Sunday, May 26, 2013

A nightcap essay-Thoughts on the first round of New York Asian Film Festival titles (plus a reminder about the Brooklyn FIlm Festival)

The original plan was to wax poetic on Rob Zombies much maligned LORDS OF SALEM but the release of the first batch of titles at this years New York Asian Film Festival has me instead trying to figure out what I think of the selection and not reworking the Zombie pieces.

As regular readers know, Friday Subway Cinema and The Film Society of Lincoln Center released what appears to be a large portion of the titles for this years New York Asian Film Festival  (The press release can be found here).  For me any news form the festival is one of the few times where I stop what I'm doing at the day job and begin to post from the office- basically this means cutting and pasting the press release into Unseen and then running off a copy for myself so I can make plans for the festival. However this year the announcement came just as all hell was breaking loose in the office so all I really got to do was post the press release and glance at the list.

As I write this some 24 hours after the release of the titles and probably 18 hours since I sat down to look at the list I'm trying to figure out what I feel. Allowing that the the opening night film and other titles haven't been announced I'm  not sure if it's fair to contemplate whether this is going to be a good year or a great year.

I know the festival is showing several films I've seen before. The two most important ones are:

 THE BULLET VANISHES played theaters last year and is a kick ass murder mystery. I've seen it in a theater when it played last year thanks to China Lion and I've seen it on import DVD. Depending on when it plays at the festival I will happily see it again.

Last year right before the festival I ran a review of AN INACCURATE MEMOIR where I expressed disappointment that the great film wasn't at the festival. Well it's playing this year so I can at last see it on the big screen. A kick ass action film about Chinese rebels taking on the Japanese  oppressors in occupied China, the film operates as a form of American "good guys kick ass and don't get hurt" film until it flips the whole thing at the end and reveals that people die in war and heroes and glorious deeds are only made in inaccurate memoirs. Its an absolute MUST see at the festival.

Looking further at the list of films I find it an odd collection of films.

There are two Ip Man films -THE LEGEND IS BORN and IP MAN THE FINAL FIGHT. both by Herman Yau.  The question is will there be a third Ip Man film and will we see THE GRANDMASTER? I don't know

While there are several films from major directors Sion Sono's BAD FILM and Takashi Miike's LESSON OF EVIL and Johnnie To's DRUG WAR there are still several big films from big directors floating around in particular Stephen Chow's JOURNEY TO THE WEST, the aforementioned GRANDMASTER and Miike's GRASS SHIELD (Which my spies tell me is very good).

To be fair its hard to guess the Japanese films at NYAFF since Japan Cuts tends to absorb many of those...and if you're paying attention there haven't been that many Japanese titles listed.

Almost completely missing are films from Korea. There is only one.CONFESSIONS OF MURDER so I'm guessing there will be plenty more to come since the festival has great taste in Korean films.

There are plenty of older titles from Taiwan and Hong Kong listed, many tying into the Taiwan Black Films that seem to be a side bar. And while these films are important to the festival you know that most will only get a single screening which leaves lots of room for other films (actually 22 titles have been announced and the festival usually runs about 44 so I'm guessing 22 more titles are coming). The article in this weeks Village Voice mentions that there is going to be a some recent films from the Philippines and a special 40th anniversary screening of ENTER THE DRAGON.

The other thing almost completely missing are the guests. Yes we have Herman Yau, Dada Chan, Andrew Lau, Tsai Yang-ming but who else is coming? I was told several months back that the guest list for this years festival was going to be insane- and outside of Jackie Chan- this years festival isn't quite insane- yet.

I'm guessing that the best is yet to come. I'm guessing that the list of films here is just the tip of the iceberg- as I said above they have announced 22 films and the last few years they ran around 44 which means more is coming...  I have no idea what the guys and girls at Subway Cinema have planned, but they certainly have my attention...

You need to be aware that the Brooklyn Film Festival starts at the end of the week and is worth the effort to schlep to the theaters.

I want to point out that you will want to make an effort to see HANK AND ASHA  a charming long distance romance that has completely won my heart.(A full review will run at the end of the week.).

Details and tickets for the whole festival can be found here.

We've got a couple of reviews in the chute and I hope to get some coverage on the ground.
This week's films all come from the Warner Archive.
And the week after I'll be presenting reviews of several films from Lincoln Center's Open Roads New Italian Cinema (There are some winners).

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