REVIEW: Sister [2019]

She was an annoying little baby. Looking back on a life growing up with a sister four years the lead’s junior, Siqi Song‘s animated short Sister starts off with a wonderful comedic streak. She lets the character’s imagination run away with his memories so that the crying baby who stole his toys can become a giant consuming them with a giggle. There’s the more authentically drawn cause and effect of sibling chaos sometimes confusing a parent into punishing the wrong child and the silly adventures undertaken when both are too…

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REVIEW: 江湖儿女 [Jiang hu er nü] [Ash Is Purest White] [2018]

Armed men tend to die first. The genesis of Zhangke Jia‘s Jiang hu er nü [Ash is Purest White] is intriguing. After thinking about cut scenes from two of his earlier films starring now wife Tao Zhao (Unknown Pleasures and Still Life), he found himself merging her characters into one. He saw this woman having begun in the coal-mining town of Shanxi before eventually making way towards Fengjie as the county worked to flood cities for construction on the Three Gorges Dam. So this latest work becomes a sort of…

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REVIEW: Jia Nian Hua [Angels Wear White] [2018]

“There’s other ways to pay” Let’s think about the title to Vivian Qu‘s sophomore effort Jia Nian Hua [Angels Wear White] because the meaning goes far beyond the words themselves. On the surface it’s simply describing religious iconography and the idea that angels wear flowing white linens with halos on heads and harps in hands. But we’ve taken this concept and brought it into real life too. “White” has become synonymous with purity, trust, and expertise. We see a white lab coat on a doctor and automatically provide him/her a…

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REVIEW: 悲兮魔兽 [Bei xi mo shou] [Behemoth] [2016]

“A land of deathly silence” There’s just one thing missing from Liang Zhao‘s visually masterful documentary 悲兮魔兽 [Bei xi mo shou] [Behemoth] and it’s a before image of what this wasteland of coal and rock used to be before God’s beast was unleashed. This creature—as represented by the industrial machine—devours the mountains of Mongolia, exploding large formations into rubble to be separated by the Sichaun people acting as minions. These citizens become the cause and effect, each job necessary to aid in their survival proving to also be the root…

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REVIEW: 天注定 [A Touch of Sin] [2013]

“Hunting animals” Winner of Best Screenplay at the 2013 Festival de Cannes, Chinese writer/director Zhangke Jia‘s latest work 天注定 [A Touch of Sin] is a sprawling drama depicting his country’s contemporary struggles amidst its ever-growing economy. While we’d love to say how more money and financial success is crucial to finding increased peace and harmony amongst a people, we all know the reality usually breeds corruption, greed, and violence between those who have acquired the spoils and those left watching themselves and their kin helplessly standby as poor as they’ve…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: 倭寇的踪迹 [The Sword Identity] [2012]

“What else can we do for fun?” With his screenplay for The Grandmasters coming to the big screen next year by Wong Kar Wai, writer/director Haofeng Xu gives us the first taste of his creativity with an adaptation of his own novella, 倭寇的踪迹 [The Sword Identity]. A mix of comical playfulness and serious martial arts, the script has some impressive camera compositions to allow for intriguing visuals, acting that is consistently earnest throughout, and fight choreography that’s a joy to experience. All those things do little to help from wondering…

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BNFF11 REVIEW: The Floating Shadow [2012]

“I’ll only bring you bad luck” Throw the preconceptions that China would be unwilling to fund a project with dark subject matter such as rape and murder in a contemporary, non-feudal way out the window. According to writer/director Jia Dong Shuo, as long as you have a unique idea to bring to artistic fruition, finances will be available. And with that comes The Floating Shadow, a psychological drama about a young woman incarcerated, shifting back and forth between past and present, dream and reality. Chock full of traumatic events repressed,…

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REVIEW: 三槍拍案驚奇 [A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop] [2010]

“You are such a wimp, the biggest I’ve ever seen” A prolific director in China, Yimou Zhang found an audience in America with the wonderful Hero and his follow-up House of Flying Daggers. Curse of the Golden Flower came next with its stunning visuals but lackluster storyline that left me cold and uninterested, thinking perhaps his style had gotten the best of him on the almost film per year pace he had begun. But then he decided to do something completely out of left field, pushing the serious, feudal artistry…

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TIFF10 REVIEW: 精武風雲-陳真 [Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen] [2010]

“Chinese are not sick men of East Asia” For a director whose only other film I’ve seen is the amazing Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau’s (no, not star Andy Lau) admittance to Bruce Lee being his ‘super idol’ while introducing his newest work 精武風雲-陳真 [Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen] at the Toronto International Film Festival became quite the relevant tidbit. A far cry from the realistic cop vs. criminal thriller, Legend goes as far to the opposite end of the spectrum as it can, existing in a…

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REVIEW: 色, 戒 [Lust, Caution] [2007]

“I have a mission” I can’t stand American film distributors and how they handle foreign films. With their money-scheming minds, they give us movie trailers without any dialogue, trying their best to disguise the fact that the work is not in English. If they don’t let us hear a strange language or show a single subtitle, people may just think that it was a minimal piece meant to strike our senses. Unfortunately, for someone like me, I know before seeing the trailer that it is a foreign film—I’ve probably been…

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