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  1.  (5975.21)
    a handful of Kurosawa (/Ran/, /Dreams/, /Seven Samurai/)
    Definitely make an effort to catch Kurosawa's other stuff too. Personally, Yojimbo and Sanjuro are big highlights.

    I second Kung Fu Hustle, despite the effects and overall level of slapstick I found pretty annoying and detrimental, the heart and humor shines through.

    And anything by Beat Takeshi. Love that man. Definitely covers black humor, absurdity and weirdness in his stuff, if not to the gory extremes Miike goes to.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    ^ I just got done reading through Beat Takeshi's Wikipedia entry, as all I had really known of his work was the 2003 /Zatoichi/ - holy crap. The guy's a painter, author as well as screenwriter (over 50 books!), talk-show host, actor, director and editor? God's balls.
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    OLD BOY is awesome, but I prefer SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENEGANCE (Old Boy is the 2nd best part of a triology of films) of Chan Wook Park's films. His films are all brilliant. I especially liked 3-IRON. Not so much THE ISLE.

    Check out the LONE WOLF AND CUB samurai films that got butchered to make that awful film SHOGUN ASSASSIN.

    Surprised that no one has mentioned Wong Kai Wai. All his films in partnership with Chrisopher Doyle are a must-see. My personal favourite is ASHES OF TIME, but this film really needs to be seen about three times before it makes sense. CHUNKING EXPRESS is probably the best intro.

    Johnny To! God, I find myself watching more Asian cinema than I do watching English-language films, but my wife hates the sound of Asian languages so I don't get so much opportunity to watch as many films as I'd like.
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    @oga - I actually just realized I have a copy of /Ashes of Time/ on my hard drive, but seems like it is the original 1994 version. And you're right - I never made it through it the first time. I also note that he seems to have produced a 'Redux' version last year - I'll give that one a shot.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited
    Korean cinema:

    Musa the Warrior - lavish historic drama which encapsulates the bloody and fatalistic pattern of Korean history. "Let's wander around northern China with no clear objective in mind, pissing off everyone we meet and fighting each other when we don't have anyone else to fight."

    It also has one absolutely brilliant line of dialog: "I'm glad you're still alive. A slave does not deserve so glorious a death."

    Volcano High: A live-action high school paranormal martial arts drama.

    Japanese cinema

    Wild Zero - beat Shaun of the Dead to the zom-rom-com concept only with a transvestite heroine, a bad guy who wears hot pink short-shorts and a climatic scene involving a samurai sword which I can't describe without spoiiing it.

    Versus: Yakuza versus zombies. The director, Ryuhei Kitamura, went on to direct Midnight Meat Train.

    Chinese cinema:

    Pretty much anything with Jet Li,especially the Once Upon a Time in China series.

    Kung Fu Hustle

    Shaolin Soccer
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    The Redux is shorter, but has been retouched in color and sound. I kinda like the longer original version better. Basically this is a film about memory and the blurring of vision (one character is blind, the other is blinded during a fight) and identity (there's a split personality in Yin/Yang), and the wandering swordsmen who fall in a tragic love triangle is pretty cool. There are touches of Tsui Hark (ALL his films are must-see if you like intricate camera-ballet-fu - see THE BLADE for what I'm talking about - an one-armed swordsman teaches himself to use a chopper on a chain. The camera angles are to be seen to be believed. It's not one of Hark's best films, but it's a good intro) in the way Chris Doyle shoots the fight scenes, but really, I can't rave enough about this film, maybe because it doesn't give you all the answers and i've seen it about four or five times and each time I worked out a little bit more of the impressionistic story.
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    Also Korean - My Wife is a Gangster. Marathon. Aaichi & Ssipek. Protege. 200 Pounds Beauty. Jungcheon.
    • CommentAuthorsacredchao
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009 edited
    Korea - watch everything by Kim Ki-Duk you can, though Bad Guy is kind of bad. Definitely watch Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and...Spring and 3-Iron. They are amazing films.

    Japan - Watch Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Gemini by Shinya Tsukamoto. Gemini is the best Japanese film since Kurosawa died. Vital is decent as well, also by the same director.

    Tsukamoto makes weird avant-garde sorts of films that can be slightly disturbing. Tetsuo and Gemini are both influenced by Ankoko Butoh (dance of utter darkness), which is an avant-garde performance dance. It is considered the "anti-ballet," and was created in response to the influence of Western ballet on Japanese dance. Gemini has several Butoh performers in the cast.

    (Note about wikipedia article - not quite accurate, but gives an overview - for example Butoh isn't "traditionally" performed in hyper-slow motion while wearing white, that is simply one school of the dance. Most that I've seen involves quick, angular, jerky motions performed low to the ground (whereas ballet is typically an "upward" dance). That's what you'll see in Tsukamoto's films. Also, there was a performance in Seattle once by a troupe who did their show suspended in the air. Unfortunately, one of their cords broke, and a dancer died.)

    His films are also very much body horror (ala Cronenberg), which, in Japan, has it's roots in the hibakusha (bomb-affected) and their overall relationship to society. The hibakusha have been shunned to a certain extent do to a fear that they will somehow corrupt or make impure Japan as a whole. This obsession with contamination and mutation eventually lead to the rise of blob anime (Akira being a perfect example), as well as Gojira, whose skin was modeled to look like that of an A-Bomb survivor.

    I watched a movie called In the Realm of the Senses recently by Nagisha Oshima, which, to this day, can't be shown or bought uncensored in Japan. It contains lots of un-simulated sex and an extremely horrifying ending.

    The Shogun Assassin series is a lot of fun - they are poorly dubbed, colorized, versions of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, except they are each 2-3 movies cut in to one. They're about a ronin who wanders around with his kid in a baby carriage. Lots of crazy katana fighting and such.

    As far as Takashi Miike...meh. Audition is great, Ichi the Killer is pretty cool, Visitor Q has some eye-gouging moments, but, all-in-all, pretty hit or miss.

    Don't watch Suicide Club. That movie is fucking stupid. Swallowtail Butterfly is also pretty inane, no matter what Quentin Tarantino wants to tell you.
    • CommentAuthorsacredchao
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    Damn character limit. I've got lots to say. - - -

    HK - Fucking Wong Kar Wai. Go buy Fallen Angels right now. As in, immediately. That movie is sexy in the way some cars are sexy. I don't know how to explain that better, but it is fucking amazing. Follow it up with Chungking Express (available on Blu-Ray from Criterion), Days of Being Wild, and Ashes of Time Redux for his take on the Wuxia (martial arts) genre.

    John Woo - Hard Boiled starts with the single best action scene ever recorded. Do watch. Bullet in the Head, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow Part 1 & 2 are all good. Chow Yun Fat is a fantastic action hero.

    Mainland China - Jhang Yimou has done some great stuff, but you'll have to get past the various Crouching Tiger clones. Raise the Red Lantern and Ju-Dou are both very good.

    That's all I can come up with right now, but I'll try and post anything else I think of.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2009
    Tokyo Zombies is dreadful.

    It shouldn't be - it has some decent ideas in there - but it never gels in the way other ultra-low-budget horror movies like Versus and Wild Zero do.
  2.  (5975.31)
    God yes, Fallen Angels. I stumbled across that at 3 am on IFC or something when I was in high school and it at once destroyed and elevated me. Thing still casts a spell on me, I just melt watching it.
    • CommentAuthorpi8you
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009
    Adding to the head nods with Versus, Wild Zero, Oldboy/Vengeance trilogy, Shaolin Soccer(NOT the US cut), Kung Fu Hustle, and Battlefield Baseball.

    Beat Takeshi is an amazing, amazing man, almost everything he touches is great.

    On the Kitamuta track, thoroughly enjoyed Alive.

    Also gonna have to give a nod to 2004's New Police Story, almost entirely Serious Business Jackie Chan, and showcasing a few rather insane stunts make it one of the best things he's done in a while.

    On the Korean front, Save My Green Planet was quite a bizarre ride that was reasonably entertaining.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009
    Friends have recommended Tokyo Gore Police to me.

    I have a copy but am yet to watch it.
    • CommentAuthormanglr
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009
    Tokyo Gore Police is an odd duck, and I only thought was okay.

    If you want to go with the low budget-high gore-insanity-laced weirdness, I'd suggest 'Machine Girl' instead. It's like Power Rangers for grown-ups.
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009
    if you don't mind a homosexual theme, "Gohatto" (Taboo) is pretty good. visually interesting, samurai, has Takeshi Kitano. I can't remember the kid's name but it stars the son of the chick from Audition and the villain from Black Rain.
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009 edited
    @roque - I can safely say that's not a problem. I already had that on my Netflix queue in fact!

    @many many folks - Thanks for bringing up /Versus/, that's another one I've just realized I already saw. Kick-ass, mindless entertainment, quite stylish. /The Good, The Bad, The Weird/ or /Exiled/ probably next, then a rewatch of /Breaking News/, and after that I have to start waiting on Netflix and mail order. So far I have to say I've been most impressed by the South Korean and Thai stuff.

    Chinese film - I just don't know anything about it at all aside from that short feature I mentioned a few posts ago. If anyone has some stuff to recommend here please do.

    At some point here I'll edit the first post and add in the new recommendations. As new stuff comes out to recommend, please speak up and I'll add it to the list.
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009 edited
    I live in Japan, and I've seen a bunch of Japanese movies in the last couple of years, but I'm not sure they're really what you're after. Unsurprisingly the movies that are exported and gain some following in the West are often the cult / horror ones which are more marketable over there. Japan's home grown film industry took more at the box office here than Hollywood movies last year for the first time... I think ever. Just like Hollywood though, most of the smash hits aren't very good, but there are a lot of movies that I really want to check out but... they don't have English subtitles at the theatre y'know.

    Has the last Miyazaki film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea been released in the west yet? I'm curious to see what they do with it, because it was a super, super smash here, but from what I hear it has very little to appeal to adults. Its a very simple, cute, story for kids about a kind of fish-child-thing's friendship with a real boy. Haven't seen it, but my friend described it as similar in tone to Tonari no Totoro but nowhere near as good. His words not mine! The theme tune was one of the biggest singles of last year here.

    Hilariously I think Miike's last three big screen releases here were smash hit blockbusters. Crows: Zero, and the just released Crows: Zero II are prequels to the manga series Crows about a lawless school ruled by the best fighter. I found a download of Crows: Zero with subtitles and it's pretty fun, but really a very straight high school brawl flick with really cute Japanese boys, a nice sense of humour and a flair for pg cartoon violence. The actors are big stars here and Crows: Zero II had all sorts of cross promotion with convenience stores and clothes stores. It spawned it's own parody movie Elite Yankee Saburo, which I kinda want to check out. I had no idea until I checked out IMDB just now that Miike also directed Yatterman, it was like a family friendly, special effects heavy, live action adaptation of a classic Japanese kids cartoon. Starring a boyband star. I'd recommend his Sukiyaki Western Django, a patchy but really entertaining re-interpretation of the classic Django that rolls in tributes to the original movie, Japanese history, tributes to the Italian movie industry that spawned the original Django. It's too long, but then most of his films are, I still love him.

    You have no idea how famous Beat Takeshi is here. You just need to say "Takeshi" and everyone knows who you're talking about. He's on TV a lot, pretty much always as a comedian or a host of some prime time variety show.

    I watched the first part 20th Century Boys, adapted from the cult, beloved manga series. The story is great, but the film didn't hang togther as well as I hoped (which is what you get for compressing 12 or 20 volumes of manga down to three movies I guess.)

    The Korean movie A Tale of Two Sisters from a few years ago is really good. It's a horror, but as it develops it really shrugs off the ringu and ju-on comparisons.

    Awesome, I looked up Shinya Tsukamoto, and despite never having seen the Tetsuo movies he's famous for I've actually seen him acting in like 3 movies. Including "Welcome to the Quiet Room" which I do not recommend. Like a Japanese Girl, Interrupted but much worse.

    Electric Dragon 80,000 V. It's batshit insane. BATSHIT. INSANE. A zero budget black and white punk rock super-hero tragedy. It stars Tadanobu Asano, who was in Ichi the Killer, one of the leads in Survive Style 5+, and appeared in Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi. Also he's married to the pop singer Chara who stars in Swallowtail Butterfly that was mentioned above in less than glowing terms. I haven't seen it, but it's a cute song.

    My favourite Kurosawa movie is High and Low, it's fantastic.

    edit to add: sorry for the long post, and hi roque!
  3.  (5975.38)
    I'd recommend Red Cliff parts 1 and 2. Especially as they make up a nearly 5 hour film and in the Uk and USA we are going to get one 2 1/2 hour version.
    John Woo's latest based on an historical battle.

    Other craziness:
    Dead or Alive by Takashi Miike, a seemingly straight-forward gangster flick until the last 10 minutes, which you could probably find on YouTube.
    Battlefield Baseball - part zombie film, part musical, involving a character that keeps getting killed and coming back played by a different actor each time.
    Happiness of the Katakuris - another Miike film. A musical, with horror and zombies. Very odd, but very good.
    Save the Green Planet - a great little Korean film which is absolutely mad.
    Sukiyaki Western Django - I think this is another Miike film, saw it recently. A Spaghetti western, set in Japan, with all the Japanese actors trying to do American accents. But easily the most watchable of Miike's films.

    If you liked Versus, check out Azumi by the same director. A female samurai/assasain Vs Ninjas. (Azumi 2 bored me)
    The director of Azumi and Versus - Ryuhei Kitamura - has also done a Godzilla film which I've not seen but heard very good things about.

    And if you like your martial arts films looking like people really got hurt, then Chocolate is one to check out.
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009
    Worth noting that Chris Doyle is the same cinematographer who worked on Last Life in the Universe and that the movies he did with Wong Kar-Wai are equally beautifully shot and, in the case of Chungking and Angels, equally sort of dreamy and grandly lethargic. I'm pretty sure that Wong Kar-Wai is my favorite director of all time, including Ashes and Blueberry Nights, the movies where his problems are most on display.

    Heroic Trio is a must see and, if you can find it, Yes Madam, the movie where Maggie Cheung and Cynthia Rothrock team up to beat up gangsters. I recall Peking Opera Blues as having been awesome, but I'm not sure if it's because I was rather young when I saw it or because it actually was.

    Tokyo Gore Police is a crazy non-stop weirding as is its sister film Machine Girl, which, in my opinion, is the better made of the two but the less insane. The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai is a pretty good movie about a prostitute who gets shot in the head and finds her destiny requires a lot of softcore sex and a cloned George Bush finger (for missiles, not sex).

    Perfect Blue is a great bit of anime - probably the closest thing to an Argento film I've seen another director do - and you can pretty consistently rely on the work of Satoshi Kon to entertain.

    Eh, I'm sure there's more but it's early and brain no work good before noon.
    • CommentAuthorWinther
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2009
    I'm no great connoisseur of Asian cinema, but I'll add my voice to those who praise Old Boy. Just a great film by any standards. Actually, I've been meaning to check out the other films in the Vengeance Trilogy. In fact, I think I'll get right on that.