Jarv goes to the takeaway and comes back with the 10 best Asian films of the decade
Jonah started me thinking about this yesterday due to the presence of that overblown shitfest Hero on his list of Asian films of the decade. Which can be found here, and is up to his usual high standards. Go and read it.
While I do have to agree with some of them, others (fucking Hero) wouldn’t get within a thousand miles of mine, and as he challenged me to put up or shut up, here’s my top 10 of the decade:
*edit* Firstly, I’m kicking off with this- it got it’s UK release in 2000, but was apparently 1999 so is borderline for selection-
If you really must do Torture Porn (and believe me, I’d rather you didn’t) then this is how you do it. I normally don’t like Miike, because I think he just does twisted for the sake of being twisted, but when he gets it right, this is the result. Nightmare inducing stuff in a grim and depressing but all to realistic setting. Some great performances and a slow burn pace help this film lacerate your cortex and I guarantee that it will stay with you long after you turn it off.
“Kiri-kiri-kiri” indeed and a warning to all the lonely fuckers out there about the dangers of online dating- you could end up in a burlap sack with no feet, no tongue and needles sticking out of places that needles really aren’t meant to go.
Now, the list proper:
10) The Good, The Bad and The Weird (2009)
An Asian version of a spaghetti western. Which is appropriate considering that Pasta is from the Orient. TGTBATW is a madcap adventure film following the chase by the three titular characters haring around Mongolia after a treasure map. Great fun, smashing action, a few genuine moments of comedy and worth a look by anyone.
Furthermore, the cinematography and score are marvelous. It may owe more than a passing nod to Sergio Leone, but I just don’t care.
If that’s not enough, I’ve just discovered that the lead actors did their own stunts (several of which are extremely risky) which I think just adds to the coolness.
9) Chocolate (2008)
Alright, alright, I know it may be a 2 dimensional moronic plot, and I know that superficial is it’s middle name, but fuck me can she move, and don’t pretend it isn’t funny watching an autistic girl beat people up.
I mean, come on, if you don’t enjoy this then there isn’t a chance that you’re ever going to enjoy martial arts cinema. Extended scenes of ultra-violence married to possibly the stupidest excuse for fighting that I think I’ve ever seen. Breathtaking choreography and damned good fun.
8 ) Infernal Affairs (2004)
Fuck Scorcese, Nicholson, and Maaaaaat Daaaaaaaaamon.
This is the real deal, and the didn’t get within a thousand miles of capturing the awesomeness- tense, taut stuff underpinned by several superb performances (notably Tony Leung) and the ending simply destroys the rubbish nonsense cobbled together in the Boston atrocity.
Infernal Affairs is a mob film of the highest calibre, and worth a place on almost any list.
7) The Host (2006)
A good shout by Jonah, this one. The Host is a thoroughly enjoyable monster movie, with a clever subtext about mass paranoia in the face of the unknown.
Alright, the main character may be a retard, and the whole family may have special skills to help them kill the beast, but fuck it, I don’t care. This film is worth it’s place on the list just for the scene with the monster exploding out of the river and ravaging the poeple on the bank- exciting, kinetic, clear- and miracle of miracles, they held the camera steady.
Again, another one from Jonah’s list, but personally, I think it’s the weakest of the 3 Vengeance films- I love the trilogy so much I’m including all of them.
Having said that, Chan Wook Park’s middle film is still a mighty grand guignol of concentrated nastiness and the scene where he eats the live octopus makes me feel ill even writing about it.
The best news I heard in yonks was when this slipped through Spielberg’s fingers. He would have ruined it.
And no, for the record, training in a room for 15 years on your own does not give you a coat of invulnerability. You will, in fact, get your arse kicked.
5) Lady Vengeance (2005)
Park didn’t have any difficult 3rd album problems with this one. A storming film- although probably the least complex of the vengeance films, given that the villain clearly deserves it, and the heroine is clearly in the right.
However, having said that, the prison scenes are simply superb charting Gu-eum-ja’s rise up the convict heirarchy to “witch”, and the vengeance sequence itself is downright harrowing.
Beautifully shot, wonderfully scored and about as poetic as a movie about revenge can be. This is how you do vengeance, Tarantino, you talentless fuck.
4) Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance(2002)
Well, I’m nothing if not predictable. However, this is my favourite of the Vengeance trilogy. I actually thought about adding this to my overall top 10, but damn it, there’s other films out there that I like more.
This is, I think, the most complicated of the Vengeance films- it doesn’t take a moral stance at all. I mean, sure, Ryu may have been robbed for a kidney and fired for no reason by President Park but Park isn’t a stereotypical fat cat capitalist bastard. Ryu makes an utter pig’s ear of his extortion plan and the Jacobean everybody croaks ending can be seen coming a mile away.
I read somewhere that the original idea was to fade to black and white half way through the film- what a great idea. Pity they didn’t do it.
I find it a real shame that this film is largely forgotten due to the profile of it’s successor, but for me this is one of the finest films of the decade.
3) Red Cliff (2008)
See, John Woo hasn’t lost it. America clearly doesn’t suit him, and his massive historical epic is simply fucking magnificent.
Multi-layered stuff, visually stunning, deep, moving and gripping. Of course, my opinion may be coloured by the fact that I knew next to nothing about this period of Chinese History.
The ubiquitous Tony Leung once again excells, but he’s hardly alone. Watch and marvel at a master’s return to form.
But for fuck’s sake see the full length Red Cliff- avoid the truncated American version.Why they insist on doing this is a fucking mystery to me.
2) Daisy (2006)
This makes my best of the decade list, so I’m not going in to too much detail here. Needless to say, it’s another Korean masterclass. Inexplicaly, and disgracefully, this hasn’t had a UK release, so I can’t tell you to see it (unless you feel like downloading it, or some other such naughtiness, but you wouldn’t do that, would you?) but I can recommend it in the strongest possible terms.
A genuine tragedy with a spellbinding action ending. However, it isn’t the action that keeps you in this- pleasant as it is when it comes. Let me put it this way, Mrs. Jarv cried buckets from about the half way point of this film (and she sat down to watch it grumbling about “more fucking hitmen nonsense”), and she has lent my DVD out all over London. Luckily for her, it hasn’t been damaged.
Daisy is a magical, delightful film that manages to pull a genuine emotional response from the most cynical of viewers.
1) Battle Royale (2001)
Not just my favourite Asian film of the decade, but one of my favourite films of all-time. A blood soaked Lord of the Flies done Japanese style.Another one that I’m not going to go into too much detail about, because it also makes my top 10 of the decade.
Beat Takeshi is on awesome form as teacher Kitano, but the real stars of the piece are the kids- and how they managed to make me give a fuck about almost all of the characters (with the exception of sociopath Kiriyama) is wondrous.
Battle Royale is a tour de force of cinematic violence, even if it was unjustly banned in about 4 countries. However, having said that, what elevates it above the herd is the clever little touches- Kitano’s daughter, for example, is voiced by the sister of lead actress Noriko, thus making her voice somewhat familiar and adding another unnerving edge to Kitano’s obsession.
One more thing, is it wrong to want Mitsuko to win?
That’s my top 10 list, but these are films I considered for it, but didn’t add so I’m giving them all honorouble mentions:
Ong Bak, Ip Man, I’m a Cyborg but I’m Ok, Dumplings, Assembly, Kung Fu Hustle, Invisible Target, Protege, A bittersweet life, The Eye (fuck you all), The Twilight Samurai, Warlords, Mongol, Tale of 2 Sisters and The Clone Returns Home. Brotherhood of War
Now, Finally, a big FUCK YOU to the worst Asian Film of the decade, and a contender for most offensive sequel of all time:
Battle Royale 2: Requiem
Keeping both the colon and the word Requiem in good stead, this is an utter disgrace. This is the film that holds down it’s predecessor and then takes a massive dump on it. Vile, incomprehensible, loathsome, over the top without being entertaining and Fukusaku Jr needs a thorough bitchslap for defiling his father’s superb original.
Pah, I hate this rubbish.
On that slightly depressing note, I’m off. However, I will return with Best European Films next, then Best American, before doing my definitive top 10 (now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that Avatar isn’t going to be on it).
PS- I’d also like to thank Hawaiin Organ Donor for turning me on to a lot of this stuff- he can usually be found lurking at Aint it Bale news, and is the nicest miserable bugger I know. Cheers mate.