After digesting a good amount of films presented at the NYAFF so far, I realize there are some thoughts that slipped through the cracks which I want to put out there before moving on to another round of movies.
Sell Out contains several musical numbers. They are quite clever and I found myself remembering and even humming along to one of the tunes two nights after watching the film. It isn’t one that is highlighted at Subway Cinema, but a rather more dramatic one, which is still hilarious) sung by the obviously talented female female leade who plays Rafflesia. The songs are not fleshed out with multi-instrument symphonies. They are basically karaoke numbers, which goes along with the theme of Malaysia having a strange blend of pan-Asian influences.
There is also a witty call for audience participation within the film, which didn’t get a rise out of the more reserved opening night screening. I hope the audience is more lively during the second screening and sings along when it’s time.
(SELL OUT Plays again TODAY, July 4, at 3:30)
It may or may not be due to watching the brilliant documentary on exploitation films from the ‘70s, Machete Maidens Unleashed (which was already screened at the festival, but I’ve got to believe will show up again in small theaters or on dvd) but the low budget violent exploitation films of both past and present are shining brightly amongst the selections. That film showed the ingenuity and madcap passion involved in making fantastic visions come to life with a limited budget. The motives were sometimes pure and other times merely attempts at turning a buck at the box office. But the results are consistently haw dropping.
Of course Raw Force, made in the same time period, was an audience hit. It didn’t only make the audience laugh in derision. There were scenes of inspired special effects trickery combined with martial arts prowess that dropped viewers’ jaws. Horny House of Horror has more in common with those early exploitation films than I had at first considered. Shot with a modest amount of funding and large percentage of shocking action taking up its short running time. Many similar movies have filled the direct to dvd or video market in Japan before, but Nishimura and company found ways to make the gore strike a new nerve. This is also an interesting film because like those movies in the 70’s that appeal to the (mostly male) audience’s base interests, it can be said that the female characters are far from submissive. Machetes pale in comparison to the way these girls strike out. There is one very telling scene where the unsuspecting guys are being titillated by the girls, but cannot see that the girls they are ogling are in fact rolling their eyes, reveling in their vulgar position, and planning their sinister strike.
The Wu Xia film Duel to the Death, while a much more serious affair than those two other movies, still wowed fans watching the classic again and for the first time alike. It cannot be seen again at the festival, but three more films from the same era will be shown and promise to thrill their audiences.
All of those films’ screenings had something in common that did not happen at many of the others: they brought the audience to MULTIPLE bouts of applause throughout the film. These are movies to be enjoyed in a group of people and evoke a reaction. It might be just a coincidence that this year is New York Asian Film Festival’s tenth anniversary and Subway Cinema wants to bring these old school classics back accordingly. But it sure does serve as a perfect reaction to the times, where CGI fests and 3D monstrosities are all the rage. You can see a preview for a big budget blockbuster like Thor and say, “wow, look at all the money they spent on that. I probably CAN guess what is going to happen. And I don’t care all that much.”
Here are some movies you can still see at the NYAFF that are the perfect counter:
ALL of the Wu Xia films:
Zu: Warrirors From the Magic Mountain
Horny House of Horror will receive another screening.
The Story of RickY: Riki Oh promises plenty of outlandish violence and old school martial arts action.
Versus: Not one of my favorite films, but filled with mind blowing action sequences made on a shoestring budget.
Yakuza Weapon: Released by Sushi Typhoon, committed to delivering over the top violence without worrying about the art.