(ReelAsian Film Festival 2019): COME DRINK WITH ME (Hong Kong 1966) ****

Come Drink with Me Poster
A group of bandits kidnaps the governor’s son and demands their imprisoned leader to be set free in exchange.

Director:

King Hu (as King Chuan)

Writers:

King Hu (as King Chuan), Shan-Hsi Ting (as Ye Yang)

Undeniably the best film to be shown at the Asian Film Festival this year and free as well, COME DRINK WITH ME a must-see if you have not already seen it.  This is the film that sprouted the wuxia swords sagas and the film that catapulted its director King Hu to fame.  King Hu went on to make DRAGON INN and A TOUCH OF ZEN followed by classics like the stunning RAINING IN THE MOUNTAIN and THE LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN. 

 COME DRNIK WITH ME,a Shaw Brothers production stars starlet Cheng Pei-pei as Golden Swallow, 20 at the time of the making of the film, as the swords lady extraordinaire.  Golden Swallow’s task is to free her captive brother from bandits led by an evil Abbott.  It all sounds terribly delicious. 

 All the elements of a classic sworsdsaga are present, including a fight at an inn, unparalleled sword fights and incredible acrobatics.  COME DRINK WITH ME influenced Ang Lee’s CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN TIGER that also featured Cheng as an elderly fighter named Jade Fox.  Free screening November 1st at the Innis Town Hall at 8 pm.

Trailer: (unavailable)

Film Review: THE CAVE (Denmark/Syria/Germany/USA/Qatar 2019) ***

The Cave Poster
Trailer

A Thai boys soccer team is trapped in a cave while rescue workers scramble to save them.

Director:

Tom Waller

Writers:

Katrina Grose (story by), Don Linder (story by) | 1 more credit »

Director Feras Faryyad returns to his besieged Syria after his Oscar nominated Best Documentary LAST YEAR IN ALEPPO.  Fayyad’s disturbing new doc THE CAVE went on to win the People’s Choice Documentary at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

THE CAVE refers to the subterranean hospital where a doctor, 30-year old Dr. Amani and her female team fight to save lives while fending off systematic sexism.

The film shot between late 2016 and Math 2018 is set in eastern Al Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. When the film opens, the audience hears bombings, which are regularly carried out by the Syrian Regime and the Russians at the Syrian citizens.  Around 400,000 are trapped in the area with no way out, as informed by the voiceover that turns out to be the voice of Dr. Amani.  She emphasizes that everyone is searching for different ways to survive.

Dr. Amani Ballour runs the hospital, tending to the wounded and malnourished.  It is heart-wrenching to watch her comfort a boy who thinks he’s dying or a baby who’s choking on rubble.  But though she and her colleagues work as equals alongside their male counterparts,
the patriarchal culture still exists.  One man comes in for medicine and then tells Dr. Ballour that “women should stay at home, not work.”   Of course, director Fayyad sets the record straight behaving him being told off.

The film’s little humour occurs in the birthday scene – Amani’s surprise birthday party where they consume salad instead of pizza and popcorn instead of candy.

The film, in all its earnest intentions accomplishes its aim at wrenching out concern and sympathy from the audience.  At times director Fayyad  step up the angst by showing disturbing scenes of injured children after bombings.  But one wishes that there is clearer direction in his film.  There seems to be lots of scenes of the wounded but not beginning or conclusion or climax.  One wishes that he has explained the origins of the bombings instead of just placing the audience in the midst of the chaos and just saying that the Russians and Syrian Regime are responsible.

  The film’s most poignant moments occur during the end credits.  Here the names of 4 of the staff are mentioned, who died during filming.  It is a sad state of affairs and a sad story and one that need to be told.

It is worthy to note the difficulties encountered in the filming of THE CAVE.  Feras Fayyad was not allowed into the area.  Thus, he directed the film, remotely, relying on three gifted Damascus-born cinematographers who give the film a visual style.  The script is by Alisar Hasan and Fayyad.  Fayyad was drawn to the female-centric story because of his own background (mother, seven sisters and four aunts) and his 15 months in prison (for making a film) where women and children were tortured.  Shot in Arabic and English.

(ReelAsian Film Festival 2019): WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES (Japan 2019)

We Are Little Zombies Poster
Four Japanese orphans form a rock band.

Director:

Makoto Nagahisa

Writer:

Makoto Nagahisa (screenplay)

WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES is a bad and boring film but at least off to a promising start for a while before unfortunately fizzling out.  This is not a film about zombies though a few references are made to them. 

 It is a story of 4 children Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi and Takemura with bad parents.  The parents have died in different ways but the four orphaned children who meet in a Tokyo crematorium relate their stories under the narration of the first boy.  The first story is the most interesting.  Before one can get attached to this child, the film shifts to the next.  The disorientation is only matched by another less interesting tale of childhood angst.  The film, a long haul, is deliberately made to feel like a video game (with fast edits, fast motion and jump cuts) which soon loses its lacklustre.  

The kids (three assorted boys and a girl) deliberately made to be un-cute by Nagahisa eventually form a band and sing mediocre songs.  The point to all this is that it is better to stay alive but there are better ways to get this message across.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_-9wNeRLSs