The 14th New York Asian Film Festival kicked off here in New York City this past Friday, June 26th, and true to form, your pals at Daily Grindhouse were sleeping it off until now, but we’ll do a bunch of catch-up tonight and from here on out we’ll be posting the line-ups for the festival’s screenings daily.
Here are Saturday’s screenings, with pictures & summaries courtesy of the festival:
SUNNY LUK, 2012
HONG KONG | CANTONESE WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES | FORMAT: DCP | 102 MINUTES
While the police commissioner is away in Copenhagen a police van on patrol goes missing along with its five officers and hi-tech surveillance gear. Soon the hostage demands are arriving and the police department goes into lockdown under two deputy commissioners who can’t stand each other. One is MB Lee (Tony Leung Kar-fai) a battle-hardened vet who isn’t above a little waterboarding to protect Hong Kong. Opposing him is Sean Lau (superstar Aaron Kwok in a startling performance), a steely technocrat who never walked a beat, and a stickler for respecting the rights of citizens.
When it’s revealed that MB Lee’s son is one of the abducted patrolmen, things start to heat up and Lee starts sending cops into harm’s way, while Lau tries to figure out how to stop him using bureaucratic judo. Office politics become blood sport where a well-timed phone call is worse than a dagger in the back. Winner of nine Hong Kong Film Awards, COLD WAR is a cracking thriller about Hong Kong’s relationship with China where the police force tears itself apart, the gunsmoke slowly settles, and “The biggest enemy is always on the inside.”
Part of HONG KONG PANORAMA. Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York.
PHILIP YUNG , 2015
HONG KONG | CANTONESE WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES | FORMAT: DCP | 120 MINUTES
Q&A with Aaron Kwok
Director Philip Yung’s PORT OF CALL’s central incident is the brutal murder of a young 16-year-old Hunan girl who moved to Hong Kong with her family and fell into prostitution. Winding through time and grounded by Christopher Doyle’s gauzy cinematography, the film follows both the story of the young girl’s descent into sex work and Aaron Kwok’s grizzled detective as he obsessively seeks an answer to the brutality of the murder. Kwok is astonishing here in his career’s best role, with all the tics and haggard body language of a man beaten down by the violence that threatens to drown him at every turn. Stage actor Michael Ning is also chilling as the killer.
AHN SANG-HOON, 2015
SOUTH KOREA | KOREAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES | FORMAT: DCP | 113 MINUTES
King Taejo, the first ruler of the Joseon Era, chooses his youngest son Bang-seok as his heir instead of the son he had from his first wife, Bang-won (Jang Hyuk, macho, mercurial and machiavellian like never before). It is the dawn of a new dynasty but it might as well be its twilight as a deluge of desire and sudden death is about to flood the young kingdom. Queue a blood feud that erupts into superbly choreographed violence, lavish production design, flourishes of historical fantasy, and hanbok-ripping sex. Court intrigue aside, the film’s main business is a love story of lunatic majesty between Supreme Commander Kim Min-Jae (Save the Green Planet’s Shin Ha-kyun in a stellar performance), and Gahee (Kang Han-na), a sword dancer who becomes his mistress. Kim’s son Jin (heartthrob Kang Ha-neul playing against type), as it turns out, is a despicable serial rapist and it may not be an accident that Gahee has entered into upright Kim’s domestic life. As family drama mixes with court drama and multiple revenge plots converge, the film enters into a sort of costume melodrama nirvana, stripped out of superfluity and softness, where the tip of a sword and a whisper from a red lip can bring the high and mighty crashing down.
Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Service in New York.
RINGO LAM, 1987
HONG KONG | CANTONESE WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES | FORMAT: 35MM | 98 MINUTES
Preceded by the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award presentation to Ringo Lam; Q&A following the film
Between August, 1986 and February, 1987, two movies came out that kicked the Hong Kong film industry into high gear, turned Chow Yun-fat into a superstar, and revived their director’s careers. The first was the romantic, hyper-stylized gun opera, directed by John Woo, and the second was the gritty, socially outraged heist film, CITY ON FIRE, directed by Ringo Lam. Where Woo’s movie was full of grand gestures and larger-than-life characters, Lam’s film was masterfully underplayed with characters who ripped from the headlines. CITY ON FIRE is one of the most iconic and legendary Hong Kong movies of all time (so legendary that Quentin Tarantino stole the plot and certain shots for RESERVOIR DOGS) and it is almost never screened today.
Chow Yun-fat plays a cop who’s gone so deep undercover that only his boss still knows he’s a cop. A bunch of ruthless strong-arm bandits have been ripping off jewelry stores and Chow gets a chance: break up the job they have planned for Christmas, and he can come in from the cold. Chow reluctantly agrees, but winds up discovering that he’s got more in common with the gang foreman, played by Danny Lee, than his own bosses.
Shot in 1986, what does CITY ON FIRE have to offer viewers in 2015? Two things. First, the performances. Danny Lee is the cool older brother everyone wishes they had, and bit parts are played by a rogue’s gallery of some of Hong Kong’s best character actors. But it’s Chow Yun-fat’s mercurial undercover cop that still delivers 20,000 watts of star power today. The other thing CITY ON FIRE offers is Lam’s worldview. A precursor of The Wire, this flick shows us a city whose institutions feed on the blood of the poor. It’s a passionate portrait of the little people trying to eke out a living on either side of the law, and dying for their trouble. CITY ON FIRE was released in 1987. 28 years later, that city still burns.
Director Ringo Lam will attend the screening. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York.
So that’s Day Two. See you back here in a minute for Day Three,
— JON ABRAMS (@jonnyabomb).
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Tags: Aaron Kwok, Anh Sang-Hoon, Asian Cinema, chow yun fat, Danny Lee, Hong Kong, Jang Hyuk, Kang Ha-Neul, Kang Hanna, Korea, Longman Leung, New York, NYAFF, Quentin Tarantino, Ringo Lam, Roy Cheung, Screenings, Shin Ha-Kyun, Suen Yuet, Sunny Luk, Tony Leung Kar-Fai