This year's NYAFF ended Thursday, and while Japan Cuts continues for another week I've had my fill of fantastic, subversive, entertaining film. Even if everything coming out in America this summer sucks terribly, even if Christopher Nolan's Inception should let me down (though I'm hoping it's awesome), I have this cache of NYAFF/Japan Cuts to carry me through. Thank you, Subway Cinema. Thank you, Japan Society. Thank you, Pink Eiga and thank you, Sushi Typhoon. The festival gets doper every year.
With that, I rank the films I caught this year. I dug everything, all 18, but some I REALLY really dug. I caught 3 of the 4 IFC Center midnight screenings, 2 "REturn to the Old School: Hong Kong's New Martial Arts Cinema", all three Sushi Typhoon releases, one retro screening, both giant monsters, three action films, three "box office monsters", two comedies, two romances, one "one-night stand", no political films (oops!), two feat. award-winning actors, and 4 (of 5 listed) "psychedelic" films, at least according to Subway Cinema's program book. So:
Confessions (NYAFF/Japan Cuts) - Director Tetsuya Nakashima's new film blew everything else away. I still get chills thinking about that one scene, the classroom ablur w/ motion as the girl w/ the sad, knowing eyes stares over her shoulder, at the camera and into our souls. I sincerely hope this gets a full U.S. release.
Mutant Girls Squad (NYAFF/Japan Cuts) - I met two of my favorite directors at this festival, Yoshihiro Nishimura and Noboru Iguchi, plus two A+ awesome actresses, Asami and Cay Izumi, and this team-up film (also directed by action guru Tak Sakaguchi) made me so very happy, in a giddy sugar-rush way.
The Ancient Dogoo Girl: Special Movie Edition (special screening) - Surprised a Kansai-area TV program recut as a film ranks this high on my list? Considering Iguchi and Nishimura both had a hand in it, plus it stars Asami and Cay Izumi (in Nishimura's part) and the effervescent Erika Yazawa as lead in Iguchi's), it makes COMPLETE, TOTAL sense.
Actresses (NYAFF) - Six of Korea's best, brightest, most beautiful actresses playing themselves in a faux-documentary Vogue cover shoot = incredibly, addictingly fun.
Parade (Japan Cuts) - Gold star for one of the hottest young casts in the entire festival, add lots of mumblecore dialogue and a dose of dread.
Sophie's Revenge (NYAFF) - I really surprised myself w/ this one. Escapist rom-com, yes, but Zhang Ziyi is adorable (as is So Ji-Sub, in a boneheaded way) and...well, we need films like this too.
Chaw (NYAFF) - Another instance of a very smart Korean-directed film disguised as a monster movie. The fact the beastie doesn't visually appear until like 1/2-way through should clue you in that there is WAY more important things at work.
The Hanging Garden (Japan Cuts) - An incredibly bracing, family drama experience. I need to familiarize myself w/ director Toyoda's other works, but this one places him firmly at Sion Sono's level, at least in my opinion.
Ip Man 2 (NYAFF) - The perfect way to begin this year's NYAFF. The best action, w/ emotive undertones. Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung going at it produced many heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat moments. Then the terrible, indelicate Brit barges in.
Alien Vs. Ninja (NYAFF/Japan Cuts) - I am totally sold on Sushi Typhoon. The premise of this film always sounded a bit goofy to me, but the payoff was intense: superb action sequences, actual character development, witty dialogue and banter, and a very good-looking three-actor lead.
Pink Power Strikes Back - Groper Train: School Uniform Hunter (NYAFF) - I know pink films are supposed to be more enjoyable than "smart", maybe, but Asami carries it into a whole higher domain. She's an action actress through and through, true, but her cutesy, naive routine here proves she can ACT.
Castaway on the Moon (NYAFF) - A very sweet, inventive Korean rom-com.
L.A. Streetfighters (NYAFF) - I am so pleased this mid-'80s Korean action-exploitation film is available on Netflix! The whole girlfriend licking ice cream off Tony's face (even beyond the Spikes gang leader w/ his half-shirt) must be seen to be believed.
Yatterman (NYAFF) - Silly film, but w/ Takashi Miike's signature totally deviant moments, and the actresses are gorgeous.
Doman-Seman (NYAFF) - One star for incredible effective soundtrack. One more star for the Kyoto neighborhoods setting.
Death Kappa (NYAFF) - Great, monstrous, stupid fun, w/ props to the amazing rubber-suit costume and extra props to casting Misato Hirata as the uber-cute lead.
Symbol (NYAFF) - Bit New Age-y, but beautiful to look at.
The Storm Warriors (NYAFF) - I had no idea what was going on, but it's a visually stunning film.
(Erika Yazawa will kick your ass!! Until next year...)