Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014 Cinema Biennale Check #8 - From Asia to Venice

The last Cinema Biennale Check installment is about directors born in the East and Far East.

Xiaoshuai Wang

Born on May 1966 in Shanghai, China. A gifted painter that attended Beijing's Central Art Academy Middle School and upon graduation relinquish his painting career to enroll in the Beijing Film Academy in the Department of Directing. After graduation and 2 years as an assistant at Fujian Film Studios he returns penniless to Beijing only to make his first film in 1993, The Days, with the incredible budget of US$10,000.00.

He belongs to what is known as the Sixth Generation of Chinese filmmakers or the "Urban Generation" of directors. Perhaps he's better-known for his amazing 2001 Berlinale Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear winner Beijing Bicycle, his also amazing 2005 Cannes Jury Prize winner Shanghai Dreams and his 2010 Cannes in competition for the Palme d'Or Chongqing Blues; but his filmography extends beyond these three films with films like In Love We Trust, Drifters and many more. Occasionally has worked as an actor and most remarkable in Jia Zhangke's The World and Lou Ye's Weekend Lover.

His films usually open in major festivals and his latest, Red Amnesia, is no exception as is in competition at Venezia71.

Basic info about 闯入者 Chuangru Zhe (Red Amnesia)
Director: Xiaoshuai Wang
Scriptwriter: Wang Xiaoshuai, Fang Lei, Li Fei
Original Language: Mandarin
Lenght: 115 min
Production country: China
Production companies: Dongchun Films Production Co, Inlook Media Group, Herun Meida, Edko (Beijing) films, Chongqing Film Group

Deng is a stubborn retired widow who spends her days caring about her two grown up sons and her elderly mother, despite her family efforts to stop her. But her daily routine starts derailing when she keeps receiving anonymous calls. What’s happening to her? Who could have anything against her? Even her husband’s ghost doesn’t seem to know...

Director’s Statement
After my father’s death, my 70-year-old mother, who lives alone, still wants to take care of me and her grandchildren. Her life made me reflect on Chinese people’s way of life. Her generation has lost their self-consciousness. They don’t know who they are and how life can be. Born around 1949, after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, they have been educated and then have gone through all the different political movements our country went through. From then till now, they have been completely brainwashed and became insensible. That’s the reason of the emptiness of their existence. The old lady of Chuangru zhe is intruding in other people’s lives, while our generation and our future generations might continue this intrusion in other people’s life. We are all carrying a stamp, in a Chinese way. We can’t escape from this. Chuangru zhe is about us today, forgetting those damages we suffered along the way. If situation remains unchanged, we will continue to be intruded, or intruding the lives of others, because we’ve been intruded deeply in the thought and consciousness.

Rakhshan Bani E'temād

Born on April 1954 in Tehran, Iran. Graduated from The Faculty of Dramatic Arts and joined Iranian TV in 1973 working as continuity girl and assistant director. Not really familiar with her work but she has collected accolades in festivals like Locarno, Karlovy Vary, Moscow and also in the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Not proud of being so unaware of this director work as she is known as one of Iran's premier female filmmakers that started doing TV documentaries and successfully moved in feature films. Perhaps with her latest work, Tales, which is in competition in Venezia71 I will start to learn about her filmmaking style. She is the other female director in competition for a Golden Lion at 2014 La Mostra.

Basic info about قصه ها Ghesseha (Tales)
Director: Rakhshan Bani E'temād
Scriptwriter: Rakhshan Bani-E'temad and Farid Mostafavi
Original Language: Persian
Lenght: 88 min
Production country: Iran
Production companies: Kanoon Iran Novin

Ghesseha features mostly female characters from Rakhshan Banietemad’s previous films, people who represent different layers of the society. The film also depicts a courageous and honest image of today’s Iranian society and its recent issues, covering subjects like students’ and workers’ movements as well as many others. The characters, which include filmmakers, workers, intellectuals, state employees, social workers, etc., have one thing in common. They are all passionate and in love. Ghesseha, in fact, is a love story of mothers and sons, husbands and wives, and men and women whose love and passion give them the hope to overcome their difficulties, whether these difficulties are the universal struggles of the society’s lower ranks, or any other social or emotional issue. So they find the power to continue their fights for a better life, ending in enjoying one that is brightened by love.

Director’s Statement
After three decades of filmmaking the characters of my documentary and feature films are still alive to me and I live with them. Ghesseha is returning to the characters of my previous films under today’s circumstances. Even though Ghesseha is a complete independent version, for me and the people who have seen my previous movies it is a review of the people’s fate and social conditions over the past three decades.

Watch clip with scenes at movie official site here.

Shin'ya Tsukamoto

Born on January 1960 in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. He's an actor and director that has a considerable large cult following both in Japan and abroad. No, I'm not one of the fans and have not seen any of the films he has directed or where he has performed; but I'm aware that he has accolades in many fantasy film festivals as well as in La Biennale where he won some collateral awards and was in competition for the 2009 Golden Lion with Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.

His latest film, Nobi, is another adaptation of the Shohei Ooka novel with the same name and a remake of Kon Ichikawa's 1959 Nobi, that I have seen. Imagine Tsukamoto version has to be different to Ichikawa's vision and perhaps not for the better, sigh; but I suspect that visuals will be outstanding, worth-watching.

Basic info about 野火 Nobi (Fires on the Plain)
Director: Shin'ya Tsukamoto
Original Language: Japanese and Filipino
Lenght: 87 min
Production country: Japan
Production companies:

It is towards the end of World War II. After invading an island in the Philippines, Japanese servicemen meet fierce counter-offensive from the locals and the allied forces. It’s just a matter of time before the few survivors are wiped out. Suffering from tuberculosis private Tamura is abandoned by both his platoon and the mobile hospital. A group of soldiers with untreatable sicknesses and injuries are outside the hospital, just waiting to die. Private Tamura joins them but that night, artillery fire destroys the hospital. Tamura escapes injury and roams into the jungle. He throws himself into the overwhelming force of nature expecting that his end is near. Unable to go on anymore he takes out his grenade ready to kill himself when he notices some yams growing in the wild. The only problem is that the yams are inedible unless they’re cooked. Tamura goes to a village in search of matches. But there’s nothing there as the villagers have fled. Tamura takes a nap in a church when a young couple turns up. The woman screams in horror when she sees Tamura so he pulls the trigger of his rifle to silence her. She’s the first person he’s ever murdered. Tamura roams the jungle which is now hell on earth, with piles of bodies everywhere. Extreme fatigue numbs his mind and hunger changes him. When he starts to view his companions as food, he crosses a threshold into a realm where there are no friends, enemies or God.

Director’s Statement
I’ve been making movies about humans trapped in the city. With this film I want to show modern city dwellers that the city is not the world. That it’s just a rudderless boat floating in the sea of nature. By showing people engaged in the foolishness of war, I wanted to ask why we opt to go to war. If fighting is our primal instinct, I wanted to investigate if intelligence had a role to play in it. I don’t believe in propaganda movies. So what you take away from my film is up to you. I can sense the seventy-year-old horror and screams of those who decayed in the jungle. I pick it up on a radar that’s directly connected to my spine and I injected those sensations into every frame. If you smelled any of that, I succeeded.

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