Day Three of the thirteenth New York Asian Film Festival is officially underway! Today’s slate of three films is a bit on the low-key end — no whacked-out kung fu wizardry or explosive action extravaganzas — but they make up for it with sincerity and extraordinary reviews. Give ’em a look. It’s good for you.
The NYAFF is being presented by Subway Cinema (visit them here), and almost all of the screenings are taking place at the Walter Reade Theater at the New York City’s Film Society Of Lincoln Center (find a more complete rundown here).
Here are today’s screenings, with pictures & summaries courtesy of the festival:
TOP STAR (2013)
Like ROUGH PLAY, TOP STAR is a look behind the scenes of the Korean film industry. It tells the story of Tae-Sik (Uhm Tae-woong), a manager of famous actor Won-joon (Kim Min-jun) who gets his own chance to shine in front of the cameras and quickly rises, eventually eclipsing the fame of his former boss. But as his fame rises, so does his ego and desire, and as he develops a god complex, he disposes of all the people who helped him achieve his dream. First-time director Park Joong-hoon—himself a top leading man since the 1980s (CHILSU AND MANSU, TWO COPS, NOWHERE TO HIDE)—relies on his 28 years of acting experience working on films with major Korean directors to confidently deliver a stylish and compelling tale of the rise, fall, and redemption of an actor.
Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Service in New York.
Co-presented with The Celebrity magazine.
HAN GONG-JU (2014)
Guest introduction and Q&A with director Lee Su-jin!
Praised by Martin Scorsese, who presented it with the Golden Star for Best Film at the Marrakech International Film Festival last year, the feature debut from writer-director Lee Su-jin has walked a path strewn with prizes since it premiered at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival, where it won two awards, and went on to win the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. A devastating portrait of South Korea’s blame culture, embedded cronyism and destructive family pressures, the film follows a high-school girl, by the name of Han Gong-ju, as she seeks anonymity and escape from the horror of an unnamed past experience. HAN GONG-JU focuses largely on the aftermath, rather than the event itself. Refreshingly free of self-pitying trauma, the film offers the beautiful character of a young girl, almost a woman, who, in the face of social stigmatization, stands radiant, strong, and self-reliant… not given easily to tears and only wanting to rebuild her life after moving away from home. With her mother divorced and her father on the bottle, Gong-ju works out her own problems, fiercely defending her privacy from new school friends. Strong, compelling, and anchored by a superb lead performance by Chun Woo-hee, HAN GONG-JU is a standout social and psychological drama.
Presented with the support of the Korea Society.
BLIND MASSAGE (2014)
Easily the most powerful and innovative Asian film of this year, BLIND MASSAGE consolidates the rebirth of Mainland director Lou Ye (NYAFF 2013 selection MYSTERY) as a world-class talent. Lou creates a true ensemble movie: the blind and partially sighted masseurs and masseuses of Sha Zonqi Massage Centre, in Nanjing, central China, a distinctly unglamorous, bottom-line undertaking run by the light-hearted Sha Fuming (Eric Qin Hao) and the more serious Zhang Zongqi (Wang Zhihua). It’s a powerful ride through a parallel world of metaphysical cinema that Lou first flirted with in SUZHOU RIVER (1999) and the big-budget PURPLE BUTTERFLY (2003), but this time he also shows us a world of faces without eyes, full fathom five into the fundamentals of cinema and the very fabric of perception, a world where light and darkness lose their usual meaning but basic human emotions (love, jealousy, friendship) remain the same. Alongside its scenes of beauty felt or briefly glimpsed, BLIND MASSAGE contains moments of humor, joy, and pure horror, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music is always there to add color to Lou’s magnificent poetic canvas.
Stay tuned for daily updates from us here at Daily Grindhouse, and hey, if you’d like to find out which screenings I’ll personally be at, you know where to find me …
— JON ABRAMS.
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