AFFD 2011: Ten Twitch Picks
BATTLE ROYALE is a classic and one of the films that signaled Japan's reemergence into the international film world with a vengeance. There had been only a few Japanese films finding their way into the public consciousness in the 80's and 90's and they were mostly comedies, things like Shall We Dance and Tampopo. Then, Kinji Fukasaku unleashed his adaptation of the novel Battle Royale, and the world exploded. It was among the first recent genre films to grab the film world's attention, and along with Ju-on and Audition, it made film fans sit up and take notice. As of yet, this classic hasn't had any US release for a number of reasons. That is going to change very soon, and this will be the southwest's first opportunity to peek at the upcoming Blu-ray edition from Anchor Bay, who are providing the materials for the screening. Friday, July 15th - 9:45pm
An instant classic when it debuted in 2000, and the final complete directorial effort of the legendary Kinji Fukasaku, BATTLE ROYALE is a jarring, jaw-dropping look at a future Japan where a group of 42 largely delinquent ninth-graders are chosen through a governmental lottery to kill each other off. The reason? To reduce crime and a general lack of respect by the youth in the country. Sound insane? Not as crazy as the in-your-face, unflinching manner in which Fukasaku toys with taboos and breaks the rules by graphically showing the death sport while also making us care about the many, varied personalities involved. Teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano, in a fun, brutally frank role) oversees the latest bout. Some kids are psychopaths, while others garner our sympathy. But just like highlanders, there can ultimately only be one...who will win the Battle Royale?
Benny Chan's CITY UNDER SIEGE was not treated kindly by many critics, but who am I kidding, I'm a sucker for big dumb action sometimes. Any film that centers around mutant circus performers living a life of crime has my attention. Monday, July 18th - 5:20pm
Sunny (Aaron Kwok) just wants to become a master knife-thrower in the circus, like his father. But star attraction Tai-chu (Colin Chou) prevents him from getting his big chance. When Sunny, Tai-chu and a small group of performers decide to hunt for treasure in a series of caves, they are exposed to a toxic gas that starts to mutate them in weird and dangerous ways. While Sunny is incapacitated for awhile (in icky/humorous fashion), Tai-chu and his crew start a violent rampage on the city...hence under siege.
I know nothing about ENEMY AT THE DEAD END. The description given by the AFFD below sounds like fun, though, and I'm willing to give it a shot. Lord knows Koreans know how to do brutal violence and revenge like no one else. Monday, July 18th - 9:30pm
The description "OLDBOY set in a hospital room" might not be too far-fetched, as ENEMY AT THE DEAD END is all about forgotten pasts, misconceived rage and bloody, bloody retribution. A post-traumatic stress disorder patient, bound to his bed, is given a new roommate: a wounded, seemingly paralyzed man who may or may not be getting special treatments by the doctors to advance his recovery. How do these men know each other? Which one has wronged the other? This is the mystery ENEMY allows to unfold as memories and the ability to move - and harm each other - slowly return. Claustrophobic vengeance at its finest.A second classic film showing at this year's AFFD is Wong Kar-Wai's FALLEN ANGELS. This film, his follow up to Ashes of Time, is a wonderful story of love and crime in Hong Kong. The film brings Wong back to Takeshi Kaneshiro, and into first contact with Leon Lai. This is a wonderful example of the urgency of Wong's early work with Christopher Doyle and well worth revisiting. Thursday, July 21st - 5:00pm
Beloved director Wong Kar Wai has always placed his stunning visual style across a steady progression of lonely, romantic souls. FALLEN ANGELS is no different, a contemplation of isolation and obsession that takes three stories and intertwines them in flawless fashion. Killer (Lai) contemplates the value of his work, and his infatuation with his agent (Reis), who in turn is obsessed with him but knows such a romance could never work. Then there is He (Kaneshiro), a mute man who roams markets and shops late at night, whose relationships with his father and a woman he's fallen for have profound effects on his life.I haven't seen GOLDEN SLUMBER yet, but everyone I've talked to raves about it and says they can't wait to see it again. I have friends with good taste, so that's good enough for me. Friday, July 15th - 12:00pm & Thursday, July 21st - 9:35pm
Gorgeous and lyrical, and quite different from any other Hong Kong film you may have ever seen, FALLEN ANGELS is an instant classic that will take your breath away.
Aoyagi Masaharu (a delightful, likeable Masato Sakai) is having a really bad day. After accepting what he thinks is an invitation to go fishing with an old college friend, Aoyagi soon finds himself to be the lead suspect in the Prime Minister's assassination. Having no choice but to run, he looks to a rag-tag band of friends for aid, including a former lover (Yuko Takeuchi), a pop diva, a hospitalized mobster, and - naturally - a serial killer. Adapting a novel by Kotaro Isaka, filmmaker Yoshihiro Nakamura creates a genre-bending thrill ride that would easily be at home with Hitchcock favorites NORTH BY NORTHWEST and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. With equal parts edge-of-your-seat thrills and quirky humor, GOLDEN SLUMBER will do anything but put you to sleep.I'll defer to Ard for this next one, "By now genre fans know what to expect from director Noboru Iguchi, and those who feared that his newest would be a watered-down version of his usual deranged vision need be afraid no longer. KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR is just as unhinged as Iguchi's other recent output, and while there may be less entrails and blood geysers this time, the overall sense of fun is still there." Friday, July 15th - 11:55pm
A clever hybrid of alternating parody of/homage to the transforming robot programs of decades past, and what must be labeled a kind of Matsumoto-esque social commentary, KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR pulls from such disparate sources as the Power Rangers and BIG MAN JAPAN and melds them together with the mad vision of Director Noboru Iguchi (AFFD 2010 hit ROBOGEISHA).Pang Ho Cheung's LOVE IN A PUFF is the centerpiece film of AFFD 2011, and I can't wait. A few years back the festival showed Isabella, and I was in love with that one as well. Pang Ho Cheung is a director who is not afraid to switch genres, and does it gracefully. From the gory abandon of Exodus and Dream Home, to the zany dark comedy of Men Suddenly in Black and You Shoot, I Shoot, he's confident with his own skills and it translates well onscreen, so come on out an join AFFD for a smoke. Sunday, July 17th - 7:30pm & Tuesday, July 19th - 12:00pm
Yutaka Daimon (Yasuhisa Furuhara) is a young crime-fighting superhero, who works with his best friend Zaborgar, a robot that can turn into a motorbike. Together they battle the evil Dr. Akunomiya, who is extracting the DNA from politicians and scientists to further his life-long project of a massive cyborg creature, with which he plans to rule the world. After a critical battle, the story advances 20 years later, when an older Daimon (Itsuji Itao) must reconnect with the long-absent Zaborgar to continue their work.
LOVE IN A PUFF examines what could have happened when the Hong Kong government drastically tightened indoor smoking laws in 2007, by focusing on a good-natured group of local shopkeepers who meet each day for their regimented smoke breaks. Forced to convene in various spots near their workplaces, Cherie (Miriam Yeung), a Sephora saleswoman, and Jimmy (Shawn Yue), a handsome, younger ad exec, strike up a friendship as they puff away and share stories. While their relationship statuses differ, they are increasingly drawn to each other in short time. This politically incorrect (by American standards) film combines romance, humor and charm, and playful stirs up the thrill of a new love by taking it one pack at a time.Vietnamese film is making a push to go international over the last few years. The high profile action films like The Rebel and Clash may be the easiest to find, but one director making a quieter push is Stephane Gauger. His first feature, The Owl & the Sparrow was a big hit at AFFD 2007, and he's back this year with SAIGON ELECTRIC, a B-Boy drama. I have no interest in B-Boys, but I am very interested in what Stephane Gauger does, and I think you should be, too. Gauger will be in attendance for a Q & A Saturday, July 16th - 1:50pm
SAIGON ELECTRIC is a spirited look into the lives of a group of modern urban youth in Saigon, Vietnam. Mai is a naïve girl who moves to Saigon from a small town, with the dream of studying at the National Dance Academy. She is popular in her town for her traditional ribbon dancing skills, but is quickly outclassed by her hip-hop rivals in the big city. Mai meets Kim, a street-smart teen who is a member of the dance crew Saigon Fresh. They dream of competing abroad in South Korea, but first must beat the national champions out of Hanoi, the intimidating North Killaz. Along the way, Kim's tortured romance with a rich young man jeopardizes her good standing with the dance crew. SAIGON ELECTRIC puts a spotlight on youthful dreams in the face of adversity.I'm going to make this simple. AFFD are showing a 35mm print of SEVEN SAMURAI. Go see it. Sunday, July 17th - 4:50pm
If the AFFD is about emphasizing the power and charm of Asian cinema, director Kurosawa's classic tale must be recognized as a defining element in that overall history. A film that embodies all of the best aspects of modern cinema, from its well-defined characters, utilization of flawless cinematography, and fluid mixture of both broad and intimate drama, SEVEN SAMURAI ultimately epitomizes the concept of the epic film. It's story is a simple one: a village of poor farmers obtain the services of seven out-of-work samurai to protect them from the repeated raids of vicious bandits. As the precursor to so much of Asian cinema, the film has been around long enough to have been viewed in numerous formats. The AFFD is proud to be able to remind its audience of the simple pleasures found in viewing the film on the big screen. This is a rare experience, and those who have never seen it should prepare themselves for an uncanny film from a master filmmaker.And finally, after years of drought, AFFD have booked Takashi Miike's ZEBRAMAN 2: ATTACK ON ZEBRA CITY. AFFD held a members only private screening of the first film several years ago, and I can't wait to see the sequel, which seems to crank up the crazy in the best possible way. For those of us who loved 13 Assassins, but miss the manic Miike of Yatterman and Visitor Q, this one is for you. Saturday, July 16th - 11:15pm
These titles are just the beginning and the ones I'm most excited about, the real joy is the surprises. Every film festival has its surprises, and every year and AFFD I walk away with at least a few that weren't on my radar that are now favorites. So, spend some time with the schedule, and pick something that looks interesting. Even better, clear your schedule for a couple of days and just come hang out at the Magnolia, you'll be a better person by the end of it.
Let's clear up answers to the obvious questions:
No, you don't have to have seen ZEBRAMAN 1 to understand the intricacies of ZEBRAMAN 2.
No, this is not the cruelly, genius-twisted Miike of ICHI THE KILLER and VISITOR Q at play, or the newer, Kurosawa-esque Miike of 13 ASSASSINS. Instead, this is the work of the slicker, fantasy Miike, the guy who directed THE GREAT YOKAI WAR. That said, ZEBRAMAN 2 probably shouldn't be confused as a film for kids. It's not.
Miike's distinct flavor is found even amidst the manga-style of the superhero Zebraman, and the dark future of Zebra City (formerly Tokyo), where each evening for one hour all manner of awful crimes are allowed by the government, while resistance groups are simultaneously eradicated. Zebraman, who suffers from a form of amnesia, must re-discover what happened in the years since his original victory, and work with a rag-tag group of rebels to take back Zebra City.
Brought to AFFD by our good friends at Funimation, we are proud to present our second Midnight presentation: Z2!