Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Swordsman and Enchantress (1978)

Swordsman and Enchantress (1978)

April 28th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Two men, each giants in the martial world seem destined for conflict. One leads a life of isolation while the other fame and fortune. Now mysterious forces are inducing them to finally discover who is the superior warrior.
Director Chor Yuen began in Hong Kong’s Cantonese dialect cinema where he developed a reputation for social realism as well as pulp actions films such as the iconic Black Rose (1965). The second half of his career was surprisingly centered in the Mandarin cinema, more specifically that of the Shaw Brothers Studio. He began by making a range of films, but in 1976 he directed two swordplay films for the studio, The Magic Blade and Killer Clans, both adaptations of the work of Taiwanese swordplay novelist Gu Long. They were so successful that he would ultimately more then sixteen adaptations of the writers work over the next decade.
The typical elements of a Gu Long novel and the film adaptations themselves included a complex, virtually convoluted story that may involve secret passages, vast conspiracies and double or even triple identities. Swordsman and Enchantress remains one of the best of these films, with an accessible plot full of the lavish set pieces that the Shaw Brothers studio routinely accomplished at the height of their power.

Hong Kong, Director Chor Yuen, Cast Ti Lung, Cheng Lee, Lily Li Li-Li, Lau Wing and Norman Chu, 86 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jan Dara (2001)

Jan Dara (2001)

April 21st, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

In 1930's Thailand a young boy lives with his rich father. The boy is the films title character and what he experiences in his formative years is a world of hatred, intrigue and sexual tension. Blamed for the death of his mother, Jan is hated by his father and has to struggle to develop his own identity in an oppressive atmosphere of family dysfunction.

Applause Pictures, founded by Hong Kong director Peter Chan had a stated goal of developing pan-Asian productions. Jan Dara was the first of many high profile efforts. Other notable entries include The Eye (2002) and Golden Chicken (2002). Hong Kong actress Christie Chung was cast in an attempt to market the film throughout Asia. The film is based upon an iconic 1965 novel by Utsana Phleungtham which was a breakthrough work of eroticism and drama in contemporary Thai literature.

The film is notable for testing the waters of acceptability for Thai censors with its heavy use of eroticism. Its production also highlights the technical capabilities of Thai cinema at the start of what would become a boom decade for the industry. Its visuals and art design bring to vivid life a moody 1930's Bangkok.
Thailand, Director Nonzee Nimibutr, Cast Christy Chung Lai-Tai, Santisuk Promsiri, Eakarat Sarsukh and Wipawee Charoenpura, 108 minutes, in Thai with English subtitles

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)

***********PLEASE READ***************

For this week only the Asian Film Series will be presented at an alternate time and location. The date is still the same, but the film will be shown at 7:35PM in Bolton B52. For location information please see this link http://www4.uwm.edu/map/vt-cent.cfm Bolton is the building behind Lubar Hall on N. Maryland ave. The room is located in the basement and includes a theater style set up with a DVD projector.

Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)

April 14th, 7:35PM in Bolton B52

The Dirty Pair is the nickname of a duo of secret agent/investigators that appeared in a series of light SciFi novels written by Haruka Takachiho in the 1980's. Set over a century in the future, the two women look into problems usually having to do with the widespread human colonization of the Galaxy. Through their travels they become the equivalent of an albatross. Bad luck, destruction and death are always in their wake. This takes the form of an irreverent style of humor whereby they might be indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions, but the important thing is they have fun doing it and that is the appeal of the Dirty Pair, it is a love affair with the absurd.
The novels along with their illustrations of the two scantily clad protagonists spawned a TV series and a string of Original Video Animations (OVA’s). The Dirty Pair came from an era of Japanese animation very different from that of the 1990's or today. An era where it was less self conscious and painfully hip, and that having fun went hand in hand with an originality of spirit if not subject matter.

For their cinematic debut the Duo faces strange animal attacks on a far flung colony. The story is basically a mixture of Alien (1979) and the novel Dune, but this becomes irrelevant as the antics of the two protagonists are the only thing that really maters to the film. The joy of the material is in a celebration of cheesy excess. If you think tuxedo space suits are the height of fashion and that battle armor should be transparent and skin tight, then the Dirty Pair might be for you.
Japan, Director Koichi Mashimo, Cast Kyoko Tongu, Saeko Shimazu, Katsuji Mori and Chikao Otsuka, 81 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pulgasari (1985)-

Pulgasari (1985)

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

Anything originating from North Korea tends to take on a surrealistic, otherworldly quality. When Kim Jong-Il decided to produce a uplifting giant monster movie this trend went into overdrive. The plot is simple enough, and set in olden times. An evil ruler abuses his the people by forcing them to work at slave labor and denying them basic necessities. So through the tears and prayers of a beaten old man a doll is imbued with life and then slowly becomes a giant, metal eating monster who kills the peoples oppressive ruler.
The story is a metaphor for the South, America and capitalism, but likely only a North Korean would view it as such. For such a project Kim Jong-Il needed an experienced director and so he had him kidnaped and taken to the North. The man was Shin Sang-ok who was lured to Hong Kong while searching for his actress ex-wife who had also been kidnaped. Eventually Shin along with his wife whom he had reconciled with during the ordeal managed to escape. They encountered a mixed reaction in the South and he eventually relocated to the United States where he continued to work as a producer creating the 3 Ninjas series of films.
One of the strangest twists to this story is the involvement of Teruyoshi Nakano and Kenpachiro Satsuma of the Toho Studio in the film. This is counterintuitive on many levels. Firstly hatred of the Japanese and their colonialist abuses is a major tenant of North Korean political life, even more so in the 1980's. Secondly, why the major Japanese movie studio would work on a North Korean film in the era when Japanese civilians were being kidnaped to the North is anyone’s guess. In the end it all comes back to the strange nature of the North in which applying any kind of logic to its doings is a haphazard endeavor.

North Korea, Directors Shin Sang-ok, Chong Gon Jo, Producer by Kim Jong-il, Cast Chang Son Hui, Ham Gi Sop, Jong-uk Ri and Gwon Ri, 95 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles