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The Eight Hundred (Ba Bai, 八佰)

Director – Guan Hu – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 149m – IMAX

****1/2

Hopelessly outnumbered Chinese soldiers take a last stand against the Japanese in a Shanghai warehouse – – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Domestic Hits strand in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 which runs until Wednesday, May 12th

1937, the Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese have fallen back to , Shanghai as the Japanese advance. Rounding up Chinese deserters, Colonel Xie (Du Chun) and his men of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) hole up in the Sihang warehouse on the other side of the Souzou Creek from the International Concession from which the horrified civilians compulsively watch the conflict unfold.

A Western movie covering such a subject would likely introduce us to specific soldier characters at some length, possibly derailing the larger narrative to do this. The Chinese here do it rather differently. They take the overall sweep of the story and drop the characters in to it. There are deserters, there are brave and heroic fighters and there are men who move from the former to the latter group. The writers also sketch civilian characters living across the river.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

A Day Off (Hyuil, 휴일)

Director – Lee Man-hee – 1968 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

A man passes the boredom of Sunday in Seoul by spending time in the park with his lover, robbing an old schoolmate then going out drinking and womanising in bars – watch for free at the Korean Film Archive’s YouTube channel (link at bottom of page)

Shot in stark black and white, this opens with a voice-over which immediately makes you think you’re watching a film noir. However, A Day Off is something else entirely – there are no cops or gangsters in sight, the narrative concerning instead a couple of doomed lovers and the opening voice-over bemoaning the hero’s meeting with his lover Ji-Yeon every Sunday. That said, it’s all about poor people struggling to survive on Seoul’s mean streets and the main character is constantly cheating his fellow citizens or stealing money from them, so its subject matter is not entirely noir unrelated.

Heo-uk (Shin Seong-il, a huge star who also has a bit part in the earlier Bloodline a.k.a. Kinship, Kim Soo-yong, 1963) asks a consults a bird fortune-teller as to what the day will bring: her trained bird picks out a card warning him to Stay Away From Women.… Read the rest