Ni hao, film fans & friends.
If you are planning to be anywhere near central North Carolina this summer, I would strongly encourage you to attend the 2010 Chinese Film Series, featuring four fairly recent and very highly rated Chinese films. The films will be shown on Thursday nights at the independent Galaxy Cinema in Cary, and the price for the entire 4-film series is only $15 — even less if you, like Adrianne and I, are members.
I could not be more excited about the first film’s inclusion -– Wang Kar-wai’s evocative and hauntingly beautiful In the Mood for Love. It is one of my three all-time personal favorite Chinese films, featuring ravishing and delicately nuanced performances by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung (who played the star-crossed martial arts lovers Flying Snow and Broken Sword in Zhang Yimou’s Hero). The New York Times said it was “voluptuous — like that first blush of love when you can barely concentrate on anything else, and the world seems new and strange…. Probably the most breathtakingly gorgeous film of the year, dizzy with a nose-against-the-glass romantic spirit…. The camera is perched like a voyeur, snatching glimpses from doorways and corners, gazing lovingly at this couple…. This film is a sweet kiss.”
Adrianne and I found the redeeming family-centered message underlyingRiding Alone for Thousands of Miles (a recent offering by Zhang Yimou, probably China’s greatest filmmaker) made for an endearing and touchingly memorable film experience. The Washington Post called it “a masterful little film, and, thanks to Zhang’s seasoned hands, it’s subtly heartfelt but never manipulative.” TheChicago Tribune said, “This is a movie for all cultures and all people, for families and especially for those who have lost them.”
Families, note: while the first two films are rated PG, and so with some parental guidance they should be appropriate for at least your older kids, the third film should be approached with discretion. Director Johnnie To’s R-rated Exiled is a gritty, grizzly Hong Kong cops story (for which both To and Hong Kong are famous). Newsweek said the film “blends sentimentality, shoot-outs and cool humor into a bewitchingly entertaining brew,” but Roger Ebert laments that director To does this genre “about as well as you’d want it to be done, unless you wanted acting and more coherence.”
The documentary Up the Yangtze may be unrated in America (in Singapore it was rated PG), but the critics have almost unanimously glowed in their praise of it: Variety -“A gloriously cinematic documentary of epic, poetic sadness.” New York Times -“Astonishing” Salon.com -“Spectacular. The cast of characters rival any fiction film I’ve seen recently.”Entertainment Weekly -“Sad and beautiful. An exquisitely poised small study.” Boston Globe -“Masterful and haunting.”
|In the Mood for Love (2000) – June 24; 7:30 p.m.
Considered by many critics and film journals to be one of the best films of the decade, this melancholic romance stars Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, two of Hong Kong’s biggest stars. When Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan discover that their spouses are having an affair, they find themselves drawn to each other despite the cultural mores of the 1960s. With shades of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece is an understated look at the complexities of love, lust and memory.
Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Hong Kong. 2000.
85 Metacritic rating (out of 100)
(Rated PG for thematic elements and brief language)
|Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles (2005)- July 8; 7:30 p.m.
Arguably the most famous Chinese filmmaker, Zhang Yimou returns to his dramatic roots in this story about Tanaka, an aged Japanese fisherman who travels to China to see his hospitalized son. His journey brings him in contact with Li, a prisoner also looking to meet his young boy. Tanaka struggles to help Li achieve his goal, at the risk of losing his own opportunity to make amends.
73 Metacritic rating (out of 100)
(Rated PG for mild thematic elements)
|Exiled (2006) – July 22; 7:30 p.m.
This crime drama follows ex-criminal Wo, who is targeted for assassination by a vengeful mob boss. But when one pair of hitmen meets another sworn to protect him, their allegiances are called into question. Director Johnnie To proves again that he’s a master at choreographing action scenes which are simultaneously suspenseful and beautiful to watch unfold.
Hong Kong’s official submission for consideration at the 80th Academy Awards.
73 Metacritic rating (out of 100)
(Rated R for strong violence and some sexual content)
|Up The Yangtze (2007) – August 5; 7:30 p.m.
[ Documentary ] The feature film debut of Canadian director Yung Chang, this documentary follows several rural workers in the province of Hubei and how they are affected by the building of the Three Gorges Dam. It’s a thought-provoking and moving look at a rapidly-changing nation struggling to transition into a consumer capitalist economy.
Winner of the Emerging Artist award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
84 Metacritic rating (out of 100)
(Not rated in USA)