Asian Film Hall of Fame

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Tears of the Black Tiger

I'm partial to films that are just plain weird and don't stick convention. While this film doesn't go completely off the rails avoiding the rules of cinema, it's pretty clear that it's not trying to be a regular film of its day. Instead it is looking back at old melodramas and doing them better. While the direction is clearly top notch, I think the actors of this film deserve a ton of credit. They managed to really make me care about what happens to them even though I've seen this all before and they aren't allowed to act the way they must have been taught to act when they were coming up in the business. The ridiculous shoot-out sequences just add to the craziness of this film while paying tribute to Leone's westerns by either directly using Morricone's music or getting some music that sounds really damn close. I think this is one of those films where you could say almost any frame could be a painting. The crazy color palette is probably the most notable and noticeable thing about the film, and really the film probably could have been about anything while looking like this and I would have loved it.





Hanagatami / 花筐 (2017)
Directed By: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Starring: Shunsuke Kubozuka, Honoka Yahagi, Keishi Nagatsuka

While I struggled with Hanagatami a lot in the beginning, I got used to its quirky style the longer I watched it, and eventually I found the whole thing strangely compelling. The film is highly symbolic, imaginative, and vehemently anti-war. While many of the effects are odd and poorly integrated, there is an intention behind those jarring visuals that makes them somewhat endearing. Occasionally there would be genuinely beautiful shots as well.

Hanagatami does however feature an uncomfortable amount of incestuous relationships, and a Tarantino-esque fixation on feet that I don't understand. For the duration of the first act, I hated Toshihiko, because there was something about Shunsuke Kubozuka's face that looked off, almost like he belonged in a Tim Burton film. I despised seeing his cartoonish expressions. The fact that he was a 36 year old man playing a 17 year old didn't help either. However even this no longer bothered me by the second act.

In retrospect, I think the age of the actor was meant to be a commentary on how Japan treated boys as though they were fully grown men, as that was a running theme throughout the film. Both the story and visual language of Hanagatami are so are steeped in metaphor, that you could spend hours combing through individual scenes and still find something new. If it wasn't for the film's runtime, I'd almost be tempted to watch it again to catch all the things I missed.
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Mother (2009):

Wow. This was fantastic. I'd seen Parasite, but that was the only one of Bong Joon Ha's films I'd seen previously. He is a master of tension, thrills, suspense, and social commentary. He's also great at twists, and this movie is no exception, though I will obviously refrain from discussing the twist here.

Kim Hye-ja is a revelation as the titular, unnamed character, a lower-class acupuncturist with a mentally-challenged son that faces a series of dramatic incidents when her son is accused of murdering a young girl. Hye-ja goes on an intense journey, navigating violence, deception, and hatred in her unyielding quest to clear her son. Won Bin is convincing as the intellectually disabled son, Yoon Do-joon, who's spotty memory is a great device to create tension and suspense throughout the piece. The world Ha presents is a dark and cynical one, to say the least, and I'm not sure what the takeaway is supposed to be thematically, but this is certainly a crackerjack of a film, tremendously entertaining, and certainly the best of the 4 films I've seen so far.



Mother (2009):

Wow. This was fantastic. I'd seen Parasite, but that was the only one of Bong Joon Ha's films I'd seen previously. He is a master of tension, thrills, suspense, and social commentary. He's also great at twists, and this movie is no exception, though I will obviously refrain from discussing the twist here.

Kim Hye-ja is a revelation as the titular, unnamed character, a lower-class acupuncturist with a mentally-challenged son that faces a series of dramatic incidents when her son is accused of murdering a young girl. Hye-ja goes on an intense journey, navigating violence, deception, and hatred in her unyielding quest to clear her son. Won Bin is convincing as the intellectually disabled son, Yoon Do-joon, who's spotty memory is a great device to create tension and suspense throughout the piece. The world Ha presents is a dark and cynical one, to say the least, and I'm not sure what the takeaway is supposed to be thematically, but this is certainly a crackerjack of a film, tremendously entertaining, and certainly the best of the 4 films I've seen so far.
Glad to hear you liked Mother so well. I believe this is your first HoF? How are you liking the HoF?



Wow. This was fantastic. I'd seen Parasite, but that was the only one of Bong Joon Ha's films I'd seen previously.
I'm glad you enjoyed it! I was worried that anyone who had only seen Parasite wouldn't like Mother as much, since between the two I think Parasite is the superior film. I'd definitely put Mother ahead of the rest of his work though haha.



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Glad to hear you liked Mother so well. I believe this is your first HoF? How are you liking the HoF?
It's been great! It's fun to get a chance to see films I would not have otherwise considered watching and getting to read other opinions and analyses has also been excellent as it's increased my appreciation of the films. I'm game for more HoF any chance I can join!



It's been great! It's fun to get a chance to see films I would not have otherwise considered watching and getting to read other opinions and analyses has also been excellent as it's increased my appreciation of the films. I'm game for more HoF any chance I can join!
Cool...The 25th HoF will be starting very soon. It's the main HoF where any movie can be nominated as long as it hasn't won before. I'm hosting that one too You're welcomed to join.



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Cool...The 25th HoF will be starting very soon. It's the main HoF where any movie can be nominated as long as it hasn't won before. I'm hosting that one too You're welcomed to join.
I'd love to, thanks! I just need to make sure I see the post before the deadline as I'm not on the forum tons. Since you say it's very soon, I will keep an eye out.



I finished watching Dust in the Wind, so once I write something for that I just need to figure out my list. I think I say this nearly every HoF, but ranking these films really is going to be a difficult task.



I finished watching Dust in the Wind, so once I write something for that I just need to figure out my list. I think I say this nearly every HoF, but ranking these films really is going to be a difficult task.
Wow! That was fast!





Dust in the Wind / 戀戀風塵 (1986)
Directed By: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Starring: Wang Chien-wen, Xin Shufen, Li Tian-lu

I do not typically enjoy coming of age or slice of life stories, as I tend to find them incredibly boring. Unfortunately, Dust in the Wind was no exception. My biggest problem was that the main characters all lacked personality. They never even have any proper conversations with each other either. What sparse dialogue there is might as well be monologues directed at the camera, because they garnered little to no reaction from those hearing them.

Family members and friends felt like complete strangers, since there was no intimate look at their lives or relationships. As such, I was not engaged, and did not care about what happened to them. A scene near the end of the film was clearly meant to be an emotional moment for Wan, however I felt absolutely nothing for him. I don't even know who Wan really is, despite him being the main character.

My disinterest made the runtime really drag, but I can't say that I hated Dust in the Wind because I don't really have any strong feelings about it one way or the other. Getting an authentic look at rural Taiwan was somewhat novel, and I do wish I had something more positive to say about it. For now I'll just look forward to reading other reviews, since I get the feeling that there's something I missed, or perhaps there is another perspective that'll make me understand the film's appeal.

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OK so I just finished Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. I don't have time to write right now, but I just wanted to say thanks. This movie was soooo much fun. I was so confused in the beginning but then it became one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen, easily my favorite of the 5 I've watched so far, though I guess I might feel differently if I had seen a version with the cat/snake fight.

Still, can't believe I've never seen a Jackie Chan film (not even an American one...) Planning to watch Police Story on Criterion in the near future as a result. Wow. - more to follow



The trick is not minding
What's more is that before joining this HoF, I had only watched about three films this entire year.
Only 3? Time to turn in your MoFo card.

All joking aside, I’m around 125 already, but have hit a busy patch at work the last few weeks that has kept my watching to practically nothing.



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Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978)

This film starts like a parody of martial arts films - a clash between two kung fu masters with threats to destroy each other's styles. Super cheesy. We then see some fighting at a kung fu school with terrible, ridiculous comedy sound effects (mixed wayyy too loud - not sure if this is a function of the age of the print or is in the original. Whatever it is, it's distracting.) This all made me think "what is this trash??"

That changed quickly thanks to the star, Jackie Chan, in one of his earliest parts. Chan plays Chien Fu, an orphan adopted by a kung fu school that works as a janitor. He is viciously abused by the temporary leader of the school and used as a punching bag for students. His only friend is the cook, Ah-Wu, who takes pity on him, and appears sympathetic. Fu meets an old beggar in the street, Pai Cheng-tien (played by the director's father, Yuen Siu-tien), and befriends him by sort-of defending him in a fight and offering him a place to sleep and food. It turns out that Cheng-tien is a kung fu master, one of the last surviving ones teaching the Snake style. He teaches Fu first, to defend himself, and then ultimately, the Snake style. That style comes into conflict with the tiger style, and a fairly straightforward mentorship/good v. evil plot emerges. That's all fine on paper, as far as it goes.

In reality, it is so much more, mainly due to a key decision by the creative team, after failed attempts to make Chan the next Bruce Lee, to make this a comedy martial arts film, rather than a serious one. This proves to be, bad sound effects notwithstanding, pure genius. Chan and the rest of the cast are hysterical, never taking the absurd premises of the rivalry between kung fu schools seriously, and finally leading to the brilliant turn of Chan adding "cat's claw" to his style, a form of fighting that involves him pouncing like a little kitty cat while pretending to make an incredible kitty cat growling sound that you just have to hear to believe.

But Chan is not just funny, he's genuinely sympathetic and believable as a hapless janitor regularly getting mercilessly bullied. Chan exudes a lovely humility that, combined with the decision not to take himself seriously, makes it so easy to root for him. Additionally, Siu-tien is a delight as the humble yet brilliant old master, training Fu in kung fu with a blend of nonchalance and focus that makes for fun montages (and a far FAR more convincing arc than the more dour and so much less fun Chocolate...)

As great as all of the above is, none of it works without Chan's electric physicality. He is unbelievably talented - a pure acrobat. Some of his sequences were as fresh and agile as anything I've seen from Astaire. Chan is nothing short of breathtaking. You can't take your eyes off him as he performs one insane feat after another in quick succession. It's no wonder he became such a huge star.

There are other fun parts of the film. A Jesus doppleganger Christian missionary (obviously dubbed) walking around unconvincingly attempting to convert folks before turning out to be a kung fu master. And then there's Chinese Adam Driver! I took a screenshot but can't figure out how to upload here, but he's a dead ringer! In all, so many laughs. A tremendously entertaining, rollicking ride. In case any confusion somehow lingers: I loved it.

A final word on an earlier point. Because it placed in the top 100 countdown, I watched Enter the Dragon earlier this year. It was ridiculous, racist, misogynist, self-serious trash. Even the marital arts sequences weren't that impressive. Chan was soooo much more entertaining and fun. It's not even close. I can't wait to dig into the rest of Chan's films. Easily my #1 so far.