HKMDB Daily News

October 1, 2009

October 1, 2009a

Variety: Ghost Town review

Zhao Dayong’s magisterial docu “Ghost Town” minutely examines the day-to-day doings in the dying town of Zhiziluo, in the mountains of China’s Yunan province. At a leisurely 172 minutes, the pic takes on the desultory rhythms of rural stagnation, its rigorous compositions imparting aesthetic weight and meditative scope to everything in its purview…

Jiang Wen, Shuji Iwai, Maggie Q, Shu Qi

Golden Week Film Recap (slide show)

Films screening during National Day holidays:

The Warrior and The Wolf, Earthshaking, Royal Tattoo, Copy Cat, Happy Running (animation), Fei Chang Zhu Bo, My Fair Gentleman, Wheat, The Message, Shenbing Kids (animation), Prequel: Monkey King (3D),  The King of Milu Deer (3D), The Founding of a Republic

Hong Kong premiere of Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock

Tony Leung sans wife Carina Lau

Karena Lam

Chin Kar-Lok


Vivian Chow

Vivian and husband Joe Nieh attending the stage drama Wild Rose

New York, I Love You (Variety review)

Filed under: News — Tags: , , — dleedlee @ 9:37 am

New York, I Love You
A Vivendi Entertainment release of an Emmanuel Benbihy and Marina Grasic production, in association with Sherezade Films, Benaroya Pictures, Grosvenor Park Media, Ever So Close, Visitor Pictures, Plum Pictures, 2008NY5 and Grand Army Entertainment. (International sales: QED Intl., Los Angeles.) Produced by Benbihy, Grasic. Executive producers, Michael Benaroya, Glenn Stewart, Marianne Maddalena, Taylor Kephart, Bradford W. Smith, Claus Clausen, Jan Korbelin, Steffen Aumueller, Pamela Hirsch, Celine Rattray, Susanne Bohnet. Co-producer, Parker Bennett.

Segment Directed by Jiang Wen
With: Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson.
Segment Directed by Mira Nair
With: Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan.
Segment Directed by Shunji Iwai
With: Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci.
Segment Directed by Yvan Attal
With: Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn.
Segment Directed by Brett Ratner
With: Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, Blake Lively.
Segment Directed by Allen Hughes
With: Drea De Matteo, Bradley Cooper.
Segment Directed by Shekhar Kapur
With: Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf.
Segment Directed by Natalie Portman
With: Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, Jacinda Barrett.
Segment Directed by Fatih Akin
With: Ugur Yucel, Shu Qi, Burt Young.
Segment Directed by Joshua Marston
With: Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman.
Transitions Directed by Randy Balsmeyer
With: Emilie Ohana, Eva Amurri, Justin Bartha.

The “Cities of Love” franchise begun with “Paris, je t’aime” discards originality for uniformity in its disappointing second installment, “New York, I Love You.” Ten helmers were given a formula for shooting a Gotham-based love story: Lensing had to last no more than two days and editing just one week, connected by transitions shot by one more director. The results are, well, formulaic, hobbled by weak dialogue and absent any sense of texture. The city itself comes off characterless and blandly gentrified, making the Oct. 16 Vivendi Entertainment release unlikely to catch on with targeted romantic arthouse sophisticates.

Whether it can appeal to the multiplex set will depend entirely on marketers pulling in crowds who don’t see much difference between Las Vegas’ “New York New York” and the real thing. In particular, Gothamites will wonder what happened to their city, devoid of grit, and where blacks are mere extras and Hispanics apparently nonexistent. Producer Emmanuel Benbihy (who also produced “Paris, je t’aime” and is credited with the feature-film concept here) presumably favored quick turnarounds because they’re cheaper and foster an off-the-cuff urgency, but the talented directors assembled here seem to have felt uninspired or apathetic.

Segments last around eight minutes each, and none are titled, in keeping with Benbihy’s stated goal of avoiding the sense of a collection of shorts. Despite the push for giving it all a feature feel (Scarlett Johansson’s directorial debut, shot in black-and-white, was cut because it didn’t conform to the overall look), there’s no getting around the fact that this is indeed a collection of shorts, which in itself wouldn’t be a bad thing if the components were more incisive.

Some segments do hold up nicely: Mira Nair’s entry stars Natalie Portman as a Chassidic woman in the Diamond District whose strictly business relationship with a Jain gem merchant (Irrfan Khan) takes a surprising turn. While several of the films deal with cross-cultural meetings and clashes, Nair avoids the expected and invests her entry with real emotional tenderness.

Completely different, and working well because of it, is Brett Ratner’s segment about a high schooler (Anton Yelchin) suckered by a pharmacist (James Caan) into taking his wheelchair-bound daughter (Olivia Thirlby) to the prom. Again, expectation is upended, and there’s a piquant sense of humor to the piece, though the voiceover is unnecessary.

Unanticipated relationships similarly inform the episodes directed by Jiang Wen and Yvan Attal, but they lack the tight punchiness needed for such quick work. In Jiang’s piece, thief Hayden Christensen pickpockets Andy Garcia, only to fall for Garcia’s mistress (Rachel Bilson). Attal’s entry consists of two encounters, one involving fast-talker Ethan Hawke trying to pick up a coolly amused Maggie Q (one of the few thesps to make an impression), the other featuring an intense come-on between Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn.

Orlando Bloom is a musician on a tight deadline in Shunji Iwai’s segment, an OK entry made pleasant by the enticingly sweet voice of Christina Ricci as the largely unseen woman encouraging him on the phone. Darkest of the shorts is Allen Hughes’ entry, starring Drea De Matteo as a woman trying to understand why she had a one-night stand with a younger guy (Bradley Cooper), and why she wants to see him again. De Matteo rises above the material, though the flashback sex scene feels gratuitous rather than urgent.

Portman directs a wispy short about a little girl (Taylor Geare) whose male nanny (Carlos Acosta) is uncomfortable being seen as merely a child-care provider. More substantial is Fatih Akin’s piece, starring Turkish thesp Ugur Yucel as an artist obsessed with a woman (Shu Qi, so it’s understandable) in Chinatown. Though the segment works, it feels cut out from something bigger, and as with all the other shorts, even Akin’s corner of Gotham has no extratextual role.

Oddest of all is the short helmed by Shekhar Kapur, who took over for the late Anthony Minghella (who scripted the episode, and to whom the entire pic is dedicated). Julie Christie plays an opera singer who checks into an elegant hotel (shot as if it’s somewhere in heaven) to kill herself. She’s intrigued by a handicapped bellboy (Shia LaBeouf, his accent slipping into unknown regions) who magically becomes associated with John Hurt. Meant to convey feelings of wistfulness and yearning, the piece merely feels ill thought-out, despite Christie’s best efforts.

The sole short not set in Manhattan belongs to Joshua Marston, who sets Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman on Coney Island; their standard old-couple shtick is redeemed by the sheer pleasure of watching these two pros radiate more personality than the dialogue provides.

It’s too much to expect the kind of New Yorkese wit spouted by Woody Allen characters in their prime, and Benbihy’s decision to hire non-Gotham helmers could have been a bold move, but the compendium’s greatest flaw is its overall homogeneous feel. Emilie Ohana, cast as a video artist casually shooting the life around her, is meant to be the connecting feature in the transitional scenes (helmed by Randy Balsmeyer), but she’s simply an empty, smiling shell, sweetly observing but never entering into the life of the film.

Perhaps because of the time constraints, tech creds are solid but featureless; lighting is especially uninspired. Music is meant to reflect the Big Apple’s multicultural mix, but none of it feels like New York.

Feature film concept, Emmanuel Benbihy, based on a premise by Tristan Carne. Main editor, Affonso Goncalves; music, Jack Livesey, Peter Nashell; music supervisor, Ed Gerrard; songs, the Budos Band; production designer, Teresa Mastropierro; costume designer, Victoria Farrell; sound, Ken Ishii, Tom Varga; re-recording mixers, Lewis Goldstein, Matthew Gough; associate producers, Pierre Asseo, Laurent Constanty, Warren T. Goz, Stewart McMichael; assistant directors, Tom C. Fatone, Adam J. Escott; casting, Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee. Reviewed at Rio de Janeiro Film Festival (Panorama), Sept. 29, 2009. (Also in Cannes Film Festival — market.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 103 MIN. Segment Directed by Jiang Wen Written by Hu Hong, Meng Yao; adaptation, Israel Horovitz.

Segment Directed by Jiang Wen
Written by Hu Hong, Meng Yao; adaptation, Israel Horovitz. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Mark Lee Ping Bing; editor, Affonso Goncalves; music, Tonino Baliardo.
Segment Directed by Mira Nair
Written by Suketu Mehta. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Declan Quinn; editor, Allyson C. Johnson; music, Mychael Danna.
Segment Directed by Shunji Iwai
Written, edited by Shunji Iwai; adaptation, Israel Horovitz. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michael McDonough; music, Shoji Mitsui.
Segment Directed by Yvan Attal
Written by Olivier Lecot, Yvan Attal. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Benoit Debie; editor, Jennifer Auge.
Segment Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Jeff Nathanson. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Pawel Edelman; editor, Mark Helfrich; music, Mark Mothersbaugh.
Segment Directed by Allen Hughes
Written by Xan Cassavetes, Stephen Winter. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michael McDonough; editor, Cindy Mollo; music, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne.
Segment Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by Anthony Minghella. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Benoit Debie; editor, Jacob Craycroft; music, Paul Cantelon.
Segment Directed by Natalie Portman
Written by Natalie Portman. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Jean-Louis Bompoint; editor, Tricia Cooke; music, Nicholas Britell.
Segment Directed by Fatih Akin
Written by Fatih Akin. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Mauricio Rubinstein; editor, Melody London; music, Ilhan Ersahin.
Segment Directed by Joshua Marston
Written by Joshua Marston. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Andrij Parekh; editor, Affonso Goncalves; music, Marcelo Zarvos.
Transitions Directed by Randy Balsmeyer
Written by Hall Powell, Israel Horovitz, James Strouse. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michael McDonough; editor, Affonso Goncalves.

Ghost Town (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 9:28 am

Ghost Town

(Documentary — China) A Lantern Films China production. Produced by David Bandurski, Zhao Dayong. Directed, edited by Zhao Dayong.

With: Yuehan, John the Elder, Pu Biqui, Li Yunai, Ah Long.
(Nu dialogue)

Zhao Dayong’s magisterial docu “Ghost Town” minutely examines the day-to-day doings in the dying town of Zhiziluo, in the mountains of China’s Yunan province. At a leisurely 172 minutes, the pic takes on the desultory rhythms of rural stagnation, its rigorous compositions imparting aesthetic weight and meditative scope to everything in its purview. The camera might as easily linger on a bunch of dogs warily sniffing each other as on emotionally charged human interactions. Niche item’s appeal should not be particularly affected by its length, which may even enhance its arthouse cachet.

Zhao divides his docu into three parts, proceeding from the town’s oldest inhabitants to its youngest. The first, “Voices,” centers on estranged father-and-son pastors whose different historical experiences manifest themselves in theological disputes over music. The father, imprisoned for 25 years because of his beliefs, passionately clings to the cultural biases of his European missionary teachers, while his son blends Christian spiritual values with Chinese customs. Yet despite the bitter generational divides caused by China’s extreme policy shifts, the small rituals of making tea or leafing through a Bible give rise to a serenity that infuses all corners of Zhiziluo.

That serenity absorbs the shock of the multiple domestic dramas in the docu’s second section, “Recollections.” An abandoned husband, neglecting his pigs, turns instead to drink — the reason his wife left him in the first place. A young woman with a baby, back to visit her family, decries the swindlers who tricked her into a loveless marriage far away. A struggling truck driver, unable to find parts for his ramshackle vehicle, is forced to depart for the city and abandon his girlfriend, whose destitute parents are considering selling her as a bride to a couple of outsiders. None of these twentysomethings can remain in Zhiziluo.

In the third part, “Innocence,” a 12-year-old boy, left behind when his parents were uprooted years ago, survives by trapping and eating small birds, his energy and tumbling interaction with other village kids engaging the camera in constant movement, in contrast with the stasis of the rest of the film. Zhao thematically comes full circle to pagan and religious iconography as the boy participates in a fiery ghost exorcism, then slips into church to sing Christian hymns.

The ironic final images fix upon a large white statue of Mao Zedong, his arm raised in benediction, but with his back to the town.

Camera (color, HD), Zhao; music, Zhu Fangqiong; sound editor, Wei Cunyi; assistant director, Li Qing. Reviewed at Walter Reade Theater, New York, Sept. 18, 2009. (In New York Film Festival.) Running time: 172 MIN.

October 1, 2009

‘Informed sources’ report that Zhang Ziyi has indeed been retained to play Tony Leung’s wife in Wong Kar-Wai’s First Generation Master. Zhang Ziyi, through her manager, denied the rumor yesterday. Elsewhere, it’s been reported that Wong Kar-Wai is under a lot of pressure as Ip Man was a big box office success and will now compete against Ip Man 2. The casting of Zhang Ziyi is viewed as a counterstrike. Ip Man’s son was asked about the pair, he said, ‘Both Lynn Xiong and Zhang Ziyi are very thin. My mother was similiar in build (?). I have not seen Zhang Ziyi’s acting but Lynn Xiong in Ip Man was pretty good.’

Brigitte Lin reportedly turned down a role because it was not tailor-made for her. Chang Chen is said to play Bruce Lee. Filming is now slated to commence in November.


Barbie Hsu and Nic Tse

Nic and Barbie shoot a special effects scene in the studio for Hot Summer Days. Today, Nic is flying to Beijing to perform in the National Day celebration. (

Mike He, Li Xiaolu

Alfred Cheung’s new film 7 Days To Fall in Love With You opens Nov.3. Lead actress Li Xiaolu recommends spending the National Day Holiday to find a new boyfriend or girlfriend. (

Korea Times: ‘Rain’ Falls on Summer-Battered Hearts

Would you give love a second chance? In his fifth feature “A Good Rain Knows,” (aka Season of Good Rain) melodrama maestro Hur Jin-ho says “yes,” orchestrating another romance that seeps into the viewers’ hearts with a graceful andante tempo.

Korea Times: Jang Dong-kun makes a comeback onscreen as a character not unlike himself ― an eligible bachelor ― in “Good Morning President.”

NYTimes: Indie Filmmakers: China’s New Guerrillas

Like independent filmmakers everywhere, Mr. Zhao worked with no guarantee of an audience, or even a place to show his work. By his estimates only a few thousand people have seen “Ghost Town” in China since he finished it last year. Several hundred more are scheduled to see it Sunday afternoon when the film has its international premiere at the New York Film Festival.

Ang Lee says he’s baffled by ‘Woodstock’ results

The Message hits theaters for National Day

The movie was directed by Gao Qunshu from the mainland and Chen Kuofu from Taiwan. According to Chen, the movie was filmed to tell the destinies of people involved in China’s Anti-Japanese Aggression War (1937-1945)…

The plot of the film was inspired after a murder mystery game, in which one tries to guess who is “killing” the others in the group. However, the film is more solemn than the game, as heroes and heroines in the movie are tortured both physically and spiritually in a bid to fulfill their purposes.

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