Friday, March 21, 2008

Jason goes to Asianfest--Day 6

Moving along, the first movie I saw on Tuesday was a Filipino gritty hand-held guerrilla-style video, "Slingshot" by Brillante Mendoza. Shot almost exclusively in the slums of Manila, it's about the place as much as the people. The opening scene establishes everything--a frantic race through the slums, people screaming that a police raid is coming, people racing to hide drugs, stolen goods, and themselves. This is the world of the film, and as it moves on we get a taste of their lives. The constant lies and stealing. The drug abuse. The gambling. The starving babies. It's pretty fucking depressing. But there's also a weird side story, barely seen unless you're looking for it. Everywhere there are posters for people running for mayor. The posters themselves (to an American eye) also look more like movie posters than political posters. But as this becomes a running theme, it seems like everyone in town is running for mayor, and no one in the slums pays any attention. No one has a conversation about who to vote for, it's like the election doesn't exist. That is, until just before the election when everyone gets bribed. They like that. I'm not sure if "funny" is a good word to use for this film, but at least that part was brilliantly absurd.

And then I saw yet another tribute to Wayne Wang, and the movie that made me now a full-fledged Wayne Wang fan--"Life is Cheap, But Toilet Paper is Expensive". When he introduced the movie, he claimed it was a companion piece to "Eat a Bowl of Tea" (on my Netflix queue, I haven't seen it yet) and a reaction to shooting that movie in Hong Kong (in 1989, 8 years before the handover from Great Britain to China, and during the Tiananmen Square protests). Spencer Nakasako (who co-wrote and co-directed) stars as an unnamed operative sent from San Francisco to Hong Kong to deliver a briefcase to a triad boss. But he can't find his contact, and instead witnesses a lot of crazy shit (literally...shit). Bizarre and dangerous, with a weird mix of documentary (especially the ritual duck slaughter), mockumentary, and narrative. And an ending that's pretty fucking crazy (and allegedly based on a true story that happened to an actor on "Eat a Bowl of Tea"). This is actually available (in a different cut) as a bonus feature on the special edition DVD of "Chinese Box". So of course I found it on Ebay it right away.

Here's another pic of Wayne Wang:

And here's star/co-director/co-writer (and also local filmmaker) Spencer Nakasako:

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