Since the late 90's, everyone's been talking about the New
Asian Cinema. Well, I'm not a big fan of the Asian Hollywood-wannabes or
the exploitation/horror genres, either. Although it can be exciting to
watch a film by Takashi Miike, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, or Ki-duk Kim, their works just
don't stay with me.
In contemporary Japan, there are two names everyone should
know: Hirokazu Kore-eda and Shunji Iwai. I've often thought
that if I'd seen Iwai's teenage epic All About Lily Chou-Chou
before I made Doki-Doki, mine might have turned out a very different film.
Kore-eda is hands down the national film poet. Maborosi
might be a little slow for some, but Afterlife and Nobody
Knows are deeply affecting films that everyone can relate to.
Over in Korea, a young woman, Jae-eun Jeong, recently made
an instant coming-of-age classic, Take Care Of My Cat. And
perhaps my favorite Korean film ever completely blew me away last year:
Oasis. The main characters in Chang-Dong Lee's film are not
saints by any means, but continue watching and you'll find one of the strangest,
most moving endings around.
Of course the Taiwanese have their own masters. Many
film scholars swear by the stillness of Tsai Ming-Liang's films, but I'm still
not able to appreciate what they have to offer. Instead, I'll recommend
Edward Yang's Yi-Yi, a modern epic about family ties and urban isolation
in the new megalopolis (both Taipei and Tokyo). Romantic, tragic, funny,
||When most people think of Akira Kurosawa, images of
samurai come to mind. But my favorites are his humanist dramas. Ikiru
is a life-changing film experience about a man who learns he's dying of
cancer. No sugar-coating here. Red Beard is an historical
drama that aims and succeeds at no less a goal than teaching us how to live.
This was my favorite film for several years and shows a master on top of his
These days my tastes run more toward Ozu.
I won't even begin to try to express what his films mean to me, but I would
recommend watching any you can find.
Shohei Imamura is the last living Japanese master. (he was
once Ozu's assistant). Imamura wanted to make a radical departure from his
master's serene representation of a sanitized Japan. In contrast, Imamura
depicts humanity in its rawness. The slow but ultimately moving Ballad
of Narayama (Palm D'Or at Cannes in 1983) is a very different take on the
gap between the generations. My favorite, The Eel, also won the
Palm D'Or in 1997, and follows an ex-con as he tries to go straight in a small