狄仁杰之通天帝国 | Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee

In 689 A.D., the Empress Wu Zetian is building a 66 m high statue of Buddha for her inauguration as the first empress of China under the objections and conspiracy of the other clans. When the engineer responsible for the construction mysteriously dies by spontaneous combustion, the superstitious workers are afraid since the man removed the good luck charms from the main pillar. There is an investigation of Pei Donglai and another investigator that also dies after withdrawing the amulets. Empress Wu assigns her loyal assistant Shangguan Jing’er to release the exiled Detective Dee from his imprisonment to investigate with Donglai and Jing’er the mystery of the deaths. They ride in a mystic and epic adventure to unravel the mystery.

Directed by Hark Tsui | Starring : Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Bingbing Li, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Chao Deng | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Glasgow Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival, Nagaoka Film Festival

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得闲炒饭 | All About Love

All About Love

A sharp and funny exploration of the complex world of adult relationships, All About Love takes a rare look at the lives of queer women and their specific challenges when it comes to creating a family. Known for her cleverly observed societal dramas, Ann Hui is one of Hong Kong’s most respected filmmakers. Here, she balances the serious themes of motherhood, sexuality and discrimination – topics rarely addressed in Hong Kong cinema – with wit, humour and compassion. Macy, a bisexual lawyer with a fear of commitment, is frustrated by the judgemental attitudes of lesbians, but wants to get back in the female dating game. Urged by her good friends and their life partners to settle down, Macy runs into Anita, an ex-girlfriend who is pregnant after a one-night stand with Mike. Macy, who is also unexpectedly pregnant with her neighbour Robert, rekindles her romance with Anita, but her fear of commitment threatens to derail their plans to start a family together. Anita is devastated when her co-workers ostracize her after discovering that she’ll be a single mother, and this intensifies her thoughts of giving up the baby. Chow, who returns to the big screen after a fourteen year absence, is radiant as Anita, developing irresistible chemistry with Sandra Ng, who brings her great comic and dramatic timing to her performance. While All About Love is structured as a commercial romantic comedy, its themes are radical in scope. By presenting queer relationships as the norm and deconstructing the idea of a nuclear family, Hui has expertly crafted a film that dispels stereotypes on what constitutes a family. Hong Kong, for all its modernity is, at its core, still extremely conservative and traditional in terms of gender roles and family values, with no civil rights for same-sex couples. Hui subtly challenges such ideas and reminds the audience that the most important aspects of any relationship are not gender and convention, but love and commitment.

Directed by Ann Hui | Starring : Sandra Ng Kwan Yue, Vivian Chow, William Chan Wai-Ting, Siu-Fai Cheung, Jo Kuk | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival

岁月神偷 | Echoes of the Rainbow

Echoes of the Rainbow

Told through the eyes of sticky-fingered eight-year-old boy Big Ears, Echoes of the Rainbow takes place in a close-knit grassroots community in 1960s Hong Kong. Big Ears’ mother and father run the neighborhood shoe store, and his older brother Desmond  is every family’s dream son – an outstanding athlete with grades worthy of Hong Kong’s best school. Their lives aren’t always happy, but the family sticks together through all the rough times, no matter how bad it gets.

Directed by Alex Law | Starring : Simon Yam, Sandra Ng Kwan Yue, Buzz Chung, Aarif Rahman, Paul Chun | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Changchun Film Festival

泪王子 | Prince of Tears

Prince of Tears

Largely based on Yonfan’s childhood memories, Prince of Tears is akin to a sumptuous fairy tale. Alternately magnified through the eyes of innocent children and darkened by the disturbed dreams of frightened, guilty adults, the realities of a little-known era are explored through Yonfan’s powerful vision. As in the best of fables, here too we have a handsome prince and a beautiful princess, a charming fairy and a mean ogre. Elegantly shot, the film weaves the characters and their stories together in a mysterious and lyrical fashion. Yonfan’s pristine touch as production designer seamlessly matches the vibrant light and colour of Chin Ting-chang’s cinematography. As a result, the film’s stunning look provides a stark contrast to the terror within the environment. As both an exquisite rhapsody of emotions and an intriguing historical account, Yonfan’s work is utterly unique. It charms, evokes and informs, perfectly capturing the confusion of adolescence, when the world is full of beauty one moment and immersed in darkness the next.

Directed by Yonfan | Starring : Hsiao-chuan Chang, Terri Kwan, Wing Fan, Kenneth Tsang, Jack Kao | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival

意外 | Accident

Accident

A self-styled “accident choreographer,” Brain is a professional hitman who kills his victims by trapping them in well crafted “accidents” that look like unfortunate mishaps but are in fact perfectly staged acts of crime. Perennially plagued with guilt, he is also suspicious and morbid by nature. The recent avalanche of memories of his lost wife does not make things any easier. After one mission accidentally goes wrong, causing the life of one of his men, Brain is convinced that this accident has been choreographed: someone is out there plotting to terminate him and his team. He becomes increasingly paranoid, walking on the thin line between reality and delusion. When he discovers that a mysterious insurance agent Fong is somewhat related one of the “accidents” he has staged, Brain becomes obsessed that this man must be the mastermind behind a conspiracy to take him out. To regain his sanity and to save his life, he must strive to kill Fong before he makes his next move.

Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang | Starring : Louis Koo, Richie Ren, Michelle Ye, Shui-Fan Fung, Suet Lam | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Athens Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Vienna Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Nantes Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival

复仇 | Vengeance

Vengeance

What is vengeance if you can’t remember who it is you’re avenging? Isn’t memory what vengeance is all about? Vengeance is always personal, and usually results in at least a few more deaths than originally intended, many of them more than a little mordantly ironic. That’s part of what makes a revenge thriller thrilling, and Johnnie To’s terrific, slow-burn triad actioner Vengeance, adds a memory glitch to those thrills. Vengeance is a rich, fragrant reduction of To’s favorite themes (male bonding and codes of loyalty, the triad underworld, vengeance) trademarks (slow-motion clouds of blood, unforgettable set-pieces, impossibly sleek cinematography, brooding men, black humor) and actors. One splendid difference: Vengeance stars French actor and singer Johnny Hallyday (adding a nice tip of the chapeau to the French noirs of the ‘60s, when Hallyday had his rock and roll heyday). Hallyday plays François Costello, a Parisian restaurant owner who is in Macau at the request of his daughter—to avenge a savage attack on her family. Costello crosses paths with a crack team of triad hit men, whom he then hires to carry out his own revenge plan—a plan growing increasingly hazy due to his deteriorating memory. The craggy, lived-in face of Hallyday is as riveting as To’s mad scenes of mayhem, which include a fierce nighttime shootout as clouds pass over the full moon and—shootouts being To’s stock in trade—an epic battle in a junkyard that has to be seen to be believed. Vengeance, indeed, is a dish best served by Johnnie To.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Ka Tung Lam, Simon Yam, Suet Lam | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival

南京!南京! | City of Life and Death

City of Life and Death1

Nanjing, 1937. The third film from award-winning Sixth Generation director Lu Chuan, City of Life and Death is a devastating account of the massacre that occurred during the Sino-Japanese War when Japanese troops took the city of Nanjing in December 1937, a tragedy remembered as the Rape of Nanking. Shot completely in black and white, this powerful war drama unflinchingly captures the shocking violence and brutality of the Nanjing massacre, from the mass executions of POWs to the raping and slaughtering of civilians, while providing a deeply human portrait of both the victims and the perpetrators. Rendered in many shades of gray, City of Life and Death touches on the different people whose lives are destroyed by the war: the Chinese soldiers who gave their lives, the foreign missionaries who sheltered refugees, the comfort women, the Chinese civilians, and the Japanese soldiers. In a surprising move for a Mainland Chinese film about the Rape of Nanking, City of Life and Death is told primarily from the perspective of a Japanese soldier, who witnesses, commits, and abhors the atrocities of his army. By choosing to humanize rather than demonize, Lu Chuan offers an all the more devastating memory of the Nanjing massacre, and the people who lived and died in the City of Life and Death.

Directed by Chuan Lu | Starring : Ye Liu, Yuanyuan Gao, Hideo Nakaizumi, Wei Fan, Lan Qin | Presented at Edinburgh Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Athens Film Festival, Oslo Film Festival, Hamptons Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Warsaw Film Festival, London Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival