With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, January 24, 2020

AKIO JISSOJI: THE BUDDHIST TRILOGY to screen at Japan Society NY on two Saturdays in February

Japan Society NY
Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy
(This Transient Life, Mandala, and Poem)
When: Saturday, February 15 & Saturday, February 22, 2020
Where: Japan Society NYC
333 East 47th Street
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors & students/$10 Japan Society members
Special Offer: Purchase all 3 Akio Jissoji films in the same transaction
and receive $2 off each ticket

After making a name for himself in the late sixties as a boundary-pushing writer and director for the sci-fi television series Ultraman, Akio Jissoji went on to emerge as an equally innovative independent filmmaker with a trio of highly experimental and visually daring narrative features released through the Art Theater Guild (all scripted by Toshiro Ishido) that offer transgressive interpretations of Buddhist philosophy and the existential problem of impermanence. Long unavailable on home video outside of Japan, the complete “Buddhist Trilogy” makes its overdue debut at Japan Society with brand-new digital remasters.

The full schedule and information about each of the three films is available here.

Please note: These films contain strong sexual content including depictions of sexual violence.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

JIANG ZIYA coming to North American theaters on February 7th

Well Go USA
Jiang Ziya / Xin feng shen jiang zi ya
Directed by Teng Cheng and Wei Li
China, 2019, 110 minutes

Well Go USA Entertainment will release Jiang Ziya the next 3D animation in a series of animated films from Bejing Enlight Pictures in North American theaters on February 7th, 2020.

Based on an ancient Chinese myth, the film follows Jiang Ziya, a top commander in the divine army of the Kunlun Sect. Before Jiang Ziya can ascend to his new position among the Gods, he is ordered to execute the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon who threatens the mortal realm’s very existence. But when the Fox Demon shows him a dangerous secret, he is unable to complete his task resulting in his banishment to the mortal realm forever. Ten years later, atop the ruins of war, Jiang Ziya is once again faced with a challenging decision – follow the will of heaven regardless of innocent life lost or find his own path to righteousness.

Produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures, Jiang Ziya is the second movie in series of films following the box office hit Ne Zha. Currently the highest-grossing animated feature in China’s film history, Ne Zha generated a total box office revenue of nearly $720 million and passed Wandering Earth to become China’s second highest grossing film of all-time only behind the 2017 action thriller Wolf Warrior 2.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

THE KNIGHT OF SHADOWS reviewed; available today from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
The Knight of Shadows / Shen tan Pu Song Ling
Directed by Jia Yan (a.k.a. Vash)
China, 2019, 109 minutes

The Knight of Shadows (a.k.a. The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang), the newest action-comedy from Jackie Chan, debuts today on Digital, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD from Well Go USA Entertainment. I watched the Blu-ray version.

Chan stars as Pu Songling, a legendary demon hunter who tracks down beasts that enter the human dimension, assisted by a lawman protégé and a motley group of friendly monsters. Most specifically, Pu is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearances of young girls from a small village. When he discovers evil forces are kidnapping the girls to feast on their souls, he sets out to save humanity from the inhuman invasion journeying through hidden worlds and colorful dimensions in this fantastical martial arts action-comedy.

First off, I must say that I immensely appreciate Chan and his incredible contributions to Asian cinema, especially in terms of action and comedy. I had the great fortune of attending all three events at which he appeared in New York when he received the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award at the New York Asian Film Festival in June, 2013. He even signed my copy of his autobiography, I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action.

That aside, Jackie is nearing his 66th birthday, and simply can't do what he used to. And at times it shows in this film. I'm thinking, for example, of a set-piece in which he fights off a number of peace officers who are being controlled by a demon. There's the kind of moves using a chair that fans will be familiar with, but they're much less complex and vigorous then what we used to see, a shadow of their former selves. Others may not notice this, or care if they do, but I was saddened to see moves that I thought brought out when Chan used to be able to pull off but no longer can.

On the other side, some things do come off very well. Of lesser significance is Chan's face, which seems to have been digitally de-aged, somewhat like what was done to De Niro and others when they played younger versions of themselves in Scorsese's The Irishman. On the more positive side, there's a terrific scene in which Pu faces off against a female demon in a room filled with mirrors. It's snappy, well-edited and the effects are top notch.

Personally I hope that Jackie will continue to make action-comedies. Straight dramas have always been beyond his range and natural talents, and straight, heavy action films are now beyond his physical capabilities.

The Knight of Shadows is a period piece, and personally I prefer Chan's action-comedies set in contemporary times, such as Chinese Zodiac (2012) and Kung Fu Yoga (2017). While both Chan's period and his contemporary action-comedy films may have more faults and be less spectacular than earlier films made when Jackie was much more fit and able, I find them pretty much delightful.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
    -- Mandarin DTS-HDMA 5.1
    -- Mandarin Stereo
    -- English DTS-HDMA 5.1
    -- English Stereo
-- Subtitles
    -- English
    -- Off
-- The Knight of Shadows trailers
    -- Teaser (English Dub)
    -- Trailer A (International Version)
    -- Trailer A (English Dub)
    -- Trailer B (International Version)
    -- Trailer B (English Dub)
-- Previews
    -- Kung Fu Monster
    -- Ne Zha
    -- Kung Fu League

All-in-all, The Knight of Shadows is a pleasant martial arts, action-comedy, most definitely worth watching.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Romantic actioner ONE NIGHT ONLY is now available on DVD

Cheng Cheng Films
One Night Only / Tian liang zhi qian
Directed by Matt Wu
Starring Aaron Kwok and Yang Zishan
China, 2016, 90 minutes

Chinese romantic actioner One Night Only comes to DVD today, January 20, 2020 from Cheng Cheng Films.

Mixing high-octane actions with moving romance, One Night Only stars Hong Kong's legendary Aaron Kwok (Cold War, The Monkey King; also recipient of the  Star Asia Award at the New York Asian Film Festival in 2015). The film follows a him, a gambler, and actress Yang Zishan, a hooker, as they spend a suspenseful night together racing through Bangkok's underground world trying to win their fortune and dignity back. With style and energy, Matt Wu's debut wins as an emotional rollercoaster that contemplates love and fate.

IT WAS A FAINT DREAM playing at Japan Society NY on February 7th

Japan Society NY
It Was a  Faint Dream / Asaki Yumemishi
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Starring Janet Hatta, Kotobuki Hananomoto, Minori Terada, and Shin Kishida
Japan, 1974, 120 minutes

When: Friday, February 7, 2020 at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society NYC
333 East 47th Street
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors & students/$5 members

Following the brash and ultramodern "Buddhist Trilogy," Akio Jissoji's fourth film for the Art Theater Guild is an ethereal costume drama set in the Kamakura shogunate era of Japan's mid-13th century that finds the director continuing his exploration of Buddhist concepts through the life of an imperial concubine who, after suffering several misfortunes, abandons the court to find herself anew as a nun. Filled with indelible scenes of pictorial beauty, Jissoji's flair for inventive visual storytelling lends hypnotic power to this intimate epic of sadness and spiritual awakening reminiscent of Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu (1953).

Special Offer: Contact the box office to learn more about a special discount if you are a ticketholder of any of the films in the related series, Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy. Applicable to non-members only.

Related Event: Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy