Archive for January, 2011

A GOOD HUSBAND  by director Isao Yukisada will be screened at Mpark 4 first in the US.  For Valentine’s Day, FuzzyCalifornia presents  a surprisingly touching sweet love fantasy.

A GOOD HUSBAND is a story of a couple who has been married 10 years. The husband is no good cheat but his wife keeps on loving him. One day, out of the blue, an incident befalls them, and their everyday life for last 10 years changed and reveiled what they left behind them.

Director  Isao Yukisada, who made his youthful cinematic reputation with GO and CRYING OUT LOVE , IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, has directed a fantasy for adults. THe mricle that befalls this couple at the end will make you weep… He says, “This is my attmept to encourage more films teaturing people like us, in our 40s. I wanted to direct a film in which two great veteran actors could simply show off how great they are, also wanted to prove that adults know how to have fun, too.”

A GOOD HUSBAND is the first play by Mayumi Nakatani, whose works are staged internationally, to be adapted into a film. The leads are a couple in their 40s. Etsushi Toyokawa, who first achieved international accalim in LOVE LETTER and many other Shunji Iwai films, plays the husband, Shunsuke. As Toyokawa’s popularity at home and abroad soars, he has recently performed in SINKING OF JAPAN, HULA GIRLS, and 20th CENTURY BOYS. His wife, Sakura, is performed by Hiroko Yakushimaru, best known recently for her performance as the gentle mother in ALWAYS-SUNSET ON THIRD STREET. After making her riveting debut in PROOF OF THE WILD as a teenager, her brilliant lead performances in a string of Kadokawa idol films established her as an iconic actress still widely adored today.

Joining them is the powerful young actress, Asami Mizukawa, who starred in CHAMELEON by Junji Sakamoto and TV series NODAME CANTABILE, and GAKU HAMADA who starred in THE FOREIGN DUCK, THE NATIVE DUCK and FISH STORY, directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. The Veteran actor Renji Ishibashi, who has played everything from a yakuza boss to a corporate raider, delivers a memorable perfomance as a drag queen.

The past year saw Taiwanese cinema continue to scale new heights as directors, both young and established, produced new works with polished production quality and fluid storytelling. Though lighthearted romance flicks starring pop idols made up the bulk of this year’s movies, a considerable amount of diversity was shown in the directors’ choices of subject matter.

The year started with Doze Niu’s (鈕承澤) Monga (艋舺), a gangster movie that looks at the underworld through rose-tinted glasses. Friendship, loyalty and the loss of innocence take precedence over violence in the story of five young friends. With box-office receipts reaching NT$258 million (US$8.8 million), the movie was this year’s third-highest grossing film in Taiwan, falling slightly behind Iron Man 2 (NT$260 million) and Inception (NT$288 million). Despite its uneven narrative, the film succeeded as a Made-in-Taiwan blockbuster because of effective publicity, the appeal of its pop star cast and its local subject matter.

Seven Days in Heaven (父後七日), on the other hand, was a surprise box-office success starring largely theatrical and nonprofessional actors. Directed by veteran television director Wang Yu-lin (王育麟) and novelist Essay Liu (劉梓潔), the absurd comedy focuses on traditional Taiwanese mourning rituals and examines death and how we cope with it. The culturally rooted production made it into the top five highest grossing Chinese-language movies of the year in Taiwan, with box-office receipts totaling more than NT$34 million, a success hard-earned through word of mouth rather than fancy marketing gimmicks.

Far from the Changhua countryside where Seven Days in Heaven takes place, Taipei is given a sweet, romantic treatment in Taiwanese American director Arvin Chen’s (陳駿霖) feature debut Au Revoir Taipei (一頁台北), a romantic comedy set mostly during the young protagonist’s final night in the capital.

In Taipei Exchanges (第36個故事), also set in the capital, television commercial director Hsiao Ya-chuan (蕭雅全) evokes a fairy-tale city, in which memory and relationships are more valuable than commerce, through the story of a young woman who opens a business. Both Seven Days and Taipei Exchanges are blessed with vivacious cinematography, opulent art direction and delightful soundtracks, but the directors should have paid more attention to the narrative if they had hoped to tell realistic stories that conveyed genuine emotions.

Made up of three shorts, Juliets (茱麗葉) demonstrates an admirable amount of creativity and imagination compared with the year’s other works of youthful romance, which are mostly dull and pallid. All three directors — up-and-coming filmmaker Hou Chi-jan (侯季然), documentary director Shen Ko-shang (沈可尚) and veteran commercial director Chen Yu-hsun (陳玉勳) — are each working on eagerly anticipated new feature films.

Stories of Taiwan’s foreign migrant workers are rarely presented to mainstream audiences. But in Malaysia-born director Ho Wi-ding’s (何蔚庭) feature debut Pinoy Sunday (台北星期天), the leading men are two Filipino workers who try to carry a discarded sofa across town, out of Taipei and back to their drab factory dormitory on the city’s fringe. The well-executed film lyrically renders discrimination and injustice inflicted on the workers with comic absurdity, establishing Ho as a new talent in Taiwanese cinema and a name to watch closely.

In his atmospheric and exquisitely crafted second feature, The Fourth Portrait (第四張畫), emerging auteur Chung Mong-hong (鍾孟宏) takes a poignant look at the issue of domestic violence through the tale of a boy haunted by loss. Weaving rich color, elegant composition and fluid camera work into expressive cinematography that gives the narrative a dreamlike feel, Chung once again achieved a distinguished style and unique aesthetic that none of his peers are able to match.

Not to be outdone, established directors also released new works deserving of kudos. For his fifth feature, Tears (眼淚), Cheng Wen-tang (鄭文堂) paints a dark, pensive portrait of a police officer living with a tortured past. Billed as the first part of a trilogy that addresses transitional justice, the film neatly focuses on its characters and carefully examines how an individual’s actions, though condoned by the state apparatus, can have devastating consequences for others.

Noted for creating cinematic worlds populated by social underdogs, gangsters and men trapped in vicious cycles of violence, veteran director Chang Tso-chi (張作驥) broke many of his filmmaking habits with When Love Comes (當愛來的時候), a melodramatic tale that follows an extended family’s road to reconciliation and understanding. The female characters take center stage, and Chang’s trademark fatalism mellows when toward the end of the film tragedy strikes and the women band together, offering each other solace and strength.

As for documentaries, the award-winning Let the Wind Carry Me (乘著光影旅行) delivered an intimate portrayal of cinematographer Mark Lee (李屏賓) as a loving son and an accomplished artist. Directed by Taiwan’s Chiang Hsiu-chiung (姜秀瓊) and Kwan Pun-leung (關本良) from Hong Kong, the film can be seen as a valuable record of the words and wisdoms of Lee, as well as other greats in Taiwanese cinema, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢). Meanwhile, 28-year-old filmmaker Su Che-hsien (蘇哲賢) carried on the country’s tradition of narrative-driven, crowd-pleasing documentaries with Hip-Hop Storm (街舞狂潮), a lively, playful take on Taipei’s street dancers.

Park Chan-wook: The South Korean director gets dialed in

Park Chan-wook tested the bounds of new technology by using an iPhone 4 to film “Paranmanjang” (“Ups and Downs”). The smart phone brought many changes to the set, including some surprises.

Park Chan-wook likes the way blood looks through the camera lens of his iPhone – that rich texture and shock-effect red.

But Park’s no techno-savvy killer. He’s an award-winning South Korean filmmaker whose graphic horror-and-humor style has been likened to Quentin Tarantino‘s. His latest project is remarkable not for its gore but for its camerawork that could prove a populist breakthrough in the highfalutin art of filmmaking.

Park’s 30-minute fantasy film, “Paranmanjang” (“Ups and Downs”), which will have its theatrical premiere in Seoul on Jan. 27, was shot entirely with the latest version of Apple Inc.‘s iconic smart phone, the iPhone 4.

For years, new technology such as digital cameras and off-the-shelf editing software has been turning filmmaking into a cheaper and easier venture. But few high-profile commercial directors have embraced mass-market hardware, gravitating instead toward bells and whistles like 3-D and other costly special effects.

But Park rolled the everyman’s dice. And he liked what he saw.

With the stodgy traditional cameras that often block a director from the actors replaced by the palm-sized mobile phone, Park said his eyes were opened to new possibilities in moviemaking.

“Everything seemed more alive, more real,” he said. “There was a certain coarseness, like making a documentary.”

With his goatee and slicked-back Michael Douglas mane of black hair, Park, 47, has a reputation for risk-taking in celluloid style and substance. His films employ lush cinematography to portray such disturbing images as petrified children, dentistry by hammer, and underwater surgery on an Achilles tendon.

Among his nation’s most acclaimed filmmakers, Park first achieved fame in 2000 with “Joint Security Area,” telling the tale of the Korean peninsula divided by war. Four years later, he won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for “Old Boy,” the second installment of his so-called revenge trilogy and now a Korean cult classic. In 2009, his movie “Thirst” won the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Always on the hunt for new challenges, Park found a big one in the iPhone. The idea arose last fall just as he and his brother (and fellow director) Park Chan-kyong were set to begin filming a fantasy about a middle-aged fisherman who one day hauls a woman out of the water’s depths.

That’s when South Korea’s exclusive iPhone distributor offered to finance the $130,000 project if the pair agreed to use the device to make a theater-quality film.

Park’s initial plan was straightforward: He would use an average iPhone for the job, but add a series of more sophisticated cameras for the scope and close-ups he sought. And he would not use the device for any trick photography, such as attaching it to actors or miniature vehicles for point-of-view shots. “I wanted to use it just like I would any other camera,” he said.

But the five days of on-location shooting brought instant surprises. First off, the tiny smart phone looked oddly out of place attached to the huge dolly used to maneuver traditional cameras.

The device also introduced a new sense of freedom. “The actors said that using something almost invisible meant that they didn’t feel overwhelmed like they would by a regular camera,” Park said. “And for once, they said they could actually see the director,” who is usually huddled behind the oversized camera.

The iPhone even influenced camera angles. Park, usually meticulous with a normal single camera, was more freewheeling, employing as many as eight iPhones at once.

“We encouraged others to use their own iPhones during a shoot, people like the associate director, producer and even the actors’ manager,” Park said.

In the end, they had hours of extra footage. They compiled that, and some impromptu shots were used in the final version.

Even though his project used professional cameramen who were able to add sophisticated lenses to the iPhone, Park quickly came to what he considers a profound realization: With this device, anyone can make a professional-quality movie.

“People are familiar with the iPhone,” he said. “Many are obsessed with it. This is another way to use it.”

He hopes the smart phone will encourage the general public to play filmmaker. “Find a location, you don’t even need sophisticated lighting – just go out and make movies,” he said. “These days, if you can afford to feed yourself, you can afford to make a film.”

Through such Internet sites as YouTube, the results can be promoted by word of mouth. “The time is gone when you can only see films in theaters,” Park said. “It’s absolutely passed.”

Park is looking for an international distributor for “Paranmanjang,” which has already received positive reviews here. He may even use the device again for certain scenes or an entire low-budget project.

“But the technology changes so fast,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to be available next year?”


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