Burning, Shoplifters, Headline Cannes 2018

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photo_pcThe Cannes film festival has announced its first clutch of titles and while it’s not a bumper year for East Asian cinema, the few titles selected are among the most highly anticipated.

Japan

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  • Asako I & II – Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s followup to Happy Hour is another lengthy drama following a young woman whose boyfriend mysteriously disappears. Two years later, she meets a man who looks exactly like him but has a totally different personality.
  • Shoplifters – the latest from festival favourite Hirokazu Koreeda, Shoplifters boasts an A-list cast including Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Kengo Kora, Sosuke Ikematsu, Chizuru Ikewaki, Yuki Yamada, Yoko Moriguchi and Akira Emoto and centres on a family of petty criminals who take in an orphaned little girl.

China

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  • Ash Is Purest White – Jia Zhangke returns with another socially conscious crime drama as a woman shoots a gang member to protect her mobster boyfriend and winds up in prison for five years. When she gets out, she goes looking for her former love…
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night – Bi Gan’s followup to the critically acclaimed Kaili Blues stars Tang Wei, Sylvia Chang, and Huang Jue and follows a murderer who returns to his hometown haunted by memories of the woman he killed for.
  • Dead Souls – Wang Bing’s eight-hour documentary about dying expands on the themes of his previous doc, Mrs. Fang.

Korea

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  • Burning – the long awaited return by Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong, Burning adapts a short story by Haruki Murakami and revolves around three people – a novelist, another man, and a fashion model, as they become embroiled in a strange incident.
  • The Spy Gone North – Yoon Jong-bin’s thriller follows a South Korean spy on an infiltration mission in the North.

Thailand

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  • 10 Years in Thailand – inspired by the Hong Kong original, four Thai directors – Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, consider what their nation will look like in 10 years time.

The Cannes film festival runs 8 – 19th May, 2018. Further titles may well be announced in the coming weeks. You can keep up to date with all the latest Cannes news via the festival’s official website, Facebook Page, Twitter account, Instagram and YouTube Channels.

Steel Rain, Night Bus Bookend 20th Udine Far East Film Festival

27352385278_5690a7d84e_oThe Udine Far East Film Festival returns for its 20th edition in just over a week’s time. As usual, the festival has brought together some of the most highly anticipated East Asian cinema releases in its 81 film programme which also includes a retrospective dedicated to veteran actress Brigitte Lin who will be receiving the festival’s coveted Golden Mulberry Award. The festival will open with Netflix Original Steel Rain making its Festival Premiere, while Emil Heradi’s Indonesian thriller Night Bus will close the festival on 28th April.

Full programme:

China

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  • A Better Tomorrow 2018 – Ding Sheng’s remake of the ’80s John Woo classic in which two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the law.
  • Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield – Lu Yang’s prequel to the 2014 original follows Shen Lian as he searches for clues to expose a conspiracy.
  • The Legend of the Demon Cat – Chen Kaige adapts a Japanese novel by Yoneyama Mineo in which a poet and a monk follow a cat to track down a murderer. Features Chinese/Japanese cast including Shota Sometani, Huang Xuan, Hiroshi Abe, Qin Hao, and Keiko Matsuzaka.
  • Never Say Die – hilarious Chinese body swap comedy! Review.
  • Love Education – Sylvia Chang’s latest explores the impact of China’s feudal legacy as two women fight for the remains of a polygamous man.
  • Transcendent – existential science fiction thriller.
  • Wolf Warrior II – Wu Jing’s gung-ho action sequel in which Leng Feng takes the fight to Africa.
  • Wrath of Silence – a mute father searches for clues regarding the disappearance of his son in Xin Yukun’s probing crime drama. Review.
  • Youth – Feng Xiaogang looks back at the Cultural Revolution through the story of the Revolutionary Ballet corps. Review.

Hong Kong/China

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  • Operation Red Sea – Dante Lam’s Operation Mekong sequel finds elite Chinese military forces evacuating diplomatic staff after war breaks out in the Middle East. Review.
  • Our Time Will Come – Ann Hui tells the story of the resistance movement in World War II HK. Review.

Hong Kong

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  • The Empty Hands – comedy from Chapman To in which a half-Japanese Hong Kong woman’s dreams of freedom from her father’s martial arts legacy are dashed when he leaves 51% of his dojo to another pupil who challenges her to a match for the right to win his controlling share.
  • No. 1 Chung Ying Street – drama contrasting 1967 pro-China demonstrations against the British Government, and the Umbrella democratisation movement in present day Hong Kong.
  • The Bride with White Hair – Ronny Yu’s classic wu xia. Brigitte Lin retrospective.
  • Chungking Express – Wong Kar-Wai’s HK classic. Brigitte Lin retrospective.
  • Dragon Inn – 1992 wuxia classic from Raymond Lee. Brigitte Lin retrospective.
  • Red Dust – 1990 melodrama in which a novelist falls in love with a Japanese collaborator during World War II. Brigitte Lin retrospective.
  • My Heart Is That Eternal Rose – Patrick Tam’s 1989 romantic crime drama.
  • Throw Down – premiere of the new restoration of Johnnie To’s 2004 martial arts drama starring Louis Koo and Aaron Kwok.

Indonesia

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  • My Generation – teen movie affectionately satirising Indonesian millennials.
  • Night Bus – civilians catch a bus to Sampar – a town rich in natural resources but heavily guarded by the army who are keen to defend against rebel militias. Closing night gala.
  • Satan’s Slaves – Joko Anwar remakes the 1980 classic horror movie in which a mother rises from the dead to collect her children.

Japan

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  • The 8-Year Engagement – romantic tearjerker starring Takeru Satoh and Tao Tsuchiya.
  • The Blood of Wolves – Koji Yakusho plays a possibly dodgy cop investigating a missing persons case in Kazuya Shirashi’s ’80s crime drama.
  • Yocho (Foreboding) – the theatrical cutdown of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s TV companion piece to Before we Vanish.
  • Inuyashiki – Shinsuke Sato adapts Hiroya Oku’s science-fiction manga in which an old man gets superpowers and decides to use them to do good, meanwhile a young man has the opposite reaction.
  • Mori, The Artist’s Habitat – the latest from Shuichi Okita stars Kirin Kiki and Tsutomu Yamazaki in the story of an elderly artist and his wife of 52 years.
  • The Name – bankrupt businessman Masao discovers a new side to himself after encountering mysterious high school girl Emiko.
  • One Cut of the Dead – experimental zombie fun from Shinichiro Ueda.
  • The Scythian Lamb – Ryuhei Matsuda stars in Daihachi Yoshida’s adaptation of Tatsuhiko Yamagami and Mikio Igarashi’s manga in which prisoners are released from jail on the condition that they help repopulate declining rural towns.
  • Tremble All You Want – an office lady experiences a number of romantic difficulties in this off-kilter love comedy.
  • Ramen Heads – documentary following “Ramen King” Osamu Tomita.
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA – documentary following the legendary composer.
  • SUKITA: The Shoot Must Go On – David Bowie x photographer Masayoshi Sukita documentary.
  • Blue Film Woman – premiere of a new restoration of the classic 1969 pink film by Ken Mukai.
  • Women Hell Song – premiere of a new restoration of the classic 1970 pink film by Mamoru Watanabe.
  • Tampopo – Juzo Itami’s classic “ramen western”. Review.

Malaysia

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  • Crossroads:One Two Jaga –  gritty migrant worker drama from Nam Ron.

South Korea

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  • 1987: When the Day Comes – democracy movement drama from Jang Joon-hwan.
  • The Battleship Island: Director’s Cut – extended cut of Ryoo Seung-wan’s wartime drama in which a musician and his daughter are conscripted for offshore forced labour. Review of the theatrical edition.
  • Be with You – remake of the 2004 jun-ai classic in which a bereaved husband and son discover a woman who looks like their lost wife and mother wandering in the forest.
  • The Chase – a retired policeman teams up with a landowner to solve a 30-year-old cold case.
  • Forgotten – a nervous young man begins to doubt his surroundings after his brother is kidnapped. Review.
  • Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum – a TV crew travel to an abandoned asylum with a notorious past and get a lot more than they bargained for.
  • Last Child – powerful drama in which a grieving couple warm to the child their son died saving.
  • Little Forest – remake of the Japanese foody drama starring Kim Tae-ri
  • Midnight Runners – two police trainees decide to pursue justice alone in this hugely enjoyable buddy cop action comedy. Review.
  • The Outlaws – Ma Dong-seok stars in an anarchic crime drama. Review.
  • The Running Actress – actress Moon So-ri writes, directs, and stars in this feature length compilation of three shorts.
  • A Special Lady – Kim Hye-soo stars as the second in command of a corporate gangster outfit in this noirish thriller.
  • Steel Rain – A North Korean operative brings the wounded leader to the South to escape a coup and then must cooperate with an intelligence officer to prevent a nuclear war. Opening night gala. Review.
  • Courtesy to the Nation – Kwon Gyeong-won’s documentary focuses on democracy activist Chang Ki-hoon who became the centre of the Fake Will Scandal.
  • Veteran – Ryoo Seung-wan’s 2015 action drama. Review.

Philippines 

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  • Chedeng and Apple – two old ladies set off on a quest to discover lost love with a severed head in a handbag along for the ride.
  • The Portrait – musical World War 2 drama.
  • Smaller and Smaller Circles – Raya Martin adapts the novel by F. H. Batacan in which two priests investigate murders of small boys in a Manila slum.
  • Himala– 1982 religious drama from Ishmael Bernal.
  • Moral – classic 1982 youth drama from Marilou Diaz-Abaya.

Singapore

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  • Diamond Dogs – a terminal cancer patient enters an underground social experiment.
  • Wonder Boy – ’70s musical biopic.

Taiwan

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  • All Because of Love – teen romance.
  • Dear Ex – family drama
  • Gatao 2: Rise of the King – sequel to the gangster drama.
  • On Happiness Road –  charming animation in which a woman returns to her childhood home.
  • Take Me to the Moon – timeslip comedy in which a young man attempts to save his friend from a life decision that will eventually lead to both their deaths.
  • Cloud of Romance – restored melodrama from 1977. Brigitte Lin retrospective.
  • Outside the Window – 1973 Taiwanese age-gap romantic melodrama. Brigitte Lin retrospective.

Thailand

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  • Bad Genius – a high school girl hatches a plan to cheat the exams system. Review.
  • The Promise – two women pledge to commit suicide together but when one backs out the other returns 20 years later to haunt her!
  • Sad Beauty – two female friends get mixed up in a murder.

Vietnam

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  • The Tailor – a tale of dressmaking and family in ’60s Vietnam.

Full details for each of the films will be shortly available via the official website where you can also find the daily screening schedule. Screenings take place both at the Teatro Nuovo, and the Visionario cinema. You can keep up with all the latest festival news via the festival’s Facebook Page, Instagram and YouTube channels, Twitter account, and Tumblr.

Steel Rain (강철비, Yang Woo-suk, 2017)

Steel Rain posterA little way in to Steel Rain (강철비, Gangchulbi), one of its heroes – a Blue House official, gives a pointed lecture on Korea’s past to some students of Geopolitical History. Fiercely critical of Korea’s previous subjugation by Japan, he laments that his nation was not able to free itself from the Japanese yoke and was awarded its freedom with the end of a wider political conflict which saw the Japanese “empire” collapse. According to Kwak Cheol-u, Korea has never quite lost its cultural admiration for its former colonisers which is why its most prominent corporations – Samsung, Haeundae etc, are all direct competitors with similar Japanese firms (and are only now pushing past them in terms of global market penetration and technological innovation).

Switching tack, he wonders why it is that Japan lost a war and Korea got cut in two by two new “colonising” forces. In his oft observed mantra, Kwak (Kwak Do-won) insists that the citizens of a divided nation suffer more from those who seek to manipulate the division for their own ends than they do from the division itself, which is where we find ourselves in the contemporary era of my button’s bigger than his button in which “capitalist pig dogs” face off against “dirty commies”. Adapting his own webcomic, Yang’s action thriller is among the most recent in a long line of North/South buddy movies and even if its cold-war paranoia feels distinctly old hat, it just goes to prove that everything old is new again.

Eom Cheol-u (Jung Woo-sung), a former North Korean special forces agent, is called back into the fold by his old commander for a very special mission. Tensions are about to boil over in the perpetually precarious state and the Dear Leader’s life is under threat from a suspected coup. Eom is to silence one of the conspirators in return for which he will be given elite status and his family will be well looked after. Unfortunately, the mission does not go to plan and Eom ends up witnessing a missile strike on a welcome meeting at a Chinese managed factory in which the (mostly young and female) employees are murdered in cold blood. Managing to escape with the Dear Leader himself who is seriously wounded, Eom travels over the border along with two young girls. From this point on he’s in conspiracy thriller territory trying to work out just what’s going on and who he can really trust.

The symbolism is rammed home by the fact that our two heroes, Kwak and Eom, have the same first name – Cheol-u, only one uses the characters for “strong friendship” and the other “bright world”. Taken together they paint a pretty picture, brothers in arms despite the political difficulties which place them on differing sides of an arbitrary line drawn up by a foreign power without much consideration for those divided by it. As in many North/South buddy movies of recent times, the North Korean agent displays the best qualities of his nation in his essential “goodness” – a caring husband and father, he executes his mission with maximum efficiency but bears no ill will towards those outside of it and is keen to protect the people of North Korea from almost certain doom should a nuclear war break out between the two peoples. Kwak, by contrast, is more of a schemer whose moral universe is much less black and white. A fluent Mandarin speaker he’s in tight with a North Korean official who keeps trying to talk him into taking a research post at a Chinese university while his family life is somewhat complicated thanks to a divorce from his plastic surgeon wife.

Meanwhile, the film is at pains to point out that Korea became the focus point of the first East/West proxy war and, in Kwak’s view at least, remains insufficiently important in the eyes of its “allies” to merit much direct consideration. Thus our boardroom squabbles are often reduced to the looming face of the American President “advising” the Korean officials on the best course of action while others worry about what Japan is going to think and wonder if the US secretly values the opinion of the Japanese more than the Koreans on the ground. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the government is in a transitionary phase in which a new president has been elected but not sworn in. The crisis may well play out entirely within the old president’s final hours which means that diplomatically he has little to lose and as he is a conservative, might as well milk the situation for all it’s worth. In short, he’s as keen to ruffle diplomatic feathers and bring the situation to a head as everyone else is and war looks more likely than not. The central message is that, as Kwak is fond of implying, governments care little for their people or that millions may die when idea of division is so easily manipulated, especially if it’s not “their” people who will be doing the dying.

Not for nothing is the new president seen reading copy of Willy Brandt’s book on successful reunification, even if he begs his outgoing predecessor to consider the economic impact of any possible change in relations with a Northern neighbour. The North Korean official also warns that China is not keen on the idea of a war seeing as that will necessarily mean an influx of North Korean refugees no one wants to take responsibility for. The cold war may be about to turn hot, but the heroics that cool it down turn out to be of a much less gung-ho nature than might be expected, relying on personal sacrifice and a perhaps outdated code of honour. Nevertheless, the crisis is averted not through macho posturing but through “diplomatic channels” and a careful balancing of powers. Perhaps not so farfetched after all.


Streaming worldwide via Netflix.

Steel Rain will also receive its international festival premiere as the opening night gala of the Udine Far East Film Festival on 20th April.

Far East Film Festival trailer (no subtitles)

Forgotten (기억의 밤, Jang Hang-jun, 2017)

forgotten posterEver wondered if you’re living in a simulacrum? Strangely, the thought isn’t one which occurs to the hero of Jang Hang-jun’s Forgotten (기억의 밤, Gieokui Bam) despite his sense of déjà vu and the uncanny eeriness of his world. Then again, perhaps that’s because he is wilfully complicit in his own life lie, afraid to open the door and confront the ghosts trapped inside his psyche seemingly desperate get out. A tense psychological thriller, Forgotten is also a symbolist drama in which Jin-seok, a man literally trapped in the past, is forced to free himself from a locked room mystery only to discover his own dark truths.

Following some distressed sounds from someone who claims not to be able to remember whatever it is they’re being interrogated about, we find a young man, Jin-seok (Kang Ha-neul), peacefully asleep on his mother’s shoulder as his family drive to their new home. Jin-seok is an anxious young man under a lot of stress studying to retake university exams while his brother, Yoo-seok (Kim Mu-yeol), is the archetypal good Korean son. He is handsome (if a little geeky looking), clever, good at sports, patient and kind. In short Yoo-seok is everyone’s hero, not least his little brother’s, while Jin-seok is a nervous wreck who rarely leaves the house and makes sure to have his discman with him when he does to block out the noise and fury of city life. According to the prominently displayed calendar, it is May 1997.

Things start to go awry when Jin-seok finds out that the house’s previous owner has left some property in the upstairs room which he will collect at a later date. The family aren’t supposed to go in there ’til he does and so the brothers will be sharing a room. Jin-seok is however fascinated by the locked door and the strange noises he thinks he can hear coming from upstairs. Things go from bad to worse when Jin-seok witnesses Yoo-seok being kidnapped in the street only to return 19 days later with no memory of where he’s been. Little by little, Jin-seok comes to doubt that the man who has returned is really his brother, but if he isn’t, then who is he and why is any of this happening?

Like all good gothic mysteries, the first problem is Jin-seok’s supposedly fragile mental state. His family repeatedly check he’s taking his medication and take care to ensure his life is as stress free as possible, apparently afraid that he will relapse into some kind of breakdown the cause of which may be partly the reason that the family has moved to a quieter area. Thus neither he nor we can be sure if everything he experiences is real, a product of his strained mind, or a problem with his medication.

Wedded to this story is the coded past of Korea in 1997 struck by the Asian economic crisis which, the film seems to say, provoked a kind of paranoid madness generalised across society. In this difficult climate in which jobs were scarce and even those in professional occupations faced a significant drop in living standards, extreme solutions began to seem attractive. A young woman and her daughter are murdered and the killer never caught, a little boy orphaned and abandoned by his relatives who keep his family’s money for themselves, a young man resolves to commit a terrible transgression in the hope of saving a loved one, and all because of a tragic accident and some random numbers on a screen. 

Jang Hang-jun turns the relatively low budget to his advantage in creating a world of intense uncanniness, somehow realer than real but never quite right. Gradually peeling back the layers of Jin-seok’s existence to expose the wires below, Jang’s artistry becomes apparent as the world comes into focus albeit presenting a different kind of mystery. Anchored by the impressive performance of a deglammed Kang Ha-neul, Forgotten is as bleak a tragedy as they come. The truth may set one free, but not quite in the way the saying implies and there are some things with which is it impossible to live. The unseen legacy of a traumatic era sends its invisible shockwaves through the present and out into the future, and perhaps the only way to survive them is to avoid opening the door.


Streaming worldwide via Netflix.

Original trailer (no subtitles)

Korean Film Nights 2018: Korean Novels On Screen

Kim Ki-young earth posterAfter a brief pause, the Korean Cultural Centre London is set to resume its series of free film screenings with a brand new strand celebrating literary adaptations. Running from March to June, Korean Film Nights 2018: Korean Novels on Screen will showcase a diverse selection of films inspired by books from the “literary films” of the golden age to the recent hits of today.

29th March – Earth 

Earth-02Housemaid director Kim Ki-young adapts Yi Kwang-su’s 1932 novel of resistance in which a poor boy studies law in Seoul and marries the daughter of the landowner he once served only to decide to return and help his home village suffering under Japanese oppression.

Also screening at Deptford Cinema, 16th April, 7pm.

12th April – The Descendants of Cain

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Yu Hyun-mok (Aimless Bullet) adapts Hwang Sun-won’s autobiographical anti-communist novel in which a struggle over the means of production plays out against an impossible love story between the estranged wife of a communist agitator and the noble hearted founder of the school the communists have commandeered as their base.

26th April – White Badge

White Badge still 1Directed by Chung Ji-young, White Badge adapts Anh Junghyo’s autobiographical Vietnam novel in which a traumatised writer (played by Ahn Sung-ki) is forced to address his wartime past when an old comrade comes back into his life.

10th May – A Petal

a petal horizontalAdapting the novel by Choe Yun, Jang Sun-woo examines the legacy of the Gwangju Massacre through the story of a little girl who refuses to leave the side of a vulgar and violent man no matter how poorly he treats her.

Also screening at Deptford Cinema, 22nd May, 7pm.

24th May – The Old Garden

the old garden still 1Adapted from a novel by writer and activist Hwang Sok-young, Im Sang-soo’s The Old Garden follows an activist released from prison after 17 years who cannot forget the memory of a woman who helped him when he was a fugitive in the mountains.

7th June – The Unfair

The unfair horizontalThe debut feature from Kim Sung-je, the Unfair is an adaptation of Son Aram’s courtroom thriller which draws inspiration from the Yongsan Tragedy in which residents protesting redevelopment were forcibly evicted and several lives were lost including one of a police officer.

Also screening at Deptford Cinema, 19th June, 7pm.

28th June – My Brilliant Life + Q&A with author Kim Ae-ran

my brilliant life still 1An adaptation of the novel by Kim Ae-ran who will also be present for a Q&A, E J-yong’s My Brilliant Life stars Gang Dong-won and Song Hye-kyo as teenage parents raising a son who turns out to have a rare genetic condition which causes rapid ageing.

All of the screenings take place at the Korean Cultural Centre at 7pm and are free to attend but must be booked in advance via the links above. You can keep up to date with all the latest screening news via the Korean Cultural Centre and London Korean Film Festival websites and be sure to follow the festival on Twitter, Facebook, FlickrInstagram and YouTube channels for the most up to date information.

Tickets are also now on sale for the first of the 2018 Teaser Screenings for the upcoming London Korean Film Festival – Be With You which takes place at Picturehouse Central on 25th April at 9pm.

Have a Nice Day (大世界 / 好极了, Liu Jian, 2017)

Have a Nice Day poster 1Even when everything is pointless, still you have to try to live. “Spring is spring”, as the opening quote by Leo Tolstoy proclaims and so there is life even among the ruins which, in this case, exist in the mysterious “development zone” somewhere in the modern China. This backstreet noir takes place in a world of near apocalyptic dilapidation though the effect is more one of incompleteness than destruction, as if an over excited city planner had randomly started projects one after another but suddenly tired of each of them. Jack Ma may have affirmed that everyone has a dream in his heart, but the dreams here are small and mostly unattainable, locked into a claustrophobic atmosphere of inescapable despair.

Xiao Zhang (Zhu Changlong), a lowly construction driver, decides to seize his chance of happiness with both hands in lifting a vast sum of cash which belongs to mob boss Uncle Liu (Yang Siming). Uncle Liu, however, is busy torturing his childhood friend for supposedly sleeping with his wife. He sends his best guy, enigmatic hitman Skinny (Ma Xiaofeng), after Zhang but before Skinny can get to him, Xiao Zhang is is picked up by “inventor” Yellow Eyes (Cao Kou) whose X-ray specs have spotted the money and decided it’s too good an opportunity to miss. He takes off with his kind-of-girlfriend (Zheng Yi) who is also the sister-in-law of a guy who works with petty gangster Lao Zhao (Cao Kai) who is the guy Xiao Zhang took the money from in the first place. Meanwhile, the mother of Xiao Zhang’s girlfriend has asked her niece, Ann Ann (Zhu Hong), to have a look into what’s going on with Xiao Zhang because he’s been sending some very suspicious messages.

Everything here is in transit. Hitman Skinny is fond of telling people that he’s “just passing through” but so is everyone else, there is nothing here to stop for, except that it’s impossible to escape. All the significant places are also points of transit or hope for connection – the “Integrity” internet cafe, a “business” hotel, a road which leads nowhere through a landscape permanently “under construction”. Everything is half formed or falling down, the world is indistinct as if it hasn’t discovered its own identity and has tried to cobble something together from the back streets of other cities glanced in violent movies from somewhere far away.

Xiao Zhang, (almost) our hero, is almost the same – he tells Skinny that his dream was to be a man like him rather than the spineless coward he feels himself to be because guys like him always seem so cool in the movies. Doubtless Skinny doesn’t seem so “cool” with his foot on Xiao Zhang’s chest, but Xiao Zhang’s need is as much about escape as it is a matter of practicality. Though the practicality is ironic enough – he wants the money to pay for more plastic surgery for his fiancée whose face has apparently been ruined by a botched operation. Xiao Zhang hopes they can escape to South Korea, world capital of cosmetic procedures, where they can repair what the modern China has destroyed.

It isn’t difficult to see why Have a Nice Day (大世界, Dàshìjiè, previously titled 好极了, Hǎojíle) rubbed the censors the wrong way. Liu’s vision of the China of today is a lawless wasteland in which despair and inertia reign while those of the post ‘80s generation flail wildly in the wind, drinking in overseas culture from Hong Kong and the West and wanting more than their society can give them. In a running joke everyone has a startup idea they’re sure will be the next big thing but when it comes right down to it, even with the money they’ve no idea what they’re doing. Two boys chatting idly about the future find only futility with one lamenting that if he wanted to make it he’d have gone to England to study, only for the other to ask what the point would be now the UK has left Europe. He has a radical startup idea of his own – a restaurant! After all, people will always need to eat. You have to admire his practicality, even if bemoaning his lack of imagination.

Meanwhile, the cousin of Xiao Zhang’s fiancée and her boyfriend, having figured out that Xiao Zhang really does have the money and intending to take it from him, fantasise about finding their own “Shangri-La”. Breaking into a lengthy karaoke-style video sequence, Liu paints a jagged picture of Ann Ann’s visual ideology which quickly descends into a mish-mash of Mao-era socialist propaganda posters and their collections of cheerful country women enthusiastically driving tractors and juggling sheep while posing in traditional Chinese dress with children in neckerchiefs reading improving literature. Everything is for sale, even apparently the innocence of the past. A friend of Lao Zhao’s expounding on the nature of freedom describes it as a three tiered system – the farmer’s market, supermarket, and online, your degree of personal autonomy and happiness reduced to a question of how the place you buy your groceries informs your sense of self worth.

Rampant capitalism has led to moral as well as physical decay as the half-finished buildings collapse under the weight of national hubris, a weathered statue standing in for a real life policeman as the hollow representation of the authority of an absent regime. Animated with an oddly naturalistic minimalism and filled with whimsical absurdity, Have a Nice Day serves as a condemnation of the last 30 years of Chinese history but it does so with a wistful irony. After all, it’s not as if things are much better anywhere else.


Have a Nice Day is released in UK Cinemas on 23rd March courtesy of Mubi. Check the official website to find out where it’s screening near you.

International trailer (English subtitles)

Aperture: Asia & Pacific Film Festival Launches 2018 UK Tour

in time to come still 2Following its announcement last October, Aperture: Asia & Pacific Film Festival – a brand new UK festival dedicated to Asian cinemas, is set to launch its inaugural screening series with three events at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts in late March.

In Time To Come 

25th March, 1pm

in time to come still 1Tan Pin Pin’s Singaporean documentary unearths a time capsule of national history through videographic recordings to probe the connections between time and memory.

The Island Funeral

29th March, 6pm

Island Funeral posterLaila, a Muslim in predominantly Buddhist Bangkok, travels south along with her brother Zugood and friend Toy just as political turmoil engulfs the city. Yet being from the city they are each mostly ignorant of the ongoing political strife which has plagued the southern regions for quite some time. Meeting a conflicted soldier who also feels like an outsider being from the North the four continue on their journey through a strange landscape.

People Power Bombshell: The Diary Of Vietnam Rose

31st March, 1pm

People Power Bombshell- The Diary of Vietnam RoseJohn Torres repurposes footage from an uncompleted film by Celso Advento Castillo to lay bare the various oppressions of the Marcos regime at the time of the People Power Revolution through the story of Liz Alindogan whose dreams of becoming an actress were frustrated by the world in which she lived.

All three screenings take place at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts and tickets are already available via the links above. Further details are available on the official website and you can keep up with all the latest news via the festival’s Facebook Page and Twitter account.

Aperture: Asia & Pacific Film Festival will tour across the UK throughout the spring and summer of 2018.