Dragon Eye Congee: A Dream of Love (Taiwanese) 2005

An American-Chinese man (Shaun-Tam) returns to Taiwan to find his dream girl, and he is surprised by the result.

This film actually had a one-off screening at GV cinemas last year. I was raring to go watch it, until I found out that it was sold out real fast because fans of Fann Wong were flocking in droves to see their idol in action on the big screen. Nonetheless I had to settle for the DVD, courtesy of movieXclusive.com.

Perhaps the only good thing about this movie, is how the dragon eye congee looked so appetizing. I felt hunger pangs as I watched Fann Wong serve bowl after bowl for her screen beloved, and observing with those longing eyes as he slurps it all down.

Dragon Eye Congee: A Dream of Love, looks and feels like a telemovie. And being a predominantly Taiwanese production, expect the usual television melodrama and weepie moments coming on to try and manipulate your emotions. Sadly (no pun intended), the movie while beautiful to look at and filled with wonderful cinematic shots, lacked the very soul that it wants to preach about – love. There’s nothing too deep in exploring that emotion, and what transpires is a romance that’s too good to be true, and exists only in children’s fairy tales.

Written by Yang Bo, I felt that the short story on which the movie is based upon, would have been more interesting than its cinematic vision, directed by Allen Chang. In fact, you could totally forgo the first hour of the movie, as it has little to do with the remaining 30 minutes, except to take a very long time to set the stage. The casts, probably hampered by the weak script, never really had a chance to lift the movie from the doldrums, although their acting were passable at best. The leads Fann Wong and Shaun Tam rarely looked believable as the inseparable Romeo and Juliet, totally lacking in chemistry to convince that they are a match made in heaven.

There is perhaps just too many characters for a simple story like this, which can’t decide if it wanted to be flashback based, introducing new supporting characters who are in the movie for just that few minutes of screen time, and never important enough to further the plot. While the idea of a role is hinted at, most of the time it’s just a simple gloss over and never going deep enough to make them memorable.

However, the music used here, if you dig the Chinese orchestra, might serve as a plus point to you. Though I can’t fault the lovely melody, it being used repeatedly does get on your nerves, as too much of a good thing just reduced the utility gained from it.

If you would like to give this movie a try, then go ahead and tell me what you think. For fans of Fann, her performance here is nothing spectacular, but you might want to check it out if you’re being a completist. [From IMDB]

Runtime: Taiwan :100 min
Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin / English / Cantonese
Color: Color
Director: Allen Chang
Cast: Fann Wong, Shaun Tam, Ivy Yi, Hsing Lee, Fu Lin

Himalaya (1999) (Nepal)

At first glance, the movie Himalaya is remarkable – a beautifully shot docudrama about Tibetan villagers fighting internal strife to maintain their annual trek to trade Tibetan salt for Nepalese grain. The landscape is breathtaking, and the cinematography constantly stops you in your tracks. Eric Valli’s tale of a real-life tribe from the Dolpo Valley received an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film, but it’s not until you watch the special feature (‘The Making Of’ by Deborah Kellner) on the DVD that you really understand what makes this film remarkable.

When Valli decided to recreate the drama of the Dolpo-pa’s epic journey through the Himalayas, he made some extraordinary decisions in order to preserve its authenticity. (It’s not surprising to discover he is also a National Geographic photographer.) First of all, he hired the Dolpo-pa to play themselves – people who had never been to a cinema, let alone acted in a movie. He also decided to film the movie entirely on location, making the same hazardous journey as the Dolpo-pa would – through perilous mountains, along sheer cliff edges and through blistering blizzards.

In 1997, 200 porters, 150 yaks (transport doubling as actors, with a fiberglass yak brought along for stunts), and 20 crew set off for the Dolpa Valley – ten days walk from the nearest road. They carried enough supplies with them for the planned 79-day shoot. Disaster followed disaster – permits were cut short, the main actor contracted bronchitis, some of the crew got stuck in a mountain pass. After six weeks, they finally started shooting.
As an indie film, Himalaya had a small budget. With almost every obstacle stacked up against them, Valli and his crew blew that through the roof. In the end, the movie took nine months to finish. The crew, some of whom had barely camped before, spent months in remotest Nepal with no electricity, running water or other creature comforts. Some even battled severe altitude sickness (they were working at 13-19,000ft).

As for the Dolpo-pa, as weeks stretched into months, some grew more and more disgruntled at being taken away from their day-to-day life. One can only hope they enjoyed the movie when it was finally completed. After watching ‘The Making Of’ documentary, it’s easy to feel in awe of what the filmmakers went through, completing as they did an adventure almost as profoundly difficult as the one portrayed in the movie they made. It’s also easy to wonder what effect all of this change had upon the Dolpo-pa, shaken from their existence by the arrival of a movie crew.
Whatever the case, the movie is a triumph over adversity, and a cinematographic masterpiece. It’s also a fascinating chance to see a remote world that most of us are unlikely to visit. If you ever get the chance to go there, why not drop in on the Dolpo-pa and see how they’re doing now? It would be fascinating to know… – Roshan McArthur

Article borrowed from here

Director:Eric Valli

Nathalie Azoulai (writer)
Olivier Dazat (writer)
Runtime:108 min
France / UK / Switzerland / Nepal
Language:Tibetan / German
Subtitles: N/A.
IMDb link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0210727/

Ghost House (2004) (Korean)


The day that Pil-gi waited for so many years has finally come: he’s getting his own house, the last wish of his deceased father. And what a perfect house it is! Big, beautiful, isolated, next to the ocean and at that price, Pil-gi couldn’t have found a better place. All is going fine, until some inexplicable event start to happen in the house. It seems that there’s an evil spirit claiming the house as its own. The village gossip confirms Pil-gi’s worries. Each night is becoming a nightmare for him, as the ghost is doing everything it can to expel Pil-gi from living peacefully in his new home.

Then one day, an unpleasant accident happens to Pil-gi. When Pil-gi finally wakes up from his bad experience, he discovers that he possesses a new ability. Now he can not only sees ghosts, but can also communicate with them. It is time for Pil-gi to take revenge on the ghost that’s been haunting his beloved house.

Director:Sang-Jin Kim
Writers:Hang-jun Jang (writer)
Jae-yeong Jang (writer)
Genre:Comedy / Horror
Runtime:South Korea:123 min
Country:South Korea
Also Known As: Gwishini sanda
IMDb link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0420660/

Burmese Harp (Japanese)


Cpl. Mizushima, a Japanese soldier, becomes the harp player of Captain Inouye’s group, comprised of soldiers who fight and sing to raise moral. When they are offered shelter in a village, they eventually realize they are being watched by British soldiers. They attempt to get their ammunition (which they left outside) and see they’re surrounded, fortunately World War II ended three days ago, and they are told they’ll be sent home.
At a camp the soldiers are asked for a volunteer to talk down a group of soldiers who are still fighting on a mountain. Mizushima volunteers and is told he has 30 minutes to tell them to surrender. At the mountain he is almost shot down before they realize he is Japanese. He climbs up safely and asks to speak to whoever is in command. Meeting their commander he informs him that the war has ended and they should surrender. The commander says he shall talk to the other soldiers, and they come out minutes later stating that unanimously they decided to fight to the end. Mizushima begs for them to surrender but they do nothing. He decides to ask for more time from the British, and when he creates a surrender flag, the others take it the wrong way and believe he’s surrendering for them. They beat him unconscious and leave him on the floor. Soon the artillery begins again and because he’s on the floor, he becomes the only survivor. He wanders around looking for the camp his group was in. He becomes sick looking at all the corpses on the ground and decides to help bury them and pray for them by stealing a monks robe.
Meanwhile, Captain Inouye and his men are wondering what happened, and cling to a belief that he is still out there. Eventually they buy a parrot (saying ‘Mizushima lets go back to japan together’ over and over again) and tell a villager to bring it to a monk they suspect Mizushima is hiding as. But they get a reply that he won’t come back to Japan with them, because he must continue burying the dead.

Directed: Kon Ichikawa
Genre: Drama/War
Cast: Rentaro Mikuni, Shoji Yasui
Runtime: 108 minutes
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049012/

The Wall Man (2006) (Japanese)


Acting on an anonymous suggestion, television reporter Kyoko(Sakai Masato) decides to do a feature on the “Wall Man”, a mysterious creature, neither human nor demon, that lives in walls and observes the world. Her report is a big success, inspiring lots of audience interest in the myth. What started out as interest, however, turns into obsession as the people around Kyoko become increasingly fixated with the topic and start to exhibit strange behavior. Kyoko’s own boyfriend, cameraman Nishina (Ono Mayumi), can’t seem take his eyes or lens away from the walls, endlessly snapping pictures. What does he see in the blank walls?

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Director:Wataru Hayakawa
Writers:Wataru Hayakawa (screenplay)
Daijirô Morohoshi (comic)
Genre: Horror
Cast: Mayumi Ono, Masato Sakai, Hineki Mito
Japan:98 min
IMDb link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0778899/

Open City (Korean) 2008

Synopsis :
The Regional Crime Squad consists of the finest elites of Korea’s police force, and veteran detective CHO Dae-young outshines them all as the officer with the most arrests on his record. Dae-young receives orders from his superiors to oversee the case over a pickpocket ring affiliated with the Yakuza. PAIK Jang-mi, arrestingly beautiful and ingenious with her hands, attempts to bring in KANG Man-ok, a legendary pickpocket, into her international ring in hopes of expanding it. Dae-young and Jang-mi first meet when he rescues her from danger. Little do they know what lies ahead.

Release Date : January 1, 2008
Cast : Kim Myeong-min, Son Ye-jin, Kim Hae-sook, Son Byeong-ho
AKA : Moo-bang-bi Do-si
Genre : Action, Crime
Country : South Korea
Language : Korean
Subtitle : N/A
Duration : 114 min.
Official Website & Trailer : http://www.open-city.co.kr/