There’s no doubt that the east produces some truly impressive films – and with Lunar New Year just around the corner, what better time to put Asian cinema in the spotlight? WM CELEBRATES: LUNAR NEW YEAR with the Australian Premiere of four gripping and splendidly styled Asian films every Monday night in February at 8.30pm. In case you need a hand getting up to speed with film from the region, here’s a look at our top picks of Asian cinema:
Best Martial Arts film: The Legend of Drunken Master (Hong Kong, 1994)
This elaborately choreographed action-comedy stars none other than the king of kung fu – Jackie Chan. Wong Fei Hong (Chan) is a young master of “drunken boxing,” in which fighters use alcohol to blind themselves to pain and release the angry brawler within. Hong is caught between respecting his pacifist father’s (Ti Lung) wishes and using his drunken boxing skills to stop a gang stealing precious Chinese artifacts. Impressively, Jackie Chan himself does almost all the choreography with no digital effects, including a remarkable fight on a bed of hot coals. This movie is as funny as it is brutal, making it a unique classic.
Best Yakuza film: Battles Without Honor and Humanity (Japan, 1973)
In Japan, the mafia go by a different name – yakuza – and there’s an entire film genre dedicated to this world of organized crime. Kiniji Fukasaku’s postwar saga is inspired by real life events as it accounts rival gangs in Hiroshima, focusing on soldier-turned-mobster Shozo Hirono and his disloyal boss. The film is violent and chaotic, warranting the nickname of the ‚ÄòJapanese Godfather.’ Its sensation-seeking visuals and surf-guitar score cement it as one of our favourite Yakuza films.
Most talented Asian director: Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1910 – 1998)
‚ÄúA truly good movie is enjoyable too. There’s nothing complicated about it.‚Äù – Akira Kurosawa. Arguably, the most celebrated Asian filmmaker of all time, the late Akira Kurosawa had a career that spanned from World War II until the early nineties. Kurosawa’s distinctive mix of compelling stories, unique atmospheres and technical brilliance entranced audiences around the world. He continues to influence movie-making internationally, having inspired film-makers such as Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Kurosawa’s best-known films remain his samurai epics Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961).
Most talented Asian actor: Takeshi Kitano (Japan, 1947)
‚ÄúProlific and diverse, he is the epitome of the modern Japanese spirit – tough, urban, media-savvy, violent, poker-faced yet oddly sentimental.‚Äù – The Guardian.
A Renaissance man, Takeshi Kitano has written, directed, edited or starred in almost a film per year since the late 1980s. His roles in Fireworks (1997), Battle Royale (2000) and Outrage (2010) have made his name well renowned internationally.
Most talented Asian actress: Zhang Ziyi (China, 1979)
With an impressive portfolio of films under her belt, Zhang Ziyi is undoubtedly one of Asia’s most well-known actresses. Through a combination chameleon like acting abilities, martial arts skills and stunning beauty she has truly established herself as an international star. Respected by both critics and audiences, Ziyi has delivered impressive performances in countless films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hero (2002) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005).
WM CELEBRATES: LUNAR NEW YEAR kicks off on Monday at 8.30pm. Find out more about the films here.