Sunday, March 24, 2013

Three more films viewed at the 2013 HKIFF

Yellow is the predominant color of 
the HKIFF (publicity materials) this year

Hmmm... thus far, my blog entry about five Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) offerings that I've viewed has attracted a grand total of zero comments.  Nonetheless, I'm going to go ahead and present my views on three more films viewed at this year's HKIFF -- if nothing else than because I find that blogging about such helps me to better remember them.  So onwards we go...

Hap Ki Do (Hong Kong, 1972)
- From The Cinematic Matrix of Golden Harvest program
- Huang Feng, director
- Starring Angela Mao, Carter Huang, Sammo Hung, Whang Ing Sik, Ji Han Jae

Before anything else, here's mentioning that when I checked this afternoon, not a single screening in The Cinematic Matrix of Golden Harvest has sold out thus far -- and yes, we're talking here about a program that includes movies starring Angela Mao, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, etc.  Based on what I saw of this, I find it a crying shame -- because, in all honesty, my viewing of this more than 40 years old film has been the highlight of my 2013 HKIFF thus far.  (And I am inclined to think there are some people who agree with me since applause broke out at the end of the film at the screening I was at -- something that doesn't happen as regularly at the Hong Kong International Film Festival as is the case at, say, the American film fests I've been to.)

Granted that this Huang Feng movie doesn't have the most original of stories -- seeing as it tells a tale of courageous people trying to endure before deciding to be more pro-active and rise up against hated oppressors.  But there's also no question for me that its fight scenes -- be they friendly sparring matches or fights fought in earnest -- are well enacted and really exhilarating to watch.  

Upon looking back with the help of this work, there's greater appreciation of 1970s Hong Kong cinema having female action stars like Angela Mao; this not least since the second decade of the 21st century sees this same territorial cinema having no emerging female star of her caliber as well as capable of evoking the kind of fatal fury that she did in this movie that also stands out for highlighting a Korean martial art rather than the more usual ones that were born in China.

My rating for this film: 9

Beautiful 2013 (Japan-Taiwan-Mainland China-Hong Kong, 2013)
- From the Galas program
- Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wu Nien Jen, Lu Yue and Mabel Cheung, directors
- Starring Mao Mita, Lo Pei An, Elaine Kam, etc.

The bad news: Not a single work among the fourth set of short films commissioned by the Hong Kong International Film Festival rises to the heights of the short film directed by Ann Hui that was part of last year's Beautiful.2012. On the plus side, neither does this four film anthology have a segment that is even half as frustrating to view as last year's short film by Tsai Min Liang or the section of 2011's Quattro Hong Kong 2 directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Continuing with the positives: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Beautiful New Bay Area Project has a kick ass heroine to savour; Wu Nien Jen's A New Year, The Same Days -- the best of this 2013 quartet -- offers up plenty of amusing moments; and cinematographer-director Lu Yue's 1 Dimension is visually beautiful and a real aesthetic standout. However, all of these works are not even enough to entirely satisfy.

Even more sadly, this year, they didn't save the best for last -- and it's also disappointing that a Hong Kong director's effort (i.e., Mabel Cheung's) was the weakest offering of the quartet, one that tried to get by one emotion and a love of Hong Kong but not working because its main characters just aren't likeable enough, and (consequently) hard to empathize with.

My rating for this film: 6.5 + 8 + 7 + 5 averages out to ~6.5

Museum Hours (USA-Austria, 2012)
- From the Global Vision program
- Jem Cohen, director
- Starring Bobby Sommer, Mary Margaret O'Hara

This docu-drama revolving around a sympathetic Kunsthistoriches Museum guard and a Canadian visitor to Vienna who he befriends is not the kind of film whose screening I expect to sell out at the HKIFF nor one that I'd expect to prompt a number of people walk out in the middle of.  Upon my witnessing both these things happened, I have to say that it's really hard indeed to predict (Hong Kong) film (fest) audiences. 

For my part, I found this admittedly slow paced effort to be generally interesting -- even if it ended up taking part less within the museum than I thought it would and actually showing more of an everyday, and often gray, Vienna than I thought it would.  And while I have to admit to having nodded off during the portion of the cinematic offering in which a woman spoke in detail about a particular Bruegel painting that hangs in the museum, this film also got my mind wandering in a good way -- and thinking back to my 1987 visit to the Austrian capital city and fondly recalling many details about it that I found more colorful than was shown in this work!

My rating for this film: 7


The Fragrant Harbour said...

Seems like you're batting average with the HIFF so far...!

YTSL said...

Hi "The Fragrant Harbour" --

I'll be generous and say "respectable" rather than just average. But ya, "Hap Ki Do"'s the only film thus far that had me feeling exhilarated. Here's hoping for better luck this week!

Samson said...

Just like in previous years, I'm enjoying your coverage of the HKIFF a lot. So far some great reviews of 'respectable' films! : ) Keep them coming!

YTSL said...

Hi Samson --

Glad to know you're checking out my HKIFF coverage. More to come -- maybe as early as sometime this weekend! ;b