A half sister and half brother are living in a small fishing village in Northeast China near the border to South Korea. They have an especially close relationship. However, an oil spill forces the half brother to find another job. His friend gets him involved in something shady. This combined with meeting a woman ends up testing the half siblings’ bond.
This is a surprising drama from mainland China. It’s subtle but it manages to tell its story fairly clearly without spelling things out completely. The characters in particular are very well realized and although friendships seem to form quickly it progresses quite naturally. Gu Xi (Celeste Lv Xingchen) plays a complex character, while she appears to simply have a very close friendship with her older half brother, it soon becomes apparent that she feels something more bordering on romantic. At one point she questions if she is actually blood related at all. While initially friendly with Xing Chang (Wang Jiajia), a woman her half brother, Gu Liang (Wu Xiaoliang) meets, she gradually becomes jealous of her. However, there also appears to be a moment of attraction between Gu Xi and Xing Chang.
Two kids and their divorced father move into their grandpa’s house. They are soon joined by the their aunt (the father’s sister) who worries about grandpa since he is quite old.
This is a slice of life drama that’s slow moving. Nothing of real interest happens and there’s no real plot. Perhaps the daughter Okjoo could be considered the main character as we certainly see her the most but it’s still largely an ensemble cast. She’s the big sister and her little brother is typically annoying but they have a good relationship. She also has some of her own issues including some unresolved feelings towards her absent mother. She wears a t-shirt at one point that has this written on it, “Love is so shortForgetting is long” which likely alludes to Okjoo’s father being divorced, grandma having passed away long ago and the father’s sister wanting a divorce.
Red Post on Escher Street / エッシャー通りの赤いポスト [Escher Dori no Akai Posuto] (2020) Director & Screenplay: Sion Sono Producers: Hiroyuki Ogasawara, Masaya Takahashi Cast: Sen Fujimaru, Riku Kurokouchi, Mala Morgan
A movie director decides to cast all amateurs for his next features and makes an open casting call to newcomers. However, studio interference forces him to replace his chosen leads at the last minute with professional actresses. The extras end up revolting as a result.
This boring sounding synopsis does not do justice to this movie. While it does feel slow at the beginning introducing all the different extras, soon we get to see the two women who will be eventually chosen as the leads and we can see quite clearly why they’re chosen. However, this buildup was necessary as we get to see each extra’s reason for going to the auditions and a bit of insight into their current life situations.
A chicken slaughterman in Hanoi has a run-in with some small time gangsters. That’s pretty much my synopsis for this because it’s as simple as that on the surface but to say more would perhaps spoil the rather unique experience.
The movie starts with a disclaimer about how post-production effects were used for the simulation of chicken and duck slaughter scenes. There’s nothing particularly graphic about these scenes and they don’t happen often but I guess the director felt the need to warn people. It’s funny how he puts it at the end saying that this is a drama about humans and not a drama about chickens and ducks.
Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing this year’s Nouveau cinema festival will be virtual with online screenings available to watch from October 7-31, 2020 without scheduled times. The selection is smaller but there seems to be a fair number of films by directors I’m not familiar with which is intriguing. The only director I’m familiar with that has a film screening is Sion Sono.
From China, we have The Cloud in Her Room and Wisdom Tooth. From Japan we have Red Post on Escher Street and Shell Joint. From South Korea we have Moving On. Trailers below:
So Long, My Son / 地久天长 [dì jiǔ tiān cháng] (2019)
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
Screenplay: A Mei, Wang Xiaoshuai
Producers: Wang Hai, Han Jianv, Yang Wei, Wang Xiaoshuai, Liu Xuan
Cast: Wang Jingchun, Yong Mei
Two families each have a son born on the same day. Their sons become best friends but the death of one of the sons and a forced abortion before the incident due to China’s one child policy causes a rift between the two families with the pain of that tragedy lasting for decades. The Chinese title (di jiu tian chang) has a different meaning from the English title. It’s an idiom from Laozi and at its simplest it can mean “forever” or “enduring until the world lasts”.
At three hours long, one might hesitate to watch it but there is not a wasted frame in the entire film and it always remains engaging with good pacing. To me, It did not feel like three hours had past as I was engrossed by the story and the characters. The acting is great with lots of subtlety. This is a very naturalistic and realistic film about working class Chinese. There are a few threads that are all mostly resolved with an emotional ending although not all truths are told.
Diner / ダイナー (2019)
Director: Mika Ninagawa
Screenplay: Hirohito Goto, Yoshikazu Sugiyama, Mika Ninagawa
Producers: Takuya Ito, Morio Amagi
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tina Tamashiro, Shun Oguri
An abandoned young woman, Kanako, with no aim in life has the bad luck of becoming a waitress in a restaurant for assassins (because it ran out of waitresses who were killed for various service-related mistakes). This is based on a book and possibly the manga adaptation.
A kooky but mostly derivative movie. While it looks nice and has some stylized combat there are signs of a low budget here. The first sign is that the majority of the movie takes place in a single location, which is the restaurant. It is seen mostly empty with only Kanako & her harsh boss and head chef, Bombero. Despite there being multiple gang bosses, you only actually see the gang of one of the bosses. Two appear to have nobody and one only seems to have the one assassin. Because of this, the world of movie feels very small.
Children of the Sea / 海獣の子供[Kaijū no kodomo] (2019)
Director: Ayumu Watanabe
Screenplay: Daisuke Igarashi
Producer: Eiko Tanaka
Cast: Mana Ashida, Gorô Inagaki, Hiiro Ishibashi, Seishû Uragami
This is based on a manga. It is about a young girl with an innate connection to ocean animals. Thinking she’s alone, she meets a couple of boys who were raised in the ocean by dugongs. Besides that unconventional upbringing there is are other odd things about he boys and the mystery related to them goes far beyond their upbringing.
Visually and aurally the movie is quite amazing. With music composed by Joe Hisaishi, that also signals that the soundtrack will be excellent. Scenes of all the variety of sea creatures in the ocean to lush greenery and vibrant flower above ground, there’s no shortage of incredible art. There’s also fair amount of zoom effects and camera shifts which appear to be computer aided. The animation is very high quality overall.