Posts Tagged ‘CHINESE CINEMA’

The Great Wall (2016)

Dir: Zhang Zimou | Cast: Matt damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau | 103’ Action Drama

I actually find the idea that the Great Wall of China was built to keep out alien invaders rather fun; and if you can buy that, the story that follows isn’t too hard to take. The basic narrative of ‘The Great Wall’ has seen service before in classics like ‘Zulu’ and ‘Assault on Precinct 13’, while the monsters (collectively called the Tao Tei) are the usual slavering CGI nightmares with rows of ferocious teeth; the later emphasis on the strategic role of their queen recalling ‘Starship Troopers’.

English director Clio Bernard had a hand in the script set in the 11th Century where the action is fast, furious and very noisy; with predictable pauses for the occasional bit of hushed Eastern-style philosophising. Ironically it’s when the action transfers from the Great Wall itself to the capital that it becomes much more interesting to look at, the capital providing a far better backdrop for veteran director Zhang Yimou to display the bold use of colour for which he is renowned (most notably in a climactic scene set in a tower inevitably lined with stained glass windows).

The return to the capital by balloon of Commander Lin Mae of the Crane Troop (Jing Tian) with her female comrades-in-arms is another visual highlight, and throughout the film it’s good to see women serving on the front line (in blue, for a change, with matching capes), albeit usually in the background; and Lin Mae’s armour as Commander doesn’t seem to have been designed to immediately distinguish her from her subordinates. @RichardChatten

 

Chinese Cinema Season | February to May 2021

The first wave of titles have been announced for the first edition of the Chinese Cinema Season. spooling out over the next three months and kicking off on 12 February (Chinese New Year) all over Europe.

The longterm festival will showcase UK Chinese language premieres and highlight overlooked gems and classics to cinema-lovers in the UK and Ireland. New films will be added to the party, along with the usual Q&As and panel discussions with industry professionals, filmmakers and actors, and academics.

Over 50 films will be on offer over the course of the season all available on VOD, along with themed mini retrospectives. Along with Coronavirus this is ‘a love letter’ from China.

Popular films such as festival favourite Youth are available along with a Shanghai Animation strand featuring 10 films from 1950s to the present day. Studio Ghibli is possibly more widely known for Anime titles, but Ghibli’s Hayao Miyaki visited the Shanghai studio back in 1984 setting up his own studio a year later. Features include the delightful Lotus Lantern (1999) a UK premiere.

Documentary wise there will be a chance to see DOUBLE HAPPINESS (2018), A YANGTZE LANDSCAPE (2017) and DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI (2019). 

Double Happiness Limited

Taiwanese director Shen spent seven years detailing eight couples’ lives from falling in love, getting married and having children, getting them to ask each other questions that they would not touch on in their daily lives, and leading the audience to reflect on their own definition of marriage and happiness.

A Yangtze Landscape

Setting off from the Yangtze’s marine port, passing Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, the huge Three Gorges Dam, and Chongqing, all the way to the Yangtze River’s source in Qinghai/Tibet over thousands of kilometres, this unique work of sound and vision utilizes the “Yangtze”, in the director’s words, as a metaphor of the current chaos in China.

Bazzar Jumpers

Three Uyghur friends in love with parkour fight prejudice and family opposition to train for China’s most popular and dangerous parkour event in Beijing.

Daughter of Shanghai

A waltz through the life of Chinese English actress Tsai Chin: the daughter of the Peking Opera master Zhou Xinfang, the first Chinese student at RADA, and the first Chinese Bond Girl. The director Michelle Chen is confirmed to do a Q&A with other contributors TBC to celebrate the premiere of this film.
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FIRST FILM SPOTLIGHT

12 February to 12 May

This section introduces contemporary Chinese directors and their striking debuts. Three films will be shown in the opening month: A First Farewell (2018) by Lina Wang, The Crossing (2018) by Bai Xue, and The Silent Holy Stone (2006) by Pema Tseden. Encompassing Mandarin, Cantonese (The Crossing), Tibetan (The Silent Holy Stone ) and Uyghur (A First Farewell )dialects and cultures, these films reflect how diverse life can be in the different regions of China.

A First Farewell * UK PREMIERE *

Isa Yassan, a young Muslim boy in Xinjiang Province, balances caring for his ailing mother, schoolwork, and farm duties, soon experiences “the first farewell” in his life – as his father decides to send his mother to a nursing home and they leave the village. Lina Wang, from Xinjiang, wrote and directed this film, which won the Crystal Bear and Special Prize of the Generation Kplus International Jury at Berlin International Film Festival, as well as several other awards at Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong film festivals

The Crossing (above)

Sixteen-year-old Peipei crosses the border between mainland China and Hong Kong every day, customs officials waving her through with just a glimpse of her high school uniform and innocent face. She joins a gang to earn quick money by smuggling iPhones across the border, but soon finds herself in way over her head. The debut from BAFTA Leading Light writer-director Bai Xue, was nominated for Best First Feature Award and Crystal Bear at Berlin International Festival, won the NETPAC Award at Toronto International Film Festival, and best first film awards at Pingyao, Hong Kong, and Dublin Film Festivals.

The Silent Holy Stone

A young Tibetan monk returns home for the New Year and discovers a television which he intends to bring to the monastery and show to his master. Tibetan director Pema Tsedan’s debut, immediately preceding his recent feature Balloon (2019), shows how the director established his personal style from the very beginning.

DOMESTIC HITS
12 February to 12 May

In recent years, the world has witnessed the rise of the Chinese mega-blockbuster and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the film industry in China. this section features commercial films that triumphed at the domestic box-office with relatively high production value. For the opening month the following are showing: Sheep Without a Shepherd (2019), Youth (2017), and The Captain (2019).

Sheep Without a Shepherd

Lee (Xiao Yang) and his wife Jade (Tan Zhuo) run a small
video business in Thailand. They have two lovely daughters and live a happy life. However, when his eldest daughter kills a schoolmate in self-defence during a sexual assault, Lee has to bury the body and cover the truth, to protect his daughter and families, Lawan (an impeccably steely Joan Chen, The Last Emperor, Lust, Caution) is the feared head of the regional police, and she is dying to find her missing son. The contest between Lee and Lawan is beginning. The battle of wills between Lee and Lawan begins. The film’s box office reached more than 1.2 billion RMB in China ($185m), even as the start of the pandemic cut short the film’s release. The film is based on the 2015 Indian box office hit, Drishyam.

Youth

Directed by China’s most famous commercial director Feng Xiaogang, Youth takes a look at the lives of the members of a Military Cultural Troupe back in the 1970s Cultural Revolution, exploring their friendship, love, dreams, and devotion to their beloved collective and career. The storyline, to a large extent comprised of the director’s personal memories and nostalgia, also resonates with a generation in China who sacrificed their youth to the country and the ideology.

The Captain

One of so-called “main melody” films, stemming from a true story, The Captain demonstrates a breath-taking moment: a commercial pilot and his crew try to save passengers and land their plane safely while the plane shatters at 30,000 feet in the air. Its box office reached more than 2 billion RMB in China (over $300m).

Upcoming Sections

Lou Ye Mini Retrospective

As one of the “Sixth Generation” directors, Lou Ye has been regarded as a “true artist”, an “authentic filmmaker” and a “constant fighter” of censorship. Despite the controversies, he achieved great success both in China and worldwide. He was nominated and won numerous awards owing to his unique editing style and camera movement, as well as his sharp observations and narratives about marginalised people and typical, but often undocumented, social phenomena in China. In this section, we will premiere Lou Ye’s penultimate film, Shadow Play, which took two years of editing to get the greenlight from authorities.

The platform is powered by Shift 72 (Cannes Marché du Film, SXSW, Macao IFFAM, Tallinn Black Nights) and tickets can be purchased here 

The Wild Goose Lake (2019) *** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Diao Yinan | Cast: Hu Ge, Gwei Lun Mei, Laio Fan, Wan Quian, Qi Dao, Huang Jue, Zheng Meihuizi, Zhang Yicong, Chen Yongzhong | China 113′

Chinese writer-director Diao Yinan’s long-awaited follow up to Berlinale winner Black Coal, Thin Ice is a beautiful and beguiling crime caper that somehow fails to deliver the thrills it promises, rather like the bathing beauties who seduce and tease on the murky shores of the Wild Goose Lake of its setting.

This enjoyable and elegantly styled noir thriller is certainly awash with wonderful set-pieces and exquisite visual moments which skilfully echo China’s gilded past and leave us in no doubt of its contempo criminality and territory wars. The enigmatic plot involves a sinuous gangster Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge) on the run from his own mob and the local police, one of whom he shot by accident in a frenzy-fuelled bike escapade along the lake, near the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Sashaying between various timeframes The Wild Goose Lake follows Zenong as he meets up with  with Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun Mei/Black Coal, Thin Ice) one of the bathing beauties (sex workers) who works for his boss, and may have been sent to help him. But the police have also set a ransom on his head so Liu Aiai may be tempted to turn him in.

The two chase through narrow streets and backwaters, Zenong on the run from everybody, including his shop worker wife Yang Shujun (Wan Qian), and Liu Aiai pursuing him in a chase that turns out also to be fuelled by lust. Eventually she catches up with him in a languorous lakeside scene where Zenong is lounging in a becalmed boat, bleeding profusely from his wounds. She seduces him and spits his semen out into the water, from then on the two are close allies. Swinging through the backstreets and side alleys, Dong Jinsong’s fast-moving camerawork skilfully captures the neon drenched ambiance. One scene features dancers rocking to the 70s disco hit “Rasputin” their LED-lit trainers adding a jewel-like dimension to the night setting.

But these are Noirish nights and there’s no happy ending in sight for the lovers as they rush from scene to scene. The Wild Goose Lake is at heart a wild and beautiful goose chase between the cops, the crooks, a gangster on the run and his femme fatale. But when did Noir thrillers ever have a happy ending? MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 14-25 MAY 2019

 

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