1. Tears of the Yang-Tse
/ Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu
The historical context and moral dilemma were promising but dramatization is really over the top, and tiring at +180mins.
2. Running Out of Time
/ Am zin
(Johnnie To, 1999) [HK] 7
Efficient direction for this cat-and-mouse game between a police negotiator and a singular thief. Has on top the typical, somehow formuleic, HK blend of drama, romance and comedy.
3. Cute Girl
/ Jiu shi liu liu de ta
(Hsiao-hsien Hou, 1980) [Taiwan] 7-
I will start exploring my BR boxset of HHH early films (Carlotta). Cute Girl
, his first fim, has not much of the social realism and uncompromising formalism of his future works but it is quite amusing to see premices of his style including distant composition of countryside landscapes, off-camera scenes and long takes. Besides, if you can tolerate the genre, it is a nice, little rom-com.
Quality of the restaured pictures is really great so I am looking forward to the next.
My women in action #1
4. A Yangtze Landscape
(Xu Xin, 2017) [China] 6
Striking B&W visuals, contemplating the flow of industrial vessels sailing from Shanghai up the river. Where this documentary doesn't fully succeed is in connecting the onshore sequences that pause on impoverished inhabitants nearby. They are clearly stuck where everything moves around them - who they are, how they landed on there and how they survive would have been worth exploring deeper.
/ Gau ji
(Fruit Chan, 2004)[HK] 7-
Enjoyable horror drama which focuses on the social and moral horror of the protagonists rather than its fantasy. A fine performance by the two lead actresses, with a very believable appetite for youth. Plot could have been less linear and characterization deeper.
My women in action #2
6. Cities of Last Things
(Wi Ding Ho, 2018) [Taiwan] 5
Messy story telling as if director wanted a Chinese Cloud Atlas and changed his mind for Rebels of the Neon God after 20 mins, without caring much for losing the viewers on the way. Saved somehow by a few decent drama segments and acting.
7. The Missing Gun
/ Xun qiang
(Chuan Lu, 2002) [China] 7+
Fun thriller. This is the debut feature of Chuan Lu and there is a lot he wants to show as a director, sometimes abusing from camera effects and editing but overall it gives a lot of pace to the action. Wen Jiang is excellent as always; from stupidness to cold determination, he really has a broad acting range.
8. The Green, Green Grass of Home
/ Zai na he pan qing cao qing
(Hsiao-hsien Hou, 1982) [Taiwan] 6+
Continuing with HHH earlies, this one revolves around an elementary school in the countryside where a teacher from Taipei comes as a substitute and try to blend in - a connection between rural and urban that HHH will explore in many films. Whereas there are still some comedy elements you can sense HHH is now slowing down the action for more contemplative sequences and focusing on developing intertwining stories that only resolve at the end with a converging subtext. It got me only mildly engaged though.
9. Armour of God
/ Lung hing foo dai
(Jackie Chan, 1986) [HK] 4
Boring and mediocre - Jackie Chan trying to be half-Indiana Jones half-James Bond through Europe and failing in both. I am not a huge fan of his films anyway but there was one single exciting stunt - in cars, which for a JC movie is kind of lackluster to say the least.
10. The Ditch
(Bing Wang, 2010) [China] 8-
Essential companion of Dead Souls
(2018), as a fiction made from the same harrowing testimonies Bing kept collecting about Rightists re-education camps under Mao's era.
My women in action #3
11. The Eagle Shooting Heroes
/ Se diu ying hung: Dung sing sai jau
(Jeffrey Lau, 1993) [HK] 5
Frantic comedy and action got me tired after twenty minutes, multiple characters and convoluted plot did not help to restore attention
12. Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land
/ An lian tao hua yuan
(Stan Lai, 1993) [Taiwan] 8
Two stage companies rent mistakenly the same theater for their final rehearsal night: this is an exciting concept as we got to see the two plays and the backstage discussions where characters and stories eventually blend. There is wit in the dialogues, subtle intertwined drama, Rivette and Allen came to mind. Great direction and photography as well, lot of care with framing/composing, a new favourite !
My women in action #4
13. Nezha Conquers the Dragon King
/ Nezha nao hai
(Shuchen Wang, Jingda Xu, Ding Xian Yan, 1979) [China] 7
Chinese anime based on a traditional tale: the story line involving a fight between various devils and an innoncent hero is nothing surprising but it served well by the colorization work and the soundtrack.
14. An Autumn's Tale
/ Chou tin dik tong wah
(Mabel Cheung, 1987) [HK] 7+
It has all the predictability of a HK romance of course but there is the charm of Chow Yun-Fat/Cherie Chung and a wonderful effort in make everything believable in New York 80s, emphasizing the cultural clash and distance which all in all makes it a very enjoyable experience.
My women in action #5
15. All the Youthful Days
aka The Boys from Fengkuei
/ Feng gui lai de ren
(Hsiao-hsien Hou, 1983) [Taiwan] 8-
HHH is getting to more personal work, recalling his teenagehood. What could have been just another film about idle, young thugs in a suburban city is magnified by the careful selection of scenes, alternating youthful energy and contemplative drama, and above all amazing camera work. His way to take distance from his protagonists to frame them in their environment is truly amazing.
16. The Swordsman in Double Flag Town
/ Shuang-Qi-Zhen daoke
(Ping He, 1991) [China] 7-
I am probably a little generous with this rating. The Swordsman... is an odd mix of genres between wuxia and western with some drops of ethnic drama. It has some magic though thanks to Gobi's desert setting and keeping the art of his young protagonist mysterious.
17. Fist of Fury
/ Jing wu men
(Wei Lo, 1972) [HK] 5+
It is decent action, the faces and screams of Bruce Lee are just too annoying.
My women in action #6
(Yi'nan Diao, 2003) [China] 7
Debut of Black Coal, Thin Ice and The Wild Goose Lake director, Uniform is already marked by some neo-noirish settings and mood even if the story is essentially a take on economic crisis, social disintegration and how people try to save appearances and dignity - reminiscent of Dardennes and Loach work.
19. Out of the Dark
/ Wui wan yeh
(Jeffrey Lau, 1995) [HK] 7
Simply hilarious as a zany comedy, at least in the first half, too bad it drags severely in the second.
Talking about influence from Léon: The Professional:
20. Taipei Story
/ Qing mei zhu ma
(Edward Yang, 1985) [Taiwan] 7+
I thought I was breaking away from HHH with another Taiwan New Wave director but I realized he is the lead actor here... and not too convincingly, his character and storyline really pulled me off. Fortunately Edward Yang cinematography filming Taipei and the female protagonist is great, in the same vein as in the Terrorizers, with some amazing work on light, perspectives, flows. I probably need to let it sink a little.
My women in action #7
21. China Behind
/ Zai jian Zhongguo
(Shu Shuen Tong, 1978) [HK] 8-
Mao's Cultural Revolution told as a frightening dystopia, yet in a very realistic setting. We get to follow the nerve-cracking journey of Chinese students trying to escape mainland for HK and feel for them all along. The poor copy I have watched is probably not doing justice to cinematography, there is enough I could glimpse to realize it is very carefully executed though.
22. Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy
/ Yip Man ngoi zyun: Cheung Tin Chi
(Woo-ping Yuen, 2018) [HK] 6
Classy cast - Jin Zhang, Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh, and the fights between these three dont disappoint. Deserved a better script.
23. Mr. Zhao
/ Zhao xiansheng
(Yue Lü, 1998) [China] 6+
A man has an accident, falls unconscious and recall his recent days torn between two women. It is not Claude Sautet's Les Choses de la Vie, actually it is not told in that same order but that is the same cinema, realistic take on men/women relationships, what a couple is, choices and non-choices, in sequences edited with flair. The cast left me disengaged too often unfortunately.