Edward Yang – Yi yi (2000)

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Master Taiwanese director Edward Yang spins this intricate and complex yarn about life’s everyday crises. The film focuses on N.J. Jian (Wu Nien-jen), a noted writer/director in his own right), his wife Min-min (Elaine Jin) and their two children, teenager Ting-ting (Kelly Lee) and young Yang-yang (Jonathan Chang). Their middle-class existence seems stable and secure until a series of incidents throws all of their lives out of kilter. The misfortunes start at the wedding of Min-min’s ne’er-do-well brother A-Di (Chen Xisheng), when his jilted ex-girlfriend Yun-Yun (Zeng Xinyi) bursts into the proceedings and lambastes the bride. Upset by the ruckus and feeling unwell, Min-min’s mother goes home early only to suffer a stroke and slip into a coma. After the wedding, N.J. runs into his first love, Sherry (Ke Suyun), who is married to a rich American. This chance encounter shakes N.J. to his very foundations, forcing him to reevaluate his life. At the same time, N.J.’s computer company deliberates on whether or not to collaborate with a renowned Japanese games designer, Ota (Issey Ogata), sending N.J. to Japan to negotiate a contract. Confronted by her mother’s coma, Min-min also takes stock of her life and finds it lacking. On the brink of a nervous breakdown, she suddenly joins a religious retreat. Continue reading

Anqi Ju – Shi ren chu chai le AKA Poet on a Business Trip (2015)

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In all its simplicity, a completely unique film, shot more than 10 years ago and only now edited. A poet sets off on a ‘business trip’ through inhospitable Xinjiang. The physically exhausting trip provides an existential brothel visit, bumping on bad roads and a glimpse of a disappearing world, but also 16 melancholy poems.

In 2002, Ju Anqi made a film about a tour by the poet Shu through Xinjiang, the most western-lying, autonomous Uyghur province of China. All that we know about Shu is that he plays a poet who sends himself on a business trip – an absurd, satirical starting point that sets the tone for the film.
For a variety of reasons, it was not until 2013 that Ju started editing the rough, lyrical material that he had shot in what is now a very restless Xinjiang: it’s like an excellent wine that has had time to mature. Structured around 16 poems which he wrote on the road, Shu’s physically exhausting journey takes him along endless rocky roads, passing shabby inns and through impressive landscapes from one prostitute to the next.
In its documentary authenticity, Poet on a Business Trip is also an historic document that exudes an atmosphere of loss, providing an unsentimental yet melancholy glimpse of a country in transition and a mirror for the existential irreversibility of time. Continue reading

Takeshi Kitano – Ryûzô to 7 nin no kobun tachi AKA Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen (2015)

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From hollywoodreporter.com
To the many ways in which the career of Japanese auteur and action star Takeshi Kitano resembles that of Clint Eastwood, we can now add another: Both have made the increasingly obligatory geezer-comeback film. It was retired astronauts in Eastwood’s Space Cowboys; in Kitano’s Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen, we get yakuza who hobble out onto not-so-mean-anymore streets attempting to regain their fearsome reputations. A bit sillier than it needs to be to earn the laughs it winds up getting, the likeable picture (which got a Japanese release in April) isn’t colorful enough to reach beyond the director’s established fan base here. Of those who follow Kitano, some will lament his small role onscreen. Continue reading

Volker Schlöndorff – Homo Faber AKA Voyager (1991)

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Synopsis:
A man who has spent his life running away from his past. He is forced to finally deal things that he has left unresolved. When fate puts him on a collision course with the life that he reluctantly walked away from.
Voyager was directed by Volker Schlondorff, who’s other notable films include The Tin Drum and Death of a salesman. The screenplay for Voyager was written by Rudy Wurlitzer (Two-Lane Blacktop, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid). The screenplay was adapted from Swiss author Max Frisch’s novel ‘Homo Faber’. Continue reading

Govindan Aravindan – Uttarayanam (1974)

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Aravindan’s debut extended a 60s Calicut modernism into cinema, drawing on the work of the writer Pattathiruvila Karunakaran, who produced the film, and the satirical playwright Thikkodiyan, who co-scripted it. The plot is about a disabused young man, Ravi, who has a series of ironic encounters while looking for a job. One of his mentors, Kumaran Master, and his now critically ill friend Setu had participated in the 1942 Quit India agitations with Ravi’s father (shown in flashback). The lawyer Gopalan Muthalaly, also a participant in those events, has become a rich contractor and an example of the corrupt post-Independence bourgeoisie. Ravi abandons the city and, in a mystical ending, is initiated into ‘eternal truths’ by a godman meditating on a mountain. The figures of the father and the ailing friend form a composite portrait of Sanjayan, a political activist, spiritualist and satirist, and major influence on the Calicut artists who participated in the film. Aravindan’s approach to his lead characters and his framing evoke the cartoon characters Ramu and Guruji from his Small Man and Big World series Continue reading

Moumen Smihi – Si Moh, pas de chance AKA Simoh, the Unlucky Man (1971)

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Shot in Paris after Smihi completed film school, Si Moh is an investigation of the life of migrant workers in France. Connected back to the Maghreb by postcards and to his fellow migrants by shared experiences of alienation, the character Simoh negotiates the industrialized suburbs of Paris as the subject of Smihi’s intimate camera. Continue reading

Martin Scorsese – It’s Not Just You, Murray! (1964)

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Synopsis:
Now middle-aged, mobster Murray looks back at his humble beginnings as a bootlegger and his rise to becoming wealthy and highly influential. Through it he talks about how much of his success and happiness is due to the support of his “friend” Joe. Unfortunately the only one who blindly believes Joe is anything close to a friend is Murray, because it’s obvious to everyone that Joe back-stabs him at every chance and is sleeping with his wife.– IMDb. Continue reading