I’m by no means a patient person and films from overseas can seem to take an eternity for their Region 1 releases (if indeed they ever get a U.S. distributor). I put together a short list of some of the stuff that sends me to the internet daily hoping to find that they’ll soon be coming to a theater or a Netflix queue near me:
Welcome to Dongmakol – Korean filmmakers are utterly fearless when it comes to mixing drama with comedy (Save the Green Planet, Memories of Murder, Lady Vengeance). There’s really never been anything like this sensibility in the history of cinema. One moment you’ll be laughing your head off and the next you’re cringing in horror. Can you imagine a farce based on the real-life assassination of an American president? Don’t hold your breath, but Im Sang-soo is bold enough to go there in his retelling of the events that led to the killing of Korean President Park Chung-hee (President’s Last Bang).
Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters – Mamaru Oshii gets a free pass based on his track record. His misses are better than most directors’ hits. But I’m also a total sucker for plots that revolve around food (Tampopo, Big Night, oh shoot – better add God of Cookery to this list).
Opera Jawa – Interested in this one for the sheer spectacle. Garin Nugroho draws from the Ramayana as his source material, but that’s clearly just the springboard to bring arresting images to the screen.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Despite its promise, Paprika left me cold. But it was a rare speed bump in the increasing number of excellent feature length anime. I do like a good coming of age story especially ones that explore that liminal boundary between dreamlike childhood and the realities of adulthood (My Beautiful Girl, Mari; Whisper of the Heart). Hey Tina, I used the word “liminal!”
The Paper Will Be Blue – Romania is another country that is producing a stream of good features lately, all of which cast an unflinchingly eye on their troubled past and present. Rarely are depictions of people and relationships in film as honest as 12:08 East of Bucharest; The Death of Mr. Lazerescu or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The Ceausescus may be gone, but their legacy lives on.
Mr. Cinema – Hong Kong is the heavyweight champion of film in my mind, although Korea and Japan continue to provide uppercuts that you never see coming. The popularity of HK films means that we get a better sampling here in the States than we do of films from other countries: lightweight comedies, martial arts, gunplay, Triad mafia dramas, art house and a mixture of a little or all of the above. While the film school crowd might go crazy for movies about moviemaking, I found Goodbye, Dragon Inn to be intolerable. Hoping this one is more enjoyable.
Eve and the Fire Horse – If ever the world feels an unjust place, it’s during childhood when despite your best intentions, things seem to go wrong, wrong, wrong (My Life as a Dog). Grandmothers reincarnated as goldfish? Jesus and Buddha dancing together at last? Yes, please.
Chocolate – Hong Kong might have blazed the trail, but now a lot of South-East Asian countries are showing their stuff with their own takes on martial art offerings and horror cinema (Ong-Bak, The Ghost of Mae-Nak). Expect the bad ass girl from Shaolin Soccer with less winking at the audience. Seriously watch this woman go!
Sukiyaki Western Django – Takeshi Miike is a force all to himself. If you think you’ll know what he’ll do next, he will prove you absolutely wrong. Horror, Musical Comedy, Science Fiction, Children’s films, Lynch tributes: he’s an entire country’s worth of filmmaking in the form of one man. A Wild West film set in Japan? Of course Quentin Tarantino has to show up to join in the fun.
Zookeeper – I seem to have a dim recollection that this film might have been inspired by real world events. In any case, a zookeeper in the war torn Balkans finds that there is no sanctuary from the conflict going on outside.
A Fairground Attraction – Maybe it’s just the fact that I loved The World so very much, but I think I’m a sucker for films set in places that are built on a kind of artifice, pre-constructed fantasy settings against which the real lives of people play out.
I better stop at ten before the title of this post degrades into pure wishful thinking. There are also a lot of older films for which I’m still impatiently waiting for DVD release dates: Von Stroheim’s The Wedding March, A Page of Madness and The Water Magician, the original version (as much or as little of the print as is extant) of The Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery which kicked off the wuxia phenomenon 80 years (!) ago, A Touch of Zen, The Art Museum By the Zoo and April Snow from Korea, and the Japanese chambara film Hitokiri (holding off on watching Izo until I can see this is probably a bad bit of planning. Same goes for the God of Gamblers series). And I’ll of course be seeing anything that Miyazaki and Ghibli puts out. Oh, and Black Sheep and I’m a Cyborg But That’s Okay and, and…