Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sinful Adulteress (Hong Kong, 1974, Shaw Brothers) Review

http://brns.com/pages4/shaw8.html

Shilpa Shetty


For those who were religiously following the mounting excitement on the late lamented Kaiju Shakedown regarding Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty, and her involvement on a U.K. reality TV show, the final news is in! And in fact it was front page news on a few English rags that actually call themselves newspapers. Shilpa has won by a landslide! Bollywood rules! India has gone into a state of utter delirium and has apparently closed businesses and schools for a week in order to celebrate national pride. Peace with Pakistan is next. This in fact may be the Indian Century. Next up for Shilpa is perhaps a run for political office or maybe even a decent film to be in.

Won what some of you may ask? Shilpa who others may inquire? Clearly the unknowing must be Americans who think their reality shows rule the world because the rest of the civilized globe was anxiously tracking every movement and moment of the U.K reality show Big Brother. Yes, I know we already have our own version of Big Brother over here – it’s a reality show as well – but we call it the Bush Administration while on the other side of the Atlantic it is a reality TV show where a bunch of no longer in the public eye celebrities gather in a house to live together for 25 days of aggravation and public scorn and scrutiny – all televised for our voyeuristic culture to lasciviously follow. Some of the others in this peculiar ménage were singer Leo Sayer (anyone besides me remember him?), Jermaine Jackson and none other than legendary film director Ken Russell. This show made huge headlines and even made it into diplomatic circles because a few of the contestants made racially insensitive remarks towards Shilpa. I am not sure why the statuesque Shilpa who comes in at 5’10’’ didn’t just smack them down, but instead this behavior from others engendered a huge amount of sympathy for Shilpa and made her the winner. Before entering the house a few weeks back, Shilpa had this to say “"I want to clear out the misconception of Indian people. We are modern, intelligent and glamorous. I want all of India to be proud of me". And so they are Shilpa! Let me know when the DVD comes out.

Now to the who the hell is Shilpa Shetty question. She is still actually quite an active Bollywood actress though many may wonder the how and why of that. Beginning her career in 1993 with a film called Baazigar that shot her two co-stars to fame (a guy called Shahrukh Khan and a little known actress simply known as Kajol), but it didn’t do much for her career. She is apparently not a bad actress and has been nominated more than a few times for awards but she has the bad habit of being in one flop after another and yet still has made over 50 films. More famous for her full figure and willingness to show these curves in tight fitting or revealing outfits than her acting, she shows up constantly in magazine glamour spreads. At one time a warrant was issued for her arrest for posing in an “obscene manner”!

Two films in which this 31 year-old actress is supposed to be quite good according to Internet sources are Dhadkan and Phir Milenge where she plays an HIV victim. Her sister Shamita is in the film business as well.

For those who even care, here are a load of pictures I scanned in of Shilpa from some magazines.

Shilpa 1
Shilpa 2
Shilpa 3

Diary (Hong Kong, 2006) - Review


http://brns.com/pages4/horror39.html

S’kali (Together) – Malaysia 2006


Here are just a few sentences about a film that you have likely never heard of and likely will never get an opportunity to see. So why bother you might ask? Simply as an occasional reminder that beneath the radar of the big films and the big hype is a world of small personal films that are being made simply for the love of the process. It is also a reminder that there are intriguing independent film stirrings taking place around South East Asia that so few of us get a glimpse of – but in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam many young filmmakers are telling stories that mean something to them. One can’t get much younger in fact than the director of this film – a 23 year old Indian from Malaysia by the name of Arivind Abraham.

The film has all the faults that one might expect in a film debut from such a young person and made on little more than a phantom budget and a prayer – stilted at times, sluggish at others, overly earnest – but beneath the lack of fancy visuals and non-existent sets (much of the film takes place in people’s cramped bedrooms or in a mamak (very basic casual eatery) is a heartfelt story of friends that ultimately hits its target.

It is a cross-cultural tale that takes place in Kuala Lumpur and is clearly very influenced by Yasmin Ahmad’s wonderful Sepet – a fact that the director doesn’t attempt to hide as he refers to the film a few times and includes a terrific out of the blue cameo from the director. It is clear that the five young middle class people who gather almost daily at the mamak to talk about their lives have been good friends for a long time, but they have all reached that age where life making adult decisions need to be made. They are an ethnically and gender wise cross-section of Malaysian society – Ravin (Jayaram Nagaraj), an Indian want to be film director (which makes one wonder how much of this film is autobiographical), Sze Huey (Davina Goh), a young female Chinese journalist with hidden feelings for Ravin, Tahmina (the very lovely Angeline Rose), emotionally troubled by her parents breakup, Bahir (Zimy Rosan) who is trying to make it in the local music scene and has hidden feelings for Tahmina and finally Tzao (Derek Ong) ,who is frustrated and angry with his inability to get into a university in Malaysia because of the structured preference given to Malays over other ethnic groups.

This set up inevitably leads to racially taboo relations, rancor and tragedy as social forces begin to break the seams of these long held friendships. It all plays out a bit awkwardly and perhaps too obviously, but it still manages to touch you with its message of the enduring bonds of those you grew up with. In an odd scene – whether intended to be fantasy or not I am not sure – Ravin bumps into Yasmin on a rooftop on New Year’s Eve and tells her of his difficulties in writing a script. Her advice to him is simple – write about your true feelings and everything else will fall into place. And it is clear that the director has tried to follow her advice in this film.

Source of viewing: Screener

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Battle of Wits Photo Book


I believe the DVD for Battle of Wits is going to be making an appearance soon so I thought I would scan in some pictures from a photo book of the film that I picked up. At the time I hadn't actually seen the film and am not sure I would have bothered buying this if I had. Not that Battle of Wits is a bad film - it has many good aspects to it such as the large scale battle scenes, the high production values and a refusal to give in commercially to flying swordsmen by keeping the action fairly realistic. But it still manages to be solidly dull due primarily to a stiff upper lip performance from Andy Lau as the warrior philosopher do-gooder sexually abstaining hero of the film. There is also a romance that is so limp, melodramatic, corny, gender insulting and out of place that it literally had me trying to control my chortles in the theater. Nevertheless, it is probably worth picking up the DVD when it comes out.

16 photos of it.

And just because I promised to - here are some more scans of 10 Japanese film posters:

Posters 1
Posters 2

Every blue moon I take a look at what words people put into the search engine on my web site out of curiosity and the occasional laugh. So I am still trying to figure out what the person or persons who came to a site called HK Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge expected to find yesterday by entering "testicle castration" or "bondage tools" or " "Christy Chung lesbian scene". Ok - the last one sounds reasonable and if someone knows something about that I would love to know!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Back to more pictures


Hong Kong film has been dominated by a few male stars for nearly fifteen years and there is no sign that this will change any time soon. This is partly because they have so much appeal, partly because they actually seem to be getting better with age and partly because no one has come on the scene that can remotely challenge them. This last reason is a bit problematic for an industry that has been going through some down times for a while and could use some new fresh charismatic men. But instead you basically get a bunch of kids who huff and puff and then vanish like smoke in the wind. But these three always come though - Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Stephen Chow. My guess is that if you added up the box office of their films over the past five years it would be a huge percentage of the overall tickets sold. All three of them started back in the 1980's learning their trade at TVB - and by the 90's had become film stars (though oddly Stephen began as a dramatic actor until someone noticed that he was pretty funny!). It's amusing looking at some early photos of Andy and Tony - I am not sure if its virgin blood, just maturing or help at the doctors - but they sure look much better now. It is like they are in some creepy Vincent Price movie.

Here are 10 pictures of each - and then 10 pictures of someone I wish was still with us today - as is the case of the lady on his arm in the first photo.

Andy

Tony

Stephen

Leslie

Friday, January 19, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower


So I finally plunged into this film like a low neckline. This movie already has a million reviews on the Internet so I won't bother with one - just a random comment or so. I am not really sure what I thought of the film, but I sure do wish those female fashions would make a comeback! After the film I came out feeling so neutral that I immediately booked a ticket to Switzerland - I neither liked it nor disliked it - it was just there - lots of there admittedly but it felt too cold to be passionate about but too pretty to dislike - a bit like that haughty girl in school who wouldn't pay any attention to you but you couldn't help noticing her from a distance anyway.

I am actually a fan of both Hero and House of Flying Daggers, but this film falls far below those in imagination, emotion and story. It's a big squishy Southern gothic soap opera revolving around infidelity, incest, betrayal, murder, rotten kids, scheming wives, uncaring husbands and ghosts from the past - except that the characters are the royal family in China around 900 A.D. Those were some fun times. All the characters are so unlikable that they should be quarantined for rabies. Gong Li does her best Betty Davis and is really the only thing about the film that I liked - she chews on her scenes like an angry rottweiler and the film belongs to her. Though some may disagree I think she is still more than a little bit stunning and I couldn't help but wonder whether The Banquet would have been a better and more sensible film with her replacing Zhang Ziyi. Chow Yun Fat as the kingpin basically gets to do little more than gloat and look all-knowing.

Director Zhang Yimou takes excess to a new high - but way too much so. It almost gave me indigestion. The inside of the palace is so strangely ornate and colorful that it is no wonder that everyone is going crazy. It's not the poison Gong Li, it's your interior decorator - behead him. And if a scene needs five people, Zhang throws in a hundred just for the hell of it. It's time for the Queen's medicine and an army shows up to make sure she takes it. I can only imagine how many people they need when she has to go to the bathroom. I do love the alarm clock system they had though - many cuties knocking on wooden mallets. In the final battle scene (and the action in this film is very limited compared to Hero and Flying Daggers), the entire population of China shows up and all I could think is where were they hiding all these people in the palace. Most excessive of course and most talked about is the Grand Canyon like cleavage on view - not just Gong Li's but all the bustling young maidens as well - all apparently filled with an ancient Chinese technique of injecting helium gas into one's breasts. It's rather spectacular and quite honestly if you are of the male species it's hard to think about anything else in this film at times. It's a weakness of ours that women probably haven't figured out yet.

On my rating spectrum I would give this a 6.5

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Milkyway Image, Beyond Imagination - The Book


As the 1997 Handover approached most of the Hong Kong film industry went into a creative and quantitative funk, but it seems to have had the opposite effect on Johnnie To as he went on to do the best work of his life. In 1997 To and Wai Ka-fai formed the Milkyway Image production house in which they were to soon be making films that were some of the best in the history of Hong Kong and by doing so kept the feeble pulse of the film industry beating. There was really nothing in To's background to predict this - he was certainly a competent director and on occasion hit the jackpot with a film like Heroic Trio , but his films were very much studio animals and he seemed to have no particular vision of his own. That was to quickly change.

Milkyway's initial films reflected the mood at the time - dark, pessimistic and fatalistic (Too Many Ways To Be No. 1, The Longest Nite, Expect the Unexpected, A Hero Never Dies, Intruder) that not only had an overriding sense of unease and distrust of authority but also had pointed references such as a vicious immoral Mainland killer coming to Hong Kong in Intruder and death being the end result of going to the Mainland in Too Many Ways. The black mood began to lift by 1999 as he showed a more optimistic viewpoint in The Mission, Running Out of Time and Where a Good Man Goes. These crime films that Milkyway became famous for were always on the edge – stylish, tense, real, poetic and innovative. No one else was making crime films as good as this anywhere. But the problem was that they were more popular outside of Hong Kong (as per Subway Cinema's Milkyway Festival in 2000) than at home. Box office results for many of their films were rather dismal. They needed to start making money and so began to go much more commercial. Running Out of Time was something of a turning point in that To used Andy Lau and like so many directors before him found box office success. To was to utilize Andy in a number of successful films that turned away from noir to comedy and romance - Needing You, Love on a Diet and Yesterday Once More but still used his appeal in other crime films such as Full Time Killer and the philosophically mind bending Running on Karma. For a period of time his foreign fans began to worry that To had gone too commercial and would never return to Milkyway’s razor sharp roots – but with the recent releases of the two Election films and Exiled everyone is once again breathing easier!

This book, Milkyway Image - Beyond Imagination, is a celebration of Milkyway's first nine years and seems to have had the full co-operation of the Milkyway people. It begins with an overview essay on Milkyway from David Bordwell and then selects what it considers to be the top 10 Milkyway films. For each of these films there is an interview with a major contributor and then a lengthy essay from various writers. It is a terrific and informative read. This is really for Milkyway fans as there are literally hundreds of spoilers within. They assume you have seen the films and these are not reviews as much as analytical works on the films. At the end of the book are brief summaries of their other films.

There are two versions of this book btw - one in English and one in Chinese. Be sure to check before you buy on-line.

These are the top 10 films in chronological order:

Too Many Ways to Be No. 1
The Longest Nite
Expect the Unexpected
A Hero Never Dies
Running Out of Time
The Mission
PTU
Running on Karma
Throw Down
Election

This is the entire filmography:

1997

Final Justice - Dir. Derek Chiu
Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 - Dir. Wai Ka-fai
The Odd One Dies – Dir. Patrick Yau
Intruder – Dir. Tsang Kan-cheong

1998

The Longest Nite – Dir. Patrick Yau
Expect the Unexpected - Dir. Patrick Yau
A Hero Never Dies – Dir. Johnnie To

1999

Where a Good Man Goes – Dir. Johnnie To
Running Out of Time – Dir. Johnnie To
Sealed with a Kiss - Dir. Derek Chiu
The Mission – Dir. Johnnie To

2000

Spacked Out – Dir. Lawrence Lau
Needing You … - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Help !!! - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Comeuppance Dir. Derek Chiu

2001

Wu Yen - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Gimme Gimme Dir. Lawrence Lau
Love on a Diet - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Fulltime Killer - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Let’s Sing Along – Dir. Matt Chow
Running Out of Time 2 Dir. Johnnie To/Law Wing-cheong

2002

Second Time Around – Dir. Jeff Lau
Fat Choi Spirits - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai

2003

Love for all Seasons - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Looking for Mister Perfect – Dir. Ringo Lam
PTU – Dir. Johnnie To
Turn Left Turn Right - Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai
Running on Karma Dir. Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai

2004

Breaking News - Dir. Johnnie To
Throw Down Dir. Johnnie To
Yesterday Once More - Dir. Johnnie To

2005

Election - Dir. Johnnie To

2006

Election 2 - Dir. Johnnie To
Exiled - Dir. Johnnie To

2007

Sparrow (not released yet) - Dir. Johnnie To

I was surprised not to see Beyond Hypothermia on the list or mentioned at all. I had always thought that it was their first film in 1996 and looking at it last night on DVD the Milkyway name is certainly credited. It was directed by Patrick Lau who directed a few of their other films and starred Lau Ching-wan who was to star in so many of their films (but sadly few of late), but there must be some technical reason that it is not included I assume.

Looking at their films I realized that I have seen nearly all of them though not their two most recent releases - Election 2 and Exiled – so with that as a preface here are my top 10 Milkyway films. It overlaps with many of their picks obviously but I am not a big fan of Throw Down which Johnnie To claimed was his favorite film and he could not understand why it was not held in higher regard – errr … judo is boring Johnnie. Two that I included are Needing You – one of the best romantic comedies in years – and Spacked Out – a very different type of film for Milkyway about four female high school friends on the fringes of society with an enormous amount of heart.

In order of preference:

The Mission
A Hero Never Dies
Running on Karma
PTU
Election
Spacked Out
Needing You …
Running Out of Time
Too Many Ways to Be No. 1
Expect the Unexpected

Milkyway has so few clunkers in their filmography - even the vast majority of the ones I left off the list are very solid to good films. The only ones that I think worth avoiding are the clumsy romance Yesterday Once More, the not very funny comedy Let’s Sing Along and the irritatingly chaotic Help!!! But even these films have their fans.

The Interviewees are:

Too Many Ways to Be No. 1
Wa Ka-fai
"Too Many Ways To Be No. 1 had a complete script before shooting began. After this, we began shooting without a script and all subsequent Milkyway Image films have been made without one"

The Longest Nite
Lau Ching-wan
"Everything was a blur. During the making of The Longest Nite, no one knew what the plot was"

Expect the Unexpected
Simon Yam
"The most interesting thing about making Expect the Unexpected was you had no idea what he (To) was doing so you wouldn't unconsciously speculate what to do in the next scene. And since you didn't get to read the script beforehand, you had no idea what would happen next, so the outcome was always unexpected."

A Hero Never Dies
Cheng Siu-keung (Cinematographer)
"A Hero Never Dies must have the richest colourplay of all films (Milkyway films). The characters were hyperbolic so we complimented them with exaggerated vibrant colors."

Running Out of Time
Andy Lau
"During the making of ROOT, I felt suddenly that Johnnie To had a lot of faith in me. In the past I was haunted by the feeling that he didn't trust me"

The Mission
Chung Chi-wing (Music)
"While working on The Mission, To gave me an old Mandarin song as reference. I thought of using the Cha Cha beat. Luckily for me, he approved of that music very quickly, so everything went smoothly. The whole process took only two or three weeks!

PTU
Lam Suet
"I had been a grip for many years and was getting bored with the job. I wanted a change. I was also interested in acting. So I spoke to Johnnie To. The first film I played in was The Longest Nite but I only appeared very briefly. My first real role was in Where a Good Man Goes."

Running on Karma
Bruce Yu (Production Designer)
"At first we all thought the film was similar to Love on a Diet. It was only when we arrived on set that we realized it was not a comedy but a serious and philosophical story about life."

Throw Down
Yau Nai-hoi (Scriptwriter)
"In effect, this film reflects, to a great degree, Mr. To's ideas. Mr. Wai had initially wanted to make a morale-booster with strong comic elements. But things changed during shooting."

Election
Johnnie To
"My filmmaking career has progressed from exploring, following to self-searching."

Here are just a few scans from the book.

I am not sure if the book is available on the Internet but it can be picked up in Hong Kong at various bookstores.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

B&W Stills of HK Actors from the 1960's and 1970's


I came across a book in Hong Kong that is filled with a number of black and white photos of Hong Kong actors from the 1960's and 70's. Each actor normally gets 2-3 pictures. The book is in Chinese and so unfortunately I could not read the small amount of text or the actors name. As best as I could, I identified many of them, but for quite a few I didn't have a clue though often they looked familiar. I have no idea what the criteria for inclusion was - many famous stars are not here while a number of "B" actors are - but most seem to be from the Shaw Brothers - though Bruce Lee is also in there. Anyway, I enjoy old black and white stills and thought some of you might as well so I scanned them and put them up. If you are able to ID some of the ones I could not, please feel free to let me know because it bugs me when I can't figure out who someone is.

Here is the link - 8 pages of photos for your viewing pleasure.

Photos

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Essential Guide to Bollywood


The Essential Guide to Bollywood

By Subhash K. Jha
Paperback
2005
158 pages
$11


Unfortunately, "The Essential Guide to Bollywood" isn't really all that essential to have. I continue my endless quest to find a book on Bollywood that takes a different path than all the myriad of books on the subject - a book that covers the unusual films, the cheesy films and the cult films and one that is geared more towards gossip and personalities than a reiteration of the "classic" Bollywood. This book is simply a compilation of 200 one-two paragraph reviews of what the author considers to be the best films from Bollywood (as well as a few "Parallel Cinema" selections). He catagorizes the films by genre - drama, comedy, war, family, thrillers, romance, historical, action - which seems in itself to be a bit counter productive as so many Bollywood films cross and demolish any sense of genre. The vast majority of his selections fall into "drama" - 88 pages worth while action gets shortchanged with only 4 pages. This disparity indicates the authors frame of mind. Where is "Don" and "Disco Dancer"!

The writing itself is fine and one can't argue too much with the films he includes (at least the ones I have seen - though some of his more recent film choices may seem a stretch such as "Na Tum Jano Na Hum" and "Yuva"), but with such a small amount of content provided for each film there is no room for any real insight or context given. Most damaging though is that the writing rarely makes you want to run out and buy the film - it doesn't make you not want to see the film - but there is a real lack of excitement about the films in all but a few cases. Nevertheless, the book does cover a number of films that were unknown to me and just for the fact they they make it to his list will make me want to seek some of them out. And the low price tag is certainly a plus.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Photos continue for want of anything better


Ten bonus points for guessing who this picture is of! I recall showing it to YTSL in Hong Kong and she was stumped for a bit. He later became both quite the heartthrob as well as a target of derision for many. Just picture him with a bit longer hair! Here are ten pictures of him. More bonus points if anyone can recall the film that he and Wu Chien-lien (also pictured) were in together.

Photos 1

Photos 2

Here are another set of lobby cards that I scanned. The film is "Call Girl 92" and it had a rather wonderful female cast. It starred Veronica Yip, Carrie Ng, Sharla Cheung Man and Cecilia Yip. It is a proud member of that uniquely Hong Kong film genre - prostitute dramas. After walking around the city and seeing the omnipresent massage parlors, hostess bars and even receiving the occasionally friendly offer from lonely elderly women near my hotel I am not surprised that Hong Kong has had more than a few films about them! The best in my opinion are "Girls without Tomorrow", "Profiles of Pleasure", "Queen of Temple Street" and "Golden Chicken". There are 14 pictures on two pages.

Call Girl 92

Finally for your viewing pleasure are just some scans of Japanese film posters. These are from a few books I picked up a few years ago when I could afford them! I think they went for about $60, but I love their art work - especially in the older films from the 60's and 70's. There is just so much detail. I especially like the one of Ken Takakura getting off of a Pan Am flight with his sword. These books are in Japanese and so I am afraid I have no idea what the title of the films are. Some of them look incredibly cool but chances of there being a version available with English subs is probably quite small. If anyone knows any of the titles I will gladly add them to the scans.

Posters 1

Posters 2

Next up I think are a load of black and white stills from Hong Kong stars in the 60's and 70's. I picked up a book of them that is in Chinese and would love some help in iding some of them.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Little Shop of Photos


While I was in Hong Kong recently I got my needed fix at the Star Photo store. This is rather an astonishing place for HK film fans who like to either collect or simply gaze at pictures of their favorite stars. Or perhaps immerse yourself in them is a better word. The place is tucked away in a small rundown nearly empty mall in North Point in which none of the stores ever seem to be open for business. In fact, this store rarely opens till 6 pm and only stays that way till 8 or until the owner gets bored and leaves. It can't be much bigger than a large walk-in-closet, but within its claustrophobic walls is pure love and affection. The owner has had this store for twenty-five years and has filled it with so many pictures that he has to sit on a small plastic stool in the hallway. In a city that seems to have so little time or patience for its past and often so little regard for its film heritage, this gentleman is almost heroic for attempting to keep this store going and for keeping a small piece of Hong Kong film history alive. For how long I don't know as customers are a rare breed. Upon entering one might guess that it was hit by a demonic cyclone with loose pictures strewn everywhere in seemingly random chaos - even often underfoot - but whenever I ask him if he has any photos of a star (having the Chinese name is very helpful), he thinks for a moment and then drags out a plastic container with them - sometimes only a few, sometimes hundreds. The majority of the stars are from the heyday in HK films - stars from the 80's through the mid-90's - as he doesn't seem to have much interest in the newer ones. While perusing through the photos and breathing in the memories, time passes almost unnoticed in the windowless space as if you are in an episode of the Twilight Zone - no one passes, no sounds are heard - just phantoms of the past rustle about in this little store looking to be remembered for a few brief moments - maybe this guy is alive only for my visits - if so I thank him. The store is loacated at 33 Marble Road. If you get out of the subway at North Point Station, look for the theater that has all the Chinese Opera posters up and Marble Road is only one block behind it. If you ever go, tell him that the guy who buys hundreds of pictures says hello!

Here are ten photos I got of Chow Yun Fat. It was Chow Yun Fat and Brigitte Lin that sucked me into Hong Kong films never to return. Between the two of them they had more charisma than the population of Hollywood combined. As I mentioned yesterday I thought Chow was the coolest guy alive after seeing him in all those John Woo films - his blood soaked white suit was the epitome of style. Then he went to Hollywood and forgot to pack that charisma and I can't say I have kept up much with his post-Hong Kong career. I mean I have seen all his Hollywood films but I honestly can't even recall what they were. Of course before John Woo, Chow had a lengthy career in televison - a period from which a number of these picts are clearly from - but interestingly his career had begun to fizzle badly before Woo took a chance on him for "A Better Tomorrow" and nothing was the same for Hong Kong film again.

Chow 1

Chow 2

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Pictures


I actually tried to break orbit out of my extreme ennui today by finally deciding to to see "Curse of the Golden Flower". But I didn't really want to. I love Chow Yun Fat more than I can say - at one time I thought he was the coolest man alive - that honor now belongs to Edison of course - but the idea of seeing him in a wuxia historical trying to fend off the breasts of Gong Li has left me cold. What is with that cleavage anyway. She looks like a pissed off Jessica Rabbit. If women really dressed like that back then how on earth did men get anything done. Maybe they didn't. But are they real or CGI I wonder? Yet I never made it. I needed to do a little shopping first and after that felt I should leave Curse for another day. I haven't read a single review or comment on it. Is it suppose to be good? I am still amazed that this film opened in Asia and the US at the same time. Has that ever happened before with an Asian film? It feels rather important somehow - one sign of globalization at work in a good way. So instead I watched another episode of "Police Woman" - Angie goes undercover as a gym teacher in short shorts. Pretty harrowing stuff, but her cleavage doesn't come close to that of Gong Li's.

After listening to the President and his latest shot in the dark, I decided to do some more scanning. Scanning is very harmonious and therapeutic. It makes me feel at peace with the world. Is there anyone out there that really believes anything this man says anymore? If so, why? Please read "Fiasco" and see if you don't want his whole administration on trial for crimes against humanity. If any other nation in the world had invaded a country for reasons that proved to be lies and caused the death of thousands upon thousands of people the leader would be in the docket at the Hague but instead Bush is on TV like a flimflam salesman. "Believe me this time and you will have freedom and democracy in Iraq". The only problem with this is that the people in Iraq don't want democracy - never did - they want power, they want revenge, they want the Americans out.

Anyway some more pictures.

First up is the sleazy but rather enjoyable 1993 female action/exploitation film "Women on the Run". It is about 2 women who basically are screwed in every way possible but who get even - very even. These are some lobby cards. I wrote a review of this a while back.

Women on the Run

Next are some publicity cards that were sent to me for the Korean film "Blue Swallow" from 2006. Before this was released it received a huge amount of publicity and then quickly died at the box office when the public learned that the film showed the protagonist co-operating with the Japanese - not a good thing apparently for the Korean box office. The film is a biopic that details the life of Korea's first female pilot in the 1930'a. The character PARK Kyung-won is played wonderfully by JANG Jin-young. I brought no agenda or expectations into this film and thought it was wonderful for the most part - it drags at times - but has an emotional kicker of an ending that is shattering especially with the knowledge that it really happened.

Blue Swallow

A while back I came across some orphan postcards in the old Music Palace and decided to give them a home. Only five of them sadly but three are of Brigitte Lin from "Deadful Melody" and two are of Chow Yun Fat from "Treasure Hunt". Both lesser films in their filmography, but "Deadful Melody" has the added pleasure of Yuen Biao and "Treasure Hunt" that of the lovely Wu Chien-lien. Both are solid and enjoyable but far from classics.

Postcards

This reminds me that I picked up a ton of pictures of Chow Yun Fat in Hong Kong - some rather amusing ones from his early days in TV - and I will get a bunch up in the next day or so.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some pictures and nothing more


I have begun to realize of late that since I stopped working some seven months ago (well, in truth some twelve months but officially seven months) that my brain is slowly turning to mush. It is as if an alien life force has sucked out my intellect - not that that would have taken very long sadly. I find it nearly impossible to sit down in front of the computer and attempt to put a few coherent sentences together. Absolutely zero discipline. It's a bit odd because now I have so much more time than before and had planned on doing a fair amount of work on the site. But instead I find myself sleeping late, working out, reading bits of the newspaper that I never used to, having a late lunch, planning what to eat for dinner and watching old TV shows. What could be better proof of my intellectual demise than me watching three episodes of "Police Woman" today? And I don't even particularly like Angie Dickinson. Not that all this will hurry me back to the work life - god forbid - but I offer it as a partial reason for my lack of content of late and likely for some time. I promised a few Shaw Brothers reviews ages ago and have had the VCDs staring at me for weeks, but whenever I reach for them I realize my attention span doesn't reach 90-minutes. All this leading to the fact that I just want to show pretty pictures for a while and so am going through all my stuff to see what I have.

Here are some poster shots from one of the great female revenge flicks that I have watched too many times. Lady Snowblood starring the unforgettably rabid stare of Meiko Kaji. I wish someone would put together a retro of her films here in NYC.

Lady Snowblood

Then I still have some pictures to put up of some lobbycards that I scanned a while back. Two from Jade Leung. Good old Jade. She still shows up occasionally in these really low budget "action" films and just for old times sake I pick one of them up and soon regret that I did so. But for a few years she made some terrific films and is still a favorite of mine. Black Cat was her first big hit - basically a rip off of La Femme Nikita but with loads more action. She followed this up with the much weaker Black Cat 2. Thats what these are. Lets face it, a beautiful woman with a big gun is as sexy and Freudian as it gets.

Black Cat 2

and finally she appeared in this delicious low budget film in 2000 that disappeared without a trace upon its release but like all great cult films it slowly has grown in stature and popularity. It is an updated version of the female snake legend that has been made into loads of HK and Indian films. In this one Jade played the young snake while Cecilia Yip played her older sister.

Phantom of Snake

More pictures to come.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Top 10 HK and Indian Films from Steve Barr

Sorry for the lack of posts as of late. First I came down with a totally rotten 3 week case of the flu and then I went to visit family and realized I had forgotten the power cord to watch any films on my portable dvd player. So no Asian movies for a few weeks though I did manage to catch a bunch of American films that were pretty forgettable except for "Little Miss Sunshine" which I thought was quite wonderful and reminded me of some of the recent quirky Japanese family films such as "Taste of Tea" and "Hanging Gardens". I also caught the Hollywood remake of "Pulse" which I thought was rather mediocre but reminded me that I still need to see Kurosawa's version. His films are so mystically obscure that I tend to both love and be frustrated by them and so approach them with a degree of hesitancy.

A new year of course brings out top 10 lists and though I am much too far behind in my viewing to do one now - and am not sure I even will this year - but am very grateful to Steve Barr for sending me his Top 10 films for Hong Kong and India. Here they are:

Hong Kong:

10. Dragon Tiger Gate - Some nice fight scenes in this film, which is set in the Land of Forgotten Hairstyles.

9. Exiled - Fun film about Triad loyalty let down by plot requiring characters to repeatedly act against their own interests. After this and Election, I suspect I don't share Johnny To's sense of humor.

8. Rob-B-Hood - Good recent Jackie Chan film, with his now standard melodrama at the end.

7. My Kung Fu Sweetheart - Nice comedy for Cecilia Cheung fans.

6. The Shoe Fairy - Vivian Hsu shows why the Japanese love her in this nice little fantasy film.

5. Feel It...Say It - off-kilter romance works well if you like the stars.

4. Heavenly Kings - Good mockumentary about the HK music business.

3. My Name is Fame - I enjoy HK films about HK the film industry; this was an especially enjoyable look at it. There's also a darker subtext for those who like such things.

2. Fearless - Despite some questionable CGI, this was a good throwback to the glory years of HK action films.

1. Election 2 - Of the year's HK films I've seen, this was by far the best (and much better than Election). The cinematography reminded me of the great Yakuza films from Japan, and the rest of the film (barring a dodgy prop or two) was also first rate.

Indian:

2006 was a great year for Bollywood (popular Hindi films). Not only were the revenues record-breaking, the good films were very good and surprisingly plentiful. The production quality of some films (such as Don) matched those of Hollywood, and a number of films had world-class scripts. This year there were two top contenders to be sent to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and each seemed like they could win.

10. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna - Karan Johar's take on marital infidelity hurt by the unlovable lead and some questionable comedy. Much of the film can still be enjoyed, but ultimately it's a very flawed work.

9. Krrish - Successfully melds the superhero genre with the standard Indian film memes.

8. Mixed Doubles - A more successful look at infidelity than KANK. A lot of dark humor and good performances.

7. Fanaa - Love & Terrorism. Kajol's return to film had great emotional moments but too many WTF moments to rate higher.

6. Pyaar Ke Side Effects - A runaway bride and an aging DJ are the main characters in the funniest Indian film I've seen. Stars Mallika Sherawat (The Myth) and Rahul Bose (Mr and Mrs Iyer) as an odd couple.

5. Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota - An amazingly accomplished film for a first time director (but long-time actor) about several intersecting lives. The uniting event (guess what it is) may be uncomfortable for Americans.

4. Pournami (Telugu) - While not quite as magical as Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, the director/choreographer's first film, Pournami still manages to entertain with a fairly standard Indian storyline about romance and revenge.

3. Lage Raho Munna Bhai - A gangster gives non-violence a chance, and a good film results.

2. Omkara - Retelling of Othello was a viable contender to be sent to the Oscars. Excellent script and performances by most of the cast. Watch for Konkona Sen Sharma (Mr and Mrs Iyer, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota, Mixed Doubles) giving the top supporting performance of the year.

1. Rang De Basanti - 2006 really got started with this, India's future Oscar candidate. An excellent script about awakening and taking back the country paired with top acting made for a powerful film overshadowing the entire year.

Also, a couple Telugu films on DVD which turned out to be a lot of fun:Mass (2004) - Excellent entertainment for the masses. Sri Anjaneyam (2004) - Excellent entertainment...with gods and monkeys. If you enjoy HK screwball comedies you may enjoy these too. Worth a rental to find out.