by Jaime Grijalba.
Well, here we are again. I’ve seen a lot of asian films from 2012, and I guess you are eager to know what I think of them. Well, you’re going to find out, but first I must say something about the exercise I got myself into when I said I was going to review every asian film that I got into my hands during the year 2012 and that was released the same year. Now I already got myself in an internal discussion into films from which countries will I see, and I already have deleted two countries that many consider asian, but I don’t think they will help into my view of what I try to accomplish here: India and Phillippines. I’ve also delayed the watching of some movies because the subtitles aren’t entirely correct or are just completely faulty. I’ve already passed early on with reviewing asian television, since at the rate they are having it’s impossible to review all of it, specially when at the same time I’m watching film classics, chilean films and having my education, so hell, I also have a girlfriend, I want my life! Anyway, now I have made a serious amendment to what I’ll consider the reviews here. There are some movies that inspire me, others… not so much, it’s not that they’re not good, but they just don’t make much for a full lenght review as the earlier I’ve featured here are. This is a decission I’ve made after fiddling for weeks with a review for the first film you’ll see here, so that’s that, I’m giving you capsule reviews of four asian films that don’t inspire me as much as the other films that will be featured during the next weeks. All the capsules have a paragraph or two of review and then a rating for your discussion. Enjoy!
director Chow Hin Yeung Roy
Hong Kong, 108 min
This is the movie that had me fighting with myself and finally realizing that I just had to quit in a full-scale review and simply try to say whatever I could about it, because inspiration is scarce towards not that original films. I mean, maybe you can find here some decent films, not all that I will review here are bad or mediocre movies, some are good but not inspiring enough, or just too repetitive or similar in themes to other films so it gets a bit repetitive to review them in a full scale once again. Or maybe you will find here movies that have similar themes together and are reviewed as part of a whole spectrum of films from the asian continent/region. This is a movie we’ve kinda seen before, a movie with two points of view: police and criminal. The criminal is searched for because of a crime that everyone thinks that he commited but he’s just trying to protect someone else from the perspective of being found out about who really commited it, and the old policeman with a grudge because of an earlier case that failed, and how he fails to protect and keep cautive the criminal he so desperately tries to put behind bars. There are some interesting choices regarding the cinematography, specially in the opening scene, a jail brawl that is shot with some clichéd dignity, with slow motion, a red tint to the whole thing and watery elements that make the punches and kicks much more exciting to watch, and then there’s the whole issue about the point of views from the characters, which derive in some interesting decissions towards the kind of framing of the things that happen on scene. A twist at the end is kind of expected in these kind of movies, and when it comes, it still surprises, not much, but just a bit, and that brings the material up or down depending on what’s your view on these kind of endings and stuff. There’s some good acting here, but the lack of good fight scenes (except for the one at the start) make this a weak entry on what could’ve been an interesting cop crime thriller with martial arts. (Rating: ***).
Never Ending Story (2012)
director Jung Yong-joo
South Korea, 114 min
Tearjerker romantic dramedies seem to be an area of expertise in modern mainstream asian cinema (and world cinema for that matter, it isn’t like there isn’t much difference in the trend when we watch american, british or wherever we are, either mainstream films, tv films or soap operas), and they’ve kind of mastered this sort of language, achieving some kind of knowledge into the casting and writing of this sort of usual stuff, and they’re getting better and better at it. Just take this for example, a by-the-numbers plot about a young people formed by two completely different and opposite kind of persons: a wild and quirky guy, and a very organized and structured girl; and they are united because they both have cancer in their brains, which brings them together in different manners, because he just wants to be with someone and she just wants to organize the best funeral ever, and that’s what bringing her down against the other guy. Of course we will get the scene in which the both of them will get reunited and finally achieve some kind of love relationship with one another, but in contrast to most of the movies that end like this, the issue of death and the casualty as well as the advancement of the cancer is quite present at every moment, every joke and every tragedy is accompanied by this ghost of death that wanders between them. It’s greatly acted and sometimes well shot, but I would consider that the set pieces in which she goes around searching for different elements and she fights them never gets old or tiring, because we care about them and the chemistry between them is greatly achieved thanks to a decent script that still goes where it needs to go due to the requirements of the genre, but it still has room for some quite touching scenes, like the one at the beach, where he sings her Happy Birthday and has her a little fireworks show. I won’t deny though, that even if I quite enjoyed the film as it lasted, and some scenes still are in my memory, I doubt this would be trascendental, and the final scene of the meeting is shot in such a bad way, and the dialogue is so crinche-worthy that bring this one down a bit. Still worth a watch if you find yourself drawn by the characters. (Rating: ***1/2).
director Doze Niu
Taiwan, China, 128 min
This is like the asian version of those completely forgettable and obnoxious movies directed by Garry Marshall that have gotten out during certain holidays (expect for Christmas Day anytime, where we see all the USA stars we used to love and be couple with one another and get in the craziest of situations, in Christmas!), and this one was actually released in Valentine’s Day in China, but there’s a distinct difference with the northamerican effort: it’s actually decent. It is in fact one of the better movies reviewed in this 2012 series special on asian films, and because it has a clear goal and something really firm on the stories it wants to tell… as in not trying to completely put them all together, and all of them have some kind of charm that make them enjoyable, watchable and dear. My favorite was the one about two complete strangers that end up finding each other once and once again much to his disgust (like in the classic ‘Bringing Up Baby’ (1938) ), and how they start to fall for each other when she reveals the existence of a kid that doesn’t know her father, but once this kid thinks that this taiwanese visitor is his father, there’s nothing they can really do to find themselves being bonded closer and closer, this one besides being my favorite, features one of my favorite acting performances from this year, Wei Zhao in the role of the single mother. Then there’s the story of this upcoming poor young boy who falls for the trophy-couple of a really rich and famous guy, but the jist of it is that she also falls for him, even if she seems to be the most gorgeous woman in all China, and he is a stuttering mess of a man, an impossible love that we love to see how it’s made possible by their own hands. There are four stories here and these two are just my favorites and they are completely well ballanced allong the over 2 hours of runtime, but it still falls into the territory of cliché, when it finds the script necessity to put hard times in every other couple about the same time each time, adn how they resolve it is what makes up for the most ‘exciting’ part of the film, but it just feels tired and overused when it comes again and again in these kind of ensemble films. Great acting and some good script choices, as well as a fantastic casting of complete unknowns (to us) of chinese and taiwanese cinema. (Rating: ***1/2).
Perfect Two (2012)
director Yen-ping Chu
Taiwan, 100 min
Now I leave the bottom for the bottom. This movie is maybe one of the most ill-advised of them all, because it’s not only bad, it could’ve been good but then it turned bad, awkward and not right to watch it at any moment. Coming from a highly respected taiwanese director, Yen-ping Chu, we get some kind of remake or modernization of a movie he made in the 80′s, or so I understood due to the press material present on the internet regarding this dreck. It’s a film about a man who drinks a lot and is a lazy ass, but in his earlier life he was a racecar driver, but he left that behind after an accident and his girlfriend leaves him. Years later, and even if he still thinks that she is missing and not just running away, she comes back only to tell him that she must go out of the country so she must leave her son with him, who also happens to be his son, according to her. So begins a constant flow of awkwardness and overall creepyness in which he takes baths with his son, which could be fine, but then we find out that the kid doesn’t really know that he is his father, so how awkward that is? A lot. Then we are introduced to the usual tirade of stock characters that try to find out who is this kid, where does he come from, and finally we see their bonding together even if he initially didn’t really want the kid with him, what a bunch of crap, it’s your freaking son you son of a fuck, of course you want him with you, you are the protagonist of a freaking movie! What can we expect? Annoying songs and a film that goes too low to maintain its vision as a family flick, and God, why, if this could’ve been much more darker. There is one astounding scene, a classic one and filled with cliches, but that was pulled off quite alright: in which the father tells the son that he must leave the country with his mother, and it’s excellently performed and well shot, but the rest of the movie pales in comparison. (Rating: **1/2)
Hope you liked it and look forward for more!