International Chinese Film Festival Enlightens Melbourne

The burgeoning International Chinese Film Festival (formerly Sydney Chinese Film Festival) is still growing and facing teething problems but the opportunity to flourish in Australia is one that cannot be ignored. Luckily, in its fourth year the festival has expanded its reach yet again to include Melbourne in its competition and exhibitor film lineup, and festival director Lanwei Gong has certainly chosen some interesting and diverse picks to amuse, horrify and intrigue viewers both adept and new to mostly mainland Chinese films.

Fresh from the gala opening at the Venice film festival and subsequently TIFF comes Hur Jin-ho's Dangerous Liaisons, boasting an impressive cast including Zhang Ziyi and Cecilia Cheung, and retelling the classic French tale in a period 1930's Shanghai setting. Oozing with sexuality and sumptuous set pieces, this film is a wonderfully guilty pleasure as most actors chew the scenery and revel in the melodrama.

Strangely, this sought after film is not included in the competition section. That includes titles both old and new, renowned and relatively unheard of. Included in this eclectic lineup is My Yan Ming's Days a low budget indie about a woman who returns to her hometown, a melancholic trip that revolves around a stunning lake. Other highlights of the competition section include Peter Chan's sword sleuther Wu Xia (Swordsmen), Taiwanese child odyssey Starry Starry Night and on the other side of the coin intensely graphic historical war tale Seediq Bale, Manchuria-set action with Guns N' Roses, the high production value and stunning Painted Skin 2, which broke box office records in China, and finally Sydney based drama with Guy Pearce in 33 Postcards.

Outside of the competition scope films include the tragic A Beautiful Life with Shu Qi playing a damaged character who falls in love with an equally broken man amidst major turmoil. Also included is Happy Hotel, a black comedy ensemble piece about some deranged characters whose lives intersect during a stay at a hotel. Most intriguing however is the Mask of Love. This horror story about a woman who is forbidden to open a door in her boyfriend's abode sounds extremely twisted and not at all what I would expect from mainland cinema, should be a treat!

The festival plays Melbourne from September 30 until October 7. The website is not very helpful, but a schedule can be found here.
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