AFFD Presents…Wild Weekend!!!

26 07 2010

An abrasive debut shined brightest for me this weekend at the AFFD.

In total I saw 7 of the 11 films this weekend (and yea I got into the SOLD OUT IP MAN 2).  On Saturday night though I saw the most moving of the 7 films.  BREATHLESS – the debut feature of Yang Ik-Joon is about a foul-mouthed debt collector in South Korea.  Yang not only directs, but he wrote and stars in the stunning drama.  The film is about how Sang-Hoon (Ik-Joon) violent tendencies effect his boss (oldest friend), step-sister, recently released father, and a young high school girl.  This young girl, along with Sang’s nephew, start to crack Sang-Hoon’s tough exterior to reveal the human underneath.  As Sang-Hoon and Yeon-Hue (Kim Kot-Bi – the high school girl) friendship/romance escalates the more compassion we see from our star.  The horrible pasts of both Sang-Hoon and Yeon-Hue continue to haunt our doomed romance.  This movie is extremely hard to watch for the foul language, violent beatings and child neglect seen.  I promise if you can battle through the horrible actions you’ll find yourself actually wanting the best for Sang-Hoon.  Next to Au Revoir Taipei, Breathless has been the most enjoyable film so far.

IP MAN 2 brings back all the top names – Donnie Yen is back as IP Man, Wilson Yim is back as director and Sammo Hung is back as action choreographer and he’s even playing a vital character in this sequel.  IP Man 2 doesn’t have as much of the political and historical portions as the first film.  The sequel instead gets to the heart of IP Man’s reign in Hong Kong, specifically his battle to teach in the tough city.  He must battle the local masters, lead by Hung-Ga master Hung Chun-Nam (Sammo Hung).  Once IP Man is able to showcase his ass-kicking style the battle really begins.  A vicious British Boxer challenges (damn near all of china!!) Hung Chun-Nam and eventually our hero IP MAN!!  And of course all the action packed fun is worth it simply for the wonderful ending where Ip Man meets…a VERY young BRUCE LEE!!!  Yep IP MAN 3 = IP with Bruce?   If I haven’t spoiled the fun, trust me I haven’t – then make sure to catch IP Man 2 TONIGHT – at the Angelika Dallas at 7:15 (get there early!!).

Two other films that really shined brightly over the weekend were Anime SUMMER WARS and the 1st Shorts Program.  Highly-acclaimed anime Director Mamoru Hosoda follows up his huge hit The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with SUMMER WARS.  The tale is about how Kenji, who is an eleventh-grade math genius, helps the most popular girl in school by being her “boyfriend” for her trip home.  From there an astroid, internet hackers, and AI gone awry forces Kenji to become a HERO and really quickly.  The most enjoyable sequences are with Kenji getting to know Natsuki’s (popular hottie) eccentric and well off family (especially the 90-year-old matriarch – who’s birthday they are all celebrating).  O yeah there is also a really cool internet “world” called OZ that impacts everything.  In other words – this one is about a lot of things and yet is always entertaining.  Anime’s usually scare most people away, but when you’re dealing with such a fun story its easier to just GIVE IN!

The first short program is titled Explorations.  Each of the 9 shorts accomplishes some form of exploration on its short journey.  The real stand-outs in this first shorts program are A SUBTLE VARIATION directed by dallasite/SMU grad Jason Metcalfe,  both shorts by director JP Chan – I DON’T SLEEP I DREAM and EMPIRE CORNER, funny ass MARITESS V. THE SUPER-FRIENDS by Dino Ignacio and the amazingly poignant PLASTIC BAG by Ramin Bahrani.

This film really stands out!!  The tale of a plastic bag and its travels is amazingly moving and gripping.  It takes us from the bag’s “birth” at the grocery store, to its love of its owner, to its long journey from the trash to the deepest parts of the ocean.  With this incredible journey we are treated to the bag’s narration which is voiced by filmmaker Werner Herzog.  Werner’s calm and lackluster style mixes so well with his moving words of love, fear, and struggle.  We experience all the emotions us humans struggle with and yet we’re watching a freaking Plastic Bag.  American Beauty may have given us the simplistic beauty of a floating bag, but director Ramin Bahrani gives us a fully-realized and emotional character.  Simply genius sums up my first reaction after watching PLASTIC BAG.

Don’t fret if you’re still an AFFD virgin – there are still 4 more jam-packed days.  Tonight you should join me for MAO’S LAST DANCER.

The true story of how ballet dancer Li Cunxin went from China to Houston, Tx and how love caused him to defect.   Here is the rest of the festival’s schedule.

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