This year, the Terracotta film festival is divided into four strands: In Memory Of: Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui; Current Asian Cinema; Terror-Cotta Horror All-Nighter and Spotlight on Indonesia.
The first four days will take place at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, London, with the Festival shifting to the ICA for the remaining time.
CURRENT ASIAN CINEMA
The Current Asian Cinema strand showcases the best in Asian mainstream and independent cinema and consists of films from Hong Kong, China, Japan,Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.
It is nice to see the coverage of Hong Kong cinema expanding from previous years. This year’s films are: Cold War (Sunny Luk & Longman Leung: 2012), A Bullet Vanishes (Law Chi Leung: 2012), Love Me Not (Gilitte Leung: 2012) and Drug War (Johnnie To: 2012).
My pick would be The Bullet Vanishes, which is not only visually breathtaking but has an intriguing plot about the mysterious deaths of factory workers who die from bullet wounds without any actual bullets being found.
The Assassins (Zhao Yiyang: 2012) is one of my picks of the Festival. Not only does China excel at epic cinema but The Assassins has one of my favorite actors in it: Chow Yun Fat. Chow Yun Fat’s collaborations with John Woo in his Hong Kong balletic bloodshed films are the some of the finest films that came out of pre-Handover Hong Kong. Despite a misguided move to Hollywood, Chow Yun Fat’s presence in The Assassins is enough to make me buy a ticket.
When a Wolf Falls in Love With A Sheep (Hou Chi-Jan: 2012), a surrealistic romantic comedy set on Nanyang Street – a place famous for its crammer schools known as buxibans – is well worth catching.
My pick of the Japanese films showing – Land of Hope (Sono Sion: 2012), See You Tomorrow, Everyone (Yoshihiro Nakamura: 2012) and The Story of Yonosuke (Okita Shuichi: 2012) – would be See You Tomorrow, Everyone by the director of Fish Story. which details life on a Japanese Council estate from the perspective of Saturu (Gaku Hamada), a naive young men who has been lead to believe that everything on the Estate is so perfect that he should never leave it. However, I expect Sono’s Land of Hope to be one of the big draws to the Festival – although I have yet to forgive him for Cold Fish.
Viscra Vichit Vadakan’s Karaoke Girl is the only contribution from Thailand this year and is a gritty, docu-drama about a Bangkok hostess’s struggle to provide for her family in rural Thailand.
The South Korea section of the Festival boasts two of the highest grossing films of 2012/2013 domestically and the follow-up to the cult hit Invasion of Alien Bikini, Young Gun in Time (Oh Young-doo: 2012).
While I suspect Jo Sung-hee’s Gothic romance A Werewolf Boy to sell out almost as soon as tickets are released (I have yet to read a negative review), I am excited about the opportunity to see The Berlin File (Ryoo Seung-wan: 2012), an espionage thriller by one of South Korea’s finest contemporary directors.
Contrasting in style and budget to the films over, Young Gun in Time promises to be one of the better South Korea science fiction films of recent years and comes highly recommended.
THE TERROR COTTA ALL-NIGHTER
My favorite section of Terracotta even though pulling an all-nighter is beyond me these days, boasts an outstanding line-up and includes one of the best examples of Edo-Gothic horror cinema Nakagawa Nobuo’s Ghost Story of Yotsuya (1959). On its own, Ghost Story of Yotsuya is reason enough to make an effort to stay up all night!
My pick of the other films showing is Belenggu (Upi, Indonesia: 2012), merely because it boasts a giant, rabbit throwing rabbit – what more could a horror fan want?
Countdown (Nattawut Poonpiriya, Thailand: 2012), with its demonic drug dealer whose clients are in for an exceedingly bad trip, also looks worth catching.
Japan seems to specialize in off-beat zombie films, and Zomvideo seems to continue the trend. In Zomvideo office workers have only everyday stationary supplies to defend themselves from the zombie apocalypse.
Also from Japan is Henge (Metamorphosis, Hajime Ohata: 2012), a fairly short (52 minute) film in which a wife has to deal with her husband’s metamorphosis into a hideous monster.
(reviews of the above will be available soon).
SPOTLIGHT ON: INDONESIA
One of the highlights of Terracotta 2013 is this introduction to contemporary Indonesian cinema with three films that promote a very different view of Indonesian cinema to that commonly associated with low-budget horror cinema. My pick of the three films showing is Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho/Arturo Gp/Arswendi, 2006), which is based upon the Sanskrit epic ‘Ramayana’ and takes the form of a Javanese ‘opera’.
However Mouly Surya’s What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love (2013), which is set at a special needs boarding school, sounds well worth catching as does The Dancer (Ifa Isfansyah: 2011), set in 1960’s Indonesia, which was the official entry at the 85th Academy Awards.
IN MEMORY OF: LESLIE CHEUNG AND ANITA MUI
Leslie Cheung (1956- 2003) was one of the great stars of Hong Kong Cinema, who sadly took his own life in 2003. He leaves behind a considerable legacy as actor, director, singer and songwriter. Perhaps best known in the West, for his role as Cheng Dievi in the award-winning Farewell My Concubine (Kaige Chen: 1993), it was his role as Kit in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986) that marks the beginning of his meteoric rise to super-stardom in Asia and beyond.
Anita Mui (1964-2003), also died in 2003, succumbing to cervical cancer in November. Like Cheung, she began her career as a singer before diversifying into film and gained international recognition for her role as Elaine in the Jackie Chan star vehicle, Rumble in The Bronx (Stanley Tong: 1995).
In 1988, Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui appeared together in Rouge (Stanley Kwan), a supernatural romance about a doomed love affair between a prostitute and a rich businessman. A difficult film to get hold off until very recently, Rouge is one of my picks of Terracotta 2013.
Also showing is this section of the Festival are Won Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990) and Happy Together (1997) both starring Leslie Cheung.
Full details can be found here: Terracotta Festival 2013