Author Archives: Ben Jennings

Asian Cinema at the 55th MIFF

6:30pm, Wednesday August 16th.

Glurg… well, my wonderful festival has been topped off in the worst possible way by a nightmare bus ride home (curse my cheapskatery) and a nasty spot of flu that’s had me flat on my back the past few days. In the unlikely event that anyone’s still reading, I’d like to thank you for having done so! MIFF was a blast once again, made even better by the use of the magnificent Regent Theatre. Let’s just … (read more)

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Scrap Heaven (2005)

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Scrap Heaven is exactly the kind of title that you often see attached to the sorts of horribly angsty indy movies that this one almost is. While the movie certainly goes downhill after its very nifty opening act, it’s above average for what it is.

Singo (Ryo Case) is a meek, disenchanted cop who fantasises about heroism as he drives his desk. One day he finds himself on a bus with a hyperactive and mischievous toilet cleaner, Tetsu (Jô Odagiri), … (read more)

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Sad Movie (2005)

Don’t say the title didn’t warn you. Provided you are willing to give yourself over to this shamelessly manipulative fluff, you’re in for a very emotional experience indeed. But, surprisingly, even if you’re too cynical to take it seriously (and for that you wouldn’t need to be very cynical at all, to be honest) there’s still much to love about Sad Movie.

I’ve heard once or twice from individuals better travelled than I that Koreans are the best looking … (read more)

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Izo (2004)

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I like pointless carnage as much as the next person, which is why my reaction to this movie surprises me so much. I would not have thought it possible that such a relentlessly gory movie could be so dull. This is not a moral objection at all, you must understand. It’s just… well, it’s so boring even Takeshi Kitano can’t revive it. Izo gives gratuitous violence a bad name.

A change of pace for prolific weirdo maestro Takashi Miike, Izo(read more)

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The World (2004)

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I would’ve thought it impossible that such a beautiful movie could be produced in such an inescapably tacky setting. But after all this is the work of perhaps the most important film maker of China’s “sixth generation”, Jia Zhang-ke. Jia released his Cultural Revolution masterpiece Platform in 2000, and with the contemporary The World he may even have outdone himself. In any case, the two movies stand as a magnificent, if sobering, portrait of modern China.

World Park is a … (read more)

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Ikiru (1952)

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You know the story. The terminally ill protagonist is going to spend the final months of his life on a quest for redemption, right? Well, sort of. The thing that distinguishes Ikiru from its countless imitators (I reviewed one of its more distant descendants, the South Korean Short Time, a few months ago) is that the main character, Watanabe, is not such a bad guy to start with. Yes, he is a bureaucrat who has spent his entire life … (read more)

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Touch (2005)

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Who knew Japan still made such nice films? Okay, so perhaps that’s a little unfair: probably the nice films just don’t travel as well. Having seen this one, I’m afraid I can kind of understand why. I have to admit baseball arouses an apathy in me surpassed only by soccer, so you’ll have to take my bias on that count into consideration.

Minami, Kazuya and Tatsuya are childhood friends, and remain so into their teenage years in spite of the … (read more)

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Bang Rajan (2000)

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Bang Rajan is a terrifically entertaining, nice and gory old-timey battle epic, the sheer earnestly reverent seriousness of which almost, almost manages to overcome the innate silliness of its execution. I like this movie a lot, I’m just more excited by the idea of what, with its irresistibly populist story and giddy self-indulgence, it could have been.

My first problem is with its conflicted aesthetics. The movie’s wonderful verdant setting, finely (if anachronistically) chiselled warrior heroes and lovely maidens are … (read more)

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