Monday, November 19, 2007

2007 San Francisco Asian Film Festival

The 2007 San Francisco Asian Film Festival ran from November 8 to 18. I saw eleven films at the 4 Star and Castro.

Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea - Japanese with subtitles; filmed on location in Mongolia; (2007)
Eye in the Sky with Tony Leung Ka Fai; Cantonese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
The Goddess with Ruan Lingyu; silent with intertitles; (1934)
Dragon Tiger Gate with Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue; directed by Wilson Yip; Cantonese with subtitles; (2006)
ZebraMan directed by Takashi Miike; Japanese with subtitles; (2004)
Barking Dogs Never Lie with Bae Doo-na; directed by Bong Joon-ho; Korean with subtitles; (2000)
Yakiniku The Movie Japanese with subtitles; (2007)
Nanking - English, Mandarin, and Japanese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Confession of Pain with Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shu Qi; Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles; (2006)
Flashpoint with Donnie Yen, Louis Koo; directed by Wilson Yip; Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles; (2007) - Official Website
Invisible Target with Nicholas Tse, Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue; Cantonese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site

A few quick notes. The film I most wanted to see was The Banquet with Ziyi Zhang. However, the film did not arrive in time for the screening. I am very disappointed. The film is characterized as "Hamlet with a kung fu twist." The proper term is Wǔxiá which literally translates into philosophical kung fu. Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragron are two well known wǔxiá films.

All the Chinese films were set in Hong Kong (HK) except the eponymous Nanking. My guilty pleasure is HK action films and this festival delivered. Flashpoint in particular was a gritty film about a cop that is as violent as the criminals he is trying to arrest. When the Vietnamese gang attacks the cops, Yen drops all pretense about upholding the law. He goes after them with guns and fists. The fight scenes were choreographed by star Donnie Yen. For added realism, Yen incorporates mixed martial arts into the fight scenes so it looks like something out of Ultimate Fighter.

Invisible Target is more like an American action movie with plenty of explosions. Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue were/are teenage pop stars which makes their acting and physicality more impressive. It would be like Justin Timberlake (is he sitll popular) making action movies and doing his stunts. Jaycee Chan is Jackie Chan's son. There is a definite facial resemblance.

Confession of Pain has a few action sequences but is more of a thriller. First, note there are two Tony Leungs that are well known Chinese actors. This films starred Tony Leung Chiu Wai. He is the Tony Leung (aka Short Tony) currently appearing in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution. Frequently co-starring with the beautiful Maggie Cheung, you may also remember him from Hero, 2046, In the Mood for Love, and Chungking Express.

The other Tony Leung is Tony Leung Ka Fai who appeared in Eye in the Sky. That Tony Leung (aka Big Tony) also has a more offbeat filmography including a movie I saw many years ago called The Lover with Jane March and based on a Marguerite Duras autobiographical novel. More recently he was in Johnny To's Election. I get them confused all the time.

Also, if you are wondering what a guy named Takeshi Kaneshiro is doing an HK action film, allow me to elaborate. Many people don't know this but Japan occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. Despite 62 years of being the Republic of China, there is still a Japanese presence on the island. Kaneshiro, born in 1973 to a Taiwanese mother & Japanese father, can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English. Also, Confession of Pain was made by the team that created Infernal Affairs (note infernal not internal). In the USA, Infernal Affairs was remade by Martin Scorcese with the title The Departed with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson.

Barking Dogs Never Lie was made by the director who helmed The Host which was in US theaters earlier this year. Those two films starred a great Korean actress (Bae Doo-na) whom I became familiar with as the Korean exchange student in the Japanese film Linda Linda Linda.

Enough of the Kevin Bacon in Asia game.

Linda Linda LindaCast of Linda Linda Linda (Bae Doo-na, far right)

Tony Leung Chiu WaiTony Leung Chiu Wai

Tony Leung Ka FaiTony Leung Ka Fai

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