Judging by press coverage of the New York Asian Film Festival, which will occupy the Walter Reade Theater starting tomorrow for a two-week, no-holds-barred extravaganza of the very best Asian cinema, critics are just as excited as we are for a blast of fun and creativity among yet another summer of re-hashed Hollywood franchises:
Ah, the pungent odor, the fermented esprit, the sulfurous insanity of the New York Asian Film Fest! It’s a new year for the city’s favorite attack of the imported-irrational, and as always, the jejune state of the late-spring/early-summer box office gets a shot in the ass.
The pulp is especially ripe this year, particularly from Japan, where manga-ness seems to have gone from a national pastime to a mass psychosis. There’s precious little other explanation for Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s Milocrorze (2010), which begins as a flatulently silly, fluorescent-candy-colored romantic fable but then unapologetically drops one narrative and style for others, indulging in music-video seizures like a Japanese variety show on 78 rpms and evolving into a parody of samurai romanticism, including a sword battle through a brothel that is equal parts hyper-bullet-time and Buster Keaton slapstick. In the end, you tell me.
-Michael Atkinson, the Village Voice
Against all odds, the festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The marathon of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Southeast Asian popular cinema opens July 1 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, with its ever-arresting array of Yakuza potboilers and martial-arts extravaganzas, perverse comedies and karate-chopping cyborg romps, ghost stories and historical epics — and guest appearances by legendary figures like Tsui Hark, the architect of Hong Kong’s new wave of action spectacles in the 1980s and ‘90s and this year’s major honoree. (…)
International film journalist Todd Brown, who runs the Toronto-based movie website Twitch, noted that New York’s festival stands apart from major Asian film festivals “that focus exclusively on the art house” and showcase directors who are practically unknown in their own countries. “They show the cinema that’s really popular in Asia,” he said. “You get a sense of what’s actually happening in those countries.”
-Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal
Every movie about young artists struggling to stay true to their ideals should have the fire-in-your-guts venom that Malaysian writer/director Yeo Joon Han invests in Sell Out, a take-no-prisoners musical comedy about being young and disillusioned in a world where selling out is inevitable, planned obsolescence is a fact of life and contradicting your boss isn’t an option.
-Simon Abrams, The L Magazine
Time Out New York picks its festival must-sees, which range the tonal spectrum:
A cold Korean businesswoman returns to the place she grew up—a remote island where the men treat their women like slaves. She meets up with her abused childhood friend, played by the incredible Seo Young-Hee, who’s nearing the breaking point: It’s either move to the mainland or break out the blades, I Spit on Your Grave–style. Guess which option gets chosen. Seo deservedly garnered a number of acting awards for her blood-chilling performance.— Keith Uhlich
Three down-and-out hipsters rent a room from a cranky retired opera singer (veteran Taiwanese star Sylvia Chang). A tragedy from the landlady’s past and the trio’s legacy of emotional damage threaten to detonate the détente of their living arrangement, until a group trip signals a thaw. It’s less a question of if than when the collective healing will begin, but director Li Yu (Lost in Beijing) paves the way to redemption with pleasurably prickly exchanges and puckish tangents, as well as gives Chang the role of a lifetime.—David Fear
See more Time Out New York critic’s picks here.
What film are you most excited to see? Share it with us in the comments!