Monday, October 25, 2010


Wow, yesterday, Sunday was a full day of films that started off with highly charged emotional issues.

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH reveals parts of Japanese history that many young Japanese in Japan don’t know about and in fact, will refute that they ever happened. The movie is about the excruciatingly sad and psychotic behavior that the Japanese army unleashed on the city of Nanjing during what has become known as the Rape of Nanjing.

Most of the people in the film sat in shock, sadness and/or tears as the story re-enacts the atrocities committed during the Japanese occupation of the city.

In fact, the whole start of the second Sino-Japanese was a sham created by the Japanese to give the Imperial forces an excuse to invade China. In what is known as the Sept. 18 Incident, Japan accused Chinese dissidents of blowing up a Japanese-owned railway in South Manchuria. Documented-evidence, however, has proven that Japanese militarists actually set off the explosion. The Japanese government finally admitted involvement in August 2006.

Yet in regard to the December 1937 Rape of Nanjing, history clearly records that Japanese troops slaughtered 300,000 Chinese men, women and children and raped 20,000 Chinese women and girls. In the 2007 docudrama Nanking, several Japanese soldiers involved in the event are openly unapologetic about their behavior. According to the filmmakers, those soldiers have received death threats from Japanese people in Japan for their appearance in the film. The Japanese government has as of yet made no official admittance of guilt, and the Chinese government continues to demand an official apology.

Immediately following this startling war epic, I watched LITTLEROCK. It’s a film about a sister and brother from Japan, Atsuko and Rintaro, who while on a journey to visit the historical site of the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar, get inadvertently side tracked in small town America (Littlerock, California).

With language barriers, sexual tension and a linear storyline, the film is the perfect balance to CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH going from Japanese atrocity to Japanese innocence, where our hearts open wide to mostly the alluring and non-speaking English Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka), who seems to exude sexuality to all the American guys in this town she meets. This of course ends up creating wrong crossed signals with the town loser Cory (Corey Zacharia).

The movie is a prime candidate that’s shows the power of low budget, simply made independent films that do not need tons of exposition, red herrings or even tie up loose ends, as the movie ends without really needing to complete and address certain important character arcs that were carefully developed throughout the film.

If it was a major Hollywood film, critics would be ranting bloody murder, but instead they were raving ingenuity. Although I found it too illogical and somewhat bothersome that Corey kept bouncing back and forth between realizing that Atsuko did and then did not understand English.

I’ve been in his situation while living in Taiwan during the 1970s, and it is painfully obvious that when you know someone doesn’t understand your language, you don’t do a “Corey.” So this plot device became old. Perhaps it is African-American director Mike Ott’s deflecting reflection about something politically incorrect only he knows about.

It was also a bit quassi-humorous that the actor who played Corey was present after the film for Q&A was also named Corey and acted the exact same way he did in the film.

IP MAN 2 was a great way to end the night, a rockem-sockem sequel to last year’s closing night film IP MAN.

IP MAN saw Donnie Yet as IP taking on the evil Japanese, and now in IP MAN 2, Ip is taking on another evil power…the British. How appropriate that this film was the third Donnie Yen film of the festival and the storyline came across a lot like ROCKY III, where Sammo Hung as Hung Sifu and Ip, in a spiritual way, join forces to bring down the British “Drago.”

I’ve got to say though that the villainous British boxer sounded too much like an Australian…(Déjà vu coming)… perhaps it is Chinese director Wilson Yip’s deflecting reflection about something politically incorrect only he knows about.

To me, it was great to see perennial Shaw Brothers former Five Venom Lo Meng and Jackie Chan’s former assistant Fung Ke-an in the martial arts mix, mixing it up with Yen. And of course to see my old pal Sammo Hung looking as sharp as ever.

When I worked on Hung’s CBS TV show MARTIAL LAW, he shared with me that after Lee’s influence in Hong Kong martial arts film, just about everyone in his circle learned wing chun for film since the techniques were commonly used in conjunction with other styles during many kinds of cinematic fight scenes. Sammo’s wing chun is exceptionally good thus the perfect man to do the fight choreography.

It was a nice touch at the end of the film to have a wee lad that really looked like Bruce Lee show up wanting to become Ip’s students, who as we know eventually did at age 16.

1 comment:

  1. dr.craig.. i agree mostly w/ your post about Littlerock.. except 1 correction. Mike Ott is not African American. He's actually in Europe now. The person you were referring to is Fred.. the producer.