Its a memorable day at this year’s Toho Video Festival (TVF), a film festival with works from all the different faculties of my film school. Chosen from a hundred pieces of film submission by a panel of judges, notably Yukisada Isao ( director of Shouting Out Love, ), my short film Robot Dreams ( a renaissance piece built from a culmination of unfinished work including Memento Mori, Do Robots Dream and recently shot video footage. ) managed to enter the grand finals, one of the top 10 films screened today at the festival vying for the grand prize of a Apple G5 FCP editing suite worth about 5K. Regrettably, I eventually lost out to my classmate from Shanghai ( we were the only two year one students in the top ten; the rest were graduation students ), whose impressive CG piece created to the likeness of Chinese watercolour paintings awed the judges, and deservedly won the best film award. Well, better luck next year with my graduation work ! :]

Dec 8th 2005
Comments Off on Toho Video Festival 2005

The initial impression upon watching Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millenium Mambo, ( especially the first scene where we have Hsu Chi strolling down this bridge as the camera follows behind her, shot perhaps on a 48 or 60 framer ), was how much it reminded me of the splendid Korean film Take Care of My Cat. 2 things : 1) The dreamy and carefree, immediately memorable music ( I liken it to the pleasurable feeling of intoxication, without any of the nasty side effects )that give both films their characteristic mood, and 2) each fall into that risky category of cinema where there is no clearly established plotline; nothing important seem to be happening most of the time onscreen; there is no apparent premise or conclusion, and in the case of Mambo the potential bore factor skyrockets because the photographer is Lee Pingbin, who loves to lock down his camera and shoot empty compositions where the actors are completely out of frame. 3 other directors who have an affinity for this form of narrative comes to mind : Hu Jinho, Tsai Mingliang, and Robert Altman.

I cannot better explain their style of storytelling by this saying : The journey is the destination. Next stop, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s latest film Zhu Hao De Shi Guang ( Three Times ).

Dec 4th 2005
Comments Off on Millenium Mambo

Fright nights twice in a row with viewings of Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and then Scott’s Hannibal, I think I’ve been served enough cinematic blood and gore for a long time to come. Meanwhile, Yukisada Isao ( director of Shouting Out Love, ) makes a surprise visit to school, popping into our art direction class today to give us a few words on filmmaking. I just had to disagree with his views on the deficits of recent Korea cinema; evidently, if you have been catching up on the cream of the crop, it has never been stronger.

Nov 25th 2005
Comments Off on Fright nights

Despite having watched a total of over 140 films ( and still counting ) on a mixture of dvd and cinema screenings so far this year ( this is excluding film appreciation seatings in school now ), the unthinkable, unprecedented has still happened : I have not yet seen even one of the 31 new films reviewed in this December’s issue of Sight and Sound, which by far is still the most insightful and well written film magazine ( except of course the peerless Singaporean FIRST, with reviews so intellectually potent I’ve uncontrollably vomited blood per read. ) I’ve ever read, thus making its recommendations so incredibly important.

This alarming event can be ascribed to 1) The exorbitant pricing of cinema tickets in Tokyo, charging rates fitting for seatings perhaps 20 years in the future, 2) The ironically Precambrian rate by which new films hit Tokyo shores, where by the time they actually start screening them the dvd copy of the same film would have long since been colonized by dust mites in Amazon’s warehouses, and 3) My sadly tondemonai level of japanese which largely prevents me from renting most foreign films ( read films from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Korea, etc ) that carries no english subtitles. I fear if a remedy is not formulated soon enough, I’ll be missing treasure troves of films by near future Godards, Truffauts and Renoirs.

Nov 17th 2005
Comments Off on Not enough films

Suffering, revenge, and finally salvation, the 3 recurring themes in Park Chan Wook’s “Revenge” trilogy comes full circle as the series ends with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Oldboy ( as compared to other excellent korean films per se ) and I’ve yet to see Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first in the series ( though reliable sources from my personal Korean film guide and classmate Mr Kim has it that it ranks the highest of the three films on the gore-ometer, which may influence viewing decisions a wee bit ), but nontheless Lady Vengeance proved interesting enough ( even with me half struggling with the Japanese subtitles, you lucky bastards back home. ) Some memorable cameos come and go, rounding up main characters from the 2 former films. Gotta catch this one again.

Nov 16th 2005
Comments Off on Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Recently just as I was starting to get jaded with the largely nondescript, unsatisfying Japanese films that I have had access to here in Tokyo, comes a mind blowing piece of work that utterly sweeps me off my feet, myself smiling and swearing unwittingly throughout the film’s viewing, marvelling at its sheer brilliance and beauty. Based on a short story of the same name by renowned writer Murakami Haruki, Tony Takitani ( directed by Ichikawa Jun, whose previous film Byoin De Shinu To Iu Koto ironically inflicted me with severe soporificism ) explores the issues of isolation, solitude and loss. This film is in a word, beautiful; the quiet photography, subdued palette of colours that lend to the film’s intended feeling of emptiness, the music, poised piano arrangements mirroring the visual’s quiescent mood, the treatment and art direction, each scene decorated with the aloofness of an Edward Hopper painting, the screenplay, conversations and exchanges like soothing poetry but with non of the rigidity, more like the words of a child, honest, direct, austere. My highest recommendations.

You can get the Japanese 2 disc special edition of the dvd here.

Nov 10th 2005
Comments Off on Toni Takitani – Ichikawa Jun

Despite playing like an Apple endorsed film at times and my at best lukewarm interest in political satire films, Wim Wenders Land of Plenty nontheless held my attention with a narrative ( Winders writing up a treatment in just 3 days ) that was languid in the beginning but built up momentum as the film progressed, and one is certainly reminded of a similar plot setup in Wender’s much older work, the excellent Paris, Texas. While the director’s decision to shoot the film in video escapes me for moment it is however interesting to note that the utilized camera, Panasonic’s AGDVX100A, held up rather impressive considerably such a big blow up to theatre resolution working with just DV source, and I cannot wait to see what its latest incarnation the HD AG-HVX200 can do for independent filmmakers, not to mention those poor, starving film students.

Oct 29th 2005
Comments Off on Land of Plenty – Wim Wenders

This year’s seasonal transition from summer to autumn seemed to have creeped in cladestinely, but the clearest harbinger of the big freeze season are the nights when I could feel myself curling up my toes as the piercing cold air assailed my feet.

Back in school, I’ve just only realized that Yukisada Isao ( director of Sekai no chushin, and his soon to be released Haru no Yuki ), who also happened to have graduated from my film school was also assistant director for Iwai’s Love Letter. Respect for him ups 30%. Time for film watching has declined since school started and the films I want to watch just continue to pile as I read the latest copies of Sight and Sound. Including Wim Wender’s recent work, Land of Plenty, above.

Oct 21st 2005
Comments Off on seasonal transition

Just a week into term 2 and three film production shoots are cramped back to back, I’m thinking about dropping a module lest I die a painful, undeserving death : ” film student dies of fatique during shoot, hand still clasping zoom servo. ” Meanwhile, time for watching films become harder to come by but I was glad I finally got around to see Majo no Takyubin ( Kiki’s Delivery Service ), fantastic, as per Ghibli animation.

On a sadder note, I wish the school would inform us earlier when “erai” characters such as the cinematographer for the film Shall We Dance ? visits the school for a talk, I would’ve prepped my copy of the dvd, screaming hysterically for a signature like a rabid F4 fan. Just wait till Iwai Shunji shows up.

Oct 8th 2005
Comments Off on school film productions

Having bought us memorable tracks like “Yesterday & Today”, “Fukai Mori”, “Rakuen” amongst others, Japanese rock group Do As Infinity has officially disbanded with the release of their greatest hits album “Do The A side”, which contains all 20 singles since their debut in 1999 with “Tangerine Dream”. Recalling the early days when the trio performed as a street band in Shibuya before they made it big, to the times when their official website was launched and they saw only an average of 7 visitors per day, DAI’s has come a long way, and their collective music will be missed.

Oct 1st 2005

Watching Brad Silberling’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is like tasting the delicious icing and toppings on an otherwise bland cake; its like savouring the attractive, beautifully illustrated cover of an otherwise boring novel. That much said, the film’s astonishing photography and production work is unlike anything we’ve seen since Sleepy Hollow, granted, they were done by some of the same folks.

If you’d cared to stay just a few minutes longer for the end credits, one will be greeted by a cornucopia of the best talents in the business; ILM, as ever for the CG and animation, cinematography by Emmaneul Lubezki of Sleepy Hollow, Great Expectations; editing by Michael Kahn, who edited most of Spielberg’s recent films; production design by Rick Henrichs of Sleepy Hollow; costume design by Colleen Atwood of Gattaca, Silence of the Lambs; music by Thomas Newman of American Beauty, Meet Joe Black, and the list goes on.
Let’s just hope next time the cake is as tasty as the icing itself.

Sep 28th 2005

For the last time, Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords is not at attempt at remaking Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, quote “and a piss poor job at that”, so say the folks who hated Hark’s latest film. For the record, Seven Swords is based on the much-read novel “Seven Swordsmen From Mount Tian,” by Liang Yu-sheng, one of the fathers of 20th century Hong Kong martial arts fiction.

I know what you want to say. “So, you must be a Tsui Hark fan eh, standing up for his work like that. ” I beg to differ. Seven Swords certainly had its merits in the character design and fight choreography departments, ( not to mention Hark’s excellent decision in asking Kawai Kenji to score. Let’s face it, original scores in Hong Kong films just ain’t that great. ) but its Kurosawa that’s taking the insult here by that “remake” comment. What amuses me, maybe even irritates me is how the chaps came up with the idea of this Seven Samurai remake connection. Do these folks even know what they are talking about ? I figured there are 2 possibilites : 1) They are simply outta their minds or 2) They’ve never watched Kurosawa’s Samurai, or didn’t understood a thing if they did, but since it was such a famous film and it puts credit to their film literacy they decide to mention it, “and hey, both films have the word SEVEN in them !”

Anyone who’s actually watched Samurai and enjoyed it understand that the film’s concern is not about the fighting, but the in depth study of the different characters that exist within and their actions and consequences, the beautiful and brilliant use of visual patterns which accentuate the narrative, and so on. Nadda on fighting. Last but not least, the film’s a CLASSIC. When was the last time anyone compared a piece of contemporary music to say, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in terms of grandeur ?

ps Check out this beautiful Seven Swords Japanese movie pamplet.

Sep 22nd 2005
Comments Off on Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords
Page 91 of 101« First...5...87888990919293949596...Last »