Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Feeling From Mountain And Water (Shan Shui Qing, 山水情)

Directors – Te Wei, Ma Kexuan, Yan San Chun – 1988 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m

*****

Against a backdrop of mountains, rivers and the sea, a boy learns to play zither from an old master – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

A bearded man carries a package through a mountainous, water-strewn landscape. A boy gives him a ride on his boat. When the man collapses after leaving the boat, the boy takes him to his house. The package turns out to be a zither. The man plays. The boy learns and is soon playing skilfully.

The plot here, such as it is, is really just an excuse to move the camera around incredible ink and watercolour landscapes and, in places, move objects such as the two main characters, the boy’s boat, fish in the river or water trickling down a mountainside in a style which fits with that. That’s an admirable aim and the film succeeds in spades. 

There are static marks on the screen which you know to be merely brush strokes, yet they convey, for example, an outcrop of rock visible in the snow or a small islet surrounded by water.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Story Of Mr. Nanguo (Nan Guo Xian Shen, 南郭先生)

Directors – Qian Jiaxin, Wang Borong – 1981 – China – Cert. N/C U – 18m

*****

A man pretends to be a musician in order to profit from the high wages paid to the king’s court pipe players in the Qi period – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Two thousand years ago in the Qi period, the King of Qi is dissatisfied with the court entertainment and demands a grand ensemble of 300 pipe players. Invitations go out throughout the land and one finds its way to hustler Mr. Nanguo who dumps his current cockfighting venture to muscle in on the well paid musicians’ gig. 

At an audition, he impresses with impromptu juggling and claims he can play the pipe. Playing before the king, he is the one person unable to play the tune with the others. First he covers for himself by shooing away some cranes for making the wrong noise, then he stuff beans into his pipes so that no sound will come out when he plays. 

Alas, a bean dislodges and goes down the neck of the player in front.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Snow Kid (Xue Hai Zi, 雪孩子)

a.k.a. The Snow Child

Director – Lin Wenxiao – 1980 – China – Cert. N/C – 20m

***

A mother and her daughter build a snow child which comes to life and later saves the girl’s life – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Made a couple of years ahead of the perennial British Christmas TV animated favourite The Snowman (Jimmy T. Murakami, Dianne Jackson, 1982), this similarly has a story of a child making a snowman which then comes to life. A mother rabbit and her daughter live in a small house near the woods. The mother prepares food while her daughter plays with a rocking toy then suggests she and the child make a snowman, so they go outside and do exactly that.

After the mother has coaxed the child into using for the snowman’s eyes two precious longan seeds the child plans to plant next Spring, the girl tries to add a nose, but when her back is turned, the snow child pulls the carrot off and throws it on the ground.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Nezha Conquers The Dragon King (Nezha Nao Hai, 哪吒闹海)

Directors – Wang Shuchen, Yan Dingxian, Xu Jingda – 1979 – China – Cert. N/C PG – 61m

*****

A boy born out of a lotus flower must defeat the dragon king who enjoys eating live human children – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

The four dragons rise out of the sea to wreak havoc with fire and tornado over China. In his palace, General Li awaits news of his wife’s delivery. Is it a boy or a girl? His servant is unsure: after three years, the General’s wife has birthed… a lotus flower. The petals open to reveal a boy, already walking, of diminutive size. The General’s servants and his wife’s ladies in waiting are immediately entranced and an old sage Taiyi Zhenren flies in on a crane to name the boy Ne Zha and take him under his wing as a student.

After the local people anger the Dragon King Ao Guang in his undersea crystal palace by sending him food offerings when he’d rather eat live human children, the boy happens to saunter down to the beach for a swim just as Ao Guang’s Sea Warrior has arrived to abduct some tasty boys and girls and steals one of Ne Zha’s playmates.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Movies

Shock Wave 2, (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia 2, 拆彈專家 2)

Director – Herman Yau – 2020 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15 – 120m

****

A former bomb disposal expert suspected of a terrorist atrocity must prevent a terrorist organisation from destroying the Hong Kong International Airport and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

If you’ve seen Shock Wave (Herman Yau, 2017) you’ll know that a sequel with Andy Lau reprising his character wouldn’t be possible. Both director and star clearly wanted to capitalise on the first film, however, so they’ve simply dumped character names and most of what happened in the first film, reinvented the main character and started all over again with a completely different story. This has the effect of making the audience feel that they’re seeing another film in the series but at the same time seeing something that’s brand new, not at all a carbon copy.

Except that in the broadest outline it IS a carbon copy: once again, Andy Lau plays an heroic member of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) with Philip Keung as a friend and colleague in the force, this time round named Lee Yiu Sing, while the plot involves the potential huge bombing of an important Hong Kong landmark – here the Hong Kong International Airport which is blown up at the start only for a voice-over to explain that this terrorist atrocity has been prevented thanks to one man.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ilo Ilo (爸妈不在家)

Director – Anthony Chen – 2013 – Singapore – Cert. 12 – 99m

****

A Filipino maid must contend with the unruly son of a working Singaporean couple in a time of economic difficulty – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Debut Spotlight strand until Wednesday, May 12th

1997, the Asian financial crisis is looming (see Default, 2018, Choi Kook-Hee) and the Leng family is under pressure. Secretary Hwee (Yeo Yann Yann) works for a shipping company that has hit difficult times: one of her jobs is to type up redundancy letters for staff who are about to be called into the manager’s office. She believes she and her immediate admin colleagues are safe. Her husband Teck (Chen Tian Wen) is a sales executive, but on the evidence of his pitching ‘unbreakable’ glass to a buyer – it breaks – is not that good at it.

The couple are expecting a second child. They’ve been so focused on work, though, that they perhaps haven’t spent as much time as they should with their son Jiale (Koh Jia Ler) who has the worst behaviour record in his school and is frequently the recipient of corporal punishment by the discipline teacher.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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
Documentary Features Movies

Bazaar Jumpers (Pao Ku Shao Nian, 跑酷少年)

Director – Zhiqiang Hao – 2012 – China – Cert. N/C PG – 61m

***

Two Uyghur boys and their parkour team in Northern China hone their skills for an upcoming “China proper” tournament in Beijing – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Approaching Reality documentary strand until Wednesday, May 12th

NB.

(1) Please read this review before watching because the recommended N/C PG certificate, while completely legal, perhaps ought to be higher because of one particular sequence (detailed in the final Spoiler Alert paragraph).

(2) The title seems to vary between Bazaar Jumper (singular) and Bazaar Jumpers (plural) on the film’s promotional literature. I’ve gone with the plural as that’s what’s on the film print. The singular is on the trailer below.

Urumqi, Xinjiang, one of the parts of Northern China with a large Uyghur section of the population. That’s not really writ large here, and as I was watching I was wondering what the spoken language was until I worked out it was Uyghur. The film is ostensibly about a group of late teenage, Muslim boys obsessed with parkour (free running), a physical craze in which obstacles such as buildings, walls and street furniture are climbed or traversed rather than gone around.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Shock Wave (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia, 拆彈專家)

Director – Herman Yau – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 118m

****

A bomb disposal expert must prevent a bomber from destroying the Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

Undercover police bomb disposal expert JS Cheung (Andy LauInfernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002, Days Of Being Wild, Wong Kar-wai, 1990, As Tears Go By, Wong Kar-wai, 1988) of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) blows his cover during a daring operation by a gang of criminals to kill as many cops as possible using car bombs. The car chase mayhem ends with the arrest of Biao Hong (Leo Wang Zi-yi) the explosives nerd and little brother of gang leader Peng Hong (Jiang Wu – Wrath Of Silence, Xin Yukun, 2017; Monster Hunt, Raman Hui, 2015). Some time later, Peng Hong Blocks traffic in the busy Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel running from Kowloon to Hong Kong, trapping motorists and passengers as hostages and threatening to blow up the tunnel unless his brother is released.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Tracey (翠絲)

Director – Li Jun – 2018 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 119m

*****

It’s complicated. Upon hearing of the death of his oldest and dearest friend, a fiftysomething questions the edifice of family life he has constructed around himself over the decades – screened online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Tung Tai-hung (Philip KeungA Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019) is wakened from a dream by a phone call. In the dream, he’s a teenager hanging out with his friends Ching (Wong Yat-ho) and Jun (Sham Ka-ki) by a local waterfall. The phone caller informs him of Ching’s death. For years Tai-hung has been using the loo at work to change into the ladies undergarments he never wears at home where it’s unlikely he’d be able to hide their wearing from his misophobic wife Anne (Kara Wai) who recently shocked their son Vincent (Ng Siu Hin – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019, Mad World, Wong Chun, 2016) by badmouthing the maid Parti (Candy Knutzen Darwati) after going through the latter’s things and finding a packet of condoms.… Read the rest