Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Hopes and Dreams for the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival — Take One

So I've been hyped up since the 1st news of this year's NYAFF hit, courtesy of Subway Cinema. I tweeted it:
here we go!!! 1st notes on 2010 NYAFF
2:12 PM Apr 20th via web

and have begun my ocular exercises, like watching daisy-chained Youtube clips of strange Japanese comedy shows, anything to prep myself for some heavy viewing this June.

I dig the location's move to the Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre. It's not the hop-skip-jump subway ride but it'll do in a pinch, and leaving the theatre at like 1a after several hrs of screenings back-to-back = not a super-dodgy neighborhood, and Bar Boulud just down the block (though, conversely, the midnight screenings at IFC are a fab addition). And the stadium theatre isn't as meat-locker-cold as IFC's. That said, I had a seating strategy at IFC's stadium theatre, plus I dug the aisles and the angle to the screen. Not quite the same w/ Walter Reade. I'll need to show up early (natch) and sit far front, I think, for the most enjoyment. And as long as the Subway Cinema guys keep the energy levels up, it's going to be a dope experience as ever.

The super-preliminary lineup, thus far, is good: Hong Kong's new martial arts cinema? Hello! Wilson Yip's "Ip Man" was a game-changer last year, and the sequel is the opening night selection for this year's festival. Excellent choice. The inclusion of "Kung Fu Chefs" (dir. Ken Yip, 2009, and starring Sammo Hung and Vanness Wu) plus "The Storm Warriors" (dir. Pang Bros, 2009) — honestly, tell me it's by the Pang Bros and I'll watch it + Subway Cinema describes it as "visually bonkers", which sounds like something I'd write — ups the dopeness factor. From the Japanese underground, "Annyong Yumika" (dir. Tetsuaki Matsue, 2009), an uh historic porn documentary, warrants my attention on conception alone. So far so good, and so early!

Now it's my turn, to express my hopes and dreams for a no doubt ace 2010 NYAFF, bigger and better than 2009's full-throttleness, full-on comedy and incredibly diverse ultraviolence. Maybe the greater powers that be will hear my aspirations and track down these directors and films and screen them for the adoring public. B/c (and this is the beauty part of the NYAFF) where else will we see them stateside?

1. A Pen-Ek Ratanaruang mini-retrospective
Pen-Ek's arthouse classic "Last Life in the Universe" (2003), starring Tadanobu Asano and gorgeous sisters Sinitta and Laila Boonyasak, remains one of the deepest, most moving films I've ever seen. The entire production is very close to perfection, in my opinion, and so emotive that I have to be in a particular state of mind to view it. I love introducing people to it, though, and watching it w/ them. But besides "Last Life in the Universe", I'll bet you few Westerners (specifically Americans) have seen ANYTHING ELSE by this Thai New Wave auteur. I'm lucky to have caught "Invisible Waves" (2006), debatably a sequel to "Last Life..." but strongly surreal to stand on its own (think the relationship b/w Haruki Murakami's "A Wild Sheep Chase" v. "Dance Dance Dance"), at a Thai film festival in the city a few years back. Guess what: "Invisible Waves" never had U.S. distribution so you can't find it! Ditto to Pen-Ek's other two full-lengths that succeeded this, "Ploy" (2007), which did well at 2007 Cannes but was heavily censored in Thailand due to its sexual nature, and "Nymph" (2009), which coincided w/ Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" as the spooky forest-set film at Cannes, only "Nymph" is sexy w/o being so grossly violent. I would LOVE to see either of these at NYAFF — both a serious, artsy twist to the norm — or better yet a stint of Pen-Ek's oeuvre, these + "Invisible Waves" and "Last Life..." (I've never seen it on the big-screen) and his earlier quirky crime drama "6ixtynin9" (1999), which I'm quite fond of for its many surprises and foreshadowing of technique in "Last Life..."

2. Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (2010). I'll continue the Thai New Wave idea for a bit. Weerasethakul's oeuvre is super trippy, in a dreamlike, nonlinear, long-take sense. Compared quickly to Taiwanese New Wave, Weerasethakul's remind me of Tsai Ming-Liang. His new film is participating in 2010 Cannes, which is a month before the NYAFF. Can it come here next?

3. "My Darling of the Mountains" and "Sorasoi" (both dir. Katsuhito Ishii, both 2008). My favorite Japanese director, no question. I love Ishii's richly considered films, whether it's unusual family drama ("Taste of Tea", 2004), unusual crime caper ("Sharkskin Man and Peach-hip Girl", 1999, and "Party 7", 2000) or like that daisy-chained Japanese Youtube clips I alluded to earlier ("Funky Forest", 2005, which has no equal is ANY other country). And while "Funky Forest" STILL resonates w/ me, I've yet to come across either of his 'new' films in the states.

4. "Mutant Girls Squad" (dirs. Yoshihiro Nishimura, Noboru Iguchi and Tak Sakaguchi, 2010). I've been wondering, since the conclusion of last year's festival, how Subway Cinema would trump the Nishimura bloodfest-as-highschool-romance "Vampire Girl v. Frankenstein Girl" (2009). I mean, the name alone is ridiculous, let alone the concept and "Kill Bill"-quality trailer. What would trump this, you ask? Team Nishimura w/ action expert Sakaguchi and otherworldly FX whiz Iguchi and voila. Essential to this year's lineup!

5. "Robogeisha" (dir. Noboru Iguchi, 2009), and speaking of Iguchi-san... sure the TRAILER for "Robogeisha" debuted at last year's festival, but not the film! It's out! Nishimura cameos! We need it!!

6. "The Big Tits Zombie 3D" (dir. Takao Nakano, 2010). Oh, I'm taking it there.

7. "Instant Numa" (dir. Satoshi Miki, 2010), long-shot since it's just coming out in Japan, but I LOVED "Adrift in Tokyo" (2007), from last year's festival, which of course has no U.S. distribution...

8. "GS Wonderland" (dir. Ryuichi Honda, 2008) — w/ Chiaki Kuriyama. I mean, have you SEEN the teaser clip???

9. "Parade" (dir. Isao Yukisada, 2010) w/ its chatty ensemble cast (incl. Tatsuya Fujiwara) and extremely dark undertones

and that's only Japan (off the top of my head) and Thailand. A boy can hope, non?