With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


After a one day hiatus, the film series In Focus: Fortissimo Films will return to New York's Museum of Modern Art tomorrow with two fine Asian films.

Devils on the Doorstep / Guizi lai le
Directed by Jiang Wen
Screenplay by You Fengwei, Shi Jianquan, Shu Ping, Jiang Wen.
With Jiang Wen, Jiang Hongbo, Kagawa Teruyuki, Yuan Ding
China, 2000, 140 minutes
In Mandarin, Japanese; English subtitles

Synopsis: To the average Chinese peasant, foreigners have long been “devils”—potentially dangerous outsiders who arrive with dubious motives and nefarious intent. That was especially true of the Japanese soldiers who invaded China in the 1930s. Despite having to give a percentage of the grain harvest to the Japanese, Ma Dasan and his neighbors in a small northern Chinese village coexist with them peacefully—until the night two prisoners are dumped on Ma Dasan’s doorstep, one a Japanese soldier, the other a Chinese collaborator. Director Jiang Wen, the most famous actor of his generation thanks to the TV series A Beijinger in New York, brings great emotional weight to the role of Ma Dasan. Courtesy Fortissimo Films.

ACF Comments: At the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, Devils on the Doorstep won the Grand Prize of the Jury (though not the Palme d'Or for which it was nominated. It has been banned in China, for which various explanations have been offered.  In any case, it's a truly great film with spot on performances and exquisite black-and-white cinematography.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended

For those unable to make this, the second and final screening at this film series, Devils on the Doorstep is available with some nice extras on DVD from Home Vision, which became part of  Entertainment/Image Entertainment in 2005.

The Eye / Jian Gui
Directed by Oxide Pang, Danny Pang
Written by Oxide Pang, Danny Pang, Jo Jo Hui, Yuet Chun
With Lee Sin-jie, Lawrence Chow, So Yut Lai.
Hong Kong/Thailand, 2001, 98 minutes
In Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai, English; English subtitles

Synopsis: A cornea transplant restores a young musician’s vision, but a series of inexplicable events leads her to believe that her restored sight involves “more than meets the eye.” Her new eyes foresee disasters that only she can stop, but will she have the courage to change the future? The American remake, starring Jessica Alba, was a dud, but the original shook audiences around the world and spawned a string of successful sequels from the Pang Brothers. Courtesy Palm Pictures.

ACF Comments: As has been the case (usually unfortunately) with numerous recent Asian horror films, The Eye was remade by Hollywood. The 2008 U.S. version stars Jessica Alba and was directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud. Definitely stick with the original Pang brothers film.

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