Thursday, March 29, 2007

Jason goes to Asianfest--final day

Finally, only 4 days later. Let's just do this.

First up was "Footy Legends", a sports comedy from Australia. Revolving around the story of Luc Vu, a Vietnamese-Australian whose fallen on hard times. He's unemployed, his parents are dead, his grandfather's in a home, and the state is threatening to take his little sister away. Really, he hasn't been having a good life since he captained his high school rugby team to glory. Of course, the rest of the rag-tag team is equally hopeless at this point, and they can't even beat an impromptu team of garbage men. In a last ditch attempt to get work, they register in a local tournament (the winners get jobs as models for a clothing store). So, of course, it follows a pretty generic slobs vs. snobs gritty underdogs triumph over adversity story arc. Everyone's got their problems, and rugby becomes a way to solve everything. The only problem is the movie was just really lackluster. Even knowing very little about the rules of rugby, I could tell the sports scenes were very minor league. Predictability in sports movies can often be forgiven if they're entertaining enough. This one just didn't make it over that hurdle for me.

Next up was a fantastic Taiwanese mindbender/thriller "Do Over", an amazing achievement from debut director Cheng Yu-Chieh. It starts with a film within a film, and continues folding in on itself about five times over, as it keeps skipping back to just before midnight one New Year's Eve. Each time it skips back, it follows the story of a different person at least tangentially connected to the making of the film. The stories involve drugs, gangsters, sick fathers, hallucinations, the whole gamut. Just sit back and enjoy, it's awesome! Oh, and it's finally a movie featuring a character who's a film director by not Korean.

Speaking of Korean directors, I then saw a third movie by Hong Sang-soo, his latest, "Woman on the Beach" (and yes, it features a Korean director character). The director in question is Joong-rae, and he's something of a womanizer. He takes a trip to the seaside to overcome writer's block, but takes his friend Won Chang-wook and Won Chang-wook's sorta girlfriend (although she'd disagree) Kim Moon-sook with him. He immediately starts courting Moon-sook rather than writing, and successfully steals her from Chang-wook. But, since he's sort of a selfish, narcissistic, womanizing jerk and she's a bit more than he bargained for (especially when she admits to sleeping with foreigners when she was studying abroad), his attentions turn to fellow vacationer Choi Sun-hee, and a second love triangle develops. They're some pretty fascinating characters, and it's Hong Sang-soo's most straight-forward narrative yet (in fact, the fact that there wasn't a big break in the narrative actually confused me). Still, there's lots of relationship failure and drinking, which is Hong Sang-soo's real calling card. It was pretty good, but I still like "Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors" much more.

And finally, the last movie of the festival was a rotoscoped Cinderalla by way of Chinese slave girl in New York story "Year of the Fish". A very accomplished, comic-tragic debut feature by New Yorker David Kaplan, it's the story of Ye Xing, a 17-year old Chinese girl who travels to New York to earn money for her sick father. However, she's been sent to work at a "massage parlor" that of course does a little more than just massages. Refusing to become essentially a prostitute, she works scrubbing floors and cooking for the other girls instead of giving massages. And so, of course she is tormented by the more glamorous (i.e., tarted-up) girls (think of them as wicked step-sisters). Luckily, she meets her fairy godmother in the form of Auntie Yaga, a legendary Chinatown figure who runs the most notorious sweatshop in town, and who gives her a pet fish with just a bit of magic in it. And she meets her Prince Charming in the form of a local musician (who's not really rich enough to be a prince, but still does a great job in the role). A charming story that finds hope in the bleakest places, although animated this is not Disney's Cinderella. It's more like a Brothers Grimm version translated to modern New York Chinatown. Very cool.

And that was Asianfest 2007. And for those keeping score at home, that's 159 theatrical movie presentations so far this year. Now I get a little breather until SF International starts. Of course, I might check out some of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, too....

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