My Asian Cinema picks

Award season is back therefore this is a good time to repost this (originally posted on Walter Osborne)

Other than fashion, design and travel - I love movies. Perhaps because of my upbringing and culture, Asian films have a special place in my heart. There is something enchanting about the Asian cinema - the stories, the style and the talents. Asian films are also my first introduction to amazing cinematography.

I am not a film critic but I do hope that you enjoy the list below on some of my Asian films, I started of with my movies by my favourite directors and then the rest.

(WARNING: Very image heavy. Some images may be quite graphic)

Wong Kar Wai (Hong Kong)

Wong Kar Wai is a leading auteur filmmaker. Any film lover would know that his movies are extremely aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes brimming with vivid colours, sometimes moody, impeccable costumes mostly set in charming 1960s or modern Hong Kong. Also, thanks to talents such as Christopher Doyle (his long time cinematographer), Tony Leung (one of my favourite actors) and the exquisite Maggie Cheung (the director's longtime muse). His theme revolves around the unrequited love. I always recommend friends to first watch In the Mood For Love as the perfect introduction to the world of WKW.

Favourites: Chungking Express (1994), Happy Together (1997), In the Mood of Love (2000), 2046 (2002), My Blueberry Nights (2007) 

In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

Happy Together

Happy Together

Chungking Express

Chungking Express

2046

2046

Takashi Miike (Japan)

My first introduction to Japanese pyscho-thriller was Takashi Miike’sAudition. I was hooked by Miike’s style and determined to explore more of his works and the Asian psycho-thiller genre. He is one of the most prolific filmmakers, his style ranges from bizzare, horror, gore and surprisingly family-friendly dark humour. 

Favourites: Audition (1999), Ichi The Killer (2001), Lesson of Evil (2012)

Audition changed the definition of torture and the crazy ex-girlfriend. Dark, beautiful and more complex than what it seems. I highly recommend this.

Ichi the Killer is a stylish but gory adaption of a manga series. I first fell in love with the best Japanese actor, Tadanobu Asano in Ichi as sadomasochistic yakuza Kakihara  (Yes, this is a very weird character to fall in love with)

Lesson of Evil is classic Miike – stylish, gore, bloodbath, jazz (the creepy lingering of “The Ballad of Mack the Knife”, or “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer“), awesome set design, and a talented cast.  Hideaki Itô (picture above) as the perfect square-jawed serial killer. If Battle Royale is your cup of tea, watch this.

Other favourites: Three…Extremes (2004), Crows Zero (2007), 13 Assasins (2010)

Audition

Audition

Ichi The Killer

Ichi The Killer

Chan Park Woo (South Korea)

Chan Park Woo shot to international stardom with Oldboy (2003). Not only is he a brilliant story-teller, his movies are also visually pleasing, a bonus in my book. I will vote for OldBoy as the best revenge action movie in history.

Favourite: Oldboy (2003), Sympathy for Mr Vengance (2002), Lady Vengeance (2005)

Oldboy

Oldboy

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance photo 11.jpg

Takeshi Kitano (Japan)

I am a big fan of the multi-talented and ultra-cool Mr Kitano. He is known for his earlier works about the life of yakuzas. He has always been the leading actor in all of his movies (I read somewhere the he is unable to trust anybody to be the lead actor) except for Dolls (2002).

Favourites: Fireworks (1997), Brother (2000), Zatoichi (2003), Outrage (2010) Outrage Beyond (2013) 

Fireworks is a story about a good cop turned bad. The ending is just perfect and beautiful. Brother is Kitano’s American debut about loyalty, the ups and downs in the organized crime world. Zatoichi is a delight to watch (bonus: Asano in this movie). Outrage and Outrage Beyond features plenty of machoness, gunshots and fingers-cutting – my cup of tea.

 

Kim Ki-Duk (South Korea)

Kim’s movies are always painful to watch as his theme revolves around the mistreatment of women, oppression and brutality (his style is very similar to Austrian’s Michael Haneke), but being a fan I cannot help but to watch most of his movies. 

Favourite: 3-Iron (2004) Moebius (2013) 

3-Iron is an award-winning beautiful film about a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage and falling in love with a stranger who broke into her house. Moebius (2013) is a modern day tale of Oedipal. It was hard to watch but I got through and glad that I did. 

3-Iron

3-Iron

Johnnie To (Hong Kong)

Johnnie To has a cult following for his movies about the world of organized crime in Hong Kong shot in a romantic tone.

Favourites: Election (2005) and Exile (2006) Sparrow (2008) and Vengeance (2008) 

Vengeance

Vengeance

More of my favourite movies below:

Sakuran (2006) is geisha movie by renowned photographer Mika Ninagawa. Brimming with vivid bright colours, this is a delight to watch.

Lust Caution (2007) is one of my favourite spy thriller, one of Ang Lee’s masterpiece. Slick and unforgettable. Leading actor is Tony Leung

Infernal Affairs (2002), Infernal Affairs II (2003) and Infernal Affairs III (2003) in my opinion this is one of the most important trilogy in the Hong Kong action movie scene. Again, Tony Leung is one of the main talent. Martin Scorsese adapted Infernal Affairs and made a Hollywood version, The Departed (starring Leo Dicaprio).

The Raid (2012) and The Raid 2 (2014) Arguably, the sequel is better than the first. Probably one of the best action movie in Asia or possibly the entire world. A lot of style and substance and I cannot wait to see what the director Gareth Evans is up to next.

All About Lily Chou-chou (2001) is dreamy bit poignant, unforgettable.

Confessions (2010) is one of the best revenge movies I have seen. Dark, slick and beautifully shot.

Forever Enthralled (2008) is possibly Leon Lai’s best performance as true story about China’s greatest opera performer. Charming.

Tokyo Sonata (2010) is a beautiful movie about distance and disintegration within the family in modern Japan.

Memories of Murder (2003) is a story movie about two small-town detectives solving a murder mystery. A dark comedy but also poignant.

New World (2013) - I have seen a fair share of South Korean gangster films, but this is by far my favorite. The Internal Affair-esque story is engaging, funny but slick at the same time.

 

Sakuran

Sakuran

Sakuran

Sakuran

Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution

*This post was featured on Walter Osborne on June 16th, 2013