Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jason goes to Asianfest--day 4

I'm way behind, so I'll write this up kinda quickly. And I forgot my cameraphone this day, so I'm sorry, but there will be no blurry pics in this one.

Okay, going back to last Sunday, I started the day with the Filipino psychological thriller "Blackout". Gil, an alcoholic landlord (you could call him a slumlord but for the fact that he lives in his own rundown apartment) wakes up from one of his frequent blackouts to find that his car has a cracked headlight with blood on it. What follows is a tight, gripping thriller with a bit of a "Memento" fell in how it explores lapses in memory (although "Memento" is a lot more formalized). Gil's drinking has already cost him his wife, forcing him to raise his adorable son Nino alone. Now it might have caused him to run over the neighbor's daughter, and could cost him his freedom or worse. He struggles with giving up drinking, he struggles with hiding the evidence of his crime, and he struggles with remembering watch actually happened. And the ending is a pretty good shock, too (but no spoilers here).

Then I got rush tickets for the shorts program, "Love's Labor and Other Complications". This is the shorts compilation about relationships. The quick rundown:
"Enough"--Sometimes sleeping with your yoga instructor just doesn't help. Sometimes cleaning house does.
"Stutter"--a woman starts a new relationship, only to find he's an abusive jerk who won't let her walk away.
"Police Box"--a funny, silent love triangle between a man, a woman, and a policemen who checks a box by a restaurant every day at the same time. Notes are passed and hilarity ensues.
"Mei"--Mei works in her father's noodle house in Taiwan. She's torn between her dream of going to America and her father and Jian, the kind boy who works in the restaurant who has fallen in love with her. Watching this really made me want to eat a big bowl of noodles.
"His Deafness"--A man has trouble hearing his girlfriend (because he's always daydreaming). But because he wants to be more thoughtful, he tries to do the right thing. He gets plastic surgery to get comically huge ears.
"Fortune Hunters"--A fortune writer has a bad breakup, and it affects his work. Especially when he mistakenly sends his apology letter to the printers and the fortunes he wrote to his ex.
"Traffic in the Sky"--Ryan, on the rebound, relives relationship mistakes. But from a different point of view.

Next up was a Cambodian-American documentary, "New Year Baby". And I should pause to say that the documentaries this year have been fantastic (and that's not even counting "The Great Happiness Space" which I saw last year at Docfest). Socheata Poeuv is the titular character, born on the Cambodian New Year (which is supposed to mean good luck). Now that she's 25 years old and they live in Texas, her family gives her a huge surprise--her oldest brother is actually her half-brother, and her two sisters are actually her cousins. Her parents have never spoken about life under the Khmer Rouge, so she travels back with her parents and brother (it was too painful for her sisters to return) to learn about how her parents survived, how they were forced to marry (they were given the choice of whether or not they wanted to get married, but not whom to marry). How her aunt and uncle were killed and her cousins were adopted by her mother. How her soft spoken, kind father who doesn't really seem to fit with her mother is really a hero. A "Cambodian Cowboy" who married his mother to help her take care of her children, then when the Khmer Rouge took over he smuggled them across the border, making 4 trips (7 illegal crossings all together) to get them all across (and their sewing machine). An extremely moving film with some surprising humor in it as well.

Then I saw the beautifully shot comedy/drama of three Asian-American women, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon". Jenny, Bea, and Sandy (very intentionally American names), all live in the same building. Jenny is a Korean adoptee, who has left her family (we later learn over incest issues with her brother--ick!), and for obvious reasons has some issues with intimacy. She moves in with Bea, an aspiring model who's dating her photographer (who's just using her). Their neighbor is Sandy, described as a "mouse" because she's so quiet and the perfect stereotype of the timid Asian woman (which I've found doesn't actually exist in real life). Together they each try to find love and survive in New York. Often whimsical, it also gets deadly serious at times, and the movie (and Q&A afterwards) taught me that Asian American women have an abnormally high rate of suicide (who knew?)

And finally, the movie described as the Korean "Goodfellas" (although I'd go with Korean version of the half of "Godfather II" that tells the story of Don Corleone's rise to power)--"Dirty Carnival". Byung-doo is a young gangster although he barely makes ends meet as a very low level boss. The movie follows his rise (and fall) concurrent with the rise of his childhood friend, a film director who is making a movie about gangsters and using him as a source of material. A powerful, well-made movie that is an excellent addition to the Korean gangster genre (or any gangster genre--I fully expect an American remake within a few years, especially since "The Departed" won the Oscar). It's equal parts human drama and brutal fisticuffs (they have an interesting code of ethics that requires them to fight with fists and bats first--to bring out a knife or god forbid a gun is a dangerous act of escalation). And it's equal parts comedy and tragedy. And it's an incredibly entertaining movie.

And that's last Sunday at Asianfest.

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