Posted in Film Festivals, Film Screenings

RIDM – Montreal International Documentary Festival – Nov 8-18, 2018

There are some documentaries from China and Japan in this year’s edition of RIDM (Montreal International Documentary Festival). It has screenings from November 8-18, 2018 mainly at Cineplex odeon quartier latin, Cinema du parc and Cinematheque quebecoise.

There are several Japanese documentaries screening from Kazuhiro Soda (a director based in New York City). There’s one Danish documentary appropriately titled “Dreaming Murakami” about the Danish translator of Haruki Murakami’s books.

“A Little Wisdom” by Kang YuQi follows boys being raised in a monastery in Nepal. There is also “Self-Portrait: Sphinx in 47 KM” by Zhang MengQi.

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Posted in Festival du nouveau cinéma, Film Festivals, Reviews, Trailers, Video

Burning – film review – Nouveau Cinema 2018

Burning / 버닝 (2018)
Director: Lee Chang-Dong
Screenplay: Lee Chang-Dong, Oh Jung-mi
Cast: Jun Jong-seo, Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun

Next Screening on Sunday, Oct 14

Synopsis

In the city of Paju, a young man, Jong-su, who recently completed his military service encounters a childhood classmate, Hae-mi. She seems to like him but later starts dating a mysterious, affluent stranger named Ben whom she met on a trip. Jong-su soon suspects something sinister about Ben.

Review

This is a slow-burn story with a bit of a thriller aspect. It focuses on its two young characters who are lower class without much of an idea what they will do with their lives. Youth unemployment is high and it’s probably not a coincidence that the antagonist is a rich person, a “Gatsby” as Jong-su calls him. There’ also a subplot with Jong-su’s dad who’s arrested for allegedly assaulting a government official.

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Posted in Festival du nouveau cinéma, Film Festivals, Reviews, Trailers, Video

Ash is Purest White – film review – Nouveau Cinema 2018

Ash is Purest White / 江湖儿女 (2018)
Director & Screenplay: Jia Zhang-Ke
Cast: Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Zheng Xu

Synopsis

Follows a couple involved in the underworld/jiang hu in the city of DaTong and eventually elsewhere over two decades. The tone of some trailers (like the one below) is quite misleading. This is a pensive, personal type of film without exciting action or high stakes conflict.

Review

This isn’t a plot heavy movie. The pace is relaxed. It can feel a bit slow at times but it never lingers too long on a scene. Events happen without much explanation for them but they don’t feel contrived or forced. The focus is on the characters, specifically the main couple, a woman Qiao (Zhao Tao) and her boyfriend, Bin (Liao Fan) and more so on the former than the latter. They are involved in shady business but what sort of shady business they do is not revealed and simply implied. Their relationship changes over the course of the film and their emotions are often restrained. There’s a bit of a mysterious quality that is compelling rather than frustrating in its lack of specific detail. This relies heavily on good acting and both actors do their jobs well. This is definitely not an overwrought Hong Kong triad love story (as fun as those can be). But the tragedy here as love and jiang hu mix is more due to how the characters react to events and how they continue trying to survive rather than a seemingly inevitable suicide mission or last job set piece.

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Posted in Art & Animation, Festival du nouveau cinéma, Film Festivals, Trailers, Video

Festival du Nouveau Cinema – Oct 3-14, 2018

This year’s Festival du nouveau cinema screens many intriguing films from around the world from October 3-14, 2018 at Cineplex Quartier Latin, Cinema du Parc and Imperial cinema. There is as usual a great selection of East Asian films. I won’t list them all but I will mention some of the ones I look forward to seeing the most.

Films from China have often been lacking at festivals (perhaps in part due to censorship) but this edition features Jia ZhangKe’s latest film, Ash is the Purest White starring his wife and muse Zhao Tao and Liao Fan, an actor’s who’s been in many good films that I’ve enjoyed. Other actors in the film include Feng Xiaogang and Xu Zheng which make up an impressive cast. Long Day’s Journey into the Night directed by Bi Gan stars Huang Jue and the ever compelling and beautiful actress Tang Wei.

From Japan, the festval brings Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest work Shoplifters, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It has an excellent cast including Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, and Kirin Kiki (her last film before she passed away in 2018). I’m biased since I’ve enjoyed many films by this director but I think this is a must-watch. Killing directed Shinya Tsukamoto stars Sosuke Ikematsu and Yu Aoi, both very good actors. Mamoru Hosoda’s latest animated film Mirai looks delightful for kids and adults. I’ve enjoyed past anime films by this director. There are also restored versions of older Japanese films from 60s, 70s & 80s which should intrigue those with a longer history of Japanese film viewing than myself.

The South Korea film I’m eager to see is Burning by Lee Chang Dong, whose previous film I saw was very engaging and thought provoking. This one stars Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, and Jeon Jong-seo.

From France, there’s the animated film Funan directed by Denis Do about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It won the Crystal Prize for Best Feature Film at Annecy International Animated Festival.

There are also other films from South East Asian countries such as Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

Trailers after the jump.

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Posted in Fantasia 2018, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals

Fantasia 2018 festival in review

Fantasia 2018, total films seen: 23

Although the lineup featured some films I was excited to watch, this ended up like last year where nothing really stood out. In fact, I’d say that I felt even more indifferent about most of what I watched compared to last year. The best thing I can say is that I didn’t really hate anything I watched this year but at the same time I only gave two films the recommended label, this is the lowest total and ties it with 2011, the first year that I extensively covered the festival on this blog. However, due to the schedule and my other personal commitments I missed a lot of the South Korean films but I’m not sure that it would’ve affected my overall impression that much. Many of the South Korean films didn’t appeal to me or appeared to be retreads.

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Posted in Art & Animation, Fantasia 2018, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews, Trailers, Video

Penguin Highway – film review – Fantasia 2018

PenguinHighwayPenguin Highway / ペンギン・ハイウェイ (2018)

DIRECTOR: Hiroyasu Ishida
WRITER: Makoto Ueda
CAST: Kana Kita, Yû Aoi

Synopsis

Adpated from a book, a 4th grade boy has a crush on an older woman who works at the dentist’s office that he goes to but that’s not the only thing on his mind. When penguins start appearing in his town, he decides to investigate with his best friend.

Review

This film exhibits one of the great things that make animation a special medium. There are simply things you can draw that you couldn’t possibly replicate in real life or even with the aid of photo-realistic computer graphics. That sort of imagination and creativity are on display in this film.

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Posted in Fantasia 2018, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews, Trailers, Video

The Outlaws – film review – Fantasia 2018

TheOutlawsThe Outlaws / 범죄도시 [BumJoedoshi] / Lit: Criminal City (2017)

DIRECTOR: Kang Yun-sung
WRITER: Kang Yun-sung
CAST: Don Lee (Ma Dong-seok), Yoon Kye-sang, Cho Chae-yun, Choi Guy-hwa, Jin Seon-kyu

Synopsis

Ma is a detective who leads a team that keeps the Korean-Chinese gangs under control. But the status quo gets turned upside-down when a trio of gangsters from China come into Seoul and start brutally taking away territory from the current Korean-Chinese gangsters. Inspired by real events (and probably extremely loosely).

Review

This is a pretty solid Korean crime movie with a charismatic lead performance from Don Lee / Ma Dong-seok that’s matched by the villain Jang Chen (Yoon Kye-sang). Although the new Chinese gangsters in town are quite brutal, chopping off limbs with axes, the gore isn’t really put on screen. The movie’s overall tone isn’t dark and has some funny moments.

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