From Asia, With Love
January 24 - May 5
Contemporary Cinema from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and China
Lecturer: Jennifer Dorothy Lee
From January 24 through May 5, we offer a series of fourteen programs entitled From Asia, With Love: Contemporary Cinema from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and China, with weekly Tuesday lectures by Jennifer Dorothy Lee, Assistant Professor of East Asian Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The series is presented in cooperation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism. Additional screenings of the films on Friday or Saturday do not include Prof. Lee's lecture. Admission to all From Asia, With Love programs is $5 for Film Center members; usual admission prices apply for non-members.
“Listen carefully. Everyone makes mistakes. But if you commit a sin, you have to atone for that sin. Atonement, do you know what that means? Big atonement for big sins. Small atonement for small sins.” This dialogue from Park Chan-wook’s LADY VENGEANCE outlines a condition long familiar to East Asian contexts that in recent years have become renowned for cinematic art. Terrorized by memories, haunted by history, the characters populating such films are, nonetheless, jubilant and tenaciously alive. They redefine the heroes and antagonists for Asian modernity at the turn of the 21st century.
This series will examine how new uses of moving image and sound in cinema from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and China demonstrate the intense preoccupations of their filmmakers. Themes of national loss and cross-border tensions, of seeking revenge and settling debts, and of transcending the unbearable present in the fantastical will be explored. In what ways do contemporary filmmakers from Asia negotiate devastating histories and memories, all the while performing on a globalizing stage for international viewerships?
—Jennifer Dorothy Lee
1998, Hideko Nakata, Japan, 96 min.
With Nanako Matsushima, Rie Ino’o
“Time has been very kind to Hideo Nakata’s sublime, quietly terrifying 1997 techno-horror.”—David Jenkins, Time Out London
“This is an extraordinary film, not least because it is Japanese and yet feels universal. When blood runs cold, the heart can stop. Take a friend. Or take care.”—Angus Wolfe Murray, Eye for Film
The most legendary product of the Y2K-era J-Horror movement, RINGU harks back to the suggestively subtle Val Lewton tradition while extending the genre’s clammy reach to realm of electronic media. The monster here is a grainy b&w bootleg videotape that, according to urban legend, brings agonizing death within a week to those unlucky enough to view it. That curse falls on a TV reporter who is investigating the unexplained death of her niece, and she now has seven days to unravel the mystery of the contaminated tape and the soggy specter in its depths. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
1999, Takashi Miike, Japan, 115 min.
With Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina
"A lethally poised Venus flytrap of a movie."—Dennis Lim, Village Voice
"A graphic lesson in what happens when you treat women as objects, even objects of reverence."—David Edelstein, Slate
"It's a scary world, isn't it?" Miike's monumental mind-f---er is one of the iconic films of the J-Horror and Asian Extreme movements. It has provoked reactions ranging from rapture to revulsion but rarely indifference, and few would deny the skill with which its diabolical premise is meticulously set up and then ruthlessly carried out. Widowed for seven years, middle-aged TV producer Aoyama (Ishibashi) decides to look for a new wife. A co-worker suggests that he stage a cattle-call audition for a bogus TV show as a way to scout matrimonial prospects. Aoyama is quickly drawn to number 28 on the list: tall, skinny, soft-spoken Asami (Shiina)... Either you already know the rest, or you are best left to discover it on your own. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
1989, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Japan, 67 min.
With Tomôro Taguchi, Shin'ya Tsukamoto
"A ferociously original 16mm nightmare that stands in a league of its own."—Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
"67 of the most relentlessly intense minutes in recent film history."—Richard Harrington, Washington Post
Tsukamoto's cyberpunk cult classic unleashes a non-stop barrage of metallic mutation and mayhem. A diabolical metal fetishist (Tsukamoto) who envisions an all-metal future crosses paths with a horn-rimmed salaryman (Taguchi) who will unwittingly serve as a pioneer into the hard new world of steel and iron. Flesh merges with pipes, wires, nuts, bolts, and all manner of metallic detritus in ever more grotesque configurations, including a drill-shaped phallus that serves as the centerpiece of one of the most demented sex scenes ever filmed. Shot in gritty 16mm b&w on a shoestring budget, the film's junkyard bricolage fuses elements of Cronenberg body horror, ERASERHEAD-era Lynch, Svankmajer stop-motion, and GODZILLA-style pop-apocalyptic slugfests. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
aka Sympathy for Lady Vengeance / Chin-jeol-han geum-ja-ssi
2005, Park Chan-wook, South Korea, 115 min.
With Lee Yeong-ae, Choi Min-sik
"It's breathless pop filmmaking, narratively mercurial, viscerally traumatic, and thematically infernal."—Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
Getting even, and possibly a bit more, is a two-edged sword in this final chapter in director Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy.” A sweet-faced schoolgirl is sent to the slammer for a sensational child murder she didn’t commit. Taking the old adage “Don’t get mad; get even” to heart, she spends 13 years behind bars ingeniously planning for the day of reckoning with the man who betrayed her. Soon the circle of vengeance widens beyond even what this ice-cold heroine had imagined. In Korean with English subtitles. 35mm widescreen. (BS)
2009, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 129 min.
With Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin
“The heart-pounding heart of MOTHER, Ms. Kim is a wonderment…perched on the knife edge between tragedy and comedy.”--Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“Takes on the fractured Freudianism of Hitchcock’s PSYCHO…cockeyed poetry.”--J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
Currently scooping in awards by the armload for PARASITE, director Bong (SNOWPIERCER, OKJA) has long been the standard-bearer for a unique strain of fantastical horror-tinged Korean cinema. He followed THE HOST, his 2006 sea-monster hit, with a story in which the monster skews closer to real life. Dim-witted Do-joon (Won) is permanently tied to his mother’s (Kim) apron strings, the apple of her shrewd eye. Tough, sneaky and hilariously resilient, Mom thinks on her feet of necessity; she and her son both have nasty secrets. When a local schoolgirl is found murdered, suspicions point to odd mama’s boy Do-joon. Typical of Bong, the audience will pay big-time for falling for the irresistibly eccentric title character, who is hell-bent on protecting her son at any cost. In Korean with English subtitles. 35mm widescreen. (BS)
2018, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 121 min.
With Lily Franky, Kirin Kiki
"A beautifully felt family drama... Kore-eda finds a perfect story about being human."--Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
"This wise and insightful film is delicate, poignant and unexpectedly powerful."--Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
A small larcenous family does all the wrong things for the right reasons in this heart-rending Cannes Palme d’Or winner, Golden Globe nominee, and Oscar nominee. A crowning achievement in Kore-eda’s string of films centering on compromised familial bonds (OUR LITTLE SISTER; LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON), SHOPLIFTERS fashions a family consisting of mom Nobuyo, dad Osamu, pre-teen son Shota, and sister-in-law Aki, all living on the precarious edge of insolvency with Granny in her tiny apartment. World-class skill in shoplifting supplements their meager income. Their number grows when Osamu brings home a five-year-old girl found shivering and hungry in the street. A devastating family unraveling is soon in the offing with a crisis that reveals that all is not as it seems in this cozy setup. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
The Piano in a Factory
GANG DE QIN
2010, Zhang Meng, China, 106 min.
With Wang Qian-yuan, Quin Hai-lu
"A charming, light-hearted film which in places is laugh-out-loud funny."—Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film
Something of a fictional counterpart of Jia Zhang-ke's classic documentary 24 CITY, this poignant comedy centers on the quiet desperation and scrappy resilience of workers left stranded in the wake of economic reform. Set in a decaying industrial city in Northern China (but relevant to Rust Belts everywhere), the story centers on Guilin (Wang), a former steel worker who now plays the accordion in a ragtag band while caring for his young daughter, a talented pianist in need of a piano. When his long-absent wife turns up demanding a divorce and child custody, Guilin determines that the only chance he has of holding onto his beloved child is to build her a piano from scratch. He gathers together some of his former co-workers, and, taking over the now-abandoned factory, they team up to make a piano—out of steel, no less. Director Wang employs a freewheeling style to inject the film's bleak, rubble-strewn environment with doses of wistful fantasy, slapstick comedy, and energetic musical numbers. In Mandarin with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
MING TIAN JI DE AI SHANG WO
2013, Arwin Chen, Taiwan, 107 min.
With Richie Jen, Mavis Fan
"A charming, hilarious, and unashamedly frank film."—James Marsh, Screen Anarchy
Starting off as a smoothly contrived rom-com with a gay twist, writer-director Chen's second film (after AU REVOIR TAIPEI) develops into a character-driven dramedy of unexpected depth. Taipei optician Weichung (Jen) is contentedly married with a six-year-old son, although the faraway look in his eyes suggests a hidden longing. Then an encounter (not as accidental as it first seems) with a handsome flight attendant from Hong Kong stirs up the gay identity that Weichung has stifled since his marriage. Meanwhile, Weichung's pouty younger sister Mandy has second thoughts almost immediately after getting engaged to nice-but-dull San-San. As the film stealthily evolves into something deeper and more complex, its emotional center shifts from Weichung to his wife Feng (Fan), whose mingled feelings of bitterness and compassion come to a head in a bravura karaoke performance of the title song. In Mandarin, Min Nan, and Korean with English subtitles. 35mm widescreen. (MR)
The Wedding Banquet
1993, Ang Lee, Taiwan/USA, 106 min.
With Winston Chao, May Chin, Mitchell Lichtenstein
"A very adroit and entertaining social comedy."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
The second feature by Taiwanese-born, American-educated Lee is part of the so-called "Father Knows Best" trilogy that explored his bi-cultural roots before he moved on to more international and less directly personal subjects. In a longtime gay relationship but under pressure from his Taiwanese parents to marry and produce a grandchild, New York-based real-estate entrepreneur Wai-Tung (Chao) arranges a marriage of convenience with a Chinese artist (Chin) in need of a green card. When his parents arrive unexpectedly for the nuptials, Wai-Tung, his bride, and his lover Simon (Lichtenstein) struggle to keep up the facade of heterosexual bliss, and a massive, Taiwanese-style wedding banquet puts them to the test. Combining sharp social satire with a touching take on generational and cultural gaps, THE WEDDING BANQUET did much to challenge the gay and Asian stereotypes of its day. In Mandarin and English with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)