Posts Tagged ‘chinese movie blog’

DIM SUM: AFTERSHOCK a.k.a. AFTERSHOCKS [TANG SHAN DA DI ZHEN | 唐山大地震 ]

2010/07/26

http://www.mediaasia.com/aftershock/

UPDATE! READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE! – – – – – – – – China’s latest disaster movie is not so much an apocalyptic fantasy a la Emmerich, but a semi-realistic account of real events: AFTERSHOCK dramatizes the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed 300,000 people. The movie is directed by Xiaogang Feng and stars Daoming Chen, Jingchu Zhang, Yi Lu and Fan Xu.

J.


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SHANGHAI [谍海风云]

2010/07/24

USA 2010  Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom Written by: Hossein Amini Produced by: Mike Medavoy, Barry Mendel, Jake Myers  Cinematography: Benoit Delhomme   Editing: Peter Boyle, Kevin Trent   Music: Klaus Badelt  Cast: John Cusack, Gong Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Ken Watanabe, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Rinko Kikuchi, David Morse, Franke Potente, Andy On, Race Wong, Gemma Chan, Dean Alexandrou, Ly Nha Ky, Vu Thu Thuong, Selina Lo

I had forgotten how great Chow Yun Fat looks with a gun, but he more than makes up for the awful  CONFUCIUS with SHANGHAI, albeit only having three real action scenes in it.

Shanghai has been the topic of many novels and movies and has always been the subject of western fantasies about China and the East in general. Shanghai has always been romanticized as a liberal place mixing Eastern exotic clichés with Western mentality and style, and I don’t think anything will ever change this image.

SHANGHAI is no different when it comes to portraying the glamour and lightness of being of the metropolis, a melting-pot of artists, criminals, spies and military, but with a strong focus on world politics and WWII SHANGHAI is much more a modern CASABLANCA sequel than just a revue of night club performances and free flow champagne. Set shortly before the Japanese declared war on the United States SHANGHAI is a spy slash war slash crime drama and love story that undeniably transports the story and characters of CASABLANCA into the far East.

Cusack is Bogart, an American spy trying to solve the murder of his friend. Watanabe plays Tanaka the Japanese head of intelligence and de facto ruler of Shanghai who is trying to eliminate the Chinese resistance, led by Anna (Gong Li) who is the wife of triad boss Anthony (Chow) and hence protected like no other. Then there are the Germans and the Americans who also hold a sector of Shanghai each – so by now it shouldn’t be too difficult to see how much SHANGHAI adapts all the main parameters of CASABLANCA. Even more so as Cusack is caught up in a love – or better affair – triangle between a German spy (Franka Potente) and Anna, spicing up the spy saga with romantic overtones.

Writer Amini has paid good attention to the original as he delivers a stunning carbon copy that has it all, except for originality. In view of so many episodic films I appreciate the way the story is meant to draw a large picture until the finale provides a neat finish. Consequently SHANGHAI feels more like a book (adaptation) than a conventional 21st century Hollywood movie with the detailed script unwinding the plot threads step by step and making perfect sense at all times no matter how intertwined the various elements are.

Halstrom makes sure that the mood and tone are right and creates a grand image of the city in the 40’s (shot largely in Bangkok after China revoked the Weinstein’s shooting permit), beautiful but also hazardous, pretty much like, again, CASABLANCA in full color. It’s a city of life and death, but also the place where it all happens, where decisions are made and the course is set for a new future world order. After a rather unimpressive beginning SHANGHAI gets more exciting by the minute, with the ensemble cast being in good form and the story being deep enough to keep us interested. The political and tactical movements of the enemies, the complex personal relationships and the whodunnit plot may neither be new nor surprising, but it all adds up: SHANGHAI never falters, and its grandeur is a real treat. SHANGHAI is a lavish movie and despite it being quite talkative and missing some more bite it is still more solid than all of Scorsese’s disappointing works since (and including) GANGS OF NEW YORK.

It all ends with the beginning of a beautiful friendship as Tanaka – for a good reason – lets Soames and Anna slip through the hands of the Japanese army so they can get on the last ship leaving the city after the Japanese invasion of Shanghai has begun. It couldn’t have been any different I guess, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way than this.

J.



AU REVOIR TAIPEI [YI YE TAI BEI | 一页台北]

2010/07/12

http://www.facebook.com/pagetaipei

USA / TAIWAN 2010  Directed & Written by: Arvin Chen Produced by: Wim Wenders, In-Ah Lee, Wei-Jan Liu, Oi Leng Lui  Cinematography: Michael Fimognari  Editing: Justin Guerrieri Cast: Jack Yao, Amber Kuo, Hsiao-Chuan Chang, Ko Yu-Len

AU REVOIR TAIPEI takes place over the course of a single evening in Taipei: Kai, whose girlfriend has left for Paris dumps him over the phone. Hoping to be able to visit her he had spent most of his nights at a bookstore studying French, which now comes in handy as he plans to fly to Europe and get her back. It happens that a local mafia boss offers him a job in return for a plane ticket – taking a mysterious package with him to Paris –, and so a series of events is set in motion during which Kai and a friend of his are getting in the middle of a double-crossing game between the nephew of the mobster and the mafia boss himself, while at the same time Kai and Susie, who is a staff at the bookstore, are being chased by a local detective who believes they are involved in an international criminal operation. At the end of the night everyone’s life will take a new direction.

AU REVOIR TAIPEI follows a familiar concept, but it has its own charm: unpretentious instead of overly intellectual, Arvin Chen’s debut feature captures the tristesse of Taipei and puts it into stark contrast to the dreams and aspirations of Taiwan’s youth. From Kai who works in his parents’ noodle shop to his friend doing night shifts at the convenience store or Susie who finds her inspirations at the bookstore, everyone’s in pursuit of happiness but isn’t sure where exactly to find it.

As much as I like AU REVOIR TAIPEI and find it unassuming, there also can be no doubt that it is CHUNGKING EXPRESS light. Moreover it is at least a 3rd generation copy as in between 1994 and today there have been numerous attempts to ride the wave Wong-Kar Wai had started back then. Thing is, that some of the better films like LOVE IS NOT A GAME, BUT A JOKE (1997) have simply more personality and a better cast, let alone more inventive script.

AU REVOIR TAIPEI never really explores the human complexity: neither does it show the characters’ multiple facets, nor does any of what happens have a real impact on the protagonists, leading to a change of mind or a process of self-reflection (we witness the beginning of that at best). It’s all just really “nice” and harmless; there are no archetypes that function as a mirror for the audience, only guys and girls with their own problems.

While AU REVOIR TAIPEI is likable entertainment it ranks very low on the relevancy scale: it’s a far cry from the original and Taiwan’s more reputable films alike. Sandwiched between the genuine and the masterful, it is a vintage too young to make a lasting impression.

J.