Talking Movies

September 8, 2015

DIFF PIX: Hong Kong Kicks

Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) in partnership with the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office (HKETO) are hosting DIFF PIX: Hong Kong Kicks, an action packed season of the best of Hong Kong cinema at the Lighthouse Cinema.

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DIFF PIX:Hong Kong Kicks is the second presentation in DIFF PIX, the Festival initiative which creates innovative ways for Irish audiences to engage with cinema of the past. Tickets are €11 and available to purchase on www.diff.ie.

The season of six films is guest curated by Roger Garcia, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Film Festival, and a renowned author, producer and film critic. Garcia was born in Hong Kong and educated in England. He was director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival in the late 1970s, and subsequently served as programmer, consultant, and juror on film festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia. His critical writings have been published by the British Film Institute, Cahiers du Cinema, Film Comment, and Variety among others. His books include studies on Hollywood comedy, Asians in American Cinema, Asian comedies, and Asian musicals. His latest book is King Hu: In His Own Words (2013). Garcia has been executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society since 2010, and is responsible for the Asian Film Awards Academy and Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum project market among other activities.

For those who want to get up close and personal with the real action, there is a high octane martial arts demo in Smithfield Square on Friday 25th September at 16.30 with Sensei Scott Langley and Hombu Dojo Karate. Hombu Dojo teaches Traditional Shotokan Karate with full-time instructors have won at world championships, studied in Japan, and now at a purpose built dojo in D6. Scott Langley, 6th Dan (Hombu Dojo Chief Instructor), is the head of WTKO Ireland & GB (World Traditional Karate Organisation) and teaches throughout the world.

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“Building on the success of last year’s Dublin’s Favourite Film DIFF PIX screening we are thrilled to bring this very special season of the best of Hong Kong cinema to Dublin audiences. We are particularly honoured and excited to welcome our guest curator Roger Garcia, one of the industry’s leading experts in this particular genre of cinema which has such a huge impact worldwide. I hope cinema-goers will enjoy this early Autumn treat,” says Grainne Humphreys, DIFF Director. Melissa Pascala, HKETO in Brussels, adds “We are pleased to collaborate with DIFF to present Hong Kong’s martial arts films to Irish movie lovers.  Hong Kong is famous for its Kung Fu movies.  This season showcases a prime selection of classics produced in Hong Kong over the last few decades.

The line-up includes well-known masters; Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon, Jackie Chan in The Young Master, Jet Li for Once Upon a Time in China II; as well as gems like horror-comedy Spooky Encounters. Aficionados should book early for Duel to the Death which will take place at 15.00 on Saturday 26th followed by a discussion with Roger Garcia. A film that was received to high critical acclaim in the east, Duel to the Death‘s reputation in the west is less widely established, and this screening will prove a wonderful discovery for Dublin audiences.

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Friday 25th Sept

MARTIAL ARTS DEMONSTRATION – 16.30, Smithfield Square (Sensei Scott Langley & Hombu Dojo)

ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 2 – 20.15, Lighthouse 1

Jet Li reprises his role as the legendary Wong Fei-hung. This time Fei-hung faces the government and the White Lotus cult intent on removing Western influence from China. who are opposed to anything western. Fei-hung continues a tentative romance with Aunt Yee (Rosamund Kwan) while director Tsui Hark stages some bravura action sequences, including a ‘wire-fu’ pitting Li against his double from the original.

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Saturday 26th Sept

DUEL TO THE DEATH – 15.00, Lighthouse 2 (Followed by Roger Garcia talk)

Duel To The Death is one of the final martial arts epics made by the Shaw Brothers during their golden age. Based on a familiar rivalry between martial arts of China and Japan,  Hashimoto, a Japanese fighter/swordsman, competes against young Chinese master, ‘Lord of the Sword’ Po Ching-wan. Hashimoto  must reconcile orders from his Shogun with his honour, all played out in frenetic action scenes.

SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS – 20.00, Lighthouse 2

Spooky Encounters is a blend of comedy, action, and horror starring Sammo Kam-Bo Hung. The plot is farcical in the best possible sense (mistresses, vampires, priests, nonsense), and the fight scenes grow increasingly outre culminating in an Evil Dead 2 anticipating scene where Sammo must fight his own possessed hand, before allowing the Monkey King to possess the rest of him in an effort to get to the bottom of things as it were.

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Sunday 27th Sept

RIGHTING WRONGS – 15.00, Lighthouse 3

Corey Yuen is a Hong Kong attorney, recently returned from the US, prosecuting two mob bosses for murder. When they get off scot-free after murdering the lone witness and his entire family, Yuen goes on a rampage. CID agent Cindy Jones (Cynthia Rothrock) tags Yuen as the perp and tails him, but then kid (Fan Siu-wong) witnesses the remaining boss’ murder and is targeted. But the plot plays second fiddle to a number of showdowns between Yuen Biao and Rothrock.

 

 

THE YOUNG MASTER – 17.00, Lighthouse 1

Ching Loong (Jackie Chan), is out of his depth when his Red School elder, Cheng Keung (Wei Pei), lands him with the job of representing the school at the annual Lion Dance competition in Guangzhou. Struggling against the rival Blue School things go from bad to worse as Ching discovers Cheng is in debt, and then somehow ends up framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Can Ching clear his name, Cheng’s name, and uphold the school’s name all at the same time? Can Jackie Chan fight?!

THE WAY OF THE DRAGON – 19.00, Sun 27th Sept, Lighthouse 1


Bruce is Tang Lung, a Hong Kong yokel adrift in Rome. Lee is on jocular form with this character, but that’s what people remember most – there’s a rather major fight: Bruce Lee. Chuck Norris. The Colosseum. AW YEAH!

 

November 20, 2014

Carte Noire IFI French Film Festival: 10 Films

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Les Combattants

Thursday 20th 18.30

Teenager Arnaud (Kevin Azais) meets surly Madeleine (Adele Haenel) during his summer holidays. His summer job of building garden sheds soon takes a back seat to falling in with her strange ambition to join a elite commando unit, as director Thomas Cailley mashes up the unlikely genre combination of rom-com, teen movie, and survivalist thriller.

The Blue Room

Friday 21st 19.15

Monday 24th 18.30

Mathieu Amalric directs himself as Julien in an adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel co-written with his co-star Stephanie Cleau. A taut 76 minutes sees Julien’s affair with Esther (Cleau) lead to his arrest, and Amalric will do a Q&A after the Friday screening of his spare, stylish and mysterious noir.

Two in the Wave

Friday 21st 20.30

Emmanuel Laurent and Antoine de Baecque direct this feature documentary exploring the fractured friendship of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. They meet in 1950, work together in Cahiers du Cinema, collaborate on A Bout de Souffle, and part in 1968 over the necessity of engage: almost a politico-cultural history of the 5th Republic?

Mississippi Mermaid

Saturday 22nd 13.30

Francois Truffaut directs Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Denueve in a 1969 film that met a hostile reaction. Set on Reunion Island, the romantic thriller of the plot begins to take a back seat to Truffaut’s fascination with shooting Belmondo with the male gaze usually reserved for women, before latterly haring off in even stranger directions…

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Bird People

Saturday 22nd 18.15

Director Pascale Ferran will do a Q&A after the screening of a film that mixes the highly unusual influences of Peter Pan and The Host. Josh Charles stars as an American businessman who encounters chambermaid Anais Demoustier at Roissy Airport’s Hilton. Their unexpected connection inspires two chapters: one avowedly socially realistic, the other gleefully fantastical.

Love is the Perfect Crime

Saturday 22nd 21.00

College professor and renowned lecher Marc (Mathieu Amalric) lives with his sister Marianne (Karin Viard) next to his striking university in Lausanne. When his most recent student conquest disappears her mother Anna (Maiwenn) arrives to find her. Amalric will do a Q&A about the Brothers Larrieu unsettling comedy-thriller of amnesia and romance.

Two or Three Things I Know About Her

Sunday 23rd 16.30

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 spectacle sees actors and actresses, including Marina Vlady, act with his direction echoing in their earpieces while he comments in voiceover on the scenes he’s shooting, and also on what he’s been reading, thinking, and feeling generally… So, a barmier(!) companion piece to Belle de Jour.

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Diplomacy

Sunday 23rd 20.15

Director Volker Schlondorff oversees a veritable acting duel between A Prophet’s Niels Arestrup and Andre Dussollier in this adaptation of Cyril Gely’s play. General von Choltitz (Arestrup) has mined Paris at Hitler’s orders, and Swedish Consul General Nordling (Dussollier) secretly tries to dissuade him from carrying out his diabolical orders to wantonly destroy France’s cultural heritage.

The Yellow Eyes of the Crocodiles

Saturday 29th 18.00

Director Cecile Telerman will do a Q&A about her serious comedy starring Emanuelle Beart as a spoilt Parisian, Iris. Iris lives on her husband’s fortune, but her penurious sister Josephine (Un Secret’s Julie Depardieu) has been abandoned for crocodiles by her husband; to her woes are added writing Iris’ touted novel.

Hiroshima mon amour

Sunday 30th 16.00

Before Marienbad there was Hiroshima mon amour, in which Alain Resnais left documentaries behind for this 1959 attempt to speculate on the fate of Hiroshima. Following after Night and Fog he still incorporated documentary footage but asked novelist Marguerite Duras to provide him with a story exploring despair and the impossibility of knowing apocalypse.

February 19, 2011

In Defence of Comic-Book Movies

Ah inconstancy, thy name is critic. At least when it comes to comic-book movies…

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2005. In June Batman Begins was hailed as intelligent and dark, a triumphant re-invention of the Dark Knight. Fantastic Four was then greeted with a universal groan of “Oh No, Not Another Comic-Book Movie!” in July. In September A History of Violence was enthusiastically received: it was compelling, disturbing, and, um, a comic-book movie. This predominant snobbish attitude towards one particular source of movie adaptations is unwarranted. There has never been, nor will there ever be, enough original screenplays to feed the beast; cinema is forced to cannibalise other mediums. Films have been made of out novels (Never Let Me Go), plays (Rabbit Hole), novellas (Shopgirl), short stories (The Box), poems (Troy), magazine articles (The Insider), TV shows (Star Trek), and yes, Hollywood even managed to get out a two hour film out of the country and western song Harper Valley PTA.

Why then do critics have such scorn for comic-books, just one source among many? The quite often blanket condemnation seeks to encompass a whole medium in one idiot generalisation. Can you imagine ignoring the variety and depth of the novel form which encompasses Cecilia Ahern as well as Fyodor Dostoevsky with howls of “Oh No, Not Another Novel Based Movie?” How then can one condemn a form which includes Maus and Palestine as well as Batwoman and Witchblade. It is odd that comic-books should be so peculiarly obnoxious to some critics as a source of stories given their properties. Comics are perhaps the closest medium to cinema being a combination of words and images. Indeed all films are storyboarded scene by scene, that is, drawn like a comic-book. Sin City finally did the obvious and treated the frames of a comic-book as if they were a storyboard and simply shot what was drawn. It’s just a pity they picked such a goddamn lousy comic to pay such veneration to.

Hollywood is feeding into the production line a whole medium of already visualised blockbuster adventures dripping with characters that possess enormous and positive name recognition. The comic-books that tend to be plundered are probably more suited to the serialisation now possible in television, but have to be Hollywood blockbusters owing to the special effects budgets needed for convincing superheroes. Heroes though showed that it was now possible to deliver convincing effects on a TV show and, utilising the expertise of comics great Jeph Loeb, create a serial story that hooked viewers. Its cancellation though leaves the multiplex as the natural live-action home of the DC and Marvel universes. And with great budgets come great responsibilities. To minimise the risk of flopping mega-budget movies for the most part (Avatar, Titanic) play things extremely safe; quite often it’s not the comic-books being adapted that are dumb but their film versions, as studios dumb then down for the greatest mass appeal. Indeed reviews of comic-book films miss this distinction by sometimes seeming to pride themselves on complete ignorance of the comics, witness Donald Clarke’s pre-packagedly jaded review of Fantastic Four. His sneers at the comic-book sowed doubts that he’d ever read it or he would be aware of the unexpected emotional depth of the original 1961 title. He also elided its importance in creating the Marvel stable, its success allowing Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to go on to create characters from Spider-Man to The Hulk and Iron Man to the X-Men.

Critics seem to regard comic-book movies as being intrinsically juvenile and unworthy of the big screen, but tend to praise the work of Frank Miller and Alan Moore, purely it seems because of their propensity for explicit sex and violence which, apparently, are the hallmarks of ‘mature’ movies. The twinning of Miller and Moore has become ever more farcical as Miller’s pet-project The Spirit exposed the sublimely stupid nature of his aesthetic, while Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman comics exposed the gulf between what a mature comic dripping wit and allusiveness and a film dripping CGI and test-screenings can do with the same concept. One can defend comic-books by citing Moore, who always wrote comics with big ideas (V for Vendetta, From Hell) before turning to novels (Voice of Fire, Jerusalem), but most comics merely aspire to be fun. And if a comic is well crafted, clever, exciting and affecting fun, why shouldn’t it be praised in the same way that Kathy Reichs’ Bones thrillers deserve great praise even if they are held to be populist trash next to a far less popular but oh-so-zeitgeisty Jonathan Franzen ‘masterpiece’?

Not every work of art is a penetrating insight into the human condition, not every work of art needs to be, most just aspire to be a good story well told. Is that not an admirable aspiration? Sneering at comics ironically recalls the scorn poured on people who valorised the works of mere entertainers like Hitchcock, Ford and Hawks seriously before the advent of auteur theory lionising them by Cahiers du Cinema. I unapologetically previewed a number of comic-book movies in my 2011: Hopes piece because comic-book movies are Hollywood’s flagship product right now, and a good comic-book movie is a good movie. Comic-book characters and scenarios obviously resonate or talented writers and directors wouldn’t continue to be drawn to them in comic and cinematic form. Indeed comic-book movies will only improve as more risks are taken. Mark Millar’s The Ultimates is the greatest blockbuster you will never see. It is intelligent, subversive, hilarious, outrageous and unfilmable because it would be too risky for the insane budget needed. Before condemning comic-book movies for dumbing down cinema read about Freddie Prinze Jr, trying to revive his flagging career by making a film about the super-team, but instead merely enraging Dr Bruce Banner: “HULK WANT FREDDIE PRINZE JUNIOR!!”

What we have right now are the comic-book movies that we deserve, but arguably en masse not the comic-book movies that we need…

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