It’s always a daunting prospect discovering a new type of Cinema, the world can be a confusing place when you are being recommended things to watch left, right and centre or you just don’t have a clue as to what to watch. Trust me I’ve been there, so I’ve decided to write a little guide for anyone wanting to expand their tastes.
I should really make it clear that when I say Asian I mean East Asian (Japan, China, Korea, Thailand etc.) and not Southern Asian (India, Bangladesh, Iran etc.). Also, I really want you the reader to view this as a more open subject. If you really think a piece of Cinema is important enough for others to view let us all know.
In part one I’m going to introduce a few “entrance” movies. Nothing too violent, nothing too obscure and most importantly a good representation of culture. Aww here goes:
Triads and Yakuza (Chinese and Japanese ‘Mafia’ respectively) are subjects that you will come across quite often in Chinese and Japanese movies, from the confusing to the bloody it’s all there. Infernal Affairs is no different. The highly stylish Mafia/Cop movie follows the story of Triad Mole and Police Mole as they infiltrate with each opposing side.
The film features some very famous faces (for the Chinese anyway) including pop-star Andy Lau, movie veterans Tony Leung and Anthony Wong and media obsessee Edison Cheng (who is centre of some rather ‘interesting’ controversies in the real world.) In other words, all star cast!
What is so amazing about this, apart from the fact the story is utterly fantastic, is perhaps how beautifully well it is shot. It also has the re-watch value of your own reflection. This is a film you have to see, beware though, perfection can ruin many things.
A modern remake of a classic, a not so old classic at that. The reason I chose the remake is apart from the fact it stars two pretty amazing actors it’s also the only version I’ve seen. Ssshhh. Takeshi Kitano, as with anyone with a thirst for money, directs and stars. Not to say he isn’t worthy, the man has been around the block, comedian, gameshow idol (Takeshi’s Castle actually), director and actor to name a few. Starring in films such as “Sonatine” and “Hana-Bi” he has cemented his seat as an acting great. Co-starring one of my favourite actors Tadanobu Asano, Zatoichi follows the tale of a blind swordsman as he moves to a town full of warring gangs.
One of the reasons this is a fantastic movie, no not the fighting although that is cool, is that it has a fairly true depiction of Samurai in Japan, where once they were a great fighting force and upheld the law but in latter years were driven to corruption by their power.
I’m assuming since this film is so great, it would also be worth checking out the 1989 version, however I haven’t done so yet. Oops.
I’ve mentioned Pen-ek’s successor movie “Invisible Waves” before but this movie is where I really gained interest in the director. Asano also stars, as with “Zatoichi”. Last Life is a simply fabulous movie. The story of the obscure meeting between two completely conflicting personalities and how they cope together in a relationship.
Kenji (Asano) is a straightlaced, quiet conserved Japanese person who lives alone in a pristene flat, he has thoughts of killing himself, thoughts that manifest in the abrupt murder of his insensitive brother. Kenji in a strange turn of events meets Noi. Noi is a messy, loud colourful character who brings this colour and life to Kenji’s dismal and dull life. There is an obvious language barrier between the two which brings a touch of humour to the otherwise serious movie.
The movie is more of a thinker. Not as cruise-control as the two I have already mentioned however this will set you up for the world of deep, thought provoking movies that lie in the Asian Cinema vault.
I hope this gives you a little starting step as to what you should watch, or give you some ideas of what to watch next.
Next: “Part Two: Where to Buy”