First things first- I can't hope to match Mondocurray's multimedia posts-so I'm not going to try. He wins. To that end I'm just going to straight reporting.
Second Mondocurry is attempting to do the impossible by blogging about films and food at the same time. He's got a new food blog with eating choices for the NYAFF. It can be found here.
I was supposed to go to the press conference for Milocroze, the Star Asia Award and the film festival last night but life got in the way. It happens, I'm just glad it's not my back going out.
The day began on an up note. I met Pat, one of Mondocurry's friends, in the manner I tend to meet many famous people (Eric Idle, Mike Nichols, Brian Cox, Annie Golden amongst others) and began a two movie long conversation with him. He is a charming individual who is well versed in Asian cinema and if I can manage it I 'm going to have him scribble a few words about the film festival before its all over.
First up today was the Thai film BKO:Bangkok Knockout. We were told that the film is one that is plot optional and they were right. The plot stops about twenty minutes in and we're left with an eighty minute fight scene. If you want plot skip this film. If you want full out balls to the wall action of the martial arts and fist fight variety this is your film.
The plot such as it is has a fight/stunt club get into a competition to go to Hollywood to work on a movie. While celebrating the win they are all drugged and find themselves with their cars gone and one of their number kidnapped. Chasing the villains they find themselves trapped in an old factory where they will have to fight their way to rescue the girl, while they are filmed by gamblers who are betting on the out come of their fights.
High art? Hell no.
It's a 105 minute movie where most of them involve people hitting each other, and it wears you out. I was exhausted by the end of the film and ready for a nap. It's a good film but I felt brutalized and I wanted to go home...
...but after BKO there was two more movies for me. Pat was staying and we were eventually joined by Monocurray who was running late.
Punished is a Johnnie To produced film by one of the directors who worked on his neat little PTU series (reviews of the entire series will be coming). The film stars the amazing Anthony Wong.
The plot of the film has the drug addicted daughter of developer Wong being kidnapped. Wong thinking that his daughter was staging the kidnapping for her own gain, follows the instructions and pays the money. Sadly things go horribly wrong and Wong's daughter dies. Wong, heartbroken, lives up to the his word and goes after the kidnappers.
Forget what you think, this film spins out and around and back all through the events in such away that it constantly is changing before your eyes.
First up is Anthony Wong, who plays a part that is to a large degree bluster and icy confusion. He's a man who seems to have it all under control, but as events spin out it's clear he doesn't. It's a performance that is unlike almost anything you've sen from him, especially if you have only seen him in action films. Its a well measured and heart breaking. The final shots of him brought a tear to my eye.
Next, and most importantly, the film is about more than just revenge. Sure it has echoes of films like Taken or anything similar. Actually the film is more about the cost of revenge. It asks what does it do to not only to the people seeking revenge but to everyone around them? The answer is not a pretty one, and you question who is being punished.
The film also asks lots of questions about the roles of fathers in the lives of their children, and leaves us to ponder what is best for our children. I'm not a dad but it made me think.
It's a complex film that is at it's heart just a really good story. Sure it takes a little while to click thanks to it's looping narrative, but basically it's the sort of dark revenge tale that Hong Kong used to do so well about a decade and a half ago...with a layer or two od heady questions that you can ignore if you want.
I really liked it, and it's the sort of film I can't wait to see again in the future.(and when I do I want to write the film up properly)
When the film was done Mondo and Pat left me and I was all alone for the complete version of Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins.
Before the film they gave away a box of DVDs and Blurays of the film. I did not get one which is good since I have the film on order.
The film was introduced by Takayuki Yamada, winner of the Star Asia award. He spoke about working with Miike and about his training for the film. I was not prepared for his long answers and so I'm going to leave you to find it on You Tube. I will say that he seemed to be a nice and self effacing gentleman. Having seen a good number of films with Yamada recently I regret not getting a chance to interview him.
I am not going review the film for a 3rd time. You know how I feel about the film (I love it) the real question is how does the longer version compare to the theatrical version. (And I'm sorry if this is not perfect, but I'm going to try and talk about the differences with out revealing too much plot for those who haven't seen the film)
In all honesty, except for two cut sequences that should have stayed cut (the food mush and the brothel sequences) the film is several notches better.
Most of the changes in the film seem to be in small shots and additional lines. Yes there are a few additional sequences, but most of the new material is in the lengthening of material already there. For example the sequence where the assassins sit around the map and try to work out the course their prey will take is longer and it is a vast improvement since it adds motivation. Another lengthened sequence is the the one where the villain shoots the tied up family. I can't believe they cut a bit at the end of it where the end of the Shogunate is discussed since it subtly alters the object of our hate in such away that you realize that there is more to him then we thought. Actually almost every addition is better.
I could be wrong but I also think the film is also different in the choice of shots and editing of even intact sequences. Almost every bit of the film seems to have a differing pace and rhythm to it. I would love to sit down and compare the two films side by side. (I won't go into the differences in the translation which seems to be different in a couple of sequences)
I'm floored. I was planning on leaving during the final battle but I was sucked in all over again; this despite knowing what was going to happen thanks to having seen it a couple of times before. (I think there were some tweeks even in the battle as well).
If there is anything wrong with this longer version it's one sequence involving food as a symbol of chaos (it's just goes over ground we've covered), and the, apparently, infamous brothel sequence, which involves the sexual prowess of the 13th assassin. This second sequence is just out of character with the rest of the film, especially at the time it happens. (An earlier new "silly" sequence on the road isn't bad or out of character and actually sets up something at the end of the film that previously seemed like a WTF moment)
Sadly this longer version also doesn't really fill in any real background on the majority of the anonymous assassins. I know that some people have complained that we don't know some of our heroes, and aside from a few stray lines which fill in some bits, that's still the case. (Though in the defense of the film, in this cut there is no sense that there was any place to put that material in except as the odd line)
I really like this film a great deal. I still think it's one of the best films of the year. I also think that this longer version is even better than the International Version.
By the way, Marc from Subway Cinema said The International Version was cut by Miike and the producers for screening everywhere outside of Japan and not Magnet/Magnolia or anyone else. The decision to show a shorter version was made before the film ever left it's home country.
The DVD and Blu-Ray copies that are being released Tuesday the 5th of July in the US are the International Cut. The deleted scenes are included as extras but I don't think you'll really get a real sense of the differences since the real changes are not in whole sequences or extended sequences but in additional lines and differing shot choices. We need to hope for a real release down the road.
As the film ended I headed out and went home, pausing to answer some tweets and some phone calls.
It was a good day.... and I get to do it all over again tomorrow with A Boy and His Samurai, Duel to the Death and Karate-Robo Zaborgar.