My Top 100 Favourite Asian Films
(To be completed...)
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|EarthlyAlien's Rating||My Rating|
Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai) 1954, Unrated)
Fa Yeung Nin Wa (In the Mood for Love) 2000, PG)
One of the most sensual and romantic films ever made, without one single kiss. This film is 100% pure beauty. From the colors, to the music, to Maggie Cheung... Stunning in every possible aspect, In The Mood For Love is one of the first masterpieces of the twenty first century, perfection reached in the art of film making. No matter what Kar-Wai does in the future, this will always be the film that made me 'fall in love' with him...
Oldboy 2004, R)
3-Iron 2004, R)
Tied with Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring as my favourite Kim Ki-duk film. A quiet, mysterious, sporadically violent tale of love on the run that gradually turns into something spooky, poetic and ultimately sublime. So lyrical in its wordlessness that it's practically a dance piece. The kind of film that just doesn't belong to this Universe.
Dolls 2002, Unrated)
I'll the risk gladly, but I'll say this: Dolls is one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever! Takeshi Kitano is one of the most talented and brilliant filmmakers alive! I've seen every one of his films and the truth is that there isn't a single one that isn't at least 'good'. I won't say Dolls is his best film, even though in my intimate it is my favourite one, side by side with Hana-bi, but it certainly is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. It might take some time and mind openness to fully get its greatness. Probably why some didn't get it at all... But there's no way you won't get blown away by this modern masterpiece. It's painfully beautiful, sad, melodic, depressing, realistic and visually astonishing! The rose garden scene is something close to sureal... Any aspiring filmmaker has to see Dolls. There's no going back there. It's pretty much a lesson of filmmaking... I can't help finding extremely transcendental that one single man (sensei Kitano) has imagined, wrote and directed this piece of pure, genuine ART... Like Kitano or not (or even know him at all), if you truly love Cinema than you can't, just can't, miss this wonderful film!
Chungking Express 1994, PG-13)
This is probably the most perfect and representative portray of modern life ever done in the form of film! The cinematography is a little unusual... The narrative is divided in two parts and there are some unusual and astonishing camera techniques that I admit I had never seen in a film before! Obviously, being a Wai Wong film, the main subjects are love, art and human connections...
Is Cinema still an art form? It should be! It should always be about Human expression, a way of Mankind transcending itself. But the sad truth is that these days almost anyone can make a 'movie'. However, every once and a while there comes a film, a genuine piece of Art that restores my faith and love for the power and beauty of Cinema. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring is one of those films. This is a film of an extremely rare beauty. Visually stunning, from Spring to Winter you feel pulled into that place and you almost feel like you're actually there. That's how brilliant Kim Ki-duk is. There is one single location (the lake), no characters' names and almost no plot at all (one single piece of paper would probably be enough) and still, this is such a mind-opening piece of work. A reflection on life and its constant changes, full of symbolisms and with the Buddhist life philosophy in background. From childhood and its innocence, to youth and its complexity and finally 'grown up' life and its solitude. I loved the way the monk changes when he leaves the lake. Leaving as a kid in love and returning as a murderer from the 'world of men', like his master called it. The main message in my opinion. Nature vs. 'The world of Men'... Let's face it. Asian Cinema has something that no one else has. I'm not sure what is it, I don't think anyone does, but I do know that I had never seen the essence of life captured on film, like Kim Ki-duk managed. A Masterpiece!
Ikiru (Doomed) (Living) (To Live) 1952, PG)
Lat sau san taam (Hard-Boiled) 1992, R)
Battle Royale 3D 2000, Unrated)
The reason why Battle Royale is so loved and hated at the same time is simply because it explores an idea that the human mind is almost pre-programed to fear and reject. We are thought, when we're kids, that there are two sides: 'Good' and 'Evil'. Stealing is wrong, killing is even wronger. But the pure and unquestionable truth is that any human being has the ability to take someone else's life, or themselve's for that matter. As simple as that. That's why Battle Royale has the unique and fascinating ability to shock, inlight, entertain and divide people. It's just brilliantly honest exploring that idea. How more honest could it be than putting 42 teenagers on a deserted island and making them kill each other for their own survival? If you think about it, it's not that different than a bunch of kids with guns killing everything and everyone on their way on some random american school... Is it? Of course, the probability of something like that (the 'BR' program, I mean) happening is almost unexistent. That's why the script can be a little surreal and at times silly. But guess what? I LOVED IT! The violence, the killing, the blood... All of that loses relevance when we realize just how original and visionary (in a kind of twisted and bizarre way) Battle Royale really is. I mean, let's face it, it wasn't for the violence or the blood (seen on thousands of other, sometimes awarded, beloved films) that the film was banned from the US and almost in Japan. It was the social/polytical message. Youth has the need to be heard. As simple as that. 20, 50 years ago and now as well. When a kid is not taken seriously he makes himself heard, he asks for attention. Rebels. This may be a little 'Oprah,' but it's true. So, maybe kids boycotting their schools, writting on the board 'Today there's no class, because we don't want too!' is not that utopic... That's probably the reason why the japanese goverment didn't find it that funny. Either way, and finalizing, I just can't help finding hilariously ironic that the same country that banned this modern masterpiece from their theatres is the same one who will remake it in 2008...
RashŰmon (Rashomon) (In the Woods) 1951, Unrated)
Tokyo Story , Unrated)
The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) 2002, Unrated)
First of all, and a little warning to Samurai film freaks (like myself), the title (the international one, of course) can be deceiving. The presence of the word Samurai obviously makes us think of a typical Samurai film, which normally means lots of action scenes, swords and blood. Not the case. The main character (Seibei Iguchi) is Samurai, yes, but to be Samurai means (or meant) much more than just 'playing' with swords, Kill Bill style. It was a life philosophy, most of the time nothing to do with fighting at all. Anyone who has a little knowledge of Japanese Culture and History, know what I mean. So, The Twilight Samurai is no action flick, no high paced, bloodfull epic. Seibei is no hero. He's a struggling working man, a widower and a father of two daughters. Everyday after work ('Twilight'), unlike his collegues who go drinking, Seibei goes home to his beloved daughters and ill mother. The film is set during the late 19th century, a time when the Samurai existence was challenged and criticized as Japan prepared to replace the old costumes by the Westernized era. This is the same period that the action epic The Last Samurai, for instance (an american production, therefore more known) is based on. Here lies the historical/social importance of this film (perhaps not that clear for most people). YŰji Yamada is an 'old school' film maker. His intention was precisely to capture the real essence of the Samurai ways, through a different angle. Honor, sacrifice, family importance... Values that were as important two centuries ago, as they are today. The story is told through one of the daughter's point of view (the adorable five year old Ito) in a sort of flashback mode. Hiroyuki Sanada, as Seibei 'Twilight' Iguchi, gives a once-in-a-life performance. Hard to picture anyone else for the role. I knew him already from his charismatic character in Ringu and his performance here was the beginning of a more international career (The Last Samurai, Danny Boyle's recent Sunshine). Lost the Best Foreign Language Award at the 2004 Oscars to The Barbarian Invasions. Like I said before, don't expect the typical Samurai action-packed film. There are two short fight scenes. The Twilight Samurai is a drama. One of the best you'll ever see, but still a drama. Another masterpiece from the East and a must see for any asian Cinema fan!
2046 2004, R)
High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku) (Heaven and Hell) 1962, Unrated)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2001, PG-13)
Yojimbo 1961, Unrated)
Fireworks (Hana-bi) 1997, R)
My favourite Kitano film! If there is a film that best shows how genius and brilliant he is, this is the one! Perfect acting/directing and a story that, in less than 2 hours, will make you feel joy and sorrow, will make you laugh and cry and maybe will make you look differently at life and death. Probably like he does... And all of this and a simple and violent way!
Yeopgijeogin geunyeo (My Sassy Girl) 2001, Unrated)
"The 10 Rules: 1. Don't ask her to be feminine. 2. Don't let her drink over three glasses. 3. Drink coffee instead of Coke/Juice. 4. If she hits you, act like it hurts. If it hurts, act like it doesn't. 5. On your 100th day together, give her a rose during her class. 6. Make sure you learn fencing and squash. 7. Be prepared to go to prison sometimes. 8. If she says she'll kill you, don't take it lightly. 9. If her feet hurt, exchange shoes with her. 10. She likes to write. Encourage her." You know those rare occasions when a film has such an impact on you that you're literally speechless? When, no matter how hard you try, you can't seem to find words to describe what you just saw? That's kind of how I felt the first time I watched My Sassy Girl. The truth is, I never expected it to be much more than just an amusing, easily forgotten Korean comedy, a chance to have a few laughs, a nice time. It caught me by surprise. I almost felt like I was hit by a train. God, don't you just love when that happens? The film is labelled as a romantic comedy, which, let's face it, is enough to make many people think they won't enjoy it or that it's just not their "type". Why did I use quotation marks? Because romantic comedies aren't a genre. Hollywood might have turned it into one, but it's not. The expression 'romantic comedy' in the Western world (especially the ones from one particular country) has always been a sign of bad writing, bad acting, pseudo-entertaining and empty excuses for films, with (fortunely) some occasional exceptions. Now, if a romantic comedy is, supposedly, a fusion between Comedy and Romance than, yes, I guess My Sassy Girl is a romantic comedy. But to compare it to those things is nothing less than insulting. The story isn't fictional. Based on a novel by Ho-sik Kim, which was written after his famous blog on the Internet, which, post-by-post, described his adventures, joys and sorrows with his 'sassy' girlfriend. Impossible to know, obviously, which parts actually happened and which didn't, but either way, anyone who experienced half of what he did should be considered, at the very least, lucky. No matter how closely based and alike they might or not be, every single character in this film is perfect. Kyun-woo is just... impossible not to love. He's foolish, immature, naive, gets beaten by his mother when he spends the night out, lets everyone walk over him, may even be a little stupid. But he has the ability to create such an empathy among pretty much everyone. As for the (unnamed) girl, a little warning: she might very well make you fall for her. I mean, she's drunk all the time, she's threatening and seemingly unreachable and of course, gorgeous. One moment she's the toughest girl you ever saw and the next the sweetest and harmlessest. I admit that I'm a little suspect here though, because she reminded me a lot of someone close to me. Like I said, my expectations were to be amusing. But, truth be told, in more (much more) than one occasion it is hilarious. There are some scenes (like the ones in the train and in the prison or the one in the amusement park and the final one in the restaurant) that go way beyond the simple amusing. Sheer brilliance. And than, even the most typically cheesy ones (like when Kyun-woo offers her a rose in the middle of her class room) feel just... perfect. I also loved another aspect of the film. The narrative structure, divided in three parts: first half, second half and extra time. A little priceless detail for any football fan. Maybe the fact that I'm a helpless romantic fool helped a great deal, but My Sassy Girl - as you probably already figured out - really got to me. And I'm not easily conquered. So, if perfection does exist, than this is an example of it.
Akahige (Red Beard) 1965, Unrated)
The Road Home (Wo de fu qin mu qin) 2000, G)
Spirited Away 2001, PG)
A film that will always have its name written in history as one of the best and greatest animated pictures ever made. Miyazaki's most accomplished work, technically speaking. Will always be considered his masterpiece, but most of all, it's the result of a unique and brilliant career, full of magical and beautiful films. Breathtakingly beautiful, exquisitely formed, a flawlessly executed masterwork. A sheerly imaginative and groundbreakingly wondrous cinematic piece, wether the anime genre or filmmaking in general is concerned. A dream and poem in the form of film.
Hero 2004, PG-13)
Ran 1985, R)
Eureka (YŻreka) 2000, Unrated)
Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai) 2004, PG-13)
People love to say how sad and heartbreaking this or that film is... But until you see this film, don't! If there is a perfect way of capturing inocence and hope on screen, with some humor, it was done here! Very intense and detailed film, that can make any human being on this planet cry... It also has one of the most brilliant endings I've ever seen!
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War 2004, R)
Dreams 1990, PG)
First of all it's diferent. Don't think there's any other film out there about 8 diferent dreams who suposely don't have much to do with each other... Is there? The film is visually astonishing and creative and I don't think I need to say again how original and unique it is... It's also precious to anyone who always felt fascinated by dreams and the role they play in our lifes (like myself). If there were any doubts, this masterpiece explains why Mr. Kurosawa was one of the greatest inspirations for some of the greatest and most brilliant directors of nowdays! Words can't really describe how marvelous this film is...
Joint Security Area , Unrated)
The Killer (Dip huet seung hung) 1989, R)
Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs) 2002, R)
After reading a couple of reviews of some of some Flixster friends of mine and some other 'strangers' (who probably only wrote them because of The Departed) I just had to write one myself! First of all, you can't compare both films, period! It's the same thing as comparing American and Asian Cinema, which doesn't make any sense. That's a mistake that lots of people are making. American Cinema tends to be more facilitated, with more easy and accessible material, less complex. In fact, I read here more than once that certain people were confused. Guess what? That was the point! There lies the main difference between both films, I think. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm no fool. I know perfectly that The Departed, cinematographically speaking, is as good, perhaps even better than Infernal Affairs. Pretty much perfect in almost every aspect. The acting is flawless, the direction is, as Scorcese himself, brilliant. Only the thing is... I'm still one of those (apparently few) people who believe that a film, before being a way of making money, is the result of a solitary act of creation and inspiration. An expression form. Which normally results in a screenplay. That's why (no matter how good William Monahan's adaptation is) I could never consider The Departed better than Infernal Affairs. Could never deny it's a huge cinematographic achievement, Scorcese's best film since Goodfellas and probably the best american remake ever (like my ****Ĺ rating proves), but I could never consider it 'perfect'. Not when it's purely an 'americanization' of something that was already perfect. "Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal." T. S. Eliot
A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng) 2005, Unrated)
House of Flying Daggers 2004, PG-13)
Happy Together (Chun gwong cha sit) 1997, Unrated)
Failan 2001, Unrated)
Children of Heaven (Bacheha-Ye aseman) 1997, PG)
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance 2005, R)
Kikujiro 2000, PG-13)
Days of Being Wild (A Fei zheng chuan) 1990, Unrated)
Oasis 2004, Unrated)
Wand‚furu raifu (After Life) 1998, Unrated)
Comrades - Almost a Love Story (Tian mi mi) 1997, Unrated)
Guizi lai le (Devils on the Doorstep) 2000, Unrated)
Kids Return 1996, Unrated)
Ashes of Time 1994, R)
Bullet in the Head (Die xue jie tou) 1990, R)
Ju Dou 1990, PG-13)
Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok) 2003, Unrated)
Samaria (Samaritan Girl) 2004, R)
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
Siwore (Il Mare) 2000, Unrated)
Audition (‘dishon) 1999, R)
Fallen Angels 1995, Unrated)
To Live (Huozhe) 1994, R)
Eat Drink Man Woman (Yin shi nan nu) 1994, Unrated)
The Color of Paradise 2000, PG)
Seom (The Isle) 2000, Unrated)
Marathon 2005, Unrated)
As Tears Go By 1988, Unrated)
Happy Times 2001, PG)
Drunken Master (Jui kuen) 1978, PG-13)
Nae yeojachingureul sogae habnida (Windstruck) 2004, Unrated)
Once Upon a Time in China 1991, R)
Jing wu ying xiong (Fist of Legend) 1994, R)
Kagen no tsuki (Last Quarter) 2004, Unrated)
Police Story (Ging chaat goo si) (Police Force) 1985, PG-13)
Ni na bian ji dian (What Time Is It Over There?) 2001, Unrated)
Yi Yi 2000, Unrated)
IN MEMORY OF EDWARD YANG (1947 - 2007)
Last Life in the Universe 2003, R)
"Many books say "death is relaxing". Did you know that? No need to follow the latest trends. No need to keep pace