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Thread: ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL Lincoln Center JUNE 29 - JULY 15, 2018

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    NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2018

    FULL LINEUP (58)
    Titles in bold are included in the Main Competition; the list excludes the surprise screening.
    ===
    CHINA (7)
    Co-presented with Confucius Institute Headquarters and China Institute
    – Dude’s Manual (Kevin Ko, 2018)
    – End of Summer (Zhou Quan, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – The Ex-Files 3: The Return of the Exes (Tian Yusheng, 2017)
    – Looking for Lucky (Jiang Jiachen, 2018) – International Premiere
    The Looming Storm (Dong Yue, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – Old Beast (Zhou Ziyang, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – Wrath of Silence (Xin Yukun, 2017) – New York Premiere

    HONG KONG PANORAMA (9)
    Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York
    – Beast Stalker (Dante Lam, 2008) – Tribute to Dante Lam
    – The Big Call (Oxide Pang, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – The Brink (Jonathan Li, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – The Empty Hands (Chapman To, 2018) – New York Premiere
    – House of the Rising Sons (Antony Chan, 2018) – World Premiere
    Men on the Dragon (Sunny Chan, 2018) – World Premiere
    – Operation Red Sea (Dante Lam, 2018) – Tribute to Dante Lam
    – Paradox (Wilson Yip, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – Unbeatable (Dante Lam, 2003) – Tribute to Dante Lam

    INDONESIA (1)
    – Buffalo Boys (Mike Wiluan, 2018) – US Premiere

    JAPAN (14)
    Blood of Wolves (Shiraishi Kazuya, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – Dynamite Graffiti (Tominaga Masanori, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – The Hungry Lion (Ogata Takaomi, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – Inuyashiki (Sato Shinsuke, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – Kakekomi (Harada Masato, 2015) – Tribute to Harada Masato, New York Premiere
    – Kamikaze Taxi (Harada Masato, 1995) – Tribute to Harada Masato
    Liverleaf (Naito Eisuke, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – Midnight Bus (Takeshita Masao, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – One Cut of the Dead (Ueda Shinichiro, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – River’s Edge (Yukisada Isao, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – The Scythian Lamb (Yoshida Daihachi, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – Sekigahara (Harada Masato, 2017) – Tribute to Harada Masato, New York Premiere
    – Smokin’ on the Moon (Kanata Wolf, 2017) – International Premiere
    – The Third Murder (Kore-eda Hirokazu, 2017) – New York Premiere

    MALAYSIA (2)
    Crossroads: One Two Jaga (Nam Ron, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – Dukun (Dain Said, 2018) – International Premiere

    PHILIPPINES (6)
    – BuyBust (Erik Matti, 2018) – Tribute to Erik Matti, World Premiere
    – Neomanila (Mikhail Red, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – On the Job (Erik Matti, 2013) – Tribute to Erik Matti
    Respeto (Treb Monteras, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story (Irene Villamor, 2018) – New York Premiere
    – We Will Not Die Tonight (Richard Somes, 2018) – World Premiere

    SOUTH KOREA (10)
    – 1987: When the Day Comes (Jang Joon-hwan, 2017)
    – After My Death (Kim Ui-seok, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – The Age of Blood (Kim Hong-sun, 2017) – International premiere
    – Counters (Lee Il-ha, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – Hit the Night (Jeong Ga-young, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – I Can Speak (Kim Hyeon-seok, 2017)
    – Little Forest (Yim Soon-rye, 2018) – New York Premiere
    Microhabitat (Jeon Go-woon, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – The Return (Malene Choi, 2018) – East Coast Premiere
    – What a Man Wants (Lee Byeong-hun, 2018)

    TAIWAN (5)
    – Gatao 2: Rise of the King (Yen Cheng-kuo, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – The Last Verse (Tseng Ying-ting, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – Missing Johnny (Huang Xi, 2017) – New York Premiere
    – On Happiness Road (Sung Hsin-yin, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful (Yang Ya-che, 2017) – New York Premiere

    THAILAND (3)
    – Premika (Siwakorn Jarupongpa, 2017) – North American Premiere
    – Sad Beauty (Bongkod Bencharongkul, 2018) – North American Premiere
    – Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-05-2018 at 07:28 PM.

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    THE LOOMING STORM (Doug Yue 2017)

    DOUG YUE: THE LOOMING STORM (2017)


    DUAN YIHONG IN THE LOOMING STORM

    Theme: "A man who is laid off from a steel factory desperately wants to chase a serial killer in a small city in Southern China."


    This is a mood piece and a psychological study on top of a meandering police procedural whose "police" lack real skin in the game and may not have their head screwed on quite right. A better title might be the French one, Une pluie sans fin (but the Mandarin one is , BÓoxuě jiāng zhý,"Blizard is approaching"), because the rain, and later worse, storm, doesn't just loom during the main action of this film but pour down continually on the gloomy dark decaying factory and on protagonist Yu Guowei (Duan Yihong), who is in charge of security, only a minor role at the factory. His main job is catching out petty thefts. But his dream is to be a full-scale detective who can unlock the secrets of the serial killings going on in the region. Details of these are threaded through the narrative, but Yu Gowei's relation to them is shaky. Weaving genre and psychological study with political commentary in a rich and complex and visually pleasing way, much of this film is quite marvelous, even if it's a bit overlong, but toward the end it loses direction, failing to reach a satisfying finale.

    The main action takes place in 1997, time of the death of Deng Xiaoping and the handover of Hong Kong, and also when China is shutting down a lot of underperforming factories and casting out most of the workers, a sequence of events talented first time director Doug Yue is registering quiet protest to, along with allusion to the general brutality and crushing effect on the common man of modern China's rapid "progress." It's suggested that many of the employees, once fired, are cast out of their humble dwellings as well. Yet Yu Guowei gets an award as Model Worker of the Year at an annual meeting of the factory for zealously catching thieving workers, and gives an impromptu acceptance speech full of hope. Is this indication of a sudden change of affairs, or of Yu Guowei's cluelessness? Or has he imagined this whole episode? The shakiness of his hold on reality is continually, subtly, referred to. But finally his pursuit of a scrawny individual he intuits is the killer leads to dire consequences. The award ceremony may be real, but it is intensely ironic in relation to the brooding landscape and dire fates of the factory and its workers.

    At the outset Yu Guowei appears ten years later in quite a different mode. He has just been released from pirson for an unspecified crime. Eventually we find out what it was. This opening, the present time of the film, is 2008, a time of natural disasters. When Yu Guwei is asked to spell his name on release, for an I.D., his explanation is that it's "yu" for "unnecessary remnants," "guo" for "nation," and "wei" for "glorious." So at the outset there is an allusion to how the "glorious nation" has turned many of its citizens into castoff remnants. And he is one of them.

    But in the rained-on main action, Yu Guowei gets minor involvement in investigating serial killings, examining the body of a brutally murdered woman as in so many noir mystery genre films. But there are actual police assigned to the case, primarily Chief Zhang (Du Yuan). Yu Guowei is only called in to give evidence of any absent workers from the factory: but this gives birth to his delusion that he is one of the case investigators.

    To bolster Yu Guowei's confidence, but only in a comically inadequate way, he has a dumb but cute assistant, Xiao Liu (Zheng Wei), who clumsily follows him around, gumming things up but praising his brilliance and calling him "maestro." This assistant is deluded too, if in a more benign way. But his eagerness and his boss's indifference to him lead to dire consequences.

    Unlike them is the dance hall prostitute, Yanzi (Jiang Yiyang), whom Yu Guowei befriends mainly in hopes that she will have clues about the killer. In a way she is deluded too, notably in thinking that Yu Guowei cares about her. But her dream is practical: to go to Hong Kong and have her own beauty parlor. She gets a humble beauty parlor, and Yu Guowei helps her with that. But she says "There won't be any customers in this weather." We don't see any. Jiang Yiyang's sad, droopy beauty and tawdry elegance give this film much of its atmosphere and beauty - along with the magnificently brooding lineaments of the dark satanic factory, which seems like a decayed building out of Kidnapped even though it is still nominally functioning. The constant rain makes it seem like a grand outhouse of hell.

    A long (doubtless too long) late-middle section follows the dreary relationship between Yu and Jiang, the asexual obsessive and the wan dreamer. Does she imagine he cares for him, though they never have sex? Probably not really, certainly not when she discovers he is not mooning over her but spying on her, imagining she may have a relationship with his imaginary killer.

    Yue is a subtle and sophisticated weaver of mood, but he needs to find his way to a tighter plotline and clearer action. The Looming Storm melts away in the rain, because when it returns to 2008, it seems to undercut too much of the (intentional) unreliable narrative that has come before, so the viewer can't get a grip on the action at all, and the film's complexities seem to overwhelm it. But Doug Yue is clearly a new director to watch.

    The Looming Storm/ 暴雪将至, BÓoxuě jiāng zhý, 120 mins, debuted at Tokyo Oct. 2017, and premiered in Paris 14 June 2018, but its French release to cinemas as Une pluie sans fin ("Endless Rain"") was 25 July: there were good reviews in major journals (AlloCinÚ press rating 3.5). . Screened for this review as part of the 2018 New York Asian Film Festival, where it shows 9 July .
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-20-2019 at 08:19 PM.

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    THE BLOOD OF WOLVES (Shiraishi Kazuya, 2018)

    SHIRAISHI KAZUYA: THE BLOOD OF WOLVES (2018)


    TORI MATSUZAKA AND KďJI YAKUSHO IN THE BLOOD OF WOLVES

    An old genre reappears

    "The yakuza movie used to bestride the Japanese film industry like a colossus," wrote Max Schilling of The Japan Times,"but now clings to its margins." Perhaps it should stay there. Of course diehards sometimes take a crack at the genre again, Schilling notes, Like Takeshi Kitano with Outrage Coda "but a true revival has yet to come." Kitano has done more interesting such films already, even if one watches them in vain for hints of deeper meaning that isn't really there.

    The Blood of Wolves features a sleazy bent cop, Shogo Ogami, played by K˘ji Yukusho, who is accompanied by a new rookie partner, a recent Hiroshima University graduate called Shūichi Hioka (Tori Matsuzaka), a pretty boy type who holds back his jujitsu skills and also the fact that he's from Internal Affairs and sent to lay bare Ogami's corruption - and get hold of his diary, packed with insider information. Hioka's relation to Ogami is interesting at times, as it swings passionately between shock and admiration. Yukusho and Matsuzaka both have juicy roles, and make the most of them.

    There is plenty of violence, right off the bat, including a castration, a clipped off finger, victims fed pig offal, a severed head in a urinal, and the like. The two cops are getting in the way between two rival gangs - Kakomura-gumi and the Odani-gumi - you know the drill. It's slickly done, and there are occasional surprises, particularly coming from a young female pharmacist. There is also an occasional austere-sounding voiceover.

    Shiraishi Kazuya's The Blood of Wolves is "more of a homage than a revamp," suggested Schilling. It is a cop thriller based on Yuko Yuzuki's novel, but the director has acknowledged his greater model is Kinji Fukasaku's Battles Without Honor and Humanity, a five-part 1973-74 series. "It would be interesting," Film Alert 101 speculates, "to know just how [The Blood of Wolves] made its way into the festival circuit." Maybe to remind us how the non-festival circuit world lives? Really Blood of Wolves, for all its genre thrills, is far too familiar, and too long. But still, at times, it's pretty great, too.

    The Blood of Wolves / 孤狼の血 (Kor˘ no chi, "Blood of solitary wolf"), 126 mins., debuted at Udine Far East Festival 24 Apr. 2018, opening in Japan 12 May. It showed in the Nippon Connection festival in German in May and at Sidney in June. It was screened for this review as part of the NYAFF at Lincoln Center where it shows July 2 at 9:15 pm.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-16-2019 at 02:30 PM.

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    ONE CUT OF THE DEAD//KAMERA O TOMERU NO! (Shin'ichir˘ Ueda 2017)

    SHIN'ICHIRď UEDA: ONE CUT OF THE DEAD//KAMERA O TOMERU NO! (2017)


    HARUMI SYUHAMA IN ONE CUT OF THE DEAD

    TRAILER

    Careful with that axe!

    This movie plays in an original and hilarious manner with the zombie movie genre. It is also a virtuoso display of self-reflection, a making-of a making-of, and it's in three parts. The first part is the film you saw on TV. Later, we learn that it was shot as the first episode for a new all-zombie channel, in a live broadcast single take - no time for edits - so "one cut" has a double meaning. The premise is this: A director whose claim is being "fast, cheap, but average," is making a zombie movie with a small crew in an abandoned water filtration plant in a remote location. During a break caused by the director's discontent (to put it mildly) with the female young lead Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) for flubbing 42 takes of the scene where she's threatened by her zombified bf, Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya), real zombies begin to attack, and mayhem ensues. After that the director returns and, heedless of the danger and doom coming on the cast, shoots the attacks of the real zombies with delight, maniacally yelling "Action!"

    All this movie was in fact made with virtually unknown actors and on a tiny budget, and part of its charm lies in its revelation of Japanese teamwork and artisanal ingenuity.

    The whole first segment, ending with the title and credits for "One Cut of the Dead," is a tour-de-force nearly forty-minute take. That cheap zombie movie shoot that turns real is just the beginning.

    Part two, set one month earlier, loses the energy and ferocity of the first part, but modulates into a homier, more self-conscious mood. It's from the point of view of the director, Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) and shows his family life, then how he got hired to do the movie, and its peculiar demands. We learn that his wife Nao (Harumi Syuhama) is an actress who's stopped acting, but comes to his shoots, and that his daughter, Mao (Mao) who comes for the rehearsals and later is recruited into the cast, has a crush on the young man in "One Cut's" cast, Ko, apparently a heartthrob, who emerges as a prima donna. What this segment lacks in excitement it makes up on gemŘtlichkeit. It humanizes the whole affair and takes us to the human stories behind the making-of that is to follow.

    At the last minute, the actress who is to play the older woman can't make it, and Higurashi's retired actress wife Nao steps in. The actor who is to play the director can't make it either, and Higurashi is forced to play the make-believe director as well as the real one. One of the crew members who turns into a zombie, we learn, is an alcoholic who needs a drink to stop his hands from shaking, but if he has one, risks passing out. Another cast member (and make-believe crew member) has something like irritable bowel syndrome, and must be reassured that there will be "port-a-loos" brought in, as the facility has no restrooms.

    Now we begin the third part, the complete "making of," of the film we saw in part one, which we fully appreciate now that we understand, as we must, that this has to be by-the-skin-of-your-teeth guerrilla filmmaking at its most demanding. It's a tribute to Ueda that as everything goes wrong in the shoot and the cast brilliantly improvises, you half expect something to go so terribly wrong that a cast member will actually get his or her head or arm hacked off. There are multiple axes in play.

    The third segment is the most important, and the most complete, but our appreciation of it entirely depends on our having seen the film as it appeared broadcast on TV. Not only do we see the cast running around in "One Cut of the Dead" T shirts moving equipment, splashing blood, and inserting fake chopped-off heads and limbs. We also observe the tribulations of the cast member with the loose bowel problem and the effort necessary to make him appear when the script calls for it. The director must personally revive the drunken actor.

    The hilarity is lightened by the production's success in spite of every malfunction and missed cue. As the TV people watch remotely, things repeatedly go wrong. Yet the cast's improvisations are more gonzo and original than the original script - to which they always return, like a masterful pianist picking up the theme of a concerto after the cadenza. The drunk's wobbly condition makes him an excellent zombie, once they can get him standing up. It's nice to see the prima donna turn into a team player who improvises brilliantly, and it is astonishing to find out why the director's wife is so impressive and even scary as the older woman in the cast.

    One Cut of the Dead /カメラを止めるな! Kamera o tomeru na! ("Do not stop the camera!"), 93 mins., opened in Japan 9 Nov. 2017. It gained international notice at Udine and has been in nine international festivals, including the New York Asian Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review, showing 13 Jul. 2018 at 10:20 p.m.


    TAKAYUKI HAMATSU, FOREGROUND, IN ONE CUT OF THE DEAD, WITH YUZUKI AKIYAMA, HARUMI SYUHAMA, KAZUAKI NAGAYA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-03-2018 at 02:15 AM.

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    CROSSROADS: ONE TWO JAGA (Nam Ron 2018)

    NAM RON: CROSSROADS: ONE TWO JAGA (2018)



    Eeny meeny, mene mene

    Malaysian filmmaker Nam Ron’s third feature is a messy little movie all seen through yellow filters, that aims to show that corruption is everywhere. A longhaired guy carries out his more powerful father's dirty work, starting with burning the body of a worker who died in a fall. He takes a kid along with him who wants to be tough. His older brother hides his sister at a sleazy hotel while arranging for her to return home, because she hates working here. She has lost her passport. Their are other subplots, too many. The main focus is a corrupt cop going around with his new young partner, only 23, whose face is twisted into a scowl of distaste at all the bribes and payoffs he sees. The rookie tries to remain pure, but he turns out to be a loose canon whose desire to play by the rules leads only to tragedy.

    The framing scene shows the rookie, but we don't know him yet, after a beating by interrogator. The next shot is of kids playing a Malaysian "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" game that separates cops from robbers, both emblematic of how the two are indistinguishable, and referring to the boy, Jaga, who will be caught up in all the mess. The director, Nam Ron, deserves credit for juggling his excessive number of small plot lines clearly enough, for those who are capable of taking them all in. There are too many, though, and a third of them should have been left on the cutting room floor. The trouble is, we don't care deeply about anybody except, briefly, for the rookie cop, who, like everybody else, betrays out trust.

    The film uses Indonesia’s Ario Bayu (Buffalo Boys) and the Philippines’ Timothy Castillo (Neomanila) playing illegal immigrants. (NYAFF festival blurb.)

    See David Pountain's review on FILMDO (penned at the Udine Far East Festival).

    Crossroads: One Two Jaga/One Two Jaga, 80 mins., debuted at Udine 22 Apr. 2018, also showing at Shanghai 16 Jun. It was screened for this review as part of the New York Asian Film Festival, where it shows 29 Jun.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-08-2018 at 12:25 PM.

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