Un Printemps d’ailleurs / A Touch of Spring (2017)
Director & Screenplay: He XiaoDan
Cast: Yan WenSi
Review: The story starts with Li Fang (Yan WenSi) who has a violent breakup with her husband in Montreal over her desire to have a baby. While her husband looks for a lawyer to organize the divorce proceedings, she decides to return to her hometown of Dazu in ChongQing (municipality), China to visit her grandfather. She struggles to reconcile her family’s idea of success with her own.
With regards to the story, it’s straight-forward and simple. It’s more of a character study or a bit of a philosophical exploration. Of course, there’s a bit of a clash between traditional Chinese values and more western ones that Fang has adopted but it’s not really the focus and simply comes out naturally as events occur. In another event, what seems like a cultural clash ends up not being the case due to the secrecy surrounding a young girl that she meets at her family reunion. The pacing is rather relaxed so it can feel a tad slow but it’s mostly fine and allows one to ponder the significance of certain events or piece together information from hints given. Buddhism is often mentioned including the idea that life is suffering. Fang wonders what the secret is to a happy marriage to which her grandfather replies with a very unromantic but perhaps sage response.
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Meditation Park (2017)
Director & Screenplay: Mina Shum
Cast: Cheng PeiPei, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma
Review: The story focuses on a grandmother named Maria (Cheng PeiPei) who’s seemingly good life is turned upside-down when she discovers her husband’s (Tzi Ma) infidelity after celebrating his 65th birthday. Further tension arises when her adult daughter (Sandra Oh) comes for a visit to pass on a wedding invitation to Maria. It’s from the son whom her husband disowned in the past.
The acting performances are amazing. This combined with the nuanced writing and efficient editing allow the story to move at a good pace that doesn’t feel too slow, which is often a problem with some dramas. Each character has their flaws and even seemingly negative characters are given dimension that gives some explanation for their actions, whether it be the neighbor who “steals turns” and undercuts his price for his backyard parking or the mistress and Maria’s husband.
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Claire’s Camera (2017)
Director & Screenplay: Hong Sang-Soo
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Kim Min-Hee
Review: The story for this movie is extremely simple. A French woman randomly meets a few Koreans (a man and two women) in Cannes during a film festival and finds out they know each other. Gradually their connections are revealed as she encounters each one multiple times and take polaroid photos of them believing that people change after she takes their photo.
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Mina Shum’s new film, Meditation Park, starring Cheng Pei Pei, Sandra Oh and Tzi Ma will be screening at the festival du nouveau cinema on October 9, 2017 at 5pm at Cinema du Parc. Sounds like an excellent way to spend Thanksgiving. I remember seeing Double Happiness which was directed by Mina Shum with Sandra Oh so seeing them collaborate again is nice but it looks like the star here is deservedly the legendary Cheng Pei Pei whose been in many classic martial arts films (Princess Iron Fan, Come Drink With Me, Golden Swallow) and was in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. CBC has a nice article about the movie.
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Le festival du nouveau cinema from October 4-15, 2017 will be screening films from all over the world at various theaters in Montreal. There are some recent movies from Japan such as Beat Takeshi’s Outrage Coda (the final installment of the Outrage trilogy) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish. Films from the past such as Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django and several gangster films from the 60s by Seijun Suzuki. There’s also an intriguing stop motion animation short film by Takeshi Yashiro called Norman the Snowman. From South Korea there are a couple of recent Hong Sang Soo films and from the past, a Korean western by Kim Jee Woon. There’s a movie from Chinese born but Montreal based director Xiaodan He called Un Printemps d’ailleurs. There is also a Vietnamese horror movie called KFC.
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Fantasia 2017, total films seen: 22
This was an okay year overall. Last year wasn’t necessarily that much better but it had some super memorable screenings while this year there weren’t any films that wowed me or had the audience go super crazy. Granted, I missed some South Korean movies I really wanted to watch like A Taxi Driver and A Day. Only three films were labeled recommended this year. This isn’t the worst year as far as outright disliking films but the number of films that I enjoyed or liked a lot this year was lower than previous years. I am starting to wonder if my interest in East Asian cinema is waning.
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Mini reviews of Free and Easy, The House of the Disappeared, Shock Wave, The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue, Napping Princess, Love and Other Cults, Rage, Extraordinary Mission, Night is Short Walk On Girl.
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Blade of the Immortal / 無限の住人 / Mugen no jūnin (2017)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Tetsuya Oishi
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hanna Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Ebizo Ichikawa, Erika Toda
Review: This jidaigeki film was a last minute addition to the festival but what an addition it was being the director’s 100th film. As a result the theater was packed with his enthusiastic fans. It’s an adaptation of the hugely popular manga of the same name. Manji (Takuya Kimura, ex-leader of the recently disbanded boy band SMAP) is a samurai cursed with immortality after killing a hundred men. Fifty years later a young girl named Rin (Hann Sugisaki) seeks out Manji. She wants to hire him to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his fellow master fighters.
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