FanTasia 2011: Asian Film Lineup!

Associate Editor, News; Toronto, Canada (@Mack_SAnarchy)
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FanTasia 2011: Asian Film Lineup!
So good they deserved their own press release it is the announcement of the line up of Asian films being screened at this year's edition of the FanTasia Film Festival in Montreal. A lot of familiar names and titles for ScreenAnarchy readers. You will not be disappointed with this lineup! 
Montreal, Thursday, July 7, 2011 - The 15th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival is proposing a vista into Asian cinema with an eclectic selection of films ranging from dramas to eccentric comedies, be they independent or major productions, which will satisfy the curiosity and the adventurous spirit of our avid public. Ranging from movies containing certain historical, sociological, cultural and even political elements, to films celebrating that pleasure of cinema, which is meant to be experienced together in a festive atmosphere, our East Asian medley constructs a present-day portrait of the national cinemas that Fantasia has cherished for so many years and which it will proudly celebrate as part of its 15th anniversary.

Japan remains at the forefront of Fantasia's selection with 21 films bearing tribute to the bursting creativity and audacity of this unique national cinema. Indeed, the movie MiLOCRORZE: A LOVE STORY (Canadian premiere), from director Yoshimasa Ishibashi, constitutes a perfect illustration of how far such imagination can go, with its sumptuous aesthetics and its playful narrative codes, as it immerses us into three separate universes in which actor Takayuki Yamada has a romp interpreting three completely incompatible personalities. The Japan-Germany coproduction UNDERWATER LOVE (Canadian premiere), by Shinji Imaoka, is also something of an unidentified filmic object with its blend of traditional Japanese folktales, musicals and erotic cinema, propelled by the photography of the renowned Christopher Doyle and the music of Stereo Total. Similarly, two other legends of the pinku eiga (Japanese erotic cinema) have churned out new feature films but are abandoning the pink film for non-conformist drama. First, Hisayasu Sato has released LOVE & LOATHING & LULU & AYANO (Canadian premiere), a powerful drama that paints a stark and troubling image of the pornography industry in Japan by focusing on the evolution of two actresses linked by a deep friendship. On the other hand, Takahisa Zeze brings us the saga HEAVEN'S STORY (Canadian premiere), a majestic film lasting 278 minutes which revisits the age-old theme of vengeance, and has won the FIPRESCI and NETPAC awards at the latest Berlinale. Resentment and punishment are also on tap with the drama BIRTHRIGHT (Canadian premiere), the first feature film by the promising Noaki Hashimoto, which details a young woman's merciless vengeance exerted through an intermediary person.

This 15th edition also benefits from the return of many of our cherished filmmakers, whose filmography has marked the history of the festival. Takashi Miike is returning with two films demonstrating the full breadth of his diverse body of work. In the director's cut version of 13 ASSASINS (Quebecois premiere), Miike brings his unique touch to a classic tale of battle and collective vengeance, finely sculpted in the tradition of SEVEN SAMURAI and the classic of Japanese literature "The 47 Ronin". Le maestro of chaos will again prevail with the family film NINJA KIDS!!! (Canadian premiere), a live-action adaptation of a famous manga, which is brimming with wild humor and features a visual style inspired by the graphic novel. Fantasia's 15th anniversary also marks the return of Sion Sono with the horror-thriller COLD FISH (Quebecois premiere), a dark film filled with even blacker humor where a reserved man is forced to assist an insane serial killer, and all this is taking place in the tropical fish industry! Noboru Iguchi, another regular at the festival, presents the hilarious homage to the Japanese television series of yore KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR (Quebecois premiere) as well as the horror film TOMIE: UNLIMITED 2 (International premiere), an all-new reinterpretation of the nightmarish universe of manga-writer Junji Ito, creator of "Uzumaki" and, obviously, "Tomie". Also known amongst the Fantasia public for such films as CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL and MEATBALL MACHINE, the director Yudai Yamaguchi is also proposing a double bill : the salacious comedy DEADBALL (world premiere) which revisits the apocalyptic baseball universe of his previous BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL, and the mad action film YAKUZA WEAPON (Canadian premiere), both starring the actor Tak Sakaguchi (VERSUS). The festival's 15th edition would not be complete without the selection of a feature film by our friend Yoshihiro Nishimura who returns this year with HELLDRIVER (Quebecois premiere), a mutant-zombie film that is as entertaining as it is bloody. And since we are at the heart of the midnight projections, let us note the presence of the lusty horror comedy HORNY HOUSE OF HORROR (Canadian premiere) by Jun Tsugita, also the screenwriter of TOMIE: UNLIMITED.

Two Japanese animation films are on the program this year. LEGEND OF THE MILLENIUM DRAGON (Canadian premiere) by Hirotsugu Kawasaki (SPRIGGAN) takes us into a distant past populated by demons and knights, while REDLINE (Canadian premiere) by Takeshi Koike, co-written by the director of THE TASTE OF TEA Katsuhito Ishii, constructs a futuristic universe where deadly car races rage. Live-action adaptations of world-famous manga or animated series are also on the menu at Fantasia. From the imagination of writer Hiroya Oku, GANTZ (Quebecois premiere) and GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER (Canadian premiere) by Shinsuke Sato explore a parallel universe where ordinary people are suddenly forced to combat dangerous aliens in an enigmatic game led by a mysterious and powerful
black sphere. The GANTZ diptych stars the young Japanese sensations Ken'Ichi Matsuyama (DEATH NOTE) and Kazunari Ninomiya (member of the J-pop group Arashi). Fantasia's audience will finally have the chance to see on the big screen and as a midnight screening the politically incorrect classic BATTLE ROYALE, a landmark work within contemporary genre cinema through which the master Kinji Fukasaku, director of BATTLES WITHOUT HONOUR AND HUMANITY, met the legendary actor Takeshi Kitano (SONATINE). Two other world-famous Japanese actors, Koji Yakusho (BABEL, SHALL WE DANCE) and Koichi Sato (SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO) are the stars of THE LAST RONIN (Quebecois premiere) by Shigemichi Sugita, a reinterpretation of the literary classic "The 47 Ronin" which reflects
upon the code of honour of the samurai. Finally, the omnibus film QUIRKY GUYS AND GALS (North-American premiere), featuring the four directors Yosuke Fujita (FINE, TOTALLY FINE), Tomoko Matsunashi, Mipo O, Gen Sekiguchi (SURVIVE STYLE 5+), presents a series of comic stories filled with intriguing characters, which touch upon some very delicate social situations with a disconcerting lightness.

Three multiple-award winning directors from South Korea will be present at Fantasia this year. Ryoo Seung-wan, director of THE CITY OF VIOLENCE, returns to the festival with his new film, THE UNJUST (Quebecois premiere), a gritty story of cops, crime and corruption, coloured with black humour. It stars the talented Ryoo Seung-beom (the director's brother) and Hwang Jung-min, and features many cameos by major names in Korean cinema. The director will also lead a workshop on action cinema at Fantasia. The creator of the successful THE KING AND THE CLOWN, Lee Joon-ik, arrives with another variation on the historical epic, BATTLEFIELD HEROES (Canadian premiere), as well as being invited to be part of the jury for the main competition section at Fantasia. Lastly, Lee Hae-young, responsible for the
witty and touching LIKE A VIRGIN, presents FOXY FESTIVAL (Canadian premiere), a smart comedy about sexual secrets and desires. 

This year, Fantasia's Korean spotlight section welcomes five feature films by talented, promising first-time directors. BLEAK NIGHT (North American premiere) (Rotterdam competition, FIPRESCI), by promising next-generation director Yoon Sung-hyun, is a potent and troubling coming-of-age tale reflecting on contemporary adolescence in Korea. From Kim Min-suk, scriptwriter of THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, comes his directing debut HAUNTERS (Canadian premiere), a stylish paranormal thriller with star ang Dong-won that did serious box office in Korea. HELLO GHOST (Canadian premiere) by Kim Young-tak is an irreverent yet big-hearted comedy starring Cha Tae-Hyun (MY SASSY GIRL and SCANDAL MAKERS). Hollywood has picked up remake rights with plans for Chris Columbus (HARRY POTTER, HOME ALONE) to direct! Oh Young-doo's INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI (Canadian premiere), Grand Prix winner at Yubari Fantastic Film Festival 2011, is a contemporary Korean genre hybrid blending science fiction, comedy and action, and a triumph of filmmaking on a shoestring. And finally, PETTY ROMANCE (Canadian premiere), by Kim Jeong-hoon, offers a quirky and highly enjoyable spin on the romantic comedy genre, its charms having taken it to the top box-office ranking the week of its release in South Korea. 

The Korean section also includes an impressive pair of short films. NIGHT FISHING (Canadian premiere), by Park Chan-wook (OLD BOY) and Park Chan-kyung, won a Jury Prize and the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, and was entirely shot using an iPhone 4. Straight from the competition of the latest edition of the Cannes Film Festival, GHOST (North-American premiere) by Dahci Ma presents the story of a starving man in an empty home whose wild imagination begins to wander.

This year, Hong Kong and Chinese films fill the Fantasia screen with action, intrigue, melancholy and mirth. Fresh off the screens of Hong Kong comes DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART, a North American premiere. Director Johnny To rattles your funny bone with a unique, stylish romantic comedy that incorporates elements of wu xia, Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW and fistful of laughs. Director Tsui Hark, who rejuvenated the martial arts genre in the 1980s, is back with a vengeance with DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (Quebecois premiere). A truly entertaining and spectacular adventure loaded with intrigue -- imagine SHERLOCK HOLMES colliding with kung fu in ancient China!

King of Hong Kong exploitation cinema Herman Yau's IP MAN: THE LEGEND IS BORN, also a North American premiere, explores the early days of Bruce Lee's real master. It's packed with truly breathtaking and highly kinetic martial arts sequences that will propel you into action nirvana. The pioneer of modern kung fu choreography, Yuen Woo-Ping (THE MATRIX, CROUCHING TIGGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) returns to the director's chair after a 10-year hiatus with TRUE LEGEND, a dynamic epic that mixes traditional and new-school choreography. It's the tale of Beggar Su, who used drunken kung fu to defeat his opponents.

From China comes OCEAN HEAVEN (Canadian premiere), Best Picture winner at the Shanghai Media Awards. Kung fu icon Jet Li (HERO) tackles a new challenge, leaving the fists of fury aside in favour of serious dramatic acting as he portrays a dying father who must train his autistic son for the real world. The lush photography of Wong Kar-Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle (HAPPY TOGETHER, UNDERWATER LOVE, the latter also playing this year) comes to support the whole.

Finally, Thailand puts the cherry on the top with BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (Canadian premiere), an action film packed with spectacular and slightly suicidal stunts, courtesy of the martial arts film genius Panna Rittikrai who had previously discovered the Thai movie stars Tony Jaa (ONG BAK) and Jija Yanin (CHOCOLATE).
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