The New York Asian Film Festival, the dorkiest and most unremittingly enjoyable film festival in the city, has just announced a promising partial line-up for this year. Descriptions are theirs:
AFTER THIS OUR EXILE – (2006, Hong Kong) Wong Kar-wai‘s mentor, Patrick Tam, returned to directing after 17 years and swept the Chinese film awards with this emotional epic about a marriage that falls apart and the damage a single dad inflicts on his son. This is the closest you’ll get to an Asian Ingmar Bergman movie.
I’M A CYBORG (BUT THAT’S OKAY) – (2006, Korea) Park Chan-Wook abandons Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance and his Oldboy to make a sweet, loopy romance set in a mental hospital between a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg and a kleptomaniac, thus proving that all you need is robot love.
EXILED – (2006, Hong Kong) Imagine every action movie made in the last 20 years compressed into a hyper-condensed, super heavy particle that’s shot into your eyes at 24 frames per second and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what watching Johnnie To‘s latest film is like. Feel your testosterone start pumping as this spaghetti Western fills the island of Macau with enough lead to sink it.
BIG BANG LOVE: JUVENILE A – (2006, Japan) Takashi Miike‘s homoerotic prison story is trying to freak you out! Modern dance, sci fi, abstract sets and a love story between two murderers are the tools in his psychedelic arsenal. You thought you’d seen it all? Think again. (Co-presented with Japan Society as part of their JAPAN CUTS – Festival of New Japanese Film)
THE BODYGUARD 1 and 2 – (2004 & 2007, Thailand) Like a lost Stephen Chow comedy from the early 90’s, the two BODYGUARD flicks roar onto screens delivering a summer blockbuster’s worth of hard-hitting action (from the ONG BAK stunt team), ridiculous comedy (from Mum Jokmok) and guest appearances galore (including one from Tony Jaa) in an anarchic attack on action movies, good taste, logic and common sense.
DEATH NOTE and DEATH NOTE: THE LAST NAME – (2006, Japan) Japan’s massive 2006 blockbusters based on the best-selling manga, are epic horror thrillers that move so fast you’ll finish them both before you remember to breathe. A disaffected law student discovers the Devil’s notebook that gives him the power to kill anyone he wants just by writing down their name. He sets out to clean up society but winds up leading a death cult and being hunted by the strangest twist on Sherlock Holmes to ever hit the big screen: a sleepy-eyed, genius teenager constantly noshing on junk food. (Co-presented with Japan Society as part of their JAPAN CUTS – Festival of New Japanese Film)
HELL’S GROUND (aka ZIBAHKHANA) – (2007, Pakistan) A gang of teenagers heads out into the countryside to see a rock concert but their detour around a political protest takes them into giant marijuana fields where midget zombies and other, less savory, characters dwell. It’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE meets the Taliban.
HULA GIRLS – (2006, Japan) A coal-mining town in rural Japan falls on hard times in 1965 and the only thing they can think of to save themselves is to open a "Hawaiian Village" theme park. And that means they need hula dancers. Which means they have to import an alcoholic hula teacher and round up a gang of misfits to learn how to shake it Hawaiian style.
MEMORIES OF MATSUKO – (2006, Japan) CITIZEN KANE meets MOULIN ROUGE in this eye-popping, toe-tapping musical about one of life’s little losers, from the director of KAMIKAZE GIRLS. Matsuko is a teacher who falls on hard times and winds up virtually homeless and the movie breaks your heart – hard – as the story of her rough life is told in music, dance and candy colored sets. (Co-presented with Japan Society as part of their JAPAN CUTS – Festival of New Japanese Film)
DYNAMITE WARRIOR – (2006, Thailand) Panna Rittikrai (Tony Jaa’s teacher and mentor) does the action on this jaw-dropping hunk of kuh-razy action set in ancient Thailand. A plot to increase tractor sales by destroying all the water buffalo runs afoul of a high-kicking hero who rides wooden rockets. A wizard is hired to defeat him, then a giant enters the scene, and finally everything comes down to the magical powers of a virgin’s menstrual blood. This is the most fun you’ll have in a movie theater all summer.
HARD BOILED – (1992, Hong Kong) John Woo‘s personal print of HARD BOILED is unearthed for this 15th anniversary screening of what might just be the most influential action movie ever made, starring Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung.
It’s a little light on the Korean films so far, though we’re sure that will change, and we’re looking forward to "I’m a Cyborg" despite the mixed reviews its received. But its the Miike that’s making our heart go pitter-pat — a gay sci-fi prison romance as a metaphor for Japan’s underlying social issues is bound to be, at the very least, interesting.