At one point in this movie, after his fellow comrade has been brutally stabbed by two swords and lies motionless on the ground, Sammo Hung flippantly remarks "How can you be done so soon". It's a perhaps unintentionally hilarious moment, but it also in a sense, exhibits Hung's directorial vision. Warriors Two is a relatively brutal effort, a film that perhaps best showcases the contrast between Sammo Hung's comedic sensibilities as an actor and his penchant for capturing bodily damage with unequivocal ferocity. I'm wise enough to know I am far from a Sammo Hung expert, but I've seen my fair share and what is really striking about his directorial efforts is how much he wants you to feel the contact, the collision, the damage, and pain inflicted on the flesh regardless of the variant tones he may be going for. Warriors Two is a strong effort in his oeuvre. A relatively simple, succinct story that delivers all the pleasures one would hope for - a cornucopia of well-choreographed fights, bloodshed, tragedy, vengeance, a killer training sequence, and one smooth criminal of a Wing Chun master. I had fun.
A truly gonzo political and cultural allegory that traverses the horror comedy archetype to deliver a sharp, subversive unequivocally ambiguous story as a way of expressing the collective anxiety of Hong Kong and the uncertain and unknown of it's people. Not for horror hounds, The Midnight After has some fun, creative deaths but it's horror is more metaphysical than material, one about the tyranny the unknown can place on the human psyche. There is one scene in this film in particular which I won't spoil here that made me more squeamish than any gorey horror film could manage. A film built around the unexplainable, The Midnight After is an audacious work by Fruit Chan and on initial viewing I'm not sure how good this is, but it feels like a film that will linger in my mind and those are the best. Simon Yam's hair in this >>>>
Very much in line with much of Weir's oeuvre when it comes to thematic investigation but The Plumber in structure and setting is much smaller and more succinct. The 'welcomed stranger enters a home and upsets the equilibrium of the household' motif is deployed with maximum discomfort and unease. Those looking for a home invasion thriller would be disappointed, as The Plumber is abrasive yet not built on any real sense of dread outside of this tradesman making the white liberal couple squirm. I say it has similarities to Weir's other work thematically in the educated white liberal couple are academically linked to aboriginal culture, so perhaps The Plumber is best described as adjacent or an extension of some of Weir's recurring themes, with his interest in colonialism, in this case, being told here through a story of class anxiety, white liberalism, and the thorny dynamics bound to exist between economic and social strata that define everyone's place in modernity. The Plumber is far from one of his best works, but it offers a lot of cringe-inducing comedic pleasures, with a large part of the movie revolving around a brash, working-class character getting under the skin of a woman who essentially represents "polite society". Perhaps I'm taking a precarious leap here, but perhaps this is figurative too, as "polite society has committed a lot of atrocities throughout human history in the form of imperialism/colonialism.
A cute, teenage hangout movie in which the two female protagonists also just happen to be elite assassins. Like this film's eccentricities - the two leads play well off each other, with one being hyper-active chatterbox while the other is a deadpan social outcast. The inevitable tension within their relationship that comes with forced socialization by the organization that employs their services is well-rendered, and ultimately low-key affecting but really what you are here for is the unadulterated violence, and Baby Assassins delivers this while never letting its characterizations or theme fall by the wayside. Bookended by two strong action set-pieces, Baby Assassins is much more interested in the juxtaposition between the innocence of adolescence with the cold, lack of empathy imbued into any person whose profession is murdering people for money. It doesn't fall into sentimentality or overreach, but it plays within the confines of its world well emotionally, juxtaposing moments of teenage adolescence with cold, dispassionate violence. Bookended by two exceptional action set-pieces, what stood out to me about the Baby Assassins is the physicality of its fight choreography - there is a fluidity one would expect, exhibiting the speed and precision of these two young women, but the film also makes sure to get gnarly pronouncing the violence and physicality of each punch or kick in a way that is felt. Not groundbreaking but a peculiar, eccentric fun action flick that balances its various tones quite well.
Love how this explicitly references The Man From Nowhere. The Killer is familiar but it knows exactly what it is, it gets in, delivers slick action sequences that are coherent but continuously kinetic and brutal, and gets out in a little over 90 minutes. Speed-ramping tends to annoy me, but it's well placed here. Tactically deployed, the speed-ramping accentuates the speed, precision, and power of our main protagonist as he makes his way through a sea of baddies. He is a stoic agent of punitive justice against the darkness that permeates our modern world. A simple story of good vs evil, there is no grayness here. Jang Hyuk plays the part well, oozing understated confidence amongst the carnage to suggest that he has been here before and everything will be okay.
A bleak, uncompromising anti-war film, Yasuzo Masumura's Red Angel never feels polemic or political, I'd actually characterize it as eerily calm in its display of such depravity. Focusing on the desecration of the flesh and the soul while exhibiting the psychological and physical horrors of war through its searing, unadulterated vision, Masumura crafts one of the more difficult anti-war films ever made. Told largely through the perspective of a front-line wartime nurse, the actual battles of the second Sino-Japanese War are never exhibited on screen, outside of the last 10-minutes of the film, they exist almost solely on the periphery, with only the aftermath of such brutality being shown, repeatedly, without any sense of slowing down. Never exploitative but steadfast in its unwavering approach, the Black and White photography feels like a necessity given the degradation of the body on display. The stark photography aligns well with Masumura's vision, one which offers no answers to such horrors ultimately being only interested in displaying it with an unbridled realism. Any good war film is an anti-war film by definition but Masumara's Red Angel is more overt in its approach, focusing solely on the aftermath of conflict - the desecration of the body and soul on display makes this one of the more potent anti-war films ever made.
A distillation of affect and its indescribable yet undeniable power, Drugstore Romance wonderfully exhibits the purity of impulse disentangled from positive or negative connotations. Melodrama utilized to interrogate emotion - its impracticality, transience, and omnipresence - Paul Vecchiali's Drugstore Romance reminded me a lot of John Cassavetes' oeuvre in the way it obfuscates cinematic form, narrative logic, and social expectation to reach for a more pure understanding of what it means to live, what it means to love. The material outcome doesn't seem to interest Vecchiali so much as the psychological and cognitive journey. Drugstore Romance is a rich, messy tapestry of emotion and melodic melodrama uninterested in subscribing binary notions of right or wrong to this brazen pursuit of love - it's interested in truth, which is far more complex than the romanticism we often associated with desire, connection, and love. The interiority of emotion, the transient nature of affect, and the interplay between our internal impulses and external reality are beautifully captured with a cinematic grammar that masterfully uses editing techniques such as exquisitely placed insert shots that are inscribed with invoking emotion and the interiority of its characters. What I think struck me so much with Drugstore Romance is how it doesn't attempt to comprehend something as incalculable or unquantifiable as desire. It seeks truth and in a sense rejects dialectics, focusing on an ontology in which prescribed answers to the nature of being are inconsequential at best or fool-hearted pursuits at worst.
An ethnographical procedural so rich and vibrant in its exhibition of the Chinese-American experience. A travelogue, a mystery, so lived-in and authentic that it serves as such a resounding and pertinent reminder of the importance of independent cinema and the utter failings of Hollywood when it comes to subcultures that exist beyond the monolithic white middle class that dominates consumption and broad culture in America. How this blends a compelling narrative schematic with its ethnographic exploration is really exceptionally rendered, showcasing the diversity within the specific experience of the Chinese-American. Rooted in the exhibition of the unseen and unrepresented subculture on the silver screen, Chan is Missing's playful artifice congeals extremely well with its naturalist formal style, being precise yet lively, managing great specificity to Chinese-American identity while subverting the very idea of that while exposing the universality of collective diaspora and the complexities of identity beyond mere classification and expectation.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.