NYAFF 2017 Review: Kfc (Vietnam 2017)

Kfc starts out with the opposite of the Fargo disclaimer – a emphatic reassurance that the film’s events are purely fictional.  Whether that’s a reaction against Fargo or just an attempt not to get sued, I don’t know, because Kfc will turn you off not just the titular chicken franchise, but food in general.  This grotty little Vietnamese indie constantly assaults its audience with graphic, repellent imagery and a wet, visceral soundtrack that is somehow even more nauseating than the film’s visuals.  Yet the film is strangely absorbing, and I found myself lost in its puzzle box structure. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review:  Extraordinary Mission (China 2017)

Extraordinary Mission is exactly the kind of movie that Hong Kong as always excelled at – a twisty undercover cop thriller that frequently breaks out into no-holds-barred action scenes.  Very much in the spirit of its direct cinematic forebears like Infernal Affairs, Hard Boiled and City on Fire, Extraordinary Mission exists very much in that HK world where undercover cops are constantly having to escape their own while proving to vicious crime lords just how cold they are.  Except, this isn’t a Hong Kong film at all, it’s another example of China drinking Hong Kong’s milkshake. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review: Bad Genius (Thailand 2017)

Bad Genius makes me feel like the Thai film industry just leveled up. I’ve watched a lot of Thai movies. There’s a ton of great action even beyond the filmography of Tony Jaa (stuff like Dynamite Warriors and Power Kids), plenty of creepy or gross-out horror, and an interesting art house undercurrent with movies like Tears of the Black Tiger and, of course, the works of Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. But by and large, when it comes to mainstream fare, Thai cinema has never reached the level that South Korea or even China routinely demonstrates these days.  Bad Genius could change all that – it’s the first time I’ve thought Thailand could really hold its own with Hollywood. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review:  Saving Sally (Phillippines 2016)

I really enjoyed Saving Sally, the passion project of director Avid Liongoren and screenwriter Charlene Sawit.  The film is bursting with creativity, the leads are sweet and likable, and the film has a lovely “Blues Clues meets Liquid Television” aesthetic with a charming blend of live action and animation.  So it kind of kills me to harsh Saving Sally’s buzz, but I have some major issues with the wish fulfillment elements of the plot (kind of like I thoroughly enjoy The Incredibles, but the more I think about the underlying philosophy, the more unhappy I get). Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017: Interview with Executive Director Samuel Jamier

Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival enters its 16th year in 2017, still going strong at Lincoln Center. The festival starts tomorrow night (June 30) with one of the strongest Thai films I’ve seen in years, the school thriller Bad Genius, and closes with Korean actioner The Villainess on July 16.

Cinema Strikes Back will be providing coverage throughout the festival, but to start things off, here’s an interview with NYAFF Executive Director Samuel Jamier, who’s has been involved in the NYAFF for years now in addition to his work with the Japan Society and their Japan Cuts festival. We discussed recent developments in Asian cinema, Bad Genius, and some of his favorite films in this year’s festival.


The NYAFF is now in its 16th year. What new trends or changes do you see emerging in pan-Asian films and regional industries since the last festival?

It’s a pretty broad question, and I think I can only skim the surface here. I see two things mainly, aside from the overall, global shift towards digital platforms that’s affecting the film industry worldwide.

1: China’s definitely upping their game when it comes to genre cinema, action, crime thrillers, horror (though we haven’t picked any horror films from China). Continue reading

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Review: Belladonna of Sadness (Japan 1973)

Wow, that was one hell of an acid trip of a movie. A remaster and re-release of an early animated film produced by Osamu Tezuka, this film is completely unique, the closest comparison being the more outré works of Ralph Bakshi like Heavy Traffic or Wizards, or the folkloric prologue to Watership Down. Continue reading

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Review: Joe (USA 1970)

Joe has a weird, outsized reputation that contrasts with its relative obscurity – it is a film more talked about than watched. And Joe is a truly odd duck, a Cannon-produced hippie-sploitation movie that points an accusing finger at the feckless drug-addicted youth (Susan Sarandon and her friends), the detached upper crust (Dennis Patrick, as her advertising exec father) and particularly the square working class, embodied by Peter Boyle as the titular Joe. Continue reading

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Review: Lost in Paris aka Paris pieds nus (France/Belgium 2016)

God, I love when a movie really knows how to use color.  Most films nowadays experiment with monochrome or tints, but Lost in Paris is full of old school technicolor, Jacques Demy-flavor colors – luminescent greens, candy reds, blues and yellows that jump right out of the screen.  And all in the service of a delightful little pop confection – the story of two goofballs falling in love, set against a magical realist Paris that constantly teeters on the edge of fetishization without crossing the line (the “Woody Allen Line”™) . Continue reading

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Review: Tatara Samurai (Japan 2017)

Tatara Samurai is a modern, big budgeted jidaigeki (period film) following a peasant blacksmith who attempts to reject his traditional role and small town life in order to become a samurai, set against the backdrop of Oda Nobunaga’s rise to power and the close of the Warring States period. The film is handsomely mounted and impeccably composed, but it lacks a spark to distinguish itself from similar tales and ultimately falls into the same staid trap as so many jidaigeki. Continue reading

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Review: The Neon Demon (France/Denmark/USA 2016)

Nicholas Winding Refn’s fable-like dissection of the feminine beauty standard is a truly odd duck. Visually gorgeous, and cold as ice, this story of a young model’s attempts to make it in Los Angeles often zags when you expect it to zig, and takes a sharp left turn into the allegorical in its final act. Continue reading

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