Yeppers, I’m late. I was tired from work on Saturday and then I browsed the raws of the webtoon 유토피아 (Utopia) which just sort of made me a little depressed and not in the mood to do anything productive like writing a blog post… Utopia, by the way, has a great premise, even if its tagline (“two extra-ordinary people in ordinary love”) sounds a little cheesy. But the ‘extra-ordinary’ refers to two social outcasts, a teen girl, who communicates only in writing, and an orphaned boy who is seriously maimed in a car accident, losing his left leg, as well as suffering facial disfigurement and brain damage. I would have said that’s sufficient hardship to explore in one story, but [spoiler alert!] judging from the raws there is no happy ending to this. Wahhh….
As for trailers this week, the focus is on Taiwan, a country that holds a special place in my TCK heart. As you may know, coming up in May is the Taiwan Cinefest (I will write a separate blog post on the programme and other details soon) and as I was researching the films to be screened, I stumbled across “Taiwan Cinema – Shining through the 21st Century”, a freely downloadable document prepared in cooperation between the Government Information Office and the Taipei Film Commission. The file contains synopses for a whole lot of T-films from the past couple of years plus details on upcoming releases. Highlights:
- 命運化妝師 (Mìngyùn huàzhuāng shī/Make-Up, Taiwan, 2011) – Trailer not subtitled. In Make-Up, a mortuary cosmetologist one day encounters a body that she knows: it is that of her former high school teacher. Faced with a death unlike the one of all the strangers previously, a husband that seeks more memories of his dead wife and a suspicious detective on the hunt for a different truth, the young woman must deal with all kinds of difficulties. The premise vaguely reminds me of Atmen (Breathing, Austria, 2011), although Make-Up contains elements of suspense and fantasy.
- 我, 19歲 (Wǒ, 19 suì/Me, 19, Taiwan, 2010) – A story of young love – not the only one in this Trailer Weekly – involves a solitary cellist struggling with an overbearing father and impending deafness and a lively and cheerful dancer. Although not entirely free of clichés, the film has apparently been done with enough refinement to charm its viewers.
- 那些年，我們一起追的女孩 (Nàxiē nián, wǒmen yīqǐ zhuī de nǚhái/You Are the Apple of My Eye, Taiwan, 2011) – You might have heard of this one because it broke a number of box office records in Taiwan and other Asian countries. Based on director Gidden Ko’s own semi-autobiographical novel, You Are the Appel of My Eye takes viewers back to high school and the first moments of dabbling in love. I wouldn’t expect anything too profound as the film is said to be a somewhat typical, nostalgia-invoking coming-of-age story, but it has received more praise than one would perhaps expect and gives a happy-ish rather than sugar-coated ending.
- 第四張畫 (Dì sì zhāng huà/The Fourth Portrait, Taiwan, 2010) – In the intriguingly titled The Fourth Portrait, Xiang, a ten-year old boy, loses his father. His estranged mother, a prostitute, appears (plus a chilly stepfather), but is unable to provide him with any love. Painting an idiosyncratic and more adult-than-childlike portrait containing elements that Xiang himself cannot yet fully grasp, The Fourth Portrait offers some laughs, but generally motivates more serious and complex reflections.
- 不能說的秘密 (Bùnéng shuō de mìmì/Secret, Taiwan, 2007) – Japanese trailer. More young love (and more to come) – but cue in music and time travel for this one. Secret is a film directed by the Taiwanese musician Jay Chou, who also takes the role of the male lead. Although critics note some weaknesses – including Chou’s acting – there is also the sort of praise that makes me really want to watch this feature: “You leave the cinema with the image of Chou’s fingers dancing over the piano keys, creating that extraordinary music. It will be the image of Chou playing the piano one-handed, playing two pianos at the same time, and playing the piano with his upturned face in dream-like bliss. That is what makes this movie worth the watch. As I said, its salvation. Music, so it seems, really can be magical.” (Quote from Cinema Online via Wikipedia.)
- 初戀風暴 預告 (Chūliàn fēngbào yùgào/Tempest of First Love, Taiwan, 2011) – Did I say young love already? Here’s the final one – it’s more realistic (no time travel, no fantasy) as well as quirky and comical this time. Kai En’s world of perfection is threatened by an affair she suspects her mother of having, so she recruits the son of her mother’s suspected lover to help her break up the couple. Constant quarrels ensue, sparks fly – and a love not planned is soon ignited.
Song Il-gon’s upcoming documentary film: 시간의 숲 (Forest of Time)
Last but not least, since it is Song Il-gon month at the KCCUK, it’s worth mentioning that the director’s latest project is due to come out in South Korea on April 19th. It is a documentary by the title of 시간의 숲 (Siganeui Soop/Forest of Time, South Korea, 2011) that takes viewers to the Japanese island of Yukushima – the magical place where Studio Ghibli’s もののけ姫 (Mononoke–hime/Princess Mononoke, 1997) was set. No trailer is yet available.
- 유토피아 (Utopia) by Neuk Dae Sam and Hwang Sang Jun – Korean raws (85 chapters, completed) and English translation (only 4 chapters)
- A thought-provoking article on the foreign-language Oscar: “Foreign-language Oscar: why border control restricts the selection process”. I would raise some objections (especially to defend this year’s winner in the category), but there are some rather valid points in the piece.