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Monk Comes Down the Mountain (2015)

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Want to see a movie where a bunch of stuff happens? You’ve come to the right place.

I really don’t know what to make of this one. I entertained a fancy of simply posting a series of screenshots to convey how discombobulating a viewing experience this film provides, but I’m going to try and describe it as best I can in words as well.

Imagine a meandering and often lovely-to-look-at indie film, with a main narrative thread broken up by … (read more)

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Together (2003)

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Let’s set some things straight. Yes I have some Chinese ancestry (quite a lot of it actually) which does mean, yes I did have Chinese immigrant parents. However, that does not automatically lead to me having studied any kind of instrument, in particular (rather aptly) the violin. If anything, my musical talent totals to a few shrill notes on the recorder and drunken bouts in karoake bars – both of which the less said the better.

That does not mean, … (read more)

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Farewell My Concubine (1993)

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Farewell, My Concubine is not an easy film to watch. It deals with social and political upheaval in China from the Japanese invasion through to the Cultural Revolution, by following the three main characters through those difficult times. But it is still a very moving, and very beautiful, film, with some superb performances.

The story follows two boys training in a Beijing Opera school, who grow up to be major stars. Shitou, the older of the two, is a strong … (read more)

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The Emperor and the Assassin (1999)

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It’s by Chen Kaige, who made Farewell, My Concubine, so you know it will be huge and detailed. It stars Gong Li and Zhang Feng Yi, both mainland megastars, so you know it’s big budget. And it garnered lots of attention internationally, so you know it translates well. But for my money, it’s a bit too big, and a bit too overblown, although given that it’s one of the biggest stories in Chinese history that’s understandable. Just don’t watch … (read more)

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The Promise (2005)

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This is an extremely silly film on which a startling amount of money was spent, and on which some very fine talents worked. Puzzling. One thing is for sure: just as the sheep is not a creature of the air, so Chen Kaige is not Tsui Hark. Hark is renowned for his ability to make superb fantasy, films that have a beauty and grace that transcend their often-humble special effects. No-one who’s ever seen A Chinese Ghost Story or its … (read more)

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