Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fantasia '06, Day 2: Dirty Ho, Princess Aurora, A Bittersweet Life

The greatness of a place like Cocktail Hawaii when you visit a city likke Montreal really cannot be overstated. Sya you've been up past midnight watching movies and the quick bits of drifting off during the bus ride and Seven Swords didn't help make up for the four hours of sleep you got the previous night. You don't wake up until eight or nine, spend another hour and a half assuring the family via IM that you made it to Canada safely while trying to finish writing your first reviews, and then walk to Concordia. It's noon. But that's okay; you can still order a "Sacramento" - a thick waffle topped with a banana and a half, strawberries and Nutella chocolate syrup - and a big ol' fresh-squeezed OJ without an issue. It's a breakfast place that doesn't even open until nine (and also serves wraps and ice cream). I would be there every Saturday and Sunday if somplace like this opened in Cambridge.

Next up on the day was the CCA (Centre Canadian d'Architecture), a spiffy little museum in the same area. I'm sorry I missed it last year; the nifty "sculpture garden" is a nice place to sit and relax.

After which, it was time to hit the movies, grabbing a snack because the options were "popcorn for supper" and missing the last film of the night in order to grab something. I went with the latter, skipping Art of the Devil 2 for a hot roast beef sandwhich at Ben's at 12.30.

Six films on the line-up today: Monarch of the Moon, Exodus, The Maid, Citizen Dog, Behind the Mask, and either Die You Zombie Bastards! or She-Demons of the Black Sun. A tough choice, those midnights are.

Dirty Ho (Lan tou He)

* * * (out of four) (incomplete)
Seen 7 July 2006 at Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival 2006)

Since this film was originally released in 1979, the title probably didn't have quite the same idiomatic meaning it does now. Said title was actually meant to cash in on the popularity of Dirty Harry. And it's not as if the original title, "Rotten-Headed Ho", would be much better.

The Ho of the title is Ho Chen (Yue Wong), a small-time crook who has a brief competition with a travelling merchant, Mr. Wang (Gordon Liu), for the attentions of a pair of girls at a brothel (it's one of those kung fu movie brothels where people don't seem to come for sex). Ho loses his gold, attempts to get it back, and finds his kung fu doesn't compare to that of Wang, who is secretly a martial arts master. Ho sustains a nasty head wound that must be treated every three days with medicine only Wang has, and Wang insists Ho act as his disciple. Ho doesn't immediately see that Wang is being dogged by assassins, and is hiding more than just a mastery of the martial arts.

Read the rest at HBS.

Princess Aurora (Orora Gongju)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2006 at Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival 2006)

The name suggests a fun family adventure, and within the world of the movie, there is a TV show called "Princess Aurora" that's popular with young children. What the film actually delivers, though, is the hunt for a serial killer whose motives initially baffle the police and the audience, even as we follow her closely.

This film is a "howgetum" rather than a whodunit; we see who the killer is right off. It's Jung Soon-jung (Eom Jeong-hwa), an attractive Porsche salesperson in her early thirties who just seems to flip out when confronted by a pretty young trophy wife hitting her seven-year-old step-daughter, escorting the girl out of the ladies' room before brutally stabbing the woman to death. It's then we meet the detectives called to the scene, Jung (Gweon Oh-jung) and Oh Sung-soo (Mun Seong-Geun). Oh intends to leave the force to become a Christian pastor. This case will speed his exit from the force, though, once he pieces enough together to figure out that Soon-jung is involved; a scene that jumps from him making a phone call to her ignoring one suggests that they have a past connection. He's the one who recognizes the significance of the "Princess Aurora" stickers left at each crime scene.

Read the rest at HBS.

A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan Insaeng)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2006 at Théâtre Hall Concordia (Fantasia Festival 2006)

A Bittersweet Life is big, hard-boiled action just like John Woo used to make. Kim Ji-woon isn't necessarily the guy I'd expect to see make this sort of film, but he proves darn good at it, delivering a shot of high-testosterone adrenaline from start to finish.

Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is an enforcer for "President" Kang (Kim Young-Chul), and he's good at it: When called down to handle a situation in a restaurant's back room, the staff jumps at his glance and the hoods are quickly dispatched. It's a situation created by Kang's lieutenant, Mun-suk (Kim Roe-ha), who lacks Sun-woo's icy professionalism and is quickly falling out of favor with Kang, at least relative to Sun-woo. While away in Shanghai on business, Kang gives Sun-woo an extra job - watch his young girlfriend Hee-soo (Shin Min-a), make sure she's not cheating on him, and if she is, kill her and her lover. When the time comes, though, Sun-woo has a twinge of conscience, earning him Kang's wrath. It doesn't help that Sun-woo's cocky attitude has offended another underworld kingpin, "President" Baek (Hwang Jeong-min), who's sending his own killer to take Sun-woo out.

Read the rest at HBS.

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