24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Foreign-language film

Look East Korean film fest: 'Poetry,' 'The Host' in 3-D top lineup

June 4, 2012 | 12:13 pm


Ten films from South Korea, including 2010's acclaimed "Poetry" and 2009's Park Chan-wook vampire drama "Thirst," will screen as part of the inaugural Look East: Korean Film Festival, which will take place at Grauman's Chinese Theatre June 23-24, organizers announced Monday.

The lineup includes the 2005 film "A Bittersweet Life," starring Lee Byung-hun, who will appear in person for a Q&A and who will be among the first Korean performers in the history of the legendary Hollywood movie palace to have his handprints and footprints added to the theater's courtyard.

Also showing at the festival will be the 1958 drama "Flower in Hell" and the 1949 film "A Hometown in My Heart," both U.S. premieres; 2004's "3 Iron" from respected auteur Kim Ki-duk; "Poetry," from Korean writer-director Lee Chang-dong and starring the acclaimed actress Yun Jung-hee; and Todd McCarthy's 2007 documentary "Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema." French filmmaker and champion of Korean cinema Rissient will be on hand for a Q&A.

A 3-D version of the 2006 horror film "The Host," directed by Bong Joon-ho, also will be included in the lineup.

For a complete list of films, information about tickets to screenings and other events related to the festival, go to www.LookEastFestival.com


L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival expands to Long Beach

L.A. film festivals to celebrate Korean, Czech movies

— Susan King

Photo: Yun Jung-hee stars in "Poetry." Credit: Kino International.


Hong Kong's Johnnie To turns lens from gangsters to bankers

June 1, 2012 | 12:49 pm

Wildly prolific as both a director and producer, Hong Kong-based Johnnie To is best known for crackling, gripping gangster films set amid the bustle of contemporary Hong Kong — think “The Mission,” “PTU,” “Election” “Exiled” and “Mad Detective.” His film “Life Without Principle,” newly available on DVD and video on demand, is a thriller of real-world problems set against the multifaceted fallout of a financial collapse.

In this new movie, a bank officer (Denise Ho) must sell financial products to people who likely can’t afford them and most certainly do not understand them. A mid-level hustler (Lau Ching Wan) constantly plays both ends against the middle. A cop (Ritchie Yen) struggles to pull together a loan for a new apartment for his family. Their worlds intersect over money. The double-meaning of the title is indicative of how the film places some of the concerns of To’s gangster films — how to live an honorable life in a dishonorable world — within the confines of a more conventional workaday reality.

To sat down for a few minutes with 24 Frames during last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, which has shown many of his films and been a prime spot for bringing his work to Western audiences. “Principle” had its North American premiere at the fest just a few days after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

What made you to want to use an economic crisis as the backdrop for a film?

I think it's two things. One is myself. After I finished “Vengeance” [To’s 2009 thriller starring French actor Johnny Hallyday], I realized I’d been thinking for 15 years about action, police, gangsters and killers. It was maybe time to change. So I wanted my next movie not to have any gunfight scenes. Maybe give me a few years to let me think about how to make action again.

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Cannes 2012: Adam Yauch’s label buys film about reality TV

May 28, 2012 | 12:31 am

Adam Yauch's film label Oscilloscope has acquire "Reality," Matteo Garone's follow-up to "Gomorrah," at the Cannes Film Festival
CANNES, France -- A trio of movies from the Cannes Film Festival have found homes in the U.S. and will soon be headed stateside.

"Reality," Matteo Garone's dramatic comedy about a Naples fish vendor's obsession with the show “Big Brother," has been acquired by Oscilloscope Laboratories, the label founded by the late Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch. The Italian-language film is the company's first acquisition since Yauch died several weeks ago.

In a statement, the company's David Laub paid tribute to Oscilloscope's late leader. "This is exactly the kind of film Adam Yauch wanted to champion, and we are extremely proud to have it join the Oscilloscope family," he said.

PHOTOS: Cannes 2012

"Holy Motors," Leos Carax's surrealist romp through the streets of Paris, has been picked up by upstart Indomnia Media. Starring Denis Lavant, the well-received French-language movie centers on a shape-shifting man who gets role-playing "assignments" that take him from being a motion-capture actor to a vagabond old woman.

Indomnia, which has offices in Los Angeles and a large production stage in the Dominican Republic, previously acquired a number of independent titles, including two films that played Sundance, the hip-hop story "Filly Brown" and the missing-child thriller "The Imposter."

"Like Someone In Love," Abbas’ Kiarostami's Tokyo-set examination of the unlikely relationship between a call girl and a professor, has been acquired by Sundance Selects, the AMC-owned sister company to IFC Films. The move marks the AMC family's latest pickup of a film that played in Cannes; the company previously acquired titles including the Kristen Stewart-starring “On the Road,” Romanian Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills" and Ken Loach's latest, "The Angel's Share."

Release dates have not been set for "Reality," "Holy Motors" or "Like Someone in Love."

A follow-up to Garrone's well-received 2008 mob drama "Gomorrah," "Reality" was not much discussed when it premiered early in the festival. But it captured Cannes' Grand Prix, the festival's second-highest honor, on Sunday night. The movie examines the downward spiral of Luciano, a working-class husband and father, after he becomes fixated on the idea of landing a spot on "Grande Fratello," the Italian equivalent of "Big Brother."

Indomnia will try to turn "Holy Motors" into a cult hit after it gained an ardent band of followers at the festival. The movie also had a hard-core group of fans at several mainstream distributors, but they were ultimately overruled by colleagues who thought it simply too difficult to market.

The Iranian Kiarostami, for his part, continued his recent tendency to work abroad rather than try to create films within the restrictive system of his own country. Asked about his decision, he told 24 Frames, "I don't want to spend what little time I have left in my life sitting behind closed doors wondering whether I'll be able to finish what I started."

With the acquisitions, nearly all of the major foreign titles from the festival's competition section have found homes.

But a group of North American movies remain distributor-less, including Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" and, most notably, "Mud," Jeff Nichols' well-regarded and crowd-pleasing story of two Arkansas boys who encounter an enigmatic stranger.


Cannes 2012: Iranian filmmaking at two extremes

Cannes 2012: "Gomorrah" director aims at sins of reality TV

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A scene from "Reality." Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Cannes 2012: 'Amour' director Haneke says he hasn't mellowed

May 26, 2012 | 12:28 pm

Two months ago, the Austrian director Michael Haneke turned 70, which might explain why he recently took a turn from his provocateur past to make "Amour," a tender movie about a Parisian couple struggling with old age.

But ask Haneke if the prospect of that personal milestone informed the poignant tone of his new French-language film and he'll demur.

"It was simply the subject that called for this treatment," Haneke said earlier this week from a hotel suite at the Cannes Film Festival, where his movie premiered to rave reviews and became an instant Palme d'Or front-runner. "If I was making a movie about a different subject it might have demanded a different kind of treatment."

Upon being gently reminded that it was he, after all, who chose to make a movie about this tender subject in the first place, Haneke gave a sly smile and said. "If you're asking whether I've become a nicer person, well, you'll have to ask my wife."

Always crisply courteous in person, Haneke has spent the last 15 years making films that have been anything but polite.

With the immigrant drama "Cache" (2005), the original German-language and then remade English-language psychological thrillers "Funny Games" (1997 and 2008), and the inter-generational sex drama "The Piano Teacher" (2001), Haneke has built a reputation for uncomfortable material and unsettling scenes, as anyone who's watched the voyeurism-gone-violent of "Cache" or the infamous sex-on-a-bathroom-floor moments of "Piano Teacher" can affirm.

"Amour" is a different animal. The movie is a restrained story of a musically inclined octogenarian couple, Georges and Anne (played by the legendary French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva), who are thrown for a loop when Anne suffers a stroke and her health begins to decline. Hardly in great health himself, Georges must then care for his wife while he attends to his own feelings of grief.

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Filmmaker finds creative stride with gritty cop tale 'Polisse'

May 21, 2012 | 11:46 am


The whippet-thin former model Maïwenn has the sort of life story that could easily inspire a movie.

The daughter of French actress Catherine Belkhodja, Maïwenn began acting well before age 10 — her first two films, 1981’s “Next Year If All Goes Well” and the 1983 thriller “One Deadly Summer,” both starred Isabelle Adjani. In 1991, when she was just 15, she began a love affair with director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”) and gave birth to a daughter, Shanna, two years later.

The couple split in the late ’90s, and Maïwenn tried her hand at stand-up comedy, writing and performing her own one-woman show. Although she continued acting, she transitioned behind the camera in 2006 with “Pardonnez-moi,” and it’s as a director that she says she’s finally found her creative calling.

Critics would appear to agree. Her third feature, “Polisse,” which opened in Los Angeles on Friday, is a gritty ensemble drama that has earned kudos for its strong performances and semi-documentary style storytelling. The story revolves around the dedicated police officers in Paris’ Child Protection Unit who fearlessly and obsessively track down pedophiles, molesters and parents who exploit their children.

“I spent a lot of time looking for myself,” Maïwenn, 36, said, during a recent visit to Los Angeles, speaking primarily in English but also with the aid of a translator. “I have done paint school, fashion school, photography school. ... I discovered with directing, I can put everything I love into one art.”

Although Maïwenn appears on camera in “Polisse” as a photographer who has been assigned to follow the unit and who strikes up a close relationship with another officer, played by French rap superstar Joeystarr, she described her work behind the scenes as the most gratifying.

She was inspired to write the script, which she completed with collaborator Emmanuelle Bercot, after watching a television documentary about the Child Protection Unit and its work. She obtained an “internship” with the unit and tried to use the experience to inform her screenplay, but she found herself at odds with the officers. “At first, they were not really kind to me,” she said. “They were suspicious. ... First of all, I am a woman and a woman who is going to do a movie about cops. It was like, ‘Oh-oh.’”

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L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival expands to Long Beach

May 10, 2012 |  2:16 pm

Sunset Stories

“The sexy ninja.” That’s how Korean American actor Sung Kang described the bulk of his roles to filmmaker Ernesto Foronda, his director in "Sunset Stories." Fononda was happy to give Kang the opportunity to do something different, and more complex, in his dark romantic comedy, which screens at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival this weekend.

“I’m really focused on telling Asian American stories and resisting these stereotypical depictions,” Foronda, who was born in the Philippines, said. “Where can you find a movie with an Asian American male lead with the romantic interest being a Latino woman? No one else is going to tell those stories.”

Sunset Stories” centers on the chance re-encounter of May (Monique Gabriela Curen) and her ex-fiancé JP (Kang), whom she left five years earlier. Shot and set in East Los Angeles, the film premiered at Austin's South by Southwest festival in March. Now Foronda, the film’s co-writer/co-director, and Silas Howard, who co-directed, are looking forward to presenting it to a hometown crowd this Saturday, when it will be LAAPFF’s domestic centerpiece screening.

The festival runs today through Sunday, May 20, featuring movies from more than 20 countries, all with an Asian themes or by Asian and Asian American filmmakers. In its 28th year, the festival is again presented by Visual Communications, an Asian Pacific American media arts center based in L.A.’s Little Tokyo.

“Sunset Stories” is one of 46 feature films, along with 142 shorts, that LAAPFF’s organizers hope will reach a wider audience this year as they work to expand the festival to the outer reaches of Los Angeles County. In addition to returning to the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood and CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, the festival will screen films at the Art Theater in Long Beach.

“My goal is to really expand the scope and footprint of the festival,” said LAAPFF’s artistic director Anderson Le. “The Long Beach venue is the first initiative to expand.”

2012 marks Le’s first year overseeing the festival, after three and a half years as a programming consultant. He and Visual Communications executive director Shinae Yoon hope to bring festival screenings to the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County in the future.

“To reach into some of these larger Asian American communities in L.A. we knew that we would need to take our programming to other parts of L.A.,” Yoon said. “This year in Long Beach we’re doing a heavy run of Pacific Islander works as well as Cambodian films to reach out to those communities down there.”

Le also is hoping to create programming beyond the annual festival, including a potential mini-festival of Taiwanese films in the fall.

“Cinema in Taiwan is experiencing a renaissance, and actually a lot of Taiwanese American filmmakers are moving to Taiwan to make Chinese-language films. We want to showcase that trend,” Le said.

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'Warriors of the Rainbow' star: From minister to leading man

April 28, 2012 |  9:01 am

Warriors of the Rainbow

Lin Ching-Tai is a man of peace, a 52-year-old Presbyterian minister in Taiwan. But for the epic action film “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” he traded his vestments for tattoos and a fake scar, transforming into Taiwan's legendary aboriginal chief, Mouna Rudo, who led a bloody rebellion against Japanese colonizers of the island in 1930.

“Mouna is a dark, melancholy character,” Lin said during a recent visit to Los Angeles, speaking in Chinese. “As a child, he saw how the Japanese suppressed his people, and the desire for rebellion grew in him.” Even though he had never acted before, Lin said he found the lead role easy to assume because “Mouna’s character is my character, before I was 26.”

The brainchild of director Wei Te-Sheng, “Warriors” was produced for $25 million, the most ever for a Taiwanese-made film, and released there in two parts totaling 4½ hours. For its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival last September, he prepared a 2½-hour cut, and it is that version that opened in Los Angeles on Friday. Much of the film is carried by Lin, who has the brooding eyes and craggy countenance of a man who has done a lot of hard living.

The film tells the story of the Wushe Incident, the largest — and last — uprising against the Japanese by the island's aboriginal inhabitants. Taiwan had been ceded to Japan by China in 1895 in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Seediq tribe was forced to give up its sovereignty and to work for the Japanese at menial wages.

Getting the project off the ground proved a tough sell, even though Wei’s first film, the romantic comedy “Cape No. 7,” was a runaway hit in 2008. It didn’t help that he intended to cast unknowns with aboriginal backgrounds, and to use dialogue in Seediq, a language now spoken by only about 1,000 people. Even with seed money from the Taiwanese government, he spent five years raising funds. John Woo came on as a producer, but Wei said that in the end he borrowed most of the money.

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L.A. film festivals to celebrate Korean, Czech movies

April 24, 2012 | 12:34 pm

Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre will host two international film festivals.

"Look East: Korean Film Festival" will be June 23-24 at Grauman's. The festival will feature new and classic films from Korea including features directed by Kwon Taek Im, Jee-woon Kim and Chang-dong Lee.  And for the first time in the legendary Hollywood movie palace's history, Korean performers, including actor Byung-hun Lee, will have their handprints and footprints added to the theater's courtyard.

A schedule of the films and events will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information, go to http://www.LookEastFestival.com

The Czech Filmfest 2012 will take place May 16-24 at the Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theatre. The inaugural festival opens with the 2010 thriller "Walking Too Fast"  from director Radim Spacek, who will participate in a Q&A session.

Other films include 2012's "Four Suns," from director Bohdan Slama, and the 2011 animated  "Alois Nebel."

The closing night presentation moves to the Italian Cultural Institute, where "Rhythm on My Heels," a 2009 musical set in 1950s Czechoslovakia, will be shown. For more information, go to http://www.cinefamily.org/films/czech-film-fest-2012.


"No Surrender"

"Czech Film Fest Reflections Surroundings"

—Susan King

[For the record: A photo on an earlier version of this post was not of Byung-hun Lee.]

Photo: Byung-hun Lee will participate in a footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre during the Look East: Korean Film Festival in June. Credit: Look East: Korean Film Festival.

L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest announces documentaries

April 14, 2012 |  8:00 am

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival has announced a lineup of 11 documentaries touching on subjects as diverse as South Korean pop music, the golden and lost era of Cambodian cinema, and healthcare to the remote villages of northwest China.

LAPFF runs May 10 – 20, with screenings at the Directors Guild of America, CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, and for the first time, the Art Theater in Long Beach.

The festival will screen:

"Seeking Asian Female," directed by Debbie Lum, about an aging American white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying an Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online.

"Planet of Snail," directed by Yi Seung-jun about a South Korean man who is deaf and blind and his wife, who helps him despite her own disability.

"Papa Mau: The Wayfinder,"  directed by Na’alehu Anthony, about a master navigator who taught Hawaiians the dying art of how to voyage on the seas without instrumentation.

"I am – SM Town Live World Tour" directed by Choi Jin-sung following South Korean pop stars.

"China Heavyweight" directed by Yung Chang about a coach in China who recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions. The top students face dramatic choices as they graduate — should they fight for the collective good or for themselves? A metaphor for the choices everyone in China faces now.

"Give up Tomorrow," directed by Michael Collins, about a teenager from a political family in the Philippines who is accused of a double murder, putting the judicial system to the test.


"Mr. Cao Goes to Washington," directed by S. Leo Chiang, about the first Vietnamese American ever to be elected to Congress and his bid for re-election in 2010.

"Restoring the Light" directed by Carol Liu, about delivering healthcare to rural Chinese villages.

"Uploaded: The Asian American Movement," directed by Kane Diep, about the extent to which Asian Americans have utilized new media such as YouTube to enter American popular culture and where this momentum will lead.

"Where Heaven Meets Hell," directed by Sasha Friedlander, about an intensive sulfur mining operation in Indonesia.

"Golden Slumbers," directed by Davy Chou, tracing the birth and destruction of Cambodian cinema, from its first film in 1960 to the arrival of the the Khmer Rouge in 1975.


French film festival City of Lights, City of Angels kicks off Monday

Woody Allen’s 'To Rome With Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

UCLA Iran film festival opens Friday with family drama 'Mourning'

— Julie Makinen



French film festival City of Lights, City of Angels kicks off Monday

April 13, 2012 |  7:00 am

My way jeremie renier
France’s film industry is still riding high after the success of “The Artist,” the first French production to win the best picture Oscar. (It also won director for Michel Hazanavicius and lead actor for Jean Dujardin.) The afterglow is being felt by organizers of the 16th annual City of Lights, City of Angels film festival, which opens Monday at the Directors Guild of America Theater for a week of French features and shorts.

“There are more agents contacting us,” said François Truffart, director and programmer for COL-COA. “They may want to discover the next Jean Dujardin or the next Michel Hazanavicius. The interest among professionals is bigger than before.”

There are 34 narrative and documentary features and 21 shorts in the festival, which continues at the DGA through April 23. Some 40% of the films in the program already have U.S. distributors, said Truffart. Exposure at the festival doesn’t necessarily mean a film will get a distributor, said Truffart, but “I would say in the last two years more films have been acquired by distributors.”

The festival will open with “My Way,” a musical biography of French singer Claude François, who wrote “Comme d’Habitude,” which Frank Sinatra made famous in America as “My Way.” Star Jérémie Renier and director Florent-Emilio Siri (“The Nest,” “Intimate Enemies”) will appear at the screening, its North American premiere.

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