I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006) directed by Tsai Ming-liang
"Homeless on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Hsiao Kang is robbed, beaten and left for dead; he is found and nursed by Rawang, an immigrant worker, who lives in the shell of a modernist building abandoned during construction. Rawang's feelings for his patient may or may not be sexual, but there's definitely something like lust in the eyes of Chyi, a waitress in a run-down old coffee shop, when they light upon the recovering Hsiao Kang. And so a triangle forms as a blanket of noxious fog settles on the city and everyone has trouble breathing. Simulateously erotic and comical, the film underpins Tsai's deadpan allegory with hints of social realism."
* Wow. Wow. Wow. Totally caught off guard with this release. This film played earlier this year at the Walker and I absolutely loved it, and would be very happy to watch it again. Unfortunately, it looks like the DVD doesn't offer anything new. I may just buy it anyway.
Election (2005) directed by Johnny To
"The drama-thriller Election centers on the power struggles within Hong Kong’s organized crime culture. Every two years, the Wo Shing society, the oldest and most powerful triad in Hong Kong, has to appoint a new leader. As Lok (Simon Yam) looks set to win the election, his violent rival Big D (Tony Leung Kar-Fai) will stop at nothing to influence the voting process. When the Dragon's Head Baton, the society’s symbol of leadership, is stolen, a merciless battle for power begins."
* Although this is the film preceding Triad Election, it comes out after the sequel. Most think this is the inferior of the two, but I think there is a good argument to the contrary. First it has Tony Leung Ka-fai who just oozes maliciousness, and Louis Koo in a more appropriate role as the reticent gangster. Either way, essential Hong Kong film fan viewing.
Time (2006) directed by Kim Ki-duk
"A woman obsessed with her appearance takes drastic measures to hold onto the man she loves, with startling results in this offbeat drama from South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk. Se-heui is a beautiful woman who has become convinced she isn't beautiful enough. Se-heui is certain her boyfriend Ji-woo is attracted to other women, and has so resigned herself to second-class status with him that she urges him to imagine other women when they make love. Without telling Ji-woo, Se-heui checks herself into a clinic, where a doctor promises her a new and different face in six months. With her new appearance their relationship takes on a troubling new dynamic."
* Typical of my state of affairs, this film gets released in the US before I get around to watching the Korean DVD that I bought months ago... I wish I could recommend this film because I have seen it, but I will only recommend it for the reasons I bought it. Kim Ki-duk was in something of a critical slump for more than a few years, getting everything from ho-hum reviews to absolute lambasting from dedicated Asian film fans. Time seem to signal a change in the tide for Kim. Obviously, I'm hoping that's the case. (I'm just thankful I did not buy The Coast Guard.)
Flanders (2006) directed by Bruno Dumont
"Demester shares his time between his farm and walks with Barbe, his childhood friend. He loves her, secretly and painfully, accepting from her the little that she can give him. Along with others his age, Demester leaves to be a soldier in a war in a far off land. Barbarity, camaraderie and fear turn Demester into a warrior. As the seasons go by, Barbe, alone and wasting away, waits for the soldiers to return. Demester comes back from war and learn to become a man again."
* Bruno Dumont, the director I love to hate. I am anxious to see if this film allows me to maintain this stance towards him. Here's another example of lost opportunities for theaters able to program this film. I would much rather see this film in the theater with an audience.
Eternal Summer (2006) directed by Leste Chen
"As an elementary school student in rural Taiwan, the rowdy, underachieving Shane is punished for snipping a girl’s hair. His more sensitive and well behaved classmate Jonathan is asked to make friends with Shane to pull him into shape by example. Now about to graduate from high school, Shane is a magnetic, roguish basketball star who makes the girls squeal, while Jonathan sits watching on the sidelines. Despite their vastly different personalities, they’re inseparable. Jonathan’s brooding reticence masks his passion for the appealingly unaware Shane, who insists he needs Jonathan by his side at all times but can’t say why. When a teacher singles out transfer student Carrie for a hair-cutting, she becomes entangled in the boys’ already complicated relationship."
* Yet another surprise release. This is Leste Chen second feature film, following his creepy debut film The Heirloom.
Blame It on Fidel! (2006) directed by Julie Gavras
"How do our experiences shape us, and how is political consciousness formed? Blame It on Fidel uses a light, charming touch to shed light on these questions. At the film's epicenter is whip-smart Anna, a feisty Parisian girl forced to assimilate cataclysmic changes when her parents decide to devote themselves full time to radical activism. It is 1970-71, and Anna's father is fighting to redistribute wealth in Chile, while her mother doggedly researches a book on women's abortion ordeals. Meanwhile, Anna, kicking and screaming, must adjust to refugee nannies with strange cooking habits, a cramped apartment filled with noisy, scruffy revolutionaries, and the humiliation of no longer being allowed to attend her beloved catechism class. The fun of Blame It on Fidel is watching Anna valiantly sort through the dizzying array of contradictory ideologies flying at her - from communism to Greek mythology, from Vietnamese folktales and women's rights to Catholic morality. The film's emotional power arises from Anna's transformation from close-minded bourgeois princess to open-hearted truth seeker and her gradual internalization of what her parents, albeit clumsily, are trying to accomplish."
Battle of Okinawa (1971) directed by Kihachi Okamoto
"Samurai Assassin and Japan's Longest Day director Kihachi Okamoto offers a vivid dramatization of the bloodiest battle ever fought in the Pacific Theater with this combat film produced to portray the Japanese perspective on this landmark confrontation. The year is 1944, and when Allied forces descend on Okinawa the Japanese people become subject to horrors that would forever change the face of war. As the Japanese people struggle with all their might to endure an unrelenting attack, Allied forces receive a harrowing demonstration of what to expect when they take the fight to the Japanese mainland."
* My Kihachi Okamoto viewing is pretty limited to samurai films, like Kill, Sword of Doom, and Samurai Assassin. War films are definitely not my thing, but I'm always willing to challenge my prejudices.
Old Boy (Blu-ray)
Okay, here's a film I would like to see on the new format. I really wish I didn't care about the HD/Blu-ray battle.