Thursday, October 29, 2009

Purana Mandir (1984)

Purana Mandir (1984)

October 29th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Indian cinema during the 1970's featured few horror films, and the few that it did have usually came from the collaboration of the two Ramsay Brothers. They co-directed a series of low budget horror films and developed a set of their regular actors and crew, but had found little real success.

In 1984 they released Purana Mandir, their most ambitious production up until that time. It would become one of the most successful films of the year and collect massive profits on its minuscule budget. In a sense it became the first Indian cult horror film and began a wave of popular horror cinema that would last until the mid 1990's.

Its simple tale involved an evil force that had been wronged by a family and years later began to seek revenge. This would become one of the Brothers basic plot devices for many later films. Unlike Western horror, it mixes in unique elements found in virtually all Indian cinema such as comic relief and musical numbers. Purana Mandir may seem on the absurd side to Western audiences, but it remains an Indian cult classic.
India, Director's Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay, cast Mohnish Bahl, Arti Gupta, Puneet Issar, Sadashiv Amrapurkar and Ajay Agarwal, 145 minutes, in Hindi with English subtitles.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Body Jumper (2001)

Body Jumper (2001)

October 22nd, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

The early 2000's witnessed a burst of Thai cinema, including many horror films. The most well know of these were the works of the Pang brothers and their The Eye (2002) series, but there were many others working in this area.

Body Jumper is a horror comedy that follows a group of teenagers who inadvertently unleash a liver eating ghost who possesses them with monstrous results.

Thailand, Director Haeman Chatemee, Cast Danai Smuthkochorn, Angela Grant and Chompunoot, 98 minutes, in Thai with English subtitles.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Love Eterne (1963)

The Love Eterne (1963)

October 16th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Few films of any Chinese cinema have left impressions felt as deeply as The Lover Eterne. It could be viewed as a culmination of the Huangmei Opera genre that had been growing in popularity for almost a decade, made by the director that given it its modern cinematic form. In 1955 a Mainland Chinese Huangmei Opera film who’s English title is The Heavenly Match became popular in Hong Kong and surrounding regions. It was a typical Opera adaption for its time, in many ways purely a filmed stage performance with a limited cinematography. Director Li detected what he thought was an opportunity and convinced the Shaw Brothers studio head Run Run Shaw to give him a relatively large budget to produce a Huangmei Opera film in color, still a rarity at the time. This film was Diau Charn (1958) based upon the character from the Romance of Three Kingdoms. In it he altered the traditional form of regional Huangmei Opera and made it more cinematic and in other senses modernized it. It became a huge critical and financial success and suddenly everyone was jumping onboard to make Huangmei Opera films.

Diau Charn was the first of three Huangmei Opera films directed by Li which would come to be viewed as the cornerstones of the genre. The second was The Kingdom and The Beauty a year later in 1959. In its he would experiment with creating an even stronger cinematic Opera style then before. Its success was much greater then his previous film. After this he would direct several Hungmei and other period films winning great acclaim. In 1963 the Huangmei trend in Hong Kong was still strong, but had lost some of the fever pitch of five years earlier. At this point Li created his third great Huangmei film, The Love Eterne. Based upon the Tang Dynasty folk tale of the butterfly lovers it was shot on location in Japan, although much of this is still in a studio as Hong Kong film production was still in the process of modernizing.
Upon its release The Love Eterene was well received in Hong Kong, but its true impact was felt elsewhere. It was popular throughout South-East Asia and would continue to play for more then a year in the Shaw owned theaters of the region. This was nothing compared to its reaction in Taiwan. It swept the second annual Golden Horse awards, winning in virtually every category including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. Its soundtrack would become an all time best seller and its theatrical run would go on for years. It can arguably be called the most popular film in the history of Taiwanese domestic consumption.
Now a little about the Opera form. Huangmei Opera originally came from China’s Anhui Provence and is one of dozens of regional opera forms. The name literally means Yellow Plum Tunes and its unique elements include restrained movement and frequent repetition of action and lyric. Before 1958 the two dominant opera forms in Hong Kong cinema were Cantonese and Beijing Opera, but for a period of roughly eight years they faced major cinematic competition from Huangmei Opera films.

The story of the Butterfly Lovers involves the daughter of a wealthy family, here played by Betty Loh Ti, who disguises herself as a man to attend advanced schooling. There she befriends another scholar played by Ivy Ling Po. She falls in love with him and starts a chain of events that challenges fate. Ivy Ling Po became a popular figure in Huangmei films, usually playing a man. This might cause some confusion to Western viewers, as a large number of these films such as Love Eterne already involve a woman cross-dressing to pass herself as a man for whatever plot device is applicable. Men playing women were very common in other opera types, especially before the 1970's but Huangmei is unique in that the trend was reversed. The Love Eterne is a testament to an era of Hong Kong film making that was creatively transitional and sadly frequently ignored by modern audiences.

Hong Kong, Director Li Han Hsiang, Cast Betty Loh Tih, Ivy Ling Po, Yam Kit, Chen Yan Yan, Lee Kwan and Cheng Miu, 122 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sayonara Jupiter (1983)

Sayonara Jupiter (1983)

October 8th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

During the 1970's and 80's Japan created many lavish space operas. They can typically be viewed as spinoffs of their giant monster or Kaju eiga genre. They usually involved Earth encountering some hostile alien and sending a fantastic spacecraft as our last hope to do battle with the menace. Sayonara Jupiter is an exception to this formula. Its production values are lavish, far above other space opera of the period and with the originality of the story, they certainly aim high.
Based upon a novel of the same name and adapted as a screenplay by the author, Sayonara Jupiter is the story of a black hole ready to devour the Earth. With the influence of alien technology, humanity develops a plan to save themselves by destroying Jupiter, hence the tittle.

The film was directed by Koji Hashimoto, who worked extensively on the Godzilla films of the 1960's and 70's and one year later, would go on to direct the big budget Godzilla revival/re-imagining Godzilla 1984.

The results are conflicted, with such great ambitions, the film is nicknamed the Japanese 2001 A Space Odyssey, it became convoluted and buckled under its own lofty goals. It still stands as an interesting and still entertaining entry into a reviving Japanese cinema and a unique vision for the science fiction genre.
Japan, Directors Sakyo Komatsu and Koji Hashimoto, Cast Tomokazu Miura, Diane Dangely, Miyuki Ono and Rachel Huggett, 140 minutes, in Japanese and limited English with English Subtitles