Monday, December 14, 2009

The Dream Sword (1979)

The Dream Sword (1979)

December 17th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Wu Xia (swordplay) films are one of China’s oldest and most popular cinematic genre. Because of internal politics during the Nationalist era of the 1930's these films were banned. This lead to boom in Hong Kong productions of this form. As the Nationalists were deposed by the Communists the ban still held, and so Hong Kong continued to carry the torch.

During the late 1950's new writers came onto the scene creating the novels that hundreds if not now thousands of films would stem from. Beginning with rather primitive productions Taiwan created its own Wu Xia boom. They could not compete with the mammoth productions of Hong Kong Shaw Brothers Studio, but they were able to take advantage of their domestic market. Most of these films were cheaply made knock offs of Hong Kong Wu Xia films, but there were a few directors such as King Hu and Cheung Paang Yik that were able to improve the quality and inventiveness of Taiwanese productions.

The Dream Sword is average by Hong Kong standards, but a solid film containing the complexity for which the genre is known. This typically includes wild plot twists, double identities and an atmosphere where nearly anything can happen. The film itself deals with the hunt for a magical sword and its unbalancing affects upon the martial world.

Taiwan, Director Li Chao Yung, Cast Chiang Ming, Chung Wa, Hu Chin and Lung Fei, 93 minutes, in Mandarin with English Subtitles

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thirst (2009)

Thirst (2008)

December 10th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Director Park Chan-Wook’s lose adaptation of the novel Therese Raquin by Emile Zola. The plot of Thirst involves a Catholic Priest played by Song Kang-ho who falls in love with a married woman only to run afoul of a medical experiment that turn him into a modern day vampire.

Beyond horror or a thriller film, it explores ideas of desire and human psychology delving into darker subject matter. This sort of material is old hat for writer director Park Chan-Wook who’s credits include the Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy of Mr. Vengence (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)) and JSA - Joint Security Area (2000).

The film stars Song Kang-ho, who has gained stardom through major roles in blockbusters such as The Host (2006) and The Good, The Bad and The Weird (2008) as a comic actor that is also very comfortable with darker material making him the perfect choice for this reinterpretation of the vampire myth.
The Thirst is also a tangible example of the relative closeness of the American and South Korean film markets that has been developing over the last decade with its home video release happening simultaneously between the two countries becoming a fine starting point for someone who is becoming introduced to South Korean cinema.
South Korea, Park Chan-wook, Cast Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin and Shin Ha-kyun, 134 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Red Cliff Part II (2008)

Red Cliff Part II (2008)

December 3rd, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Red Cliff Part II continues the events of the first part, whereby the two forces are camped as opposing sides of the river making ready for battle. For more information please see the previous BLOG entry on Part I, which has more in depth information on the overall story and more details of production.

As the first part was geared towards introducing the characters and setting up the climactic final battle, this part features the battle itself. While there was extensive use of CGI, there were also 100,000 extras in the form of Chinese soldiers provided by the PRC for the filming.

The naval sequences use twenty-four full scale ships made for the production, although through camera maneuvering and CGI, many more ships are seen onscreen. The sequences were filmed at a reservoir and during their production a stuntman was fatally burned during a fire sequence.

Mainland China, Director John Woo, Cast Song Jia, Hu Jun, Zhang Feng-Yi, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro, 140 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles.