Posts Tagged ‘hong kong movies’

DIM SUM vs. KIMCHI FLAVOR: THE KILLER REMAKE IN 3D

2011/02/09

Not sure what to think of the Koreans remaking my favorite John Woo movie THE KILLER yet, but there’s pros and cons at time of writing. Pros: John Woo supervises  and produces, and John H. Lee (71: INTO THE FIRE) directs. Cons: 3D (never a good sign for quality filmmaking), nobody Josh Campbell is writing (adapting?) the screenplay, the film is – seriously – an English-language (!) version (despite featuring a Korean star and Korean-American director – what sense does that make?).

Hope for the best and expect the worst I’d say. Any which way, I’d bet anything that the remake will not live up to the original. More soon.

J.

DREAM HOME [WAI DOR LEI AH YUT HO | 维多利亚一号]

2010/12/11

http://www.dreamhome.asia/

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Pang Ho-Cheung Written by: Pang Ho-Cheung, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Wan Chi-Man Produced by: Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Subi Liang, Pang Ho-Cheung  Cinematography by: Nelson Yu Lik-Wai  Editing by: Wenders Li  Music by: Gabriele Roberto  Cast: Josie Ho, Anthony Wong, Michelle Ye, Norman Chu, Lawrence Chou, Eason Chan, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Hee Ching Paw, Hoi-Pang Lo, Ching Wong, Ying Kwan Lok, Juno Mak, Lap-Man Sin, Wai Hung Chan, Chu-Chu Zhou, Juan Song

In order to afford her dream home a woman, Cheng Li-Sheung, goes to great lengths, applying very drastic measures to make her dying father happy with a sea view apartment: once she has identified the property of choice, she begins to kill her neighbors one by one so that the value drops dramatically, bringing the price down into a range she can afford. But despite her will to inflict utmost brutality on her victims, she also seems to be just an ordinary girl pursuing a dream – and inevitably heading for trouble the longer she plays this vicious game.

DREAM HOME boasts a very fine and complex script that provides plenty of reasons for the main character to act the way she does: we learn a lot about her through her childhood memories, especially how the difficult relationship with her father has formed her personality, as well as it explains her dependency on her dad’s affection and motivation behind the need to buy that apartment. Her mother’s and brother’s roles are equally important, laying out a precise, psychological and believable cause-and-result pattern – DREAM HOME isn’t absurd, but an intense study of an unstable personality spiraling out of control.

Cheng Li-Sheung’s dull, monotone and difficult working life adds another interesting component, turning her into someone who is used to rejection, used to the harsh reality out there that is best dealt with in raw fashion. Ultimately, Cheng separates her gentle and fragile side from the side that shows no mercy, no morals and no guilt, and she develops into a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of character who puts her dream above anything else, even human life, in a delusion that fulfilling that dream could lead to salvation and a redefined relationship with her father.

It has been noted that DREAM HOME lacks coherence, but after studying the history of serial killers in-depth you will realize that schizophrenia doesn’t need a reason. People have been killed under far more random circumstances, so Cheng Li-Sheung’s motivation seems fairly reasonable after all. But you will have to understand that she is in fact not a girl next door anymore when the film starts, but that at this point she has crossed the line and changed into a deviant psychopath. She is leading a double life, and her measures are completely out of proportion – there is no turning back for her, she has lost it completely. There is only black and white, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that she is a sadistic killer, as she derives no pleasure from the violence, but sees it as a necessary means to an end. She is committing horrible crimes, but always looks beyond the here and now, hence never actually feels anything about what happens.

There are many other ways looking at DREAM HOME besides watching it as a slasher: the movie first and foremost is a very black comedy, a sarcastic comment on Hong Kong’s money-driven culture and inflated real estate market, and an essay on what values in life really matter. Mr. Pang is taking things to the edge, so that the most violent moments border on the hilarious, but never turn into slapstick: the line between laughter and shock maybe thin, but it’s always there. DREAM HOME remains a gut-wrenching flick at all times, and is probably one of the most violent movies of the year, yet it is also one of the most intelligent films of the year, telling a story that is painfully real and intense like few other films that were released in 2010.

The ending is, quite as expected, less coincidental but most of all consequential, a reductio ad absurdum, leaving Cheng and the audience speechless in view of what just happened. It’s the to-the-point conclusion of a great, condensed film that deserves to be praised – it’s a truly accomplished work.

With DREAM HOME Mr. Pang proves once again to be one of Hong Kong’s most versatile filmmakers and a brilliant observer who likes to dismantle reality and bring its essence to the screen, concerned most of all with what moves the ordinary citizen amid an ever-changing world. I recommend watching his previous film LOVE IN A PUFF back to back with DREAM HOME, and you will come to the conclusion that Mr. Pang’s films are wonderful, contemporary works from Hong Kong that shouldn’t be missed.

Whatever’s next, I bet on Mr. Pang to excite the audience with another surprising, and surprisingly good, film. I’d kill to see it today.

J.

 

 

 

 


AFTERSHOCKS a.k.a. AFTERSHOCK [TANGSHAN DADIZHEN | 唐山大地震]

2010/08/26

http://www.mediaasia.com/aftershock

CHINA 2010  Directed by: Xiaogang Feng Book: Zhang Ling Written by: Su Xiaowei Production: Hua Yi Bros.  Cinematography by: Yue Lu  Editing by: Xiao Yang  Music: Li-Guang Wang  Cast: Zhang Jingchu, Daoming Chen, Yi Lu, Jin Chen, Fan Xu, Chen Li, Zi-Feng Zhang, Ziwen Wang, Lixin Yang, Li-Li Liu, Mei Yong, Tie-Dan, Guoqiang Zhang, Zhong Lu

How do you dramatize a disaster that has actually happened? It probably depends on how interested you actually are. How much you care.

AFTERSHOCKS is honest cinema that has little to do with special effects orgies. The film instead chooses to deal with the decisions a catastrophe like the earthquake of Tangshan forces upon people, and how this incident affects everyone’s life in the long run. AFTERSHOCKS spends very little time on the earthquake itself, and why would it: it happened, and it is non-negotiable. There’s little that needs to be dramatized, or stylized for that matter (although the moment of the quake certainly leaves an impression). A dialogue later on reveals a crucial point: you don’t need to run from a small earthquake as no damage will be done, and you also don’t need to run from a very serious quake as you can’t escape anyway.

AFTERSHOCKS has understood that very well and consequently avoids any of the familiar disaster film clichés. What’s more important for the movie are the scars the quake leaves on people, the impact it has on their lives. The English title AFTERSHOCKS is very befitting, because life after the earthquake is no longer like life before. The disaster is hour zero, and everything after that is a very long aftershock that rocks the foundation of people’s very existence. For decades, smaller and larger shock waves will bring back not-so-fond memories and raise uncomfortable questions. Tangshan knows.

AFTERSHOCKS tries to fathom how the earthquake distorts reality, how it makes a family drift as the father dies, the mother is made to choose which of their two kids to save and the daughter who is believed to be dead is separated from the family for decades and grows up with step parents. It may only be one story of many, but like so often, if told well it can represent the story of them all.

AFTERSHOCKS succeeds in telling its story without complication or tricks, it speaks to us, personally involves us in the suffering we see. AFTERSHOCKS presses all the right buttons (not to say that was its objective): sometimes it observes, but is also very cinematic, sometimes it’s dramatic, but also authentic. AFTERSHOCKS respects the characters and their story at all times (a rarely seen integrity), but it nevertheless manages not to bore the audience (I wouldn’t want to call it „manages to entertain”). On the contrary, with increasing running time you’ll forget the time.

The ending may seem like a frequently seen happy end, but it is consistent and perhaps a necessity. After all that we have witnessed and gone through for more than two hours, any other denouement would be intolerable. And the way AFTERSHOCKS unwinds the threads isn’t fatuous by any means, but in fact perfectly rounds off the film.

Talking about perfection: many years ago we admired the aestheticism of Zhang Yimou, while today China’s far away from its heyday as a film nation. It is noteworthy however that AFTERSHOCKS is an extraordinarily sophisticated, detailed, precise and simply impressive film, a film so elegant and beautiful that most of what comes from Hong Kong (and elsewhere) fades in comparison.

AFTERSHOCKS is one of the most important Chinese films of the year, and I can only hope that more producers and directors will abandon political propaganda or purely commercial interests in the future and instead tell touching, relevant stories that have the power to move and deeply affect audiences far beyond the borders of the People’s Republic, just like AFTERSHOCKS does.

J.