From the 22nd to the 30th of April the 18th edition of the Far East Film Festival was held in Udine, Italy. As its names implies, the festival focuses on movies from the Far East, but what its name does not say is that it focuses on popular cinema. I went to a very unhealthy 57 screenings during the 9 days of the festival, so let me highlight several that are worth noting as you should probably be able to find many of them in a near future on streaming sites or as torrents.
A Melody to Remember: A solid korean drama about a lieutenant who, during the korean war, has to take care of a military orphanage where he decides to create a choir... solidly done, not much to my liking, but it was the N°1 audience award.
Mojin The Lost Legend: Uncharted in China basically. Very high production value, pretty entertaining, but as dumb as your average blockbuster. (Apparently got released in the US earlier this year?)
Bakuman: Japanese movie from the manga of the same name about two teenagers trying to get their mange serie published in Shonen Jump. An interesting look behind the curtain of manga publishing. Nothing mind blowing but solidly done.
Chongqing Hot Pot: a surprisingly good chinese film about three buddies illegally expanding their underground restaurant and accidentally tunneling into a bank... that happens to be the target of bank robbers.
Ola Bola: feel good sports movie about that time where the very multicultural malaysian soccer team tried to qualify for the Olympics!
Heart Attack: A thai romantic dramedy about a brilliant freelance graphic artist who skips sleep to work. The mental voice of the main character is used through the film for extremely effective comedic effects.
Assassination: historical action spy thriller from korea about a group of korean rebels who want to assassinate a japanese military leader and a korean industrial during the japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s. Multiple layers of treasons, suspicions and conspirations spiced by a lot of action make for a thrilling ride. By the director of The Thieves.
The Master (aka The Final Master): chinese Kung Fu movie about an ambitious Wing Chun master who teaches a student in the hope of having him beat the champions of other schools. The pacing of the film is very strange with a number of ellipses which render a whole layer of political intrigues among the schools barely intelligible. The strangeness goes on with a bizarre use of the music throughout (notably the same two bars of Hammond organ that open many sequences), but the core business is amazing kung fu scenes with brilliant editing and choreography. The final fight where the main character faces in a long alley master after master after master will certainly be remembered for years to come ( spoiler obviously). Made Ip Man 3 look pretty bland.
Mohican Comes Home: very funny and very smartly done japanese comedy about a penniless death metal (?) singer living in Tokyo who goes back to his home town in a small island in the south of Japan to present his bride to be to his aging parents. The core strength of director Okita's film, more often than not, is that whenever you expect a joke, he makes another, more subtle one. For instance you would expect many gags coming from the fact he looks like the mad man in a straight world, but there is almost zero joke on his out of place appearance. N°3 audience award, and Black Dragon award (voted by those with the highest level of accreditation, so people more likely to be cinephiles).
N°2 audience award went to a messy korean sci-fi dramedy, Sori: Voice From The Heart, where a man looking for his missing daughter stumble on an american spy satellite whose AI developed sentience... yep... The problem is not the wacky premise but the sub par plot that makes poor use of the premise.
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