桃姐 | A Simple Life

A Simple Life

Based on a true story, the film centres on Ah Tao, an amah who has worked for the Leung family for four generations. She lives with and takes care of Roger, a film producer who is the only member of the Leung household still living in Hong Kong. Roger returns home one day and finds Ah Tao unconscious after a stroke. Convinced she has becoming a burden, Tao resigns and moves into a retirement home. But upon her arrival, she continues to be taken care of by Roger, who realizes just how important she is to him. He decides to do his best to watch after the person who has nurtured him all his life. But Ah Tao’s health is fast deteriorating. Hui has always excelled when telling stories of everyday life. In A Simple Life, she delivers a rich and heartwarming drama that not only deals with the many abandoned old people in Hong Kong, but also exquisitely captures the unique relationship between the amah and the family for which she cares. In an age when loyalty between employers and employees is fast disappearing, A Simple Life highlights a culture that has almost ceased to exist in Hong Kong: one in which a person devotes their life to serving a family, and in return is cherished as much as any other relative.

Directed by Ann Hui | Starring : Andy Lau, Deannie Yip, Hailu Qin, Fuli Wang, Paul Chun | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, London Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Okinawa Film Festival, Durban Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, Portland Film Festival

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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

荡寇 | Plastic City

Plastic City

Liberdade, São Paulo– a multi-ethnic neighborhood with the largest Japanese immigrant community in the world. Here, traditional Japanese achitecture clashes with the gritty urban landscapes, while people of all races come here to do business – legal or illegal. This is where the story of Plastic City begins… Yuda, a feared Chinese outlaw, and his adopted son Kirin, an impulsive young dreamer, together rule the pirated goods racket in the ultra-liberal Brazilian metropolis. The magnate and his heir control all of from rival gangs to street hawkers, corrupt politicians to erotic dancers. But an empire that takes years to build can also crumble to the ground with one fatal mistake… A conspiracy between politicians and the mafia begins to threaten Yuda’s power. Little by little, he loses control of his business and is ultimately arrested. Kirin struggles to re-conquer his father’s honor, fighting this city’s wars singlehandedly. But Yuda, tired of the bloodshed and feeling the weight of his years, abandons his son, falsifies his own death and returns to the jungle in a last attempt to put an end to his criminal life. Escaping from a complex maze of violence, Kirin sets out to find his father. In the mysterious jungle, father and son both have to wipe the slate of their past clean. Only in the end will Kirin discover the ultimate answer to the search for his own destiny.

Directed by Nelson Yu Lik-wai | Starring : Jô Odagiri, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Yi Huang, Chao-jung Chen, Tainá Müller | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Febio Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival

太阳照常升起 | The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises

Wen Jiang’s personality takes center stage in The Sun Also Rises, his first effort since the 2000 Devils on the Doorstep, a film that has yet to be released in China. While The Sun Also Rises captivates with its sumptuous colors, magical realism, high energy, and outstanding performances, its elliptical plot and lack of coherent narrative suggests that Jiang may have purposely clouded the film’s meaning in symbols and code to escape the Chinese censors. Loosely based on author Ye Mi’s novel Velvet, the film is set in China during the Cultural Revolution. There are four stories and six characters in the film, but they have a tenuous connection to each other. Three episodes are set in the 1970s and one twenty years earlier, but Jiang provides no intertitles or other indicators to help the viewer recognize changes in theme, time, or place. As the film opens with a tableau of gorgeous colors and people running, a young woman identified as the mother of a teenage boy buys a pair of embroidered shoes. The colorful shoes are promptly stolen by a mysterious bird, which repeats the mantra “I know, I know, I know,” and the woman falls into what seems to be madness—climbing trees, collecting rocks, digging a pit in the middle of the forest, and screaming the name of Alyosha (which we eventually learn was the name of the boy’s father). Meanwhile her dutiful son tries to protect her, at the cost of having to constantly leave his job. The segment is playful, magical, and poetic in its songs and poetry, and it suggests that insanity reigned supreme during the Cultural Revolution.

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Wen Jiang, Joan Chen, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jaycee Chan, Wei Kong | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Changchun Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival

放逐 | Exiled

Exiled

Set in a Macau, China, that resembles more a Mexican town than anything Chinese, this film by the acclaimed director Johnnie To starts as four mysterious outlaws descend on the house of a fellow criminal Wo, who is living a quiet life with his wife and baby. Two of the hoods, Blaze and Fat, have come to kill Wo, on the orders of their Boss, while the other two, Tai and Cat, have come to save him. Both sides know each other well, having grown up together, and soon the group decides to save Wo’s life, and run from the Boss’ hired guns.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Francis Ng, Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Richie Ren | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, La Rochelle Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, New Zealand Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival

伊莎贝拉 | Isabella

Isabella

On the eve of Macau’s handover to China, police officer Shing is having the worst time of his life. Suspended for suspected corruption, he tries to find solace with an elfin creature by the name of Yan, whom he just picks up. As he tries to smooth-talk her to bed, she suddenly snaps back with the biggest turn-off imaginable: that she is the daughter he never knew existed!While Shing desperately tries to hold himself together, his bachelor life inevitably falls apart as Yan insists on living under his roof. Together the two of them start roaming through exotic Macau, tracking down Yan’s missing puppy and striving to acquaint with each other. No sooner has Shing grown into his new role as a father than he finds his hands full: when Yan is not fighting with his girlfriend Kate, she is being bothered by her dorky classmate Fai.

Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang | Starring : Isabella Leong, Chapman To, Josie Ho, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival

20 30 40

20 30 40

Three women in different stages of their lives – 20, 30, 40 – face the hardships of the female existence. Xiao Jie has just turned twenty. She is in Taipei for the first time in her life. Now that she has finally escaped her strict parents she can’t wait to make her dream of becoming a pop star come true. When she meets the rather insensitive manager, Brother Shi, she believes she has at last found someone who will help to ‘foster’ her ambitions. But her new-found independence has unexpectedly dangerous consequences for her emotions… Xiang Xiang, a thirtysomething flight attendant, is caught between two men. In the throes of a passionate affair with a married man, she also has a younger lover… Lily Zhao is a forty-year-old divorcee. She thoroughly enjoys her life as a single woman and happily agrees to one rendezvous after another. One day, Lily – who looks much younger than her age – meets an attractive single man named Jerry. The only snag is that he is currently dating a girl that is the same age as Lily’s own daughter.

Directed by Sylvia Chang | Starring : Sylvia Chang, Rene Liu, Angelica Lee, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Portland Film Festival