Asian

Mitsuo Yanagimachi – Himatsuri AKA Fire Festival (1985)

The villagers in a beautiful remote area of Japan are divided into the woodsmen, who worship the mountain goddess, and the fishermen, who worship the goddess of the sea. These traditions are threatened by a planned marine park. Tatsuo is a macho lumberjack who hunts boars and monkeys with the young Ryota. Tatsuo is married with two children, has four elder sisters, and is under pressure to sell the family land to the developers. When the fish pens are deliberately contaminated by oil, the fishermen suspect Tatsuo. Kimiko, an old girlfriend of Tatsuo, returns to the village to find money to pay off her debts. During the annual fire festival, Tatsuo becomes angry when the old traditions are not preserved. Read More »

Yasuzô Masumura – Rikugun Nakano gakko AKA Nakano Spy School (1966)

How a young second lieutenant becomes your basic Bond is the subject of this spy-vs.-spy noir set in 1938 at the start of the Sino-Japanese War. Jiro (Raizo Ichikawa) leaves his fiancée for a mysterious military assignment — he and a few good men are to be trained as special agents at the newly established Nakano Spy School, based on the British model. (The girlfriend, meanwhile, becomes involved in the machinations of the British themselves.) A True Fiction-style narrative offers both lessons in spying (bring your notepad, and a sense of humor) and the lessons of spying: for all its worldly ideals, and even without uniforms, the Spy School is a microcosm of a closed society. Read More »

Ki-young Kim – Goryeo jang AKA Burying Old Alive (1963)

Prior to the adoption of Confucianism, it was the tradition to abandon one’s parents on a mountainside if they were over 70 years of age. In the ancient kingdom of Goryeo, now modern Korea, a nobleman defies this tradition when he refuses to leave his mother to starve to death. Read More »

Yoshimitsu Morita – 39 keihô dai sanjûkyû jô AKA Keiho (1999)

‘Keiho’ is a fascinating thriller dealing with memory, guilt and justice. A young actor is arrested for a brutal double murder. He confesses but pretty soon the possibility of him being mentally ill and therefore legally incompetent comes to the fore. A young female psychiatrist working on the case (called Kafka, interestingly enough!) becomes convinced that he is faking his apparent schizophrenia. All very good and ‘Primal Fear’ so far, but after that things get much more complicated, ambiguous and interesting. ‘Keiho’ is strongly acted, well written, and imaginatively directed, and will keep you guessing right until its’ final scenes. Supposedly based on a true case, unresolved at the time of the movies original release, this is a real gem that beats 90% of Hollywood’s lame and predictable thrillers at their own game. Try and see this one! Read More »

Kenjirô Morinaga – Shiosai AKA The Sound of Waves (1964) (HD)

Lonely youth Shinji meets Hatsue, a pretty pearl diver, on the beach and the two fall in love. But Shinji has a rival for Hatsue’s affections, Yasuo. Yasuo spreads unpleasant gossip about his rival, and Hatsue’s father forbids her to see Shinji. But when the boy saves the passengers on a boat owned by Hatsue’s father, his luck in love begins to change. Read More »

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Flowers of Shanghai AKA Hai shang hua (1998)

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Based on an 1894 novel by Han Ziyun, and starring Hong Kong film and recording star Tony Leung, Hou’s first film set outside of Taiwan takes place in the elegant brothels of late nineteenth-century Shanghai, a hermetic world with its own highly ritualized codes of behavior. It traces the destinies of the beautiful “flower girls”, whose lives depended on their ability to win, and then hold, the affections of their wealthy callers. A mesmerizing and seductive tale of sexual intrigue. Read More »

Shuqin Huang – Ren gui qing AKA Woman Demon Human (1987)

Based on a true story. A girl born in the “theatrical trunk” grows up under the lights of her parents’ Peking Opera Company. This complete immersion into theatrical life naturally leads her to the stage. She is trained by her father to play traditional roles. Her dream was to be the first woman to play the more significant male roles. This was completely against tradition. She suffers discrimination and humiliation, but in the end turns adversity into admiration when she becomes the first woman to play a great mythical hero in Peking Opera, defying all tradition and destroying all precedents. Breathtaking performances and cinematographic artistry create a powerful and visually stunning tale. No less could be expected from the masterful hand of the brilliant female director, Huang Shuqin. Read More »