Archive for the ‘China’ Category

This production sino-francais (Chinese-French production) tells the story of a spoilt city kid going on a road trip with her estranged grandfather to his native rural village. Carried along the journey: an eighteen year old caged singing bird, hence the title meaning the bird walker in English. (but shown at festivals as The Nightingale)

It’s a pleasant road movie, but only captivates because of the great images of Beijing and rural China. If this were shot in France with an arrogant Parisian kid going to a village in the Auvergne, it would never have gotten a theatrical release. It wouldn’t even attract viewers on television. But maybe the Chinese would watch it. Different cultures always intrigue more.

The two main actors are great to watch, even though the kid’s character is extremely annoying for the first half hour of the movie. There are some beautiful shots and the filmed road trip (leaving the ultramodern metropolis to the charming rural villages) makes you want to book a trip to China and backpack around on your own. Some references to the globalisation of data and technology (iPhone, Skype, Wii) make the movie accessible for the audiences in the West and also conjure up some laughs.  However, in the end, the morally packed story and the distant dialogue are painfully simple and predictable. And the caged bird is just dragged along for a metaphorical moment at the end of the movie, explained by the little kid herself.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2976864

Ying Xiong (Hero) – *1/2

Posted: February 27, 2014 in 2002, Action, China, Historical, War, X1/2

Tony Chio Wai Leung impressed me so much in Lust/Caution that I want to see all of his work! He also stars in Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-like epic Chinese costume action movie, which I once started to watch but failed to finish. Time to put in that forgotten dvd and persevere…

Sure, it’s epic. The cinematography is awesome. The scenes with masses of extras building up an army or guarding the king’s palace are impressive. And Tony Leung is brilliant in all the scenes he’s in. But as a whole, this is not a memorable movie. The fight scenes are choreographed like dance recitals and don’t impress. ‘Hovering in the air before finally striking’ looks very dated anno 2014. Jet Li has no facial expression at all and looks/talks/acts nothing like a hero. And there’s no captivating story.

A royal ruler accepts the invitation of a man who claims to have killed his most dangerous enemies. After each heroic account, the man is allowed to come closer to the king. At one point however, the king gets paranoid and gives his take on the accounts. These different interpretations are a great tool to see multiple fight scenes between the same people, but it’s not good storytelling.

Disappointed, but glad to have persevered this second time around.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299977

Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai before and during the Second World War, this daunting espionage thriller by Ang Lee doesn’t get you hooked until you witness a very brutal murder scene. The first half hour just introduces the characters and the setting. Japan has occupied China and at the university of unoccupied Hong Kong there’s a growing awareness of resistance. Enter a group of students who first try to raise awareness by acting in a patriotic theatre play and later decide to take their acting skills further by introducing themselves with fake identities to a powerful Chinese collaborator. The plan is easy: one of the girls in the group has to become the collaborator’s mistress and once she’s alone with him they will strike.

Two actors stand out. One is newcomer Tang Wei who plays the seducer and movie superstar Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as the collaborator. Every scene they are in together is mesmerizing and is filled with feelings of Lust and Caution as the title promises. Especially during the daring sex scenes. Movies like these can easily fall subject to stereotyping by focussing on a villain and a good whore. But Ang Lee just makes both very human in their moments together. He did an excellent casting job. Both actors and both characters fascinate until the very end. You’re never quite sure if they enjoy the lust more than the fear of getting caught.

The soundtrack is outstanding, a movie element which often is underrated. It helps create the atmosphere. The cinematography however looks very fake. The recreated Hong Kong and Shanghai from the late thirties and early forties doesn’t come across as realistic. Even though they spend millions on creating the historical set. It looks too much like a movie set.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808357

 

 

A welcome surprise on my Singapore Airlines flight, this action drama from Hong Kong tells the story of a former boxing champion who trains a young man to fight in a MMA championship. There is a lot going on in this excellent piece of entertainment. You have the fights of course, which are fascinating for all and a major draw for the lovers of martial arts movies. But there is much more. The social drama element will – or should – attract a total other crowd of moviegoers. There is former boxer who has debts and takes up a job in a gym unworthy of his status. There’s a young man who wants to show his father that he can achieve something after all. And there’s an interesting subplot about a young girl who’s mother is mentally fragile (after the death of her second child) and who finds comfort in the presence of the former boxer who is renting a room in their household.

The scenes between the boxer and the girl are endearing and funny at times. The scenes between the boxer and his MMA pupil as well. This only works because of the great chemistry of the actors. Especially Nick Leung is excellent. His charisma should work everywhere in the world, not only in China. It’s amazing that this movie didn’t get a European release.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3003668