Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hibiscus Town

The story is about how life in a small town where a couple sells rice bean curd changes during the Cultural Revolution.

Had a better understanding of the Cultural Revolution which is like a large scale social experiment! There is a very tight command and control structure and people's roles are reversed. The rich has to sweep the streets while the uneducated poor became civil servants. Learnt even more about the background to the Cultural Revolution when I chanced upon a talk on Mao ZeDong at the World Book Fair in the later part of the day.

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story

The film is a documentary about the problem of North Koreans abducting Japanese during the late 70s and early 80s period and focus on the case of Megumi Yokota who was 13 years old when she was abducted in 1977.

Was very happy that I managed to get the free tickets that Planet Ads was giving out! Learnt that this is not about a few bad guys abducting rich kids for ransom but involves large scale secret agent operation from a hostile country. Pretty informative as the political situation of both Japan and Korea was explained and there were interviews with Megumi's family and friends as well as a North Korean spy. Felt quite sad for the family of the victims as they had to visit many different places to publicise their cause and when the old photos of Megumi Yokota was shown on the screen!

Internet Movie Database Link

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Experiment

The story is about a two week psychological experiment conducted to observe how a group of men would behave when given roles as guards or prisoners in a make-shift prison cell. The rules state that anyone can quit anytime, no violence is allowed and money is only given to all those who make it to the end of the experiment.

Quite scary to see how the guards slowly start to abuse their authority while the prisoners have to endure the stress of living in a cell! Realised that it is based on the true story only after watching the film!

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Dancer Upstairs

The story is about a police investigating the identity of a mysterious leader who instigated a series of violent acts in the name of starting a revolution. The title comes about because his daughter learns ballet and he became friends with her teacher.

Not the usual CSI type of story where the focus is on getting clues to solve the crime as there is some discussion about family relationship and other social issues. A little slow pace but I liked how everything gels together towards the end!

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Da-Yu: The Touch of Fate

The story is about how a school drop-out fell into bad company and learnt to be a pickpocket. He enjoys his new found lifestyle at first but soon finds out that it is not as rosy as he thinks.

Liked the animation, the fantasy sequences and the in-depth character study! The lead actor's female classmate looks quite cute too!

Internet Movie Database Link


The story is about the hardships that a family has to face especially that of the mother. Quite coincidental that I am watching this on the eve of Mother's day! A search on the Internet Movie Database shows more than a dozen films with the same title!

Read from "One Hundred Years of Japanese Cinema" by Donald Ritchie that this is director, Mikio Naruse's, happiest film. The DVD cover with two smiling faces seems to convey the same message too! I think I agree with the comment based on the few films from the director that I have watched so far. The playful kids and the cheerful teenage daughter who is in love with a bakery assistant help to liven up the atmosphere while we see how the mother struggles to keep the family together. Good storyline and nicely executed!

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Summer Palace

The story is about the life of a teenage girl from her college days in the late 80s to more than 10 years later in the 21st century. Many big events happened along the way, for example, the Tiananmen Square incident, the fall of Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet empire and the Hong Kong reunification.

Had hoped to understand more about the Tiananmen Square incident as the protagonist was studying in Beijing University at the right time but was disappointed! The political events during the era only served as a backdrop and had nothing to do with the story at all! Liked the nice songs played but the film felt too long and could have been compressed a bit. Pretty good acting by the lead actor and actress although I find it hard to understand why they do certain things.

Internet Movie Database Link

Friday, May 04, 2007

When A Women Ascends The Stairs

This film has one of the most beautiful titles in my opinion! It is descriptive as it evokes an image of a beautiful lady making her way up the stairs elegantly, yet there is little clue on what exactly the film is about and leaves much room to the viewer’s imagination. The beautiful lady, Keiko, is played by Takamine Hideko who has acted in several other Naruse films such as “Floating Clouds” and “Lightning”. She is the head bar hostess and has to climb a steep staircase every night when she goes to work. This explains how the title comes about. The staircase is also symbolic of the obstacles that she has to overcome each day in order to survive.

Set in Tokyo in the early sixties, Keiko faced the same set of problems that women face today. She had to deal with pressures from work and from her family. At the workplace, she has a demanding boss but the manager likes her and she is on very good terms with the girls under her charge. Her public relations skills is put to good use when she deals with her customers that included a rich arrogant man, an old sugar daddy, a fat man who looked like her ex-husband and a good looking banker. Her family which included her mother, her retrenched brother and her polio inflicted nephew all depended on her to be the breadwinner.

I liked how voice over narration was used as both a social commentary and the inner thoughts of the lead actress! By listening attentively to what is being said and correlating it to the well shot documentary styled outdoor scenes of the city and ordinary people walking about, one is able to piece together a pretty concrete picture of people’s life then. The accompanying soundtrack that consists of light piano and xylophone music is soothing to the ears and does not distract one from the main story.

I also found out that the director was a very good story teller and was able to explain the cause of a certain action and its ripple effect of the resulting consequence really well! The tempo of the film was quick and I did not feel bored at any time! The director’s humanistic touch in the story also makes one feel for the character as they go through the ups and downs of their life.

This is one of the best Japanese films I have ever seen and I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Au Hasard Balthazar

This is about the life of a donkey whose name is Balthazar. The donkey had to work very hard and yet was mistreated by some of its owners.

A very unique film that sees life through the eyes of a donkey! The narrative is not very straightforward though and many scenes not directly related to the story are omitted to give it a minimalistic feel. Nice background music by Schubert and the ending was beautifully done!

Internet Movie Database Link