June 26th, 2008 17:00:00
Asian Fever is about to rock Montrealers!
The Fantasia International Film Festival presents a huge variety of Asian feature films in 2008, over 70 in fact, from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. They are nothing less than outstanding, groundbreaking, hilarious, and emotionally gripping!
Since its inception in 1996, Fantasia has provided a unique opportunity for the mainstream, and underground filmgoers alike, to share the experience of Asia’s action, fantasy, martial arts, horror, historical epic, surrealist hybrid and guerrilla films. Since then, Fantasia’s success and reputation have snowballed to become internationally recognized and acclaimed as having a wildly diverse sense of what Asian cinema is and has the potential to be. We are proud of this organization and its hometown, Montreal!
The original, peculiar cultural flavor and cinematic qualities of Asian films has not been lost on Hollywood. Asian films are considered to be the hottest films on the world market today. Their inventiveness, authentic humor and surprising cultural perspectives, combined with their outstanding aesthetic accomplishments, are copied but never duplicated.
At Fantasia 2008, new works will be screened by such internationally acclaimed directors as Japan’s Takashi Miike (SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO) and Hideo Nakata (L: CHANGE THE WORLD); Hong Kong’s Johnnie To (MAD DETECTIVE, SPARROW, TRIANGLE) and Oxide Pang (THE DETECTIVE); and South Korea’s Kwak Kyung-taek (A LOVE). Also, not to be missed are the ambitious, fresh and entertaining debut films of first-time directors, such as those from that current hotspot of Asian film production, South Korea. Film enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the many debut films from directors such as Yang Hea-hoon (WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR?), Kim Mee-jung (SHADOWS IN THE PALACE), Ra Hee-chan (GOING BY THE BOOK) and Lee Kyoo-man (WIDE AWAKE). Watch also for the Hong Kong upstart Derek Kwok (THE PYE-DOG).
Once again, Fantasia will present many more of those highly popular films that are adapted from a famous Asian comic-book (Manga) such as North American premieres, Tak Sakaguchi’s BE A MAN! SAMURAI SCHOOL (Japan) and Jean Yun-Su’s LE GRAND CHEF (Korea), and the international premiere of Shin Han-sol’s A TALE OF LEGENDARY LIBIDO (Korea).
The splendid line-up of invited guests is getting longer as the opening of Fantasia 2008 approaches: Hong Kong’s Kung Fu icon, Gordon Liu, with a restored 35mm ShawScope print of the Shaw Brothers classic, DISCIPLES OF 36TH CHAMBER; Japanese actress, Eihi Shiina, star of Miike’s infamous, Audition, and the director, Yoshihiro Nishimura (TOKYO GORE POLICE); the Japanese actor, director and action choreographer, Tak Sakaguchi (BE A MAN! SAMURAI SCHOOL); Thai directors, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon and Gunn Purijitpanya with their omnibus film (4BIA); the producer, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (HANDLE ME WITH CARE); and many more.
From among the most renowned Asian film industry professionals, two special guests from CJ Entertainment (CJ): Kini Seong-Eun Kim, Vice-President of International Sales and Heejeon Kim, Director for Festivals will attend the Festival. CJ is the largest production and distribution company in Korea, with an enviable international reputation. CJ will seek opportunities for Canadian marketing development while presenting SHADOW IN THE PALACE, and five other films.
Fantasia, a pioneering festival in the world of Asian genre film, is ready to meet its audience! Through this cinematic adventure, Montrealers will discover a wide range of films grouped according to themes for greater access than ever before, such as Singular Successes, Converging Visions, Uncanny Investigators, Top 3 Asian Actresses, From Manga to Film, First Films from Korea, Strange Loves and Nikkatsu Action Film, as well as a variety of great films that simply demand to be noticed!
On behalf of the Fantasia team,
Co-Director of Asian Programming
The highlighted Asian Themes of the programming follows:
Singular Successes: The only thing that ties the films in this category together is the fact that each is entirely original and unprecedented. These unique cinematic gems are impossible to categorize, other than to say that they are wonderfully realized auteur works, a breath of fresh air from across the Asian movie-making landscape.
ADRIFT IN TOKYO (Japan) Dir.: Satoshi Miki - Canadian premiere. A debt-ridden loser is coerced by a surly gangster into accompanying him on a walk across Tokyo. Funny, touching and devilishly smart, this pedestrian road trip from Satoshi Miki reveals another side of the Japanese capital. Miki’s script, packed with amazing dialogue, examines urban alienation without cynicism, underlining the tension between tradition and modernity. A humanist feelgood movie with an appetite, ADRIFT IN TOKYO may well be the surprise of the year at Fantasia.
HANDLE ME WITH CARE* (Thaďland) Dir : Kongdej Jaturanrasamee – North-American Premiere, hosted by producer, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon.Get. This film is set as a Thai romantic comedy unlike any you’ve seen before, not least for happening to have a main character with three arms! Written and directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (MIDNIGHT MY LOVE), best known in these parts as the screenwriter of the Tony Jaa vehicle TOM YUM GOONG/THE PROTECTOR, HANDLE ME WITH CARE is yet another example of what makes the better visions of Thai cinema so unique in a commercial landscape of sameness. It works the outrageous into something that gradually begins to feel like the everyday, eschewing the louder kookiness that you might expect in favour of something understated and sweet. And still kooky!
SASORI (Hong Kong) Dir.: Joe Ma – Canadian premiere. Hong Kong reinvents Japanese ‘70s action icon Scorpion (longstanding Fantasia-heads will recall seeing series entry FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION JAILHOUSE 41 at the fest) in the confrontational image of ‘80s and ‘90s notorious HK Category III films! If you’re unfamiliar with the landmark originals, just know that their titular femme hero served as a key influence on Tarantino’s KILL BILL films. And that this eccentric redux is absolutely bloody insane, positioning itself firmly between Arthouse and Grindhouse as it plays like a breathless travelogue of exploitation film hot spots, from women-in-prison grime to dizzying fight film and neon-drenched urban revenge action epic. Wow!
WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR? (South Korea) Dir.: Yang Hea-hoon – North-American premiere. A young man scarred by his school days, a time of brutal persecution, reconnects with one of his former bullies at a point when true love is about to enter his life. Vengeance is in the cards… A debut film crafted to perfection, powerful and poetic, where bloody crimes and first romance mix together—a sharp portrait of a youth lost to suffering and loneliness.
Converging Visions: There’s nothing a true cinephile loves more than an admired filmmaker allowed to express the full scope of their talent. Except, of course, for a film that gives that liberty to several filmmakers!
4BIA* (Thailand) Dir.: Youngyooth Thongkonthun, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom, Paween Purikitpanya - International premiere, hosted by Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom. For this horrific collective work, four of Thailand’s most talented directors unite to create a succession of terrifying moments, sometimes darkly funny, at others truly shocking, 4BIA allows each of the filmmakers to put their own unique touch on material that pushes the boundaries of horror cinema. A film tailor-made for Fantasia.
GENIUS PARTY (Japan) Dir.: Atsuko Fukushima, Shoji Kawamori, Shinji Kimura, Yoji Fukuyama, Hideki Futamura, Masaaki Yuasa, Shinichiro Watanabe - Montreal premiere. Japan’s Studio 4°C has previously amazed Montreal audiences with such works as MIND GAME and TEKKON KINKREET, and a number of Fantasia prizes prove it. This year, they offer us an anthology of seven short films that spring from the fertile minds of some of Japan’s finest and most daring animation talent.
TRIANGLE (Hong Kong) Dir.: Ringo Lam, Johnnie To, Tsui Hark - Montreal premiere. One director gets the ball rolling, another moves it along, the third brings it all home. A cinematic challenge that only artists of the calibre of Hong Kong’s celebrated Ringo Lam, Johnnie To and Tsui Hark—three living legends long since familiar to Fantasia fans, working with a first-rate cast, add up to a bravura exercise in group creation.
Uncanny Investigators: The hard-boiled detective is a longstanding icon of genre cinema, but some truly audacious filmmakers take the mystery movie, shake out all the tired clichés and create amazingly inventive tales with unexpected crime-solvers!
THE DETECTIVE (Hong Kong) Dir.: Oxide Pang - North American premiere. Hong Kong heartthrob, Aaron Kwok, plays the bemused and confused Tam, a low-rent private eye in Bangkok’s Chinatown. This is wickedly fun, subtly twisted film noir from director Oxide Pang, with his twin brother Danny co-producing. The border-hopping, task-trading Hong Kong twosome (BANGKOK DANGEROUS, THE EYE) has earned a reputation for rich, gritty photography and edgy editing, white-knuckle shocks and slow-burning urban cool. THE DETECTIVE also displays a pronounced wit, adding flavour to the tension.
THE SHADOW SPIRIT (Japan) Dir.: Masato Harada - North American premiere. The second adaptation of an award-winning novel from a series by celebrated mystery writer, Natsuhiko Kyogoku, hailed as Japan’s modern Edgar Allan Poe, comes care of Masato Harada (KAMIKAZE TAXI, BOUNCE KO GALS). Set during Japan’s post-war era, THE SHADOW SPIRIT is a fiendishly fun cocktail of gruesome murder and strange magic, diabolical deeds and daring detective work, weird science and otherworldly whispers—and a rich period piece boasting captivating and complex characters, fleshed out by a truly wonderful cast.
SHADOWS IN THE PALACE (South Korea) Dir.: Kim Mee-jung - Canadian premiere. A graceful, elegant costume drama evoking the lush, yet suffocating heights, of medieval Korean society, SHADOWS IN THE PALACE conceals within the folds of its royal finery a grand, delightfully noir detective story shaded with chilling tones of the supernatural. Produced and directed by women—first-time director Kim Mee-jeung worked on THE KING AND THE CLOWN, a similarly resonant period piece—the film affords little screen time to males, presenting instead a rich and intricate tapestry of womanhood.
Top 3 Actresses in Asia: This year, Fantasia highlights a trio of Asian actresses who are acclaimed internationally, not only for their physical beauty but also their outstanding acting ability.
TOKYO GORE POLICE* (Japan) Dir.: Yoshihiro Nishimura - Canadian premiere, hosted by Eihi Shiina, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi. Ruka is a cop, and she has a body full of scars to prove it. The fact that most of these scars were self-inflicted is another story. Her squad’s mission is to destroy homicidal mutant humans known as “engineers.” Action, kink and unbelievable degrees of carnage carve out Ruka’s path to retribution. In the lead role our guest, Eihi Shiina, familiar from Takashi Miike’s notorious AUDITION.
SEVEN DAYS (South Korea) Dir.: Won Sin-yeon - North American premiere. A lawyer is confronted with the dilemma of whether or not to secure the release of a convicted murderer within the seven days remaining before his second trial. Her child will die if she does not comply. Gritty, complex, stylish and bursting with nervous energy, SEVEN DAYS showcases Kim Yunjin of the popular TV series LOST.
AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS (Hong Kong) Dir.: Tony Ching Siu-Tung - Canadian premiere. One of a number of spectacular martial arts epics unleashed by China this year, this one stars the radiant Kelly Chen, acclaimed as both an actress and a pop singer. She portrays the princess Feier, poised to inherit the Emperor’s throne, torn by love and treachery.
From Manga to Film: The world of comic books, with its countless fantastic heroes and villains, is currently a precious resource for Hollywood in its dire need for new ideas. Asian cinema likewise draws substantially on its own universe of comic-book characters and tales. Knowing our audience’s tastes, we’ve made sure to have some of these adaptations on hand!
A TALE OF LEGENDARY LIBIDO (Korea) Dir.: Shin Han-sol - International premiere. Screening for the first time outside Korea, this is adapted from a famous comic book, Karugigi, a mix-and-match of mythology, mirth and—ahem—mature subject matter, with a splendid cast including comedy icon Bong Tae-kyu and ART OF FIGHTING director, Shin Han-sol. The brilliant mixture of musical flavours, including Korean traditional song (“Chang”) and dance, enhances the fun of this lighthearted and off-the-wall mythical sex comedy, and the modified traditional costumes are sure to be a fashion trendsetter.
BE A MAN! SAMURAI SCHOOL* (Japan) Dir.: Tak Sakaguchi – North-American premiere, hosted by Tak Sakaguchi. As an actor and martial artist, Tak Sakaguchi conquered Montreal crowds with the cult classic VERSUS, and such Fantasia fare as AZUMI, BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL and DEATH TRANCE. With the wild and woolly comedy, BE A MAN!, an adaptation of a resoundingly popular manga, the Japanese fight-flick superstar makes his directorial debut. And he’ll be here in Montreal, in person, to present its North American premiere at Fantasia. Parodying grand and deathly serious martial arts epics, Sakaguchi nonetheless remains faithful to his craft with his intense and meticulously choreographed combat sequences.
LE GRAND CHEF (Korea) Dir.: Jean yun-su – North-American premiere. In the tradition of such Chinese "kung-food" movies as ART OF COOKERY, this Korean adaptation of a beloved comic series, makes its North American debut at Fantasia 2008. This film is a spicy stew of comedy, melodrama and cuisine combat. With its bright, pop-art colour scheme, this movie is a visual feast. There is a real chemistry between the actors; you would be hard pressed to find a more likable cast. This month, Seoul Broadcast System (SBS) again takes full advantage of this film's popularity and has created a TV series titled "Sikgaek" that will feature 'the delicious and colorful dishes of Korean cuisine'.
First Films From Korea: Fantasia introduced its faithful crowds to the debut efforts of such talents as Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ji-woon and Ryoo Seung-wan, filmmakers that Cannes, Berlin and Venice are now trumpeting to the world. With that in mind, the festival this year offers first-time works from talents whose names will soon be up in lights as well.
BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY (South Korea) Dir.: Jin Kwang-kyo - Canadian premiere. A corrupt cop and a sex criminal are drawn into a brutal psychological fight in this smartly crafted thriller. Director Jin Kwang-kyo steers two parallel storylines with exceptional skill, and is unafraid to build his tale around a pair of disturbing and difficult anti-heroes. A bold and brazen debut.
PARADISE MURDERED (South Korea) Dir.: Kim Han-min - Canadian premiere. When the 17 inhabitants of a remote but pleasant island all disappear, the cops investigate, and a step back in time shows how it all unfolded. Halfway between horror and comedy, this sharply drawn tale of collective madness stars Park Hae-il, who made his mark in MEMORIES OF MURDER and THE HOST.
WIDE AWAKE (South Korea) Dir.: Lee Kyoo-man - North American premiere. A small child undergoes an operation, but though anaesthetized, he remembers every moment of the ordeal. Traumatized, his behaviour in the following years becomes increasingly unsettling. As an adult, he’s out for revenge on the hospital staff. A complex and creepy medical thriller that unveils the origins of a psychopath far more effectively than Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN.
Strange Loves: True love, pure love, that’s what makes the world go ’round. But at Fantasia, we like to look at things from odd angles, and matters of the heart are no exception…
A LOVE (South Korea) Dir. Kwak Kyung-taek - Canadian premiere. A tragic tale of passion set in the menacing demi-monde of organized crime. The director of FRIEND blends elements of tough Korean ganster cinema and grand romantic melodramas like Romeo and Juliet.
NEGATIVE HAPPY CHAIN SAW EDGE (Japan) Dir. Takuji Kitamura - Canadian premiere. A most unusual romance involving two teens… and a giant robot with a chainsaw arm! Based on a cult novel, this is a truly demented and unprecedented production that keeps fans of heavy-duty action in mind!
NO MERCY FOR THE RUDE (South Korea) Dir. Park Choel-hie - Montreal premiere. A mute hit-man, who’s sheltering a beautiful young woman and a tough young boy, lives by his own moral code—he’ll only kill bad guys, the kind of people who prey on others. One of the most anticipated Asian films of recent years, in which comedy, action and romance sit side by side.
KILL BILL’S GORDON LIU – A LENDARY KUNG FU STAR
Hong Kong kung fu legend Gordon Liu will grace Fantasia with his presence during the opening weekend as he presents the Shaw Brothers classic DISCIPLES OF THE 36TH CHAMBER in restored ShawScope 35mm. In 1978, Gordon Liu, who had been training in martial arts since an early age, became an international star after his signature performance as Monk San Te in THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, which raised the bar for martial arts cinema in Hong Kong. He frequently collaborated with Lau Kar Leung (Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master 2). Their films are widely considered classics of the genre, filled with dynamic action set pieces and a strong emphasis on the true spirit of kung fu. Quentin Tarantino cited Shaw Brothers films as an inspiration for KILL BILL and, as a result, he cast Liu in the role of Pai Mei, the hermit. DISCIPLES OF THE 36TH CHAMBER (Hong Kong), Dir. Lau Kar Lenung (aka Liu Chia-Liang). Two important icons of kung fu cinema, Fong Sai Yuk (made famous by Jet Li, played here by Hsiao Ho) and the monk San Te (KILL BILL's Gordon Liu) clash in this rarely seen Shaw Brothers entry. Fong’s uninhibited arrogance toward a Manchu lord forces him to seek refuge in a Shaolin temple. Although abundantly trained in the martial arts, he is no match for Master San Te, the creator of the 36th Chamber of Shaolin, who constantly overpowers his younger, more agile disciples in matters of both body and mind.
NO BORDERS, NO LIMITS: 1960S NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA
During their 1960s peak, Nikkatsu action films evoked a cinematic world, neither foreign nor Japanese—it was a mix of the two, where Japanese tough guys had the swagger and moves of Hollywood movie heroes. These incredibly stylish gangster movies are equally comparable to the French New Wave, Spaghetti Westerns, and hard-boiled film noir. This may be your only chance to see these long-lost gems, as none of them have ever been released on any home video format in the West. The aim of this retrospective series, NO BORDERS, NO LIMITS: 1960S NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA—curated by Marc Walkow of Outcast Cinema, first presented at the 2005 Udine Far East Film Festival, and leading to the publication of the acclaimed FAB Press book available to buy following each screening—is to provide an opportunity for Western audiences to discover some surprising new classics of Japanese genre cinema. The films are presented in 35mm with a "live" subtitling system operated by the series curator, Marc Walkow of Outcast Cinema. We should emphasize again that this Canadian premiere screening is an unrepeatable, unique event. The chance to see these films is a true one-off that no serious fan of Japanese cinema can possibly afford to miss!
OTHER NOTEWORTHY FILMS
THE ASSEMBLY (Hong Kong - China) Dir.: Feng Xiaogang.- Canadian premiere. A true historical tale of an officer struggling to have the sacrifice of his troops during the Chinese civil war recognized. A moving and action-packed film, with an opening recalling SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
GOING BY THE BOOK (South Korea) Dir.: Ra Hee-chan - North American premiere. One of the funniest Korean comedies to come along lately. When police chief Seung-woo asks his officer Do-man to play the role of bank robber in a simulated heist, he hardly expects him to take the role so seriously…
THE MOSS (Hong Kong) Dir.: Derek Kwok - International premiere. Taking place in the seedy underworld of gangsters, double agents, informers and moles, the second film from rising star, Derek Kwok, is a fairy tale disguised as a lurid film noir, with action galore. Fantasia is proud to present its international premiere.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL NIGHT IN THE WORLD (Japan) Dir.: Daisuke Tengan – North-American premiere. An intricate fable of understated Japanese magic realism, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL NIGHT IN THE WORLD is an extended meditation on all-too-human drives and desires, denial and deliverance, making its North American premiere at Fantasia. Director Daisuke Tengan—son of cinema legend Shohei Imamura and scripter of Miike’s AUDITION—has crafted a soft-spoken yet scintillating cinematic gem, fresh, funny and philosophical, and daring in its frank sexuality (the climactic ensemble scene will shock and delight).
THE REBEL (Vietnam) Dir.: Truc 'Charlie' Nguyen - Montreal premiere. In the days of Vietnam’s French occupation, a revolution is brewing and an indigenous secret agent rebels against his masters. An explosive action drama with a political dimension, establishing a place for Vietnam among exporters of martial-arts excitement.
THE SPARROW (Hong Kong) Dir.: Johnnie To - Canadian premiere. Three years in the making and set in the smooth and intuitive world of pickpockets, where razors and wits are weapons of choice, Johnnie To’s THE SPARROW is his most personal work, with a touch of OLIVER TWIST and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR—a pure cinematic delight, filled with twists and turns and concluding with an impressive showdown with umbrellas and razors in the downpour of rain.
SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (Japan) Dir.: Takashi Miike - Montreal premiere. Japan’s maverick, manically productive Takashi Miike (IZO, GOZU, ICHI THE KILLER) explodes and rebuilds yet another film genre with this over-the-top spaghetti western pastiche where six-shooters cross with katanas and the blood flows freely, with dialogue delivered entirely in phonetic English by its Japanese cast (except for Quentin Tarantino, who makes a cameo!). Bright, brash, violent, and deliberately campy, SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO is an intentional cult film that succeeds on all fronts.
THE PYE-DOG (Hong Kong) Dir.: Derek Kwok - Canadian premiereThe debut feature from one of Hong Kong's most promising filmmakers, THE PYE-DOG was smash success upon its release. A touching and visually magnificent family film, it tells the tale of a small-time hood ordered by his boss to kidnap a child. The task becomes complicated when the thug takes a liking to a pretty teacher at thekid's school.
X-CROSS (Japan) Dir.: Kenta Fukasaku – Canadian premiere. Kenta Fukasaku, scripter of both BATTLE ROYALE films (and co-director of the second) and son of legendary filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku, sees his considerable talents erupt into full radical bloom with X-CROSS, a crazy cool horror-comedy that practically defies conventional description. A pair of young girls go to a remote town for relaxation, only to learn that the entire place is full of inbred foot fetishists who absolutely live for cutting off women’s feet! Staunchly eccentric and wildly entertaining, X-CROSS can almost be described as a Lynchian version of WICKER MAN smash-filtered through RASHOMON and GOZU.
Blurbs written by
Nicolas Archambault, Eric S. Boisvert, Mi-Jeong Lee, King-Wei Chu, Todd Brown, Pierre Corbeil, Mitch Davis & Simon Laperriere.