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Chilli Laugh Story (闔家辣)

Director – Coba Cheng – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 94m

****

A young man successfully markets his mother’s chilli sauce in the pandemic lockdown until the lucrative business it unexpectedly generates is taken off him– out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 15th and in the US and Canada on Friday, July 22nd

This starts off with a very sweet – no, make that spicy – memory of 2002 when Coba Cheng (Edan Lui Cheuk-On) was a small boy of five and visited his mum’s village where he tried her chilli sauce for the first time. It burned his mouth, but was always a part of his life from then on.

Jump to mid-2020. Hong Kong, like everywhere else, is in the middle of the pandemic. Coba is now working his job from home, and he and his parents are struggling to live with each other in the same enforced space. His dad Alan (Ronald Cheng) is engaged in a no-way forward argument with a delivery man in a surgical mask who won’t tell him what the unknown package is until dad has paid the delivery fee, which dad won’t do until he knows what it is, which Mr.… Read the rest

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Master Cheng (Mestari Cheng)

Director – Mika Kaurismäki – 2019 – Finland – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

A Chinese chef turns up at a restaurant in a remote Finnish village and impresses the locals with his cooking – charming romantic drama is out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th

A restaurant in a remote part of the Finnish countryside. Cheng (Chu Pak Hong from My Prince Edward, Norris Wang, 2019) and small boy Niu Niu (Lucas Hsuan) walk into the local restaurant where the former asks for Fongtron. The owner Sirkka (Anna-Maija Tuokko) hasn’t heard of Fongtron and can’t help. He asks customers the same question, but they don’t know either. Cheng barely speaks Finnish, which scarcely helps. He doesn’t look like he’s going away, and when he asks if there’s a hotel, Sirkka points him towards a room that’s available. She attempts to feed the pair before closing up, but the mobile phone-obsessed Niu Niu won’t touch her Finnish sausage and mash.

And he’s not the only one: When a day or so later, a coachload of Chinese tourists turn up, they’re not very interested either. Cheng, sitting at a table, immediately springs to Sirkka’s aid and parleys with the Chinese.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Memories To Choke On, Drinks To Wash Them Down (Ye heung, yuen yeung, Sham Shui Po, 夜香・鴛鴦・深水埗)

Directors – Leung Ming Kai, Kate Reilly – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 77m

**1/2

Four stories from contemporary Hong Kong comprise three dramas and a closing documentary segment – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

An anthology of four stories from contemporary Hong Kong – three fiction and one documentary – showing the city’s diversity: Forbidden City, Toy Stories, Yuen Yeung and It’s Not Going To Be Fun.

Forbidden City features an old lady (Leong Cheok-mei) and her immigrant carer (Mia Mungil). The first time ‘grandma’ mentions that her son is now a big shot but used – as the not quite right subs put it –to scratch his wee-wee when he was young, it’s funny. The second and third times, it becomes obvious she has dementia and keeps repeating the same phrases over and over. Mia initially refuses to accompany her charge to a reunion in town, but after taking a video of the old lady swearing that she won’t take her carer to her son’s office (“if I do that he’ll fire me,” the carer says), she agrees to accompany her on the bus into town.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Woman Who Ran (Domangchin Yeoja, 도망친 여자)

Director – Hong Sang Soo – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12A – 77m

*****

Three women – plus one. An urban woman’s visits to three out-of-town friends gently calls into question both their and her everyday lives – at Curzon Bloomsbury and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, December 11th, then on MUBI from Sunday, December 20th

Seoul resident Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) is away from her husband for a few days and while he’s on a rare business trip is taking the opportunity to visit old friends. As she explains to each of them, her husband says that people in love should stick to each other. She feels loved.

Yet this mantra is called into question by the presence and lives of the three women she visits. Divorcee Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa) has a nice little apartment which she shares with a flatmate Young-ji (Lee Eun-mi) who is an incredible cook. Su-young (Song Seon-mi), who puts together dance performances, has discovered a nice little local bar full of artists, architects and other creative types. Woo-jin (Kim Sae-byuk) is tiring of her famous author husband Mr. Jung (Kwon Hae-hyo) who she thinks talks too much.

Jung is only seen briefly towards the end and is representative of the men in the film in that he is a peripheral character in the drama.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Barking Dogs Never Bite (Flandersui gae)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2000 – South Korea – 110m

****1/2

Available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th.

Lecturer Yun-ju (Lee Sun-jae) is looking out the window of his apartment in a block of flats and having been recently passed over for a professorship is on the phone to a colleague, but can’t concentrate because of a persistent dog barking. He resolves to do something about it. Chancing later upon a dog without an owner near his front door, he takes it up to the roof but then, unable to drop it off the balcony, takes it down to a basement corridor and traps it in an old wardrobe.

Maintenance office worker Park Hyun-nam (Doona Bae) is visited by a little girl in a yellow waterproof to get her missing dog posters officially stamped so that they won’t get taken down.

Hen-pecked by his working, pregnant wife Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung), Yun-ju learns from a colleague that the person who got the professorship has died so the position should now be his – for a $10 000 bribe. And the barking hasn’t stopped – he got the wrong dog because the little girl’s posters mention that the missing dog can’t bark following a throat op.… Read the rest

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301/302

Director – Park Chul-soo – 1995 – South Korea – 98m

*****

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Apartment New Hope Bio. A residential block of flats for the well off. Nice if you can afford it. Two rooms on each floor. The two rooms on the third floor are numbers 301 and 302.

301 has a designer-built kitchen. Perfect for newly moved-in Songhui (Pang Eun-jin) who lives for food preparation and cooking. She spends a lot of time in food markets sourcing the best ingredients. She has a collection of attractive and distinctive coloured plates because, after all, the way you serve food is important and can make all the difference.

Songhui is curious about her neighbour in 302, but Yunhui (Hwang Sin-hye) wants to keep herself to herself. Songhui will watch through her door’s spyhole and when Yunhui appears will dash out to say “hi”. If Yunhui possibly can, she will get in to 302 and close the door before Songhui can catch her.

Actually, Yunhui is curious too. At least enough so to spy through her own front door on prospective residents being shown around 301 by the estate agent in a flashback.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Perfect Sense

Director – David Mackenzie – 2011 – UK – Cert. 15 – 92m

*****

Currently available to stream in the UK on Amazon Prime.

This love story from 2011 is set in a pandemic and captures something of the emotions we’re now feeling in the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

Glasgow, Scotland. Michael (Ewan McGregor) is a chef. He likes to sleep alone, so if he takes a woman to bed, he’ll turf her out afterwards so he can get his space. That changes when he meets Susan (Eva Green), who then does the same thing to him. And yet, there’s something between them. They’re drawn to one another. A relationship ensues.

Which might sound like just another boy meets girl movie, but Perfect Sense is different. Behind the foreground of walking along river banks and sleeping together lies a very different backdrop. Susan is an epidemiologist at a local hospital. A man has lost his sense of smell and is kept in isolation. There are other cases all over the country. Suddenly, people are being overwhelmed with grief and losing their sense of smell. Some time later, they eat ravenously then lose their sense of taste. Later still, they go berserk then lose their sense of sight.… Read the rest

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Little Forest (리틀 포레스트)

Director – Yim Soon-Rye – 2018 – South Korea – 103m

*****

This review originally appeared in DMovies.org.

The passing of the seasons. A young woman finds her true self in the Korean countryside in this adaptation of a Japanese manga; the outcome will make you drool, for more reasons than one – from the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) and the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

Raised in the countryside by her mother (Moon So-ri) but dissatisfied with life there, Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) moves to Seoul and acquires a boyfriend. But after both of them have taken their exams, she returns to the village in which she grew up to get some space and think about her life.

The boyfriend has passed his exams and is hoping she has done the same, leaving messages on her voicemail to this effect, but she’s still waiting for her own result to come through. She doesn’t respond to his messages.

For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, but which surface to a degree in the course of the narrative, her mother has left, presumably to start a new life now that the job of raising a well adjusted daughter is complete.… Read the rest

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Eat Drink Man Woman (Yin Shi Nan Nu)

Director – Ang Lee – 1994 – Taiwan, US – Cert. PG – 124m

*****

Originally published in Home Entertainment.

Ageing restauranteur Chu (Lung Sihung) lives in Taipei with his three daughters – Christian schoolteacher Jia-Jen (Yang Kuei-mei), high-flying businesswoman Jia- Chien (Wu Chien-lieu) and teenage fast food assistant Jia-Ning (Wang Yu-wen). His problem (as with the mother in Lee’s Sense And Sensibility/1996) is that none of his daughters are married – and the clock is ticking.

Opening (scooter) traffic shot boasts encompassing sound, later rivalled by such DS subtleties as hymn singing (on a wonky Walkman) and a playground full of kids. Better yet are the cooking noises – bubbling, frying, pouring, steaming – rendered more mouth-watering still by accompanying oriental cuisine visuals. Should be watched with a lavish meal ready for consumption by the time of (or even before) the final frame.

Film 5/5

Sound 5/5

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1994 (67th) Oscars.

Originally published in Home Entertainment.