Many film festival programmers are finding innovative ways to engage with their audiences. While Venice still plans to have a reduced red carpet in early fall, other festivals opt for a “virtual” programming where you can see great world cinema from the comfort of your couch. That’s the case with Made in Hong Kong, the 25th iteration of the festival co-sponsored by the Freer-Sackler Gallery. Hong Kong is home to some great filmmakers, including John, Tsui Hark, Johnnie To, and Wong Kar-Wai. While the region is most closely associated with action, these films highlight the diverse array of voices available they offer. All these films are available to stream for two weeks starting from Friday, July 10, until Friday July 24.
This film follows an outsider at a high school and her unlikely friendship with a small-time criminal who agrees to protect her. The above trailer looks dour, and yet the film is billed as “melodramatic thriller.” Here’s Jessica Kiang over at Variety:
There are even times when this genre-inflected story of star-crossed love becomes so potent it threatens to undermine the film’s social realist credentials, and the very serious point it is making about the unchecked (in fact, systemically encouraged) ruthlessly Darwinian social order of Chinese schooling. But however archetypal the characters become — sometimes it feels like Xiao Bei is the bad-boy boxer and Chen Nian is the good-girl hope-for-redemption from a classic film noir — the electrifyingly real performances, especially from a riveting, guttingly empathetic Zhou, convince us of the emotional truth of even the most schematic of twists.
Co-directed by Johnnie To, this drama has the saturated color and exaggerated camera movement we have come to expect from Hong Kong filmmaking. It is also a strange alchemy of genres, mixing an underdog sports story with a cheesy musical. Here’s Richard Kuipers at Variety:
Poking fun at blind ambition and celebrity culture while propelling viewers on a dizzy ride of heightened realism and unabashed melodrama, “Chasing Dream” has some clunky plot contrivances and lacks emotional depth, but for sheer entertainment value, it delivers handsomely.
This is the sort of film you’ll want to watch with your mom. It is a gentle drama about a young woman who is estranged from her half-family, but is forced to reckon with them once her father dies unexpectedly (there’s also a cameo from Hong Kong cinema stalwart Andy Lau). Here’s Robert Abele over at The LA Times:
The trio’s respective home regions suggest a blueprint for something politically allegorical about modern Chinese women, but Mak’s sentimentally scored, elegant tears-with-laughter approach is more comfortable using dad’s unrecorded fagara soup base recipe (and its role in possibly saving the restaurant) as a metaphor for the mystery of family bonds, than anything that distinguishes them geographically.
This film continues in the action tradition of John Woo. Gun fights, car chases, double crosses, and slow motion. It’s all there, and what’s not to like? All that’s missing, really, are doves. Here’s Pat Padua over at The DC Line:
Director Jazz Boon and screenwriter Cat Kwan, who both worked on the first Line Walker, seem to pack too many characters and too much plot into this complex thriller. But well-choreographed action sequences keep things moving through elaborate twists and delightfully absurd plot devices. For instance, Tsai sends Morse code messages through a Rubik’s Cube, and it’s not just jet-setting intrigue that places a climactic scene at the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy may require more than the usual suspension of disbelief, but the breathtaking stunt work will keep viewers too busy to notice.
After playing the Berlin Film Festival, this lush drama now finds its way stateside, and with a new name to boot. It tells the story of two men who find themselves romantically attracted to each other, even at an advanced age. Here is Wilson Kwon over at Film Inquiry:
The subtle nature of Suk Suk can also be traced back to the quiet performances from the film’s many talented thespians. Every glance, gesture and exchange of dialogue feels restrained, but speaks volumes by channelling an abundance of pent up emotion. While all this can be read as part of Yeung’s reserved stylistic approach and minimalistic screenplay, there’s likely also an important cultural context in these performances; one that truly illustrates how reticent the older Asian generation tends to be when it comes to expressing their feelings. There’s a tendency to rely on unspoken words, and that’s exactly how audiences experience emotion in this film.
This is the other suspense thriller on this year’s slate, and while it features fewer chases and stunts than Line Walker 2, it still maintains a similar level of intensity. All the characters are dour, yet the universal story – a wrongfully accused man trying to clear his name – and the abundant style keep it from being too dreary. Here’s Ard Vjin over at Screen Anarchy:
When used well, Louis Koo can be one hell of a charismatic presence, and director Andrew Fung leans heavily on him. A good thing that is too, as the film has few other highlights. It is a competently made “whodunnit”, the outrageous parrot “McGuffin” is actually used a lot more sensibly and believably than I anticipated (or feared), and while melodrama is there, it doesn’t sink the ship, so to speak. This is a film which will not be known for its action scenes, plot twists, or outrageous style. Everything we see here we’ve seen done before, just in different measures and with different people. The only thing setting A Witness Out of the Blue is a particular flavor, and a willingness to have both good and bad guys painted in as grey a shade as the Chinese market currently allows for.
As long as you live in the DMV, these films are available for free! Get streaming, kids.