Film making through cultures

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

By Sam Kench

Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonThere are many countries in the world that have their own film industry, but many American kids have only seen a few if any foreign films. There is nothing at all wrong with American movies, but only ever viewing American movies stops people from experiencing the full gamut of styles, tones, and even emotions that the medium of film has to offer.

the killerThe movies a country produces represents the country itself. Different countries focus on different genres of film, and the chosen genre of film can say a lot about how people from that country think. It can show what people find entertaining, what they are conditioned to accept, and it can demonstrate how one culture differs from another.

hard boiledThere are handful of countries that can be used to demonstrate just how different of a movie a culture can produce. China, England, France, South Korea, Taiwan, and India all have different niches and styles.

heroThere was a time when China dominated the world with their Hong Kong action cinema. Although China produces films from all genres, their niche is action movies. Martial arts films and shoot ‘em ups headed by the likes of people such as Bruce Lee, Chow Yun Fat, and Jackie Chan. Chinese action films became known as the best in the world and the country has been since associated with this genre. The films can aim for entertainment and intensity in films such as “Hard Boiled or The Killer, or they can aim for Poetic beauty in films such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or “Hero. The action films made in China would become refined to the point of art. Director John Woo choreographed such elaborate shootouts that his films became known as “Bullet Ballets” or “Bullet Operas” because of the complexity of the action. It grew to the point where a gunfight could say something poetic.

I Saw the DevilTaiwan is a country that eventually grew itself a name in action films. Actions films from Taiwan developed their own specific style. Taiwanese action films have a sense of humor that is very specific to the country and you can tell a film is from Taiwan based purely on directing style. The direction of Taiwanese films has not developed much beyond the old customs of 80’s cinema. Most film industries are still accepting of slow motion, but instant replays are a thing of the past in most countries. Taiwan however still embraces instant replays. Taiwanese action films aim to show you something cool and let you enjoy it, rather than being concerned with telling a deep story.

OldboyDifferent countries focus on different genres. While a country like China or Taiwan focuses on action films as its priority, France focuses on a different genre. France also produces its share of action films, but France has a particular penchant for romance and drama films. Countries can do films in all genres but they tend to zero in on one in particular. China does action, France does romance and drama, England does crime and mystery, Japan and Australia do horror, etc. etc.

Sympathy for Mr. VengeanceSometimes you can tell which country a film comes from based on how they tell the story. Take South Korea and England for example. South Korean films tend to tell incredibly emotional stories with heavy poetic elements. South Korean films such as I Saw the Devil, “Oldboy, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance tell their stories visually. These films have very little dialogue and the stories are propelled by the striking images that they present to the audience. A great deal of effort and creativity is put into the composition of every shot.

Films coming from England tend to rely on dialogue to tell the story rather than the visuals. Both work perfectly fine for the stories they are trying to tell, but the point is that they are different. The culture of a country influences the media it produces. (More to come on films from England in Part II)

Movie Recommendation of the Week #7

I saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil

I saw the Devil

Here’s another fantastic Korean film for you. South Korea puts out some of the best movies in the world.

VENGEANCE-  I Saw the Devil tells one of the best Revenge stories since Kill Bill. The extent of the revenge is on such a complex scale and it actually evolves into an interesting double revenge story with both of the leads taking revenge on each other.

EXCELLENT ACTING – The lead does a great job but the show is practically stolen by Min-Sik Choi who is best known for his jaw dropping performance in Oldboy, one of the best movies ever made.

MASTERFULLY MADE – The writing and directing are both superb. The movie is shot very well and there are a large number of scenes that could be enjoyed purely for the wonderful visuals alone.

NO HOLDING BACK – Something that I admire about movies from South Korea is that they are not afraid to push the envelope. That being said I Saw the Devil is not gratuitous. everything that happens works to further the movie’s effectiveness. The movie is not afraid to cross lines for the sake of telling the story.

“I Saw the Devil” is currently on Netflix so you can check it out there or find it some other way. If you like a good intense revenge flick, this is a must watch.

RED 2 (2013) Movie Review

helen mirren and mary louise parker in Red @

red2I was a big fan of the first “Red”, but going into the sequel I was a bit skeptical. Some early reviews of the movie were not the most positive, but I went into the film, hoping for, at the very least, a fun ride.

Most of the main cast from the original returns and they are fantastic!

Bruce Willis in Red2Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses and he has a lot of fun in the role. He mixes his bad *ss action hero side with his comedic side and they mesh perfectly. Frank Moses is a cool character. He’s a real warmhearted killer.

John malkovich in Red2John Malkovich plays Marvin the old crazy dude who was dosed with LSD for years. He makes this character a lot of fun. Marvin is probably my favorite character. John Malkovich goes full Rowan Atkinson and makes more funny faces than Mr. Bean.

Mary-Louise Parker, most famous for her starring role on Weeds, plays Sarah, Frank’s girlfriend. She is one of my favorite actresses and does a great job. Helen Mirren returns as Victoria, and I’m a little disappointed by how she was used in Red 2. I’ll just say that the trailer is a little misleading about her character. The only lead actor I really missed from the first movie was Karl Urban’s CIA agent. Karl Urban is awesome and I was looking forward to seeing his character again, but sadly he was nowhere to be found.

red2 page

anthony hopkins in Red2There are some new additions to the cast that add even more creative and colorful characters to the roster. Anthony Hopkins as the delightfully crazy Professor Bailey. He’s not in the movie as much as I would’ve hoped however.

red2 byungByung-hun Lee who I had just seen the day before, giving an excellent performance in the Korean film “I Saw the Devil“, plays a contract killer in Red 2 who serves as a pretty cool character and adds a few extra fight scenes to Red 2.

The story has some plot holes and isn’t terribly original or interesting, but the characters make the whole ride a lot of fun. Red 2 is full of comedy that works really well and for the most part. it’s a funny movie.

I have a couple of bones to pick with Red 2. First and foremost is the Goddamn shameful product placement. It’s really horrendous how blatant and shoveled in this product placement is. There’s product placement for Pringles, Papa John’s, Moon Pies, and Jimmy Choo’s all unnecessarily crammed into the movie. They do their best to work it into the movie, but it’s still shameful.

The next bone I have is a dislike of bad CG. There is not a whole lot of CG but when there is, it looks really outdated, which is strange coming from a big budget production.

My final bone is regarding the films self contained PG13 rating. I understand that it wants to appeal to the widest audience possible. I can respect that. I can also respect the lack of strong language. That’s not a problem. But what is a problem is the way the film handles violence. The script calls for blood that the film isn’t willing to deliver. There is a scene where a few people get stabbed and one dude get’s his throat cut. You can actually see the blade on the knife retracting as it presses against the actors chest. There’s no blood, the clothes don’t even rip but the worst thing is that when the guy get’s his throat cut, there is absolutely no bodily reaction. This might have worked if the camera kept his throat off screen, but no, it’s the focus of the shot. No cut no blood nothing, yet the character dies of a slit throat. A movie doesn’t need to be bloody to be good, but it needs to be shot differently. It really takes you out of the movie.

Despite these flaws I still found Red 2 to be a really fun movie. The comedy is great and the action can be fun at times. The great cast and interesting characters make this a fun time at the movies. Maybe not as great as the first one, but still a good time.