With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ACF 080: "A Bloody Aria" DVD Available!

O-guen's bloody bat.

A Bloody Aria (Guta-yubalja-deul), a terrific 2006 thriller from South Korea, recently became available from Genius Products, ImaginAsian Home Entertainment and Prime Entertainment. I reviewed the film in ACF 059 on January 2, 2008, just prior to its limited theatrical releases in New York and a bit later in Los Angeles. In that review I urged those who couldn't make it to a screening to "seriously look into finding A Bloody Aria on DVD." And now you can, easily!

Won Shin-yun wrote and directed this rivetting tale about two people who fall into the clutches of a quartet of demented villagers. Yeong-sun (Lee Byuong-jun), an arrogant music professor, and In-jeong (Cha Ye-ryun), a former student, are returning to Seoul from her first singing audition in his gorgeous white Mercedes. They wind up on an isolated rocky area alongside a river.

The four local villagers seem to have come from a seriously limited gene pool and an environment in which physical violence and psychological torment are the dominant way of life. O-guen (Oh Dal-su, of Oldboy fame), is one sick f*ck, a pig butcher who has a unique way of hunting birds. Bong-yeon (Lee Mun-shik), the leader of the group, has a smile that initially masks his sadistic streak. The other two have motorcycles and have brought along a young male student in a bag that's tied to the "sissy bar" of one of the bikes.

Yeong-sun in a contemplative moment.
(Not many of these in this film.)

If you imagine the scene in Deliverance in which John Voight and Ned Beatty have been captured by two locals in the wilderness, change the local to an out of the way place in South Korea, and make it into a feature length film, you'll have a pretty fair idea of what's going on here.

Having watched the DVD after seeing the film in a theater, I can definitely say that it holds up really well to repeated viewings. The first time I saw it I was often cringing in my seat and holding my breath, wondering what the hell's gonna happen next. Watching it a second time on DVD, even knowing the story, was still pretty creepy. I usually don't get that caught up in this kind of fare., but A Bloody Aria is damn well scripted, acted, filmed, and edited.

I also found more moments in the film to be humorous the second time around. Not roaring, laugh-out-loud funny, but bring-a-smile-to-your-face humor. As I recall, the first time I watched it I was too blown away by what I was seeing to notice the funnier moments, such as they are.

The DVD release has only the original Korean soundtrack, which is fine with me, since most of the time I find dubbed soundtracks not very good.. One thing I was really happy to see is that the optional English subtitles were in yellow.

The film has a deliberate monochrome look, and in the theatrical release I saw first, the subtitles were white and without a dark outline. That made them rather difficult to read much of the time because the lower portion of the screen was often light. Here there's no problem at all with the subtitles blending into the picture; they're crisp, clear and perfectly legible.

There's not a lot in the way of extras. The single behind-the-scenes featurette is decent, but nothing to rave about. At the end of it, the director and cast appear at some sort of premiere or special screening. I have to fault the release for not including a couple of subtitles indicating when and where this was taking place.

The only other extras thirteen deleted scenes. There's an optional director's commentary available for each one, and although Won Shin-yun doesn't have a lot to say, his comments (subtitled) are often interesting for some additional insight into the movie, or for describing plot points that were deemed unnecessary or scenes that didn't quite work. Usually deleted scenes don't do much for me, but here they really show how smart editing can increase suspense and make a film much more taut.

But this is not the kind of DVD that one buys, or rents, for the extras. Its for the film's gripping depiction of violence and torment, an intelligent and powerful drama that'll grab you by the throat. The film works because it's so damn believable overall. A Bloody Aria will haunt your mind long after you've put the disc back in its case. And it'll call for you to come back to see it again, and again. Don't miss this one. Really.

For the official A Bloody Aria website, click here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

ACF 079: "Legend of the Black Scorpion" Streets Tomorrow

Legend of the Black Scorpion will be available on DVD from Dragon Dynasty tomorrow, Tuesday, February 26, 2008. The film is director Feng Xiaogang's retelling and retooling of Shakespeare's Hamlet. This adaptation is set in 907 A.D. during a turbulent time in the Tang Dynasty. The Emperor has been killed by his brother, who becomes Emperor Li. This role is played by You Ge, best known for his comic roles, but here showing he's more than up to the task of taking on a very serious dramatic role.

Emperor Li caresses the neck of Empress Wan

Li is motivated at least as much by lust for the Emperor's young wife as by a desire for power. Empress Wan is played by Zhang Ziyi. To accommodate her age, the scenario was rewritten so that she and Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu, as the Hamlet figure) had planned to be married. The widowed, and now-dead, Emperor instead had taken her for his own wife, thereby making her the Prince's step-mother.

The film begins at a remote open outdoor theater (shot in the same bamboo forest as the one in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), where Prince Wu Luan has been immersed in music, theater and dance as a way of fleeing the court after his father married his beloved. Masked performers, seemingly out of a Greek tragedy or a Japanese Noh play, are cut down one by one by masked assassins sent by the new Emperor to kill the Prince. He manages to escape just when we think he's been done in.

The Empress and Prince Luan

The film then shifts largely to the palace, to which Luan returns. Here he deals with the conflict between his distaste for court intrigue and his obligation to avenge his murdered father. But this is not your standard Hamlet, and if anything the film is more about Empress Wan than it is the prince. She desires to rule the kingdom alongside Luan, but must craftily deal with the new emperor's fixation on her.

Empress Wan in the main hall, one of the film's many incredible sets

Feng wanted the film to have the feel of an opera, and the vast and opulent interiors of the palace certainly give it an operatic grandeur. So too do the costumes and the overall attention to detail, which is remarkable.

Legend of the Black Scorpion is a dark and bloody drama, while at the same time being a lush and scrumptious feast for the eyes. And the action sequences, which are interspersed throughout the narrative, are of the incredibly high caliber we've come to expect from Yuen Woo-ping. The man has an incredible imagination and command of what moves and wire work are just right for every situation

The film is getting the Two-Disc Ultimate Edition treatment from the Dragon Dynasty label. The first disc offers both the original Mandarin and an English-dubbed soundtrack. Another audio option is a feature length commentary by Bey Logan, an authority on Hong Kong cinema who has worked in the industry there.

Having seen the film at its New York premiere at the 2007 New York Asian Film Festival last summer, I chose to watch the DVD release with Logan's commentary. He's done a number of them for other Dragon Dynasty releases, but this was the first opportunity I've had to listen to a complete one, and it was terrific. The tone is conversational, not academic, and the man is incredibly knowledgeable. It's a perfect example of what a commentary should be and has made me eager to listen to his offerings on other Dragon Dynasty DVDs in my collection.

Disc Two has an interview with director Feng (in Mandarin with English subtitles) and another one with male lead Daniel Wu (in English). There are also two featurettes that include interviews with most of the principles and some behind the scenes, making-of footage. One thing that I was most impressed with was how genuine Ziyi Zhang comes across. She's so animated, spontaneous, and physically expressive. In these extras, you'll notice that the film is usually referred to as The Banquet, its original international English title.

Legend of the Black Scorpion gets an ACF rating of 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended. I feel I should mention that when I first saw the film I though it was good and probably would have given it 3 stars. But on second viewing, I've been more impressed and hence the additional 1/2 star.

As for the DVD extras, they get a 4 star rating - outstanding. Dragon Dynasty has again put out a great package.

Links (all imdb):
Legend of the Black Scorpion (a.k.a. The Banquet)
Feng Xiaogang, director
Zhangi Ziyi, actress (Empress Wan)
Daniel Wu, actor (Prince Wu Luan, the Hamlet figure)
You Ge, actor (Emperor Li)
Xun Zhou, actress (Qing Nu, the Ophelia figure)
Li Zhang, cinematographer
Yuen Woo-ping, action choreographer
Tim Yip, art direction (he won the 2000 Oscar for Best Art-Direction-Set Decoration for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Tan Dun, composer

Thursday, February 21, 2008

ACF 078: Early Postwar Japanese Films

"Pu San" copyright 1953 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University
in conjunction with the
Donald Keen Center of Japanese Culture

Early Postwar Japanese

Defeated, occupied, and largely in ruins, the Japan of the years after the end of World War II was the subject of numerous films, both during those years and later. Some outstanding examples are featured in this series which has been curated by renowned translator Linda Hoaglund, who has subtitled some 200 Japanese films.

(Ms. Hoaglund also recently wrote and produced Wings of Defeat, a feature documentary about flyers trained to be suicide pilots who survived the war. Wings of Defeat will screen at Japan Society Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 8:00 PM. For info or to order tickets for it, click here.)

The five films that will be screened separately at Columbia University from February 26 to April 15, 2008 are:

Children of the Beehive (1948)
Directed by Hiroshi Shimizu
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Arledge Cinema, Columbia University
- Registration required. See below.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973)
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Davis Auditorium, Columbia University
- No registration required

Doctor’s Day Off (1952)
Directed by Minoru Shibuya
Monday, March 31, 2008
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Arledge Cinema, Columbia University
- Registration is required. See below.

Pu San (1953)
Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Arledge Cinema, Columbia University
- Registration required. See below.

Black River (1957)
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Tuesday, April 15
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Arledge Cinema, Columbia University
Film followed by brief intermission and then a Panel Discussion
- Registration required. See below.

Fukasaku's Battles Without Honor and Humanity is the only film I've already seen. It's a gritty work about yakuza rivalries that stars Bunta Sugawara. It became the first in a lengthy series. It and four other films in the series are available on DVD, both individually and as a box set entitled The Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor & Humanity.

Admission for each screening is free, but for the four that require pre-registration, you must R.S.V.P. for each individual film.

For more information, film descriptions, or to R.S.V.P. click here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ACF 077: "Gangster VIP" at Japan Society

Gangster VIP / Burai yori daikanbu
Directed by Toshio Matsuda
Japan 1968

Tetsuya Watari (l) and Cheiko Matsubara (r)

The No Borders, No Limits: 1960s Nikkatsu Action Cinema series continues at Japan Society this Friday, February 22, 2008, with a 7:30 PM screening of Gangster VIP.

Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter, Like a Shooting Star) stars as Goro Fujikawa, a young yakuza who tries to go straight after serving a three year sentence for stabbing a hitman from a rival gang. But as things usually go in these stories, events undermine such intentions and draw Goro back into the criminal world of violence and revenge.

Tetsuya Watari (l) and Kyosuke Machida (r)

Gangster VIP was the first installment of what became a six-part Burai series of films made in 1968 and 1969. It was based on the memoirs of Goro Fujita, a real yakuza.

For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

To view the trailer on YouTube, click here.

Images Copyright 1968 Nikkatsu Corporation

Monday, February 18, 2008

ACF 076: "LOVE*COM The Movie" Streets Tomorrow

All Photos (C)2006 Lovely*Complex Film Partners. All rights reserved.

Based on the 2004 Shogakukan Manga Award winner by Aya Nakahara, the teen romantic comedy Love*Com The Movie will be available on DVD starting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 19, 2008.

Presented in Japanese with English subtitles, it's the story of two high school students who seem perfect for each other in all ways but one. Risa Koizumi (Ema Fujisawa, in her second feature film) is tall, while Atsushi Otani (heartthrob Teppei Koike) is way on the short side. Though in sync in so many other ways, each thinks that the height differential would make them look ridiculous as a couple. The film follows their like/love/hate relationship over three years.

Risa and Otani karaoke to Umibozu (Sea Monster), the Japanese rapper

The film is obviously geared for a teen audience, but even an old geezer like me - as well as anyone who's been through the confusion and rejection that seem part and parcel of High School - can enjoy it. The young leads, and the supporting cast as well, are talented and full of energy. The color palette is vibrant, like the dots of candy that come on those strips of paper; it's perfect for the film's tone and subject matter. The writing is solid and at times quite witty, as in: "I'm going to push my heart's reset button."

This the first major feature to be directed by Kitaji Ishikawa, and it reveals him to be a talent to expect more great things from in the future. Shizuyo Yamakazi (from Hula Girls) does a terrific comic turn as Risa's sister. Shosuke Tanihara (seen in Memories of Matsuko) appears late in the film as Kuniumi "Mr. Mighty" Maitake, the tall new teacher's assistant who Risa starts to fall for.

Risa and Otani's four friends play matchmakers

The single disc DVD includes several extra treats. After-school Christmas is a special scene shot in full-screen format (the movie itself is widescreen) about gift-giving. Umibozu (Sea Monster) showcases the Japanese rapper that Risa and Otani both like. Hello, Girlfriend is the full scene of Risa's sister appearing on a TV show to extol the dubious virtues of her boyfriend.
Shizuyo Yamakazi (l) as Risa's sister

There's also such standard fare as director and cast bio info, original Japanese trailers (which also have English subtitles), and other offerings from Viz Pictures and Viz Media. (The DVD is distributed by VIZ Pictures, the live action affiliate of VIZ media.)

Love*Com is another example of the fine youth films made by the Japanese. It's adorable, delightful, touching and funny.

Superior teen-geared fare that it is, Love*Com gets an ACF rating of 3.5 out of 4 stars (highly recommended).

The bonus features get a 3 out 0f 4 star rating (good). Some interviews, even brief ones, with the director and the film's two stars would have been nice. Still, I'm definitely not complaining about what's there.

The film's dedicated website is at: lovecomthemovie.com.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

ACF 075: "Nightmare Detective" DVD Streets 02.19.08

Nightmare Detective / Akumu tantei
Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto
Japan 2006

Great box art image.
(Aside from the knife, however, it has nothing to do with the film.)

The relatively new Dimension Extreme label from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company will be releasing this film as a single DVD on Tuesday, February 19, 2008. It's a tense, taught and gripping horror/thriller from one of Japan's best directors.

The film's New York premiere was a joint presentation of Subway Cinema's New York Asian Film Festival 2007 and Japan Society's JAPAN CUTS film series last summer. I reviewed the film in ACF 037 in July 2007, so I won't go into great detail about the story line here.

Briefly put, weird, apparent suicides seem to be related to a suicide website and to cell phone calls to a mysterious "0" ("Zero"). There's some suggestion that this individual is entering the victims' dreams and making them kill themselves. While some of the detectives assigned to the cases approach the deaths using traditional techniques, others explore supernatural explanations. Leading this effort is Keiko (pop star Hitomi in her first film role).

Nightmare Detective Kyoichi (Ryuhei Matsuda) & Police Detective Keiko (Hitomi)

She's a former desk-jockey who's sought transfer to get away from the theoretical and into hands-on field work. She also happens to wear tight mini-skirts and high heels, all the better to show off her magnificent legs.

She enlists the services of Kyoichi (Ryuhei Matsuda, of Otakus In Love), a troubled, suicidal youth who can enter peoples' dreams. He's reluctant to assist in the case because of the physical and psychological dangers posed. Though suicidal, he doesn't want to die in someone else's dream.

Matters come to a head when one detective and then Keiko herself place calls to "0." With their lives in jeopardy, will Kyoichi stay uninvolved or will he change his mind and risk all to assist the investigators?

Shinya Tsukamoto, who wrote and directed the film, also stars as "0." He first came to prominence with his two Tetsuo films, Tetsuo (1989) and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992). Truly multi-talented, his achievements as writer, director, producer, actor, editor, etc. are incredible. Use the preceding link to check out his filmography if you haven't already.

As for the DVD release itself, the transfer is superb and the audio crystalline. It has both original Japanese Dolby 5.1 and English-dubbed Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. There are removable English, English for the deaf and hearing-impaired, or Spanish subtitles to choose from.

While there are not many extras, The Making of Nightmare Detective featurette, which runs nearly an hour, is one of the best of it's kind. This might have a lot do do with the fact that it was directed by Tsukamoto himself. Really insightful interviews with him and the other principle actors make it a must-watch. The only other extra is the obligatory theatrical trailer.

I enjoyed this film even more the second time around and was every bit as engrossed as the first time, even though I knew how things evolved. The film's outstanding because it succeeds in putting you right in its nightmares and hoping that Kyoichi and Keiko will somehow manage to get not only themselves but also you out.

Nightmare Detective definitely deserves the ACF rating of 3.5 out of 4 stars (highly recommended) that I originally gave it.

The extras get a 3 out of 4 star (good) rating.

Note: Tsukamoto's Nightmare Detective 2 is in post-production. Something definitely to look forward to. Here's hopin' Dimension Extreme will again be there for us Asian film fans when it's time for a DVD release of that sequel.

ACF 074: To The Starry Island - Free Screening at The Korea Society

To The Starry Island / Geu seome gago shibda
Directed by Park Kwang-soo
1993, 101 minutes
With Ahn Sung-ki, Moon Seong-keun, and Shim Hye-jin

When he brings his father's body back to their native Kwisong Island for burial, Moon Chae-ku encounters the opposition of many of the islanders, still furious because of a political incident that occurred there decades earlier. Moon's predicament leaves him time to consider the turbulent events of his father's life, events which in many ways reflect the experiences of all Koreans in this tragically divided land.

The film will screen at The Korea Society on February 21st, 2008 at 6:30 PM. Tickets are $5 for members, $10 for non-members.

The Korea Society is located at 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, in mid-town Manhattan.

For more information or to order tickets, click here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

ACF 073: Music & Dance

The Bear Dodger

Spring Song

Globus Film Series - Dawn of Japanese Animation continues at Japan Society tonight with Part 4: Music & Dance. The program, which begins at 5:00 PM and runs approximately 115 minutes, includes nine animations and the live action musical Singing Lovebirds.

There will also be a separate screening of the live action samurai film Orochi at 7:00 PM.

For more information, click here.

Pictures copyright Matsuda Film Production, Digital Meme

Friday, February 15, 2008

ACF 072: Propaganda

The Monkey Fleet

Mabo's Big Race

Globus Film Series - Dawn of Japanese Animation continues at Japan Society tonight with Part 3: Propaganda. The program, which begins at 7:00 PM and runs approximately 75 minutes, includes eleven animations and the live action film Mother of the Nation.

For more information, click here.

Pictures copyright Matsuda Film Production, Digital Meme

Thursday, February 14, 2008

ACF 071: Horror & Comedy

Our Baseball Match

Demon's Monster Hunt at Shojoji

Globus Film Series - Dawn of Japanese Animation continues at Japan Society tonight with Part 2: Horror & Comedy. The program, which begins at 7:00 PM and runs approximately 80 minutes, includes six animations and the live action film Kid Commotion.

For more information, click here.

Pictures copyright Matsuda Film Production, Digital Meme

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ACF 070: Chambara Action & Adventure

Animal Sumo

Hyoe and Heibe's Tengu Hunt

Tonight the Globus Film Series - Dawn of Japanese Animation begins at Japan Society with Part 1: Chambara Action & Adventure. Twelve animations and the live action film Fighting in Ashura Town will be shown. The approximately 95 minute-long program begins at 7:00 PM and will be followed by a reception.

For info about this program, click here.

Photos copyright Matsuda Film Production, Digital Meme

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

ACF 069: "Royal Tramp" DVD Collection

The latest release from The Weinstein Company and Genius Products' Dragon Dynasty label is The Royal Tramp Collection. This tw0-disc DVD contains Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II, both originally released in 1993 and starring Stephen Chow.

Chow plays Wei Siu Bo, a fanciful story-teller and conman who gets drawn into a conspiracy to restore (or perhaps it's to save) the Ming Dynasty. His quick thinking and glib tongue save him from numerous skirmishes with death, and enable him to score with a bevy of beauties.

Man Cheung as the Empress Dowager

The ending of the first movie sets up the second, so it was both a smart and considerate move to issue both in one release. There's a good bit more action in the second film, which also benefits from the presence of Brigitte Lin, one of my all time favorite Hong Kong actresses, once again doing one of the many androgynous roles for which she is well known.

Wei Siu Bo (Stephen Chow) is carried away by Hoi Tai Fu (Man Tat Ng)

I'm in the middle of reading Asian Cinema: A Field Guide by Tom Vick, film programmer for the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution. In it, without mentioning any specific films, he describes Chow as the slapstick star of Cantonese "nonsense comedies" before his international breakthroughs with Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. He certainly could be referring to the two Royal Tramp films. (I must mention that I highly recommend Vick's book; it's both very informative and enjoyable.)

The story line, such as it is, goes all over the place. Further compounding things are the numerous betrayals and shifting loyalties. Still, a great deal of the comedy comes across even with subtitles, and the action sequences - particularly in the second film - are well done, considering when they were made. (I did notice one wire in the climactic fight seen at the end of the first film.)

Both discs have Cantonese and English-dubbed soundtracks or a feature length audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema authority Bey Logan to chose from; optional English, English for the deaf and hard-of hearing, and Spanish subtitles; and the original theatrical trailer. Disc 2 also has an interview with writer and co-director Wong Jing.

I've only had time so far to watch the films in the original Cantonese with English subtitles, so I can't comment with authority on Logan's commentaries or the English-dubbed soundtracks. I have a feeling that it might work really well to first watch the films with Logan's commentary on, so that you get a sense of what's gong on. Then go back at some time and watch them with subtitles. You just might get a better sense of the story line and plot twists. As for the dubbed versions, I tend to watch them only when I'm too tired for subtitles or otherwise mentally impaired.

These are not great films, certainly not ones that an Asian Cult Film Fan would absolutely have to own. But packed together with the audio options, the two-disc set is a worthwhile purchase. I certainly appreciate that The Weinstein Company and Genius Products have offered them so attractively packaged and reasonably priced. The films give some interesting perspective on Stephen Chow's early career. And did I mention that Brigitte Lin is in Royal Tramp II!!!

Considering the two movies as a package, I give them an ACF rating of 2.5 out of 4 stars (fairly good). The extras get a 3 out of 4 star rating (good). The only thing that I would have liked to have been included is an interview with Stephen Chow.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

ACF 068: Happy Birthday Ziyi Zhang!

Ziyi Zhang as The Empress Wan
Legend of the Black Scorpion

Today marks the 29th birthday of Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang. She trained as a dancer, but gave it up and later studied at the China Central Drama College in Beijing, her birthplace. Her first noteworthy role was as Zhao Di, the young woman who's determined to marry the new teacher who comes to her village in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home (1999). Her career skyrocketed with Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the following year. Her dance training served her well in that film's many martial arts sequences, and she at least held her own opposite costars Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh.

She's also worked with director Tsui Hark in The Legend of Zu (2001), his unfortunately inferior remake of his own Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain; Wong Kar-wei in 2046; Seijin Suzuki in his Princess Racoon (2005), and Robert Marshall in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). She also re-teamed with Zhang Yimou for Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004).

Impressive barely begins to describe her career to date.

Incidentally, Legend of the Black Scorpion, from which the picture above comes, will be coming out on a two-disc Ultimate Edition DVD set from Dragon Dynasty on February 26th, 2008. The film is a variation on Shakespeare's Hamlet, set in China circa 907 AD. Ziyi Zhang (billed as Zhang Ziyi, as her name is said in Chinese order)plays the step-mother of Crown Prince Wu Luan, the Hamlet figure.

I saw it at its New York premiere at the the Subway Cinema's New York Asian Film Festival last summer. At that time it was known by its international English title The Banquet. I'm hoping to get a screener of the upcoming DVD release, but if not I'll at least put a review of the film prior to the DVD's street date.

So, once again, "Happy Birthday Ziyi Zhang!" Best wishes for health, happiness, and a long career at least as lustrous as it's been so far.

Friday, February 08, 2008

ACF 067: Korean Valentine Film Freebie

Unstoppable Marriage
Korea 2007

Korean Cultural Sevice New York is offering a wonderful Valentine's Day gift: a screening of first time director Kim Sung-wook's Unstoppable Marriage. The film, also known as Unpreventable Marriage, had its International Premiere at the New York Korean Film Festival in August, 2007.

Park Eun-ho (Kim Yoo-jin) teaches classes in the traditional Korean craft of making dolls out of mulberry paper, and is a para-gliding instructor on weekends. Her father is a Feng Shui expert and martial arts practitioner.

Hwang Ki-baek (Ha Seok-jin) is a handsome doctor who specializes in breast implants, a specialty in keeping with his playboy lifestyle. His mother, a widow, is a ruthless businesswoman who's involved in real estate.

The film is a delightful comedy about how this unlikely couple comes together despite their different interests & backgrounds and the opposition of their families. Rarely has the clash between traditional values and the potentially corrupting influence of Westernization been depicted so hilariously.

The film, in Korean with English subtitles, will be shown at 6:30 PM on Thursday, February 14th at the ImaginAsian Theatre, located at 239 East 59th Street, New York, NY.

Admission is free, but you must R.S.V.P. at 212.759.9550 to reserve a seat.

I very highly recommend that you take advantage of this wonderful Valentine's Day gift from Korean Cultural Service New York. If you can't make it to this screening, however, do try to check this film out on DVD.

[For my original review of An Unstoppable Marriage, see ACF 043. ]

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

ACF 066: Dawn of Japanese Animation

Japan Society is presenting a four part program of Japanese animations from the 1920s-40s, plus live-action add-ons for each program.

Part 1 : Chambara Action & Adventure
- Twelve animations and Fighting in Ashura Town (Program approximately 95 min.)
- Live benshi narration of some animations!
- Reception to follow screenings!
- Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 PM

Part 2: Horror & Comedy
- Six animations and Kid Commotion (Program approximately 80 min.)
- Live benshi narration of some animations!
- Thursday, February 14 at 7:00 PM

Part 3: Propaganda
- Eleven animations and Mother of the Nation (Program approximately 75 min.)
- Live benshi narration of some animations!
- Friday, February 15 at 7:00 PM

Part 4: Music & Dance
- Nine animations and Singing Lovebirds (Program approximately 115 min.)
- Saturday, February 16 at 5:00 PM

Special Screening - Orochi (1925, 75 min.)
- An epic film about an innocent samurai falsely accused of a crime
- Live benshi narration in English by New York-based theater director & actor Leon Ingulsrud!
- Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 PM

All screenings will be at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017

For further information or to order tickets online, go to www.japansociety.org/film, or call 212.715.1258.