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Entries in Asian cinema (77)


Dear Readers, obrigado, xie xie, takk, danke!

Before Fall Film Season hits us like a ton of bricks in 3...2...1.. I wanted to thank the faithful readers. Running a daily site is not even remotely easy though it may sometimes appear to be from the outside. We truly cherish those of you who tune in regularly. Especially those of you who take the time to tweet out articles, or email them to friends or share them on facebook or what not. 

Your editor Nathaniel (c'est moi) has always loved globes & maps. This could account for some of our obsession with oscar's foreign film submissions each year (today was the final day for countries to submit!). Whilst pitching an ad block to a distributor recently we got lost in statistics to where the readership actually is. More...

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Oscar Contender "The Assassin" Leads the Golden Horse Nominations

Nominations for the 52nd annual Golden Horse Awards have been announced with Taiwan's Oscar submission The Assassin leading the pack as well as netting arthouse favorite Hou Hsiao-Hsien a non-competitive statue for "Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker" to go along with his Best Director prize from Cannes earlier this year. The Assassin opens in limited US theatrical release on October 16th via Well Go entertainment. China's Oscar submission Wolf Totem, which is actually from animal-movie loving French director Jean-Jacques Annaud (!), only received 1 nomination for visual effects. The latter film is about a student living with Mongolian herders who adopts a wolf cub. 

Though The Assassin is likely to sweep the Golden Horses outside of acting (where only the ridiculously beautiful Shu Qi, Hou's regular muse, is nominated. No Chen Chang? Grrrr.) it's not the only big deal in Chinese languages cinema this year. Taiwan's Thanatos, Drunk, Hong Kong's popular crime thriller Port of Call, and China's acclaimed festival favorite Mountains May Depart also reaped several nominations. The event will be held on November 21st in Taipei. 


A complete list of nominations after the jump...

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NYFF: Cemetery Of Splendour

Jason on the the latest from beloved Thai director Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul.

From what I gather, Weerasethakul is a filmmaker easiest approached with a road-map - an iconography of expectations, of mood and mise-en-scene, to guide you gently into the good night of his magical thinking. That is to say it's best to know what you're getting into. You're best served with a reference point, a friendly little ghost to hold your hand and lead you through the invisible world he's maneuvering his camera through.

It's a world that's not just off frame, to the left or right as you might expect. It's more as if it's sitting in the seats both left and right of you in the theater, occasionally grabbing at your popcorn, maybe whispering a lightly dirty joke in your ear before resting its head on your shoulder. It's comforting... but also a little invasive. He wants all of you.

I went in alone. Cemetery of Splendour, Weerasethakul's newest film, was my first. Hey, everybody had a first at one point, right? That's what makes it first. And just like losing one's virginity I found myself bewildered, a little bit sweaty, and ultimately ashamed at myself for putting it off for so long. That's what I was afraid of? Yeah it was a little bit weird but it went down fine, and I look forward to another spin.

Splendour tells the story of a somnambulist pack of soldiers, mysteriously struck sleepy-time by their surroundings, housed in a former school and taken care of by both some friendly local women (never unfriendly enough to not give a giggling poke at their engorged dream members) as well as a series of glowing candy-cane-shaped lamps, arcing gracefully over their beds while offering the jungle (and the film) a singular neon surrealism. It's rumored that the soldiers were digging up the earth for fiber-optics cables when they were struck ill and these lamps are like living heads of those wires, War of the Worlds-style, risen up to keep a slow colorful creepy watch over their slumber.

The film slowly (I'll have to bust out my thesaurus to find variations on "slowly" and "dreamily" for this review) closes in, in its medium-to-long-shot manner, on one sleeping soldier, and one nurse-type - Itt and Jen, who manage to form a sweet and easy rapport in between the comatose moments. He usually wakes up to her massaging some part of him, which is really the quickest way to a man's heart, no matter what the foodies say.

I don't want to trace out the road-map for you any further. I think if you've already wandered in Weerasethakul-Land you basically know your way around, and you know the journey - one taken half-drifting along just an inch or two above the ground as if you, like Jen, have one leg shorter than the other - itself is the destination. What a lovely journey though - a series of small escalating emotional catharses that moves through like clouds, like a slight breeze through the fanned trees, giving prayer to the benevolent specters milling about in the underbrush.


Cemetery of Splendour is screening at the New York Film Festival on Wednesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 1. If you're interested in Weerasethakul, check out Nathaniel's reviews of his Palme d'or winner Uncle Boonmee.


NYFF: Journey to the Shore

Manuel here kicking off TFE's New York Film Festival coverage. The festival begins today but they've pushed back the "official" opening The Walk (2015) to Saturday due to the Pope's visit.

So let's start with a moody melodrama from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, better known for his successful horror and thriller pictures (Cure, Pulse, Retribution).

Journey to the Shore is a ghost story. This is an economical description of its plot and an acknowledgment of its genre. But it is also, its thematic concern. Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu) is mourning and missing her husband, Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano). He’s been gone for three years. We don’t quite know what’s happened to him and he doesn’t really explain himself when he appears out of nowhere in front of his wife at their apartment. Her prayers, which she’s been dutifully writing down pleading for his return, have perhaps worked. Yusuke then asks his wife to take a trip with him; like all ghosts (for what else could he be?) he has unfinished business to attend to. There’s at first a playfulness to Kurosawa’s setup: well-versed in ghost stories, his audience surely looks for dead giveaways (can he be touched? can others see him?) and much of those first scenes tease these questions out, even at one point offering the suggestion that Mizuki, in her grief, has dreamed this all up.

But that is not really the point. Yuzuke is not quite a ghost but he’s also not quite alive, and the film makes it clear soon enough that this should not be our concern. Instead, the emphasis is on Yusuke and Mizuki’s relationship. As they make their way to the “shore” of the title, Mizuki is offered glimpses of where her husband spent the last three years of his life. This gives the film an episodic feeling and there are some set pieces that work better than others (a stay at a newspaper delivery warehouse is eerie and soulful in the ways the entire film aims for, while a stay near a waterfall where the dead presumably travel to is much too schematic, using another couple to comment on our central pair).

I won’t spoil much else about Kurosawa’s film which is focused, in any case, more on mood than on plot. As I said, it is a ghost story and perhaps even from this all-too-brief summary, you can tell where the film is headed. Ghost stories, after all, are about our inability to move on. That Kurosawa literalizes much of this subtext is precisely the point but ultimately it’s unclear what we’re supposed to get from this stylistic move, especially when the film’s most captivating scenes exist outside of the film’s ghostly parables (a confrontation between Mizuki and one of her husband’s female colleagues is exquisite precisely because it is all subtext, every line laced with hidden implications, every look a tacit accusation).

Gorgeously shot and languidly paced, Kurosawa’s film was, I have to admit, a bit of a drag, its ideas both too blunt and too obscure, and try as it might, it never quite moved me, even though plenty of tears were shed on screen.


Journey to the Shore plays NYFF on Tuesday September 29th and Thursday October 1st.


'some say Link, it is a hunger, an endless aching need...♪'

The Star is TIFF about to get an "In Competition" slate at their annual festival? They've always avoided it
Playbill Sutton Foster visited "The View" and talked Thoroughly Modern Millie and her new show Younger (which she is typically excellent/adorable/funny in if you haven't yet watched it. No musical numbers yet though, boo!)
Wired has a longform oral history of ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) for its 40th anniversary, the fx house created originally for Star Wars that changed movies. 
The Daily Beast on Flula Borg, the German scene stealer from Pitch Perfect 2
Playbill this always kind of annoys me but non-nominated musicals will be performing at the Tony Awards: Gigi, Finding Neverland, and It Shoulda Been You. Better to spend the time focusing on nominees, I think.
Comics Alliance Vertigo Comics was totally prepared for the world to go wild for Mad Max Fury Road. They already have prequel comics and an art book with pre-comissioned tributes by major comic artists.
Towleroad Nick the Gardener takes you on a behind the scene tour of Magic Mike XXL for Ellen

Cannes Cannes loves Hou Hsiao-hsien’s longawaited epic The Assassin starring Shu Qi. Another Palme d'Or contender? This year seems highly competitive.  But mixed on Youth... which is apparently highly influenced by 8½
Awards Daily Sasha says that Paolo Sorrentino's Youth about two old men in the film industry, one retired (Caine) one still working (Keitel) will be catnip to Oscar voters 
In Contention says Emily Blunt is "spectacular" in Sicario but Benicio del Toro is the MVP
The Playlist [NSFW] has a clip from Gaspar Noé's Love  

"Mad" Must Reads
Because people can't stop writing about the Mad Men finale and George Miller's fourth Mad Max film. These are highly recommended!

Emily Nussbaum on the "existential brilliance" of the Mad Men finale 
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd examines how the meaning of Don Draper --or what we thought the show was about -- seem to have shifted over time
Alan Sepinwall grapples with the two Dons or rather Don & Dick and what we want from a person/character and who they really are
Mark Harris on "Artisinal Macho" and why the Mad Max Fury Road action scenes make recent action films feel so weightless 
Arthur Chu offers up a rundown of the long form feminism and "toxic masculinity" of the Mad Max franchise - the headline and subheader are kind of misleading but the actual point by point content / argument is terrific 

1979 to Go
Criterion Collection got Bette Midler to reminisce about The Rose (1979) for a dvd release!!! Take a look.



Cannes Actress: Zhao Tao and Jane Fonda

The latest buzz from Cannes is that the Best Actress race is heating up. Or at least speculation is. Marion Cotillard's Lady MacBeth has yet to screen but those that have seen it early are typically wowed. But we know at this point not to expect Cannes juries to point and go "Her! Her!". If there is a Blanchett-Vanquisher out there it may well be Zhao Tao who stars in the "giddily ambitiousMountains May Depart.

That's the latest from the reknowned Jia Zhangke, a regular at the fest for whom Zhao Tao is a recurring player (Still Life, Platform, A Touch of Sin). Mountains is Zhangke's fourth try at the Palme and though he usually comes away empty-handed, his last attempt A Touch of Sin (2013) took Best Screenplay. Despite the jury completely changing each year Cannes somehow has an Oscar-like sense of momentum wherein you generally move up the ranks as to which prizes you take; longevity wins the Palme. (It's not as simple as that of course but there can be a weird cumulative coronation effect.)

So that makes the Palme race: Hungary's Son of Saul vs. USA's Carol vs China's Mountains May Depart? (Or am I forgetting something that's been similarly ecstatically received?) Typing them out that way it makes Cannes sound like the Olympics of the movies, only annual instead of bi-annual. And maybe it is?

In other Canne actressy news, our friend Kyle Buchanan says that Jane Fonda walks away with Paolo Sorrentino's Youth which stars Michael Caine as a retired film composer.  I'm hearing that Fonda's role is very showy (an old combative muse to Harvey Keitel's director character), but quite small. Nevertheless I couldn't help but immediately picture both Grace (Jane) and Frankie (Lily) as Oscar nominees this year in Supporting (for Youth) and Lead (for Grandma) and how much media fun would that be? Sorrentino had a major Cannes sensation and eventual Oscar winner with his last film The Great Beauty. This one is in English which naturally will give it a leg up with Oscar voters if it opens this year but it's already more divisive which can be a problem. Still love/hate divides are tough to predict with awards. All you sometimes need is the right people on the love side to turn the critical tide around. And anyway when this mixed review called it 'elegant fun' I just thought... doesn't that describe a lot of well received prestige films?

But just to remind us that she's already one of the immortals (with 2 Oscars, multiple classic films, and celebrity outside of acting as well, the legend is assured) here is Jane Fonda looking amazing on the cover of W --  their oldest cover girl ever.

Here's an interesting bit on self-awareness from the W interview

One day on the set of On Golden Pond, a film that she coproduced so that she could costar with her father, the legendary actor Henry Fonda, she was fixing her hair when Katharine Hepburn (who played her mother in the film) pinched her cheek and demanded, “What do you want this to mean?” “It was 1981, and I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Fonda recalled. “Back then, I didn’t give my looks a fare-thee-well, and that bothered Katharine. She said to me, ‘This is what you present to the world. What do you want it to say about you?’ Her question has been lodged in my psyche ever since. I now think what Katharine meant was awareness of a persona. She wanted me to consider how I wanted to be seen. Now I pay attention to how I present myself to the world. I realize that it matters.”



Tim's Toons: 1979 and the first film of Hayao Miyazaki

Tim here. May is 1979 Month at the Film Experience, and as far as animation goes, that was a pretty meager year (ardent fans of The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone would no doubt disagree, but sadly, they do not exist). There was one clear highlight, though: 1979 was the year that a Japanese animator and TV director named Hayao Miyazaki made his first feature film. And 36 years later, he’s one of the only name-brand individuals in animation, anywhere in the world.

You wouldn’t necessarily be able to guess the full range of Miyazaki’s future career from Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. For that is the title of this debut film, and if that whole “subtitle after the colon” thing makes it feel like it might have been part of an established franchise, that’s exactly the case. Lupin III was an anime series made by TMS Entertainment, adapting the adventures of a gentleman thief from French pulp literature; the first batch of episodes started to appear in 1971, and iterations of the animated franchise kept poking up for decades; the series still remains a cultural touchstone in Japan and it’s reasonably popular anywhere there’s an enthusiastic audience for classic anime.


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