2018 BIFF Review: 밤빛(night light, South Korea, 2018)

Year: 2018
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Mooyoung
Screenplay: Kim Mooyoung
Cinematography: Kim Boram
Cast: Song Jae-Ryong, Ji Daehan, Jung Ahmi, Kangyong-Gu
Runtime: 110 min
Trailer: N/a

Seen at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival, which I had the fortune to attend with a filmmaker’s festival pass. Belately, I will be posting reviews of some the twenty-something films I watched.

Kim Mooyong’s night light is a wondrous and contemplative film in which Hee-tae (Song Jae-Ryong), a terminally ill and long-divorced man, meets his pre-teen son Min-sang for the first time as the boy comes to spend a few days with his father somewhere in the countryside. However, it is not just the ‘countryside’ as Hee-tae literally lives in a hut in the mountains, with no electricity, phone signal (unless you make an arduous climb to another mountain’s peak) or any other modern day conveniences. Continue reading “2018 BIFF Review: 밤빛(night light, South Korea, 2018)”

LFF Review:《致我们终将逝去的青春》(Zhì wǒmen zhōng jiāng shìqù de qīngchūn/To Our Youth That Is Fading Away aka So Young)

so young 5
Year: 2013
Language: Mandarin
Director: Vicki Zhao
Multiple involved, including China Film Group
Adaptation from:
2007 novel of the same title by Xin Yiwu
Screenplay: Li Qiang
Cinematography: Li Ran
Soundscore: Dou Peng
Cast: Mark Chao, Han Geng, Yang Zishan, Jiang Shuying
Runtime: 132 minutes
Distribution: China Film Group
Film’s official website: N/a
Seen at the 2013 London Film Festival at a screening with a director’s Q&A. Previously featured in Trailer Weekly #75.

In the opening scene of《致我们终将逝去的青春》(Zhì wǒmen zhōng jiāng shìqù de qīngchūn/To Our Youth That Is Fading Away aka So Young) the heroine, Zheng Wei (Yang Zishan), finds herself in a lush fantasy world, populated by fairy tale creatures both good and bad, only to awaken and find it was all a terrible dream. No more than a few minutes long, this opening reveals much of what is wrong with Zhì wǒmen zhōng jiāng shìqù de qīngchū, for as luxuriantly beautiful that dream world is – the scene must have cost a good chunk of the film’s 30 million yuan (US$5 million) budget – it is also completely irrelevant, for nothing that happens is of any importance for the story that follows. Continue reading “LFF Review:《致我们终将逝去的青春》(Zhì wǒmen zhōng jiāng shìqù de qīngchūn/To Our Youth That Is Fading Away aka So Young)”


kuro 2
Year: 2012
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Shimote Daisuke
Studio: Particle Pictures
Screenplay: Shimote Daisuke
Cinematography: Haibara Takahiro
Soundscore: N/a
Cast: Kido Airi, Saito Yu, Nakaizumi Hideo, Matsumoto Wakana, NorA, Wagatsuma Miwako, Kajiwara Hikari, Saka Koichiro
Runtime: 100 min
Distribution: Particle Pictures
Film’s official website: http://cargocollective.com/hanare_banareni
Twitter: @hanarebanareni_

Seen at the 2013 East End Film Festival in London.
Hanarebanareni falls into that very particular category of nothing-much-happens indie films, which people generally either love or hate. The plot can certainly summed up in a single sentence: three strangers escape from their every day lives and play games by the seaside. Continue reading “Review:「はなればなれに」(Hanarebanareni/Kuro)”

K-Animation Review: PiFan Yeonghwa Manhwa Shorts

PIFAN poster
This review is part of the K-Animation Season on Otherwhere. These shorts screened as part of the Puchan International Fantastic Film Festival this year. A special 감사합니다 goes to the Korean Film Council and the directors for granting access via Kobiz’s online Festival Screenings option.
The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) has made it its mission to screen films from “marginalized genres” (quote from PiFan website), showcasing in particular works that fall outside the popular cinematic realm of comedy, drama and action. On the programme this year were some fantastic shorts, two of which were made available online (restricted access only).
Shorts, animated but also otherwise, are a strange thing: they differ from feature-length productions and certainly within animation often exist to explore the artistic medium rather than to narrate a story or entertain. The average viewer might find them pointless, but at the same time shorts can raise interesting questions about conventions, both in terms of what is made (and how) and what we watch. With an animation industry that is simply not known outside national borders and has no full-fledged identity like the world of Japanese anime does, yeonghwa manhwa shorts are seeds of potential that give a glimpse of Korean animation could be. Continue reading “K-Animation Review: PiFan Yeonghwa Manhwa Shorts”

Review: 화차 (Hwacha/Helpless)

hwacha 1
Year: 2011
South Korea
Language: Korean
Director:  Byeon Yeong-joo (변영주)
Adaptation from:
Miyube Miyaki’s novel「火車」 (Kasha, 1992, translated into English as All She Was Worth in 1999)
Screenplay:  Byeon Yeong-joo (변영주)
Cinematography: Kim Dong-Young
Soundscore: Kim Hong-jip
Cast: Lee Sun-gyun, Kim Min-hee, Kim Min-jae
Runtime: 117 min
Seen at the film’s UK premiere at the 56th BFI London International Film Festival.
Hwacha is, in essence, a longer, prettier version of CSI Seoul: it is a feature-length film with striking cinematography from the opening shots on but with a story we have been told in some form before, most likely while watching a crime television series. Continue reading “Review: 화차 (Hwacha/Helpless)”

Leesong Hee-il Trilogy Review: 백야 (White Night), 지난여름, 갑자기 (Suddenly, Last Summer) & 남쪽으로 간다 (Going South)

leessong hee-il trilogy

Year: 2012
South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Leesong Hee-il
Screenplay:  Leesong Hee-il
Cinematography: Yoon Ji-Yoon (Baekya)
Cast: Won Tae-hee, Li Yi-kyung (Baekya); Kim Young-jae, Han Joo-wan (Jinanyeoreum, Gapjagi); Kim Jae-heung, Chun Shin-hwan (Namjjokeuro Ganda)
Runtime: 75 min, 37 min, 45 min
Distribution: CinemaDal

Trailers: see below

Seen at the 27th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival at two separate screenings.

Although there was not all that much on offer from South East Asia at this year’s London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the BFI did do a mini-feature on Leesong Hee-il, whom they called “one of the most exciting contemporary gay Asian directors” in their festival programme. Leesong has, by now, quite a number of films to his name, all featuring a gay storyline in one way or another. His cinematic debut came in 2004 with a short featured in 동백꽃 (DongbaegkkochCamellia Project, 2004), but he is probably better known for his 2006 film 후회하지 않아 (Huhoehaji Anha/No Regret). In 2009 the director contributed to the 황금시대 (Hwang-geumsidae/Short! Short! Short!) omnibus project and also made the feature-length 탈주 (Talju/Break Away, 2009), finally following up in 2012 with the ‘One Night and Two Days’ trilogy of 백야 (Baekya/White Night), 지난여름, 갑자기 (Jinanyeoreum, Gapjagi/Suddenly, Last Summer) and 남쪽으로 간다 (Namjjokeuro Ganda/Going South), three unconnected stories which all began as shorts but the first of which was later extended into a 75-minute movie.

Continue reading “Leesong Hee-il Trilogy Review: 백야 (White Night), 지난여름, 갑자기 (Suddenly, Last Summer) & 남쪽으로 간다 (Going South)”

Review: 「夢売るふたり」 (Yume Uru Futari/Dreams for Sale)

yume 2

Year: 2012
Language: Japanese
Director: Nishikawa Miwa
Screenplay: Nishikawa Miwa
Cinematography: Yanagishima Katsumi
Soundscore: more rhythm
Cast: Matsu Takako, Abe Sadao, Tanaka Rena, Kimura Tae, Suzuki Sawa, Ando Tamae, Ebara Yuka
Runtime: 137 min


Seen at the film’s UK premiere at the 56th BFI London International Film Festival.

Yume Uru Futari appeared on quite a number of Top 10 Films of 2012 lists. Tom Mes, Catherine Munroe Hotes and Eija Niskanen all counted it among their favourites in a Midnight Eye feature and Jason Grey (Loaded Films) included it as part of the “10% goodness” of cinema of the past year over at Wildgrounds, to name some examples. Continue reading “Review: 「夢売るふたり」 (Yume Uru Futari/Dreams for Sale)”

Review: 2012 Hong Kong Fresh Wave Shorts

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 4.47.14 PM

Seen at the ICA as part of the Pan-Asia Film Festival. A special Thank you! goes to the Coventry University East Asia Film Society (CUEAFS) for two free tickets.

Although I watch quite a lot of films, there are generally few shorts among them. I like to be entertained for an hour or two because it’s a length that allows a decent amount of development in a story and characters. When there is a film festival, it is for this reason that when I have to choose between seeing a feature film or multiple 5-, 10-, 20-minute clips, I’ll habitually always go for the former and leave the latter as an afterthought – as also happened when the Pan-Asia Film Festival rolled around. Then CUEAFS had a ticket competition for the HK Fresh Wave Shorts screening on Twitter and somehow I got lucky (and I didn’t even mean to… only retweeted to spread the news about the competition).

Continue reading “Review: 2012 Hong Kong Fresh Wave Shorts”

Review:《女朋友。男朋友》(Nyeobungu. Nambungu/GF*BF) and Q&A

Gf*Bf 2

Year: 2012
Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin, Min Nan
Director: Yang Ya-che
Screenplay: Yang Ya-che
Cinematography: Jake Pollock
Soundscore: Baby C.
Cast: Chang Hsiao-chuan (Joseph), Gwai Lunmei, Rhydian Vaughan
Runtime: 105 min
Distribution: Atom Cinema

Seen at the film’s European Premiere and the Opening Night Gala of the Pan Asia Film Festival. It will also be shown on March 17, 2013 in Glasgow.

Note: This review is a little spoilerish – somehow I ended up detailing quite a bit of what happens.

It is a little strange to watch a film and realise that you were in the middle of some of the history playing out on the screen, but, having been a child, you never noticed any of it all. If someone had asked me before the Nyeobungu. Nambungu screening if Taiwan ever had martial law, I would have shrugged; if someone had inquired whether anything much exciting was going on in the Taipei of the early 1990s, I would have said “not really”, for the most historically significant event I remember from one summer in 1989 (when I lived there for three months) and from a year and half between 1990 and 1991 (when I lived there again) is the breakout of the Gulf War because it meant that the guards at my USAmerican school started checking everyone’s IDs in fear of a potential retributory attack. Continue reading “Review:《女朋友。男朋友》(Nyeobungu. Nambungu/GF*BF) and Q&A”

Review: 「ライク・サムワン・イン・ラブ」 (Raiku Samuwan in Rabu/Like Someone in Love)

like someone in love 4

Year: 2012
Language: Japanese
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Screenplay: Abbas Kiarostami
Cinematography: Yanagijima Katsumi
Soundscore: Mohamadrez Delpak, Kikuchi Nobuyuki
Cast: Takanashi Rin, Okuno Tadashi, Kase Ryō, Denden
Runtime: 109 min



Seen at the film’s UK premiere at the 56th BFI London International Film Festival. Like Someone in Love will be released in select British cinemas via New Wave Films on June 21, 2013.

Like Someone in Love premiered in Cannes last year, where it sharply divided the critics, leaving some rather disenchanted, if not highly irritated, in particular with its rather abrupt ending. “[T]he curtain comes down with an arbitrary crash” noted Peter Bradshaw, resident film critic for The Guardian, while Mike D’Angelo (A.V. Club) gave it a “WTF” rating, declaring the final scene “a startling, truncated conclusion that seems completely out of proportion with the lazy, anti-urgent meandering that precedes it”, ending with the words “I know there’s something happening here, but I don’t know what it is”. Continue reading “Review: 「ライク・サムワン・イン・ラブ」 (Raiku Samuwan in Rabu/Like Someone in Love)”