HKIFF 2012: Day 1 Dim Sum Reviews: Pang Ho Cheung, Koreeda, Black's Game & more

James Marsh, Asian Editor
The 36th Hong Kong International Film Festival is now well underway and over the next two weeks I shall be bounding enthusiastically around the city (to begin with at least), trying to cram in as many cinematic delights from around the world as possible. While HKIFF has its fair share of world and international premieres it also serves as a great platform from which to play catch-up on the very best Arthouse films from the past 12 months. This is great for the people of Hong Kong, where we must survive without legal streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu from which to bolster the city's eclectic and haphazard release schedule, but it does mean that many of the films I'll be covering may have played a festival near you or even enjoyed a theatrical run in your territory already. It also means that many of the films may have been covered previously here at Twitch.

As a result, my plan here is to cover what I am watching in as economical a way as possible. After each day I shall present capsule reviews - or dim sum reviews, if you will - of what I watched and what I thought, together with a link to full reviews located elsewhere on these pages, either written by me or my colleagues, for your further reading pleasure!

So without further ado:

Opening Night (21 March):


Love In The Buff (dir. Pang Ho Cheung, Hong Kong/China)

Kicking things off in fine style, Pang Ho Cheung returns to the central protagonists of his surprise 2010 hit Love In A Puff with this equally crude, insightful and extremely funny romantic comedy that reunites Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue in Beijing.

Now on to Day 1 proper (22 March):


Vulgaria (dir. Pang Ho Cheung, Hong Kong)

Yes you are reading this right. Pang is debuting two new films at this year's festival and the better news is that they're both great! Unlike Buff, however, Vulgaria is a full-on Category III tirade of smutty sex jokes and incisive satire on the local film industry and Hong Kong as a whole. Chapman To stars with a donkey. What else do you need to know?


Alois Nebel (dir. Tomas Lunak, Czech Republic)

Using a similar rotoscoping technique to that which helped bring Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir to the screen, Lunak uses a stark black and white palette to tell a frost bitten, hard fought tale of revenge and retribution in the isolated snow covered Czech countryside following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. A solitary stationmaster is pulled into the life of an escaped convict when he seeks refuge at a remote railway outpost, digging up decades of long-buried anguish in the process. A challenging yet gorgeously realized anime noir.


I Wish (dir. Hirokazu Kore'eda, Japan)

An absolute delight from start to finish, this tale of two young brothers struggling to reunite their separated parents (Nene Otsuka and Jo Odagiri) bets everything on its young cast, who deliver in impeccable style. There's no loss of innocence here, but rather an affirmation that childhood enthusiasm has an important place in the adult world and can often succeed where grown ups fail. Wonderful.


Black's Game (dir. Oskar Thor Axelsson, Iceland)

Based on true events, this thrilling tale of a young man's Faustian seduction by a gang of ambitious local drug dealers may tread familiar genre territory but wears its Scorsese and Coppola influences proudly on its sleeve. In doing so, Axelsson paints a ferocious yet consistently entertaining picture of life in one of Europe's most isolated and least populated countries.

Come back tomorrow for more bite-size highlights of Day 2!
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