Many filmmakers play within the cinematic bounds of what has come before: content to refine the form, rather than expand it. Then there are those directors who bring new visions to bear, seeking to push at the boundaries of what film and storytelling can be – to create a whole new experience of cinema.
106 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Perhaps the most ravishingly beautiful film Hou has ever made” – Variety
In the dying days of the Tang Dynasty, lethal and mysterious assassin Nie Yinniang is charged with a mission to kill the governor of Weibo – the man to whom she was once betrothed. Spreading chaos through the court as she inches closer to her target, Nie finds herself torn between the demands of her heart and the impossible yoke of duty.
Renowned Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien (whose A City of Sadness also appears in this year’s program) reinvents the wuxia (martial arts) genre with The Assassin: an impeccably controlled exercise in serene contemplation, punctuated by bursts of visceral action. Offering a meditation on humanity and nature, The Assassin, winning Best Director at this year’s Cannes, is a triumph of sumptuous cinematography and hypnotic pacing.
Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing in attendance on 27 Nov.
Madar-e Ghalb Atomi
Islamic Republic of Iran
93 mins | Unclassified 15+
“An electrifyingly wacko tale… full of witty philosophizing, flirtatious sallies and authority-challenging double-speak” – Variety
Two Iranian twenty-somethings are driving home from a party when a drunken car accident, and an encounter with a mysterious, well-dressed stranger, catapults them into a strange nocturnal road trip – a surreal journey through a shadow-Tehran, populated with dead dictators and Mephistophelian bargains.
A neo-noir fever dream that recalls the stylised oddity of Jim Jarmusch, Atomic Heart is the blazing sophomore feature from 29 year-old Iranian renegade Ali Ahmadzadeh (Kami’s Party). A whirlwind of snappy dialogue, eerie atmospherics and biting satire, it’s a joyfully strange shot across the bows of Tehran society.
Cemetery of Splendour
Rak Ti Khon Kaen
Thailand, Malaysia, France, Germany, United Kingdom
122 mins | M
“Like dreaming with your eyes wide open” – The Hollywood Reporter
When a mysterious epidemic of incurable sleeping sickness breaks out at a hospital for stricken soldiers, kind-hearted but lonely Jenjira volunteers to do what she can. Forming a bond with one of her charges, she calls in a medium to commune with his sleeping spirit – and discovers the eerie ailment may be bound up with the phantoms of the hospital’s past. The line between hallucination and reality blurs in this visionary Thai drama from 2010 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). Both intimate and sweeping, this spellbinding story weaves the pain of the past with the problems of the present.
Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous
Hoeng Gong Saam Bou Kuk
Hong Kong (PRC)
85 mins I Unclassified 15+
“Doyle’s finest work as an auteur… almost every frame is ridiculously gorgeous” – Cinema Scope
Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s third outing as director is a collection of three shorts, each an impressionistic glimpse into a rarely seen side of his adopted home. Encompassing three generations – ‘preschooled’ children, ‘preoccupied’ youth (shot amid the 2014 pro-democracy ‘Umbrella’ protests) and ‘preposterous’ seniors – the result is an intriguing blend of documentary and fiction, all framed by Doyle’s phenomenal aesthetic and idiosyncratic expression.
With Hong Kong Trilogy, the award-winning cinematographer, best known for lensing most of Wong Kar-wai’s films, set out to let the city tell its own story. The result is a jubilant visual tone poem, a vital historical document and a love letter to a remarkable metropolis.
Director and cinematographer Christopher Doyle in attendance.
Mountains May Depart
Shan He Gu Ren
People’s Republic of China, Japan, France
131 mins | Unclassified 15+
“[A] staggeringly ambitious piece of work from a filmmaker whose creativity is evolving before our eyes” – Guardian
As China braces for the turn of the millennium, dirt-poor coal miner Liangzi and rising entrepreneur Jingsheng compete for the love of the beautiful Tao (Zhao Tao). When she chooses the wealthier suitor, it’s a decision with consequences that will echo through the decades, changing their lives in ways they can’t possibly imagine.
Jia Zhang-Ke (Still Life, A Touch of Sin), one of Chinese cinema’s most distinctive filmmakers, delivers an expansive and intoxicating vision. An epic that spans a quarter-century, straddling continents and generations, Mountains May Depart is a sprawling, extraordinary parable about contemporary China, and the inexorable seismic shifts that are reshaping the foundations of its society.
Our Little Sister
128 mins | Unclassified 15+
“[Yasujiro] Ozu hovers all over Our Little Sister… the emotional undercurrents hidden beneath the calm, composed surfaces suggest the master is here in spirit” – Screen International
When three sisters attend the funeral of their estranged father, they’re astonished to discover they have a teenage half-sister. When they decide on the spot to adopt her, the trio find their new family member brings both unexpected joy and a challenge to their hard-won independence.
From Japan’s modern master of the domestic drama Hirokazu Kore-eda (nominated for Achievement in Directing at 7th APSA for Like Father, Like Son) comes a finely tuned exploration of our most intimate human connections – a film that revels in the small moments that enrich and define a life.
Right Now, Wrong Then
Jigeumeun Matgo Geuttaeneun Teullida
Republic of Korea
121 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Hong Sang-soo’s Groundhog Day… Another structurally clever character study with surprisingly potent results” – Indiewire
On his way to a backwater film festival, disaffected filmmaker Ham Cheon-soo becomes infatuated with a woman he meets on the street. The two begin a tentative flirtation, but as the day wears on Ham’s misanthropy looks set to derail their burgeoning romance. Then, what if things had played out differently?
Whip smart, coy and acutely self-aware, Right Now, Wrong Then, this year’s Locarno Golden Leopard winner, offers a whimsical look at the ‘butterfly effects’ that flow from our small, everyday social interactions. The latest feature from South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo (Night and Day, nominated for Best Screenplay APSA in 2008), this is a wryly offbeat comedic gem.
Islamic Republic of Iran
82 mins | Unclassified 15+
“A testament to its director’s lively, ungovernable storytelling imagination” – The Playlist
Jafar Panahi (APSA Academy Member and former Jury Member) has been working in secret for the last half-decade. Banned from filmmaking for 20 years by the Iranian authorities, he has since waged a one-man campaign of clandestine cinematic resistance.
Tehran Taxi is the third in his series of surreptitious projects, a playfully defiant film that won Golden Bear for Best Film at this year’s Berlinale. Posing as a cab driver, Panahi used a dashboard-mounted camera to turn his vehicle into a mobile film studio. Driving the streets of Tehran while his passengers debate, haggle and offer nuggets of street wisdom, he pieces together a series of vignettes that form a mischievous broadside against contemporary Iranian society.
Zui Sheng Meng Si
107 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Feels like a lethal projectile striking at the core of humanity… one of Chang Tso-chi’s best” – Taipei Times
Rat is a volatile slacker, wracked with guilt following his alcoholic mother’s death and drifting aimlessly through life in the seedy underbelly of Taipei. When his gay brother returns from a stint in the US, Rat’s delicate equilibrium begins to unravel, precipitating a downward slide into despair and violence.
Taking out six Taipei Film Awards, including the Grand Prix, and receiving ten nominations at the Golden Horse Awards, Thanatos, Drunk is the latest work from veteran Taiwanese director Chang Tso-chi (When Love Comes, Darkness and Light). Brooding, and intimate, this slow-burn slice of poetic realism offers an uneasy glimpse into the darker side of Taiwan’s glittering cities.
Under Electric Clouds
Pod Elektricheskimi Oblakami
Russian Federation, Ukraine, Poland
137 mins | Unclassified 15+
“a ravishingly shot, thought-provoking triumph of non-linear filmmaking” – Screen International
It’s the year 2017, a century after the Russian Revolution, and seven very different characters find their lives thrown together under the shadow of a great, unfinished skyscraper. From an immigrant construction worker through to real estate lawyers, architects, politicians, Mafioso and disgraced oligarchs, the building looms over them all – a reminder of 100 years of great hopes and failed dreams.
Winner of the Silver Bear award for Cinematography at this year’s Berlinale, Under Electric Clouds is the transcendent new film from writer-director Alexey German Jr (Paper Soldiers, The Last Train). A sprawling, impressionistic parable on contemporary Russia, this is a mesmerising depiction of a country sliding into a spiritual abyss.