Category Archives: HKIFF

HKIFF Review: Saving General Yang 忠烈楊家將 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 9th April 2013

Directed by: Ronny Yu
Starring: Ekin Cheng, Vic Chou, Xu Fan, Yu Bo, Raymond Lam, Wu Chun and Adam Cheng
In cinemas around Australia and Hong Kong on 4th April 2013.

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

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The issue with Ronny Yu’s latest action blockbuster epic “SAVING GENERAL YANG”, is that there are far too many people, a clear lack of focus and an inability to maintain the audience’s attention span. With all the pretty boys poster, the film will definitely attract a full house teenager girls audience, but for action fans and even Ronny Yu’s fans expecting another “FEARLESS” or “BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR”, “SAVING GENERAL YANG” is nothing like the aforementioned films and more likely alluded to “FREDDY VS JASON”. Assembling a cast of Ekin Cheng, Vic Chou, Xu Fan, Yu Bo, Raymond Lam, Wu Chun and Adam Cheng is not easy and directing them all in one movie is even harder. When the best thing are the cheers you hear from the noisy teenager girls quadrant in the audience, where each male character are being introduced, you know that this film is far more promotional art than actual cinema. I am not sure, what made director Ronny Yu take the film on board, but whatever it is, this is Yu’s worst film and for god sake, even “FREDDY VS JASON” is better entertainment. It is this bad.

I am not going to go into the detail with each characters or actors, as none of them came through with a performance, but rather like shooting a commercial with zero character and almost impossible to identify . Everyone just seems to appear here and there in random spaces, only to collect a big hefty pay check, before leaving the set for other venture. Veteran Adam Cheng’s probably comes of best, as most long time cinema fans, eagerly awaits his presence on the big screen for a long time. He is probably the only character that comes off somewhat interesting within the midst of mess that Yu presents to us.

All in all, words cannot describe how bad, incoherent and irrelevant “SAVING GENERAL YANG” really is. The world is full of bad cinema, but there are films that knows they are bad and somehow manages to entertain by being unintentionally funny. However, there is no such saving grace in this movie. The real issues are not just Ronny Yu’s poor direction, but rather from top to bottom, script to editing, Ekin Cheng to Vic Chou and pretty much everyone involved, except for the adequate period costume designers. Perhaps, the film is better of as a pure commercial, selling hot boys and Adam Cheng. I feel like I have ramble more than enough, but sometimes, you just have to get it out. My sincere apology, if I offend anyone, but let’s hope next time, for everyone’s involved they all make better movies. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated 1/10

HKIFF Review: Nobody’s Daughter Haewon 누구의 딸도 아닌 해원 白日夢女兒 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 5th April 2013

Directed by: Hong Sang-soo
Starring: Jung Eun-chae, Lee Sun-gyun

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

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This is how you make a good romantic drama that matters. “NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON” is consistently involving, relevant and at times feels as though the director is taking the audience on a personal journey. Director Hong Sang-soo has the unique ability to show the interactions between the characters so vividly and convincing that allows the audience to live and breathe the drama and slip within the spectrum seamlessly.

Jung Eun-chae (정은채) looks insanely similar to Jeon Ji-hyun (“THE BERLIN FILE”) as both have that inner toughness about them, where they can play strong characters while holding their own at the same time. Jung’s on screen chemistry with “Director Lee” played by Lee Sun-gyun is utterly convincing as there is a degree of need of each other that the audience can clearly feel on a deeper level. The long walks along the border walls, the awkward moments at a student gathering are all naturally played out as the two interacts with passion, normality and silence. It is a truly compelling couple.

All in all, “NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON” is a thoroughly engaging affair that is likely to glue the audience to the screen for the entire duration. In many ways, director Hong Sang-soo is alluding to the technique often used in “BEFORE SUNRISE” and “BEFORE SUNSET” to maximum effect. It is an admirable technique used as the focus is essentially on the actors and characters. The filmmakers also touch upon some deeper issues and provide a rather matured look at love and romance. Perhaps the better title would be capturing a few days in the life of Haewon. After all, “NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON” is probably as real as it gets and after years of romantic comedy and melodrama, Korean cinema may well have come of age. This is a real step up from the other Hoo Sang-soo’s film (“IN ANOTHER COUNTRY), also showing at this year’s film festival. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated it 9/10

HKIFF Review: In Another Country 다른 나라에서 他鄉的女人 (2012) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 5th April 2013

Directed by: Hong Sang-soo
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Kwon Hae-hyo, Moon So-ri, Yoo Jun-sang

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

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This is one of those films that presents a few scenarios or even alternative takes in life. I am not sure whether the film-maker here is intentionally trying to use the cultural differences for laughs or the very fact that most of the dialogue exchange is so bad to the point that it is actually funny. Casting French popular and award winning actress Isabelle Huppert in the lead role is decent as at the very least she tries to act in the midst of some truly atrocious acting display from the Korean quadrant (Kwon Hae-hyo and Moon So-ri, in particular). I am amazed to read that this film is being nominated for a number of Korean film awards and even completed for the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Perhaps, the film is easily riding on the fame of director Hong Sang-soo’s past films, as I cannot think of any other reasons. Even taking into account that most of Korean actors are out of their comfort zone by the need to commute in English, but some of the acting on display is borderline amateurism and almost unforgiving. When the best thing to come out of this film is the bad acting and dialogue from the lifeguard character (played by Yoo Jun-sang), you know the film is not entirely promising at all.

Isabelle Huppert is probably the anchor in the film, as possibly one of the few people to come out of the film unscratched. She portray the “fish out of water” role quite decently without standing out, but her true motivation is never actually explored. Kwon Hae-hyo who plays the Korean counterpart is clearly terrible and his acting is almost unbearable. His wife played by Moon So-ri is outright annoying, while Yoo Jun-sang who plays the lifeguard is easily the spot light and shining light of the film. Every movement, gesture and dialogue induce laughter. I don’t care whether his acting is so bad that it is funny or deliberately done, whatever it is, Yoo Jun-sang manages to provide plenty of entertainment and a lone bright spot of the movie.

All in all, “IN ANOTHER COUNTRY” feels low budgeted, suffers from poor production values and equally bad acting. While the cultural exchange and poor dialogue may be funny at first instance, it gets repetitive as the film goes on. Essentially, director Hong Sang-soo is probably trying to say something wacky about love, foreign people and Korean man, but “IN ANOTHER COUNTRY” doesn’t do it for me. The only good news is that the film is at times so bad that it is funny. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated it 5/10

HKIFF Review: The Berlin File 베를린 諜血柏林 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 4th April 2013

Directed by: Ryu Seung-wan
Starring: Ha Jung-woo, Han Suk-kyu, Ryu Seung-beom, Jeon Ji-hyun

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

Also showing as part of 4th Korean Film Festival in Australia KOFFIA 2013 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August to September 2013.

Korean Box Office: USD$48,146,202

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“THE BERLIN FILE” suffers from having too much of a plot only to fall into the cauldron of mess and struck within a simple formula by the end of the second half. Essentially it is a film that promises a lot, but delivers very little. Sometimes, film-makers need to realise that it is okay to keep things simple, but if you try to complicate things, at least make it worthwhile. “THE BERLIN FILE” starts off strongly and the complicated storyline even manages to hook onto the audience, but when everything that happened turns out for no reason whatsoever, the film flatters and became a cliché hostage situation. Like Hong Kong’s overrated “COLD WAR”, both contains excellent premises, and fail to last the distance and taking it all the way to the finale. This is a disappointing film, but certainly not terrible.

Ha Jung-woo (“LOVE FICTION”) is an adequate lead, but lacks the screen presence to carry a blockbuster spy espionage. He is constantly out shined by the always convincing Jeon Ji-hyun, which is a shame as the role requires more than just being intense and physically build. On the other hand, Ryu Seung-beom flairs the best as the key villain as his versatility can be seen right from the get go. Despite his character is largely a mystery, he is able to portray a more than efficient and dimension villain convincingly. Han Suk-kyu (“WHITE NIGHT”) does well in the final stages, but does not have the required screen time to immerse himself into the audience.

All in all, “THE BERLIN FILE” is clearly a blockbuster of a film with crisp production value, top notch cast and an international Berlin setting. All these elements add to what could have been a great spy espionage with some crucial and relevant north and south Korean political undertones. Instead, what we get is something we have all seen before. By the time the supposedly tense finale hit upon us, we no longer cares for the characters. “THE BERLIN FILE” is clearly not a bad film, but it could easily be a hell lot better. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated it 6/10

Wong Kar Wai JCCA and HKIFF Master Class Registration Details

Edited by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Date: 28th February 2013

Content as provided by HKIFF

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28 February 2013 (Hong Kong) ― Organised by The Hong Kong International Film Festival Society (HKIFFS) and funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Jockey Club Cine Academy (JCCA) Master Class is known for offering the local audience a prestigious opportunity to interact with world-class filmmakers, having brought JIA Zhangke and Keanu REEVES to town for its 2011 and 2012 editions respectively. Today the HKIFFS announced that Wong Kar Wai, one of the most celebrated filmmakers of our time, will conduct this year’s Master Class on 21 March during the 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF).

Wong has been widely acclaimed: icon of the Hong Kong Second New Wave; the visionary auteur who helped catapult Maggie CHEUNG and Tony LEUNG Chiu-wai to international stardom; the first Asian to win Best Director at Cannes Film Festival (for his 1997 work Happy Together); one of the top three in Sight & Sound’s list of Top Ten Directors of Modern Times; and the meticulous perfectionist behind this year’s Berlinale opener The Grandmaster. Indeed WKW has become an instantly recognisable and internationally revered name.

“We are very honoured that Wong has accepted our invitation,” said Roger Garcia, Executive Director of the HKIFFS. “With his unique and mesmerising stories and aesthetics, he has created a universe entirely of his own. His admirers hail from all over the world and he has helped advance the cause of Hong Kong cinema internationally. I am sure cineastes in Hong Kong would be thrilled to hear the master himself share his experience and insights at the Master Class.”

The Master Class will be held at 7:30pm on 21 March 2013 at Theatre 1, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, with simultaneous interpretation between Cantonese, Mandarin and English. Free and open to the public, registration starts 3pm, 28 February 2013 at http://jcca.hkiff.org. The JCCA is also receiving applications for another popular programme, Festival Tours, targeted at moviegoers aged 16-25 and featuring post-screening discussion sessions with film critics and scholars who act as tour guides during the HKIFF. Registration is free and on a first-come, first-served basis.

So if you are in Hong Kong on 21st March, don’t miss out!