Exhibition of film posters (including one for Tokyo Family
closest to the camera) that's part of the HKIFF offerings
This week, I've viewed a grand total of eight movies -- one of them close to 4 hours long! -- of which five were Hong Kong International Film Festival offerings. But my "Most recently viewed movies" widget hasn't been updated since four movies ago due to a technical glitch that appears to be affecting other blogs besides this one. So it's just as well that I'm writing about the films I've viewed at the HKIFF -- including three in this entry alone:-
Tokyo Family (Japan, 2013)
- From the Master Class program
- Yoji Yamada, director
- Starring Isao Hashizume, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Masahiko Nishimura, Tomoko Nakajima, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Yu Aoi
The director some consider to be Japan's greatest ever filmmaker, Yasujiro Ozu, was born on December 12, 1903, and died 60 years to that day. This year thus marks the 110th anniversary of his birth and the 50th of his death. And it also happens to be the 60th anniversary of Tokyo Story, the cinematic masterpiece considered to be Ozu's best.
As a tribute to Ozu, the 81-year-old filmmaker who may well be Japan's best living director, Yoji Yamada, decided to make a film inspired by Tokyo Story and with a similar storyline involving an elderly couple from a rural part of southern Japan journeying to visit their grown up children in Tokyo, only to find that the children are too busy to spend much time with their parents, never mind show them around the Japanese capital city. However, the resulting work, Tokyo Family, has not received the most positive of critical receptions -- with more than one critic comparing it unfavorably to not just Tokyo Story but also Yoji Yamada's other films.
Perhaps it's because I went in to a viewing of the film with fairly low expectations because of what I had read about it. Or maybe it's because I generally am a fan of all of Yoji Yamada's particular style and approach. In any case, I did enjoy viewing this drama and consider it to have several touching moments -- notably those that saw the elderly parents (Isao Hashizume and Kaxuko Yoshiyuki) sensitively interacting with their youngest son's beloved (Yu Aoi). In addition, this being a Yoji Yamada film, there also are some amusing touches -- and rather than consider them out of place in this film, I liked that within this one work could be found moments that alternately were loving, thought-provoking, sad and also laughter-inducing.
My rating for this film: 8
No (Chile-France-USA, 2012)
- From the Gala Presentation program
- Pablo Larrain, director
- Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfred Castro, Luis Gnecco
Chilean director Pablo Larrain's latest cinematic offering is unusual in many ways. For one thing, there are the grainy, dated looking visuals that stem from his choice of u-matic camera and 4:3 aspect ratio for the film. For another, there's the subject matter: i.e., the story of how an advertising executive came up with a plan for a successfully 'sell' a political campaign.
Amazingly, this thriller's story is actually based on actual occurences: more specifically, it depicts how a confident young man by the name of Rene Saavedra (essayed in this film by Gael Garcia Bernal) managed to influence a majority of Chileans to vote "No" against then ruling dictator, Augusto Pinochet, staying in power by getting them to 'buy' into the idea and concept of a happier future without Pinochet in charge.
Like with another thriller that came out last year, Argo, this Chile-France-USA co-production has an ending that people already know (or would if they knew about the historical events in question). So it's a film in which what we're concerned is the process and the journey to the known conclusion. The fact that No still can thrill and involve despite people knowing the outcome of the 1988 referendum is consequently quite the achievement. Ditto re Pablo Larrain having managed to create a "feel good" work with a protagonist who could be said to cynically make use of what he knows about not only advertising techniques but, also, human nature!
My rating for this film: 8
Lawrence of Arabia (Britain, 1962)
- From the Restored Classics program
- David Lean, director
- Starring Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn
Two HKIFFs ago, I had the unforgettable experience of sitting through 5 1/2 hours of Olivier Assayas' masterful Carlos. This year around, the Hong Kong International Film Festival gave me the opportunity to view a 227 minute (close to 4 hour) long film that was first released in 1962 -- and I eagerly seized the opportunity to do just that.
The winner of seven Oscars (including Best Picture, Director, and so very deservingly Best Cinematography, Color (for Freddie Young) and Best Music, Score - Substantially Original (for Maurice Jarre)), Lawrence of Arabia is one of those cinematic works with a gigantic reputation -- and, after finally getting to view it (and so ideally on a super big screen t the Hong Kong Cultural Centre's Grand Theatre), I can't but add myself to this amazing film's legion of admirers.
Truly an epic with what can look like a cast of thousands (or, at least, hundreds of extras), this historical drama centering on T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole), the eccentric Englishman who united disparate Arab tribes and got them to do battle against the Ottoman Empire, is a grand cinematic work that is visually amazing, aurally mesmerizing and dramatically involving. Filmed on 70 mm, its incredible desert scenes absolutely astound -- and, to be honest, even while the film's cast is impressive, the real star of this work really has to be the desert itself, with David Lean's decision to film on location seeming like a no brainer in retrospect even while being quite the daring risk at the time.
My rating for this film: 10 (Yes, really! :b)