Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SARS Wars (2003)

SARS Wars (2003)

February 26th, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

During the last decade or so, Thai cinema has been able to break into the international arena with art films and dramas such as Last Life in the Universe and action films like Ong Bak. Another area that is equally popular domestically is the Thai horror comedy. More recent films like Body Jumper and Sick Nurses have shown that Thai horror films have a firm place in the international market, especially the quirky little oddities such as SARS Wars.

The films plot involves the kidnaping of the daughter of a prominent industrialist by a crime gang. Unknown to them is the fact that their high rise hideout has become the starting point for a new zombie making super SARS virus.

Before long it’s a frantic mix up as the criminals, bounty hunters and average citizens all attempt to survive the zombie bloodbath. The situations in the film become progressively over the top leading to some interesting encounters. SARS Wars is a film that does not take itself very seriously, but takes the viewer along for a strange, but enjoyable ride through its own crazed logic.

Thailand, Director Truc 'Charlie' Nguyen, Cast Johnny Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen and Thanh Van Ngo, 104 minutes, in Thai with English Subtitles.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blind Shaft (2003)

Blind Shaft (2003)

February 19th, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Mainland Chinese cinema walks a fine line when it comes to serious films critiquing the sensitive social issues that exist in modern China. One film that found itself on the wrong side of this balancing act is Blind Shaft.

Its story revolves around the illegal coal mining industry and its suicidally dangerous working conditions. This is seen through the eyes of a pare or wandering con-men who stage accidents in order to collect hush money.

In the film, the duo befriend a naive young man who has only recently left his rural village to seek work. The film then becomes equal parts coming of age story, social commentary and dark comedy. Some critics include Blind Shaft among the ranks of the neo-noire, or the contemporary examples/revivals of film noire such as Chinatown (1974) and Devil in a Blue Dress (1995).

Despite winning a wide range of international awards, it has still not been cleared for release in China. This is the first of a loose trilogy of films by director Li Yang, each one focusing on the problems of modern China. These include Blind Mountain (2007) which revolves around the sex slave trade and the still in production Blind River (2009).

Mainland China, Director Li Yang, Cast Li Qiang, Wang Shuangbao and Wang Baoqiang, 89 minutes, in Henanese with English Subtitles.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The President's Last Bang (2005)

The President’s Last Bang (2005)

February 12th, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Since the ascendence of South Korean film to a major, internationally popular world cinema starting in the late 1990's probably the most controversial film to come out of this wellspring is a strange black comedy/drama called The President’s Last Bang. It recounts the events of the Assassination of President Park Chung-hee, the head of South Korea’s Military government by his domestic intelligence chief.

The film was initially banned but was later allowed to be released in its uncensored form. The varied interpretations surrounding these events is still able to bring about strong passions in modern South Korea and the film does not shy away from offering its own interpretations.

South Korea, Director Im Sang-Soo, Cast Han Suk-Kyu, Baek Yub-Shik, Jeong Won-Jung, Song Jae-Ho and Kim Eung-Soo, 104 minutes, in Korean with English subtittles.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lady General Hua Mu-Lan (1963)

Lady General Hua Mu-Lan (1963)

February 5th, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Chinese opera films continue to be virtually unknown in the west, while many are simply filmed versions of opera performances there are many epic opera films made with high production values and originality. There are more then thirty varieties of Chinese opera, but once opera form stands apart in terms of the quality of its representation on film.

Huangmei opera, which literally means Yellow Plum music or songs is a traditional opera form from China’s Anhui Provence. The style was unique among other Chinese opera forms for its rhythms and restrained movements.
In 1958 the Shaw Brothers studio produced a big budget Huangmei opera film called Diau Charn. This polished and slightly modernized cinematic telling of a story from the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms became incredibly successful leading Huangmei opera films to arguably become the most popular film genre in Hong Kong from the late 1950's to the mid 1960's. Arguably the most successful Hong Kong film of all time is Huangmei Opera The Love Etern from 1963 directed by Li Han Hsiang who also directed Diau Charn.

Lady General Hua Mu-Lan was directed by Yueh Feng who is known for directed several Huangmei classics such as The Lotus Lamp(1965) and The Three Smiles(1969). The films star playing the tittle character is Ivy Ling Po, along with Linda Lin Dai she is considered one of the two great actresses of the Huangmei opera film.

The story of this film is based upon the classic Chinese poem of Mulan. This particular story is now widely known about in the west because of the 1998 Disney animated film Mulan. Because of this, the film is a perfect jumping off place for someone to be exposed to Huangmei opera, since most opera films are based upon events from classical legends and novels few of which would be known widely in the west.

Hong Kong, Director Yueh Feng, Cast Ivy Ling Po, Chian Han, Yang Chi-ching and Chen Yen-yen, 99 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtittles.