July 27, 2007

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution Goes To The Venice Film Festival

Ang Lee's much anticipated spy thriller Lust, Caution will be competing for the prestigious Golden Lion award at the 64th Venice Film Festival opening next month. The film which stars Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Wang Leehom and Joan Chen is set in Shanghai in the 1930s/40s and is about a group of patriotic students' attempt to assassinate a high-ranking intelligence official in China's Japan-backed World War II-era government.

Other Asian films in competion include Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises, Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django and Lee Kang Sheng's Help Me Eros.

Good Luck to all the directors in competition! And especially to Ang Lee, hope he takes home the Golden Lion a second time after the fantastic Brokeback Mountain :-)

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19980533/, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3i515bf6e54d29305d039d877f1e13140f
Picture from: http://www.joblo.com/index.php?id=16703

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July 26, 2007

Japan's Scariest Horror Movies

According to this survey (in Japanese) conducted by Oricon Research, the Japanese horror film or film series that is regarded as the scariest of all time by the Japanese people themselves is the Ringu series. This is followed by the One Missed Call series and the Ju-on series.

The Top 10 scariest Japanese movies based on the survey are:

1. Ringu Series (Rasen/Ringu/Ringu 2/Ringu 0)

2. One Missed Call Series (One Missed Call / One Missed Call 2)

3. Ju-on (The Grudge) Series (Ju-On 1 / Ju-On 2)

4. Dark Water

5. Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales from the Japanese Underground Series

6. Gakko no Kaidan 学校の怪談 (Haunted School) series (Gakko no Kaidan 1 / 2 / 3 / 4)

7. Kansen (Infection)

8. Shikoku

9. Junji Inagawa (稲川淳二) series

10. Kuroi Ie (The Black House)

Actually, from this list, the popularity of horror films is clearly shown by the number of films that have been made into "series" with each series comprising of a few successful and not so successful sequels. In the above list, I think only Dark Water, Kansen, Shikoku and Kuroi Ie do not have sequels (yet).

I have not seen all the films in this list but to me, the scariest Japanese horror film is still the first Ringu movie, it not only set the standard for subsequent movies like Dark Water, One Missed Call and Ju-on, it also revived the Asian horror film genre and set the stage for Korean, Hong Kong and Thai horror movies to capture a big piece of the box-office pie in Asia and beyond.

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July 16, 2007

Goong's Yoon Eun-Hye Is A Man?

Cross-dressing themes have always been popular with scriptwriters in Asian movies and TV dramas. More precisely, themes where a woman dresses as a man and everyone thinks that she is a man even if "he" looks nothing like a man (that is besides the shirt and pants look and sporting a short sassy crop)... Somehow the other way around is not all that popular... I think that maybe it is because Asians traditionally prefer their heroes to be handsome, macho and the take-charge type, and a cross-dressing feminine guy does not really fit into this idealized image of a hero.

It could also be a side effect of the Mulan syndrome... As anyone who is familiar with Chinese culture or who has watched the Disney cartoon Mulanwill know, Mulan is a fillal daughter who dresses as a man and goes to war in place of her aging father. Her courage and fillial piety has made her a much admired heroine in Chinese legends. Many authors were very likely inspired by her life story and the cross-dressing female has since become a popular plot device in a large number of stories set in East Asia. Examples include Zhu YingTai in The Butterfly Lovers, Ruixi (or Ashiya Mizuki) in Hana Kimi and the countless heroines in Chinese swordsfighting novels who dress like men so that they could travel across the the treacherous "Jiang Hu" or ancient puglistic world with as little trouble as possible (think Ziyi Zhang's character in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

More recently even Korean dramas have jumped on the bandwagon, Yoon Eun Hye who starred as the lively Princess Chae Gyung in Princess Hours aka Goong cuts her hair short and ditches her gorgeous dresses in Princess for pants and shirts to play the "manly" part-time Taekwondo instructor and coffee shop assistant Go Eun Chan (picture) in First Shop Of Coffee Prince or Coffee Shop Prince. As with such stories, the hero of the tale Choi Han Kyul (played by Gong Yoo) does not recognise "him" as a her at the beginning. Despite being a lady-killer, he inadvertantly falls in love with Yoon's character and begins to doubt his sexual preferences. And you can be sure that the producers will milk this situation dry for laughs :-P

Actually I don't think Yoon Eun Hye looks like a man at all! Although she dresses like a guy and tries her darndest to behave like a guy, I simply cannot believe that anybody would mistake her for a guy because she is just so petite and has such delicate features... the most you could say is that she is a slightly macho looking tomboy but I definitely cannot think of her as a guy... Perhaps the producers could get someone who looks like Xena The Warrior Princessto play such roles in the future, at the very least she has the right size and she definitely looks like she can beat plenty of guys to a pulp :-P

Regardless, such themes do strike a chord with audiences and are usually very popular. Coffee Prince hit ratings of above 20%* within 2 weeks of its debut and looks set to rise even higher, a very good result by Korean drama standards.