Monday, July 30, 2007

Continuing a bit longer with pictures


Some more oldies but goodies


Joey Wong - here and here


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And still more photos


Still cleaning out my box of photos. To answer a comment from a previous post - these pictures were all purchased from a small photo shop in Hong Kong - a rather amazing place that is the size of a large closet but filled with thousands upon thousands of pictures of the stars all ready to fall on your head - basically from the mid-80's to the current day. The gentleman who runs the place has had it for 25 years, but I fear those days may be coming to an end as customers are a rare breed. I consider the store a real treasure and find it a little sad that the locals seem so uninterested in it. But, I would love to find a store with old magazines to go through. I remember one I came across in Wanchai a bunch of years ago but have been unable to locate it on recent trips or would love to find a store that had good film memorabilia but I don't think anything like that exists. Anyway - photos!

Of the many genres that were special to Hong Kong, I think I miss the great Girls with Guns the most. Here are two of their stars - the fan favorite Moon Lee and the lesser known but just as impressive if not more so in her physical skills - Sharon Yeung Pan Pan.

And let's throw in a couple more guys - Andy Lau who mysteriously only gets better looking with age and the many hair lengths of Ekin Cheng - 1 and 2.

And finally, one of my favorite actresses though not many others - I think she is smouldering at times - Carina Lau. The one of her with a cap on is pretty sexy to me. Especially if the "B" is for Boston Red Sox!

Monday, July 23, 2007

More Picts


Eliza demanded some more of little Tony and Eliza gets what she wants! These are the last ones I have - so clearly have to pick up loads more next time in HK. My great fear is that the photo shop will be closed for good one of these days.


Charlie Yeung is making a comeback of sorts as well after her biz in Malaysia floundered. It seems odd though that they can't find big fun romantic roles for her anymore - I think it may say more about the present state of HK film than it does about here. Here are some photos of her from her heyday in HK film - picts 1 and picts 2.


I guess Michelle Yeoh is in some new sc-fi film that just came out - anyone see it ? - no action though from her apparently - there was no one better in the day - though her taste in attire still seems questionable at times.


And finally for today some photos of Carman Lee - she always looks so beautiful to me - another victim of today's HK film scene as she has been pushed into doing TV. Actually met a waitress last year who looked amazingly like her and almost proposed on the spot. Fortunately, she didn't speak English.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Photos


I still have loads of photos of HK actors that I have picked up on various trips and not put up yet. So before I go back to HK and pick up some more I thought I should make an effort to get some of them up. So that is basically this week's job.


Here are some picts of Jacky Cheung - he doesn't seem to bother with films much any more unless it is something he really wants to do - picts 1 and picts 2.


And a bunch of Chingmy Yau. Is it just a co-incidence that HK film starting going down hill after she retired? Probably, but no one has come along since with that same combination 0f cuteness, vivacity and sexiness.


Talking about sexiness - Veronica Yip - one of many actresses from that period who married well and retired too early.


Another Yip - this one the petite and adorable Gloria - again married, retired very young but last I heard was trying to make an attempt for a comeback in film.


More to come later this week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Post Fest Blahs


As happy as I always am to have the festival over with, it seems that I go into a very blah period for a while afterwards in which I have the energy and ambition of a bottle cap. So when that happens I always resort to pictures! Mindless and painless.









Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bollywood CD Compilations


There are literally thousands of compilation CD’s of Bollywood music staring you in the face with song titles and film titles that are often a complete mystery to most of us. I have taken a chance on some of these and thought I would share a few that I think are worth having. There is an emphasis here on older songs with a funky beat that appeal to me.

The Bombay Connection

13 songs (53 minutes)

This collection of songs was put together by two Bollywood enthusiasts from Amsterdam who used to rummage through second hand shops to find these obscure soundtracks and fell in love with them. These songs are all from action films from 1977-1984 and have a totally funky feel to them. Many of the films are obscure and I could only find a few on DVD, but the songs are from some of the masters – R.D. Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Bappi Lahiri and great vocalists – with Asha Bhosle and Mohd. Rafi among them. Beginning with some dialogue “Hello Hello Calling Bombay XYU” it immediately dives into funkadelicious horns, vocals, synthesizers and drums. The authors also include an informative booklet on the composers and the films covered – with a few very cool pictures.

The Bombay Connection Vol. 2 – Bombshell Baby of Bombay

12 songs (51 minutes)

The Dutch duo return with an even more eclectic and fun collection of songs from the 1950’s through the 70’s with a focus on nightclub songs that were highly influenced by Western rock and roll. The voice for many of these was Asha Bhosla who could purr, yelp or anything else to make these songs buzz with energy. Many of the songs seem only influenced by rock and roll rhythms while other ones like the delightful Pretty Pretty Priya could almost be mistaken for a song from the Herman Hermits (though it came some six years later) or Bombshell Baby of Bombay – sung in the film by an Elvis impersonator turbaned Sikh – could easily have fit into the classic rock and roll film The Girl Can’t Help It.

Both of these CDs are heaps of fun with many discoveries and providing inspiration to track down many of the films from whence they came.

Pictures

Doob Doob O’Rama 1 & 2

16 (58 minutes) and 21 (56 minutes) songs respectively

These two collections of songs all seem to come from the 1960’s and 70’s and the focus seems to be on fun catchy fast stepping tunes. The first volume lists the songs and singers but not the films they come from – though I know the classic Jaan Pehchan from Gumnaam, Piya Too Ab To Aaja from Caravan with the classic refrain “Monica my darling” and the smooth vocals of Mere Sapnon Ki Rani from Aradhana. Other songs such as Baat Zara Hai Aapas Ki are just silly fun with the duo cooing to each other in English or Moonram Pirai moaning at the beginning of Ponmeri.Lata, Asha, Mohd. Rafi and Kishore Kumar feature frequently.

The second collection is bigger and even better which again primarily features the vocals of Asha, Lata and Kishore Kumar – though this could probably be said about any collection from that period. This CD lists the title of the film – among them The Train, Love in Tokyo and Howrah Bridge (the charming Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu that helped push Helen into stardom) and Upkar. The songs from this collection are more tuneful and many of them sounded familiar even if I hadn’t seen the film. Both CD’s are excellent.

Covers

Selections Vol 1

Selections Vol 2

The Kings and Queens of Bollywood

14 songs (72 minutes)

The Kings and Queens referred to in the title of this CD are Lata, Asha, Rafi and Kishore – and all the songs are from their days in the 1960’s or in 1970. It is a great collection of rocking songs with the first two bringing down the house – One, Two Three Baby and Roz, Roz, Roz. I lent this to a friend and it turned him into a Bolly funk music addict. This collection is frenetically playful and a constant treat of odd ball but catchy songs. One of my favorites. Be prepared to do some head shaking.

Cover

Selections

The Very Best of Bollywood – Vol. 1 & 2

Titling your CDs the “Very Best” sets you up for a big fall, but even if that is debatable – and isn’t everything – it would be hard to argue that these CD sets don’t have some terrific songs – in Vol 1 more so than the second volume. There is no particular theme or time period for these selections as they range from the 60’s to 2000.

Volume 1 contains 15 songs for a running time of 76 minutes and among the classics are more recent songs from Dil Se (what else but Chaiya Chaiya), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to older tunes from Bobby (the lovely ballad Main Shair to Nain), Sholay and Kabhie Kabhie to the disco tinged Aap Jaisa Koi from Qurbani. The only song that has no right squatting on this CD is the most recent – the so-so Na Tum Jano Na Hum from 2000’s Kaho Naa . . . Pyaar Hai.

Vol 2 contains 15 songs as well for a running time of 70 minutes. It isn’t nearly as strong as the first volume but still has its share of classic songs along with a few duds. It begins with Chalo Chale Mitwa from Nayak which is a fine song but there are certainly better even from the same film. The next few choices all feel a tad conservative and slow and the CD doesn’t really hit its stride till Chura Liya which always brings back images of Zeenat Aman in white with a guitar in hand. Other classic songs are from Teesri Manzil, Andaz (1949), Sholay and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Overall though this one could be skipped.

Cover 1

Selections

Cover 2

Selections

Bollywood – The Rough Guide

15 songs (74 minutes)

This is a strong selection of songs from the 1960’s up to the 2000’s with little blurbs on each song. Beginning with the classic chords of Dum Maro Dum (Hare Krishna Hare Rama), the CD traverses through songs from Caravan, Kabhi Kabhie, Kati Patang, Sholay and Qurbani till it jumps into more modern tunes from Bombay, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Phir Bhi Dil Hindustani. Some of the songs are on some of the previous CD’s covered here. The CD’s intention is to introduce Bollywood music to the West and it’s hard to argue with many of the choices – in fact many of them would be on my compilation CD. But quibble I must – two songs seemed to be throw ins – one from Kaho Naa . . . Pyaar Hai (how do songs from this film keep getting into best of CDs I wonder?) and Jaadu Teri Nazar from Darr. Otherwise and even with these two, this is a terrific CD for newbies.

Cover

Selection

I am not one to normally suggest downloading music and in fact can honestly say that I have never downloaded songs or films - partly out of ethics, partly out of laziness. But here is a site that temps me mightily - a fellow who has put up literally hundreds of old Bollywood songs that are obscure and hard to obtain. But this reminds me of a fellow who came up to me at the festival this year and told me that he had seen every film in our festival! I was thrilled until he added - by downloading them all from the Internet. He basically used our festival as a guide to good movies. I guess I should be happy that he trusts our judgement so much.

Music from the Third Floor

Monday, July 09, 2007

NYAFF Audience Award and Final Comments


Thanks so much to everyone that came out to support Asian films this year! It was our best year ever in terms of audience numbers and certainly inspires us to continue. In some ways I admit to being a bit surprised as I can now confess that I thought our line-up was weaker than in the last few years. Not because of our choices so much but simply because it wasn't a great year in Asian film. Still, I sense that people just appreciate the effort to bring what we can because they will never get another chance to see most of these on the big screen and with an audience. Seeing a film with an audience is still the way to see a movie - it should be a communal experience and honestly some of our films got an "eh" reaction from me watching them on my TV screen by myself in the wee small hours - but with an audience they took on another life.


The final weekend at Japan Society was a blast and I thank them very much for putting up with us - the Death Notes and Memories of Matsuko had lines curled down the street. We had a party on Friday night with directors Sono and Kaneko present and then took them for a Turkish meal on Saturday evening. I gave Sono the t-shirt he liked so much and advised him not to wear it to the airport. So now we can truthfully say that Subway Cinema will give guests the shirts off our backs! Kaneko struck me as such a gentleman - reserved but very nice and interested in everything. I mentioned that I had lived in Turkey and he peppered me with questions about it. We also talked politics and he didn't have anything nice to say about the present administration. I really like his films that I have seen - a very commercial director certainly with the Death Notes, the Gamera films and Azumi 2 but very entertaining as well.


The final weekend also gave us the Audience favorite as it literally zoomed at light speed past the competition. Memories of Matsuko in a landslide. It received a rating of 9.2 with over 50% of the audience rating it a 10. What an astonishing movie and one that really has to be seen in a theater to appreciate the sound, visuals and constantly changing style. We have never had a film do this well before. It is especially surprising in that all of our previous winners were basically feel good films, but Matsuko is a candy colored descent into Hell that at times feels like a punch to the gut.


So it's over and I go back to . . . well not much really. I am considering traveling again but not right way. It will be odd waking up tomorrow with no festival to worry about. A relief and yet very much missed.

Friday, July 06, 2007

New York Asian Film Festival Part II


The festival is winding down to its last merciful days thankfully. Organizing film festivals is not recommended to people who actually have lives. Fortunately, none of us really do and so we find some sort of perverse satisfaction in doing this. I often wonder why. It is all angst. Will the prints arrive, will they have subtitles, will people come, will they like the films, will the invited directors have a good time, will one director run up an enormous hotel charge on my credit card (but that's another story story), will we break even financially or have another disaster like last year. But amidst all the angst and worry we find a peculiar pleasure in bringing these films to an audience.


A perfect example of this is the film Hell's Ground, a Pakistani horror film with flesh eating zombies and a burqa wearing serial killer. Burqa man needs his own action doll. In truth, this was a film that we really weren't sure we could sell to an audience after last year's deserted Indian screenings. It is low budget, a debut film and did anyone want to see a Pakistani horror film? It turns out they did. In droves. The director Omar Ali Khan (related by the way to Saif Ali Khan and Sharmila Tagore and who runs the wonderful site The Hot Spot Online) came as did the two Mondo Macabre producers Pete Tombs and Andy Starke and I thought how embarrassing would it be if no one showed up. And a week into the fest hardly a ticket had been sold to it and I was cringing. Then the Time article came out on it and other publications joined in the chorus (BBC came to film his Q&A) and it suddenly became the film to see. One night only. It sold out and we had to turn away people all day. The show was a blast with a short reel put together by the Mondo Macabre fellows of old Pakistani exploitation films full of wolf men, mad scientists and very large women dancing in spandex. Omar has charm up to his eyeballs and captivated the audience - a totally nice guy who runs ice cream shops in Pakistan to pay the freight for his real love - film. He brought over some posters that he had specially made up for our fest. They are marvelous and are hand painted by someone he knows. Next year we are thinking of having this guy make up a bunch for our other films. It was such a blast and when a film like this works out for everyone it all seems worth it.


Audiences have been good, they have generally liked the films a lot - almost too much quite honestly in some cases - the high number of 10's given to Yo-Yo Cop Girl almost wants me to check their ID to see how old they are and it looks like we will make money. What more can you ask for? Well, a barbecue I guess. We had one on the 4th on the rooftop of Marc' building and ate hot dogs and shrimp and drank our sponsor's beer with directors Khan, Sion Sono (Exte)and Han Jae-rim (The Show Must Go On) in tow and happily posing for pictures. It rained and the fireworks could only be guessed at by the colored reflections in the dark sky - but it was a perfect way to spend our day of Independence. I pulled out my patriotic t-shirt to wear and Sono wanted to have one of his own. Later we hit a bar with him where he drew manga's on the tablecloth and talked about subjects that had our female translator turning an interesting shade of crimson.
Whether we come back again next year is always an open question and right now everyone is feeling tired but it's OK.
Some photos I took.