Archive for the ‘China’ Category

The Last-Minute ND/NF 2010 Preview, Part 2: Hunting & Zn. to Norteado

March 24, 2010

Families take the center stage in the second part of our New Directors New Films preview. In the Netherlands, a couple comes undone thanks to a new arrival. In Italy, a concubine dares to wander outside a brood’s closed ranks. In Canada, mother and son make like a WWE production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And you don’t even want to know what they’re doing to each other in Greece. It’s a line-up so gripping that film fans won’t even be able to turn from the screen to tell that elderly couple behind them to shut up. Hit the linked titles for more goodies.

Read the first part of our New Directors/New Films preview.

Hunting & Zn. (Hunting & Sons)

Tako and Sandra oughta be poster children for the Netherlands good life. Successful in both work and in life, the childhood sweethearts are the envy of all their friends. Sandra’s pregnancy should be cause for further celebration. In Sander Burger’s domestic horror, however, the blessed event is the very thing that causes their bourgeois bliss to spectacularly deflate. Don’t stand too close to the canal!

Io sono l’amore (I Am Love)

Luca Guadagnino takes a few frames from Visconti in this fragrant family saga, garnished with plenty of love, Italian style. Tilda Swinton is the beautiful Russian odalisque who marries into a fashion dynasty. Her second-class spousal existence is upended when she falls for a humpy young chef. Problem is Swinton’s surging libido might bring down the rest of the clan with her.

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The Great SXSW 2010 Preview Dump: Festival Favorites, Part 2

March 11, 2010

Is Sundance a little out of your price range, but a Greyhound bus ticket to Austin can be accommodated? Than Festival Favorites is the category for you. Here are the highlights of festivals gone have been cherry-picked … well, perhaps combine-harvested is closer to the truth. Still, all the way from Cannes comes the celebrated Kynodontas; there’s the hit Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-seller; and finally Last Train Home might make you a little more appreciative of the Austin bus terminal. Click on the titles for trailers where available.

Read our SXSW Headliners Preview.
Read the first part of our SXSW Spotlight Premieres preview.
Read the second part of our SXSW Spotlight Premieres preview.
Read our SXSW Narrative Features Competition preview.
Read our SXSW Documentary Features Competition preview.
Read the first part our SXSW Emerging Visions preview.
Read the second part our SXSW Emerging Visions preview.
Read our SXSW Lone Star States preview.
Read our SXSW 24 Beats Per Second preview.
Read our SXSW SW Global preview.
Read the first part of our SXSW Festival Favorites preview.

How to Fold a Flag

What happens when the war is over? With the impressive Iraqi war documentaries Gunner Palace and The Prisoner to their credit, Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein decided to find out. They follow four soldiers picking up the pieces after life on the firing line. Their post-war ambitions range from Jon Powers’ quest for a seat in Congress to achieving glory in the cage fighting ring.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Basquiat began his artistic life as “SAMO,” the graffiti philosopher of the 1980s New York downtown scene. He ended it with a needle in his arm, having alienated many of his friends and deciding that money was the only measure of artistic success. Music video director, Beastie Boy spouse and onetime Basquiat pal Tamra Davis tells the artistic poster boy’s story.

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The Great SXSW 2010 Preview Dump: Documentary Features Competition

March 11, 2010

It’s a cliché that truth is stranger than fiction. It’s also a sign of our creative bankruptcy that we’re opening up this paragraph with such a hoary old fossil. Surveying the field in SXSW’s nonfiction film competition, however, is to look upon a group that’s bursting with eccentric characters—the guru of Ecstasy, anyone?—and hot button issues. This year, the jury can expect to be taken from Beijing to Afghanistan to Sierra Leone to a world in one man’s backyard. Time to switch the brain into its “on” position. Click on the titles to watch trailers.

Read our SXSW Headliners Preview.
Read the first part of our SXSW Spotlight Premieres preview.
Read the second part of our SXSW Spotlight Premieres preview.
Read our SXSW Narrative Features Competition preview.

Beijing Taxi

In the Chinese capital of Beijing, the taxi-drivers are notoriously garrulous, willing to discuss anything from politics to what’s for dinner with their passengers. Filmmaker Miao Wang uses these characters as the lens through which to view a changing nation opening its doors for the 2008 Olympics. The trauma of accelerated redevelopment is seen through their windshields. Don’t forget to tip.

Camp Victory, Afghanistan

Our exit strategy in Afghanistan involves educating the country’s nascent army in how to keep their lawless country under the boot-heel. That task is down to the U.S. National Guard, who Carol Dysinger followed as they trained a green battalion in the ways of martial law. She captures inexperienced military men facing fresh challenges, as well as the unlikely friendships forming between teachers and students. Heartwarming.

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Trailerama: Last Train Home

February 22, 2010

Think travelling during Thanksgiving is rough? Try Chinese New Year. That’s when 130 million migrant workers around the country all head home to be reunited–briefly–with their families. Delays are not uncommon, and the terminals are thronged with desperate travellers. Fan Lixin‘s documentary isn’t just fixated on the spectacle of humanity, though. While accompanying a family on their journey, he also examined the hopes and fears of working class people that is on the move, even when it’s not. Planes, Trains and Automobiles was never like this. Screening at SXSW Film Festival.

Berlin 2010 Preview: Forum, Part 1

February 11, 2010

So if the Panorama section deals with contemporary issues and Generations is for the children, what’s Forum? Well, loosely defined it’s where Berlin can put all the other films they like. There’s a particular emphasis on first-time filmmakers and experimental approaches. The net is cast wide this year, with movies from as far a-field as the Chinese-Burma border and Uganda in the first installment of our Forum preview. As for cutting edge, cut-up techniques are used to relate a transsexual romance. The line-up includes the best movie about clams since that one with Elvis Presley. Click on the titles to watch trailers.

Aisheen (Still Alive in Gaza)

Swiss documentary filmmaker Nicolas Wadimoff went to Gaza to find the images behind the headlines. He got the goods. This al-Jazeera co-production shows how life goes on under the blockade, with moments of ordinary happiness punctuated by the occasional explosion.

La belle visite

The subjects of Jean-François Caissy’s documentary are in an unusual place. They live in a Quebec roadside motel that’s been turned into a retirement home. Caissy’s long takes and eye for detail emphasizes the grim tragedy of getting old in a mausoleum with has lost none of its transient air.

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Berlin 2010 Preview: Competition, Part 2

February 4, 2010

This year’s Berlinale features established filmmakers wandering into unfamiliar territory. Martin Scorsese gives a Dennis Lehane tale all the gaudy trappings of a Hammer horror film. Zhang Yimou puts down his ornate sword-play films for a farcical take on the Coen Brothers. 24 hour party person Michael Winterbottom even takes Texas by the tail in a full-blown film noir. Matters of faith also loom large in films from Germany, India and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Berlin is a broad church.

Read the first part of our Berlin Film Festival Competition preview.

The Killer Inside Me

Lou Ford is one of author Jim Thompson’s greatest antiheroes. Ford’s a psychotic charmer who keeps the peace in a town populated by mattress-happy dames and lowdown double-crossers. Guerilla filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo) isn’t everyone’s first choice to helm a Lone Star noir, but Casey Affleck seems just the right feller to fill Ford’s bloodstained boots.

Mammuth (Mammoth)

It’s easy to take Gerard Depardieu for granted, yet the shaggy icon delivers. Here he plays a worker who can’t retire until he finds his last six employers. That sends him on a journey around France astraddle his Mammoth motorcycle. Among the figures from his past is Isabelle Adjani, asleep for the last four decades. Written and directed by Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern (Louise-Michel).

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Rotterdam 2010 Preview: VPRO Tiger Awards

January 22, 2010

The Rotterdam International Film Festival introduced the VPRO Tiger Awards in 1995. Each year, three prizes are awarded to filmmakers for their first or second film. Winners have included Lou Ye (Suzhong River) and Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy). In contention this year are a host of deadly serious films, tackling family relationships, leave-taking of many stripes and that old stand-by sex … often in the raw and ragged manner of contemporary cinema. The contenders also comprise a tour of emerging cinemas from Costa Rica to Georgia.

Agua fría de mar (Cold water of the Sea)

The pitch: A couple looking to sell their property on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast meet a seven-year-old stray.
Their lives are changed forever? Well, the tot certainly throws emotions and class boundaries into sharp relief in Paz Fabrega’s debut feature.

Alamar (To the Sea)

The pitch: A young man goes on a fishing trip with his father in the Caribbean’s Chinchorro reef.
Lots of booze and marlin to be had? It’s certainly an exercise in male bonding. Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s documentary approach to his story means the egrets get as much attention as the relationships.

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Rotterdam 2010 Preview: Bright Futures, Part 2

January 20, 2010

The second half of the Bright Futures slate at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival is dominated by homecomings. Documentary filmmakers go back to their roots to perform their investigations into history both personal and political. Sometimes it’s the dislocation which throws the contradictions of society into sharp relief. With all this brow-furrowing going on, it’s a relief to find some old stand-bys like the British comedy of embarrassment and a coming-of-age-among-the-tulips tale. The IRFF runs between January 27 and February 7. Oxygen tents will be available after the screening of The Sentimental Engine Slayer.

Mijn Enschede

The pitch: In 2000, the Dutch city of Enschede was ripped apart by a deadly fireworks factory explosion. Native filmmaker Astrid Bussink revisits the scene.
There’s still some fallout? It’s a personal journey of sorts. Bussink left the city the day the factory blew up. Since then she’s won awards for short documentaries like The Angelmakers and brought her first feature, The Lost Colony, to Rotterdam in 2008. Living within spitting distance of the memorial, the film filters the question of who’s to blame through her efforts at understanding.

Nuit Bleue

The pitch: Another story of return. Corsica is seen through the eyes of a homecoming expat, which reveal its patriarchal social structure and beautiful landscape.
I’ll book my vacation soon. It’s not all Lonely Planet eye-candy. Artist Ange Leccia has branched out into film to experiment with sound. There’s no dialogue anywhere in the film.
Immersive! The notes, however, do promise Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ne dis rien” on the soundtrack.
That’s funny. In the Bright Futures sidebar, you take your laughs where you can find them.

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Trailerama: Confucius

December 8, 2009

In Squally’s limited experience with Eastern Philosophy, Confucius spent most of his time either a) writing or b) wowing his students with pithy observations. Turns out there was also some rocking battle scenes and villainous gloating involved, too. This state-sanctioned biopic directed by Mei Hu (On the Other Side of the Bridge) and starring Chow Yun-Fat opens in China in January.

Trailerama: San qiang pai an jing qui (A Simple Noodle Story)

November 23, 2009

Once Zhang Yimou was the enfant terrible of Chinese cinema. Partnered with muse Gong Li, he also put the country back on the cinematic map with chromatic morality plays like Red Sorghum and Raise the Red Lantern. Then he turned his skills at mise en scene and choreography to the wushu genre and made his way back into official favor with Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. It culminated in his most lavish production—the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.

So good on him for taking yet another left turn and remaking the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. The Dan Hedaya character is now a noodle shop owner eking out a living at the desert fringes in Gansu. Oh, and we’re in medieval Gansu rather than contemporary Texas. Sick of being made a cuckold, Ni Dahong hires a cop to kill his adulterous wife Yan Ni (“The Queen of Charm”). Things do not pan out as planned. Will it work? Let’s just say that we don’t remember a cannon in the original.