Day Two of the thirteenth New York Asian Film Festival is officially underway! There are four full features on the schedule today (and the last one of the day probably has to be seen to be believed); very truly something for everyone.
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:
GOLDEN CHICKEN (2002)
Let’s learn Hong Kong history with hookers! Lesson #1: they’re called “chicken” in Cantonese. Sandra Ng plays Kum (means “gold,” hence “Golden Chicken”), a hooker with a heart of gold and a brain of bubblegum who takes us on a tour of Hong Kong’s history, as seen from the bedroom. Kum started turning tricks in high school, then moved on to an upscale nightclub where she overcame her lack of looks by developing a never-say-die personality. She goes independent, weathers Tiananmen Square, a couple of financial crises, the 1997 handover, and anything and everything else life throws at her, never losing hope that there will always be a better tomorrow. The idea of a movie about prostitution that’s fun and upbeat instead of serious and depressing could have gone very wrong, but Ng’s motor-mouthed, trick-turning Golden Chicken (for which she deservedly won a Best Actress award at the Golden Horses) is a cockeyed optimist who keeps us grounded and on track, representing everything good about Hong Kong people. She’s a woman making the best out of the bad hand life dealt her, and while she may not have chosen the best career possible, she’ll be damned if she’s going to complain about it.
PORTLAND STREET BLUES (1998)
Hong Kong’s mighty YOUNG & DANGEROUS film series about young gangsters (known as triads) was a huge hit that spawned numerous sequels and spin-off films, the best of which is this one, a stand-alone flick about Sister 13 (Sandra Ng), a lesbian pimp who sports a spiky ’do and boss suits. Flashing back to her childhood, it tracks how a scrappy kid from a crummy home became a ferocious triad boss, made all the more complicated because of the Ginger Rogers syndrome: everything the other triad bosses do, Sister 13 has to do backwards and in high heels. Shot in the streets at a breakneck pace, it’s a tough gangster flick with a blood-pounding immediacy that’s elevated to critical heights thanks to its three lead performers. Sandra Ng won a Hong Kong Film Award for her portrayal of Sister 13, while Shu Qi won Best Actress at the Golden Horse Awards for playing the enigmatic beauty Sister 13 falls for. And then there’s Kristy Yeung, turning in the best work of her career as Sister 13’s right-hand woman and best friend. It’s a trio of fantastic female performances that transforms this B-level triad flick into a gutsy entertainer about the fluidity of sexuality, gangster feminism, and hardcore street fighting.
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.
Director Park Joong-hoon will attend the first screening and will be presented with The Celebrity Award.
Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Service in New York.
Co-presented with The Celebrity magazine.
NAKED AMBITION 3D (2014)
We knew we had to find something special to test out the new 3D capabilities of the Walter Reade theater—and what can be better than 3D ejaculation jokes? This loose sequel to 2003’s NAKED AMBITION is Hong Kong’s second 3D Category 3 sex romp, following SEX AND ZEN: EXTREME ECSTASY. Chapman To stars as Wyman Chan as a low-level sex writer for an adult paper with a successful girlfriend (Candy Yuen) who has been taking over in bed. Looking for something new he travels to Japan with a couple friends, meets up with expat Hatoyama (Josie Ho), and accidentally ends up a Japanese porn star. Filled with cameos from actual AV stars (Tatsumi Yui, Okita Anri, and veteran male star Kato Taka, who teaches Wyman in one of the bawdiest training montages ever brought to screen) and HK stars (Louis Koo, Sandra Ng, Charlene Choi, and Wong Jing) the film is a brilliant send-up of the sexual dynamics of porn film and a the various subgenres that are staples in the AV industry. The film feels like a throwback to some of the best Hong Kong Cat III comedies, with tons of innuendo, a bit of social comedy and rapid-fire wit, and fun (if a bit sticky) uses of 3D.
Part of HONG KONG FOREVER! Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York.
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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