Blog Archives

Wicked Woman (1958)

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It appears that writings of the early Meiji era (around 1870s) of Japan were littered with popularised tales of dokufu or “poison women”; women who were violent criminals, thieves and murderers. A lot of the tales were based on real people and then the tales were mainly exaggerated through popular fiction, kabuki theatre and much later in films.

One of the most famous was Takahashi Oden who, in real life, was known to have poisoned her leprosy-riddled husband and stabbed … (read more)

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Strange Circus (2005)

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Since the advent of Ring in 1998, Japanese horror has been largely engulfed by the sub-genre popularly labelled as “J-horror” — with its eerie girls in white, faces hidden in black matted hair. These days the flag is still being vehemently waved by directors such as Takeshi Shimizu and Norio Tsuruta, but other sub-genres of horror are beginning to rise to the surface. It would be true to say that a blend of psycho-sexual horror has been gaining momentum in … (read more)

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House of Mahjong (2007)

Well, you see there’s a “House” and it has, y’know… “Mahjong” in it. With little more than two shooting locations the title of the film certainly bares it all: a strangely customer-less shopping mall and the interior of a millionaire’s mansion. Everything about this film speaks of its incredibly low budget – from the script, the acting to the bland production and cinematography. But before you figure that you’ve read all you need to read, there is actually a lot … (read more)

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Full House (2004)

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Figuratively riding the “Korea Wave” (or Hallyu) that saw a dramatic rise with the hit TV drama Winter Sonata in 2002, Full House is another Korean TV drama that became a major hit throughout Asia. Its success also launched the acting and singing career of Jung Ji-hoon, better known under his musical stage name of Rain (or “Bi” in Korean), whose immense popularity has seen him to be included in Time Magazine’s Top 100 list of Most Influential People … (read more)

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Ermo (1994)

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Since the institution of economic reforms beginning in the late 1970s, China has been a country that has seen a lot of change; even now more so than ever before. As more private enterprises have been allowed to flourish, the country has found itself in quite a dramatic transition from traditional Maoism to the materialist values of capitalism. While Ermo may comically tell a simple tale of a family from a small Chinese town, it finds itself deep within this … (read more)

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South of the Clouds (2004)

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The “road movie” is not a literal genre like, say, detective fiction, but more of a metaphysical concept of a journey and its destination. In fact, it almost always begins being defined by its illusory or even mythological destination and ends being defined only by the journey – transcending its physical state into something more emotional and spiritual. This concept has held the fascination of many filmmakers, particularly recently with Korean director Song Il-gon with such films as Flower Island(read more)

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Hua Yao Bride In Shangri-la (2005)

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Aside from the occasional films that slip below or through the government radar, Chinese cinema appears to often suffer from the same nationalistic self-obsession that gripped Australian cinema in the 1980s, where it seemed every film needed to exalt national identity through rural tales of sheep dogs, criminals, horses, criminals on horses, etc. Rural China is not just a common backdrop for Chinese films but its cultural exponents are a crucial focus for many of its stories. Hua Yao Bride (read more)

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Apart From You (1933)

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Mikio Naruse has often been attributed to the defining directorial triumvirate of early Japanese cinema; consisting of himself, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. Despite this illustrious comparison, the works of Naruse have remained relatively inaccessible and unknown to audiences both inside and outside of Japan.

Apart From You is Naruse’s 20th film, made during his most successful era of silent film. The story’s modest scope is serviced by a small principal cast consisting mainly of three characters. Kikue (Mitsuko Yoshikawa) … (read more)

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