Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2021 2:27 pm 
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Comments: NYFF #20.

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OUDAI KOJIMA (JOINT)

I found most of the films I chose to screen in this year's NYAFF interesting, as I have before. This is a fabulous film festival for its variety and quality.

I admired the Japanese film A BALANCE (Jujiro Harumoto) for its seriousness in treating of a woman documentary filmmaker working on the fallout from a teacher's seduction of a student (or vice versa), who then finds a similar problem arising in her own family. It's a very intelligent and subtle film and reminded me of Asghar Farhadi and Michael Haneke.

Obviously Takahide Hori's JUNK HEAD, which I've just reviewed, a virtually one-person dystopic stop motion animation, is a once-in-a-lifetime film; I'm glad the NY festival audience came out for it with an Audience Award. You don't get something like that in every NYAFF!

In Japanese cinema there's always a manga influence. Manga-sourced films this time were THE FABLE: THE KILLER WHO DOESN'T KILL (Kan Eguchi); SENSEI, WOUILD YOU SIT BESIDE ME? (Takahiro Horie); and ZOKKI (by three directors) - which shows manga can be many different things (a very slickly made sequel movie of a yakuza hitman story, a tale about a cute hotshot manga-writing couple with fidelity issues; intermingled short stories about weird outsiders. This one felt like Kaurismaaki, or Roy Andersson.

MY MISSING VALENTINE (Chen Yu-Hsun) almost could be manga, but it's Taiwanese. High concept rom-com storytelling of a high order. At the country's awards it won all the prizes, yet some writers found it odd or improper, so there were complications or flights of fancy some audience members don't get. Very winning - and thought-provoking.

JOINT, by 27-year-old Oudai Kojima, who lived from age 3 to age 13 in NYC (which may count for something) but attended high school and college in Japan, approaches the Japanese gangster movie with a very fresh eye, a fresh visual look, new up-to-date-information, including an angle on the new yakuza "business" focus. Very interesting and promising. If you like genre as much as I do of course you want to see someone ring changes on it. As the Lincoln Center blurb says (they are presenting the film), Kojima "creates a compelling portrait of today’s underworld, with multi-ethnic characters who are scrambling to bridge physical, generational, and moral divides." It's quite possible the fresh outlook of his time in New York contributes to his awareness of this.

BOOK OF THE FISH (Lee Joon-ik) was refreshing, black and white, Korean historical film, yet somehow never heavy, it looks at an intellectual high in government banished in 1800 to an island for involvement in Christianity, seen by the king as subversive. This leads to meeting a fisherman with intellectual ambitions and a collaboration on an unprecedented book about fish. Based on true events. Not just a palate cleanser but sometimes we do need that, and not just at a festival.

Others were good to know about or I'm glad they were made, like A SONG FOR YOU (Dukar Tserang), about a soulful, cool Tibetan who kind of wants to become a rock star but thinks he's a bigger hotshot than he is. Damtin Tserang is an appealing, sexy lead, but also convincing as a bit of a hick. My dream that this film would evoke early Jia Zhang-ke was not fulfilled, but Jia did co-produce.

Wish I had gotten to more of the exotic ones.

I forgot to list NINJA GIRL (Yu Irie), which is a free story about local town politics, liberally laced with fantasy. I think it's admirable, but perhaps not so memorable.

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