Friday, March 21, 2008

Hong Kong Viewings Continue

I am falling way behind on writing about what I have seen - mainly because I have no time really - so here is a little catch up before I forget what I have seen - but just short sweet reviews the way you like them.

Director: Tatsuya Ogishima
Year: 2008

Intriguing though not very high octave or high budget tale of a young man with the power of healing. It takes place in some nowheresville town in Japan where there seems little to do other than beat up on each other or eat avocado burgers at the Paradise Diner. Takeo (Hiroshi Tamaki) is a working class stiff with a predilection for violence and a hatred for his comatose father who beat him when he was a child. One day in the diner he spots a young innocent looking fellow named Asato (pop star Teppei Koike) use his telekinetic power to move the salt container. Takeo becomes friends with him and soon discovers that Asato can also heal injuries - but only by transferring them to his own body. Oddly, the town seems to be full of children constantly falling and getting cuts and bruised body parts and Asato begins taking them all onto his own. But he can also transfer these injuries to another person - and Takeo suggests his father is a prime candidate. Also, in the story is the waitress Shiho (my fave Chiaki Kuriyama) who wears a mask to cover a horrible scar over her mouth and Asato falls for her scar or no scar. But then Asato comes across a huge multi-car accident that may test even his God-like powers. Some interesting ideas in here - what are your limits for sacrifice - how much should you simply leave to fate - but there is a real lack of energy going on and the ending is almost too cheerful for its own good. And Chiaki wears a mask for much of the film!

Candy Rain
Director: Hung-I Chen
Year: 2008

Lesbianism has never looked so damn cute before. Sign me up. You may have heard of lipstick lesbianism, but this is more like Hello Kitty lesbianism - soft, fluffy and very sellable. Once this film begins making the rounds of the gay film festivals, I expect there will be a mass migration of lesbians to Taipei. Maybe Kawaii lesbianism? The film tells the stories of four lesbian couples and every one of them is so adorable you want to adopt them and pet them. No butch lesbians need apply. Filled with bright colors and a fabulous soundtrack of Chinese pop songs (Faye singing a few of them), the film is always visually attractive and easy on the eyes - but it doesn't have much punch to it or really have much to say other than lesbians are as sweet as candy - and have great sex. Maybe that's enough.

In the first story two girls come to Taipei and have a few relationship problems but their love (and great sex) keeps them together. In the second tale a nerdish lesbian sets up a blind date on the Internet and it turns out to be an older sophisticated (very hot) woman who is looking for love (and great sex). The third story (and the best by far) begins with loud moans - yes more great sex - between two women in love - but one of them has decided that she has to make her family happy by marrying - but promises her friend to come back to her in ten years. She doesn't make it even half that long before she has to return - remember the great sex. The final piece is a bit too cartoony for its own good - the character played by Karena Lam is a playgirl of sorts who whimsically goes from lover to lover leaving broken hearts behind and often getting beaten up for her troubles (all done in sweet comic style). Enjoyable for the visuals, its cuteness and an introduction to some young new actresses - but kind of lightweight. Happy to have seen it though.

Director: Brillante Mendoza
Year: 2007

I have been to Manila two times in my life - once on my own out of curiosity and once for work - I am never going back. It is a hellhole. It isn't just the poverty - you see that in many places but it is the sense of hopelessness that covers everything like thick dust. It is just a sad sad place that seems to have been left behind as much of the rest of Asia has rushed ahead over the past two decades. Slingshot is a journey into the darkest corners of this hell. This is rather a remarkable film as much for how it was made as for its content. Shot right in the middle of a Manila slum with a handheld camera often on the run, it explores this world with a group of criss-crossing characters who just try to get by every day in any way they can - scrimping for money, stealing, screwing, pleading - whatever gets them to the next day when they have to start all over again.

The film begins with a night raid by the cops and a scout runs ahead through the slum warning everyone that the cops are coming - in the dark deals are going down, illicit affairs are taking place, gays are screwing furtively in the alleyways, drugs being sniffed in the small cramped living spaces - it all comes spilling out as the cops roust everyone and collect them like garbage men. The next day everything is back to normal - the cops have been paid off by the politicians for expected votes. The camera frantically follows characters for the next few days and acts as a witness to it all. Ever present in the background are campaign posters from bright-eyed smiling politicians making false promises again and again and again. With very little plot and a host of different characters, this isn't so much a film as an indictment - but one that is riveting and tragic.

Fine, Totally Fine
Director: FUJITA Yosuke
Year: 2007

Simply hilarious. Sweet. Tender. Good natured. This may be the feel-good film of the year and it had me and the audience laughing constantly. I loved this film. And it ends perfectly with just the right amount of heart when a simple "arigato" says everything that has to be said and life is fine, totally fine. The plot is minimalistic - in fact there really isn't one to speak of - it is just a quirky take on life filled with a few lovable characters that just don't quite fit in - a little bit reminiscent of Taste of Tea. Teruo (the slightly portly and always bemused Yoshiyoshi Arakawa ) lives in a used bookstore with his father and is fascinated with horror and has a roomful of ghastly looking dolls and creatures - your typical horror geek. Though he takes it further with some fabulously funny pranks. He wants to build the ultimate Horror House - that will literally scare people to death. His friend and cohort in these pranks is Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada), an amiable administrator in a hospital. Into their lives comes Akari (Yoshino Kimura) an accident prone very shy woman who can't seem to do anything right - but capture hearts. Not much happens - but the characters and the absurdities of life generate a sweet tasting never nasty mood filled with mirth and good feelings. See this if it ever comes your way.

1 comment:

alperen said...