Friday, May 31, 2013

Hank and Asha (2013)Brooklyn FIlm Festival 2013

A couple falls in love. He's an American Filmmaker. She's Indian living in Prague. She tracks him down after seeing his film at a film festival there. They converse back and forth over the Internet and become closer and closer than they ever imagined...but do they dare meet in person?

Sweet little film tells its story completely in video letters between the two characters. It charts the course from the first time that Asha contacts Hank to say how much she liked a short film of his that she saw in a film festival through the end of the film (what that I'll leave for you to find out). The film really has no other on screen characters other than the pair except for the people who wander in and out of what ever the locations one of the pair is filming (There are other characters we get to know but never meet since they are mentioned in the letters).

The limited factor of video letters could have been deadly but the film scores major points in that Andrew Pastides as Hank and Mahira Kakkar as Asha are so good at what they do that any of the reservations I have about the film are swept away. Actually the real star here is Kakkar who makes Asha the girl I think most people I know would want to date. (To be honest Pastides is probably just as good but there is something a tad more friendly about Kakkar that makes me put her a half step up)


If there is any flaw in the film is that it’s simply video and handwritten letters. One would have thought that the pair would have spoken on the phone or Skyped. If they do we never see it. There is of course nothing wrong with the film not using it, but it’s the only thing that kind of made no sense to me.

One of the things that the film gets right is that the film runs as long as it needs to tell the story and gets off. Running a scant 73 minutes the film takes the story as far as it can be taken and then ends. It doesn’t extend things or add things it just does what it has to do and gets off. I love that since we have a nice tightly packed tale with no fluff. Its a perfect package of a pretty much perfect film as a result

This film is a treasure. Its one of the small gems that I wanted to highlight when I started Unseen.

This is one of those films that is best to see first and then talk about.This is a delicate flower of a film. It’s a film that I could easily wax poetic about in great detail, but I don’t want to do that.  Like a flower I can describe a flower and explain to what it is and how beautiful it is, but at the same time until you actually see it you can’t understand how wonderful it is. Like a flower I can explain the colors, the scent and the shading and the arrangement of petals but you won’t see how it all fits together until you actually see how it all fits together. You need to see how it all fits together.


Trust me on this, this is one of those films that you’ll want to run out and see when it plays at the Brooklyn Film Festival tomorrow at 5 at Windmill Studios and on the 8th at 8PM at Indescreen...

Rio Rita (1942)

This is a kind of, sort of remake of a Wheeler and Woolsey musical from 1929 that was based on huge Ziegfeld produced Broadway musical. That version had something to do about bandits at a border town and romance and a technicolor ending. It was a film that once ran two and a half hours but then got trimmed and lost and has become a Hollywood legend.  Here we have Abbott and Costello as two guys who end up at a resort ranch and kind of tangle with Tom Conway as a Nazi spy while the owner of the ranch falls for a big singer in about 90minutes and isn't quite a legend.

Lets cut to the chase. This is a very scattershot film that is more a collection of set pieces in a rough frame work that only really kind of come together in the final twenty minutes. Its funny and the music is good but it's not a complete film. I do enjoy it but I don't love it and after seeing it again  for the first time in decades I understand why I never really remembered it.

The problem with the film is that they took the rough outline of the source material, hacked out the guts and them filled it with four things that don't go together: The Nazi spy story, which goes nowhere for most of the film, the music which is really good but seems to have been shoe horned in in a few places, the romance which is fine, but doesn't get enough coverage, and the Abbott and Costello bits, which are really good but are set pieces not connected to anything (hell the pair don't even have real characters).

Watching the film I felt adrift as if I was was watching a rough cut of a longer film. I was enjoying the bits such as the car on the lift, the 20 too scene, the game show but I kept wishing that the scenes really connected to a story, I mean why introduce the spies at the top if you're going to ignore them for over an hour?.

I like the film, hell I'm taking the time to review it, but at the same time it's a lesser Abbott and Costello film. It's worth seeing but I completely understand why it's been ignored.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shadow Dancer (2012)

Solid thriller creates tension from the minute is starts with a wicked prolog that explains why our heroine does what she does. The tension continues all the way to the final fade out as was demonstrated by the writer sitting in front of me at a press screening who literally leapt out of his seat screaming and tossing his papers at a certain event (the theater was full of papers when the film ended)

The plot follows Collette who is caught placing a bomb in a London subway for the IRA. Told by Mac (Clive Owen) that if she doesn’t cooperate she would probably never see her son again she agrees and is thrown back into the wolves den. However things go instantly pear shaped as the IRA begin looking for a traitor when an assassination goes wrong. As Collette tries to throw off her pursuers Mac tries to find out why his new asset is being left out in the cold.

This is a great small scale thriller that grabs from the first instant and keeps you wrapped tight all the way until the end. It’s one of those great thrillers where you don’t know who to trust because it’s clear from the start even your family might be against you.

Don’t look for a deep political discussion, the politics are secondary to just telling a damn good story. This is one of those small scale gems you’ll want to put on when you want to curl up on the couch and just watch something on a rainy Saturday night with a big bowl of popcorn.

(And if you want to know how good it is, someone at the press screening I attended had seen the film before and came to see it again because she liked it so much)

Lisztomania (1975) haunts me

I still don't think I've ever known what to make of Ken Russell's Lisztomania. Made after Tommy Russell was given seeming free reign to make a film that likened Franz Liszt to a rock star. It was filled with huge gaudy sets, musical numbers and flights of fantasy that took things even farther from the just left of reality world the film operated in.

I've seen the film a couple of times over the years, mostly in bits and pieces on cable TV but never paid it much mind. When the Warner achieve put the film out recently I jumped at the chance to see a good widescreen copy of the film.

Seeing the film for the first time in years I was struck by several things.

First I completely understood why so many critics crucified the film. Its an endurance test at times, with much of the first half hour deadly dull as Liszt plays the piano and tries to pick up women at a concert. Its truly awful...and if you don't like the over the top insanity that is hinted at in those scenes, you're going to hate the full on madness that follows.

Second- the films flights of fantasy including the musical numbers are brilliant. As tasteless as the giant penis sequence is, it's also wonderfully weird and one can imagine something similar had Busby Berkley been allowed to do what ever he wanted.

Third there are genuinely powerful moments in the film.The war song that Daltry sings kicks serious ass even if it belongs in another film.

To be perfectly honest this film is a complete and utter mess. It only works in fits and starts and it's so off base and off color one can't help but wonder how the hell it ever escaped from a major studio. By any and all sense of wisdom the film should be considered bad... and yet....the freaking thing haunts me.

I hate this film in a lot of ways and yet I keep returning to it. I love that it challenges me to take a stand in ways that no other film does. The film kind of sort of dances around actually offending me, I mean how can a brilliant man like Russell make such a piece of crap like this (Then again he made that awful House of Usher film). How is that Russell lays all that went wrong with Germany at the feet of Wagner? It's not that simple and Russell's reading of events and history is wildly off base,more so than many fringe historians.  Yes I know the film is a fantasia on Liszt and his times but damn what was going on in Russell's head? It reminds me of his truly awful Fall of the Louse of Usher where it's a stream of consciousness series of things that no one ever checked to see if they were any good.

Watching the film on the Warner Archive disc I find I still don't know what to make of it. Its not good, its not bad, it's something that forces me to wrestle with it over and over again. It's a film that challenges me on almost every level--which, if great cinema forces us to interact with it means that it's very probably a great film.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Snow Devils (1967)


As many people have recently discovered, the ice caps are melting, what they may not know is its due to the rays of yetis from space who want to take over our world.

Yea Snow Devils is one of those weird Italian space sagas from the 1960’s. This one is from Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony Dawson and it was recently unleashed upon an unsuspecting world by the Warner Archive. I don’t know whether to smack them or kiss them, perhaps a little of both.

More a party film than something you’d want to watch straight on its own terms, this is grand Euro-space opera of the silly kind. Typical of this sort of thing is a weird mix of futuristic and present day with the space ships having what look like supped up plane controls. You have futuristic cars in the foreground and modern cars in the back. The supersonic planes are the height of 1960’s technology. The yetis seem to have traveled to earth with technology that is best described as 1930’s Frankenstein’s lab. It’s a mess.

Actually the whole film is a mess, but at the same time it has charming retro qualities to it. There is an innocence to it all that you can’t help but love.

Until the Warner release I had never run across the film and I really couldn’t understand why until I saw the film. I think the problem the film has fallen into a kind of obscurity is that the film is a kind of a tease, we’re promised yetis, we’re promised monsters and instead what we get is just furry blue people who don’t do a hell of a lot. They skulk around, briefly capture a couple of our heroes but other than that they don’t do anything. And outside of the opening moments really don’t pose a threat…except if you don’t like blue hairy people. Thinking about the film I realize I really like it, except that the villains are such a huge let down they kind of sink the film.

Still if you ignore the yetis this isn’t a bad movie, especially if you are watching it with friends and drinks and things.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Avalanche Express (1979) (revised)


Final film of both director Mark Robson ( Monte Hellman had to be brought in to finish the film) and Robert Shaw (necessitating his whole role be dubbed over) is a very uneven affair. How much the death affected the final film is hard to say.

The plot of the film has Soviet agent Robert Shaw defecting. He's in charge of some new Soviet spy program and feels its time to go since the fact he's been feeding information to the West has been discovered. Before being flown to safety by American agent Lee Marvin Shaw comes up with a plan to wipe out the spy network of Maximilian Schell, his nemesis and the man respomsible setting assassins on his tail. The plan is to take the Avalanche Express train across Europe and let Schell's men come after them...and come after them they do in three big action set pieces.

An attempt at an old school spy thriller on the order of an Alistair McLean novel, the film is a mixed affair. The train effects by John Dykstra, who did Star Wars, are a mixed affair  that look like a model train on a table top setting during the avalanche sequence. The bad guys seem more silly than threatening, though their fire power is impressive, and the set pieces are nicely staged.

The real problem with the film is the script. I don't know what problems the film went through with the death of it's producer/director and it's star but the film frequently feels like there was supposed to have more meat to this story. There seems to to be vast amounts of back story not mentioned that should be. Don't ask me what it is I don't know, but something is missing.

I kind of can understand why the film was critially crucified when it came out. I remember reading and seeing the most awful reviews. The reviews were so bad that I stayed away from the film sincewhen it came out for that very reason. Ewcently I read some good reviews so I figured I'd give it a try.

Seeing the film I was amused. I had a good time, It's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great film, but it is an good one. It's one of those non-taxing on you put on and just watch because you don't have to do anything with it.  I like it enough to realize I will happily watch it again on some rainy afternoon.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978) (revised)


I recently popped in my copy of Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe from the Warner Archive into my DVD player. I hadn’t seen the film in a few years and it was so nice to be able to ditch my well-loved videotape.

Written by legendary writer Peter Stone, the film tells the story of the murders of the best chefs in Europe, all favorites of gourmand Robert Morley. Into the mix comes Jacqueline Bisset as a pastry chef who might be on the list and George Segal as her husband a brash American business man for opening obnoxiously popular restaurants.

The mystery is clever enough so as not to be obvious the first time through, the dialog is very witty and the cast is spot on. Not only does it boast Segal, Bisset and Morley but also Jean Pierre Cassel, Phillipe Noiret, Jean Rochforte,PeterSallis, and Joss Ackland all of who are great fun to watch as the super egotistical chefs, one of whom stages a fake murder attempt just so he’ll be considered part of the great chef club.

I’ve loved this film from the time I saw it way back in 1978. It was one of those films that I’d watch every time it showed up on cable. It’s one of those breezy romantic comedies that are mixed with murder that they don’t do any more. Its one of those films that is perfect for curling up on a couch and just letting the world fall away. I saw the film the night after the heavy Soviet film Letters From a Dead Man and I realized that anything short of popcorn from the brain wasn’t going to cut it. I popped this in and lifted my spirits and cleared away the gloom that had hung over me for over the previous 24 hours.

If you want to something entertaining and completely non taxing see this film.

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...

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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.
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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).

Gods and Generals (2003)----well part of it

After the financial and critical success of Gettysburg, it was decided to go back and film the two novels that bookended the once standalone book. They began with the first book and the series and promptly killed any chance of the Last Full Measure ever being filmed (now that is a book that would make a great film).

Gods and Generals tells the story of the events of the civil war that leads up Gettysburg. The book includes many of the characters who are given full flower in the first film (I’ll come back to them). Unfortunately the film largely focuses Stephen Lang as Stonewall Jackson. Lang’s performance is excellent. Based on what I’ve read of Jackson Lang nails it…which is a bad thing since Jackson was more than a bit crazy and incredibly difficult to deal with. I know it could be a chore to be in the presence of Jackson but who in their right mind thought we’d actually want to spend the better part of 4 hours watching him?

Oh yea JeffreySharra who wrote the book did. I read the book and while I liked it better than the movie, I found the portions of the book with Jackson a chore to get through. I didn’t like him and I didn’t care what happened to him. Simply put Jackson was a nut job and the inability of movie audiences to connect with him is what made this film tank at the box office and drove the majority of people at the screening I attended to the exits.

Fortunately the film is available on home video and if you liked Gettysburg and have your remote ready I think you might want to try the film on DVD. What I’m suggesting is that you scan past all of the Stonewall Jackson parts and just watch everything else. I say this because Jeff Daniels reprises his role as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Daniels is amazing and the scenes he are in are wonderful and show signs of what the film could have and should have been.

Actually what they should have done was filmed the last book, the Last Full Measure about the end of the war since Chamberlain is the primary focus of that book.

While Gods and Generals is largely a crappy film there are some good bits in it and if you’re willing to scan past the crap you might enjoy seeing the bits that work.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gettysburg (1993)


Shot as a miniseries for cable the film was released to theaters and shocked many in Hollywood with its critical reception and the fact the film actually made money when it was released to theaters, despite having over a four hour running time. No one thought that a recreation of a civil war battle with people and silly facial hair would make be a hit.

Based on Michael Shaara’s classic recounting of the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, The film focuses on various people who's lives crashed together in the Pennsylvania town over the first few days of July in 1863.

The strength of the film is not the battle scenes. They are there but they often feel rather bloodless. The strength of the film is in it's characters and in it's performances. Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is kind of the center of the film with his good man trying to do whats right acting as kind of moral compass for the film. His interaction with C Thomas Howell and Kevin Conway as Kilrain nicely put the human story into context. Stephen Lang is a wonderful Pickett, who's soul is crushed by the failure of the charge that bears his name, Sam Elliot's General Buford, the man who essentially picks the battlefield, may disappear after the first hour but he's a strong presence through out.

When I first saw the film back in 1993 it was in a theater packed with people. Everyone was there not because it was a war film, rather because they had heard it was a good film. There was some sort of mystique bout the film that filled the theater. Word had gotten out and people were going.

When the film came out on laser disc I picked up a copy and proceeded to watch it over and over again, as I said above, it was the characters that stayed with you.

This is one of the truly great war films, not because it is all about battles, rather because it's about people and why, sometimes we have to fight the good fight.

A must see

Friday, May 24, 2013

THE NYAFF 2013 PRESS RELEASE

FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER and SUBWAY CINEMA
in association with Japan Society
announce Jay Chou’s THE ROOFTOP as the Closing Night selection
and salutes to Hong Kong Cinema, Taiwan Pulp and Well Go USA
for THE 12th NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

June 28 – July 15, 2013

Inline image 1

New York, NY, May 24, 2013 - The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema in association with Japan Society has announced today that Jay Chou’s THE ROOFTOP has been selected as the Closing Night presentation of the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival. Also announced were 22 additional titles, including several notable premieres, highly anticipated titles and salutes to Hong Kong Cinema, Taiwan Pulp and the Well Go USA distribution company. The 12th edition of The New York Asian Film Festival will take place June 28 – July 15, with screenings at The Film Society of Lincoln Center (June 28 – July 11), Japan Society (July 11 – 14) and Asia Society (July 15).

Chou’s THE ROOFTOP will make its North American Premiere as the Closing Night selection for NYAFF. Shot on location in Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai, Cho’s second film behind the camera, following SECRET (2007) is a romance combining elements of martial arts and special effects in a musical extravaganza. The film stars Chou with Eric Tsang, Wand Xueqi and Alan Ko in a story set in a fantasy world comprised of two distinctly contrasting communities and lifestyles. One group lives on rooftops, where they dance and sing, passing their days without a care in the world, while below them are the people living under the rooftops, who possess more money and power. Chou has described the film as the first in a new genre, “A musical action movie, (where) love is the main axis, combining fantasy, romance, dancing, action, special effects and many other elements, so that there will be romantic scenes and classical taste.” Chou also wrote ten songs for the film’s soundtrack.

Highlights include the North American premieres of Sion Sono’s and Tokyo GAGAGA’s long awaited sci-fi gang war epic, BAD FILM, Hideo Nakata’s chilling descent into a much darker family drama with THE COMPLEX, Nattawat Poonpiriya’s COUNTDOWN, about a deadly New Year’s Eve outing, Takashi Miike’s return to blood and guts with LESSON TO THE EVIL, and the latest entry in the popular Ip Man series, IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT, with director Herman Yau in attendance. Mika Ninagawa’s HELTER SKELTER, a horror film dealing with celebrities and plastic surgery, will make its New York debut, and Andrew Lau will be on hand to present the first two films from his YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series.


NYAFF has also announced three planned focuses for this year’s edition of the popular festival: Hong Kong Cinema Now & Beyond!; Taiwan Pulp! – Tales of Gangsters, Female Avengers and Ninjas!; and a spotlight on distributor Well Go USA.


HONG KONG CINEMA NOW & BEYOND!
in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York (HKETONY)

The standard-bearer for Hong Kong in New York City, and a longtime friend and supporter of the New York Asian Film Festival, HKETONY has helped make it possible for NYAFF to bring film legends and icons like Sammo Hung, Tsui Hark, Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and many more to New York, year after year. Therefore, on the occasion of HKETONY’s 30th anniversary, the festival will present new and exciting Hong Kong produced titles including: THE BULLET VANISHES, COLD WAR, DRUG WAR, HARDCORE COMEDY, IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT, THE LAST TYCOON, and THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN


TAIWAN PULP! - TALES OF GANGSTERS, FEMALE AVENGERS, AND NINJAS!

Presented with the support of the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York, this special section takes as its focus Taiwan’s Black Movies - exploitation films that flooded the market from 1979 to 1983. Dealing with serious social issues for the first time, this geyser of 117 movies was notable for its sexual explicitness and extreme violence. Largely forgotten, only a relative handful of these movies survive. NYAFF will present a line-up including: CHALLENGE OF THE LADY NINJA, THE LADY AVENGER, A LIFE OF NINJA, NEVER TOO LATE TOO REPENT, WOMAN REVENGER and the documentary TAIWAN BLACK MOVIES.


WELL GO USA SPOTLIGHT

Well respected within the industry and by connoisseurs of Asian movies, Well Go USA transformed itself from a video company specializing in exercise videos into, arguably, the finest distributor of Asian cinema in America. Titles from this Texas-based, family-owned company can be found throughout NYAFF (including the Closing Night selection THE ROOFTOP, DRUG WAR, IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT and THE LAST TYCOON. Additional titles from Well Go USA’s seemingly never-ending collection of great and entertaining films will include: CONFESSION OF MURDER and AN INACCURATE MEMOIR.


NYAFF is deeply grateful for the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York, the Korean Cultural Service New York and the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York, as well as the following sponsors: The Kitano Hotel, Digital Media Rights, YesAsia.com, the Anthology Film Archives, Manhattan Portage, Well Go USA, Epic Proportions, Film Business Asia.

Keep up with the latest festival news at: www.facebook.com/NYAFF, www.subwaycinema.com, twitter: @subwaycinema (#NYAFF13)

Tickets for the New York Asian Film Festival will go on sale to Film Society Members on Tuesday, June 4 and to the general public on Thursday, June 13. Single screening tickets are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society members. A three-film package is $30; $24 for students and seniors (62+); and $21 for Film Society members. Discount prices apply with the purchase of tickets to three films or more. Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete film festival information.

Screenings will be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater (located at 165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway) , Japan Society (333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues), and Asia Society (725 Park Avenue, at 70th Street).


Film Descriptions of the initial selections for the 2013 NYAFF lineup


North American Premiere
BAD FILM (2012) 161min
Director: Sion Sono
Country: Japan
Director Sion Sono (SUICIDE CLUB, COLD FISH) shot this art-house film in 1995 over the course of a year and starring members of Tokyo GAGAGA, a performance and activist collective he formed. Shot in Hi-8 format, this massive underground science fiction film focuses on a gang war in Tokyo that erupts when a Chinese gang threatens to take over Koenji Station. Sono shot over 150 hours of footage, but the release was delayed for financial reasons. Now, almost 20 years later, this legendary production has been re-edited to create a stunning work of art.

Presented with Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema


THE BULLET VANISHES (2012) 108min
Director: Law Chi-leung
Countries: Hong Kong/China
This stylish, action-packed period thriller starring Hong Kong superstars Nick Tse and Lau Ching-wan pays homage to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as a 1930s-era detective duo investigate a series of strange murders in which “phantom bullets” seemingly vanish. The murders are committed in a bullet factory ruled by a vicious boss and henchman, who force a female worker suspected of stealing to play Russian roulette, with tragic results. Could the murders be the work of a vengeful ghost exacting revenge?


THE CHALLENGE OF THE LADY NINJA
(1982) 91min
Director: Lee Tso-Nam
Country: Taiwan
This martial arts sexploitation film is about Lovely Lady Ninja Wong Siu Wai (Elsa Yeung) who has been training in Japan in the art of the ninjitsu. Able to fly, vanish in seconds, split into double-exposed duplicates, and create explosions of multicolored smoke, Siu-Wai dazzles her opponents by spinning out of her clothes and even fighting in her pink bikini. She returns to China due to the death of her father, and discovers that her fiancée Lee Tung (Chen Kuan-Tai) is to blame and has betrayed her. She gathers a gang of sexy female warriors, and puts them through some rigorous ninjitsu training before leading a rebellion against rock transvestite samurai warriors in miniskirts and go-go boots.


New York Premiere
COLD WAR
(2012) 102min
Directors: Longman Leung, Sunny Luk
Country: Hong Kong
COLD WAR was a 2012 box office hit in Asia and swept the Hong Kong Film Awards winning “Best Film,” Best Director,” “Best Screenplay,” “Best Actor,” and “Best New Performer”. This cop thriller stars Aaron Kwok as a senior officer and Tony Leung Ka Fai as a deputy police commissioner whose rivalry leads to a struggle over the running an operation to rescue officers who have been taken hostage.


North American Premiere
THE COMPLEX
(2013) 106min
Director: Hideo Nakata
Country: Japan
Director Hideo Nakata (who basically kicked off J-horror with THE RING) breathes new life into the genre with what starts out as a bright and cheerful family drama before soon putrifying into something much softer, wetter, and darker. Starring Japanese megastar Atsuko Maeda (lead singer of the enormously popular group, AKB48) as a shy high-schooler who moves into a haunted housing complex with her family and slowly becomes tormented by apparitions and visions of her own tragic past.


North American Premiere
CONFESSION OF MURDER
(2012) 119min
Director: Jeong Byeong-Gil
Country: Korea
From the director of the hit NYAFF documentary ACTION BOYS (about the tough lives of stuntmen in the Korean film biz), comes this thriller filled with adrenalizing set pieces in the vein of THE CHASER. A punch-drunk cop has to figure out the truth when a media-ready stud comes forward with a book claiming he murdered 10 women years ago. The catch? He can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.


North American Premiere
COUNTDOWN
(2012) 91min
Director: Nattawat Poonpiriya
Country: Thailand
An acclaimed Thai horror movie about three Thai hipsters in New York City who make a big mistake when they call an evil American drug dealer named Jesus to provide their needs for a New Year’s Eve party. Along with the drugs, Jesus supplies a psychological game involving violence and torture as the clock counts down to the New Year.


New York Premiere
DRUG WAR
(2013) 105min
Director: Johnnie To
Countries: China/Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s master filmmaker Johnnie To has navigated the perilous waters of Chinese film censorship to deliver his first Mainland Chinese crime film. After drug cartel head Ming (Louis Koo) is arrested during a raid, he's persuaded to take part in an undercover operation to take down his own gang in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. Setting up business meetings with his fellow bosses in order to intercept major drug and money transactions and arrest those involved, the crime lord sets about betraying his former accomplices one by one.


World Premiere
HARDCORE COMEDY
(2013) 92min
Directors: Henri Wong, Chong Siu Wing, Alan Lo
Country: Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s local comedic tradition continues in this quirky post-VULGARIA three-part omnibus.

Dada Chan will attend the screening.


New York Premiere
HELTER SKELTER
(2012) 127min
Director: Mika Ninagawa
Country: Japan
One of Japan’s most popular photographers, Mika Ninagawa, and its most controversial young star, Erika Sawajiri, team up to deliver a plastic surgery horror movie that’ll make your skin crawl. Lilico (Erika Sawajiri) is a monstrous Lady Gaga-esque singer and actress obsessed with her own young body, eating up employees, and existing on a diet of flashbulbs. Constructed almost entirely of plastic surgery, she requires occasional “top ups” but they’re not working anymore and her face and body are slowly turning as black and rotten as bruised fruit.

Presented with Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema


North American Premiere
AN INACCURATE MEMOIR
(2012) 105min
Director: Leon Yang
Country: China
One part Chinese Western, one part black comedy, and one part war movie, AN INACCURATE MEMOIR is about an anti-Japanese resistance fighter who infiltrates a gang of bandits to enlist their help in assassinating a Japanese prince due in town at any minute. But though the bandits, a mix of horny men and greedy women, may be crack fighters, they’d rather go whoring and stuff themselves with lavish meals than liberate China.


North American Premiere
IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT
(2013) 102MIN
Director: Herman Yau
Country: Hong Kong
Director Herman Yau teams up with his favorite actor, Anthony Wong (UNTOLD STORY, EBOLA SYNDROME), to deliver a slyly subversive send-up of the current craze for Ip Man movies. Packed with some of Hong Kong’s best stars of the 80’s and 90’s including Eric Tsang, Ken Lo (DRUNKEN MASTER), and Xiong Xin-xin (THE BLADE, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 3), this Ip Man movie is not just an action flick but a love letter to Hong Kong’s volatile history of political protest.

Director Herman Yau will attend the screening.


THE LADY AVENGER (1981) 91min
Director: Yang Chia-yun
Country: Taiwan
Yang Chia-yun is one of the only female directors of Taiwan’s notorious Black Movies, and so it makes sense that her best film is this intense rape-revenge shocker. When a reporter is gang-raped she decides her only option is an eye for an eye and so, one by one, she kills her rapists by bear trap, by knife, by blowtorch, and by meat hook.


North American Premiere
THE LAST TYCOON
(2012) 119min
Director: Wong Jing
Countries: Hong Kong/China
THE LAST TYCOON stars Chow Yun-fat as real-life criminal Du Yuesheng (whose history has been officially banned as a source of study by the Chinese government), a criminal godfather who shot like a meteor through Shanghai’s underworld, and was a major financial backer of the Kuomintang in their fight against Mao and his Communist rebels.

Producer and cinematographer Andrew Lau will attend the screening.


THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN (2010) 100min
Director: Herman Yau
Country: Hong Kong
Wilson Yip’s Ip Man movies starring Donnie Yen were such big hits that Herman Yau decided it was time to make one of his own, and to do so he enlisted some of Hong Kong’s greatest martial artists. With action choreography by the mighty Bruce Leung (GALLANTS) and starring Sammo Hung, his opera-school brother Yuen Biao, the first Ip Man movie’s Fan Siu-wong, and Ip Man’s actual son, Ip Chun, this movie will leave you bruised, battered, and begging for more. Herman Yau will attend the screening.


North American Premiere
LESSON OF THE EVIL
(2012) 129min
Director: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan
After making films like samurai epics 13 ASSASSINS and HARA KIRI and the children’s film NINJA KIDS!, Takashi Miike returns to familiar horror territory with LESSON OF THE EVIL, based on a best-selling horror novel. Clean-cut pop star Hideaki Ito plays Mr. Hasumi, a young, popular, good-looking teacher at an elite high school. While he’s beloved by his students and popular with pretty much everyone, Mr. Hasumi has a dark secret past and homicidal urges that can’t be contained.


A LIFE OF NINJA (1983) 88min
Director: Lee Tso-nam
Country: Taiwan
Someone is using ninjas in an attempt to kill miserly and womanizing businessman Chan Ming Fu, and there is no shortage of people with a motive. His wife and sister-in-law both detest him, for starters. The police recruit Kendo teacher and former ninja Chow to protect Chan, but easier said than done.


NEVER TOO LATE TO REPENT (1979) 96min
Director: Tsai Yang-Ming
Country: Taiwan
When Tsai Yang-ming released this crime thriller in 1979 it became a surprise hit at the Taiwanese box office, which was at the time dominated by period martial arts flicks and sentimental romances. It launched Taiwan’s Black Movies trend, which saw 117 hard-hitting exploitation movies hit screens between 1979 and 1983, and this stark, true crime film is the proud parent to them all.

Director Tsai Yang-ming will attend the screening.


North American Premiere
THE ROOFTOP
(2013)
Director: Jay Chou
Country: Taiwan
Jay Chou (INITIAL D, Michel Gondry’s GREEN HORNET) is one of the most famous pop stars in Asia. THE ROOFTOP, marking Cho’s second film behind the camera, following SECRET (2007), is a romance combining elements of martial arts and special effects in a musical extravaganza. It stars Chou alongside Eric Tsang, Wand Xueqi and Alan Ko in a story set in a fantasy world comprised of two distinctly contrasting communities and lifestyles. One group lives on rooftops, where they dance and sing every day, passing their days without a care in the world, while below them are the people living under the rooftops, who possess more money and power.


TAIWAN BLACK MOVIES (2005) 60min
Director: Hou Chi-Jan
Country: Taiwan
A long lost era of filmmaking was preserved and rediscovered by this documentary, the result of a longtime labor of love that began when the director found a stack of discarded VHS tapes in the Taiwan Film Archive.

Director Hou Chi-jan will attend the screening


WOMAN REVENGER (1981) 80min
Director: Tsai Yang-Ming
Country: Taiwan
Another of Taiwan’s mondo revenge movies from the early 80’s, this brutal exploitation shocker features a gentle woman who turns into a bloodthirsty killer, bent on revenge against those who wronged her. A forgotten grindhouse classic, this dirty, pulpy brawler will have you ready to clean off the grime by the time the credits roll.

Director Tsai Yang-ming will attend the screening.


YOUNG & DANGEROUS 1 (1996) & 2 (1997) 90min each
Director: Andrew Lau
Country: Hong Kong
YOUNG AND DANGEROUS isn’t a movie, it’s way of life. A series of 15 films (six movies, four prequels, three spin-offs, and two all-female versions, as well as a parody movie and a reboot) covering the life and times of the Hung Hing criminal triad and the bevy of studly young things who make up its members. The whole thing is the brainchild of Andrew Lau and Wong Jing and the first two movies are the kind of shot-on-the-run flicks that captured lightning in a bottle and became cultural sensations. When the first movie hit it big, director Lau wrote, shot, and released the second in just eight weeks.

Director Andrew Lau will attend the screening.



FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER

Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize and support new directors, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of film. Among its yearly programming of film festivals, film series and special events, the Film Society presents two film festivals in particular that annually attract global attention: the New York Film Festival which just celebrated its 50th edition, and New Directors/New Films which, since its founding in 1972, has been produced in collaboration with MoMA. The Film Society also publishes the award-winning Film Comment Magazine and a year-round calendar of programming, panels, lectures, educational and transmedia programs and specialty film releases at the famous Walter Reade Theater and the new state-of-the-art Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stonehenge Partners, Stella Artois, the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.



NYAFF & SUBWAY CINEMA

The New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) is North America’s leading Festival of popular Asian cinema, which the New York Times has called "...one of the city's most valuable events..." Launched in 2002 by Subway Cinema, the Festival selects only the best, strangest, and most entertaining movies to screen for New York audiences, ranging from mainstream blockbusters and art-house eccentricities to genre and cult classics. It was the first North American film festival to champion the works of Johnnie To, Bong Joon-Ho, Park Chan-Wook, Takashi Miike, and other auteurs of contemporary Asian cinema. The Festival has been produced in collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center since 2010. The 12th NYAFF will take place June 28 - July 14, 2013 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater and Japan Society.

For more information, visit www.subwaycinema.com, www.facebook.com/NYAFF and follow @subwaycinema on Twitter (#nyaff13)


Salo (1975)


Everyone fixates on the steamed chocolate but Pasolini’s film is more than that. Yes it’s a difficult catalog of cruelty but there is something more to it. If you want to be sure of it consider that the film is still be talked about forty years on. Yes on some level the film can be compared to women in prison film, but outside of the exploitation crowd who seriously discusses those? Well yes some of us do, but they don’t cross over to a wider audience.

Pasolini’s film is based on a book by the Marquis de Sade but reset into the 120 day period toward the end of the Second World War when Mussolini was out of power and the Salo government ruled the country. It tells the story of the a group of rulers who go insane and indulge their every twisted whim until the populace revolt and kill them.

As I said at the start the film is a catalog of increasing nasty set pieces of abuse. The film is alternately boring and horrifying. I’ve seen the film any number of times and I’ve been troubled by it each time. On some level the film can be easily dismissed much like films like say the Ilsa films starring Dyane Thorne. Some of the political posturing is trite and the violence is over the top and aimed to simply shock, but at the same time Pasolini is working on a deeper level. He is making us complicit in the events on screen. We may not be taking part but we are witnessing and the longer we stay the more complicit we are. It’s as if Pasolini is trying to find out how long will we watch these terrible things. Apparently as long as he shows them to us.

He is also giving a warning that while people will, for a while kowtow to those in power this is a point where they will hit back.

I don’t particularly like the film, I don’t know if you can, and I think we should probably worry about anyone who does. It is a film I admire a great deal.

I first saw the film because I had to see if the film was a horrifying as I first heard. In a weird way I was disappointed (and to be honest, I still am). Sure there were atrocities on screen but outside of that the film really is boring. I finished the film and pretty much dismissed it as an art film of the most pretentious sort. Then something happened, I started to revisit the film now and again, and eventually picked up the Criterion edition. It’s not that I particularly like the film, rather the film makes me to think and ponder things. I’m engaged with the film on more than the visceral or emotional level, it’s a film that gets my mind going. I’ll come across something and it will trigger something that will make me want to take another run by the film.

The film is not for all audiences, or even the majority of audiences, but for those who can handle dark graphic places and don’t mind pretentious art films mixed with Grand Guigol blood and poo I think you might want to give the film a go. I have no idea what you’ll think, however many years on I’m still trying to figure out what I think, but its worth a shot.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

SUNNY is the next free movie at the Tribeca Cinemas


The free movie Tuesday at Korean Cultural Service free screening in Tribeca is Sunny. Part of the --- series the film is infinitely lighter than many of the recent films. I have the film as an import DVD and if I can dig it out I’m going to put up a review before the screening Tuesday.

Here’s what the Korean Cultural Service says about the film

From our "Laughter and Love at the Box Office!" series:

Girl power! In this award-winning hit, a group of schoolgirls form a timeless friendship, bonding over their willingness to do whatever it takes to help each other out.

A country girl, relocating to Seoul, becomes a part of the clique… but when an irreversible tragedy strikes, the group finds themselves forced to go their separate ways. Twenty-five years later, when two of the girls happen to meet by chance at a hospital, they decide its time to get their friends back together and make their lives “sunny” again! An irrepressible feel-good comedy, Sunny was tied with the historical action blockbuster War of the Arrows as the biggest Korean film of 2011!

Tribeca Cinemas:

54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, one block from the A, C, E and 1 train Canal Street stops

FREE ADMISSION

All seating is first come, first served. Doors open at 6:30PM
.


Wolf at the Door (1986)

My friend Lou loves this film. I’m less certain of it. I know when the film came out in 1986 I liked the film much more than I do now. Somehow I think the films daring has dissipated over the last almost 30 years.

The film opens when Paul Gauguin returns from Europe to show his works. His style and his personality upset many who don’t know what to make of either the man or his art. What is clear is that the ladies love him and he has trysts with several women, is lusted after by the young daughter of his landlord and battles his wife over money (in particular an inheritance left to him by his aunt).

Consider this the portrait of the artist as a cranky man. Gauguin loves the attention but hates the small minds around him. He loves the ladies but is kind of bewildered by the attachments they form to him. It’s a deliberately paced film that reveals why Gauguin left for the islands and why he couldn’t understand why the world wouldn’t behave as he thought it should- consider him a genius. For my money it’s a good film but there are no real grand revelations. Gauguin was a twit and while there is no doubt that he was a genius he was difficult to take. On a certain level I have no idea what the point of it all is.

So the question is if I’m not thrilled with the film why am I writing it up?

Three reasons

First it really is a good film even if it’s far from great. It’s a film That very much depicts a place and time nicely. It also has a wonderful performance by Donald Sutherland that is greatly nuanced.

Second the film is completely off the radar. Hell in the US the film has always been, barely getting a release in the US from a small company, playing a handful of art houses. It then was dumped on to VHS by a small releasing house and has been MIA ever since. Reservations aside the film is a good enough film not to have fallen into the cracks of oblivion

The third reason was to get your input as to why the film has fallen into the cracks. Is one of the reason the that no one wants to handle the film the occasional naked performance of the landlords daughter, who at the start is around 14? Or are there other reasons the film is now adrift somewhere in the Unseen film world?

Ultimately inoffensive and worth a look.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sex Freedom in Germany (1970)


What happened to good old fashioned German morals? - narrator

Mondo style documentary on sex in Germany is intercut with a couple frolicking.

Screened around the world in 1970 and hitting US screens in 1973, right before hardcore porn hit the mainstream, this is an amusing time capsule back to a time when a little nudity was daring and anything more was shocking. This film has a little bit more and probably was frequented by lots of men in raincoats...

The film's informational segments include a trip to a condom factory who has once called Anti Baby Condom (ABC), an expose of the German Sex Party, group sex, a couple that performs naked music at the local bar, a discussion between erotic art and porn, transgendered women, lesbians, a defrocked priest trying to prevent young men from turning tricks at bus stops, a gigolo, a high class adult book store and a few others. Everything is set to some really good German rock music.

I was amused. I was entertained and I had a good time.

Is it titillating? Not particularly, but it is strangely informative. Granted we've moved on in the last 40 years but it's amusing to see where the cutting edge once was... about where the cutting edge of TV is today.

Don't get me wrong the film isn't tame, this is still very much an adults only film, it's simply that we've moved on from this being shocking.

Something Weird has put the film out on DVDR and down load with some racy films at the end , including one of a performance artist who paints with her naked body.. You'll be amused.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bestialita aka Dog Lay Afternoon (1976) (potential adult content)

This review of the film originally appeared on IMDB. Its of a film that will curl the toes of most people. Implied subject matter aside it's actually a good thriller. If you're iterested you'll have to do some sleuthing because I have no idea where to get the film. I picked it up from the now seemingly gone Revenge is My Destiny website. And if you do go looking be careful since the title can, especially if misspelled, bring you to places that you really don't want to go to (trust me I had this post up earlier today and realized I misspelled the titled and then in looking for the film, without just checking the DVD, I ended up with listings that were kind of frightening.)



In these "enlightened times" I'm hard pressed to know if one should admit to having seen this movie, but considering that its actually a pretty good erotic sleaze film, I'll happily say I saw it.

The plot is told mostly in flashback. It begins with a young girl seeing her mom have (simulated) sex with a dog. Dad comes home drags mom and the girl away and then sets fire to the house with the dog inside. The film then jumps forward as we watch a man waiting for something. The story then flashes back as we see the man and his wife arrive at an island full of party people. Periodically the man and woman catch sight of a young woman with a dog. The woman looks like a younger version of the woman at the start. I'll leave it for adventurous film goers to unravel what happens next, though I will say while its often sexy it all ends badly.

Despite this film being in Italian, a language I don't speak, I rather enjoyed this movie. Sure its sleazy but at the same time it seems to be a well done drama with an "off-beat" edge. I had no problems following the plot. I liked that after the opening you were very much of balance wondering what sort of madness was going to show up. Granted its a cheap trick but it did help to keep things properly tense.

Obviously this is NOT for all tastes. I think most people will have shut it off during the opening credits (which quite frankly is where anything offensive is, mostly the film is just an erotic triangle.). If you can get past them and don't mind sleazy sexy drama I think you'll enjoy this, on some level, if you're open to it...

...Just don't look for an English version of this film. I can't imagine anyone being bold enough to attempt to release this in either England or the US, its opening is just a bit too much for most people

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hanna D The Girl in Vondel Park (1984)


I think the only way this film could be more exploitive would be to have a rip roaring gun fight, and while that doesn't happen this is still manages to be one really sleaze exploitation film.

This is the story of Hanna. Her parents have split, her mother is a drunk with a younger boyfriend (who would much rather sleep with Hanna). Many of her friends are junkies and worse. Hanna gets money by letting people see her naked. Eventually her home life goes from dysfunctional to destructive (a short hop) and Hanna needs to escape. She begins to use heroine and eventually takes up with a guy who pimps her out. As her life begins to slide she meets a nice young man who falls in love with her and she tries to get clean. However her old life is still lurking out there.

This is a very sleazy film. Its a walk on the wild side. I have no idea if its true or not but the picture it paints isn't particularly pleasant. As an exploitation film its an okay time killer. The lead is good looking both in and out of her clothes. The gory details of the life of our heroine is suitably unpleasant. The problem is that after a while the film simply becomes very talky and repetitive. How many times will people shooting up shock? How many sex for money encounters where the girl secretly cries do we have to see before it stops effecting us? It all wears thin after a while and we become desensitized to anything by the second half (although the retrieval of the drugs in the rehab center is an exploitation classic)

If you want a sleazy exploitation film, and don't mind it repeating itself in the second half then see this movie. If you want anything else stay away.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nightcap 5/19/13- random talking out of my hat

The decompression of the first part of the year is continuing nicely. I have not been running around like a chicken with my head cut off and I’ve actually been working to get Unseen Films in order without needing to take Zantac. I’m not buried with extra films to review in a short time, though I do have coverage of films from The Brooklyn Film Festival in the cue as well as some from Lincoln Center’s Open Roads Italian Film series and some yet to be released titles all coming.

The big craziness around Unseen Films has been the appearances of Jackie Chan in New York. Chan’s appearances were supposed to be part this year’s New York Asian Film Festival which was giving him the Star Asia Award, but scheduling forced the appearances to happen on June 10th and 11th. Once tickets went on sale there was a mad dash to get them as everyone slammed the Film Linc and Asia Society websites. I’ve gotten tickets, as has Mr C for both appearances. I’m still not sure who is going to what beyond that since there has been lots of screaming and yelling and rending of clothes by those without tickets. What I am sure is that Unseen will have a presence at both screenings as well as the English Language Press Conference (and if I can twist an arm the Chinese one as well) that will be happening in connection with Jackie’s appearances.

I do want to say that there is a good chance come say August or September we may run out of reviews. Right now I have things scheduled into August, but at the same time I'm kind of stalled. Most of the reviewable films I'm seeing are for a series or a festival and fit into neatly constructed holes in the schedule. However outside of those films I am not seeing many films that I feel the need to write up, and much worse the ones on my very long list list of titles to write up when I get a minute hasn't been inspiring me. It may not happen, but there is a chance at about the 3 and a half year mark Unseen Films might actually miss a day or two.

On the other hand over the next couple of weeks I'm hoping to get some longer pieces and essays pulled together. With the crush of the first part of the year done I'm hoping to finally transcribe the Roger Ebert piece, return to found footage films,pull out the piece on that stupid ass anti-Muslim film that no has ever really seen and caused some riots, write on some subjects that have been kicking around the film world and a few other things. I'm also talking to a couple of Unseen writers about what Randi has dubbed the Unseen Book Club. We'll see where it all leads.

Speaking of books and Little Nemo, panels of which I've been using for the nightcap illustrations- I finally read the Ray Bradbury screenplay for a Little Nemo film. While its gets certain things right, the feel for the early part of the 20th century when the film is set, it misses the point in every other way. Setting up an elaborate way into Slumberland (which Nemo creates with the help of a twin named Omen) the film is more like a way too simplistic children's film  for way too simplistic children. As unbelievable it is to think that Bradbury wrote it, it's completely understandable as to why it was never produced, it's not very good.

Right now anyone can post a comment at Unseen but all comments are moderated. This has lead to a problem of spam comments. To be certain some of them are amusing as all get out, but at the same time they are annoying the hell out of me withe the result that I find I'm just dumping the anonymous comments without looking them over. If you've posted something anonymously and it hasn't posted I apologize. Its the spammers fault. I'm seriously considering shutting off anonymous commenting, but not yet. We still do get some comments that way so I feel its a shame to ban  them all. Just to be safe if you want your comment to count sign in before you post.

I would like to state that I am finally starting to catch up with all of the various posts and reviews of my friends and acquaintances across the Internet. I know I have been lax, I haven't been reading every one's blogs as I should.To be honest I'm only just getting around to reading many peoples Tribeca coverage partly because of lack of time, and partly because I just wanted never to see another word on the festival again...that feeling is gone and I'm at last going back and reading...so expect possible comments.

I think thats it for now.  Off to bed...

This weeks selections are best described as provocative with films from both the art house and grindhouse that are guaranteed to push your buttons.

Fear No More (1961)


I can’t decide if Fear No More is unsettling because it’s a well done or because it’s badly done. I can’t decide if I like it or not, I do know that it made me stare at the screen wondering what I was seeing all the way through it much more than I do with better films.

The plot of the film has a woman get on a train to deliver a package for her boss. On the train she’s menaced by a big man who appears in her compartment, finds a dead woman and is told by the police she’s crazy. That last point maybe true as our heroine has experiences, such as finding additional bodies, that later prove not to be true.

It’s a bumpy ride and for a good chunk of the film I wasn’t sure what was going on.

I’m not sure what I think of the film. Yes I sat there glued to the screen for the whole 75 minutes, but at the same time I think it was more to find out what happened rather than because I was completely enjoying myself. I think the problem is that the filmmakers bounce through the real or not twists too much early on, to the point that I wasn’t sure if it was good film making or bad. I understand they had a limited time to do what they were doing but because we’re coming in kind of mid action the feeling is similar to being a drift at sea. I felt uprooted from the moment our heroine steps on the train and it didn’t end until the credits rolled. Yes I knew what was going on but at the same time I still wasn’t sure.

I know you’re wondering if I’m not sure about the film why am I suggesting you see it.

Two reasons

First not only did the film hold my attention it provoke a reaction beyond liking it or disliking it. It’s a film that made me ponder it to the point I was more than just a receptor. This is a film that forces you tom think about it-whether you want to or not.

The second reason is it’s easily available as part of the 6 film Weird Noir set from Image. It is weird. It is strange and as part of a cheap 6 film set it’s worth investigating

Saturday, May 18, 2013

7th Commandment


Completely weird film noir about a con man who staggers from a car accident with amnesia. He becomes a successful preacher healing the sick, building hospitals and churches and being a good man of god. When the girl he was with in the car sees his picture in the paper she plans revenge for his leaving her to take the rap for the accident. Working with her boyfriend she takes steps to get money from him and ruin his life.

Full of sleaze and praises for Jesus, this twisted little tale is kind of a must see for anyone wanting a truly psychotronic film. So much weird stuff happens that I was watching the second half of the film with a kind of morbid curiosity that one gets at the scene of a grizzly accident. I kept wondering what the next twisted twist was going to be, outside of what might happen in the next couple of seconds I couldn’t guess where this was going to go. I really do mean it when I say I had no clue what truly whacked things were going to happen in the last 20 minutes. It’s one unbelievable thing after another…

…most unbelievable of all is the fact the film makes it work. It shouldn’t but it does. I’m guessing that it works because it’s all so far out there that by the time it gets really weird and the bodies start piling up you can’t help but go along. To be certain you’re laughing at what’s happening but you’re also riveted to the screen because you can’t get wait to see what happens next.

I have no idea if I like the film but god damn I’m in awe of it. Hell I played a couple of sections over a couple of times simply because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and was certain I missed something. I hadn’t.

If you want to see a truly out their film noir give this film a shot. I’m sure it’s weird gyrations will hold your attention.

Out as part of Images/Something Weird’s Weird Noir collection (and boy is it ever)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Some blockbusters and some not so blockbusters


BFI Fiilm Library
A few weeks back after Tribeca I ran a bunch of short reviews of some big budget or highly promoted films that I had seen. In the interest of showing that we do watch more than the off the beaten path films I present more big studio capsules.

SIGHTSEERS- A socially awkward couple with personal issues leave her controlling over bearing mother and travel across England only to begin a murder spree along the way. Black as night comedy is fused with a British comedy of manner/errors to make what is being hailed by many as one of the best films of the year. I wouldn't go that far, I'd say it’s a very good film that did quite work click for me. For me things are a little too rigid and after a certain point I never felt that anything could happen, which was what I felt at the start. Definitely worth seeing but I suspect you’ll like it more than love it.

SIMON KILLER has a college kid getting away from it all in Paris after the breakup of a five year relationship. Falling into a relationship with a prostitute things are fine for a while until it all begins to spiral out of control. I had a ticket to this back in February at Film Comment Selects but ended up selling it because the previous movie was five intense hours- and looking back selling the ticket was the best thing that could happen. Deep slow moving pretentious thriller will either thrill you or bore you silly…I was bored silly. Watching this on IFC in Theaters I was scanning through chunks of it.

SCARY MOVIE 5- not as bad as you might think send up of recent horror films suffers in that after four previous entries the series has stopped being funny and it has become something you watch in order  to see where they are taking each movie referenced. Cable fodder

TYLER PERRY'S TEMPTATION is a painfully dull film. Far be it for me to pick on Perry, who I actually do like both as an actor and a director, but he really has to stop making 15 films and 37 TV series a year since the more he vomits out the duller his films become

DEAD MAN DOWN- Confused and confusing mob revenge film starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace. I admire all of the intense acting and strong action scenes, I just wish there was some sort of plot line to tie it all together. In a related matter it's becoming painfully clear that Ms Rapace is a very good actress but she has a limited range.

A HAUNTED HOUSE is a crappy comedy sending up the Paranormal Activity films.

IDENTITY THIEF is a weak TV sitcom on the big screen.You asking us to pay for this crap?

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH- Okay juvenile animated film about aliens trying to escape from our planet and go home. Unremarkable but not bad.

CROODS-I can't believe that Chris Sanders directed this. The jokes are stupid, worse they are obvious and repeated to the point of annoyance. The characters are jerks...this is a good looking but badly written film that makes me understand why some films have been pulled away from him (Bolt aka Family Dog).

PAPERBOY- I missed this at last years New York Film Festival- thank god for small miracles. This is an awful film about trashy people you wouldn't want to .. on. Yea the performances are good but the rest of this film should flushed

GAMBIT Cohen Brothers written remake of a Michael Caine film concerns an art heist that goes side ways. The cast ( Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Cameron Diaz and Stanley Tucci ) are great. Sadly the script is too affected and the direction too stiff.

Having at last seen it, I can now say MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS disappointed. Looking like a film that is some kid's idea of a way cool martial arts film (mixed with a gangsta epic) it takes too much pleasure in the cool shots of the wire work and not enough in the story. Give the film a partial pass since it's clear that in cutting the film down to 100 (theatrical)or 110 (extended) minutes hurt the film (there are bits in the deleted scenes on the DVD that are referenced in the finished film plus the rough cut ran allegedly over four hours).  It does have some great moments and a great performance by Russsel Crow, but it still is draft or two away from being something.

HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2 GHOSTS OF GEORGIA well acted, competently made the film collapses almost from the get go by insisting on having scares and shocks from the first second. We never get any real chance to know anyone except when they are under stress. Things are always  at a fever pitch so there is no scares only shock jumps. We are never in the film, we are always outside it.

I got GREETINGS FROM TIM BUCKLEY on VOD and finished it. I say this because I saw the first half at Tribeca and walked out because it wasn't grabbing me and After 9 days in the dark I wanted to be in the sun. For those who don't know the film is the story of son Jeff Buckley trying to connect with his dad at a concert in Tim's honor. The short answer is the film has great performances and great music, with the the concert itself being a stunner, but the rest of the film feels unfocused as if the filmmakers were just killing time until they could get to the music. Wait for cable or better by yet buy the soundtrack.

Zatoichi vs The Flying Guilotine (aka Blind Swordsman Revenge aka A Sword Renowned) (1974)


Strange rewriting of the Zatoichi tale has the blind man returning to China after being dragged off five years earlier by Japanese Pirates.  He is hunted by a man with a flying guillotine who wants revenge for some past misdeed. He is however willing to wait until Zatoichi gets revenges on a master swordsman who allegedly killed his brother leaving his sister in law and nephew without support. (Actually the brother committed suicide after losing. And in a weird twist of fate the swordsman is now acting as the protector of the sister in law and nephew.

No none of it makes any sense though some of it is better than you expect.

First and foremost is Lung Sing as Zatoichi. He's the spitting image of Shintaro Katsu to the point I really thought that this was a chop up job that used footage of the original to form a new story. If he isn't the man himself he's close enough that you really won't care because he manages to get it down enough so as to be enjoyable.

Some of the the fight scenes are quite good with the framing such as in the battle between Zatoichi's brother and the master swordsman being beautifully done.

The trouble in the film comes from several places, first, as I said at the top the film makes no sense. Its simply characters dancing around each other until 90 minutes have run and the survivors walk off into the sunset. More importantly why are some of the characters here, I mean the flying guillotine guy has no reason for being here since he's at the opening and the end and not in the middle.

Secondly some of the fights are down right bad with them sped up to Keystone Cops rates. Its awful and funny for all of the wrong reasons.

Thirdly this film is choppy as all hell. Even allowing that the only copies I've seen are pan and scan it looks like someone took a pair of sheers to the film and cut out about 15 minutes. It makes for one messy viewing experience.

If you can get into the film say 15 minutes in and you haven't pulled your hair out the film isn't all that bad...it isn't all that good, but there are some pretty good sequences worth seeing such as Zatoichi gambling, the battle in the casino, the final fights and a few others. This is not a great viewing experience, but it is an okay one. Certainly it would play better with friends and beers.

I wouldn't pick this up for more than a buck, but it is in a couple of multi-DVD multi-film sets in which case it's worth trying.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

State 194 (2013)


If you build the foundations of peace will it come? Promo material for State 194

Good looking film that seeks to examine the quest for peace between Israel and Palestine.  Focusing  on Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his work to create a state for Palestine by proving to the world that they not bad people the film takes a hard look at the chances for peace and how it maybe the small things that bring about change.

Its probably not a good thing to have the first thing you say about a political documentary, especially one as important as this one, is that it looks good but that was my over riding reaction to the film. the film is full of carefully composed images, great looking news footage and few shots that are much too polished for a film such as this (did we really need crane shots of cars traveling?) The film is one of the most artfully assembled films I've seen in 2013.

Getting away from the technical aspects and diving into the important stuff, the subject of Palestinian and Israeli peace the film is a good look at the difficult subject. It's a film that presents Fayyd as a tireless worker who bounces around the globe in an effort to gather support for his people and to keep the peace. As the above line infers Fayyad is building the foundations for the end or at least the great reduction of tension.

Film maker Dan Setton has made an important film that manages to go into detail about what the leaders are doing to bring about peace. Most films on the subject such as 5 Broken Cameras deal with the issues on the average Joe level, which is all fine and good but after the 12th look you kind of wonder who the leaders are and what they are doing. This film fills in that gap and does so nicely.

That may sound like small stuff but it's not . It's something the world needs to see since we have to see  what is being done at a higher level than the village one when the Israelis decide to build yet another settlement.

The trouble is that the film is so artfully assembled and slick that the film seems like a commercial more than an expose. I return to this point because to be perfectly honest the film is so slick that for a good fifteen or twenty minutes my attention was slipping off the screen. There was too much flash to start and it wasn't until the film settled down that I fully engaged with the film.

Worth seeing.

For additional information on this important subject please go here.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

Brooklyn Film Festival Schedule is up and tickets are on sale

Here's the Press release-

BROOKLYN FILM FESTIVAL SCHEDULE ONLINE,TICKETS & PASSES ON SALE

Festival to Hold a Variety of Special Events Including 9th annual kidsfilmfeston June 1 and BFF Exchange & Brooklyn Meets Spainon June 8

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, May 15, 2013 – Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), which announced its film line-up last week for its 2013 festival themed MAGNETIC, has made available its film schedule online. The competitive event will run from May 31 through June 9 in Williamsburg at indieScreen (289 Kent Avenue) and for the first time at Windmill Studios NYC (287 Kent Avenue). Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/tickets/ , and the schedule is online at: http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/films/2013/index.asp?cid=0&cnt=&order=show&kw=.

BFF is extremely proud to announce two returning special events at the 2013 festival: BFF Exchange and the 9th annual kidsfilmfest, as well as one new special event, Brooklyn Meets Spain, a partnership with Mecal, International Short Film and Animation Festival of Barcelona. With these events, BFF continues to expand its demographic outreach and further its commitment to bring to Brooklyn the best films the world has to offer.
On Saturday, June 1 from 1:00pm till 3:00pm at indieScreen, BFF will present the 9th annual kidsfilmfest, which aims to discover, expose and promote children's filmmakers while drawing worldwide attention to Brooklyn. The film program is tailored for children of all ages (films are rated "G"), and consists of numerous short animation, live-action and documentary films from Australia, Canada, India, United Kingdom and the United States. There will be a Q&A with the directors and actors as well as an interactive workshop following the screenings. Tickets are $12 for adults, and children 12 and under are free. For the full kidsfilmfest line-up, visit http://www.kidsfilmfest.org/films/2013/.

On June 8, the Festival will continue its BFF Exchange project, launched last year, free and open to the public, from 10:30 a.m. till 4:30 p.m., followed by a happy hour, staged at indieScreen. BFF Exchange is aimed at giving filmmakers access to the wealth of industry expertise that the city offers. BFF Exchange will feature a pitch session for local documentary filmmakers featuring reps from POV, Sundance and more, a BFF alumni distribution panel, a Short Film Distribution discussion led by Roberto Barrueco of Mecal, and a Microcinema in Brooklyn panel, featuring reRun, UnionDocs, indieScreen and Nitehawk. The Exchange will also feature a presentation by Kickstarter on how to use their platform to fund your film. For the BFF Exchange schedule, visit http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/exchange/

Also on June 8, as an immediate follow up to BFF Exchange at indieScreen and Windmill Studios NYC starting at 5:00 p.m, BFF is proud to partner with Mecal, International Short Film and Animation Festival of Barcelona, on Brooklyn Meets Spain, including two programs: the feature-length documentary 30 Años de Oscuridad directed by Manuel H. Martín, and a collection of animated shorts. A party with a special guest DJ Turmix from Spain will follow at indieScreen. The screenings and the party are sponsored by the Consulate General of Spain. To learn more about Mecal, visit: http://mecalbcn.org/. For the full film line-up of Brooklyn Meets Spain, visit: http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/events/mecal/.

About Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF):

The organizers of the Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), have been staging international, competitive film events since 1998. BFF’s mission is to provide a public forum in Brooklyn in order to advance public interest in films and the independent production of films, to draw worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema, to encourage the rights of all Brooklyn residents to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking, and to promote artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure. BFF, inc. is a not-for-profit organization.

For more info about Brooklyn Film Festival, visit http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/.

BFF on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BrooklynFilmFestival

BFF on Twitter: https://twitter.com/brooklynfest

For info about indieScreen, visit www.indieScreen.com.

For info about Windmill Studios NYC, visit http://windmillstudiosnyc.com/.