Tokuzô Tanaka – Daisatsujin orochi aka The Betrayal (1966)

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Synopsis:

An absolutely fabulous film, featuring an extended fight scene (~10minutes!) that is the best since SWORD OF DOOM! Far and away Raizo Ichikawa’s best fighting ever!!! He plays an honorable clan retainer and assistant sword instructor who goes on the road after the lord’s nephew murders a neighboring clan samurai, thus taking the heat for the crime. His trusting nature leads only to the ultimate betrayal.
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Dharmasena Pathiraja – Soldadu Unnahe AKA Old Soldier (1981)

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Though veteran director Dharmasena Pathiraja was noted for his leftist leanings, he said that the Marxists were “out of touch with the realties of the people, their material conditions, power, and even their powerlessness.” In his 1981 drama, Soldadu Unnahe, Pathiraja depicts the realities of four friends: a soldier, a prostitute, a pimp and an alcoholic who take refuge under a Nuga tree from the loud, warlike celebration of Sri Lankan independence. The fireworks and planes overhead give the soldier of the title flashbacks, reminding him of his experiences in World War II at the end of the British Raj. What have these four unfortunates gained from independence, and what is their future? Chosen the best film of the decade 1980-1990 by the Catholic International Cinema Organization. Awards/Festivals: Sri Lankan Presidential Awards for Best Film and Best Director; Eighth Indian International Film Festival; 16th Singapore International Film Festival 2003; Jeonju International Film Festival 2009. Continue reading

Ki-duk Kim – Shi gan AKA Time (2006)

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South Korean maverick Kim Ki-duk takes a scalpel to the local obsession with
appearances in “Time,” in which a young couple resort to plastic surgery to perk their relationship — with unexpected results. Though typically centered on a high-concept idea, film is more of a conversation piece than Kim’s usual pics, recalling recent works by fellow Korean helmer Hong Sang-soo, with its coffee shop meetings and ironic playfulness. Largely going the distance, this one looks to appeal to Kim’s established fanbase rather than make new friends, and has already been sold to 15 territories, mostly in Europe and Latin America. Continue reading

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Feng er ti ta cai AKA Play While you Play AKA Cheerful Wind (1981)

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The pop-star leads from Hou’s first feature, Cute Girl, are reunited in the director’s follow-up, a brisk work of bubble-gum romance that begins to experiment with the rules of the genre. This time, Taiwanese singing sensation Feng Fei-fei plays Hsing-hui, a trendy photographer visiting a seaside village in Penghu with her successful boss/fiancé. When she happens upon a flute-playing medic blinded in an ambulance crash (Kenny Bee), sparks fly, songs are sung, and she’s left with the tough decision of who to say “I do” to. Despite the eye-rolling premise, Hou infuses the film with enough formal ingenuity (long takes, telephoto lenses, on-location shooting) that a case can be made for its auteurial significance. Continue reading

Chan-wook Park – Saibogujiman kwenchana aka I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK (2006)

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Plot Synopsis [AMG]
After wrapping-up his critically-acclaimed “Vengeance Trilogy” with the award-winning 2005 thriller Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, South Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park shifts gears for this gently comic romantic drama concerning a delusional young mental patient who believes herself to be a cyborg. Convinced that she is not entirely human but in fact part android, Young-goon (Lim Su-jeong)’s health begins to deteriorate as she gives up eating food and instead decides to “charge her batteries” by administering electric shocks to herself via a small transistor radio. Continue reading

Kon Ichikawa – Bonchi (1960)

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Where Ichikawa skewered patriarchal family values in Her Brother, in this savage satire he hoists the matriarchal system on its own apron strings. Raizo Ichikawa (“in his best role yet”-Variety) is the scion of an Osaka merchant family whose traditional power is matrilineal. Instructed by his overbearing mother and grandmother to give them an heiress for the family business, he stands by helplessly as wife after wife is thrown out of the house for producing sons. Driven to a life of dissipation-his mistresses also fail to produce daughters-in the end he is just too tired to care. Ichikawa’s frighteningly funny picture of the matriarchy’s efforts to perpetuate itself was received as antifeminist, if not downright misogynistic, but Joan Mellon suggests that the target once again is “the institution of the family [which] places its own survival ahead of the needs and feelings of individuals.” If this looks forward to The Makioka Sisters, so does Donald Richie’s comment, “We find this cruel matriarchal story…told in terms of the most transcendental beauty.” Continue reading

Kwon-taek Im – Sibaji aka Surrogate Woman (1987)

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Quote:

m’s first international prize-winner (best actress for Kang at Venice) is a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger attack on the principles of male lineage and ancestor worship in the traditional Korean family. It’s set in the late Yi Dynasty (late 19th century) to stress how deep rooted these things are, but its resonances are squarely contemporary. The well-born Shin and his wife are happy but lack an heir; behind his back, the family conspires with his wife to bring in a surrogate to bear him a son. Their choice is Ok-Nyo (Kang), a free-spirited girl who endures various physiological and sexual indignities (intended to ensure that she produces a boy) because she comes to like Shin and enjoy the relatively pampered life – forgetting she is there only as a servant. The emphasis on female suffering has come in for some critical stick, but Im’s analysis of Confucian blockages in the Korean psyche seems all too cogent. And his mastery of image, tone and rhythm is unassailable. TR Continue reading