I was able to sample a cross section of new cinema from Asia the last few days here in Montreal.
Lazy Hazy Crazy-d. Jody Luk Yee-Sun (HK 2015)
The debut film from director Yee-sun ,Lazy Hazy Crazy is a coming of age story about three young girls nearing their 18th birthdays in Hong Kong . A full house took in the film here at the Canadian Premiere ,and they didn’t go home disappointed.
This is a the story of girls on the verge of womanhood, struggling with the crushes, physical changes, and high school environment that is common among their peers. However these girls are more mature than they look ,and two make a common practice of dating and having sexual relations with older men.The third is sitting on the fence about whether to join them.
It makes for a very interesting dynamic ,and adds a real and raw edge to what we could envision would be a typical Hollywood style telling of a similar story.What makes the movie work so well is the excellent script and direction-at times funny and at others subtle and poignant.
A great cast of leads take the task to hand ,leaving us with a drama that takes us to places often not explored in a deep and sensitive manner.With characters we are rooting for, even though they may at times be selling themselves short.
In the end they get a moment to escape and enjoy the dawning of a new future; wherever it leads…
If Cats Disappeared From The World-d. Akira Nagai (Japan-2016)
I caught the Canadian Premiere of this new Japanese film last night; and it may just be my favourite film at Fantasia so far. I know it’s my favourite film title:)
This is the story of a slightly disenfranchised 30 yr old mailman who seems to have little interest in life ,other than his love of movies and his pet cat Cabbage. He is given a shocking medical diagnosis near the beginning of the film, leaving him with little time to live.
How will he spend his little remaining time, and can he make a Faustian deal with the Devil to gain some extra precious days? But this Devil may well be his own alter ego, and is played by the same actor: Rurouni Kenshin.
Regardless, Takeru is offered extra days to live, but must give up something for each day he gains. As he progresses, slowly losing things in his world that seem unimportant on the surface, Takuru remembers all the joy ,companionship ,and love that he has enjoyed in his life. And he realizes that these joys and friendships aren’t worth losing, they are more important than clinging to the world .
This is a great drama- at times melodramatic and sentimental,and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience after this screening I would guess. A faithful adaptation of the bestselling novel by author Genki Kawamura, this flick is in good hands with director Nagai.
Beautiful to look at,the film unfolds with a flow matching the mood of the story. Hopefully you can get a chance to see this wonderful movie at a theatre in the near future.
And speaking of the future, I may have been inspired to go and adopt a feline friend for myself I think:) So viewer beware on this flick…
Train To Busan-d. Yeon Sang-Ho ( South Korea-2016)
A great new Korean genre film, this flick played out of competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. To a standing ovation. Here in Montreal the film had its North American premiere at Fantasia. And the crowd was almost as enthusiastic:)
A Zombie apocalypse begins to afflict modern day Korea just as our lead character Seok-woo departs Seoul on the TGV with his much neglected daughter. It is her birthday, and her one wish is to spend the day with her mother in Busan.
When the train departs the station ,an infected traveller boards at the last second, and as the journey progresses all hell breaks loose. I am not a big fan of Zombie films in general,and also feel like it is a very over-done genre at the moment. However ,I thoroughly enjoyed this flick from beginning to end. Action,love, bravery,sentimentality,and selfishness are all on display in this allegorical tale that also keeps the thrills coming.
The highlight for me was the amazing scene near the end in the Busan Cetral Station rail yards.After a narrow escape from a derailment ,our surviving characters flight to safety is endangered by a mass of infected monsters grabbing onto the rail car, and slowly bringing it to a halt. Almost:)
Commentators have made some noise about comparing this flick in some ways to the recent film Snowpiercer. My viewing companion here in Montreal seemed to think it more likely took some inspiration from Cassandras Crosing.
Regardless ,the Train To Busan is a one-way ticket to entertainment.
The Phantom Detective-d. Jo Sung-He (South Korea-2016)
South Korean noir? You bet! This slick new entry from director Sung-He is a crowd pleaser of a film that’s stars Lee Je-Hoon as private investigator Hong Gol-Dong. Dong is a crime fighting PI with a mysterious and forgotten past, except for one memory that drives him- the murder of his mother and his never ending thirst for revenge. As the film begins he is within reach of the killer , but is one step behind henchmen for a secret society bent on overthrowing the government.
They have other plans for the aged killer,as he has information that could expose their evil plot.Our hero does however find the abandoned grandchildren of his nemesis ,and becomes a reluctant caretaker as both search for the abducted old man. For very different reasons.
Equal parts Noir-Comedy-Action-and -Sentimentality-this film is a modern take on Korean literary hero Hong Gil-Dong. And I assume a tip of the hat to the original pulp magazine serial The Phantom Detective, that was published from 1933-53.
This is a great whirlwind of a story with many shifting moods, and owes a visual debt to Sin City. Great performances and visual style are on display ,and I absolutely love the final gun battle which takes place while our hero sits placidly observing justice being delivered; to those that so desperately deserve it.
Sequel in the offing? I wouldn’t be surprised. Look out for this flick it’s a keeper…