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February 11, 2014

Journey to the West (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 7:22 pm

Journey To The West
10 February, 2014
By Jonathan Romney

Dir: Tsai Ming-Liang. France-Taiwan 2014. 56mins

The question “How slow can you go?” is answered with sublime poise (quite literally) by actor Lee Kang-Sheng in Tsai Ming-Liang’s extraordinary Journey To The West (Xi You) - a film that may well be the last word in (and overtly on the subject of) ‘Slow Cinema’. A follow-up to the Taiwanese director’s 2012 short Walker – which originally formed part of the portmanteau film Beautiful 2012 - Journey takes the same premise, a Buddhist monk walking at something slower than tortoise pace, relocates it in Marseille and introduces the always fascinating wild card of Denis Lavant.

The words ‘hypnotic’ and ‘mesmerising’ are over-used with regard to such abstract cinema, but the words genuinely apply in this remarkable venture which is more like a performance or installation art project than an ‘art film’ in the regular sense. Journey is most likely to flourish in very specialised niches, both at festivals and on the art fair circuit, where it should enjoy a prestigious ‘event’ status, especially when screened - as it was in the Berlinale Panorama - on a gigantic IMAX screen, the projection format truly adding a special dimension.

Consisting of only 14 shots of varying lengths - from very brief to a centrepiece of approximately 20 minutes - the film shows two men, narratively unconnected, who finally come together in an extraordinary (and very amusing) sequence that shows off both actors’ physical skills and sense of timing. The film begins with a lengthy close-up in darkness of a largely unblinking Lavant, his weatherbeaten features (down which a single tear eventually rolls) filling the screen like a craggy lunar landscape.

Further shots of Lavant’s face by day are interspersed with the progress of a red-robed monk (Tsai regular Lee Kang-Sheng) as he undertakes a spiritual and physical exercise of walking in extreme slow motion across Marseille, beginning in one of the crumbling, deserted buildings that are a favourite Tsai locale. In some shots, the monk is briefly glimpsed in the crowd, in others he’s at the centre of the image, filling the screen, and sometimes (in shots that confirm Tsai’s status as a deadpan humorist and actor Lee as his Zen Buster Keaton), the monk materialises improbably - passing outside a window or glimpsed in the distance in a mirror.

This very sculptural film makes dazzling use of the mirrored canopy of Marseilles’ Port Vieux Pavillion - in one magically framed shot, making a stretch of waterfront resemble an ‘infinity pool’, and in a teasing sign-off, leaving the viewer searching for the monk in an upside-down crowd, Where’s Wally? style (a touch of delicate jazz piano sneaks in bewitchingly at this point).

Marseilles itself is another star of the film, its population reacting with the players in two shots in particular. One, the film’s centrepiece, has the monk - a silhouette backlit by a shaft of daylight - descending a staircase while passersby ignore, observe or puzzle over him. In the other, he moves past a busy corner bar, while this time Lavant follows him at a distance, also slowly and in pretty much perfect synch.

The film is a tribute to the astonishing physical and mental discipline of Lee Kang-Sheng, one of the great Everyman figures in modern cinema, and to the elegance and mastery of a director whose films represent a subtle, constantly surprising and often moving brand of minimalism that’s entirely his own. Journey To The West shows that style at its simplest and most rarefied, but also, in a gloriously counter-intuitive way, its most directly pleasurable.

Production companies: House on Fire, Neon Productions, Résurgences, Homegrown Films

International sales: Urban Distribution, www.urbandistribution.com

Producers: Vincent Wang, Fred Ballaïche

Screenplay: Tsai Ming-Liang

Cinematography: Antoine Héberlé

Editor: Lei Shen Qing

Music: Sébastien Mauro

Main cast: Lee Kang-Sheng, Denis Lavant
ScreenDaily

February 10, 2014

Journey to the West (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 2:31 pm

Journey to the West
2/9/2014 by Deborah Young

The Bottom Line
A piece of curious performance art as beautifully photographed as it is sleep-inducing.

Taiwanese cult director Tsai Ming-liang takes his snail-paced monk to Marseilles.

One has to ask if the English title of cryptic Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang’s Journey to the West is a sly reference to Stephen Chow’s demon-hunting hit of last year, with which it has nothing but the title in common. Instead Tsai returns to his Buddhist monk who walks through the city at a snail’s pace to the general indifference of the populace and, of course, most of the film-going public. Yet there will be followers of this short but patience-trying film, and its message to get off the grindstone of unhappiness and find inner peace will fly at selected festivals after its Berlin premiere. It’s hard to imagine other audiences.

This is the third installment of the series, after the Asian-set Walking on Water (part of the film Letters from the South) and the original Walker (part of Beautiful 2012) with Lee Kang-sheng returning to the role of the stooped, red-robed monk who treads through streets and squares and up and down staircases in exaggerated slo-mo with his fingers in a blissful mudra. All around him Antoine Herberle’s hidden camera captures the bustling life of the city, which in the present case means Marseilles, as busy people ignore him or politely look the other way.

One man, however (played by Denis Lavant), decides to imitate his penitential steps and follows him like a disciple. We have previously seen the man’s suffering face in extreme close-up and profile, in fixed long-held shots emphasizing his unhappy heavy breathing. Now he seems to have found a purpose in life.
The setups are often startling, even witty, like the monk passing by a store dummy or entering an empty screen where red paint literally seems to be drying. Tourists furtively snap his picture and the bemused idlers in an outdoor café watch him until they lose interest. The final shot turns the city upside down in a huge mirror.

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), Feb. 9, 2014.
Production companies: House on Fire, Neon Productions, Resurgences, Homegreen Films
Cast: Lee Kang-sheng, Denis Lavant
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Screenwriter: Tsai Ming-liang
Producers: Vincent Wang, Fred Bellaiche
Director of photography: Antoine Herberle
Editor: Lei Shen Qing
Music: Sebastien Mauro
Sales Agent: Urban Distribution
No rating, 56 minutes.
THR

February 4, 2013

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 11:23 am

Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons
4 February, 2013
By Edmund Lee

Dirs: Stephen Chow, Derek Kwok. China. 2013. 110mins

A glorious return to form after the slightly underwhelming CJ7 (2008) and his first ever directorial effort in which he doesn’t also play the lead role, Stephen Chow’s Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons is a thoroughly entertaining action comedy that suggests, a la Woody Allen, a promising new life behind the screen for the actor-director, who found an eager international audience with 2001’s Shaolin Soccer and 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle after having established himself as Hong Kong’s most iconic comedian since the early 1990s.

Those who’re worrying that Chow is on an irreversible retreat into self-congratulatory mode could be in for a surprise: as someone whose image is synonymous with his oeuvre, the actor isn’t even making a notable cameo appearance in his latest film. Serving up a delirious blend of monster movie, romantic comedy and martial arts fantasy, this inventive new take on the classical novel Journey To The West also marks a long-awaited return to the material by Chow, who previously starred as the Monkey King in director Jeff Lau’s now-classic two-part adaptation A Chinese Odyssey (1995).

Clearly structured – and titled – as the first film of a potential movie series, Conquering The Demons opens in mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore on February 7, as well as Taiwan on the following day, to coincide with the Chinese New Year holidays. While international sales should be less affected by the actor’s conspicuous onscreen absence, it remains to be seen if Chinese viewers will respond with the same enthusiasm they showed the Chow-starring comedies of the past.

Although the film is billed as “a Stephen Chow film” that is “produced, directed and written by” him, it is noteworthy that Chow, as a producer, only took up his directorial duties – and the head billing – midway through the production. Conquering The Demons is in fact co-directed by Derek Kwok (Gallants), who was initially the sole director – even if his name doesn’t currently appear in the opening credits.

While the film is still peppered with small and unpretentiously bizarre touches of humour that are unquestionably Chow’s own, the introduction of a new creative voice may have contributed to the refreshing dramatic focus here. Unlike seemingly every other movie in Chow’s acting career, which almost always features a bratty anti-hero battling against his underdog status, the protagonist of Conquering The Demons is surprisingly not the spotlight-hogging Monkey King – whose ironically unimpressive image is unveiled at the movie’s final showdown as an awkwardly hilarious sight gag – but a younger Xuan Zang before he makes the titular pilgrimage.

Played by Chinese actor Wen Zhang (Love Is Not Blind, The Sorcerer And The White Snake) with an endearing balance of determination and humility, the lead role of Xuan Zang barely possesses the bigger-than-life personality that typically defines Chow’s leading roles. As a demon-hunter with minimal martial arts skills, the character is guided only by an unwavering belief in the inherent goodness of every evil being: he strives to awaken the demons’ sense of innocence by singing from his treasured book of 300 Nursery Rhymes.

Aided by the original character Miss Duan (Shu Qi), a beautiful yet totally fierce fellow demon-hunter who’s fallen hopelessly in love with him, Xuan Zang spends the duration of the film consecutively conquering the three demons that will eventually become his famed disciples: a fish demon (which inspires a few Piranha-like sequences), a pig demon (whose exceedingly ugly look leads to a couple of very gross kisses) and a monkey demon aka the Monkey King. With an expected reference to A Chinese Odyssey’s most famous lines, Xuan Zang becomes a Buddhist monk and finally learns of the significance of ‘greater love’ through his love interest.

As is frequently the case for the recent Stephen Chow movies, violence and gore are used occasionally to comical effects; a malfunctioning blood-splashing device used by a character provides some of the movie’s funniest gags. And though the computer-generated demons, often in the guises of giant animals, are not at their most realistic, they do feel very much at home in a fantasy movie as wacky as Conquering the Demons.

Production companies: Bingo Movie Development Ltd, Village Roadshow Pictures Asia Ltd, Chinavision Media Group Ltd, Edko Films Ltd, Huayi Brothers Media Corporation, China Film Co Ltd

Co-producer: Wang Zhonglei

Executive producers: Stephen Chow, Ellen Eliasoph, Dong Ping, Bill Kong, Wang Zhongjun, Han Sanping

Screenplay: Derek Kwok, Huo Xin, Wang Yun, Fung Chih-chiang, Lu Zheng-yu, Lee Sheung-ching, Ivy Kong

Cinematography: Choi Sung-fai

Editor: Chan Chi-wai

Production designer: Bruce Yu

Action choreographer: Ku Huen-chiu

Music: Raymond Wong

Main cast: Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, Huang Bo, Show Lo, Lee Sheung-ching, Chiu Chi-ling, Chrissie Chau
ScreenDaily

September 30, 2010

September 30, 2010

To mark the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day and changes of role of woman in modern society, 10 Mainland films made by women filmmakers over the past three decades will be shown in the “Chinese Film Panorama 2010: A Feminine Perspective” from October 14 to November 7.

FBA: Mei Ah takes Grand Master rights

The Grand Master, which takes another look at Ip Man, the martial arts ace credited with teaching the wing chun style of kung fu to Bruce Lee, is tentatively set for release at 2011 Chinese New Year (Jan-Feb).

CRI: ’Aftershock’ to Grab Oscar Entry

The blockbuster film, “Aftershock,” which is the most successful film ever made in China, has been chosen to compete for the nomination at the 83rd Academy Awards next February.

Entertaining but throwaway whodunit set in Ancient China.

Jackie Chan, Li Bingbing and Winston Chao celebrate as the movie “The 1911 Revolution” started filming in Fuxin City of northeast China’s Liaoning Province on Wednesday, September 29, 2010.

Jackie Chan, Li Bingbing, Winston Chao

(Sina-gallery)

More on Stephen Chow’s New Journey to the West. Chow has personally invited Maggie Cheung to appear in his film. In addition, Will and Jaden Smith may be guest stars. Taking advantage of the Monkey King’s legendary 72 transformation, Chow will use this as a premise to cast many celebrities and guest stars. (Xinhua)2 [I can see Maggie now as Princess Iron Fan!]

Josie Ho, Jude Law

Josie Ho was tight-lipped about working with Jude Law in Contagion but met at an event in Hong Kong. (Sina)

CRI: Cherrie Ying, Jordan Chan Publish Uniform Wedding Photos

Liu Ye in a fall/winter fashion shoot for GQ

(Sina-slide show)

Vivian Hsu

Vivian Hsu at a recent magazine promotion event (Sina-slide show)

Jet Li attending the unveiling of his wax (un)likeness at Hong Kong’s Madame Tussauds

(Sina-slide show)

Elaine Ng

Elaine Ng was in Hong Kong for a skin care brand yesterday. She resides in Shanghai and is a former actress most well known as the mother of Jackie Chan’s “Dragon Seed” daughter who is now 11 years old. Still unmarried, Ng says her daughter knows who her father is but they rarely discuss it. (Xinhua)

Fuzzy Photos Dept: Faye Wong recently celebrated husband Li Yapeng’s birthday in Beijing. At one point, Faye coaxed friend Zhao Wei on stage to join her for a karaoke rendition of a Karen Mok song, ‘He Doesn’t Love Me’.

Faye Wong, Zhao Wei (Xinhua)2

Carina Lau

Carina Lau recently posted a collection of photos from her 7-day ‘Roman Holiday’ on her micro-blog. (Xinhua-gallery)

George Lam, Sally Yeh

Despite regular rumors of divorce, Sally Yeh appeared at George Lam’s recent Hong Kong concert. The concert was recorded and will be released later as a DVD. (Sina)

Patrick Tse showing off his ‘guns’

“The Chinese Jack Palance”

74 year-old Patrick Tse was seen with girlfriend Coco (47 years her junior) at Shanghai Airport. (Sina)

Rosemary

Rosemary was officially charged with 3 misdemeanor counts for her auto accident involving the Reno arch: hit-and-run, illegal right turn and not having insurance. The trial date for these charges will be on Dec. 8. The court hearing date for the more serious felony drug possession arrest is on Oct. 19. (Sina)

Hong Kong model’s Reno trial set for Dec. 8 for crash into landmark arch

Stephen Chow’s mother

Young Stephen and family

Resigned to a bachelor son, declares Stephen Chow’s mum (Sina)2

September 29, 2010

September 29, 2010

HK Film Archive shows Mandarin and Cantonese classics to celebrate Cathay’s 75th anniversary

Hong Kong media reports that Cecilia Cheung will join Raymond Wong’s Lunar New Year film costarring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo and Carina Lau. New Year films are always fun, popular and an easy role for a mother like Cecilia. That, and the stellar cast were given as reasons for Wong’s ability to lure Ceci back. Besides the Hong Kong and Beijing premieres, Cecilia will not be required to participate in the normal publicity tour of cities. (Sina)(Xinhua)

New Westward Journey will begin filming in October. The Stephen Chow produced and written prequel to his earlier Monkey King films will be directed by Derek Kwok Chi-Kin. Casting was not announced but Chow has been recruiting new actors recently. (Sina)

Posters for Distant Thunder

Zhang Jiarui’s (Red River) new film is described as a mainland ‘Rouge’ (Sina)

CRI: Tang Wei to Drive Racing Car in New Movie

Tang Wei has signed up to join Hong Kong director Jingle Ma’s new film, “Race Car” .

CRI: ’Just Call Me Nobody’ Wraps up Shooting

Just Call Me Nobody” features Taiwan actress Kelly Lin and well-known Chinese mainland comedians Zhao Benshan and Xiao Shen Yang.

(Sina)

FBA: Hot Summer has its Day in US theatres

Hot Summer Days gets limited release in New York, LA

FBA: Pinoy Sunday (台北星期天) (7/10)

Vignettish “road movie” about two Filipino workers on their day off in Taipei is slim but likable.

Interesting note: As well as many filmmakers and delegations, foreign industry guests at the 12th Pyongyang Festival included Hong Kong producer Shi Nansun (with a new print of Tsui Hark’s classic 1984 comedy Shanghai Blues)(FBA)

The cast of Legend of the Fist held an event in Beijing to celebrate its box office success during the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday period.

Shu Qi

Anthony Wong on harmonica

Andrew Lau, Ryu Kohata

Andrew Lau, Shu Qi, Huo Siyan, Chen Jiajia, Anthony Wong, Ryu Kohata

Director Lau  revealed that in the first cut the original ending was eight minutes longer and that he hoped the scene would be used to open the sequel. (Sina-gallery)(Xinhua-gallery) With her string of successful films on the mainland since Confession of Pain, her films Blood Brothers, If You Are the One, Looking For a Star, and City on Alert have been big box office earners, Shu Qi’s being dubbed Queen of the Mainland. Elsewhere, it’s been reported that Shu Qi recently bought a 14M yuan villa in Beijing.  (Xinhua)

Zhou Dongyu

Shawn Dou Xiao

Yu Xinbo

Zhang Yimou returned to visit his alma mater, Beijing Film Academy, with the young stars of Under the Hawthorn Tree. (Sina-gallery)

Jennifer Tse promoting Breast Cancer Awareness (Sept.29)

(Sina)(Sina-slide show)

Vivian Chow

Vivian Chow, Kay Tse and Gong Xinliang attend a Piaget event. (Sept.28)

(Xinhua-gallery)

Jordan Chan and Cherrie Ying took retro photos for their upcoming November wedding banquet invitations.

Reminded me of this one with Fan Wei and Zhang Jingchu from The Road. (Sina)

Rosemary

Rosemary and boyfriend Jason return to Hong Kong from France where she’s been hiding out since mid-September after her Labor Day arrest in Reno, NV. Her demeanor was reportedly better now that her legal situation has somewhat eased. (Sina)

Hong Kong model’s Reno trial set for Dec. 8(HKStandard)(msnbc)

SG: Battle of the Queens: Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao, Zhou Xun

Edison Chen makes pop-art debut

October 23, 2009

October 23, 2009

Miriam Yeung, Shawn Yue

Cheung Tat Ming, Shawn Yue

Shooting Pang Ho-Cheung’s new film in Tsim Sha Tsui (Sina.com)

Huang Bo in Radish Warrior/Stubborn Radish

(Sina.com)

CRI: Zhang Yimou Creates Vibrant ‘Tales’

Dazzling pink for the men, and garish green for the women. Chinese director Zhang Yimou only wants gaudy costumes worn in his latest film “Amazing Tales: Three Guns”

Variety: I Come With The Rain review

Storm Warriors slide show (7) (Sina.com)

China Confronts Difficult History in New Domestic Film Premiering at the Chinese American Film Festival in L.A.

Gao Kao 1977 becomes Examination 1977, Exam 1977, for US, Turning Point 1977

TURNING POINT 1977 tells the sympathetic story of young people who struggle to determine their own futures.

Jiang Wenli has double cause for celebration.

Golden Rooster’s Best Actress for And The Spring Comes and

PIFF’s Audience Award for Lan in her directorial debut

(Sina.com)

CRI: New ‘Journey to the West’

House of 72 Tenants Cast Launch Ceremony

Producer, director Eric Tsang,

Anita Yuen and Jacky Cheung play husband and wife

Jacky Cheung (Sina.com)

Bernice Liu

Joyce Cheng reprises her mother’s (Lydia Shum) role

Charmaine Sheh

Linda Chung

Michael Tse Tin Wah

Bosco Wong

Joyce Tang

Lawrence Ng, Raymond Cho Wing-Lam

Eric Tsang

(Xinhua) (Sina.com)

The singer-actor produces, directs and acts the 20-episode Sci-Fi TV series, which is now in post production. (Props, Sina.com)

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