Preview: New York Asian Film Festival, Back In Action!

Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@filmbenjamin)
A summer staple for NYC, the New York Asian Film Festival (affectionately known around these parts as NYAFF) swings back into action at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center and SVA Theater, June 26 - July 11.

Jam packed with rare retro screenings and new fare alike, our ace New Yorkers, Dustin Chang and Christopher Bourne step up to bat today with a fiery preview for what is one of the most fun fests this side of the Mississippi.  

Dustin Chang and Christopher Bourne contributed to this story.

PORT OF CALL - Opening Night Film, June 26, 8:30pm [w/ Aaron Kwok Star Asia Award presentation]; June 27, 3pm [Aaron Kwok intro/Q&A]

An almost unremittingly bleak portrait of Hong Kong, Philip Yung's third feature Port of Call continues the writer-director's focus on disaffected youth, and as in his previous film May We Chat? (a NYAFF 2014 selection), there's a pointed emphasis on the prevalence of technology and social media and how this affects, and indeed determines, their relations with one another. Port of Call expands this focus to encompass the adults in the picture as well, who seem hardly more in control of their destinies than their children.

Based on an actual case that occurred in Hong Kong in 2008, Port of Call features megastar (and NYAFF Star Asia Award honoree) Aaron Kwok as Chong, a detective investigating the grisly murder and dismemberment of an underage teenage prostitute in a tenement. Kwok buries his movie star-looks here, disappearing under a dowdy wardrobe, graying hair, and large spectacles. He also gives an impressive performance as a man whose obsessive, workaholic ways have all but ruined his home life.

The film dispenses with the whodunit aspects roughly midway through, when the killer (Michael Ning, a chilling performance) turns himself in and confesses. (A difficult-to-watch sequence late in the film dramatizes the gory details of the murder and later dispensing of the body.) The chronology shifts between three different time frames (1998, 2009, 2010) to offer a somber requiem for the life of Jiamei (impressive newcomer Jessie Li), the young victim at the center of the case, detailing her descent into prostitution and alienation from her mother (Elaine Jin).

A very unusual kind of police procedural that refuses to follow genre conventions, Port of Call’s downbeat portrait of Hong Kong is artistically rendered by Yung’s assured direction and Christopher Doyle’s nightmarishly vivid cinematography. - Christopher Bourne

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