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Thread: ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL Lincoln Center JUNE 30 - JULY 16, 2017

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    ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL Lincoln Center JUNE 30 - JULY 16, 2017



    ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL Lincoln Center JUNE 30 - JULY 16, 2017
    The lineup: click
    Filmleaf Forum thread: click


    INDEX OF LINKS TO REVIEWS
    Aroused by Gymnopedies (Isao Yukisada 2016)
    Bad Genius (Nattawut Poonpinya 2017)
    Birdshot (Mikhail Red 2016)
    Double Life (Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016)
    Duckweed (Han Han 2017)
    Fabricated City (Park Kwang-hyun
    Gangster's Daughter, The (Chen Mei-juin 2017)
    Jane (Cho hyun-hoon 2017)
    Kfc (L Bnh Giang 2017)
    Long Excuse, The (Miwa Nishikawa 2016)
    Mad World (Wang Chun 2016)
    Mole Song, The: Hong Kong Capricio (Takashi Miike 2016)
    Rage (Lee Sang-il 2016)
    Single Rider, A (LeeZoo-young 2017)
    Soul on a String (Zhang Yang 2016)
    Split (Choi Kook-hee 2016)
    Traces of Sin (Kei Ishikawa 2016)
    Truth Beneath, The (Lee Khoung-mi 2016)
    Villainess, The (Jung Byung-gil 2017)
    With Prisoners (Andrew Young Kwok-kuen 2016)


    China
    Battle of Memories
    Leste Chen 2017 China 119 minutes
    After undergoing a medical procedure to retrieve lost memories, a novelist starts having the recollections of a serial killer. Battle of Memories is a hallucinogenic roller coaster ride built on dream logic, incorporating a stylish visual aesthetic into a tightly woven murder mystery.
    July 1
    10:00 PM
    Blood of Youth
    Yang Shupeng 2016 China 111 minutes
    North American Premiere • Director Yang Shupeng in attendance
    After three vibrant period films, one of China's least-known maverick directors—self-trained fireman-turned-filmmaker Yang Shupeng—makes his first contemporary film, a crime drama about a computer hacker who plays a cat-and-mouse game with police and criminals, pitting one against the other in the midst of a bank heist.
    July 2
    10:00 PM
    Duckweed
    Han Han 2017 China 101 minutes
    After a close encounter with a fast-moving train in 2022, arrogant rally driver Tailang (Deng Cha) is transported back to 1998 and enlisted into the gang led by his own father Zhengtai (Eddie Peng). Boasting a rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, multitalented Han Han's sophomore production accelerated past the billion yuan ($150 million) milestone domestically.
    July 15
    12:30 PM
    Extraordinary Mission
    Alan Mak, Anthony Pun 2017 China DCP 120 minutes
    Actor Duan Yihong will be in attendance and will receive the NYAFF 2017 Star Asia Award
    Uber-cop Lin Kai (Huang Xuan) goes deep cover to take down a vicious drug cartel. The stakes are raised to the next level when he is entwined with psychopathic head honcho Eagle, leading to a harrowing journey of forced drug addiction and time bomb pyrotechnics in China’s bionic update of classic hyperbolic HK genre films.
    July 1
    7:30 PM
    Someone to Talk to
    Liu Yulin 2016 China 107 minutes
    Liu Yulin's first feature is that rare beast, a truly honest and perceptive film about relationships. When cuckolded husband Aiguo sets out to catch his wife having an affair, he ends up destroying two marriages. Meanwhile his 39-year-old sister re-enters the dating game, desperately seeking someone of her own to talk to.
    July 9
    6:00 PM
    Soul on a String
    Zhang Yang 2016 China 142 minutes
    After discovering a sacred stone in the mouth of a slain deer, young Tibetan wanderer Taibei embarks on a mission to bring the divine artifact back to its rightful home, the holy mountain of Buddha. Danger and treachery lurk at every step, as black market traders and two brothers in search of vengeance stand in his path.
    July 9
    3:10 PM

    Hong Kong Panorama
    Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York
    Dealer/Healer
    Lawrence Lau 2017 Hong Kong 101 minutes
    Q&A with director Lawrence Lau
    Lau Ching-Wan headlines this dramatization of the incredible real-life story of Peter Chan, a former Triad member and drug addict who went on to be awarded for his tireless efforts as a substance abuse counselor. This tale of corruption and redemption masterfully recreates an all but forgotten underbelly of Hong Kong.
    Election
    Johnnie To 2005 Hong Kong 101 minutes
    Johnnie To’s magnum opus details the cutthroat contest to become the new number one in Hong Kong’s biggest triad: Laconic Lam Lok (Simon Yam) versus arrogant and impulsive Big D (Tony Leung Ka-fai, in one of his best performances). One of the greatest gangster films ever.
    July 7
    8:30 PM
    Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back
    Tsui Hark 2017 Hong Kong/China 108 minutes
    Tsui Hark's latest gives China’s best known story a pop-culture shock treatment, using the legendary Monkey King narrative for a film that feels like champagne bottles blasting for two dazzling hours.
    July 8
    3:45 PM
    Mad World
    Wong Chun 2016 Hong Kong 101 minutes
    New York Premiere • Q&A with director Wong Chun, screenwriter Florence Chan, and actor Eric Tsang, who will receive the NYAFF 2017 Star Hong Kong Lifetime Achievement Award
    Released from rehabilitation, a former investment banker struggles with mental illness as he rekindles a relationship with his estranged father in the relentlessly upwardly mobile city. This dramatic, heartfelt directorial debut reinvents the tenement drama genre; Wong Chun stands at the vanguard of a wave of directors transforming Hong Kong cinema.
    July 12
    9:00 PM
    Soul Mate
    Derek Tsang 2016 Hong Kong/China 108 minutes
    With this one-of-a-kind romantic drama, Derek Tsang sinks us deep into the tale of two young women, whose friendship burns as strong as an amorous passion. Compassionate, honest and intelligent, it demonstrates again how Chinese-language cinema is at the vanguard of exploring the modern human condition.
    July 7
    6:00 PM
    The Taking of Tiger Mountain
    Tsui Hark 2014 149 minutes
    Tsui Hark's take on the Chinese national epic about 30 PLA soldiers taking down a 1000-strong bandit army strips out the ideology and makes it all about the action. In 3-D.
    July 8
    12:30 PM
    This Is Not What I Expected
    Derek Hui 2017 106 minutes
    Q&A with director Derek Hui
    A brilliant accident-prone chef and a foodie megalomaniac millionaire have an unfortunate yet hilarious run-in that makes them mortal adversaries. An obsessive love-hate relationship blossoms—with food standing in for sex—amidst a nonstop series of laugh-riot hi-jinks. A dish to be savored.
    July 11
    6:00 PM
    Vampire Cleanup Department
    Yan Pak-wing, Chiu Sin-hang 2017 94 minutes
    In this tongue-in-cheek throwback to old-school Hong Kong comedies, the titular governmental department gets a new recruit in a vampire-immune virgin only for him to fall hopelessly in love with a beautiful nightwalker. Now he wants to train her to be human.
    July 15
    10:00 PM
    With Prisoners
    Andrew Wong Kwok-kuen 2017 100 minutes
    Andrew Wong’s film about juvenile delinquents follows the misfortunes of young gang leader Fan (Neo Yau) after he is sentenced to three months of detention for a scuffle with a drunken cop who was publicly abusing his girlfriend. Little does he know he has entered into a world of trouble, where youths are dehumanized and routinely beaten.
    July 16
    3:20 PM
    Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight
    Alan Lo 2017 Hong Kong 107 minutes
    North American Premiere • Q&A with director Alan Lo and actress Carrie Ng.
    Produced by Clement Cheng (Gallants, NYAFF 2010), this riotous crowd-pleaser is developed from director Alan Lo’s debut short Zombie Guillotines (2012), a do-it-yourself guide to weaponing up for Z-Day with everyday objects in a hair salon. Fans of The Walking Dead may think they’ve witnessed every trick in the zombie playbook. They’re wrong.
    July 16
    5:30 PM

    Japan
    Aroused by Gymnopedies
    Isao Yukisada 2016 Japan 83 minutes
    North American Premiere
    Aroused by Gymnopedies follows the dwindling fortunes of Shinji (played by Itsuji Itao), a once-celebrated filmmaker whose star has waned so far he is reduced to shooting porno quickies to make ends meet. But when his lead actress (Izumi Okamura) quits mid-shoot, Shinji wanders from one misjudged sexual encounter to the next.
    July 14
    10:30 PM
    Close-Knit
    Naoko Ogigami 2017 Japan 127 minutes
    Q&A with director Naoko Ogigami
    When 11-year-old Tomo’s irresponsible single mother leaves her on her own for the umpteenth time, she turns to her Uncle Makio. Makio’s pretty girlfriend Rinko proves an excellent surrogate mother, and the three form an indelible bond, but not without complications: Rinko is transgender.
    July 8
    8:00 PM
    Dawn of the Felines
    Kazuya Shiraishi 2016 Japan 84 minutes
    North American Premiere
    A sin-deep chronicle tracing the daily lives of three Tokyo call girls from the director of The Devil's Path and Twisted Justice. Paying tribute to the rich vein of Japanese genre classics set in the sex trade, Kazuya Shiraishi also has a statement to make about contemporary Japanese morality.
    July 4
    10:30 PM
    Destruction Babies
    Tetsuya Mariko 2016 Japan 108 minutes
    New York Premiere
    In this visceral cinematic diatribe, an everyman starts picking fights, leaving in his wake an apocalyptic streak of violent mayhem. It's arresting and well crafted, imbued with a refreshingly raw aesthetic.
    July 9
    10:00 PM
    A Double Life
    Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016 Japan 126 minutes
    North American Premiere
    Tama (Mugi Kadowaki), a shy doctoral candidate in philosophy, feels stalled in her studies and somewhat detached from life and begins to follow around her neighbor, a successful book editor who seems like the perfect family man. Soon her growing voyeuristic obsession gets her inextricably tangled in other people’s secret lives.
    July 3
    12:30 PM
    Happiness
    Sabu 2016 Japan 91 minutes
    Masatoshi Nagase stars as the enigmatic Kanzaki who brings a strange electronic helmet to a somber little town. He allows an elderly shopkeeper to try out the device, which dredges up for her long lost memories of happiness. As the townspeople line up to recover their joy for life, Kanzaki slowly reveals his own dark agenda.
    July 14
    8:30 PM
    Japanese Girls Never Die
    Daigo Matsui 2016 Japan 100 minutes
    A vibrant protest against the oppression of women, a provocative pop-art manifesto, and the improbably touching story of a gone girl whose life gains new meaning after her disappearance. Director Daigo Matsui’s agenda is ambitious, and Japanese Girls Never Die is one of the past year's most audacious pieces of cinema.
    Showtimes
    July 2
    5:15 PM
    The Long Excuse
    Miwa Nishikawa 2016 Japan 124 minutes
    When egotistical writer and cheating husband Sachio (Masahiro Motoki, Departures) loses his wife (Eri Fukatsu) to a tragic bus accident, he initially feigns grief, but then finds himself inexplicably befriending another widower. The latest from acclaimed director (and Hirokazu Kore-eda protge) Nishikawa (Wild Berries) stars Masahiro Motoki in a stellar and nuanced performance.
    July 4
    5:15 PM
    Love and Other Cults
    Eiji Uchida 2017 Japan 94 minutes
    North American Premiere
    A wild black comedy about gangs, cult religion, and love in backwater Japan. Marginalized teen Ryota falls in love with fellow dropout Ai and follows her down ever deeper and seedier paths. Real delinquents acted alongside Sion Sono's regular such that the film had to be shot under police supervision.
    July 8
    6:00 PM
    The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio
    Takashi Miike 2016 Japan 128 minutes
    Takashi Miike’s most entertaining and delirious film in years, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio returns to the pop madness of The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji and turns it up to eleven, resulting in.a yakuza extravaganza that proudly stands on its own.
    July 14
    6:00 PM
    Rage
    Lee Sang-il 2016 Japan 142 minutes
    New York Premiere
    One year after a gruesome murder in Tokyo, while a nationwide manhunt is still underway, three young men without a past enter the lives of three very different people. Creeping suspicion that each is the murderer destroys the lives around them. Rage is tragic, epic, and heartfelt.
    July 5 -6:00 PM
    Suffering of Ninko
    Norihiro Niwatsukino 2016 Japan 70 minutes
    Ninko, a devout monk in Edo-period Japan, is tormented by his condition as the object of every woman’s sexual desire. His dilemma is personified by a forest-dwelling seductress who forces him to choose his final destiny. The Suffering of Ninko is a wild, jaw-dropping fever dream of a film that must be seen to be believed.
    July 9 - 8:30 PM
    Survival Family
    Shinobu Yaguchi 2017 Japan 117 minutes
    New York Premiere
    This deliciously yet darkly funny post-apocalyptic road movie follows an average Tokyo family in the wake of an inexplicable and endless blackout. Determined to maintain normality at first, they slowly realize the direness of their situation and attempt to ride across Japan to their grandfather’s farm on their commuter bikes.
    July 3 - 9:15 PM
    Traces of Sin
    Kei Ishikawa 2016 Japan 120 minutes
    Q&A with director Kei Ishikawa
    Irrepressible journalist Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) probes the shocking murder of a wealthy family while struggling with his own demons. Kei Ishikawa’s impressive directorial debut is an indictment of class warfare wrapped in a seductive yet ultimately perverse mystery of devastating proportions.
    July 10 - 6:00 PM
    Wet Woman in the Wind
    Akihiro Shiota 2016 Japan 78 minutes
    North American Premiere • Q&A with director Akihiko Shiota and actress Yuki Mamiya
    A tornado of unbridled sexual desire is unleashed when a free-spirited seductress sets her sights on a reclusive playwright in this stream-of-consciousness tale in this striking entry in Nikkatsu's “Roman Porno” redux series.
    July 4
    8:00 PM

    South Korea
    Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Center New York
    Fabricated City
    Park Kwang-hyun 2017 South Korea 126 minutes
    A champion in the gaming world is framed for the rape and murder of a minor and sentenced to life in prison. After he escapes with the unexpected help of a serial killer, triggering a nationwide manhunt, his former team reunites to help their old video game partner, and soon they uncover an unimaginable conspiracy.
    July 15
    3:00 PM
    Fantasy of the Girls
    Ahn Jung-min 2016 South Korea 109 minutes
    After nave freshman Sun-Wha is unexpectedly cast as Juliet against her all-girls’ high school heartthrob Hanam as Romeo, she learns about first love and more in this disarming tale of first love.
    July 4
    12:30 PM
    Jane
    Cho Hyun-hoon 2016 South Korea 104 minutes
    Q&A with director Cho Hyun-hoon, actors Lee Min-ji & Gu Gyo-hwan.
    Using an abstract, circular, and cryptic form of storytelling, Jane sways between fantasy and reality, sincerity and lies. When troubled teenager So-hyun realizes her friend Jong-ho left her, she returns to the motel where they used to stay. There, So-hyun meets a transgender woman named Jane, who soon becomes her guardian angel.
    July 13
    6:30 PM
    Ordinary Person
    Kim Bong-han 2017 South Korea 121 minutes
    Set in 1987 Korea, a time of political upheaval, this gritty police procedural follows hard-boiled police detective Sing-Jin as he catches the prime suspect in South Korea’s first serial killer case. However, as the national intelligence agency gets involved he discovers a web of intrigue leading to much more ominous crimes underfoot.
    July 4
    2:45 PM
    A Quiet Dream
    Zhang Lu 2016 South Korea 115 minutes
    U.S. Premiere • Q&A with director Zhang Lu and actress Han Ye-ri
    A breath of fresh air in indie Korean cinema, Zhang Lu's quiet suburban comedy is a heartfelt charmer. Understated actress Han Ye-ri shines as the owner of a local bar, playing muse to three misfit regulars, played by actor-directors Yang Ik-june, Park Jung-bum, and Yoon Jong-bin.
    July 12
    6:20 PM
    A Single Rider
    Lee Joo-young 2017 South Korea 96 minutes
    A beguiling elegy for an irretrievably lost past, A Single Rider is the tale of a man fallen from grace. Disgraced fund manager Kang Jae-hoon (Lee Byung-hun, NYAFF 2016 Star Asia Award) leaves his Seoul office behind and books a one-way ticket to Sydney, where his estranged wife and son live.
    July 1
    3:00 PM
    Split
    Choi Kook-hee 2016 South Korea 121 minutes
    This gloriously irreverent mash-up of White Men Can’t Jump, Rain Man and Kingpin is a surprisingly poignant comedy-cum-sports thriller. Former bowling champion Chul-jong, now a seedy hustler, teams up with his attractive and tenacious gambling partner Hee-jin, and an autistic bowling savant to escape their literally crippling debt.
    July 9
    12:30 PM
    The Tooth and the Nail
    Jung Sik, Kim Whee 2017 South Korea 109 minutes
    In this complex, dark romance set after the end of colonial rule in 1948 Korea when anything seems possible, a romance develops between a nightclub magician and his female assistant, their romance intercut with a heart-racing police procedural.
    July 5
    9:00 PM
    The Truth Beneath
    Lee Kyoung-mi 2016 South Korea 102 minutes
    In Lee Kyoung-mi’s taut political thriller, co-written by Park Chan-wook, a mother takes a stand against the deceit and hypocrisy of men. Son Ye-jin gives a career-best performance as the wife of an aspiring politician on a lonely, desperate search for their missing teenage daughter during a crucial campaign.
    July 3
    7:00 PM
    Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned
    Uhm Tae-hwa 2016 South Korea 130 minutes
    Gang Dong-won in attendance, who will receive the Star Asia Award
    Um Tae-hwa’s magical second film is both a melancholy fantasy about time and, at a deeper level, an exploration of the world of childhood. Children find a glittering egg in a cave that, according to a local folktale, contains a time-eating monster. When it's broken, their lives are changed forever.
    July 13
    9:00 PM
    The Villainess
    Jung Byung-gil 2017 South Korea 129 minutes
    U.S. Premiere • Director Jung Byung-gil will be in attendance and will receive the NYAFF 2017 Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema
    Trained as an assassin from a very young age, Sook-hee has only ever known a life of killing. After single-handedly dispatching an entire gang, she's given the chance to use her deadly skills for good. This is not just another twisted Korean revenge thriller—it’s a reinvention of action cinema.
    July 16
    8:30 PM

    Southeast Asia
    Bad Genius
    Nattawut Poonpiriya 2017 Thailand 130 minutes
    International Premiere • Q&A with Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya and Chanon Santinatornkul & Chutimon “Aokbab” Chuengcharoensukying, who will receive the NYAFF 2017 Screen International Rising Star Award
    Nattawut Poonpiriya (Countdown, NYAFF 2013) places the heist thriller in a high school milieu for a nerve-racking joyride that plays on Thailand’s Confucian-like obsession with academic achievement. After losing a scholarship, high-school students stage a heist that will undermine the U.S. university entrance examination system and make them baht millionaires.
    Birdshot
    Mikhail Red 2016 Phillippines 115 minutes
    Q&A with director Mikhail Red
    This intense, slow-burning, and semi-mystical thriller tells the intertwined stories of two innocent souls and how society tries to corrupt them. One is a cop, investigating his seniors' political cover-up, the other a farm girl who has committed an irreversible act that she isn't even aware is a crime.
    July 6
    6:00 PM
    Kfc
    Le Binh Giang 2017 Vietnam 68 minutes
    New York Premiere
    WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK! This omnibus of strange and harrowing stories connected by vagabond characters at various levels of moral bankruptcy is truly sick in most parts, but what makes it unforgettable is the sheer talent of its director, and the ineradicable sense of profundity throughout.
    Showtimes
    July 6
    10:45 PM
    Mrs. K
    Ho Yuhang 2016 Malaysia 96 minutes
    This could very well be the spectacular swan song for the amazing action career of Hong Kong actress Kara Wai, an icon of 1970s and 1980s Shaw Brothers films. Whatever the eponymous Mrs. K might have been, she isn’t anymore, until a former associate (Simon Yam) tracks her down seeking retribution for a past misdeed.
    July 15
    5:30 PM
    Saving Sally
    Avid Liongoren 2016 Phillippines 94 minutes
    New York Premiere
    With its stop-and-start production taking more than a decade, the very existence of Saving Sally is a miraculous fairy tale of its own. This wildly creative mix of live action and animation centers on geeky wannabe comic book artist Marty and his hopeless crush on beautiful and spunky inventor Sally.
    July 1
    12:45 PM
    Town in a Lake
    Jet Leyco 2015 Phillippines 87 minutes
    The rape and murder of a schoolgirl brings unwelcome media attention to a quiet fishing village. With her classmate still missing, the forest starts revealing its mysteries, including giant shadow creatures that protect or punish interlopers. Jet Leyco's second feature is part H.P. Lovecraft, part David Lynch, and wholly original.
    July 6 - 8:50 PM

    Taiwan
    Presented with the support of the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York
    Eternal Summer
    Leste Chen 2006 Taiwan 35mm 95 minutes
    An emotionally searing drama about friendship and longing. Straight-A student Jonathan (Bryant Chang) is forced by his teacher to befriend rebellious underachiever Shane (Joseph Chang Hsiao-chuan). Ten years later, their friendship is tested by the return of former classmate Carrie (Kate Yeung) who secretly dates each of the high schoolers in turn.
    July 2 - 12:30 PM
    The Gangster’s Daughter
    Chen Mei-juin 2017 Taiwan 104 minutes
    North American Premiere • Director Chen Mei-juin in attendance
    After getting into trouble with a local bully, teenage Shaowu is sent to Taipei to live with her estranged gangster father, Keiko. He quickly takes to being a father and sets out go straight, but soon he is dragged back into the criminal world by corruption and a quest for vengeance that will decide both of their fates.
    July 1 - 5:00 PM
    Godspeed
    Chung Mong-hong 2016 Taiwan 111 minutes
    A sadsack would-be criminal pairs up with an eccentric over-the-hill cabbie for the cross-country delivery of a mysterious package to southern gangsters in this dark and irreverently comedic take on the road movie. Featuring Mr. Boo himself Michael Hui in a wonderfully wry star turn.
    July 16 - 1:00 PM
    Mon Mon Mon Monsters
    Giddens 2017 Taiwan 112 minutes
    North American Premiere
    A group of alpha-bullies kidnap their very own ghoul-like monster, keeping her alive with a steady stream of vein-fresh blood, only to get buyer's remorse. Things get gorier from there. The real monsters are the humans in Giddens's cruel and subversive follow-up to You Are the Apple of My Eye.
    July 2
    7:30 PM
    The Road to Mandalay
    Midi Z 2016 Taiwan/Myanmar/France/Germany 108 minutes
    An exquisite yet heart-wrenching portrait of vulnerable and marginalized characters at odds with their surroundings and even each other as they strive to make it at any cost. It starts when a romance develops between a couple on the small truck that smuggles them over the Burmese border into Thailand.
    July 3
    4:45 PM
    The Village of No Return
    Chen Yu-hsun 2017 Taiwan 116 minutes
    The relative peace of Desire Village, fraught with domestic squabble, is about to be disturbed by greed in various guises: a group of bandits prepares to besiege the time-forsaken hamlet and a Taoist priest (Wang Qianyuan) shows up with a mysterious device, the “Worry Ridder,” a helmet that can remove memories from people’s minds.
    July 2 - 2:45 PM

    Documentaries
    Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno
    Jung Yoon-suk 2017 South Korea 120 minutes
    North American Premiere • Q&A with director Jung Yoon-suk & the Bamseom Pirates (producer Park Junggeun, bassist Jang Sunggun, and drummer Kwon Yongman)
    The band Bamseom Pirates earns fame with their savagely satirical lyrics, bizarre performances in abandoned buildings, and a growing reputation for being the most controversial band in Korea. But soon friend and producer Park Jung-geun is arrested for violating the National Security Law. Hilarity does not ensue.
    July 11 - 8:45 PM
    Mrs. B., A North Korean Woman
    Jero Yun 2016 South Korea 71 minutes
    North American Premiere
    Mrs. B. reveals and conceals in equal measure. This documentary shows the reality of a woman who left everything behind, including her husband and two sons, to seek a better life, and who, in some ways, has known the worst: from her farmhouse, she operates a business trafficking North Koreans to China.
    July 3 -3:00 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-05-2018 at 11:03 AM.

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    WITH PRISONERS (Andrew Wong)

    ANDREW WONG KWOK-KUEN: WITH PRISONERS (2017)


    Neo Yau Hawk-sau is 3rd from left

    A NYAFF Main Competition film, from Hong Kong

    Disturbing Orwellian tale of militaristic brainwashing in Hong Kong juvie

    After a bar brawl with an off-duty cop, aspiring thug Fan (eo Yau Hawk-sau, of Fire Lee's gonzo Robbery) is sentenced to three months in juvenile detention. The results are gruesome. This is an eerily oppressive tale about a crime gang leader driven to attempt suicide by his humiliation at the hands of prison guards. But according to an early review, first-time director Andrew Wong’s film ends up pulling its punches. See the review by Edmund Lee in South China Evening Post. Neo Yau Hawk-sau, who portrayed a wholesome schoolboy in She Remembers, He Forgets , plays a very different character in Fan, a cocky, aggressive young gang leader who’s convicted and sentenced to a detention centre after knowingly attacking an off-duty cop and then refusing to bow to an arriving officer, thus "resisting arrest." The cocky troublemaker is there swiftly destroyed by the sadistic guards, whose shocking brutality and humiliation of the young man lead him to attempt suicide on just his third day behind bars. An alternate viewpoint is provided because we also follow the unhappy liberal young guard, Ho (Kelvin Kwan Cho-yiu), whose lonely wife can't have a baby and complains of his many absences for work. He provides a little sympathy (along with several fellow inmates) for the shockingly grim prison life of Fan in this realistic if ultimately naive film, which unfortunately ends with a pat message of crime does not pay, when it should be questioning Hong Kong's brutal juvie. The center section of this film compares with the harshest and most intense of British or American juvenile prison movies, but young director Wong doesn't know how to frame his realistic material intelligently.

    With Prisoners, 100 mins., released in Hong Kong Apr. 2017.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-02-2017 at 12:34 PM.

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    BAD GENIUS ( Nattawut Poonpiriya 2017)

    NATTAWUT POONPINYA: BAD GENIUS (2017)



    Dramatizing the clever capers of Thai high school kids who formed an exam-cheating syndicate, Bad Genius deserves full marks for a whip-smart script that makes answering multiple-choice questions as nail-biting and entertaining as Ocean’s Eleven. Produced by blockbuster powerhouse GHD (formerly GTH), the film is executed with that studio’s trademark technical slickness and hip style, but director Nattawut Poonpiriya (Countdown) also offers subtle yet stinging insight into Thailand’s class inequalities and corrupt school system. -- Maggie Lee, Variety
    The climactic phase involves taking the SAT test in Sydney so brilliant teacher's daughter and scholarship student Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) and her reluctant shopkeeper's son rival Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul) can send the memorized answers to bgf Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan), entrepreneurial prodigy Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo)and all their other rich paying classmates at their fancy school in Bangkok, who'll take the same test, but three hours later because of the time difference. It's a brilliant and elaborate scheme involving hidden cell phones in a toilet and bar codes on a set of pencils but as cheating on the international exam increases, security gets tighter. Thaneth Warakulnukroh of the (in the US) recently released Pop Aye plays Lynn's humble teacher dad.

    The film is nerve-janglingly suspenseful, but its real interest is the interplay between nerdiness and social success. Must one sell one's soul to be popular? In a competitive school world where cheating is rife, wouldn't it be tempting to barter one's brilliance for a few million baht? Lynn turns to cheating because her one friend, the flirty Grace, is dull at academics. And Grace's boyfriend Pat is potentially the Steve Jobs of exam cheating schemes.

    The whole thing isn't totally convincing, but it's so neatly presented and swiftly paced it's fun to watch. As Maggie Lee says, it might inspire a remake. Cheating on exams and intensity of academic competition are huge subjects in Asia but in the US too, and so are increasing gaps of class and money, a constant subtext here.

    The secret is, the actors playing Lynn and Bank aren't really nerdy at all. The whole is framed with a series of filmed confessions that gives away the outcome.

    Bad Genius/Chalard Games Goeng, 129 mins., debuted in Thailand 3 May 2017. One of the seven films in Main Competition in the NYAFF, it was also the festival's opening night film.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-09-2017 at 07:59 PM.

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    BIRDSHOT (Mikhail Red 2016)

    MIKHAIL RED: BIRDSHOT (2016)



    A world gone wrong

    Human life is all-too cheap and expendable in Birdshot. The well-being of one of the Philippines’ endangered and treasured national eagles, however, is a completely different matter. Indeed, in Mikhail Red’s sophomore feature, harming the animal is an act worth marshaling official firepower and even killing for. In his follow up to 2013’s Rekorder, the writer/director crafts a brooding, pondering thriller that dissects the hypocrisy of valuing one creature’s existence while willingly ignoring or causing the deaths of others.

    Such a description may make Birdshot sound heavy-handed in ts commentary on the state of Red’s homeland, and it sometimes is, but it’s also an effort of haunting contemplation and troubled beauty. Both the strength of its underlying themes and its striking visuals should help the film venture beyond its Tokyo International Film Festival premiere, with its scenic Filipino farmland sights, many loaded pauses and soulful performances tailor-made for the festival circuit. Red previously received the best new director award at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival, ensuring that interest should be piqued for the 24-year-old helmer’s latest stint behind the lens.- Sarah Ward, Screen Daily
    Is this director really only 24, and this is his second film? Apparently. He may be the Xavier Dolan of the Philippines - but one with more of a social conscience. In Birdshot, the story of a farmer's teenage daughter Maya (Mary Joy Apostol), who accidentally shoots an endangered species eagle, alternates with that of Domingo (Arnold Reyes), a young and idealistic police detective investigating missing people who were on a bus. Mikhail Red deals in mood, and is a slow developer. At 40 minutes not a lot has happened, on screen, other than the death of the eagle.

    But then it becomes clear that a police coverup of the bus incident is under way. Domingo discovers the busload was of farmers on their way to protest the appropriation of their land by rich landowners. They were "disappeared," and the case is squashed. Domingo goes out on a limb while he missing eagle has been assigned to him and his superior to replace the bus.

    The police are drawn somewhat crudely. But Red still weaves a spell and there is passion behind his story, and the lovely landscape of the island of Mindanao is used to add a haunting, archaic mood to the often ugly, bent police procedural. A memorable film. (The stunning, nihilistic screenplay was written by Mikhail with his cousin, Rae Red.)

    Birdshot, 116 mins., debuted at Tokyo Oct. 2016. Six other known festivals, including Gothenberg, Osaka, Vilnius and the NYAFF, and viewed for this review as part of the latter, on 6 July 2017. It is one of the NYAFF seven Main Competition films.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-12-2017 at 01:28 AM.

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    DOUBLE LIFE (Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016)

    YOSHIYUKI KISHI: DOUBLE LIFE (2016)


    MUGI KADOWAKI IN DOUBLE LIFE

    Spying on life to try to understand it

    Double Life, though it traces back to a French novel, is very much a contemporary Japanese film. It contrasts with the NYAFF Main Competition films from other countries, the violence and political commentary of the films from Hong Kong and the Philippines, the energy and moral concerns of the Film from Thailand. Here the people are comfortable, and often cute. They live in surroundings that are attractive and clean. But nobody quite knows what life's all about, and suicide is a distinct possibility for some. This is a world of angst and anomie Michelangelo Antonioni would understand. In one of his films, the role of Tama would be played by Monica Vitti. There is a fleeting resemblance. With the distancing and reveals there are hints of Michael Haneke too.

    Tama (Mugi Kadowaki), a philosophy graduate student ("What Is Existence in Contemporary Japan," is her Master's thesis title), wakes up in a bedroom steeped in blue and gray next to a boyfriend, Takuya (Masaki Suda), as beautiful as a woman (he's a game designer busy making soft porny girly pictures). They make love using Sagami Original 0.01 thinner-than-ever Japanese condoms. Then she gets up and smokes a cigarette on her balcony and watches her neighbor, Ishizaka (Hiroki Hasegawa), a successful book editor who seems like the perfect family man, down below with his wife, playing with his little girl.

    Soon Tama's budding voyeuristic obsession gets her inextricably tangled in other people’s secret lives. Her following one person is a suggestion of her philosophy dissertation supervisor Professor Shinohara (the very busy actor Lily Franky), who views her idea of surveying 100 people more the methodology of sociology or psychology. The professor has a book on his desk by Sophie Calle, a French author who has incorporated real life stories of tailing or shadowing people into her work. (Her book True Stories was an inspiration for the novel by Mariko Koike on which this film is based.)

    Tama immediately begins following Ishizaka closely and sees him making it in an alleyway with another woman, whom she also in turn follows: his mistress, she learns, is "Shawamura Shinobu, Bookbinder": her picture and title come up on her smart phone. Tama has become a detective - and is having fun, becoming so zealous everything else in her life, her boyfriend and social life, falls by the wayside. She doesn't really know what she's doing, and she leaves a mess as well as observes a mess.

    When a nosy, or more likely turned on, department associate (Shhei Uno) questions her about her thesis at a departmental drinking party, Tama's understandably reluctant to explain. It is, after all, not only irregular but arguably nutty, what she's doing. And she doesn't tell Takuya, and must not have contact with the man she's tailing, the professor tells her.

    But that doesn't work - and leads away from the long, subtle, observational passages without dialogue to a central sequence when Tama explains herself far too much and appears so naive and weepy it's a turnoff, though, paradoxically, it follows the film's second intensely erotic passage. When Tama's identity is "blown," that closes Ishizaka, her "Subject A," off as a subject, but she has also been tailing her professor, who is "Subject B," and now occupies the foreground of her study.

    In a flurry of intense activity, Tama finishes her thesis (it's not very long), alienating Tacuya perhaps terminally in the process. Meanwhile the professor attends his dying mother with what is apparently his wife. Before Tama submits the final version of her thesis, which Professor Shinohara ultimately rates a 93, he gives her an address and a theater ticket that lead her (and us) to discover something about him she couldn't have known - people you tail aren't always who they seem - while throwing in some jokey existential references to hHamlet for good measure.

    I don't know where contemporary philosophy has been going, but all this seems a bloody awful topic and methodology for a philosophy thesis. But it winds up seeming not a bad idea for a movie - one that mixes detective fiction with domestic drama while reminding us that in watching a movie, we too, like Tama, are basically voyeurs, maybe also, like her, trying in our fumbling ways to figure out the meaning of contemporary existence.

    A parallel counterpoint to the main story of Tama's voyeuristic obsession and her professor's problematic behavior is provided by an older female inhabitant of Tama's and her boyfriend's apartment building, Setsuko Karasuma, who installs a CCTV surveillance camera out back to find who's making such a mess of the common garbage/recycling area. It's a not a very subtle Haneke-esque device, but this lady is one of the ways the plot lines can be intertwined. So the camera is spying on everybody with its cold fish eye and black and white imagery while Tama's spying more selectively, but in color and with all her heart.

    Double Life is a little more complicated than it needs to be, winding up feeling longer than it ought to, but it's also full of ideas and quite ingenious, a worthy product of an over sophisticated culture. The film is original and has depth and complexity; the director shows promise and so does his lead. All three male leads are good, Suda, Franky, and Hasegawa, the latter particularly surprising as the duplicitous, manipulative, and, up close, dangerously boyish "Subject A," who can't be trusted as a husband, an editor, a lover, or even a man to tail.

    Double Life/ 二重生活/Nij seikatsu, 126 mins., debuted in Japan 25 Jun 2016. It is based on the novel Nijyuu Seikatsu by Mariko Koike (published 28 Jun. 2012 by Kadokawa Shoten. Dp Kozo Natsumi. It is Kishi's directorial debut and Mugi Kadowaki's first lead performance in a movie. Reviewed as part of the NYAFF where it was shown at Lincoln Center 3 Jul. 2017. It is the Japan entry in the festival's seven-film Main Competition.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-04-2017 at 01:00 PM.

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    THE GANGSTER'S DAUGHTER (Chen Mei-juin 2017)

    CHEN MEI-JUIN: THE GANGSTER'S DAUGHTER (2017)


    ALLY CHIU AND JACK KAO IN THE GANGSTER'S DAUGHTER

    Bad girl and wise guy

    Chen Mei-juin, a documentary filmmaker, enters the gangster film world crabwise in her feature debut, The Gangster's Daughter, through a father-daughter relationship in which Taipei wise guy Keiko (Hou Hsiao-hsien regular Jack Kao) is reunited with his daughter Shaowu (Ally Chiu) and each tries to move in the direction of the other. Keiko is a feisty girl, a bit of a tomboy, left to be raised by her grandmother on Kinmen Island, a Taiwanese county lying closer to China than to Taiwan. She gets in a fight and is sent to live with her dad in the big city. In the event, Keiko takes parenting seriously, sternly disciplining Shaowu - though they have an almost inappropriately comradely relationship, but good vibes. Keiko is a boss on a limited level: he has two guys in his crew, raised up there since they were Shaowu's age.

    While Keiko rejects his overlord's turn from gambling and prostitution to a more lucrative drug trade, Shaowu gets into fights at school and links up with a boy who does drugs. Emulating her father, she gets a tattoo on her back. Keiko's trying to be more on the up-and-up. Shaowu has a naive fascination with the gangster world. In class when introduced she says her hobby is collecting weapons. In a school fight she calls herself "Shaowu the Bad." This amuses Keiko, but he has the wise guy's parental puritanism. He is enraged when he finds she has unwittingly brought home drugs and won't even allow her to be accompanied home by a boy, let alone have a boyfriend. Shaowu's bravado hasn't been fully tested, but maybe she's the tougher of the family members. When she achieves mafia-style retribution by dumping a bucket of cow manure on a schoolboy bully and his father turns out to be a city councilman, it looks like maybe Shaowu's headed for a career in radical politics.

    Despite lively scenes, though this movie has reportedly done very well on home turf, it lacks truly defining moments. Throughout the action meanders and the energy doesn't really heat up and move toward the inevitable showdown till 90 minutes in. That's too long to wait, even for a humanistic twist on a crime picture. Chen's screenplay needed to play up the intimacy more, and the violence level as well, to give the action some contrast and bite. Shaowu and Keiko make an odd couple with good chemistry, and the gangster movie trappings are here. But when a bad cop is the scariest dude and schoolkids' clashes have the same voltage as gang tiffs, you know something's off.

    At the 90-minute point, Keiko's two posse members and girlfriend are shot in a club gunfight where the bad cop has tracked them down. Keiko's fantasy with going straight is dropped and he must go for vengeance over fatherhood. A final montage is a sentimental distraction. This is a film bookended by funerals, but neither the warmth nor the fatalism and grandeur are there. The attempt to blend a teen school movie and a noirish crime film doesn't quite work.

    The Gangster's Daughter/林北小舞 ("Showu the Bad"), 105 mins., debuted 10 March 2017 in Taiwan. Reviewed as part of the NYAFF (shown 28 Jun. 2017), the North American debut with Chen Mei-juin in attendance. This was the Taiwan entry in the seven-film Main Competition of the NYAFF.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-04-2017 at 10:54 PM.

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    JANE (Cho Hyun-hoon 2017)

    CHO HYUN-HOON: JANE (2017)


    GU GYOHWAN IN JANE

    A wandering homeless girl meets an engaging transgender woman

    Elizabeth Kerr's Hollywood Reporter review calls the new Korean film Jane "A disjointed experiment in narrative form that takes the unreliable narrator trope to untenable ends." She says the transgender female caretaker for teen runaways portrayed by Gu Gyohwan will insure the film mileage in LGBT festivals, but "after that Jane is destined for oblivion."

    Everything that Kerr says is true. The most memorable person in Jane is Jane, Gu Gyo-hwan, who disappears early on, though she is in a final scene in a night club, performing. She and the quiet troubled teenager So-hyun (Coin Locker Girls Lee Min-ji) spend time together during the first part of the film, in which we soak up the atmosphere created by Jane. So-hyun is a placid, mousy girl who has been abandoned by her boyfriend, Jong-ho. Throughout the film So-hyun provides narration in the form of a letter. What she recounts is circular, and may or may not be true. Jane may be an invention of hers, or just some of the scenes with Jane may be, or not. They are at a kind of foster home, with some other lost youths.

    The foster home ends when Jane dies, and they bury her and disburse. So-hyun winds up in another "home" of runaways, which isn't as nice. It's dominated by a cruel young man who in the first scene of it, has beaten her, why we don't know except he has judged by her face that she's a "pilferer."

    But as Kerr says, the kinds of "misery" that come up here are "rote," and "seen in street-kid dramas from every corner of the globe." The action is drab and repetitious. It's still harder to keep track of because of the unreliable, circular narration.

    It is a paradox that Jane may seem technically adventurous, but its content is drab and familiar. That rather undercuts things, doesn't it? And so it's also true as Kerr says that this would work better as a short film, in which the centerpiece would be a portrait of the transgender woman Gu Gyo-hwan, as Jane. Director Cho has made her most interesting material somehow peripheral.

    Jane/꿈의 제인 (kkum-eui je-in), 104 min., debuted May 31, 2017 in South Korea. Reviewed here as part of the NYAFF where it shows 13 July 2017. Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Center New York.


    LEE MIN-JI AND GU GYONWAN IN JANE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-04-2017 at 11:12 PM.

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    Kfc (L Bnh Giang 2017)

    L BNH GIANG: KFC (2017)



    Boldly horrific, fresh, but for many unwatchable

    This is described as a splatter film, which in this case mean a random series of bloody, murderous events. The director at the outset states three different ways that these things never happened. That's nice to know. "WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK!" the Lincoln Center festival blurb warns, continuing "This omnibus of strange and harrowing stories connected by vagabond characters at various levels of moral bankruptcy is truly sick in most parts, but what makes it unforgettable is the sheer talent of its director, and the ineradicable sense of profundity throughout."

    A splatter film is not something I signed on for when I became a film critic, and I did not plan to watch - or to finish watching. BUt in the event, I did watch, all the way through. AT festivals, I have sat through much, and so I was, in a sense, prepared. Furthermore, Kfc is not non-stop splatter in the way that Hollywood actioners are not-stop action - no, not at all.

    For many, Kfc will be unwatchable, indeed; it's for cultists, in search of the fetishistic, the bizarre, the trippy, and the outlandish. It focuses largely on poor, young, alternately scrawny or overweight boys and young men in rough, impoverished urban settings. You would not want to watch this while eating. One visual transition is from flesh-eating worms on a corpse's face to a plump young man pacing toward the camera stuffing french fries into his mouth. Cannibalism is a recurrent theme, and so is food and eating: the two run into each other, but not always.

    I still cannot say what an "ineradicable sense of profundity" is. But But since the film is one of the seven Main Competition films of the NYAFF, below you will find a description of it by someone who has watched it all through, Panos Kotzathanasis of iAsian Film Vault. As he explains, the young filmmaker had to struggle to get this made, but stuck to it. There is determination, and perhaps strong conviction here, and much filmmaking skill and freshness, if turned to a perverse end. Not likely to win the Main Competition prize, but a daring choice as the Vietnam entry.

    Le Bnh Giang (1990, Vietnam) was educated in Film at the University of Ho Chi Minh, but he wasn’t allowed to graduate because the script for his film Kfc was considered too violent by the Council of Examiners. L didn't give up on his project and tried to find sponsors. He won the Film of the Future Award at the Vietnamese Autumn Meeting 2013, which helped him get started. After making several short films he finally made Kfc (2016), his feature film debut, three years later.

    The story takes place in Hanoi, and revolves around a number of characters. A cannibalistic doctor who uses an ambulance to hit people in the street and then posthumously raping them. His son, who has become fat due to eating human flesh and his friend, the daughter of a prostitute who has fallen victim to the doctor. Another boy roaming the streets who becomes friends with the two children. A man whose wife has also fallen victim to the doctor. Overall, a circle of violence and revenge that seems to transcend generations.

    Le Binh Giang directs, writes, co-edits and produces a genuine splatter film, where onerousness seems to derive from every frame. In this fashion, the movie includes cannibalism, amputation and torture, kid violence, necrophilia, and even flesh-eating worms. Giang, however, managed to include some comic scenes, mocking multinational companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and KFC. A somewhat romantic scene with a couple riding on a motorcycle and the main theme, a romantic and nostalgic song, also move towards the same direction.

    The issue with the film lies with its narration, that includes many flashbacks and back and forths in time, which deem the story quite difficult to follow, despite the fact that, at the end, much of the events are explained.

    In terms of cinematography, Nguyen Phuc Vinh uses some interesting techniques with slow-motion, fast forward, and Bullet Time shots. The special effects are impressive, with the torture scenes and the depiction of blood being utterly realistic. Tilkerie Pham has also done a great job on the sound, which occasionally sounds even more grotesque than the actual images it accompanies. In terms of editing, there is an amusing scene, where the torture is paralleled to a comic strip.

    Evidently, the film addresses only fans of splatter, but "Kfc" is an impressive entry in the genre, especially considering that this is Le Binh Giang's debut. --Panos Kotzathanasis, Asian Film Vault.
    Kfc, 68 mins., debuted at Rotterdam 27 Jan. 2017. Presented here as part of NYAFF where it shows 6 Jul. 2017. It is one of the seven NYAFF Main Competition films, representing Vietnam.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-06-2017 at 09:04 AM.

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    A SINGLE RIDER (Lee Zoo-younG 2017)

    LEE ZOO-YOUNG: A SINGLE RIDER (2017)



    Far away, in a world of loss and regret

    Kang Jae-hoon (the eminent Korean actor Lee Byung-hun) is a sad, elegant, hollow man. This movie that he dominates seems becalmed - not a bad thing to pause and think - though Kang's story seems to run dry almost from the first. This brief film, Lee Zoo-young's directorial debut, could have been even shorter, but its quiet ruminations are often pleasant. It provides the sense of a lost time that no madelaine can regain.

    Perhaps preparing for disaster from his profitable work in a corporate bank selling bad loans, two years before he has sent his wife Soo-jin (Kong Hyo-jin) and child to Sydney, Australia to live, and learn English. Now the disaster has come, the bankruptcy of his bank, the failure of investments, the dozens of angry clients and friends who trusted him. Humiliated and in disgrace, he goes to Sydney unannounced, with no baggage, in a good suit. Neither he nor the suit appears to wilt as the days go by, but whatever purpose he has had falters. Creeping up on his wife and the house he discovers her in constant association with a jolly, burly neighbor with a small daughter, an Australian construction worker whose own wife is in hospital in long term care. And so Kang begins shadowing his own life, or what might once have been his but seems lost.

    Like a ghost Kang enters and explores the house, the beach, follows Kris (Jack Campbell) to the bridge he works on, even follows him to the hospital and talks to his wife in her bed. He finds Soo-jin has taken up the violin again and is seeking work, to remain in Australia. Remaining isolated, a lonely stalker of Soo-jin, Kang is pursued by a Korean girl he ran into on the first day, Jee-na (singer and Train to Busan cast member Sohee), a vacation worker who's been cheated by some fellow countrymen out of all her earnings and wants his help.

    When Kang sneaks up on this other life that should be his but isn't there's mystery about what he'll find and what he'll do, and that's cool enough. But as his world is becalmed that also gives us a little too much time to wonder if this is or could be happening or we've been transported to the Twilight Zone, down under. Or one may feel events are starting to feel generic; might have had a little more edge. The whole affair is anemic, especially for Australia. But in this reportedly fifth time working with a woman director, Lee Byung-hun delivers in this reflective melodrama about regret.


    A Single Rider/싱글라이더/Sing-geul Ra-i-deo 96 mins., Korean and English with English subtitles, debuted in Korea 22 Feb. 2017. Reviewed as part of the NYAFF where it screened 1 July 2017.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-06-2017 at 11:40 PM.

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    THE TRUTH BENEATH (Lee Kyoung-mi 2016)

    LEE KYOUNG-MI: THE TRUTH BENEATH (2016)


    SON YE-JIN IN THE TRUTH BENEATH

    A politician's wife uncovers dark secrets

    This political thriller-slash-family mystery is a rip-snorter from the rising Korean female director Lee Kyoung-mi, and the role of a lifetime for lead Son Ye-jin, who reportedly has had to do with relatively mediocre, conventional feminine parts up to now. She plays Kim Yeon-hong, wife of politician Kim Jong-chan (Kim Ju-kyuk, also fine). He has just won an intense campaign for his party's presidential nomination when their teenage daughter Min-jin (Ji-Hoon Shin), disappears. The result is an increasingly dark and feverish unleashing of secrets and lies and passions that's worthy of David Fincher. This is an ambitious and polished movie, as well as an elegant one, that at points may also remind you of Park Chan-wook (who in fact is one of the five writing credits on the screenplay).

    The public is turned off when Jong-chan keeps on with the campaign for president and at first has kept the disappearance of Min-jin a secret so as not to look as driven and egocentric as he is. Also turned off by his behavior is Yeon-hong, who reacts by beginning her own personal investigation of their daughter's disappearance. These ambitious parents seem to have known little about the girl or her life at school. First off, she doesn't seem to have been as nice a girl as they assumed, or very popular. She was linked with Choi Mi-ok (Kim So-ni), daughter of her father's chauffeur (Park Gene-woo). Despite the awkward social difference the two girls were fellow misfits, in a strange punk band. Their intimacy, the questionable nature of their activities, lead to doubts of hostility and violence and make Mi-ok a suspect in Min-jin's disappearance. But that's only the beginning, as things move gradually on toward scandal, tragedy, and revenge - while skillfully juggling Yeon-hong's feverish investigations, mixed with videos, social media, and other trendy artifacts including the repeated strains of a nonsensical but haunting pop song.

    The whiffs of scandal, both school and political, grow stronger. The screenplay's contemporary relevance in view of recent events in Korea is evident. But there is nothing doggedly realistic; the writers and filmmakers have let their fantasy run free, with pleasurable results. Much depends on odd revelations which we can't go into, because it's essential to the pleasure in The Truth Beneath to be a breathless, constantly unfolding mystery. One set of secrets involves the gift of a car deodorant, but we can't say why. Wait and see!

    Undeterred by her femininity, Lee Kyoung-mi gradually but inexorably ramps up the film's foul language and its glimpses of violence and sexual intrigue, in the end becoming an exquisite violence porn. Ups and downs with her politician husband - whose fortunes do not fade, and her discoveries in several fields lead Yeon-hong into turbulent reversals of passion and finally, a kind of madness. Things arguably get a bit too graphic in the final quarter. This is, however, continually not only a dramatic but a visually satisfying film, full of chiaroscuro and delving into a great variety of imagery.

    The Truth Beneath (Hangul: 비밀은 없다; RR: Bimileun Eopda, lit. "There Is No Secret"), 102 mins., debuted in Korea 23 June 2016, showing in at least five festivals including Fantastic Fest, Kyoto, Tokyo and Taipei. It has been under-seen at home and deserves more abroad. Worth a US release (excellent English subtitles too). Screened for this review as part of the 2017 NYAFF. (Already shown.)


    KIM JU-KYUK, CENTER, IN THE TRUTH BENEATH
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-08-2017 at 05:00 PM.

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    FABRICATED CITY (Park Kwang-hyun 2017)

    PARK KWANG-HYUN: FABRICATED CITY (2017)


    JI CHANG-WOOK AND SHIM EUN-KYUNG IN FABRICATED CITY

    Video computer games, sadistic murder schemes, and teamwork among misfits

    Wow, where does one begin to describe this big-budget Korean thriller starring a young unemployed misfit hung up on video games? Again David Fincher and Park Chang-wook seem guiding spirits in an effort that's director Park Kwang-hyn's first in 12 years. Park sets the bar a little too high with an opening sequence of Kwon Yoo (Ji Chang-wook) as "Cap" (the Captain) of a video game team engaged in an intense combat sequence. It hasn't much to do with what follows - except the actual people behind the game, with names like Yong_Guru, COV3R, DEMOlition, negativeSpace and Mr. Hairy, whose team name is Resurrection, come into play later. The sequences cost plenty and is pretty impressive. At the center of it is Captain, who is skilled, heroic, and known for being selfless in protecting his teammates.

    Captain, Kwon Yoo, is a handsome young Taekwondo champion, but was kicked off the team for assaulting a fellow member. He seems to live with his long-suffering mom, who begs him to get a job. That ends quickly when he's called from the game room to return a lost cell phone to a girl. As soon as he's done so he's railroaded into prison sentenced to life for murder and rape, though the girl was in the shower and he never saw her, that he knows of. (There's a whiff of a suggestion that since he's an obsessive gamer, the line between reality and violent simulation may have blurred too much for him to know what he's done; but we know he didn't do it.) The public defender, Min Cheon-sang (Jeong-se Oh) is no use. It's a maximum security prison built into the side of a mountain that's full of brutes. Kwon Yoo is brutally beaten, but being defiant, athletic, and skilled at hand-to-hand combat, holds his own. Other prisoners not the ferocity of his "will to live." Not so his mom, who has been trying to campaign for a reexamination of the obviously manipulated evidence, but suddenly commits suicide. Despite this tragedy through the help of a serial killer Kowon Yoo escapes from the prison and returns to the city to find how he was framed and exact revenge. We are in Park Chang-wook territory, but with a unique new gamer vibe.

    If you like action, this is your movie, because all this and more happens in the first 30 minutes and plenty is to come. Admittedly, the evil mastermind and his scheme are plot elements that are overcooked. But it's all fun.

    Back in the "real world" (not) Kwon Yoo is a fugitive, and one of his main prison enemies, a ferocious gentleman known as Ma (Sang-ho Kim), has been released to help find him. But it turns out his game team - and others - are his great fans, and they are pledged to track down the real wrongdoers in what turns out to be a series of murders and frame-ups. They're one of those motley crews who become a gang of brothers. Sisters too: Mr. Hairy turns out to be a contact-adverse but pretty and hacking-brilliant young woman called Yeo-wool (Shim Eun-kyung) who prefers to communicated only by cell phone even when the other person is sitting next to her. Several of the men are older and accomplished; there's a range of talent here. The techie tricks fly fast and loose as they investigate the crime scene from which Kwon Yoo was sent to the clink, and they find similarities between that event and other murder scenes Mr. Hairy invades multiple computer files as well as CCTV videos clearly establishing Kwon Yoo's innocence. But they want to find who's behind the fiendish series of crimes.

    Korean filmmakers are masters (or mistresses) of the choreography of violence, so when Kwon Yoo finally gets to beat up the evildoer behind the crimes and his mistreatment, you must appreciate the shifting motions of camera and the bodies as a dance. Nothing much new in the car chase, but the images are beautiful and the editing crisp. Sometimes we must be contented with over-the-top plotting and good production values. There's too much good stuff here - - enough for two movies; it seems that, twelve years from his previous feature, Welcome to Dongmakgol, director Park's brain was crammed with pent up ideas.

    Fabricated City(Hangul: 조작된 도시; RR: Jojakdoen Doshi; lit. Manipulated City), 126 mins., and released in various countries in Feb. and Mar. 2017 and thereafter. Reviewed here as part of the 2017 NYAFF, where it shows at the Walter Reade Theater July 15 at 3 pm.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-08-2017 at 10:57 PM.

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    THE MOLE SONG: HONG KONG CAPRICIO (Takashi Miike 2016)

    TAKASHI MIIKE: THE MOLE SONG; HONG KONG CAPRICIO (2016)


    EITA AND TMA IkutA IN THE MOLE SONG: HONG KONG CAPRICCIO

    Beginning of a franchise?

    Takashi Miike returns to pesky bumbler Reiji (the comical, irrepressible Tma Ikuta), inflitrated by the police into a yakuza clan on a suicide mission again as he was in the 2013 hit The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji, five years later in an even more delirious and colorful comedy about much the same thing, only more so. He begins the movie dangling from a helicopter stark naked except for a strip of newspaper blown to fold around his private parts. The movie goes on from one absurdity to another as Reiji is promoted to no. 2, and bodyguard for a yakuza boss with the police mission of wiping out the gang and its Chinese mafia rival Dragon Skulls. Reiji thinks he is going to be ordered to cut off five of his fingers early on, but instead is promoted. And so it goes.

    Things get complicated when a new super-clean police chief (Eita) comes in who despises the whole idea of undercover cops because he views them as dirty - which in cases like Reiji they certainly are. Reiji does so well as a police mole because he is seduce by the yakuza life. He is also seduced by a succession of women, including the mafia boss' daughter, Karen (Tsubasa Honda). Noboru Takahashi's manga is the basis. The film features a gloriously garish red and gold look, and a complete lack of logic. This is pop entertainment somewhat on the order of a sleazy comic James Bond movie, or Michel Hazanavicius' French OSS 117 series.

    Tma Ikuta is a star with many fans and may be quite ready to continue, so this looks like a franchise. Given the violence and sexual suggestiveness, not for young kids. See Mark Shelling's detailed and knowledgeable description of this film for The Japan Times, from which I learn that Tma Ikuta played the lead in a 2011 film version of the Tale of Genji. That shows he can do serious roles and would be something to see.

    The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio/ 土竜の唄 香港狂騒曲 (Mogura no uta: Hong Kong kys-kyoku) 128 mins.,in Japanese, English, Mandarin, Pidgin Cantonese, debuted at Macao Dec. 2016, showing at Rotterdam and other international festivals in 2017. Reviewed as part of the NYAFF, where it plays Fri., 14 July 2017 at 6 pm at SVA Theater, 333 W 23rd St.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-12-2017 at 01:42 AM.

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    RAGE (Lee Sang-il 2016)

    LEE SANG-IL: RAGE (2016)



    People need people; unfortunately people also kill people

    This film, the director's second based on a Shuichi Yoshida novel like his 2010 Villain, also a crime-aftermath tale, starts out with a gruesome crime scene, but turns out not to be a gripping police procedural but something else. It is three stories intercut, involving three young men who turn up without clear pasts, making them (somehow) suspects in the murder, which occurred two years ago. As it turns out, the two innocent men are the ones most suspected, and by those to whom they've become near and dear. Much repentance follows. And midway, there is a terrible event: the rape of a pretty young woman, related, but only indirectly, to one of the three mystery men, by American soldiers in Naha, the capital of Okinawa.

    So the story has a lot to say, but about what? Perhaps how hard it is to trust other people, and how much we need to be trusted. But the unfolding of Lee Sang-il's richly told but overwrought tale is one that involves frequent, and constant intercutting of scenes and shots in the adept editing of Tsuyoshi Imai. Naturally, Lee oscillates between the stories of Tashiro (Kenichi Matsuyama), a distant fellow whom a traumatized girl, Aiko (Aoi Miyazaki) takes up with; Naoto (Go Ayano), a shy gay man of mysterious origins in his late twenties taken home and turned into a lover by the semi-closeted successful Tokyo guy Yuma (Satoshi Tsumabuki, who got Best Supporting Actor at the Japan Academy for this performanced); and the scruffy backpacker Tanaka (Mirai Moriyama), who a couple of teenagers, Izumi (Suzu Hirose) and Tatsuya (Takara Sakumoto, who won the Japan Academy Newcomer of the Year award for his intense performance) find camping on the sly in an abandoned Okinawa bunker and befriend. When you know that Ken Watanabe plays Yohei, the troubled father of Aiko, you'll understand that the casting is careful and the acting is serious and first rate.

    But while there are scenes at the police station, the investigation is in the background, so it's only through a rumble of general news that we learn that the nationwide manhunt has resulted at last in identification of a prime suspect: a man called Kazuya Yamagumi. It's in the nature of the story structure that we assume it's probably one of the three whose stories we've been watching, under a different name, and perhaps using other disguises.

    When Aiko took up with Tashiro, Yohei, her father was the doubtful one. Yuma has discovered more courage and feeling through the rather strange, but sweet Naoto. He dares to take Naoto to meet his dying mother in hospice, and the unemployed, seemingly "lazy" Naoto spends more time with her than Yuma can. Naoto is apparently Yuma's first gay love, and causes him to chill and cut down on the bar, dance, bath scene. But Naoto has secrets and lies, and Yuma still feels distrust.

    The Okinawa rape has a devastating effect not only on on Izumi, but Tatsuya and Tanaka. The turbulence of the two guys' relationship however, is mysterious. And while we are admirably kept guessing up to nearly the end - the purpose of the whole story structure, somehow one feels unsatisfied at the end, even when the real Kazuya Yamagumi has been identified. Something about the whole elaborate structure seems factitious. We needed more of the old crime story stuff, if not identification of a wrongdoer to follow, at least more details of the police investigation. Dennis Harvey, ofVariety, thinks this is all about "the universal thirst for connection and trust," and in a way it is. But what's a murder mystery got to do with that? Harvey also thinks the movie "collapses into a last-act puddle of bathos." Indeed there is a tremendous outpouring of emotion from all the remaining main players in the three stories. A lot of the crying is because they really had nothing to do with the initial tale used to link them together. A lot of good acting, elaborate editing, and music by Ryuichi Sakamoto cannot make up for the artificiality of the tripartite narrative. There's a lot of good stuff here, but I felt it was used to make me uneasy more than to enlighten me.

    Rage(Ikari - 怒り), 142 mins., debuted 10 Dec. 2016 at Tokyo, also showing at San Sebastin, Sydney, and Edinburgh. Reviewed here as part of the 2017 NYAFF. It showed 5 July 2017 at the Walter Reade Theater.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-10-2017 at 01:18 AM.

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    AROUSED BY GYMNOPEDIES (Isao Yukisada 2016)

    ISAO YUKISADA: AROUSED BY GYMNOPEDIES (2016)


    ITSUJI ITAO (RIGHT) IN AROUSED BY GYMNOPEDIES

    So much sex, so little point

    Indie filmmaker Isao Yukisada here films a homage to Japan's 1970's and '80's roman pornos, a series of softcore wedding romance with graphic sex. Well, not all that graphic, only every ten minutes a pretty young woman gets her bra and panties ripped off and gets screwed. Its one of five in a new series commissioned by Nikkatsu for their 45th anniversary "Roman Porno Reboot Project." But this is also a portrait of a disappointed cinematic poseur who's on the way down.

    The protagonist is a failed art filmmaker, Shinji Furuya, played by the sad sack Itsuji Itao of Air Doll. He slouches through his role convincingly, somehow, as a randy loser with a burnt-out, wrinkled face who has a lean smooth body so we're not disgusted to see him mount his married wardrobe assistant; Yuka, a rich student; and, ironically, Arri, the actress who's just quit his current film and caused it to be cancelled. It was a sleazy skin flick anyway, what he's come down to, to make some quick money to pay hospital bills for his current wife, who's in a coma in an expensive hospital. He gets his first wife to prostitute herself to raise money for the cause, then at the hospital screws the nurse - not for the first time. This time it's in front of his comatose wife. It gets a rise out of her. Earlier, there's a retrospective of Shinji's films where only a handful of people show up, his students, one a male student who assaults him for having sex with his girlfriend. A fight breaks out, and Shinji runs off, with others in hot pursuit. So, sex and comedy.

    Yusisada has a delicate, restrained style, matched by quiet, restrained sets that are easy on the eye. The film never feels crude: it's just that there's a sex scene every ten minutes or so, like in a porn movie with a lot of narrative. Only it's just fucking, without ceremony or frontal nudity. I was reminded of Jacques Nolot, whose own films have combined sleazy sex with serious cinematic content; there must be some good films that combine gloom, failure, and sleaze. One doesn't hate Shinji. And one can't feel very sorry for him. He's certainly a jaded loser; but he's catnip for pretty young women.

    Another classy note is set to counteract the sleaze by the recurrent theme of Eric Satie's elegant, minimal piano piece, "Trois Gymnopdies," which is woven in by having a female admirer play it on Shinji's piano at the end - after which he runs off again, futilely, and perhaps fatally. Yukisada has certainly done his job for Nikkatsu - and yet, like the laziness of Shinji, it seems only just enough. And Shinji isn't really "aroused" by "Gymnopedies" - that's a cheat.

    Aroused by Gymnopediesジムノペディに乱れる (Jimunopedi Ni Midareru),83 mins., debuted in Japan 26 Nov. 2016. Reviewed as part of the NYAFF - showing 14 July 2017.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-09-2017 at 05:57 PM.

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    TRACES OF SIN (Kei Ishikawa 2016)

    KEI ISHIKAWA: TRACES OF SIN (2016)


    HIKARI MITSUMISHA AND SATOSHI TUMABUKI IN TRACES OF SIN


    Poison friends

    The first feature by Kei Ishikawa is from a screenplay adapted by Ksuke Mukai from a novel by Tkuro Nukui that explores the background of a cold case murder of a seemingly privileged young family. Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a journalist for a publication called Terrace Weekly who conducts interviews into the case for articles he hopes the Terrace will publish on the one-year anniversary of the (unsolved) case, the bloody murder of an upper class couple and their child. The interviews lead to flashbacks drawn from the series of depositions presented in Nukui's novel. These depict the world of Insiders the family belonged to and their ways of toying with and exploiting people they consider their inferiors, a generally ugly picture of some of Japan's social elite. Meanwhile we know from the first that Tanaka's sister Mitsuko (Hikari Mitsushima) is in jail for endangerment of a child, and eventually he begins telling a psychiatrist (Mitsuru Hirata), involved with his sister's case the ugly story of Mitsuko's abuse by their father when she was young. Eventually links between the two stories, of the Takou family Insiders and of Mitsuko, will emerge.

    The murdered husband Takou (Keisuke Koide), as one of a Japanese elite, was thought to have led a kind of charmed life. Tanaka's explorations reveal a nasty manipulator and betrayer and his world's way of using, but always in the end excluding, any of the less privileged at school or university who seek to enter their privileged confines.

    The main interest here is on class and in social networks (but not the internet kind), and This could just as well have been cast as a tale of love betrayal and ambition. But the murder mystery is an ever-popular glue to hold together all tales, and this does end with revelations - and additional shocks. Nonetheless it made me think at first of Emmanuel Bourdieu's Poison Friends, an intriguing French film I saw in the 2006 NYFF. That is, arguably, a better story, because it's not a cold case but a hot one - only a series of events that, after the fact, reveal to have involved a deceiving central figure; and the elite was one not of fixed class but of competitive young Paris intellectuals.

    Director Ishikawa has commented that because he grew up in the country, the stratification and elitism he encountered when he came to Tokyo seemed strange to him. And so here he seeks to examine it. He had also encountered a different world by studying filmmaking in Lodz, Poland - and his cinematographer here, Piotr Niemyjski, who is Polish, may also look on things with a different eye. Can one detect hints of Krzysztof Kieślowski? Ishikawa had thought of doing comedies: he hasn't done one here. In fact this film is humorless and dry, with an edge of cruel tragedy. But it has an intensity that holds the attention. The string music composed by Takashi Ohmama, has a nice resonance.

    Traces of Sin 愚行録 (Gukroku, "Record of Folly "), 120 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2016, produced by Office Kitano; also Warsaw, Gothenberg, Nippon Collection Festival Germany, Hong Kong; theatrical release in Japan Feb. 2017, Taiwan June 2017. Reviewed as part of NYAFF 2017, where it's showing Mon., July 10, 6 pm, at the Walter Reade Theater.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-10-2017 at 08:08 PM.

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