Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano Films Repping Asian Movie Industry at Prestigious Festival
The Berlin International Film Festival, a.k.a. Berlinale, has seen its share of big Asian movie names through the decades. Films by Zhang Yimou and Tsai Ming-liang have taken home the festival’s Grand Prix. Akira Kurosawa won Best Director in 1959 for THE HIDDEN FORTRESS. Park Chan-wook and Jia Zhangke have done presentations at Berlin.
Throughout its 55 years, Berlinale has cemented its place, alongside Cannes and Venice, as one of the world’s most elite film festivals. Coming up on its fifty-sixth season, rolling out February 11, the festival is again host to several big-time Asian movie debuts. Further, the festival is dusting off several prints for fresh retrospective screenings.
CROSSCURRENT [Yang Chao]
Repping China in Berlinale’s main competition is CROSSCURRENT. The drama follows the voyage of wayward Gao Chun and his friend Jin Ye, who buy a barge and go for a trip down the Yangtze. Boarding in a village, Gao grows enamored with a series of prostitutes linked by a surreal secret: they’re each the same woman.
THE BACCHUS LADY [Korea]
Selected for Berlinale’s Panorama Section is this drama directed by E J-yong [MY BRILLIANT LIFE]. BACCHUS LADY follows the life of a 65-year old female prostitute who takes in a lost boy, while trying to help a suicidal client. Brutal regrets, bleak moral questions, elderly prostitution – this one has “prestige festival” written all over it.
Per Berlinale’s official website, this documentary, directed by Lee Dong-ha, “reveals the swift progress and growing pitfalls of the gay emancipation movement” in South Korea.
DOG DAYS [Hong Kong/China]
American-born filmmaker Jordan Schiele directed this Asian production, following a woman’s search for her missing boyfriend and baby son. To find him, she must team up with a nightclub singer.
MY LAND [China]
This documentary explores China’s middle class and its relation to environmental happenings in the country.
WHILE THE WOMEN ARE SLEEPING [Wayne Wang, Japan]
The newest film from Wayne Wang, director of indie Asian movie trailblazer CHAN IS MISSING, stars Takeshi Kitano. It is the SONATINE star’s first performance in over a decade, starring opposite Shiori Kutsuna as a couple who befriend a writer (Hidetoshi Nishijima).
Forum Special Screenings
“Hachimiri Madness: Japanese Indies from the Punk Years”
Cult fans, look out: “Hachimiri Madness” brings together a series of low-budget 8-millimeter films which originated in the ’70s and ’80s. As you might discern from the series’ title, these titles are unified by the grainy, gritty aesthetic and spirit of 8MM (with the requisite digital restorations).
Selections include provocateur Sion Sono’s lo-fi debut, I AM SION SONO!! and Mahasi Yamamoto’s SAINT TERRORISM, which features, as described by Screen Daily, “a girl in a pink and yellow outfit [who] shoots innocent people seemingly at random with a gun concealed in her white handbag, with the bodies being carried off by the uniform-wearing members of a cult.”
The series also features Sono’s 1986 A MAN’S FLOWER ROAD, as well as early films from Shinya Tsukamoto of TETSUO: THE IRON MAN and a film titled TOKYO CABBAGEMAN.
EARLY SUMMER [Yasujiro Ozu]
Looking for some quietly sublime mastery amid the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s biggest film festivals? Look no further than a restoration of EARLY SUMMER, a 1951 film by Japanese auteur Yasujiro Ozu.
One of the greatest of all directors, Ozu (LATE SPRING) was in prime form for this exploration of a multigenerational family in postwar Japan. Starring Setsuko Hara, the great actress who passed away last year, EARLY SUMMER is a can’t miss for Berlinale cinephiles.
DAUGHTER OF THE NILE [Hou Hsiao-hsien]
For one of the most visible of all contemporary Asian movie auteurs, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s early work is frustratingly difficult to find on home video formats in the states. If you’re lucky enough to grab a ticket to Berlinale, you may able to check out a new restoration of DAUGHTER OF THE NILE.
The film, which came off of Hou’s vaunted “Coming of Age” trilogy (also far too hard to find in America), follows Taiwanese youth in the 80s. It centers on a young waitress on the verge of adulthood while dealing with a dysfunctional home.
CREEPY [Kiyoshi Kurosawa]
For well over a decade now, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has found a creative sweet spot, exploring both offbeat genre tales like PULSE AND CURE, alongside dramas like TOKYO SONATA and BRIGHT FUTURE.
CREEPY, as you may have guessed, finds Kurosawa in the former realm. The film follows a detective, Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima), who uncovers dark secrets when pursuing the case of a family gone missing long ago. Reviews for last year’s relatively tame JOURNEY TO THE SHORE were mixed at best – will Kurosawa’s return to the gritty side of life bring him a comeback?