Saturday, March 31, 2007

[HKIFF] Nanking

We Will Remember

If I am going to recommend a documentary, then Nanking will be it. The Rape of Nanking just prior to World War II is examined in this film, which contains real stock footage of clips smuggled out of China during the time of Japanese occupation. Interviews with surviving Chinese victims, and a number of Japanese Imperial Army soldiers who took part in the campaign, are conducted by the filmmakers, and it is always chilling to learn from them first hand, on their respective perspective of those horrible years of the Japanese invasion of China.

You will definitely squirm at the tearful, vivid recollection of atrocities from rapes, shootings, knifing from bayonets, and even burning, while the archive clips bring to screen scenes and pictures of such barbaric acts. Tales of plundering, looting, the forceful taking away of young men to be shot and young girls or boys, children even, for brutal rape, are told with an unflinching eye. In fact, nothing is re-enacted in this film, opting instead for actors (such as Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemmingway and Michelle Krusiec) to portray real historical characters and only as narrators of their personal diaries and memoirs of their stay in Nanking during the invasion and subsequent occupation.

While the rest of the world stood by and did nothing, a handful of foreigners who opted to stay in the city, did what they could by organizing themselves and setting up a Safety Zone for the Chinese refugees, using all the power that they could (which was very little, save for the fact that they are foreigners) to protect their charges from the looting, plundering, killing and rape that takes place on a regular basis outside their zone. And it is indeed this Zone which had saved thousands of lives, that this documentary paid a sort of tribute to.

If this is an anti-war picture, then I'd say it would have done a very good job, highlighting the immense amount of evil that man is capable of inflicting on fellow man. Even up until today, the Massacre of Nanjing is still hotly debated, especially on the number of unfortunate casualties and victims, and the enshrinement of war criminals which have irked the Chinese.

Friday, March 30, 2007

[HKIFF] Spider Lilies (刺青)

You Know You Want Me

A spider lily is a flower that is said to line along the pathway to Hell. It contains poison which will cause one to lose our memory. Memories are central to the story, as the characters involved are questioned as to whether their memories are faulty, and if one can choose to repress them in the attempt to forget, be they happier times, or times of woe.

Jade (Rainie Yang) is an Internet web-cam girl, living with her grandma, and making a living out of smut, enticing men to trade money for moments of online peek-a-boo pleasure. She has a love since 9 years of age, and it is the relationship with Takeko (Isabella Leong), a tattooist, that forms the fulcrum of the story. Takeko herself bears a strong spider lily tattoo on her left arm, and it is something that Jade wants for herself, trying to rekindle and capture memories of her lost love, now found again.

There had been a recent fad about tattoos, nevermind the negative connotations once associated with this permanent body art. Perhaps this movie will change opinions about tattoos, as it opens your mind to specifics as to the reason behind each design, and the rationale that each person probably had when making their choices on a particular design. And as a plot device, it was a hand in glove, a tattoo's powerful symbolism of hiding real intentions or emotions behind, or to feed off its perceived energy and possessing the design's qualities.

Spider Lilies has fine editing which serves the movie extremely well in engaging the audience with the characters' past. In fact, the rich back stories created for the characters make the story very compelling to watch. If there is a chink in the armour, then it's the characterization of Takeko's brother Ching (Shen Jian-hung), who is a bit slow in mental intelligence, and spends a lot of screen time pouting for his sister's attention, which totally messes up her social life, out of love and obligation to provide the only family care for him.

The fear and pain of being forgotten in a modern society might resonate with many, and anyone who has spent enough time on the internet, will know that its anonymity can often lead to misunderstandings. That subplot perhaps added a touch of lightness coupled with a tinge of sadness and irony. As most youths today turn to the net as an outlet for expression, most will be able to identify with this portion of the story arc.

I'm quite unsure if this movie will be able to make it to Singapore, given its more obvious subject material that the authorities will probably frown upon. But at its core, it's a tale of change and to have courage to live the life you want to lead, interwoven with a tale of love. If Saving Face can make it to our shores, I hope Spider Lilies will too.


Director Zero Chou, Isabella Leong and Shen Jian-hung were present at the end of the screening to field questions from the audience. Given the time limitation, we only had time for a few Q&As, mostly for the director.

There was a sense that true love is heavy and sad, to which Zero Chou explained that there is love that exists which is deep, and it is in the depths of love that sometimes you experience extreme sadness. However, there are also feelings of happiness. In love, both happiness and sadness coexist, and life is about change and bitterness and sadness are part and parcel of change. In this film, the power of love and courage are explored.

In the movie, there was the earthquake which served as a historical backdrop, and the characters from a fairly lost generation, and the question was how the director managed to blend the stories together for Spider Lilies. Zero Chou explained that Taiwan experiences earthquakes on a rather frequent basis, and in this movie, it is not the main subject. Rather, it's a symbol of abrupt change in emotions and memories, and that tattooing is like a way of stitching things back together again. And this recovery also includes the virtual world that the character Jade lives in. Or the brother Ching's lost memories, which is his way of dealing with abrupt change. This film is about how people deal with these changes, through love and courage.

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Spider Lilies

The beautiful Isabella Leong came dressed to the nines, complete with a tiara, to the screening of Spider Lilies, together with director Zero Chou and Taiwanese actor Shen Jian-hung.

You can click on the logo below to read my report from the Red Carpet:

Thursday, March 29, 2007

[HKIFF] Mukhsin

My Name Is Mukhsin

Mukhsin is a beautiful movie about a first love story. Everyone probably has one, and this is writer-director Yasmin Ahmad's story of hers, with a boy called Mukhsin. We know that her movies have been semi-autobiographical of sorts, having scenes drawn upon her personal experiences, and it is indeed this sharing and translating of these emotions to the big screen, that has her films always exude a warm sincerity and honesty. Mukhsin is no different, and probably the most polished and confident work to date (though I must add, as a personal bias, that Sepet still has a special place in my heart).

Our favourite family is back - Pak Atan, Mak Inom, Orked and Kak Yam, though this time, we go back to when Orked is age 10. The characters are all younger from the movies we've journeyed with them, from Rabun to Gubra, and here, Sharifah Amani's sisters Sharifah Aryana and Sharifah Aleya take on the roles of Orked and Mak Inom respectively, which perhaps accounted for their excellent chemistry together on screen, nevermind that they are not playing sibling roles. The only constant it seems is Kak Yam, played by Adibah Noor, and even Pak Atan has hair on his head!

Through Mukshin the movie, we come full circle with the characters, and the world that Yasmin has introduced us to. We come to learn of and understand the family a little bit more, set in the days when they're still living in their kampung (revisited back in Rabun), where Orked attends a Chinese school, and packs some serious combination of punches (and you wonder about that burst of energy in Gubra, well, she had it in her since young!). The perennial tomboy and doted child of the family, she prefers playing with the boys in games, rather than mindless "masak-masak" with the girls, and favourite outings include going with the family to football matches.

The arrival of a boy called Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip) to the village provides a cool peer for Orked to hang out and do stuff with - cycling through the villages, climbing trees, flying kites. And as what is desired to be explored, the crossing of that line between friendship and romance, both beautiful emotions.

Mukhsin does have its cheeky moments which liven up the story, and bring about laughter, because some of the incidents, we would have experienced it ourselves, and sometimes serve as a throwback to our own recollection of childhood. In short, those scenes screamed "fun"! We observe the life in a typical kampung, where some neighbours are very nice, while others, the nosy parkers and rumour mongers, spreading ill gossip stemming from envy. There are 2 additional family dynamics seen, one from an immediate neighbour, and the other from Mukhsin's own, both of which serve as adequate subplots, and contrast to Orked's own.

As always, Yasmin's movies are filled with excellent music, and for Mukhsin, it has something special, the song "Hujan" as penned by her father, as well as "Ne Me Quitte Pas", aptly used in the movie

Given that the Yasmin's movies to date have been centred around the same characters, the beauty of it is that you can watch them as stand alone, or when watched and pieced together, makes a compelling family drama dealing with separate themes and universal issues like interracial romance, love, and forgiveness. Fans will definitely see the many links in Mukhsin back to the earlier movies, while new audiences will surely be curious to find out certain whys and significance of recurring characters or events, like that pudgy boy who steals glances at Orked.

And speaking of whys, parts of Mukhsin too is curiously open, which probably is distinctive of Yasmin's style, or deliberately left as such. I thought that as a story about childhood, recollected from memory, then there are details which will be left out for sure. And subtly, I felt that Mukhsin exhibited this perfectly, with not so detailed details, and the focus on what can be remembered in significant episodes between the two.

Another highly recommended movie, and a rare one that I feel is suitable for all ages - bring along your kid brother or sister! I will be watching it again when I'm back in Singapore, so in the meantime, if you've already watched Mukhsin, please share your thoughts with me?

I have a personal thought which contains spoilers, so for those who do not wish to know why two particular scenes struck me, you can stop reading now. I was on the set of Mukhsin, and watching this particular scene played out in narrative order, I felt, and I could be wrong, that it was almost like a surreal sense of things to come for Orked, that both she and Mukhsin had somehow crossed a barrier of time on their cycling trip, and looked at what their future held - that she was with Jason, living the good life in the kampung, that her first love Mukhsin would not be the one she would end up with, as mentioned in the epilogue. Then again Yasmin could have enjoyed, and fans all around would have given an arm or leg to see Orked and Jason together again - though not necessary as the characters, just Sharifah Amani and Ng Choo Seong in the same cinematic frame, akin to many other cast from the earlier movies, returning as different characters in this movie. Curiously though, Sharifah Amani's character did address Ng Choo Seong as Jason, and a subtle indirect reference to (motor)bike riding. One wonders.

The ending too links back to Sepet perfectly, though somehow that bit of narration at the end touched me. It's bittersweet, that while you lose something/someone, Love will always be kind and offer that second chance to you. I guess I didn't do justice to that scene here, you have to watch it to understand and feel why.

[HKIFF] The Pye-Dog (野良犬) (World Premiere)

I'm Your Benefactor

The Pye-Dog, produced by Teddy Robin and written and directed by Derek Kwok, contained all the necessary ingredients for a story of friendship and camaraderie between a man and a boy. Both orphans, they bond together through school, but a secret one of them has of his true intentions threaten that established friendship, with a questioning of loyalties.

Eason Chan plays Dui, an orphan with a creative mind, brought up with incredible smarts for fixing and assembling things. Taken in by the thugs (Eric Tsang in a role with long shoulder length hair), he's assigned to find and kidnap the child of the hitman who tried to bump off their leader, in a revenge mission. Given little leads except for the school and name of the hitman, he's packed off to the school in disguise as a janitor, and through the course of his investigations, gets to know an unusual teacher, Miss Cheung (Gia Lin), who is more than meets the eye.

Wen Jun Hui plays Lam Chi Wang, whose father (George Lam in a comeback role) has left the family, and whose mother committed suicide. Living with his grandma, he has taken a vow of silence, refusing to utter a word, but only hums music. We do hear him talk though, but it's through narration, as we listen in to his thoughts.

Told in distinct chapters as outlined by the intertitles, you might already realise from the onset what Fate has in store for our new found friends. Dui takes it upon himself to care for Chi Wang, and is faced with the dilemma of forgoing gratitude towards a benefactor's assistance when he's down and out, for newer bonds where he's looked up to.

With little dialogue, Wen Jun Hui put on a credible, likeable performance as a boy who's reintroduced to a father he never knew, and an attachment to a new surrogate dad Dui. Eason Chan surprisingly gave a convincing, dramatic show as a boy who never grew up, maturing as the story develops. It's refreshing too to witness the return of George Lam after a long hiatus, and even though he comes in about midway through the movie.

While Pye-Dog doesn't offer any particular "wow" factor, this movie is well shot and well acted, featuring a good balance of performances between veterans and pop idols.

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: The Pye-Dog

Hong Kong singer Eason Chan and the rest of the cast, like veterans George Lam and Siu Yam Yam, graced the Red Carpet for the World Premiere of first time director Derek Kwok's The Pye-Dog, produced by Teddy Robin.

You can click on the logo below to read my report from the Red Carpet:

[HKIFF] Dog Bite Dog (Gao Ngao Gau)


First things first, Edison Chen did a fantastic, believable job as a Cambodian hit-man, born and bred in the dumps and a gladiatorial ring, where he honed his craft of savage battery in order to survive, living on the mantra of kill or be killed. In a role that had little dialogue, or at least a few lines in Cambodian/Thai, his performance is compelling, probably what should have been in the Jet Li vehicle Danny the Dog, where a man is bred for the sole purpose of fighting, and on someone else's leash.

Like Danny the Dog, the much talked about bare knuckle fight sequences are not choreographed stylistically, but rather designed as normal, brutal fisticuffs, where everything goes. This probably brought a sense of realism and grit when you see the characters slug it out at each other's throats, in defending their own lives while taking it away from others. It's a grim, gritty and dark movie both literally and figuratively, and this sets it apart from the usual run off the mill cop thriller production.

Edison plays a hired gun from Cambodia, who becomes a fugitive in Hong Kong, on the run from the cops as his pickup had gone awry. Leading the chase is the team led by Cheung Siu-Fai, who has to contend with maverick member Inspector Ti (Sam Lee), who's inclusion and acceptance in the team had to do with the sins of his father. So begins a cat and mouse game in the dark shades and shadows of the seedier looking side of Hong Kong.

The story itself works on multiple levels, especially in the character studies of the hitman, and the cop. On opposite sides of the law, we see within each character not the black and white, but the shades of grey. With the hitman, we see his caring side when he got hooked up and developed feelings of love for a girl (Pei Pei), bringing about a sense of maturity, tenderness, and revealing a heart of gold. The cop, with questionable tactics and attitudes, makes you wonder how one would buckle when willing to do anything it takes to get the job done. There are many interesting moments of moral questioning, on how anti-hero, despicable strategies are adopted. You'll ask, what makes a man, and what makes a beast, and if we have the tendency to switch sides depending on circumstances - do we have that dark inner streak in all of us, transforming from man to dog, and dog to man?

Dog Bite Dog grips you from the start and never lets go until the end, though there are points mid way through that seemed to drag, especially on its tender moments, and it suffered too from not knowing when to end. If I should pick a favourite scene, then it must be the one in the market food centre - extremely well controlled and delivered, a suspenseful edge of your seat moment. Listen out for the musical score too, and you're not dreaming if you hear growls of dogs.

Highly recommended, especially if you think that you've seen about almost everything from the cop thriller genre.

[HKIFF] Whispers and Moans (性工作者十日談) (World Premiere)

A Good Meal After A Hard Night's Work

Director Herman Yau has achieved a cult following thanks to films like The Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome which will forever be synonymous with him. However, it must be noted that his filmography goes beyond these cult classics and exploitation of gore and sexual violence. In his previous movie On The Edge, it presented a decent aftermath of sorts into a popular sub genre of Hong Kong crime thrillers - that of undercover cops (thanks to the wildly popular Infernal Affairs movies) and a take on their story after a successful sting.

In Whispers and Moans, Herman Yau turns the spotlight on the Hong Kong sex industry. Easy fodder for a Category III movie, but Herman had other plans, instead of the usual cheap skin flicks that come to mind. Based on a book by co-writer Yang Yee-shan, which contains true life accounts of workers from the industry, Herman has weaved them into a coherent narrative, spanning 10 days in which frank discussions and observations of the industry are played out - as per the Chinese title of the movie, literally translated as "10 Days of Conversations with Sex Workers".

With a title like that, and the group in focus, it is without a doubt that most stars conscious of their image will naturally shun roles. However, Athena Chu Yan and Candice Yu On On provide the much needed veteran star power to the movie, acting as nightclub "mamasans" to relatively fresh faced actresses, most of whom are taking on their maiden roles in this movie.

The movie looks at the lives and problems faced amongst the ensemble characters, with the difficulties on the jobs ranging from customers who demand everything including the kitchen sink, to stiff competition faced from the Mainlanders, who are willing to do more for less. Taking 10 days to weave the stories together (hence the title), each lady in the movie have their own problems to grapple with, however these problems are nothing new.

You have a drug abuser, a mother who's afraid of transmitting diseases to her child, a bargirl who's reluctant about her job, and who realises she cannot lead a normal working hours life, a professional who buries her resentment deep inside her heart, cheating boyfriends and husbands, and the list goes on. We also observe the other spectrum, with gigolos, bisexuals and transsexuals too, and the prejudice they face in today's society.

It's easy to sit through the movie as these stories are often heard about in the news, or as portrayed in various other movies. You might think there is nothing new on offer, but Whispers and Moans has a character in a rights movement worker, who serves as a mouthpiece for policies such as to raise the professionalism of these workers, with the hope of raising their level of self-respect, using the argument that it's a job, and one, if in the industry, should do their utmost best, just like in any other profession, in any other industry.

It is highly unlikely that this movie will be played in local (Singapore) cinemas, as it's quite topical and unless distributors realize that while the focus is on the sex industry in Hong Kong, the issues discussed here are probably quite universal amongst the workers in the industry.


Director Herman Yau and the cast of Whispers and Moans were in attendance of the World Premiere screening. As an introduction, Herman thanked the actors, as he mentioned that as society is generally conservative, many would have concerns about their image if they take on the roles in the movie. He's happy to say that all of them have healthy images, despite their roles in the film.

Athena Chu confessed that she was attracted to the project because of the title, and that the title presented certain preconceived notions about the ideas of the movie. Playing a character faced with multiple pressures in life, she said that she had learnt a lot, and that even included learning how to use super foul language. She also hoped that the audience can feel and sympathise with the workers in the sex industry, and thanked fellow cast members.

Candice Yu also thanked everyone for the support given to the film, and to Herman Yau. She stated that everyone was very professional during filming, and that her role had given her an opportunity to be vastly different from her usual polite and pretty roles. She mentioned that many probably despise sex workers, but we have to realize that they have background stories, and reasons to do what they have to.

And the rest of the cast shared about their experiences, most being their first feature film, and one to be featured in a festival. To most, this film had changed their perspective and viewpoints, and that this is a part of society that they will never visit should they not have done the movie. The sets used in the movie were real locations - every house, every room, and almost all had to swear and use foul language that they will rarely use in real life, so to do that in the confines of a movie was an experience in itself.

Herman Yau was paid a tribute by the HKIFF, for his great professionalism, and personality. His output is tremendous, and is ever ready with a camera to shoot a film. It was brought to the attention of the audience that Herman frequently is willing to assist the Festival without payment, such as speaking in lectures in the universities, and often goes well prepared with clips from his movies. Moreover, he's always very punctual in his appointments, and this tribute was met with thunderous applause from everyone present in the auditorium.

Question and Answer Session

Athena Chu had clarified about her role in the movie, in response to a question about her burning incense and using vulgarities, that although everyone knows she's a devout Christian, she's just portraying a character in the film.

Director Herman Yau stated that there are very few who are able to plan their future movies, whether be it in the film industry here and overseas. As a professional, he used to have plans, but realise now that it's difficult as there are many external factors and circumstances which influence those plans. He also added that no film is really reflecting reality 100%, even documentaries, when asked about his material research for the movie. The rights movement worker in the story was created with the intent to have a gulf between her and the sex workers, just like how some who want to help others, often have that bridge of understanding to cross, despite having the best of intentions, and often those whom they want to help, will also cast that frequent eye of suspicion.

The northern New Territories was used as a locale because of its historical distinction currently known as an area with family crises. Herman was also asked if he's moving away from the cult movie genre to make more movies about reality, to which he explained that his ideal would be to make any film using any style. He used to watch a lot of movies, and usually tests himself if he can find ways to emulate them. What we've seen to date are only those he has made, and he has a lot of other plans which have not been made at all. He stated that he doesn't want to stick to any particular genre.

Given the titillating title, there was a distinct lack of sex scenes in the movie. Herman clarified that people tend to think of the bed when they think about sex workers, and that there are many ways to look at the different facets of their lives, not just the sex part. So it was a deliberate and rational choice made to not show those scenes, but to focus on the other problematic issues that they face in their lives.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Whispers and Moans

Director in Focus in this year's HKIFF, Herman Yau, and his ensemble cast from his new movie Whispers and Moans, like Athena Chu and Candice Yu, were in attendance for the world premiere at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

You can click on the logo below for the pictorial from the Red Carpet:

[HKIFF] Ming Ming (明明) (World Premiere)

Nana and Ming Ming

Ming Ming is a very stylized movie, but that's not to say it has more style than substance. Unattainable love and infatuation play central themes in Ming Ming's world, one which contains fantasy martial arts elements, set in today's contemporary era. The titular character played by Zhou Xun cuts a willowy figure, dressed in black with her long dark tresses. One night she casts her eye on D (Daniel Wu), a street fighter whom she falls in love and spends a night with.

D, on the other hand, is an elusive lover. With secrets of the past which he seeks to unlock, he's never committed, giving out a promise to whoever can fetch him 5 million dollars, and with whom he'll travel to Harbin with. This sets in motion an entire chain of events, starting with Ming Ming stealing the money and a secret box from Brother Cat (the singer Jeff Chang, who has long been away from the public eye).

On the other hand, Ming Ming's friend Ah Tu (Tony Yang) is also infatuated with her, and chances upon Nana (Zhou Xun in her second role), with whom he brings along in their escape from Brother Cat's thugs, and whom too is also in love with D. Confused? Don't be, as Nana is distinctively different from Ming Ming, from hair and outfit (loud and garish) to mannerisms, not forgetting the languages used.

In fact, the movie can be renamed Nana, as this character had more screen time than Ming Ming, as we explore the unrequited love by so many characters in the movie. Love and its different incantations are put up on display, even parental ones, as the plot slowly unravels to its surprise ending. There are some zen like dialogue and moments in the movie, such as being able to be with a person even for a moment, is better than not being able to at all. And this is especially true for Ah Tu, even though he's with someone who resembles, and not with the actual person. I thought Nana and Ah Tu had the strongest storyline and the best character development, naturally so because of the screentime devoted to them.

Accompanying the superb story are both the music and action. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix and fusion of various influences, from electronica to jazz, and the theme used for chases is particularly catchy. Given that it adopted a fantasy martial arts style, most of the fights, especially Ming Ming's, were given distinct looks. Ming Ming's especially, is one adopted from flicking explosive projectiles at her enemies, while D's style is quick, brutal, and very short ranged. Plot elements from such fantasy movies, like mini quests, and the seeking of treasure, are staples too in the movie.

The filming style used is also a mixed bag, with repetitions, quick cuts and flashbacks the norm. It might require a little time to get used to, typically those used in fights. By the time you get through one or two action sequences, you'll be clamouring for more. Savour those moments, as they actually come few and far between. There are many "poser" moments as well, which gives the movie a certain "sexy" look as characters preen and pose when they deliver their dialogues.

I guess I'm fortunate to have caught this movie here, in its original language track, as compared to having to watch the dubbed Mandarin version back in Singapore if it gets played. Key languages used - Mandarin, Cantonese and Shanghainese, provide a certain flavour and utilized to distinguish characters. inevitably the effect will be lost in any dubbed version. Zhou Xun, and Tony Yang too, at times sounded a bit off in their Cantonese diction, but that doesn't mar their performances, in particular Zhou Xun's excellent delivery of dual roles.

For giving a contemporary fantasy martial arts movie a different and refreshing look, Ming Ming will get my vote.


Director Susie Au and the cast and crew, including Zhou Xun, Daniel Wu, Anthony Wong(music) and Veronica Lee (music) were in attendance at today's World Premiere, to introduce the film. Daniel Wu dedicated the evening of the premiere to the director, while Zhou Xun revealed that the movie was 3 years in the making, and joked she was glad that it comes to a finale today as many times director Sharon Au will forget about the passage of time while shooting the film, and the cast and crew had often missed their meal breaks and sleep!

There was also a post screening Question and Answer session, and Sharon Au explained that she was a film buff herself, and so was subconsciously influenced by other films, if any references could be drawn from Ming Ming. She's particularly immersed into the French New Wave, and their narrative approach, and wanted to make a film set outside reality, hence Ming Ming. As a martial arts movie, she needed Ming Ming to have a weapon, and why "beads" and "tan2 zhi3 shen2 gong1" was by chance - they were designing the costumes, and someone brought in a scarf with beads dangling from its ends. Hence it became the weapon of choice for Ming Ming.

Themes of Time and Fate make up the movie, and this was brought out through some of the techniques used, like a particular 1 second shot repeated over many times, to extend the feeling of that duration, as well as to accentuate the notion of Fate, that 1 split second decision can change a lot of things.

Susie Au also explained that the 3 years taken to make this movie was nothing to do with the creative process, but from external circumstances, and laughed when someone asked if there will be a director's cut - there will be, but it's not done yet, she joked.

Zhou Xun was asked if it was difficult playing two roles and to speak in different languages, and she shared that since the two roles of Ming Ming and Nana were completely different and at different ends of the spectrum, it was not so difficult. However, they shared similarities like their pursuit of happiness, and the character development that Nana undergoes. Zhou Xun too had acted in a prior movie before this which was in Cantonese, so it wasn't too difficult this time round in using the language.

Finally, someone asked Daniel, who plays the object of affection for both lady characters, what sort of girls he would prefer - that of Ming Ming or Nana, to which he side-stepped and said that in an ideal world, he would want to have both!

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Ming Ming

Director Susie Au, cast Zhou Xun and Daniel Wu, and crew Anthony Wong and Veronica Lee were present at the Red Carpet ceremony for the world premiere of Ming Ming.

You can click on the logo below to read our report from the Red Carpet:

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Cannes 60th Anniversay Photo Exhibition

So close and yet so far - The Palme d'Or Award from the Cannes Film Festival was unveiled together with a series of photographs in an exhibition at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, as part of the celebrations of the prestigious film festival's 60th Anniversay this year.

You can click on the logo below to access the pictures from the event:

[HKIFF] Ebola Syndrome (Yi Bo La Beng Duk)

The Ebola Victim

Back in the early 90s, I recall widespread concern about incurable diseases such as the Ebola virus, and Hollywood taking the premise and churning out movies such as Outbreak and the such. In Hong Kong cinema, director Herman Yau cemented his cult status for films with excessive graphic depiction of sex and violence with this movie - Ebola Syndrome.

As compared to the other cult hit The Untold Story, you can spot various similarities in terms of presentation style, and certain plot elements and development. Again the lead role, Kai San, is played by Anthony Wong, this time with long frizzy hair, and begins the movie with both sex (with his boss' wife) and violence (yet another gruesome massacre played out in full on screen, coupled with sexual violence). Naturally he becomes a fugitive and escapes to outside Hong Kong - this time to South Africa, and becomes an employee at a local Chinese restaurant.

The similarities do not end there. You just cannot wait for the next dismemberment and the making of the new "char siew bao", now termed African Buns for local flavour. Expect more hard unflinching violence, and this time too with the camera unmoved from the decapitation of animals like chickens and frogs - heart still pumping, and the slicing out of innards, or the chopping off of legs. Sure puts you off your next bowl of frog leg porridge. And serving as another reminder, is not to offend your cook, as he has the power to include unwanted ingredients, including bodily fluids!

Rapid fire profane dialogue is a standard, and sometimes comical as the characters rattle off combinations of vulgarities with ease. But just in case you wonder if Ebola Syndrome is The Untold Story rehashed in a different setting, rest assure that only the good gory bits from Untold get squeezed into the first half of Ebola. Unfortunately the second half seemed to want to move away tangentially from its predecessor, and kept its focus on the contact with, and spreading of the disease.

Stemming from Kai San's inability to keep his pants on, he takes advantage of a comatose African tribe woman, who unknowing to him, is a victim of the Ebola virus. With an incredible stroke of luck, he survives the infection and becomes a virus carrier, spreading the disease in South Africa no thanks to his African Buns, and amongst prostitutes when he returns to Hong Kong. The rest of the movie becomes a comedy somewhat with the police attempts to contain the virus as well as to apprehend Kai San. Nothing too fancy in its second half treatment.

One more thing, look out carefully at the cameos and extras!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

[HKIFF] Eye in the Sky (監視) (Gun Chung)

Are You Stalking Me?

First time director Yau Nai-Hoi's Eye in the Sky gets the two thumbs up from me. It's an excellent movie with a strong storyline that gets zoned into the moment, with no room spent on unnecessarily bloating the movie beyond what it should be. Director Yau, a frequent collaborator and scriptwriter for Johnny To classics, brings to Eye in the Sky, a taut 90 minutes cop-robbers story on surveillance, of the men and women who do the thankless anonymous tasks behind the scenes on following suspects and trawling the streets for them.

Surveillance is never easy, and trust me I know, from work experience. While there are countless of CCTV cameras and various technologies, nothing beats having up to date field intelligence. The opening film of the HKIFF, I had hoped to have watched this on its first screening, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I had one week to trawl the streets of Hong Kong and Kowloon, and being able to identify the locales used, was an added thrill.

Although this is a cop thriller, it doesn't have the usual car chases, explosions or fancy gun battles. It's quite muted in these aspects, however it brings about a refreshing realism to the story, a great departure from the days when action has to be stylized (flying through the air shooting two guns anyone?) The way the surveillance team operate, with its arsenal of disguises, tricks and vehicles, and the skills that one must possess - keen observation, alertness and an elephant memory, makes it like a cross between The Recruit and Mission: Impossible.

Eye in the Sky tells the story of a new recruit, nicknamed Piggy (Kate Tsui) by her mentor Dog-Head (Simon Yam), as she undergoes an on-job training of sorts in their case to track down some armed heist robbers, led by "Hollow Man" (Tony Leung Kar Fai). It becomes a tight cat and mouse game as identities are attempted to be established, and the team comes up against a villain who's truly aware of his environment, turning the tables as the hunter might become the prey.

There are strong performances all round, led by the veterans Simon Yam, in a change of alignment given his outings last year as villains, and Tony Leung, as a chillingly observant, cool and methodical sudoku-playing mastermind, who brought about the flip side of surveillance - of criminals studying and casing their targets. In her first movie role, I thought Kate Tsui did remarkably well in her role as Piggy, the newbie lacking field experience, yet being thrown in the deep end of the pool to sink or swim. Perhaps it is truly her being new to the scene, that eased her comfortably into a role which is similar to herself, but the story does allow her room to showcase some of her acting chops, and she holds her own well against the veterans. Maggie Siu too added some comedic moments as a foul mouthed police madam.

Eye in the Sky is a recommended Hong Kong cop thriller (time to let go of mole stories) which is tight, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you follow the surveillance team through high angles (akin to CCTV camera angles), tight teamwork and features an incredible soundtrack as well to keep it fast paced. You must watch this when it makes it to our shores in Singapore, tentatively scheduled for mid April.


Director Yau Nai-Hoi and actress Kate Tsui were present to grace the second screening of the movie. Going by the positive vibes amongst the audience, the first question asked was whether there was going to be a sequel, to which Yau said there is no such plans yet.

He shared that the moving tram sequence was in particular quite bothersome to shoot, as it was moving, and to need a second shot with the same background, they had to wait for the next trip, so as not to have any continuity issues. The tram is narrow as well, thus it was difficult to squeeze all the equipment into it, and besides, renting the tram was expensive. (As you watch this scene, and have been in a HK tram, you know how tough it is).

There was a question that the jewel shop in the first heist scene doesn't sell real jewels, but Yau mentioned that it does sell pretty expensive items nonetheless. Also, no goldsmith shops in Hong Kong will allow you to film something like that in their premises. As to why the central district was chosen as the setting, he shared that it was very beautiful, and full of character. The locale also provided plenty of levels, staircases and slopes, with narrow paths and crowded streets.

The original protagonist in the movie was actually male, but he thought that an innocent girl up against a seasoned beast-like villain would be more intriguing and make better contrast. Hence having a female character, and a relative newcomer like Kate, suits the film well. Kate added that this was her first feature film, and she admired Yau's courage in casting and trusting her with the role. They took a year to make the film, and she liked this film very much.

Yau also explained about a key melodramatic scene, and said that coincidences, miracles and accidents do happen in real life, that you often hear in the news about mishaps, and wonder how the victims manage to survive almost impossible odds. That scene is done as such so as to jolt the audience into thinking about such incidents.

Yau, in response to questions about Johnny To, continued to say that the market for films has not been that good, and when people are willing to invest, and with Johnny To as producer, there is no need to think much about it, and just go ahead and make the movie. As a first time director, he too had continued with scriptwriting duties, and thus it gave him a larger sense of satisfaction to see the overwhelming positive response this movie has gotten so far. He had known Johnny To for a long time, and it's become a Milkyway (the film company) style of collaboration, and cross influencing each other.

Lastly, when asked about why he stuck to the conventional, almost cliche use of old Chinese buildings and warehouses as a scene of refuge, and whether it was because they ran out of budget, Yau replied that with older buildings, there was less CCTV cameras and a lower level of security, so it was quite logical to see these buildings used by fugitives. Besides, there was a news report some time ago that real villains were actually apprehended from these locations!

The Star of Eye in the Sky - Kate Tsui!

Monday, March 26, 2007

[HKIFF] Day Night Day Night

And I've Packed You a Happy Meal

Mention films about suicide bombers, and movies like Syrianna and Paradise Now comes to mind. Films that try to explain the rationale behind the driving force of these persons dedicated to destruction and murder, and while those stories had the usual male bombers, Day Night Day Night took on a more interesting angle, and looked at the role of female suicide bombers - those that don't really fit the usual security profile, and are usually deemed as lower risk of being detected before they execute their plan.

In her first fictional feature, director Julia Loktev takes a long hard look at the journey of a 19 year old girl played by Luisa Williams. Attractive, petite,you won't understand why she has to do what she wants to, and the story doesn't explain. This is almost in parallel to real life, where you read reports of the aftermath, and are presented with little clues to their background.

Loktev weaved a tale from seeking out the terrorists, meeting them, going through their rites and procedures, before being accepted for the mission, complete with the making of the video, and the fit up of the device. Most times you don't get to see much, as the camera angles are extremely tight and full of close ups, to accentuate the waiting, and to allow you to focus on the girl, and her thoughts, and her apprehension, despair, and a host of other emotions.

I thought Loktev too took quite a neutral stand in not stereotyping the bad hats, that indeed it can be anyone, people from abroad with different cultures, or the home grown and bred haters of society. And that is true because terror can come from anywhere.

This is not an easy movie to sit through as it's deliberately slow and nothing much really happened. But as a movie that attempts to narrate the process from civilian to combatant, this fictionalized account will probably be as close as you can get.

[HKIFF] Arthur and the Minimoys

I'm Arthur. Who Are You?

Director Luc Besson is probably synonymous with movies laden with violence, like Nikita, Leon the Professional, and the science fiction fantasy The Fifth Element. The Taxi franchise too is associated with the French director, as are the other diverse variety of movies written by him, ranging from Danny the Dog to 13th District.

And finally, an animation which doesn't feature talking animals. Talk about a deserved break from animation of those sorts. Besson has weaved a magical fantasy adventure, combining live action and delightful 3D animation which is absolutely stunning, and not forgetting a memorable, simple yet strong story to carry the movie through, rather than rehashed juvenile tales that put you to sleep.

No doubt that you might think there are bits which makes it look like a distant cousin of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, or Ants / A Bug's Life, Arthur and the Minimoys has its own saccharine sweet backstory developed, leading to an inevitable ending of which it isn't pessimistic about. In fact, it ends on hope, and love, and there's always something special with movies that dare to end wit that.

The hybrid technique used in itself is special too, as there are too few movies which do so, one of which that comes to mind is Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Here, Arthur is played by Freddie Highmore, last seen in A Good Year, and I thought he's slowly adding to his resume with credible performances all round in the various movies he's in. Lending star power to the movie are the voice talents of (in the English version), check this out - Madonna, Robert De Niro, Jimmy Falon, Harvey Keitel, Snoop Dogg, and David Bowie, who seems to be on a slowburner to making movies these days.

Arthur and the Minimoys is full of love - between Arthur and Selenia the Minimoy Princess (all animated movies must have lovebirds, you know?), and more importantly, between family members. The message on nature and loving nature becomes secondary somewhat, but nonetheless still rings through. Highly recommended animated feature, a refreshing change from the usual style offered.

[HKIFF] The Untold Story (Baat Sin Faan Dim Ji Yan Yuk Cha Siu Baau)

Good Stuff Cannot Bluff

This year's HKIFF has director Herman Yau's movies in retrospect, and features some of his adult cult classics like The Untold Story, and Ebola Syndrome. There would be no way that I would pass on the opportunity to watch these movies on the big screen, in 35mm format.

The Untold Story tells of a heinous crime that reportedly took place in 80s Macau, where the entire family of the Eight Immortals Restaurant were slaughtered, their bodies dismembered, the bones dumped into trash, and their flesh, as the title already states, gets put as fillings into roast meat buns. Anthony Wong plays the chief villain Wong Chi Hang, who refuses to acknowledge the dastardly murders he had committed, and gives an impressive performance as a dangerous, calculative criminal behind those nerdy looking spectacles.

This Category III movie is unflinching in its violence, and not just those involving weapons like butcher knives, but seemingly innocent utensils like ladles and chopsticks will never be looked upon in the same light again. Women and children are not spared the graphicness of it all, and although some acts were done off screen, it is chilling enough to send shivers, no thanks to the gleefully evil expression of Wong the actor. Rape, dismemberment, beheadings, immolation, they're all here to earn this adult movie its cult status.

Danny Lee, a regular in cop movies in the 80s and also a producer of the film, plays a cop with shady morals here, with preference for hookers and breaking protocol by bringing them regularly to crime scenes and the police station. It's quite a departure from the straight heroic roles he plays ever so often. Besides watching him in action (haven't seen him in a while), another "oldie" Seng Fui On is in the movie as a jailbird who bears a grudge against Wong Chi Hang. Watching a host of other familiar faces brings back that sense of nostalgia.

But perhaps what made this movie stand out, is its portrayal of the police force as a bunch of bumbling officers (in a way) with its blend of comedy, and its stark portrayal of questionable interrogation tactics which probably wouldn't get passed today, and would definitely be frowned upon.

It's a wicked delight to indulge in the enjoyment of this movie, and I'd recommend anyone who wants to watch this, to watch it on the big screen in 35mm format at whatever opportunity that comes by.

[HKIFF] The Basement (World Premiere)

Are You Watching?

The Basement screened today at the HK Space Museum was a world's first, and simply put, it can be broken down in three acts. It's not easy to follow, and the ending left quite open ended. The techniques used, especially the extensive use of long shots, and the dim lighting made the look of the film a little fuzzy, and very dark, probably to accentuate director Liu Hao's message of uncertainty, and helplessness.

The first act would have made an excellent horror movie, with its darkness, shadow play, and sound effects. The pacing, cinematography would all suggest this. However, this act served as a rather long introduction of our lead characters, a girl named Sheng Hao, and her boyfriend Jia Hao, who has the habit of standing her up. It's a journey along the games people play, in being coy, in being wanting, in being indifferent.

Things still don't pick up in the second act, where they finally meet, and continue their lovers games. Until an intruder is caught, and things start to pick up slightly with a catalyst introduced, but still, it doesn't move along much. The intruder, a voyeur, because of his new found power to blackmail, start to make demands, and while this was an interesting plot development, it suffered again from the lack of pace, and repetition.

In its wrap, it left things convoluted, and leaving you quite unsatisfied. If there's an issue with The Basement, it'll be the pacing which is excruciatingly slow. The revelation was not a surprise, as you would have more or less guessed it given the lack of characters, and locale. Not for the impatient, nor those who prefer crisp stories.

There will be some mild spoilers in the paragraphs below.

Director Liu Hao graced the World Premiere screening with an introduction as well as a Question and Answer session after the screening. Many were curious as to why the intruder didn't free himself completely, and this was clarified that it wasn't the intention of the intruder, as he realized the power he wielded over the couple, and is seeking to fulfil his own desires. Also, there were questions why the couple was obedient, and I thought this was already explained in the movie itself - that the woman worked at the venue, and she would be in trouble if word leaked out what she/the couple had done/were doing.

The slow pacing of the movie was deliberate, and Liu Hao shared that he's been working at the venue where the set was based (actually his own film studio in Beijing), and had a 7 month gap to make a movie in the interim, while developing another feature film. At that location, he noticed the lot of people who were living there, and because of constraints, cannot make a fast paced movie. Similarly, it's a reflection of life and its uncertainties, and it was deliberately planned to be slow moving.

Liu Hao revealed that the movie cost only 7000RMB, of which 2800RMB went to the music, and even then, it was for the rental of the sound studio. Sound effects in the movie were courtesy of the existing ambience. They were real sewage sounds, and therefore no need for additional special effects since they already work. The way the movie was framed was also a mirror of his own late night wandering in his film studio, where there are 12 rooms. When asked if he was emulating any other filmmaker, in particular Ozu, he clarified that it is not his aim to imitate, but rather it's a personal matter. If we were to notice, his past 2 films and this one are all different, different in stories and different in interpretation.

He also went at lengths to explain about self, and how what others see about you may not necessarily be the true you, but rather what you want others to see. The message that he wanted to bring out was the feeling of helplessness, the uncertainty of life and the what-ifs.

[HKIFF] This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Look Yonder

The Motion Pictures Association of America's ratings system comes under scrutiny in this documentary. The judgement that movies are given G, PG-13, R or NC17 are taken a look into, as its deemed quite biased and with great mystery that films are rated based on some arbitrary criteria, from a group of chosen anonymous few in highly non-transparent means.

It's quite fun as director Kirby Dick digs into the system to try and look for answer, with hilarious results, especially when dealing with the bureaucracy. In particular, the main gripe here is how films are given the NC17 rating. Films are compared with each other, and it seemed that the board is more tolerant towards violence than sex, or in particular, female pleasure. Filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky, Kimberly Peirce, Atom Egoyan are interviewed for their views on the system, and reveal their puzzlement at the situation too.

I thought This Film Is Not Yet Rated brought out the hypocrisy of the entire system, that "absolute power corrupts absolutely", that if Kirby Dick is to believed, then there are rules and regulations set which have been breached, especially on transparency, and the primary concern that the raters should be independent and not influenced by filmmakers, studios and the likes.

I also enjoyed the entire investigations and social engineering techniques, including things like dumpster diving and impersonation, and exploiting the innate nature of man to want to help out strangers in distress, even though they are anonymous over the phone, and are "nice". You've got to salute their perseverance, all to get to the results of unravelling the mystery being those secret raters of movies, and those on the Appeals board that filmmakers can go to for redress.

The bits of animation in the movie, combined with the sharp no-holds barred revelation and hypothesis and snippets of movies which suffered the NC17 rating, made this a very enjoyable, smart and fun documentary to sit through, especially when it delivers sucker punch after sucker punch at establishment, and makes a mockery of the powers that be.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust!

Stars Hiroshi Abe and Ryoko Hirosue were present to grace the screening of their film Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust!

However, together with director Yasuo Baba, they had to cancel their press conference scheduled for earlier in the day two nights ago, because of their tight schedule, and the Red Carpet was nothing more than a photo opportunity for the media present.

In any case, you can click on the link below for pictures and a video of the event:

[HKIFF] Village People Radio Show (Apa Khabar Orang Kampung)

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

The latest news about Amir Muhammad's Village People Radio Show, is that Malaysia has banned it outright. That makes it two in a row for Amir. Like his previous documentary The Last Communist, this is a sequel of sorts continuing on a similar topic where The Last Communist left off, with the filmmaker and his team revisiting the village at the Malaysian Thai border, interviewing the Malay-Muslim members of the old communist party.

However, after watching it, one cannot fathom the ban. There wasn't any violence, sex nor the word "Communist" in the title. Neither did it glorify, and perhaps it did not condemn. What it did, again like its predecessor, is to allow the interviewees to share history based on their perspective. Perhaps it is this opportunity for an avenue to air thoughts, that it's deemed as a "dangerous" movie that shouldn't be seen by the masses?

There are nice touches in the documentary, and usually they're the scenes of serene, calm, and innocence exuded by the children - two girls having the time of their lives playing on a see saw. Those who expect something of sorts like The Last Communist will be disappointed. There is the clear absence of the madcap song and dance routines that made The Last Communist enjoyable. Here it has taken a rather serious, at times mundane, tone to its delivery, as if to demonstrate that there is no need for visual and aural gimmicks to spice up the film.

But it decided to incorporate some Thai melodrama into the presentation, and there will be some who will enjoy reading in between the lines. And in relation to its title "Radio Show", the narrative adopted a style of turning the dials, having transitions that must take getting used to before it irritates, especially when they start off rather long in duration (as a transitional scene).

Respectable documentary this is, but don't expect anything fancy. Really too bad about the ban, which does seem to drum up more support and curiosity for the movie, rather than to achieve its supposed desired effect.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

[HKIFF] Backstage: Asian Film Awards


Pictures and a video say more than my words. I was at the backstage area to catch a glimpse of the winners who made their way for a quick photoshoot and media interviews. You can check them out by clicking on the logo below:

Friday, March 23, 2007

[HKIFF] Dasepo Naughty Girls (Dasepo Sonyo)

I Want To Take Picture!

The myriad of colours, song and dance all bring about a very madcap feel to Dasepo Naughty Girls, based on an internet comic strip. In essense a series of short stories or skits woven together, it tells the story of the students of No Use High, a multi-religious schools where monks, nuns, priests, and atheists all study common general subjects under one roof.

The opening credits sequence had brought a smile to my face, and throughout the movie, the injection of song and dance made Dasepo Naughty Girls resemble Grease, albeit weaker in the flow of storylines and subplots, and of course not as polished, at times disjointed even with weak transitions.

Other than that, the movie does live up to its being "naughty", and is thoroughly cheeky with its bizzare multitude of characters - like the girl with a "poverty" doll sticking behind her back, an exchange student from Switzerland, the mysterious principal, a one eyed cyclops, a cross dresser, a girl born with a male member, and the list goes on.

Most of the skits had the usual expected punchlines to its scenes, no doubt similar in style and delivery like the 80s Hong Kong "mo-lei-tau" comedies with sexual innuendos. However, it's breezy and light, and without a doubt, it fulfils the goal of being pure entertainment.


Director Lee Je-yong was around to open the screening, and joked that his fourth film has been voted online as the worst movie last year, that the second was I'm a Cyborg but That's OK, and the last was Woman on the Beach. Since all three are featured in this year's HKIFF, unfortunately it brought a little dishonour to the selection. However, there were other better movies which are part of the selection, so it isn't all that bad.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

[HKIFF] The Bugmaster (Mushishi)

Hear Me Roar

I was expecting Mushishi to be a wild fantastical ride full of snazzy special effects and martial arts. I was sorely disappointed with the latter, and more so when the movie had decided to jump right into the plot of things, with little explanation of what's going on.

Based on the Japanese manga written by Yuki Urushibara, Mushishi, or The "Bugmaster" follows the trials and tribulations of a young mystical shaman Ginko, who travels from location to location, healing people who are infected by the "mushi" creatures, spreading like the plague. However, the filmmakers decided to have made this for fan boys, and doesn't dwell too long with the backstories or relationship details between characters.

Started off quite impressively with a special effects shot of a huge landslide, the movie thereafter degenerated into a series of incomprehensible events that signals that the movie isn't really for non-fans. I was confused by the lack of explanation, either through dialogue or visuals, of what's happening. Imagine watching Star Wars with little or no explanation of "The Force" - things just happen, and you move on.

Come to think of it, it must resembles Star Wars in many ways. You have a manipulator of mystical energy, and have various practitioners belonging to various factions, and you have lineage issues with the lead. You even have a character with horns on the face, like Darth Maul.

For its length, I was hoping for something more epic., with the potential of being a classic. But sadly that was not to be.


Before the movie started, the producer was at hand to read out both director Katsuhiro Otomo's and lead actor Jo Odagiri's words of thanks and apologies for not being able to make it for the screening. Katsuhiro, known for his Akira, said that while Akira is set in the future, Mushishi is set 100 years ago, and has some important messages for us. He signed off hoping that the audience will feel those messages too.

[HKIFF] The Case (箱子) (World Premiere)

It's Heavy

And you wonder when the movie reviews are gonna appear. It's been a hectic first few days at the HKIFF, with plenty of press junkets to keep you busy, so much so that a few movies that my friends and I have earmarked, had to be sacrificed - movies like Red Road, Ad Lib Night, Free Jimmy and London to Brighton. You'll start to see some reviews appearing regularly now, as we're enjoying the reprieve from the first half of press activities, before embarking on a second and (our) final rounds next week, with Red Carpet events for Ming Ming, Spider Lilies and the World Premieres of Herman Yau's Whispers and Moans, and Undercover.

The Case, a first feature directed by Wang Fen, made its World Premiere yesterday evening at the Hong Kong Space Museum Lecture Hall. Wang Fen was in attendance, and had a short Q&A session with the audience after the movie. More of that in a while.

The relationship between a middle aged couple anchors the story about love and desire, and explores the hidden inclination of those who feel like rocking the boat, but find no courage to do so. Innkeeper Da Shang and wife look like your mundane couple, but as we slowly learn, there exists some kind of resentment amongst them, in part due to the wife's suspicious nature, stemming from fears that Da Shang will stray for more attractive women, and from Da Shang's behaviour to warrant such thoughts. The case here is an important plot device, both physically in its concealment of secrets, and metaphorically in how Da Shang is leading his life - encased within the influence of his wife, and his failure to break out for much needed space.

The story picks up midway when another strange couple enter the scene - a geeky man and his sexy wife, and through a series of incredible coincidences, which will be explained and the revelation important to the entire story, but one which I thought was somewhat an anti-climax, despite it being possibly the best way to ring home the message. Having two couples also allowed for some comparisons and contrast, especially toward the finale where you'll definitely start to think about how drastic actions and measures are taken by desperate people, and how sometimes it might be better if you keep your emotions in check.

Well acted movie with dialogue that be familiar amongst squabbling spouses, and at certain expenses on woman's state of mind, with ample wit infused moments to liven things up at appropriate points. However, the editing does require getting used to, as there are little flashbacks used repetitively to move the narrative forward.


Director Wang Fen was in attendance for the World Premiere of her movie The Case, and shared with the audience that the film was an exploration into the weaknesses of both man and woman, contrary to the obvious finger pointing during the movie that men are cads.

Shot in Yun-nan, China, as part of a project with 10 young female directors, she was scouting for a suitable location when she stumbled upon the small inn with a river in front, and from then on thought how it could fit into the story. She had the choice of using the vast landscapes of Yun-nan for her movie, but decided to focus to shoot primarily in the guesthouse, analogous to the life of Da Shang, living a controlled and constricted lifestyle, who yearns for his own space as shown in his frequent trips to his own greenhouse, and which is objected to by his domineering wife.

The theme of fear is also explored, and she's using a seemingly simple story to address the complexities of life, and the decisions we have to make to change our lives if we're unhappy with it. As demonstrated by the characters, one of the biggest crises in life is that of trust, or the lack thereof, and most times this lack of trust forms the origins of problems.

Wang Fen revealed that she's a pessimistic-optimist, and that it's better to experience little happiness along the hardships felt through the journey of life.

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Asian Film Awards

Star gazing galore as Asian actors, directors, producers take to the Red Carpet for the inaugural Asian Film Awards. As promised, the pictures and video are up, and you can click on the logo below to access it.

A word of caution though, the video runs about 15 minutes, and let's see how many folks you can identify!

[HKIFF/FILMART] Press Conference: Genghis Khan - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea

Genghis Khan - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (whew, what a title) had a press conference with the Japanese Beach Boy Takashi Sorimachi and the beautiful Korean actress ARA.

You can read about the proceedings of the press conference by clicking on the logo below:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Arthur and the Minimoys

You can click on the logo below to check out a quick pictorial and video from the Red Carpet of Luc Besson's Arthur and the Minimoys!

[HKIFF/FILMART] Press Conference: Invisible Target aka Tripod

This press conference wasn't in our initial list of activities, until we realized that our press passes allowed us to attend those in the FILMART selection. Going in "blind", little did we expect that Invisible Target was a Benny Chan movie, and has an exciting cast lined up in an action thriller full of hard hitting action!

Elanne Kwong and I

You can read about the proceedings of the press conference by clicking on the logo below:

[HKIFF] Press Conference: Arthur and the Minimoys

Famed French director Luc Besson had a press conference this morning for his latest movie, Arthur and the Minimoys. In the 1 hour press conference, he shared his love for Asian Cinema, talked about his latest animated movie, and took a trip down memory lane to his early filmmaking days.

You can read about the proceedings of the press conference by clicking on the logo below:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

[HKIFF] Asian Film Awards Results

Guess what, we managed to get ourselves accredited to cover the very first Asian Film Awards, and it was one heck of a busy night, with stars streaming onto the Red Carpet at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the coverage of the event both from the event hall, and the backstage (split into different areas for Photos and Interviews). The advantage of a three man team? The ability to cover as much ground as possible.

Bringing to you the best of the Awards show, click the logo below for the results and experience the show from the main event hall.

It's been a busy night, and we're only humans after all. Red carpet and backstage pictures and videos are soon to come. Stay tuned!

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: I'm A Cyborg But That's OK

The second Red Carpet event of the festival, the coming of Asian superstar singer Rain in his debut movie co-starring Lim Su-jeong, and directed by Park Chan-wook, for the film I'm a Cyborg But That's OK. You can read more about the Red Carpet proceedings at the movieXclusive website by clicking on the logo below:

Monday, March 19, 2007

[HKIFF] Red Carpet: Eye In The Sky

The first Red Carpet event of the festival, the Asian Premiere of the Hong Kong movie Eye in the Sky. You can read more about the Red Carpet proceedings at the movieXclusive website by clicking on the logo below:

[HKIFF] Press Conference: I'm A Cyborg But That's OK

If you're wondering why the lack of updates, well, I just returned from the first official HKIFF event, the press conference of Park Chan-wook's I'm a Cyborg But That's OK, with stars Rain and Lim Su-jeong in attendance as well.

To check out the proceedings, click onto the alternate blogsite at the logo below:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...