I was wondering if any of you had some suggestions regarding Asian cinema. All I have ever seen are the mainstays, including:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
House of Flying Daggers
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle
I liked all of them. I tried to watch the Master Swordsman, but that was awful- it was like an Asian A-Team.
I should probably add that of all the ones I listed above, my favorite, by a boatload, was Gojoe. Keep that in mind when you make suggestions.
If you want something bizarre and heavily stylized (imagine a 40s melodrama/Western hybrid with lots of great action sequences and straightfaced parody), go for the Thai movie “Tears of the Black Tiger“.
Anything with Sh
–but there’s no swords or flying in it.
For an all time classic, you have to sit thru Seven Samurai,
Fist of Legend (Jet Li, excellent fight scene)
Iron Monkey (pretty good also)
Shaolin Soccer (Hilarious! and he’s about to release Kung Fu Hustle)
THE ORIGINAL “Shall we Dance?”
NOT starring Susan Sarandon
Gary Johnston: Your skills are fading with age, Mrs. Sarandon.
Susan Sarandon: You will die a peasant’s death!
Rashomon. And Seven Samurai. There are things we Westerners aren’t going to ‘get’ about Japan, but those films are literature on celluloid.
Plus, lots of swordplay.
Kung Fu Hustle is hitting theatres tomorrow… supposed to be more humorous than most.
For lesser known Kurosawa: Red Beard, High and Low, and especially Ikiru (which may be remade soon starring Tom Hanks). Well shit, any Kurosawa. Trust me.
Also, the Tokyo gangster films of Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter) which had a big influence on Tarantino. And John Woo’s Hong Kong films.
you’re speaking my language.
honk kong era john woo:
–a better tomorrow 1 & 2
–a bullet in the head
zhan yimou style chinese dreamscapes (he’s the guy who made house of flying daggers and hero btw)
–raise the red lantern
my all time favorite, wan kar wai
–in the mood for love
and for samurai flicks, you can’t go wrong with any of the above mentioned kurosawa but i would also recommend a little know, yet recently re-mastered gem called “the twilight samurai”
and that’s just for starters. hit me up if you need more. basically , the secret is the same for all films. pick a film you like, find out who directed it and check out all of his/her work….then find out who their influences were….
It would be mighty hard to go wrong with anything Kurosawa did.
Not previously mentioned so far is “Ran” – a re-telling of “King Lear” in a medieval Japanese context that really works well.
Shakespeare must translate well cross-culturally; Kurosawa also did “Throne of Blood” – the Japanese “MacBeth,” which I recommend.
Second Ran. Also Heaven and Earth is excellent in the same style.
Honestly, ‘Asian cinema’ doesn’t exist. If you like Hong Kong cinema, you should follow up with the Jon Woo films dagon recommended (start with The Killer).
Also good are Miyazake anime, particularly Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
I don’t know if it goes without saying, but if you’re gonna check out Kurosawa, try to get criterion collection DVDs. Their version of Seven Samurai, which was the first of his movies that I’d seen, has a commentary by a film professor that really helped me understand it.
the kurosawa criterions are MUST-HAVES! but i think some of the older releases may be out of print.
also, criterion is planning on releasing a set of kurosawa ‘compilations’ later this year. i’m a little worried about that because it may take away some of the ummph of the individual releases.
Akira Kurosawa, defnitely. I like “Throne of Blood”, the samurai-era adaptation of Macbeth, and the lesser known “Stray Dog” a detective story set in post-WWII Japan. Sounds like I should find the Criterion editions.
For modern HK action movies, I’d recommend either “Hard Boiled” (incredibly violent, but has interesting characters) or “Fallen Angels” (brilliant, but somewhat surreal). “Supercop” is also good, but cartoony.
For “historical” HK movies, I’d recommend “Tai Chi Master”. Oddly, the movie has been released in two different versions — avoid the one not called “Tai Chi Master” at all costs — they shortened the dialogue into incomprehensibility. “Drunken Master II” (believe it or not, not a sequel) is also a terrific action movie/comedy.
The movies you’ve seen are in some ways misleading for recent Chinese-language film. “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” is like a Chinese-language American movie — it was big flop in China. The two movies by Zhang Yimou (“Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”) are much artsier than most Chinese or HK action movies, and are a big departure for the director. (His older movies “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Shanghai Triad” are good, though.)
As for Japan, “Seven Samurai” is incredibly long, but one of the masterpieces of world cinema. Kurosawa is one of the most imitated directors (“Seven Samurai” was remade into the “Magnificent Seven”; “Yojimbo” was made into “Fistful of Dollars”, and “Star Wars” is loosely based on “The Hidden Fortress”.)
“Spirited Away” — basically a children’s story — is the best of anime, though the recent “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence” is also very good.
There are some great movies in those posts, especially pics from Kurosowa and early pre-Americancinema John Woo, but a couple other films are recently “Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsmen”, “Internal Affairs” which is going to be remade here with Tom Cruise and Matt Damon, and “Five Deadly Venoms”
(make sure you get the full original version and not the Mirimax chop job – although I believe that both versions are on the same DVD in the US)
Also a bunch of my friends say that “Sprited Away” is one of the best animated movies ever. I haven’t seen it but the recommendation, coming as it does from the same people who made me watch “Shaolin Soccer,” carries a lot of weight.
I can’t believe that people talking about Asian cinema haven’t mentioned Yasajiro Ozu, the greatest Japanese director. While Kurosawa is undoubtedly amazing, in Japan he is regarded as a “Western” director (a fair description? I don’t really think so, but that’s what the Japanese think). For the real Japanese cinema, check out “Tokyo Story” and “Early Spring.” Both films made me cry. Also in the vein of Ozu: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films “After Life” (called “Wonderful Life” in Japan) and “Maborosi” (which is poetic and tragic and amazing). Kore-eda has a way with subtle, understated romance that most American audiences simply wouldn’t get.
“Lost in Translation” was very cool and kinda Asian, but nothing holds a candle to “Seven Samurai.”
Ijust saw a Japanese film called, I think, ‘No One Knows’ that was fantastic…also, wrt anime, ‘Perfect Blue’.
Chinese/ Hong Kong/ Taiwan:
1) Wong Kar Wai/ Chris Doyle are the greatest movie makers of all times and places:
Fallen Angels/ Chunking Express
and Days of Being Wild.
2) All Ang Lee movies except Hulk and Ride Like the Devil are brilliant: Eat Drink Man Woman and the Wedding Banquet. Also Sense and Sensibility. I’ve never managed to find a copy of ‘Pushing Hands’; but im sure that’s good too.
3) For ‘Crouching Tiger’ style swords and romance: Try Swordsman I and Swordsman II (inspired by a long-running TV show; revived the Wu Xia style in the cinema & reached the West).
“Saviour of the Soul” is an underrated curio written by WKW. For comedy Kung Fu “Drunken Master”.
For classic Wu Xia.. ‘Dragon Inn’ (1966) is supposed to be prototypical of the genre.. it is good; but I suggest ‘Golden Swallow’ for preference. It stars Pei-Pei Cheng (the witch in ‘Crouching Tiger..’!).. has any woman had more beautiful eyes?
4) Edward Yang: Anything you can find.. the more famous is ‘Yi Yi’ (“A One and a Two”). See what you think of the bizarre ‘A Brighter Summer Day’.
5) Random nice Chinese melodramas: Try ‘Shower’ (should be available). ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Struggle for My Son’/ ‘Running for Son’ if you can find it. ‘Chinese Odyssey 2002’ was produced by Wong Kar Wai and gently mocks the genres.
6) Japanese.. not really a fan of most Japanese cinema.. certainly not the contemporary stuff, except the Studio Ghibli cartoons which have already been mentioned. (‘Princess Monoke’ is a marvel, better by far than the excellent ‘Spirited Away’.)
2 of the 3 masters have ben mentioned, Kurosawa and Ozu. (I think ‘End of the Summer’ is the best Ive seen by Ozu, better than the more celebrated ‘Tokyo Story’. ‘Floating Weeds’ is very similar)..
BUT THE THIRD MASTER is Mizoguchi: Sansho Dayu is surely amongst the greatest movies. The more famous ‘Life of Oharu’ is unbearable to my mind. Try ‘Ugetsu Monagatari’ too.
couple more (incidentally, none of the films I suggest fit with the super-violent/ cruel version of Asian/ japanese cinema. If you want that it’s all easy to find):
Vietnamese: Height of the Summer/ Vertical Ray of the Sun.
Korean: Chi-wa-ha-seon (sp?).. the 93 film by its Director finally made it to the West and I thought it was brilliant.
Thailand: Tears of the Black Tiger must be seen.. make of it what you will.
But check out the excellent ‘Monrak Transistor’ if you can.
Despite the iconic erotic poster images (by Chris Doyle) I think, ‘Last Life in the Universe’ was dissappointing.
Fists of Fury all the way.
“I’m the one with the good head!”
Well speaking of the violent stuff, there are two directors who should be mentioned: Takeshi Kitano (aka Beat Takeshi) and Takashi Mike. Kitano is generally known for his quite violent, gangster/cop themed films (Violent Cop, etc.) but has also branched out a bit (the aforementioned “Zatoichi” and “Kikujiro”). Takashi Mike is more notorious than famous at this point (at least in the states)–his movies are generally extremely violent, perverse, with a generous helping of oddball surrealism and sicko humor thrown in as well. I think he’s brilliant, but I can only recommend “Ichii the Killer” and “Odishon” with an enormous grain of salt to any potential viewer. If you were bothered by the violence in “Sin City” or “Kill Bill Pt. 1” don’t even bother, and even if you weren’t consider yourself forewarned.
Also “Spirited Away” is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this decade. A classic in all regards.
Second all of the above, esp. Wong kar wai. I would add takeshi kitano to the list. Also, I just saw oldboy at the theater, which I can’t recommend highly enough.
Oh, and anything with Maggie Leung, especially Irma Vep, which isn’t really asian cinema I guess.
Been awhil, but I think the name was “The Pillow Book” Really, really good….small hint…tattooed skin. Oh, and for a laugh, a really cheesy horror flick, “Iron Man”
The Pillow Book was good, if you can handle the artisticitude.
The exclusion of “The Killer” from the list of things you haven seen is a travesty. Purcahse now.
If you’re into horror, Ju-on was highly creepy. Ditto Ringu. Don’t expect the storylines to make all that much sense, though.
For anime, don’t forget Millennium Actress. One thousand years of Japanese history rolled into half-a-century of yearning for a lost love. Wonderful.
Also, am I blind, or did no one mention Enter the Dragon yet? :)
Yes “Oldboy” was oustanding. Korean cinema has really been on the upswing the past couple of years. But again, be forewarned, it is extremely violent.
Seeing the number of comments before seeing them, I expected this would be redundant, and indeed it is, but without suggesting that he is representative of “Asian,” or even “Japanese,” film, I simply can’t pass by the need to reiterate that not seeing the major Kurosawa films is to live the life incomplete. And it’s not as if they can’t be seen an infinite number of times; there’s a (good) reason they’ve been so inspirational to so many great film-makers, and audiences.
I’m throwing in a plug for Millenium Actress as well. It was amazing. My wife normally hates sub titles, but dubbing in English would have stripped out the incredible voice acting that was done.
I really enjoyed Yojimbo and Seven Samuria. I’m also a sucker for Miazaki (Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, etc.). He’s an amazing story teller.
Kung FU hustle is very funny.
Iron Monkey is from 93′ but has some great fight scenes and is great.
The Bride with White Hair- is very cool early 90’s
Dark Waters -is as scary a movie as you will see> horror
Swordsman II with Jet Li is great
Old Boy-is very wild, but interesting
Ringu-the original is cool
Wing Chun is fun- Michelle Yeoh
Shiri-very good Korean
AZNFILMS.COM is a good website to check out films
In addition to the Japanese films mentioned above, there is a whole slew of other Samurai movies rarely seen in the US or Europe, but which are just amazing. I remember years ago the old Surf theater had a Japanese film festival, whith all these extraordinary movies I had never heard of. The ones that linger in the memory are the Samurai trilogy, Samurai Rebellion, which I still remember as having the most amazing photography, and Sword of Doom. Almost all of these were in black and white. And many had Mifune, who is probably the best known Japanese actor in the west. But in many of these his oppossite number was Nakadai, equally as good.
And just to throw in something from poor Taiwan while it still remains an independent country, there was a movie out a couple of years ago called A One and A Two, about a Taiwanese family and its range of troubles, that was quite affecting.
“Blind Swordsman” or anything with Kenny Takashi
Also, anything even remotely based on the Lone Wolf and Cub stories are great fun
And of course, for classic cool (or camp) you can’t beat the Toho Monster Films…
Far a trippy ride from HK in the 60’s to a blade runner-like future, try “2046”. The first flick I’ve seen where Zhang Ziyi really showed her beauty. Also with Tony Leung, a dull Wang Fei, and classic Gong Li looking old and beat up.
The Internal Affairs movies are also cool. I’m sure the US version will suck hard in comparison. Then again, thats a safe bet if Matt Damon is in it.
Twilight Of The Cockroaches.