Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the Railway (1960)

On the Railway (1960)

December 1st, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Probably made in 1960, On the Railway centers upon the events of the Korean War. This is not particularly unusual as this is a constant theme in North Korean cinema. The difference in this case is that it was made relatively close to the actual events, with many of the actors likely having fought in the conflict.
The basic story involves a man who travels south with his train, seemingly to defect. But there is more to the story then that, obviously ending in patriotic sacrifice. This formula has been repeated every year from the 1950's to the present, and will likely go into the not too distant future if not beyond.
One interesting feature involves a focus on American troops in the defection segments.
From the early days of the North and Kim Il-sung comes this look into an idealized view of the war. With so little information available on their cinema, this like almost all North Korean film has a phantasmal quality, and in that sense there is a remarkable continuity running throughout the more then fifty years of a truly strange cinema.
North Korea, Director ?, Cast ?, 90 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

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

It would be more then fair to label Japanese director Seijun Suzuki as one of the most unusual studio directors in world cinema. That is, he was a director that worked the majority of his career contracted to a studio. As such he was given a wide range of films to direct with little choice in the matter. But although assigned the position primarily of B-movie director, he began to experiment in strange directions.
The majority of films he is best remembered for are his Yakuza gangster works. This is at a time when the prevailing trend was towards films portraying Yakuza in a near godlike light as fearless warriors holding up some degraded ideal of Japanese honor and martial strength. While other notable directors were tackling this trend in other ways, such as Kinji Fukasaku with his gritty tone, portraying a nightmare world of pathetic shadow individuals best showcased in his Battles Without Honor or Humanity series (1973-4), Suzuki made them into manic jokes living insane lives in an insane world and always just inches away from noticing it. It would be this tilted viewpoint that would eventually see the director blacklisted after his studio found it impossible to understand, market or support his unique style.
Decades later and Tokyo Drifter is one of his supreme accomplishments. Its story is simple enough. A gangster is forced into an action through his code of honor which leads to a kind of self imposed exile as he tours the underworld and the dysfunction that dictates his life.

Japan, Director Seijun Suzuki, Cast Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Hideaki Nitani and Tamio Kawaji, 83 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Special Taiwanese Event

Taiwan Day

November 10th

The series will be suspending its normal screening in support of special Taiwan related events and film screening. The events are open to all and should prove an interesting evening.

The series will be suspending its normal screening for this week in support of a special screening of a short Taiwanese documentary film and events at the UWM Golda Meir Library. There will also be a catered reception and a presentation on Democracy in Taiwan.

EcoArk (2010)

Internationally famous architect Arthur Huang created this documentary as a record of the building of an exhibition hall constructed for the Taipei International Floral Exposition. The hall was constructed from a recycled material known as polli-bricks.

4:00pm-5:00pm Lecture, Rise of Democracy in Taiwan by Professor David Buck (American Geographical Society Library, 3rd floor)

5:00pm-6:30pm  Reception and photo exhibition (62 precious photos dated 1911-2011):4th floor conference room, catered by Jing's Chinese Restaurant

6:30pm- Presentation/Film Screening with featured speaker: EcoArk Designer Arthur Huang (4th floor conference room)

Golda Meir Library Conference Center
2311 E. Hartford Ave.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mekhong Full Moon Party (2002)

Mekhong Full Moon Party (2002)

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

There is something about Thai cinema that seems always to give the impression of a strange quiet, a mellow atmosphere in which things happen almost by themselves. This is no doubt as much a cultural bias as it is a statement of the tone and style of Thai cinema. But even so, the relaxing qualities make a film like Mekong Full Moon Party particularly enjoyable.

The plot involves an annual festival during which strange lights emerge from the water. This phenomenon has made a tiny village into a major tourist destination. Now a young man returns to the village and is faced with a decision regarding the lights and the future of the festival.

Besides sweeping the Thailand National Film Association Awards, the film has enjoyed a moderate level of international attention. Coming at a time when Thai cinema was increasing in both funding and scope, this film is almost a throwback to a time before. The tone is almost that of a documentary film, minimal artifice and character driven.


Thailand, Director Jira Maligool, Cast Anuchyd Sapanphong, Noppadol Duangporn, Boonchai Limathibul and Somlek Sakdikul, 119 minutes, in Thai with English subtitles