Pandemic viewing, Part Four

Tiny Tim as Mervo tries to entertain Jill (Itonia Salchek) in Bill Rebane's Bloody Harvest (1986)

Social isolation and “working from home” mean a lot of time for movie-watching … and the volume far outstrips my ability to say anything substantive about many of the films I do watch: so here I mostly just acknowledge what I’ve been viewing in the past 4-6 weeks. Part four of four.

Asia extreme

Boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota) and prostitute Monica (Sakurako Konishi) face off against yakuza gangs in Takashi Miike's First Love (2019)

Although there are obviously differences from culture to culture, many Asian movies share a tendency to to ignore the kind of “realism” Western, and particularly American, movies so often feel is necessary – which is one reason so many U.S. remakes of Asian genre movies take on a pedestrian quality nowhere evident in the originals. Three recent Asian movies – from Korea, Japan and China – use different approaches to explore societies in which economic and social inequality engender violence and to some degree madness. One uses blackly comic satire, one pushes genre tropes to absurd extremes, and one pushes neorealism into the realm of nightmare.

Year End 2019

Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) searches for his friend in an unfamiliar village in Abbas Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987)

The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.

Year End 2018

Boriska (Nikolay Burlyaev) oversees the firing of the bell in Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966) ...

Despite continuing rumblings about the demise of movies-on-disk, numerous companies continue to produce excellent editions on disk of a vast range of movies covering the entire history of cinema. Once again in 2018 there were far more releases than even an obsessive viewer could keep up with.

The wuxia epics of King Hu

Hsu Feng as Yang Huizhen, the imposing heroine of King Hu's masterpiece A Touch of Zen (1971/75)

Masters of Cinema have recently released two of director King Hu’s influential martial arts epics featuring excellent restorations commissioned by the Taiwanese government. The Blu-rays provide informative supplements to give context to Dragon Gate Inn (1967) and A Touch of Zen (1971/75).