Part of the Edward Yang exhibit
on display in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre
during the Hong Kong International Film Festival proper
Yasukuni (Japan-Mainland China, 2007)
- From the Humanitarian Awards for Documentaries programme
- Li Ying, director
This documentary film by Mainland Chinese director Li Ying about Japan's notorious Yasukuni shrine has been both dogged by protests and controversy as well as emerged winner of an award at the 2008 Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). Walking into a screening of the film with this knowledge (since the HKIFF award was announced midway through the fest), I must admit to having had high hopes regarding the quality of the work -- something which meant in part that I thought that it would provide quite a lot of insights and information into a place that many people evidently feel very strongly about.
As it turns out, however, I came away feeling rather disappointed. Frankly, I don't think it's all that well made a film and if not for its very intriguing and majorly emotionally charged subject matter, surely wouldn't have attracted all that much attention and kudos. Alternatively put, the decision to focus on what it does is daring indeed, to be sure, but its treatment actually feels rather lazy and designed to push emotional buttons rather than be thoughtful and enlightening.
Consequently, I feel like an opportunity's been lost here; one that, in the wake of all the controversy this work has engendered, may be damagingly denied to other and/or future filmmakers. At the same time though, will not deny that the film most definitely has got its share of truly emotionally raw and powerful moments -- notably when the relatives of some individuals (including Aboriginal Taiwanese but also pacific Japanese Buddhists) go to Yasukuni to officially petition for the removal of their ancestors' names to be removed from Yasukuni's rolls, only to be met by intransigence on the part of the Shinto shrine's representatives, and also when two protestors who disrupt a major ceremony at Yasukuni are actually attacked by angry Yasukuni Shrine supporters -- one of whom, in the bargain, goes into a disturbingly virulent anti-Chinese tirade upon mistakenly assuming that the protestors are Chinese rather than actually Japanese.
My rating for this film: 6.0
High Noon (Hong Kong, 2008)
- From the Eric Tsang: Filmmaker in Focus programme
- Heiward Mak, director
- Starring Lam Yiu-sing, Sham Ka-kei, Anjo Leung, etc.
With a 23-year-old debutante director at its helm and a cast of unknowns for the most part (with the only person I was familiar with being Anjo Leung, the star of Magic Boy), I'm not sure whether this Hong Kong youth movie will be getting a local theatrical release. If it does, one big reason for it happening will undoubtedly be because it's backed and produced by Eric Tsang, a pretty big wig in the Hong Kong film industry as well as a great character actor and comedian.
One more 2008 Hong Kong movie whose main characters are a septet of disaffected youth as well as the HKSAR chapter of a "Growing Up Trilogy" of films whose other chapters are set and made in Mainland China and Taiwan, that which apparently originally went by the title Winds of September -- The Hong Kong Chapter is one of a growing number of movies I've seen recently that make me feel old -- or, at least, from a completely different generation as well as mindset from the principals in the picture. For while once upon a time, I actually related with the protagonists of Rebel Without a Cause and The Catcher in the Rye, the ironic fact may well be that as I've grown older, I've become less embittered and cynical about life in general!
Consequently, quite a bit of the angst and alienation in this admittedly technically okay work ends up striking me as so, well, unnecessary as well as uncalled for. So much so that it leaves me feeling impatient with the younger generation as they are being represented in contemporary Hong Kong cinema; particularly those among them with quite a bit to be thankful for and look forward to yet seem to find it so much easier to be ungrateful, filled with a sense of hopelessness and exude -- and often act upon -- self-destructive tendencies... :S
My rating for the film: 6.5
In summation: If my HKIFF experiences had ended with these two works as the final films viewed, it would have felt like quite the shame -- given that I did view my share of really good works earlier on. Fortunately, as I've previously mentioned, although the 32nd Hong Kong International Film Festival officially drew to a close on April 6, its The One and Only Edward Yang programme (which comprises a complete retrospective of the late Taiwanese auteur's films) continues through to May. So this past Sunday, I was able to have the privilege plus pleasure of catching back-to-back screenings of A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), and I further look forward to checking out at least a couple more Edward Yang films in the near future! :)