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

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巴尔扎克与小裁缝 | Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac

In 1971 China, in the lingering grip of the cultural revolution, two university students, Luo and Ma, are sent to a mountain mining village as part of their reeducation duty to purge them of their classical western oriented education. Amid the backbreaking work and stifling ignorance of the community, the two boys find that music, and the presence of the beautiful local young women are the only pleasant things in their miserable life. However, none compare to the young seamstress granddaughter of the local tailor. Stealing a departing student’s secret cache of forbidden books of classic western literature such as the works of Honore de Balzac, they set about to woo her and teach her things she had never imagined. In doing so, they start a journey that would profoundly change her perspective on her world and teach the boys about the power of literature and their own ability to change their world in truly revolutionary ways.

Directed by Sijie Dai | Starring : Xun Zhou, Ye Liu, Kun Chen, Zhijun Cong, Hongwei Wang | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival, Marrakech Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Ghent Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Göteborg Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival, Auckland Film Festival, Copenhagen Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival

阿飞正传 | Days of Being Wild

Days of Being Wild

Set in 1960, the film centers on the young, boyishly handsome Yuddy, who learns from the drunken ex-prostitute who raised him that she is not his real mother. Hoping to hold onto him, she refuses to divulge the name of his real birth mother. The revelation shakes Yuddy to his very core, unleashing a cascade of conflicting emotions. Two women have the bad luck to fall for Yuddy; one a quiet lass named Su Lizhen who works at a sports arena, the other a glitzy showgirl named Mimi. Yuddy passively lets the two compete for him, unable or unwilling to make a choice. As Lizhen slowly confides her frustration to a cop named Tide, he falls for her. The same is true for Yuddy’s friend Zeb, who falls for Mimi. Later, Yuddy learns of his birth mother’s whereabouts and heads out to the Philippines.

Directed by Kar Wai Wong | Starring : Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival