Chinlin Hsieh – Flowers of Taipei: Taiwan New Cinema (2014)



In 1982 a small group of Taiwanese filmmakers reinvented Asian cinema, among them, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang. Travelling from Europe to Latin America to Asia, Flowers of Taipei sets out to assess the global influence of Taiwan New Cinema.

Taiwan – tropical Pacific island devoid of tourists; former plastic manufacturing powerhouse turned technology hub in just 20 years; not a fully-fledged country for the United Nations, yet the sole Chinese territory with a vibrant democracy.

In 1982, under severe martial law, amid the stormy climate of pre-democratization, a small group of Taiwanese filmmakers set out on a daring journey to discover their own identity, and in the process to reinvent Asian cinema. Unintentionally, these gutsy youngsters managed to offset the cheap-labor image of ‘Made in Taiwan’ by bestowing a cultural identity on their beloved homeland. Taiwan New Cinema not only inaugurated modern cinema in the Chinese world, it also secured itself a firm place on the world map of contemporary filmmaking. Continue reading

Tomu Uchida – Kiga kaikyo aka The Straight of Hunger (1965)


IMDb user chaosrampant wrote:
We’re beating a dead horse if we begin to lament another lost treasure, another overlooked Japanese director who’s yet to receive his dues. Uchida will have to queue up in a humongous line. The film canon, as we know it, as it’s being taught to college kids in film classes, is written from a Western perspective and is so incomplete as to be near useless. It’s safe to say we’re living in the Dark Ages of cinema, in the negative time of ignorance, and that 100 years from now Straits of Hunger will feature prominently in lists of the epochal narrative films of the previous century. We may choose to keep honoring the Colombuses and pretend we invented paper or gunpowder, but film history will invariably reveal the pioneers. Continue reading

Stanley Kwan – Hong meigui, bai meigui aka Red Rose, White Rose (1994)


Plot Synopsis

This sensitive Asian melodrama chronicles the two major loves in the life of a man who cannot change. The story is divided into two parts; each part focused upon one woman. The story begins in Shanghai during the early 1930’s and follows the loves of Zhen-bao. His early love life abroad is chronicled in the opening scenes. The real story begins as Zhen-pao returns to Shanghai and stays at his friend Wang’s apartment. Zhen-bao meets Wang’s moody, selfish wife Jiao-rui. The two begin a passionate affair. Zhen-bao nicknames her “Red Rose”……. Time passes. In the second half, Zhen-bao is a businessman who woos and marries Yen-li, his “White Rose.” She is from a peasant background and very young. She endeavors to be the perfect wife. More time passes. It is 1943 and Zhen-bao is back to his old ways……… –edited for spoilers from Sandra Berman Continue reading

Nobuhiro Yamashita – Linda Linda Linda (2005)


Story: A music group of girls need to learn to play a song before the school festival.

What distinguishes Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Linda Linda Linda from the crowd is a refreshing modesty. Rather than the usual underdog struggle against the odds culminating School of Rock style in the obligatory spectacular stage show and a fat recording contract, Linda Linda Linda’s story revolves around four highschool girls for whom learning how to play a single song in time for the school festival is the ultimate challenge. Continue reading

Kon Ichikawa – Shokei no heya AKA Punishment Room (1956)


Kon Ichikawa’s study of gang-related violence among the youth, ‘Punishment Room’, is a brutal and nihilistic work utterly barren of hope! Yes, just the way I like a movie to be. ‘Punishment Room’ is far from the same league as Ichikawa’s masterpiece ‘Nobi’, but it is a film I better would be able to say I enjoyed watching. Though it is not much less powerful and at the release in the 50’s it were met with angry protests from parent-groups, the Japanese government and even Shintarô Ishihara, the writer of the novel ‘Punishment Room’ is based on! Plot is centered on a disgruntled university student whose disrespect and ruthlessness against authorities finally lead to his doom. He humiliate his sick, but hard-working, father at the bank in order to get a loan to fiancé a huge party. The party scene features a cool jazz band and the camera often zoom in on the girls legs. While the party goes on our hero leaves in order to beat up some members of a street gang in a pool hall. Later he drug two girls together with a pal and they bring them to an apartment and rape them! Continue reading

Ming-liang Tsai – Wu Wu Mian AKA No No Sleep (2015)


No No Sleep’ sees Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang revisiting Lee Kang Sheng’s walking monk, this time in Tokyo. But rather than spend all his time on the city streets, Tsai eventually transplants the anonymous monk to a Japanese ‘onsen’ (a public bathhouse), where he’s joined by an equally anonymous Japanese man. Continue reading

Pil-Sung Yim – Hansel & Gretel (2007)


A reckless youngster Eun-soo drives to his mother’s and has a car accident. When Eun-soo wakes up, he meets a mysterious girl and is led to her fairytale-like house in the middle of the forest. There, Eun-soo is trapped with the girl and her siblings who never age. Soon he learns all the adults who visited or stayed in the house have met mysterious yet terrible ends. More shockingly, their cruel deaths are drawn in details and made into a fairytale book by the children. Scared Eun-soo tries to find the way out, but the house is secluded in the forest with no way out. Then, Eun-soo discovers a book which tells a brutal end of none other than…himself! Continue reading