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.
Sheep Without A Shepherd / 误杀 (2019)
Director & Writer: Sam Quah
Cast: Joan Chen, Xiao Yang, Paul Chun, Tan Zhuo, Philip Keung
This movie is available to rent via VOD in Canada as part of the program of Fantasia International Film Festival until September 2.
This is a remake of Drishyam, an Indian-Malayalam crime movie. I don’t know how faithful this adaptation is but it’s about a working class father (Xiao Yang) who tries to cover up the accidental death of a politician and police chief’s son who sexually assaulted his daughter (Audrey Hui). Using his knowledge of movies he puts his plan into motion. The police chief (Joan Chen) who is the son’s mother orders her officers get confessions out of him by any means necessary, including violence.
After a somewhat slow start, the movie becomes quite an effective thriller. Otherwise good people do bad things and some of the police are corrupt. Such depictions would seem out of place in a mainland China produced movie but here the proceedings take place in Thailand.
Due to the COVID-19 situation, this year’s Fantasia festival will be online only. Movies will be available via VOD. The exact details are not known but the full film screening schedule and ticket purchase will be available on August 10. Anybody in Canada will be able to watch the movie streams.
The classic romantic comedy is a well worn genre. I often feel like romances in general work better in the longer TV series format where you get to see the relationship develop over many episodes. But a film can be good if the romance is at least believable and the comedy is really funny.
Not all the choices on this list are necessarily the best or most entertaining animated films (but some definitely are). I guarantee that each entry does possess either a unique visual style that is uncommon in comparison to other works by other creators or some of the most amazing visual sequences that I’ve seen in my life. Some of the films have both in spades. The first few choices will seem quite predictable but you’ll find some obscure choices lower in the list.
The last film on this list inspired me to create this list. Although I was tempted to call this the fiercest grandma list, a few movies on this list don’t actually feature grandmothers. But all these films do feature amazing actresses who show that age is no barrier to leading a film. Some of these films were also directed by women.
Go watch them as soon as you can or grandma will getcha!
Growing up in Canada there wasn’t much opportunity to watch foreign films, let alone East Asian films although once in a while you’d get some art house movie or foreign movie playing at a tiny local cinema. My interest in East Asian movies didn’t really happen until some time after university. In this series of posts, I try to recall the early movies that I remember having seen. Many of these would eventually solidify my passion for East Asian cinema.
I don’t recall exactly what was the first East Asian movie I saw but the earliest memories I recall are of Chinese movies from mainland China. Some of these movies I haven’t actually seen again recently and I definitely should because I barely remember some of them. Chinese culture was quite visible to me growing up, with there being a Chinatown and all, even if it was mostly inaccessible to me who saw it as a foreign place with a language that wasn’t English being heard.
In the last couple of decades, give or take, it’s been hard to really muster up enthusiasm for Chinese films considering the censorship and the increased focus on making money with commercial movies. They’re also small in number at film festivals. Sure you can see Chinese movies get a small theatrical release at the one cinema dedicated to foreign films but many of these are mass-market commercial crap that’s not terribly different from Hollywood mass-market commercial crap.
I’ve seen bits of these types of historical or historical fantasy dramas in the past, which are popular and plentiful in China. I’ve never really tried to watch a series or even a whole episode because they also seem very intimidating. The Untamed is an adaptation of a novel in the genre of XianXia, in which stories are set in some period of Ancient China but also include elements of fantasy and Chinese mythology. This series’ English name and its Chinese name (chen qing ling) don’t have the same meaning. I think the Chinese is the name the main character gives to his flute. The original work has a different name too. There are also two versions of this show, the original 50 episode series and then a special edition 20 episode series that has some differences apparently. I watched the 50 episode series.
I think this drama starts off quite poorly with its narrative choice to jump around in time in the first few episodes. It starts with a climactic event that feels like the ending but it’s hard to care without any real understanding of the situation or even the character relationships. After this it jumps forward in time to only jump far back in time to way before that climactic event. It’s confusing and disorienting.