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    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited
    A couple of years ago I set out to attempt to educate myself somewhat about Southeast and East Asian non-anime cinema - primarily Japanese and mostly genre (yakuza, horror, sci-fi, Miike), but also some Korean, Hong Kong, Thai and Vietnamese stuff when I come across it. There's so much good stuff coming out of the area, especially the Korean and Thai flicks I've seen lately, that I've now gone through most of the low-hanging fruit and need some deeper recommendations (aside from /High Kick Girl/, which I am already anxiously awaiting). Trying to stick to new and current stuff without trolling through the whole history of kung-fu and samurai movies, and also to break out a bit of the Asian horror ghetto (although pointers to good stuff on the Asian Horror Movies website would be especially appreciated). Although not all genre, the stuff I've liked tends to have a certain combination of black humor, absurdity and surreal weirdness.

    Recent stuff I've enjoyed in no particular order to give an idea:

    Battle Royale (I & II)
    Ichi the Killer
    Rainy Dog (!!!)
    Zatoichi (the Kitano 2003 reboot) (!)
    Bright Future (!!)

    South Korean
    The Host (!!!)
    Bad Guy (!!)

    Hong Kong
    Infernal Affairs (remade as /The Departed/) (!!)
    Once Upon a Time in China

    Chocolate (!)
    Last Life in the Universe (!!)

    Next steps? What should I be looking out for? Movies along the lines of /Bad Guy/ and /Bright Future/ are what I'm really looking for in an attempt to reach beyond Hong Kong yakuza flicks and well...Miike, but horror with the wit and imagination of /The Host/ or action with the quirky fun of /Chocolate/ are most welcome too.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    I didn't really like Ong-Bak. It's sequel, "The Protector" had a bad guy who rode a segway the whole film and never dismounted from it. It might be because before the film was released Tony Jaa was being seriously hailed as the next Bruce Lee, a prophecy which proved to be ultimately false.

    Battle Royale was seriously one of the best movies I've seen!

    The original Dark Water was pretty solid, and that's coming from someone who generally loathes horror films. I'm not an anime fan, but seeing as it accounts for so much Asian production, I'd make a call for any of the Ghost in the Shell movies. Great direction, plots, etc.

    Hit up some bollywood stuff. Not all of it is awful, and if you're looking for good drama it has produced some really great stuff in the past decade.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited
    ^ I was trying to avoid dragging Bollywood into it because that really deserves a thread of its own (not like any of these other countries don't of course), and I'm lining up my own project of education there as well as the only significant example I've seen all the way through is /Lagaan/, which I quite liked. Edited the thread subject appropriately.

    I haven't caught the original /Dark Water/ yet, but I've seen a good chunk of the /Ringu/ and /Grudge/ serieses, and the original /One Missed Call/ (Miike again, the guy is everywhere). After also watching the /Hell Girl/ series I think I've had my fill of haunted websites/videotapes/cellphones as a vehicle.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    My only problem with the Japanese cinema are the few cultural things that Westerners would find funny. I laughed at several parts of dark water that might be considered scary in japan, but are hilarious here.

    I'm trying to track down a film. I saw it when I was in Tokyo recently on tv. It looked to be pretty recent, but, being in Japanese, I couldn't follow the plot. The directing and fight scenes were amazing; it was about Samurai in the mold of the old Seven Samurai flicks.

    Styg,have you tracked down the classic Samurai films? Really, most of the stuff by Akira Kurosawa is really good!

    Running on Karma and Kung Fu Hustle are big Hong Kong flicks I reccomend, and I'm a huge sucker for the Wushu Epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers.
  1.  (5975.5)
    You need to check out John Woo's "A Bullet in the Head" and "Hard Boiled"

    Bullet has far less "gun fu" than Hard boiled (which has a 300+ body count) but has more story
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited
    @Looney - Bits and pieces. The impenetrable weird black humor of stuff like /Gozu/ is what attracted me to Miike in the first place.

    Samurai - I've seen a good chunk of the original Zatoichi series, a handful of Kurosawa (/Ran/, /Dreams/, /Seven Samurai/) and a few miscellaneous ones. The original Zatoichi series is really quite wonderful.

    @Lee & Hong Kong - I haven't seen as much of the mainstream HK stuff aside from some early Jackie Chan (/Drunken Master/), and I did see both /Hero/ and /House of Flying Daggers/, which I enjoyed as fun eye candy. I'd definitely like to get into more of the Hong Kong back catalog, but again, more on the quirky side of things than straight gangster action. /Hard Boiled/ I caught a long time ago, but I'll check out the other.

    /Bright Future/ is a great example of what I'm after, although I'll be damned if I can sum up at all what it's about or what exactly draws me to it. Also /Last Life in the Universe/, a tremendous Thai flick that is nominally a Yakuza film, but again takes a sharp turn into black surrealism.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited


    Also seconding The Host, I adore that one. South Korean films have had a good decade. Chow's Kung-Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer were both stellar, old-fashioned cinema treats. (I can't seem to enjoy film on a simple, visceral level unless it's 20s/silent or foreign/subtitled. But apart from this, these three films just seem both purer in spirit and more substantive than modern american "fun" movies, which I can't usually even sit through, so...)


    Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe and 6ixtynin9, both rather rewarding.

    A lot I'm missing, I'm sure. There are too many good movies in this region to keep up with, and a lot of what I have seen I haven't revisited in years...
  2.  (5975.8)
    whoops Chow is Hong Kong. Points for Hong Kong
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    @BrianMowrey - Thanks, I'll check out /Old Boy/ and the Chow flicks.

    Jinx on /Last Life in the Universe/, I went back and added it to my list when I remembered I'd seen it. Totally amazing movie. I'll look for /6ixtynin9/ then as well.

    @All -
    I've been getting a chunk of my pure Asian horror fix from here:
    There's a plugin for XBMC that makes the site actually practical to use.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    There was a recent remake of the Seven Samurai, Seven Swords if you have any other details I might be able to identify it for you. My video guy has a pretty good selection of movies and tv series, and contacts over there.

    @Stygmata Breaking News is a pretty good recent drama, you may enjoy.

    A few recent Korean movies have been very John Woo influenced, I'll try and find you some names.

    I'm a big fan of the insane comedies horror/ comedies that come out of the region, Battlefield Baseball and Tokyo Zombie most recently. Zombies are pretty big over there at the moment.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    @Tanuki - /Breaking News/ looks perfect, and it also happens to be on Netflix Watch It Now! I'm off to watch it presently.
    • CommentAuthormanglr
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    A website to check out for would be - they report on 'genre' films from around the world and have a soft spot for Asian films obviously.

    Some suggestions though...

    Most anything directed by Johnnie To ('Exiled' is my favorite, Election, Triad Election, Mad Dectective, and Sparrow are all pretty good).

    If you've got a region free DVD, check out 'The Good, The Bad, The Weird' which is a Korean 'kimchi western' and about the best 'summer action' movie I've seen in ages. This one hasn't been released in the States yet.

    Oldboy is a staple of Korean pop cinema as previously menioned. If you like that also check out Lady Vengence which is also quite good. This director will also be releasing a vampire movie called 'Thirst' later this summer which might get a US theatrical release.

    Sticking with Korea:
    'The Chaser' -crime drama
    'The President's Last Bang' -historical black comedy
    'The Quiet Family' -black comedy
    'A Bittersweet Life' - crime drama
    'Memories of a Murder' - this is directed by the guy who did the Host...police procedural about South Korea first serial killer
    'Save the Green Planet' - inexplicably weird, mostly comedy
    'Natural City' - sci fi action film...on the same line as Blade Runner mixed with vintage Arnie.

    I've pretty much given up on American cinema in favor of Korea, Hong Kong, China, and Japan. Lots of good stuff to choose from. Plenty more to choose from...but that's a good starter list.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    ^ Great list. I do actually have a region-free DVD player - first-generation Apex - that I've hung onto for occasions such as this.

    Seeking out the rest of your list on Netflix, and bookmarked I have been trying to check out, but something about it locks up Google Chrome hard when loading.
    • CommentAuthormanglr
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    If you ever have an itch to import stuff directly, is a good website.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    Seconding manglr's recommendation of Memories Of Murder - I love that film.

    Also, from Hong Kong - PTU (dir. Johnnie To, who was mentioned earlier by manglr) is an incredible film. I struggle to describe it concisely without making it sound simple and obvious, but I assure you it's amazing.
    • CommentAuthorRobson
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    If you're keen on Thai cinema, I earnestly recommend pretty much everything by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. He's one of the leading lights of world cinema these days, making quiet and unassuming films that are formally experimental and surprisingly moving. His feature Tropical Malady is divided like many of his films into two halves: the first center's on a young man's love for a soldier; the second follows the soldier into a dark jungle where he's confronted by a tiger spirit that assumes the young man's form.

    Weerasethakul's short film Phantoms of Nabua can be seen here:

    As for Miike, I was rocked out, pleasingly bored, and then deeply moved by his sci-fi prison drama BIG BANG LOVE: JUVENILE A. People tend to focus on the berserk violence in his work, but I dig the quietness and the gentle surreality of his work. The interview with him on the DVD for his Masters of Horror episode, IMPRINT (itself a pretty marvelous film), captures the odd serenity that informs the excesses of his work.

    Hope you find something there to enjoy, and I'd be eager to hear your thoughts about what you see here!
    • CommentAuthorUrbanAngel
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    I'd like to recommend 2 South Korean films, the first being "Some" which I caught at Munich's Fantasy Filmfest and the 2nd being "Arahan".

    "Some" is notoriously difficult to locate in English though. "Arahan" is a different matter. It's a very funny film which looks great and has nice characters and story and fighting scenes:
    When a thief driving a motorcycle steals a purse of a pedestrian, the clumsy, naive and honest rookie policeman Sang-hwan runs after him, but the skilled specialist in martial arts Wi-jin captures the criminal and Sang-hwan is severely injured. She brings Sang-hwan to her home, where the six Masters of Tao heal him and believe that he has a powerful Qi, the spiritual energy of the universe, and could be a powerful warrior. Sang-hwan begins his training to ascend to a Maruchi, while the evil and ambitious Heuk-woon is accidentally released from his imprisonment. The powerful Heuk-woon attacks the masters, searching a key that they protect, which would permit him to become an Arahan and dominate the world. When the masters are defeated, Sang-hwan and Wi-jin are the only and last hope to mankind
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited
    Started watching /Breaking News/, then realized I've in fact seen it before - that first shot is memorable. I decided to break for /Memories of Murder/ instead, as it was also on Netflix Watch Now, and was duly impressed. The expressive directing, touches of humor, and excellent camerawork are all the touches that Bong Joon-ho brought to /The Host/ that made it so memorable - aside from the CGI monster of course. I'm completely sold on this guy.

    I have a couple Johnnie To queued up next after I return to /Breaking News/ - /Exile/ and /Fulltime Killer/. Netflix's Watch It Now is actually turning out to be fairly decent in the Asian Movie department.

    @Robson, @UrbanAngel -thanks, added to my growing list. I do want to come back to Miike, as the guy has made SO MANY movies that there's always some rewards there, but I was starting to feel like that and /Ringu/ were all I was getting out of Japan. Then again, his film output alone probably does amount to 25% of their movie industry by himself...

    One more for me to add: The short feature /August 15/, by China's Xuan Jiang. Only 20 minutes with a huge twist at the end so I can't say much about the plot except that it is a chilling little tale of inhumanity and the consequences of inaction in the face of evil. Unsure where one can find it now.
    • CommentAuthorUrbanAngel
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    If you want Japanese, try Shinobi and also Survive Style 5+. The latter is v bizarre but great. Also starring Vinnie Jones of all people..
    • CommentAuthorUrbanAngel
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    I just bought Mushishi (JP) and I'm a Cyborg (KR) from HMV and am looking fwd to seeing them.