Last month I listed several older martial arts films going back to 1930 that you may not have heard of before.
This month, I’m providing introductions to some newer (2002-2003) Chinese language films from the PRC, Taiwan, Kong Kong and Singapore, all of which played, and some of which had their U.S. premieres, at this summer’s Seattle International Film Festival.
Keep your eyes open: you might just find a new favorite Chinese flick (descriptions and images courtesy of The Seattle International Film Festival)...
A Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002)
Tony Leung and Faye Wong for the first time since “Chungking
Express,” a young emperor and his sister sneak out of
the restrictive palace to experience life in the real world.
Trouble ensues when they run into the dreaded King Bully (Leung).
Aimed squarely at fans of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,”
this is a film packed with laughs, action and romance.
Blind Shaft (2003)
China, Hong Kong, Germany / 92 minutes
men travel the crumbling coal mining system of China’s
hinterland to make their own kind of fortune–using a
violent scheme of misdirection and manipulation. Their plan,
however, cracks open the thin veneer of trust between them,
leaving both men vulnerable to the intrusion of others and
to the deadly erosion of their own design. Awards: Berlin
‘03 (Best Artistic Contribution: Li Yang)
Cry Woman (2002)
China, South Korea, Canada / 91 minutes
this tragi-comedy, everything goes wrong for Guixiang when
her husband gouges out the eye of his mah-jong opponent and
is arrested. The blinded man’s wife demands compensation
and Guixiang is left to raise her neighbor’s baby. As
she breaks down and cries, her heart-wrenching sobs attract
the attention of her ex-boyfriend, who decides to manage her
new career as a professional mourner.
Double Vision (2002)
Taiwan, United States, Hong Kong / 110 minutes
hair-raising chiller in the vein of “Se7en” and
“Silence of the Lambs,” “Double Vision”
pairs a washed-up cop with an equally burnt-out FBI agent
as they investigate brain-altering black fungus, evil Taoist
sects, supernatural forces and a psychotic serial killer.
Awards: Hong Kong Academy Award ‘03 (Best Supporting
Actress: Rene Liu)
Dream Cuisine (2003)
Japan, China / 134 minutes
78-year old Sato Hatsue mastered Shandong cuisine (no sugar,
no lard, no MSG) during her girlhood in Shandong Province,
China. Together with her Japanese husband, she has kept the
tradition alive in Tokyo, long after the Cultural Revolution
almost wiped it out in its homeland. In her declining years,
she dreams of revisiting China, but her husband is opposed.
“Dream Cuisine” is fundamentally a story of love
versus duty, constancy versus change.
Infernal Affairs (2002)
Hong Kong / 100 minutes
riveting cop drama in the vein of the great French policiers
of the ’80s. Two Hong Kong moles, each informing for
the other side, find their destinies inextricably intertwined.
Lensed by Wong Kar-wai collaborator Chris Doyle, and with
Leung turning in a lifetime best, breathtakingly sexy performance,
the dark, claustrophobic narrative winds its way to an emotionally
powerful climax. Awards: Hong Kong Film Awards ‘02 (Best
Film, Director, Actor, S. Actor, Editing, Score)
I Not Stupid (2002)
Singapore / 106 minutes
Pin, Boon Hock and Terry, three 12-year olds who find school
worse than prison, find no relief at home where their parents
constantly nag “It’s for your own good.”
Ostensibly a film about education problems, “I Not Stupid”
is a sly and engaging critique of Singapore’s obsession
with losing its social, political and cultural identity to
the twin “evils” of Western influence and modernity.
Love At 7-11 (2002)
Taiwan / 97 minutes
Tsai is an artist, working on a TV documentary about a modern-day geisha. Every day he buys milk and rice cakes at the local 7-11 store.
Feng, the 7-11 clerk, is interested in him but still trying
to shake off a pesky ex-boyfriend. “Love At 7-11″
is a poignant drama about chances untaken, and about life
and love in modern Taiwan.
Hong Kong / 85 minutes
Propulsive energy and wicked humor fuel this sleek, virtuoso crime thriller which thrusts us into a hair-raising night of mayhem involving a trio of police officials who work the mean streets of Hong Kong’s criminal world, and the gangsters with whom they maintain an edgy, ambivalent balance of power.