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Bulbul Can Sing Dir: Rima Das (India, 2018)

Bulbul Can Sing    Bulbul Can Sing Film Poster

Release Date: 2018

Duration: 95 mins.

Director: Rima Das

Writer: Rima Das (Screenplay),

Starring: Arnali Das, Manoranjoan Das, Manabendra Das, Bonita Thakuriya, Pakija Begam

IMDB

Rima Das is a self-taught film-maker from India’s Assam state who typically writes, shoots, and edits her own films (and more) and works with non-professional actors. Her award-winning films have been shot in her home state where she details village life of youngsters in contemporary rural India. Bulbul Can Sing continues this trajectory as she sets a coming-of-age story in her home town where three friends explore their identities but, when faced with the boundaries of their community’s strict social mores, face conflict.

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POETIC VOICES: A Trip Through the Taiwanese Avant-garde of the 1960s

Presented as part the 2019 Aperture: Asia and Pacific Film Festival, “POETIC VOICES: A Trip Through the Taiwanese Avant-garde of the 1960s” is a collection of four short films that were recently researched and restored by a partnership consisting of the people involved in the making of the original films, the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival curatorial team and the Digital Restoration Department of the Taiwan Film Institute. These films are all fragments of a wider body of experimental works created by artists who were influenced by Western avant-garde movements and eager to make adventurous films of their own whilst living under the control of an authoritarian government. What each of the films do is catch a snapshot of the country and its people during the “Taiwan Miracle”, a period of rapid industrialisation that made the country an economic giant in Asia, just behind Japan. Each film has a unique feel and touches on different aspects of Taiwanese culture and society thus bringing a lost world back to life.

POETIC VOICES A Trip Through the Taiwanese Avant-garde of the 1960s Mountain Film Image

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Ad Astra Dir: James Gray (2019) (USA)

Ad Astra   

アド・アストラAdo Asutora

Release Date: September 18th, 2020

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: James Gray

Writer: James Gray, Ethan Gross (Screenplay),

Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, Kimmy Shields, John Finn, LisaGay Hamilton, Bobby Nish, Sean Blakemore, Kimberly Elise,

Website IMDB

Following on from his sure-footed performance as a cocksure stunt-double in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Brad Pitt takes the lead in another of 2019’s biggest films but dials down the flashiness to portray an ace astronaut who must confront a hostile environment and emotional states as he goes to the far edge of the Solar System in search of his father to stop a civilisation-ending disaster.

Pitt gives an understated performance as Major Roy McBride, a skilled but buttoned-up military man famous for having a pulse that never goes above 80 bpm.

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The Best of Youth La meglio gioventù Dir: Mario Tullio Giodarna (2003) [Italy]

The Best of Youth    The Best of Youth Film Poster

La meglio gioventù

Release Date: June 22nd, 2003

Duration: 366 mins.

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana

Writer: Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli (Screenplay),

Starring: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Maya Sansa, Lidia Vitale, Fabrizio Gifuni,

IMDB

The Best of Youth is director Mario Tullio Giodarna’s 2003 film that manages to pack in 40 years of Italian history into six hours of screen time by following three generations of one family. Beautifully lensed and efficiently scripted, it says a lot about how good the acting and directing is that it feels epic yet intimate, that it never strains credibility too much as it charts social changes and that it ensures we care about the internal struggles of a wide cast of characters through the decades.

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Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood Dir: Quentin Tarantino (2019) (USA)

Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Film Poster

Release Date: August 14th, 2019 (UK)

Duration: 161 mins.

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino (Screenplay)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley,

Website IMDB

Quentin Tarantino is, without a doubt, one of Hollywood’s best movie makers. He has cemented his place by making violent cinematic spectacles that are riffs on genre conventions replete with references and re-purposed iconic imagery from older genre films to synthesise entertaining experiences. The style is often the substance and it often feels like being in a closed world as thinly sketched characters act out their tales surrounded by callbacks to older entertainment. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood feels like his most mature film to date because it is more of an open world. It speaks to more than just narrow sets of film fans as it relies upon and subverts the shared cultural memory of a wider audience who grew up with 50s and 60s Americana because the film is a melancholy love letter to a lost age in Hollywood where the transition from the fading allure of westerns to the glamorous swinging 60s was about to be knocked off course by the grisly fate of Sharon Tate, something that signalled the end of an era of innocence.

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The Crossing Dir: Bai Xue (China) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

The Crossing 

Running Time: 99 mins.

Release Date: March 15th, 2019

Director:  Bai Xue

Writer: Bai Xue (Screenplay),

Starring: Huang Yao, Sunny Sun, Carmen Soup, Ni Hongjie, Elena Kong, Kai Chi Liu, Jiao Gang,

Website IMDB

The Crossing is a coming-of-age film set to the background of a smuggling ring operating between Hong Kong and mainland China. It is a remarkably confident debut from writer/director Bai Xue and captures a new form of living what with the vagaries of living a transnational life and the opportunities travel affords.

Sixteen-year-old Peipei (Huang Yao) is a kid who lives in Shenzhen with her mother (Ni Hongjie) but attends a high school in Hong Kong, a privilege granted by her father (Kai Chi Liu) who comes from the island. As a result of her parent’s former union, Peipei can catch a train between cities, effectively crossing a border every day. Customs officials pay her little mind because of her school uniform, innocent face and quiet demeanour.

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Still Human 淪落人 Dir: Oliver Siu Kuen Chan Hong Kong (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Still Human 淪落人   

Running Time: 115 mins.

Release Date: Summer 2018

Director: Oliver Siu Kuen Chan

Writer: Oliver Siu Kuen Chan (Screenplay),

Starring: Anthony Wong, Crisel Consunji, Sam Lee, Cecilia Yip, Himmy Wong,

IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/c12.html

The city state of Hong Kong has been the setting for big emotions found in heroic bloodshed actioners, crime thrillers, romantic dramas, and martial arts extravaganzas. However, one of the most satisfying films to come out of the place in recent years is a small-scale drama about the friendship between a disabled man and his carer. Still Human is the debut feature film from Oliver Siu Kuen Chan and it has won accolades such as Best New Director at the 2019 Asian Film Awards, the Netpac Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival 2018 and the Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019. With a mixture of assured storytelling and great acting, it provides a moving drama that is sure to win over anyone who watches it. Just keep a hanky ready.

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Jimami Tofu ジーマーミ豆腐 (2017) Directors: Jason Chan, Christian Lee

Jimami Tofu  Jimami Tofu Film Poster

ジーマーミ豆腐 Ji-ma-mi Toufu

Running Time: 121 mins.

Release Date: March 28th, 2018

Director:  Jason Chan, Christian Lee

Writer: Jason Chan, Christian Lee (Screenplay),

Starring: Jason Chan, Rino Nakasone, Mari Yamamoto, Christian Lee, Masane Tsukayama, Masoyoshi Kishimoto,

IMDB

Jimami is the Okinawan dialect word for peanut and jimami tofu is a simple but much-loved speciality of the islands. This is one of the ingredients that Singaporean directors Jason Chan and Christian Lee use to cook up a tale of history, lost love, and fusion cooking with varying results.

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Columbus Director: Kogonada (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Columbus   Columbus Film Poster

 Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: August 04th, 2017

Director: Kogonada

Writer: Kogonada (Screenplay)

Starring: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin, Eren Allegretti, 

IMDB

This had it’s Japanese premiere at the Osaka Asian Film Festival where I watched it and pretty much burst into tears at the end.

There are many artistic avenues available for taking audiences into the lives of others and film offers the most direct and intense of those experiences. You can enter another person’s life in ways that other art-forms cannot hope to achieve, talented film-makers getting audiences to parse the most complex of emotions with ease if the form they construct on screen is right. Columbus is a great example. The film is named after the titular town located in Indiana which is famous for having the largest collection of public buildings designed by Modernist architects such as I.M. Pei, John Carl Warnecke, and Richard Meier. Using the pleasures of architecture and pleasurable dialogue, director Kogonoda martials his sets and cinematic techniques to concisely get at the heart of complex set of relationships through great locations and a script full of neat symmetry for the main characters.

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I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016), Dir: Xiaogang Feng, China, Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017

I Am Not Madame Bovary   i-am-not-madame-bovary-film-poster

わたしは潘金蓮じゃない Watashi ha Pan jin-lian janai   

Running Time: 139 mins.

Director: Xiaogang Feng

Writer: Zhenyun Liu (Original Novel/Screenplay)

Starring: Bingbing Fan, Lixin Zhao, Yi Zhang, Tao Guo, Ziaogang Feng, Chengpeng Dong

IMDB

I Am Not Madam Bovary” is a Chinese film adapted for the screen by Liu Zhenyun from his own 2012 novel, “I Did Not Kill My Husband.” The use of the name of Gustave Flaubert’s 19th Century novel is to make thematic connections for audiences familiar with the tragic titular adulteress (the Chinese/Japanese title features the name of another fallen woman famous throughout East Asia) but it is also quite apt since it details one woman’s determined efforts to clear her name of adultery and seek legal justice. This story starts out as a seemingly little domestic spat in a provincial town but turns into a ten-year odyssey of absurd quantities that nearly reaches the highest level of state as the film turns into a mischievous critique cheekily challenging Chinese officialdom through satirising the legal system.

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