of the main focus and his transformation is what we get to hold on to in terms of the plot but there're also some random scenes involving him that I didn't quite understand.

Anyway, things pretty much turn out the way we expect them to and despite that, the ending did have some impact on me. Unfortunately, the filmmaker chooses not to end the film once the fate of these people is decided but instead has this additional sequence set in a zoo with animals in cages and it all gets a little too heavy-handed at that point.

Verdict

So both films are pretty messy and they could both have used some more judicious editing. Neither of them is particularly remarkable visually and the second one doesn't even have an excuse.

But whereas I quickly forgot most of Timeless Bottomless after watching it, the characters in Cageman had somehow endeared themselves to me. The made-up family in this film felt pretty real and by the end, I was at least a little charmed by some of these interactions, heavy-handed though they may be.

Cageman moves on.

Edit: I am done with social critiques for now. I think I want my next matchup to be pure entertainment!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on July 08, 2009, 07:25:35 AM
Edit: I am done with social critiques for now. I think I want my next matchup to be pure entertainment!

;D You deserve it. Great write-up.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Thor on July 08, 2009, 09:54:58 AM
Sounds like you could just change the setting to America and substitute the title "Kids" for "Timeless Bottomless Bad Movie" and you have pretty much the same film...
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on July 08, 2009, 09:59:59 PM
Wait, you don't want to move to Hong Kong now? Sheesh, you ask for too much.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on July 09, 2009, 01:06:53 AM
Getting Any? vs. God of Gamblers 2
Iíll start with a quote from The MuppetsÖ
Sam Eagle: Will you stop this foolishness?
Gonzo: What foolishness would you like to see?

Takeshi Kitanoís Getting Any? And Wong Jingís God of Gamblers 2 have to be a pair of the silliest films in this Bracket.  I watched one thinking it would certainly lose to the more sophisticated humor of the otherÖ and then I watched the other.

More than most films, this is really a matter of personal taste.  Both films reminded me of Mark Whalbergís The Big Hit, which I enjoyed back when I was 17.  Not so much now.  They are films seemingly written by a 15 year old and then directed by a 12 year old.

This gives you no bearing with Getting Any?, for no matter how many of Kitanoís films youíve seen, nothing in his film catalogue can prepare you for this.  (Closest example would be Woody Allenís Bananas).  The film is really silly (*slap*).  Itís really deadpan (*slap*).  Silly (*slap*). DeadpanÖ Itís both really silly and really deadpan.  In fact, the film is so lacking in anything beyond being Laugh-In: The Movie, itís hard to stay with it.  You could begin this film at any point, or play the DVD chapters in random order.  Sure, there are some motifs and repeating gags that build, but the plot changes direction every 5 minutes.  And while the jokes are relentless, the film wore me down and I laughed very little.  By the end, I was mostly scratching my head. (Could have been the giant insect man.)

A childish attitude isnít too big a stretch for Jing, whose mostly enjoyable romps are full of over-the-top silliness.  And this time heís paired with Stephen Chow, who hadnít yet come into his own as a creative force, but was already one hell of a go-for-broke comedian.  The star and director compliment each other well and set an effective tone for the movie.  Mixed with the easy cool of Andy Lau, itís kind of like Oceanís 13 if Soderbergh was in a more Schizopolis frame of mind.

The silliness felt like a feature length Will Farrell routine at times, but there was the bones of a plot here, and I think what ultimately puts God of Gamblers 2 over the top is the gambling scenes which areÖ well over the top, but I mean that in a good way.  The gambling scenes steer quickly into fantasy scenarios Ė 4 blackjack decks and all the Aces come up at once Ė but the scenes are well shot and create actual excitement and tension.  Iíve seen the original God of Gamblers and God of Gamblers Returns (which is ALSO called God of Gamblers 2), and this is definitely the weakest of the series.  But itís still a really entertaining series, completely unbelievable in a way you wish real life would be more like.

So while I admire Kitanoís effort, nearly all of his other films deserve to go on.  Not this one.
Score another victory for Stephen Chow.  God of Gamblers 2 moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on July 09, 2009, 02:02:27 AM
Stephen Chow can't lose!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on July 09, 2009, 07:13:29 AM
God of Gamblers 2 sounds kind of fun, so I'm happy to see it move on. Nice verdict.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: worm@work on July 09, 2009, 08:36:59 AM
This gives you no bearing with Getting Any?, for no matter how many of Kitanoís films youíve seen, nothing in his film catalogue can prepare you for this.  (Closest example would be Woody Allenís Bananas).  The film is really silly (*slap*).  Itís really deadpan (*slap*).  Silly (*slap*). DeadpanÖ Itís both really silly and really deadpan. 

:D

Is Andy Lau in all of the God of Gamblers movies? They sound like a lot of fun.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 09, 2009, 09:17:15 AM
Getting Any? is way, way longer than it should have been, but damn, it's so funny. I'm partial to nonsense humor though. Haven't seen God of Gamblers 2.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6ofxEQGcU8#ws (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6ofxEQGcU8#ws)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on July 09, 2009, 10:59:47 AM
Kitano finally loses one, crap! Both movies sound like they could be a lot of fun though. I'll watch any Kitano, and probably anything with Chow, so I guess I can't lose. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on July 09, 2009, 11:00:47 AM
Is Andy Lau in all of the God of Gamblers movies? They sound like a lot of fun.

This is difficult to answer as the God of Gamblers series as a twisted family tree.  Lau is in the original with Chow Yun-Fat. 
The film was so successful that many rip offs followed, including Stephen Chow's comedic take on the franchise, known as All for The Winner.  I haven't see that, but I hear Stephen's character in that is the one in God of Gamblers 2. 

Andy Lau is the sidekick in GOG 1, but for GOG 2 he has graduated to "Knight of Gamblers" (the actual title of the film). 

Next in the series is God of Gamblers 3: Back to Shanghai, which has Chow but not Lau.  (It does have Gong Li, however).

Next up, Chow Yun-Fat is back on board for God of Gamblers Returns, which is also called God Of Gamblers 2 because it is a direct sequel to the original film.  No Stephen Chow or Andy Lau, but instead we have Tony Leung Ka-Fai (not to be confused with the more famous Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

The franchise died with God of Gamblers 3: The Early Stage, which didn't feature anyone but was written and directed by Wong Jing, who made all of the official films.

If the films weren't so hard to get copies of I would suggest a marathon.  The three I've now seen are very entertaining and the whole premise is really neat to watch.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: 1SO on July 09, 2009, 11:20:20 AM
Kitano finally loses one, crap! Both movies sound like they could be a lot of fun though. I'll watch any Kitano, and probably anything with Chow, so I guess I can't lose. :)

It was pretty sweet.  I felt like I got a Round 3 match up, although I don't expect either film to go too deep.  Neither represents their stars at their best.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 09, 2009, 10:05:02 PM
(http://i26.tinypic.com/2rdcjuv.jpg)
(Shunji Iwai, 1995)

After losing her fiancťe in a mountain climbing accident, Hiroko decides to write him a letter and mail it to an old adress of his, even though the house is not there anymore. A letter to Heaven, she calls it. Much to her surprise, the letter gets delivered, and soon after, she gets a letter back, signed by her fiancťe. How could it be? As we come to learn, it just so happens that the letter had been delivered to a woman with the same name as him (Itsuki Fujii).

(http://i27.tinypic.com/2hnbzp2.jpg)

Not only that, they'd actually gone to school together. They were in the same class!

(http://i30.tinypic.com/25hfztk.jpg)

 If this setup sounds stupid and contrived, it's because it is. It takes forever too, we're a good 50-60 minutes into the movie at this point and I'm about to die of boredom. What follows is a shift in perspective, as we start following Itsuki and her recollections of her teenage years spent alongside Itsuki #2. This takes the whole second hour of film. Past events relived, demons exorcised, epiphanies ensue; you know how these go, right? Hiroko talks to a mountain.

(http://i28.tinypic.com/o8gb51.jpg)

(http://i26.tinypic.com/xp6ixg.jpg)

Ok? Also, pet peeve: jittery handheld shots of just two people having a conversation. It worked in Undo (http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php?topic=4515.msg230975#msg230975) in that it got progressively worse as the tension grew between the two characters. It's completely unnecessary here. Pet peeve #2: cloying, sentimental music at the most inappropriate times. Which is always. I'm surprised Hollywood hasn't remade this yet, it's just begging for it. I don't know what to make of you, Shunji.


(http://i29.tinypic.com/34i2r9e.jpg)
(Johnny To, 1997)

WTF is it with the music in these movies. Enough already. This is on par with Rescue Me as far as firehouse soap opera goes. Like, they're not even trying to hide it. In a scene that perfectly epitomizes the first hour of this movie for me, a firewoman leaves the bathroom in a rush to answer the fire alarm. As soon as she gets on the truck she pulls this out

(http://i26.tinypic.com/ih3xfq.jpg)

That's right. It's not enough that there's a fire I have to attend to, I just found out I'm pregnant! Whatever fireman action there is during the first sixty minutes serve no purpose other than inflating the soap-ish drama. Like, the rescue of the suicidal woman turns into a meet cute

(http://i32.tinypic.com/5ccaw1.jpg)

(http://i29.tinypic.com/t0hxkw.jpg) (http://i25.tinypic.com/17acmw.jpg)

the baby rescue is just an excuse for the lady firefighter to decide she doesn't want to have an abortion after all (though it was still pretty awesome)

(http://i32.tinypic.com/16bzjfp.jpg) (http://i25.tinypic.com/2dabzad.jpg)

Stuff like that. It's a good thing To directs drama and romance as swiftly as he does action.   

(http://i28.tinypic.com/rksndc.jpg)
If you don't believe in me, forget it.

(http://i32.tinypic.com/1zzroth.jpg)
What does that mean?

(http://i28.tinypic.com/rksndc.jpg)
Since you don't believe in me...

(http://i32.tinypic.com/1zzroth.jpg)
Breaking up?

(http://i28.tinypic.com/rksndc.jpg)
You said it.

DONE. Had he directed He's Just Not That Into You, it wouldn't have lasted more than 15 minutes. Anyway, halfway into the proceedings, the crew gets trapped in a factory while attempting to rescue the people inside. I did not realise at the time, because there was still an hour to go, but this is the final set piece. A rescue sequence of epic proportions, 45 minutes long, everything's falling apart, the flames engulfing the actors in slow motion, it's beautiful. And, it totally makes the movie. 

(http://i30.tinypic.com/b4ztpg.jpg)

So, half a good movie is better than no good movie. Lifeline moves on.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on July 09, 2009, 10:29:08 PM
It's too bad Love Letter wasn't better. The video quality looks waaaaaaaaaay above the average for this bracket.
 
Quote from: duder
If this setup sounds stupid and contrived, it's because it is.
Actually I was thinking 'this is sounding pretty good'... and then you squashed it :)

I enjoyed the write up though!  :D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 09, 2009, 10:32:23 PM
The video quality looks waaaaaaaaaay above the average for this bracket.
 
It's a good looking movie, too, I'll give it that.

(http://i26.tinypic.com/16bhptu.jpg)

(http://i27.tinypic.com/jg1jf7.jpg)

(http://i29.tinypic.com/28jbqyb.jpg)

Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on July 09, 2009, 10:57:29 PM
Quote from: duder
If this setup sounds stupid and contrived, it's because it is.
Actually I was thinking 'this is sounding pretty good'... and then you squashed it :)

I was thinking the same thing. And it does look really nice.

I like the idea of an epic 45 minute rescue. Sounds pretty awesome. ;D
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: edgar00 on July 10, 2009, 11:25:27 AM
Wouldn't The Lake House be the American version of Love Letter? I haven't seen either so I could be way off.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 10, 2009, 11:37:30 AM
Wouldn't The Lake House be the American version of Love Letter?
No, The Lake House is the American version of Il Mare (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0282599/) :P

(but no, not the same plot at all)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on July 10, 2009, 11:42:13 AM
My thoughts exactly when I saw that shot of the mailbox.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on July 10, 2009, 04:40:28 PM
Ermo

Beware the evils of western civilization!

That's the message of the movie imo, but thankfully it's not quite so blatant ;). Ermo is a wife and mother. She's a noodle maker by night and a noodle saleswoman by day. Every evening she goes through her noodle making routine.

(http://i.imgur.com/FHbeMya.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/y4UkhRG.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/wi2W2R8.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/6x7eGgT.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/hhlsE1v.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/zx29bEO.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/pprI4I5.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/g9FS92G.jpg)

And every day she tries to out shout the competition. "Noodles for sale!"

(http://i.imgur.com/97D8XWy.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/7bwgcEm.jpg)


She's the breadwinner for the family. Her husband is too sick to do anything but maintain the household while she works. Their relationship is little more than an obligation. Their only child, a boy, spends his days at school and evenings at their neighbour's house watching the only television in town. This annoys Ermo. Her son is the only thing that seems to give her life meaning. As hard as she works it's to the neighbour's house that he runs every night after dinner.

One day in town, after selling all of her noodles, Ermo walks into an electronics store. She gets it in her head that if she can just save up enough money and buy the biggest TV available, everything will be better.

(http://i.imgur.com/4OabyIo.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/sGw2oxt.jpg)

29"!!!!! ZOMG!  ;)
(http://i.imgur.com/YbvnarS.jpg)


She starts working harder than ever. Really burning the candle at both ends. Working a second job, and even donating blood on a daily basis. Everything she can do for a few extra yuan.

"You're selling you blood! Are you trying to kill yourself?"
(http://i.imgur.com/Ju6d56e.jpg)

"It's okay, I drink three bowls of water before I go in. They get half blood, half water"
(http://i.imgur.com/sadJYR7.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/cmVUmeR.jpg)
That's the real dialogue btw. It shows her determination, but also her country girl naivete. And as far as I can tell she really does drink all three bowls of water in that scene. There's no cuts or camera tricks. It's quite impressive.

Eventually she does save up enough for the TV. When she gets it home she discovers she isn't any happier for having bought it. She doesn't even watch it. She merely sits beside it, lifeless. Working towards buying the TV gave her a purpose in life that she didn't have before, but now that she has the TV she's back to feeling how she did when the whole thing started.

She refuses to take the sticker off. She thinks it's part of the TV.
(http://i.imgur.com/MaTpjcr.jpg)

The final scene is perhaps the most meaningful. The family sits sleeping in front of the TV. But suddenly the picture goes to fuzz, as if broken. Ermo wakes up and stares into the haze. The camera slowly zooms in closer and closer. The last line we hear is "Noodles for sale!". I guess you could interpret that in a couple ways, but I saw it as Ermo's purpose in life being renewed. The TV is broken and will need to be replaced. Time to wake up and get back to work. Such is the reality of being stuck in the consumer spin cycle. Your only reason for living is to buy more stuff. The film is an extreme but effective demonstration.

(http://i.imgur.com/ZmLf3yv.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/BnZ3KMI.jpg)
(http://i.imgur.com/67ujPXP.jpg)(http://i.imgur.com/RXnd1he.jpg)

It's a nicely done film with a few interesting side stories that add a lot to the experience. At an hour and half long, I thought it was well worth seeing. 3/4


__________________________


Woman Sesame Oil Maker

Once upon a time, a girl named Xiang was sold as a bride. It was the only way her family could raise the money to pay off their debts. Xiang's own wishes didn't factor into it. Such was life for young girls of poor families in that time and place. Fast forward 20 years and we pick up where this film begins. Xiang is now a wife and mother. Her epileptic son Dunzi is 22 but has the mind of a toddler. Her husband is a drunk. She has a younger daughter as well. With their limited help, and the help of a few hired hands, they produce and sell sesame oil in their humble country village. Xiang has grown into a headstrong woman with good business sense, and thanks to her the family always has food on the table and a roof over their heads. They aren't rich by any means, but they enjoy a level of prestige in the community. Xiang's family troubles and business matters fill her with concern, but she continues to do her duty and live the life that was chosen for her.

One day a Japanese woman comes to town. She's gotten wind that there is some very good sesame oil being made by one of the locals. She meets with Xiang, who gladly gives her a tour of their entire operation. The Japanese woman is impressed not only by the quality of the product, but by Xiang as well. Eventually an offer is made to invest in Xiang's business, which is of course accepted. The plan is to start small. One or two pieces of machinery are brought in to do the more grueling work, thereby increasing production. Then they'll ship the product to Japan to test the market there. It turns out to be a big hit. And soon plans are made to increase production yet again.

With the business booming, Xiang's family is earning a lot more than they used to. More than enough to pay for the essentials. Xiang, not being the materialistic type, starts to consider how she might spend this new money. She wonders if it might help her son to have a wife. For one thing, it would get him out of her hair. The problem is that nobody would take him for a husband under normal circumstances, because of his illness. She comes to the conclusion that she'll have to pay the family of the woman who is to be his wife. And I think now you can start to see where this is going.

There is a girl in town, Huanhuan, whose family is in debt and who is the right age for marraige, so Xiang proposes the deal. She'll pay off the family debt and in return Huanhuan must marry Dunzi. Worth noting is that Huanhuan herself decides to accept the deal. The marriage goes through, but it's immediately apparent that Huanhuan is unhappy. Not that she ever though it would be a pleasant marriage, but it's even worse than she was expecting. Dunzi is rough, not that he means to cause harm of course, but it's just his nature. And the marriage isn't merely hard on Huanhhuan physically, but emotionally too. She is lonely. Dunzi loves her, but only like a child loves his dolls. And Xiang is stern with her, partly because she expects her to do her duty, but I think also to inspire confidence. As if to say 'look at my situation, it's no different than yours, but here I am making the best of it. So buck up!'

But the truth is that Xiang is just as unhappy as Huanhuan. The difference is that Xiang has learned not to acknowledge her unhappiness, or rather has found a way to cope with it. For years she's been having an affair with her brother-in-law. And near the end of the film he decides to break things off without warning. This utterly devastates Xiang. Their affair was her only real pleasure in life. It allowed her escape or ignore her own fate, however briefly. And now it's been snatched away, like a rug from under her feet. Without it she is overwhelmed. Those unhappy and hopeless feelings she thought she'd come to terms with come rushing back. The stress of it all is so much it actually makes her sick. She spends the next few days in bed, followed by a boat ride to a quiet part of the lake where she just lays down and sobs for what is probably hours.

The next day Xiang is more composed. After her good cry, she appears to have adjusted to her new, more bitter, reality. She starts to give some thought to Huanhuan's situation, and her own part in it. The final scene is a real heart to heart talk between the two. It's not a terribly happy ending, but it's touching. Which I liked.

(http://i.imgur.com/crpDIFW.jpg)

In writing about Woman Sesame Oil Maker I've come to appreciate it a little more than I did when I was watching it, and I quite liked it even then. It's kind of a slow movie, and the video quality is poor (made worse by a lot of night scenes), so when it ended I was kind of glad. But despite its pacing, I think it's a more interesting story than Ermo. I'd rate it the same, 3/4.

It was a very tough choice but Woman Sesame Oil Maker moves on to round two.

I would happily take Ermo over Madadayo, Talking Head, or Dr. Akagi, but that's just the way things matched up. Too bad for Ermo.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 10, 2009, 05:11:48 PM
Cool that you liked both movies, maybe you should have picked my next matchup ::) They sound good. Ermo especially, but that's probably only because there are more screenshots :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: smirnoff on July 10, 2009, 05:24:56 PM
Naturally :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Melvil on July 10, 2009, 08:31:44 PM
Both sound pretty interesting and well-matched. I've been there on wanting to put both movies in a matchup ahead of winners from previous matchups, but such is the nature of the beast. :)
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on July 10, 2009, 08:43:25 PM
Yeah,but those are stupid rules. Unlike the US Bracket, there's, quite frankly, a lot of garbage in this one. Moving some of that stuff to the next round instead of the unlucky losers in high quality matchups seems like a bad idea. Maybe we should think of something there.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on July 10, 2009, 08:49:09 PM
Isn't that the point of pix's resurrection thingies?
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 10, 2009, 08:49:53 PM
That's why pixote is watching all the losing films though, right? To make sure nothing great slips through the cracks? Not that I trust pixote's judgement :P
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: roujin on July 10, 2009, 08:51:13 PM
I got there first. Excuse me!
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: duder on July 10, 2009, 08:51:45 PM
[/doubleteam]
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
Post by: Tequila on July 10, 2009, 08:52:42 PM
Aren't there limits to the resurrection thingies?
Well, maybe it's not that big a problem. I will complain again at the end of round one.
Meanwhile: This (http://www.yesasia.com/global/yumcha/gangster-films-the-yin-and-yang-of-korean-film-culture/0-0-0-arid.156-en/featured-article.html) has caught my attention.
Title: Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
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