Friday, December 19, 2008

New International DVD Releases

In light of the fact there is very little coming out this week domestically, I thought I would highlight new and forthcoming international DVD releases (organized by release date with links to where to buy or spy on how much money I spend on all this crap):

I Just Didn't Do It (2006) directed by Suo Masayuki (Hong Kong. R3. November 21.)
Jeepers H. Christmas. I felt like I was waiting for this film forever. The Japanese DVD that came out over a year ago had no English subtitles. (If they were waiting for a US distribution deal, it doesn't look like it happened.) Suo Masayuki's career took off with Shall we Dance? over ten years ago. However, it took him ten more years to make his next film, I Just Didn't Do It. Popular opinion (from those who saw it, of course) is that it was worth the wait. Ryo Kase (Funky Forest, Letters from Iwo Jima) starts as the young man falsely accused of the ever popular pastime of molesting a girl on a train. My copy is the mail, and I will report back after I watch it.

Dachimawa Lee (2008) directed by Ryoo Seung Wan (Korea. R3. December 4.)
Ryoo Seung Wan has gone to great highs (his debut hyper-kinetic super-stylized actioneer Die Bad and pitch perfect shoulda-been-a-hit action drama No Blood No Tears) and very disappointing mediocres (Arahan, Crying Fist and City of Violence.) In my enthusiasm for Ryoo's Die Bad (which amazingly did play locally) I bought the Korean DVD hot off the presses. The reward was not only to see the film again but to see a very funny short film called Dachimawa Lee: a spoof action film from someone who knows action films from the inside out. And eight years later come the full length. I'm not setting my hopes too high, but I think this film might have potential.

The Banishment (2007) directed by Andrey Zvyaginstev (UK. R2, PAL. December 8.)
Remember Andrey Zvyaginstev? Well, he made a great film call The Return five years ago that knocked me off my feet for its surrealism as realism originality. My ears perked up when I heard he had a new film playing at Cannes in 2007, but I heard very little since. Although the British Pound sends my conversion alarm off, I'm excited to have a chance to see this film.

My Darling of the Mountains (2008) directed by Katsuhito Ishii (Japan. R2. December 10.)
Speaking of Funky Forest, here comes Katsuhito Ishii's follow up film. (If you have not seen Funky Forest - The First Contact or Taste of Tea, rent them now! Seriously.) Ishii-san pulls in the reins from the free form Funky Forest with this remake of Shimizu Hiroshi's 1938 black-and-white classic The Masseurs and a Woman.

Lost, Indulgence (2008) directed by Zhang Yi Bai (Hong Kong. R3. December 19.)
Lost, Indulgence created a stir a the HKIFF last year when it was suddenly pulled from the line up because, well, Mainland sensors said so. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean there is something controversial within the film, it simply hadn't gotten the green light from the powers that be. Zhang Yibai (Spring Subway, Curiosity Kills the Cat) is one of the more interesting directors working in the Mainland today. Underworked Karen Mok stars, with Eason Chan, Eric Tsang, and Jiang Wen Li.

Dream (2008) directed by Kim Ki Duk (Korea. R3. December 24.)
Kim Ki Duk just keeps makin' movies and keeps makin' 'em look interesting. In this case Kim has signed up Japanese megastar Joe Odagiri as a heartbroken man who is haunted by the memory of his ex in his dreams. His dreams manifest themselves into reality via Ran (Lee Na Young) who physically reenacts his dreams. I don't really understand that synopsis anymore than anyone else, but it sounds intriguing. This film promises to either be an engaging drama or a smultzy romance - not really good odds.

Rough Cut (2008) directed by Jang Hoon (Korea. R3. January 7, 2009)
A protege of Kim Ki Duk, Jang Hoon makes a gangster movie about gangster movies. Originally titled A Film is a Film, Rough Cut the explores the lines between reality and fiction through fiction as a tough actor gets tangled up with a tough gangster. There was enough positives in Darcy Paquet review that convinced me I would like to see this movie.

Alexandra (2007) directed by Aleksandr Sokurov (UK, R2, PAL. January 12, 2009.)
if I wanted to beat a dead dog, I would first start with a rant about how Alexandra was screened at MSPIFF on DVD. But I won't, since in some respects, I was able to see it 9 months earlier via their screener DVD. I may nonetheless check out this DVD, It may or may not make an appearance in the US on DVD. (Sukurov's amazing The Sun has yet to show up in the US.) Alexandra is a poignant exploration on the "Chechnyan problem" from a resiliently Russian point of view.

Still Walking (2008) directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (Japan. R2. January 23, 2009.)
A new film from indie maverick Hirokazu Kore-eda, Still Walking is a return to contemporary family drama from his foray into period samurai family drama. Kore-eda makes some amazingly thoughtful and beautiful films that get far too little attention. (Please check out Distance, his 2001 film, available locally at Cinema Revolution. It is the most subtle powerhouse you will see after Eureka.) I have no doubts this will be a great film.

Gomorrah (2008) directed by Matteo Garrone (UK. R2, PAL. February 9, 2009)
Well, if film watching were a race (and sometimes, in my mind, it is) this DVD might be you best bet for this highly acclaimed Italian drama. Gomorrah is set to open here in the Twin Cities in March, but as with most releases at Landmark, I won't be holding my breath. At least I will know there is another option.

First Love: Litter on the Breeze (1997) directed by Eric Kot (UK. R2, PAL. Febrary 9, 2009)
Oh my God! How did this happen? Who is paying attention to Eric Kot? I have the Hong Kong DVD of this crazed homage to Hong Kong film, but I am ecstatic that it has a life outside of my mind. There is a plot to First Love, but it hardly matters because the bit parts and vignettes are so creative and funny, you won't care. God love Eric Kot and Jeff Lau for their creative friendship with Wong Kar Wai. The HK DVD is pretty crappy, so I may just pick this up to prove my undying love for this movie. Now if only The Four Faces of Eve would get a decent release.

Even if you don't think you have a region free DVD player, you probably do. Especially if you bought the cheapest one off the rack. Do a quick search of your player here at Video Help to see if there is a hack. It will be interesting to see what happens with region coding as video on demand ramps up. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

This time I would say: "Wowie zowie"!
That Koreeda is one of the most awaited of the year. Kim ki-duk... yes interesting, but I think he'd better to make a break.

Aleksandra is the "usual" very good Sokurov. About The Banishment: to me it has been a great disappointment.
The remake of that Shimizu masterpiece is also a nice news.

Kathie Smith said...

Yes, Dan. The Kore-eda is worth a wowie zowie. I'm happy that it is coming out fairly quickly with English subtitles. I'm still waiting for Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata to show up somewhere....

That's too bad about The Banishment. I'll have to reconsider getting it. Did you see The Return?

Dan said...

Yes, I do not really understand why that Kurosawa - fully acclaimed - doesn't show up; the whole world is waiting for it!
Yes, I've seen "The Return" that with my great pleasure I found it one of the most beautiful films of the decade. I think that watch that film at the theatre... it could be a great experience. I mean: to lost yourself in those spaces, places... "The Banishment" is good in some ways too, I would say more Tarkovsky-esque than The Return, but it is long-winded and I think it says not much; the runtime is not justifiable. But you MUST see it, Kate!