Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)

The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)

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

This film is a wide sweeping parody referencing the Chinese Wu Xia (swordplay) genre. It uses many well known Wu Xia films, Novels and TV shows for its subject matter, but in its story it is largely based upon the Jin Yong’s novel of the same name.

The plot in short involves a super powerful martial artist known as Western Poison aka Ouyang Feng (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) who overthrows a king and attempts to take his thrown with the help of his cousin the Queen. The third Princess flees in order to find help in defeating Western Poison and has many comic misadventures before encountering and gathering all the heroes that together will be strong enough to defeat Ouyang Feng.

There have been many Jin Yong adaptations including Tsui Hark's Swordsman trilogy (1990-93), Royal Tramp I & II (1992) and A Deadly Secret (1980) but this film is one of the most unique. Another explanation for the films tone is that it is a Newyear Film, that is, a film designed to be released at the festival time of the Chinese newyear. Newyear films tend to be low in seriousness and comic in tone. It’s a release slot similar to the American Christmas film or Summer Blockbuster.
The Eagle Shooting Heroes was shot practically on the back of the Wong Kar-Wai Wu Xia epic Ashes of Time (1994) using most of the same cast with few exceptions, also both films are based upon the same source material. Even with this being the case they could not be more different. Ashes is a slowly paced, art house drama and Eagle is a over the top slapstick parody film, although both are excellent for what they are.
The cast is made up of some of the top A list stars of the era including Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Joey Wong, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Leslie Cheung and Kenny Bee. In addition to this the talent behind the camera is just as pronounced. Directed by Jeffery Lau Chun Wai who made his name with such comedy classics as The 92 Legendary La Rose Noire (1992) and The Haunted Cop Shop (1987). Wong Kar-Wai comes in as Executive Producer and the film was made under his personal JetTone label. This might seem an odd mix, one of the worlds most renowned art house directors involved with a project like this. In fact he had previously collaborated with Lau on several films through the 1980's. James Wong, one of the most accomplished composers ever to work in Hong Kong cinema (his credits include the soundtracks to A Chinese Ghost Story and A Better Tomorrow) gives his usual high level of performance with a series of great comic themes. Lastly Sammo Hung manages the fight choreography with impressive flare and many winks and nods to the classic Wu Xia films of the 1960's.
The Eagle Shooting Heroes remains one of the comic high points that comes just at the cusp of the near collapse of the Hong Kong film industry in the early to mid 1990's. Even though it’s a film parodying a specific genre with many in jokes most viewers will still find it very enjoyable even if they don’t always understand every reference.
Hong Kong, Director Jeffery Lau Chun Wai, Cast Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Joey Wong, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Leslie Cheung and Kenny Bee, 100 minutes, in Cantonese with English subtitles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Weird (2008)

The Good, The Bad and The Weird (2008)

April 23rd, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited Korean film of the last five years, the story involves a train traveling through Northern Korea and Manchuria in the 1930's. Three men a drawn together, a thief, a bandit and an assassin. Together they have the power to safeguard or destroy a national treasure.

The film is billed as the first Korean western and like another recent East Asian wester, Tears of the Black Tiger it really makes a genre its own with a unique vision. There is good reason this is one of the most popular Korean films of the last decade, watch it and findout for yourself.

South Korea, Director Kim Ji-woon, Cast Song Kang-Ho, Lee Byeong-Heon, Jeong Woo-Seong and Yoon Je-Moon, 139 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Air Hostess (1959)

Air Hostess (1959)

April 16th, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

In the late 1950's Hong Kong was dominated by two large studios, the Shaw Brothers and MP&GI later renamed Cathay. They were both famous for their individual studio styles and the goal of each was to dominate the other. Air hostess is one of MP&GI’s major hits and excels in everything the studio was known for, a sense of modernity, shooting in far off locations and the odd musical number or two.

The film follows a young woman played by one of the studios biggest stars, Grace Chang at the height of her career, who decides to become an Air Hostess. At the time this occupation allowed for nearly unrivaled independence compared to the normal career options that would be open to women, as well as a sense of prestige that went with the job. The film follows her through training and the start of her career as well as throwing in a few romances and musical numbers into the mix.

Air Hostess was a kind of prestige picture for the studio and it shows in many ways. It was shot in color when most productions were not and portions of the film were also shot on location in Thailand and Taiwan. This is a classic film little known of in the West.

Hong Kong, Director Yi Wen, Cast Grace Chang, Kelly Lai Chen, Feng Erh and Hung Chiao, 105 minutes, in Mandarin with English Subtitles.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Wife is a Gangster (2001)

My Wife is a Gangster (2001)

April 9th, 6:30PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

The last ten years have been a tremendous boom time for South Korean film in terms of the size and scope of films as well as international recognition. One of the genre that has been consistently popular throughout this period is the Romantic Comedy. This weeks film helped to create a sub-genre of romantic comedies revolving around gangsters. Examples of this are the two My Wife is a Gangster sequels, Marrying the Mafia and its sequels, My Boss My Hero and Family: Action Vs. Love.

Its basic plot involves the streetwise female boss of a major Korean Gang who for various reasons must be married. Having no social skills outside of dealing with those in gang culture, she frightens off all potential suitors. Then several members of her gang have a bright idea, they should just find her the most suitable husband and force him to marry her.
My Wife is a Gangster mixes comedy and drama to tell a refreshing story of love and friendship.

South Korea, Director Cho Jin-gyu, Cast Shin Eun-Kyung, Park Sang-Myeon, Ahn Jae-mo and Kim In-Kwon, 107 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles.