Twentieth-century cinema boasts a long list of classics: films that changed the very idea of what movies can be. The mesmerising The Assassin, a remarkable film of the year, prompted us to contemplate how great films of the past rendered the poetic form, historical narrative, action sequences and feminine sensibility. Discover or revisit these formidable forms of cinematic expression.
MIKIO NARUSE (1905-1969)
One of the leading figures of Japanese cinema, Mikio Naruse was a master of composition and editing, a director whose elegant, melancholy films spoke to feminine sensibility and the transience of all things.
Naruse favoured literary adaptations and felt deeply connected with female writer Fumiko Hayashi’s writings on the perils of everyday life, adapting a total of six of her novels. His works often featured female protagonists, regularly played by Hideko Takamine, with whom he made 15 films between 1941 and 1966. Stylistically, his restrained melodramas share much with his contemporaries Ozu and Mizoguchi, but brought a darker edge to bear, underlining the quiet tragedies and fleeting joys of everyday life.
“This flow of short shots that looks calm and ordinary at first glance then reveals itself to be like a deep river with a quiet surface disguising a fast-raging current underneath. The sureness of his hand in this was without comparison.” – Akira Kurosawa
124 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Quietly eloquent, immaculately crafted… one of the greatest [films] in the history of the Japanese cinema” – LA Times
Amid the poverty and turmoil of post-war Tokyo, a married man’s quiet domestic existence is shattered by the arrival of a woman he shared a brief, but intense, wartime affair with. The two share a powerful bond, but the slow drift of their broken romance threatens to destroy them both.
Considered Mikio Naruse’s definitive masterpiece, and a favourite of directors such as Wong Kar-wai, Edward Yang and Hou Hsiaohsien, Floating Clouds is a patiently observed, heartbreaking portrait of obsessive love. Anchored by a supreme performance from Hideko Takamine as the loving, doomed Yukiko, this is cinema of uncommon grandeur and vision – the work of a master at the height of his powers.
BAPFF’s screening of Floating Clouds commemorates Mikio Naruse’s 110th birth anniversary.
Floating Clouds will be introduced by Yuka Sakano, Head of International Relations for Kawakita Memorial Film Institute and a member of APSA’s International Jury for Youth, Animation and Documentary.
Image credit: © 1955 Toho Co Ltd. All rights reserved.
In the field of Chinese wuxia (martial arts) cinema, few figures are as revered or influential as Hong Kong/ Taiwanese filmmaker King Hu. Drawing heavily on the ornate aesthetic style of Peking opera and the tenets of his own Zen Buddhism, Hu’s martial arts epics are technical and cinematographic marvels. Transcending the schlock and melodrama that had been typical of the genre, his films played a key role in elevating wuxia into art films.
A Touch of Zen (Restored)
180 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Looking as fresh as if it was made yesterday… A Touch of Zen is Eastern cinema at its most dynamic and grown-up” – Total Film
One of the primary inspirations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, A Touch of Zen revolutionised the wuxia (martial arts) genre upon its release in Taiwan in 1971, winning the Technical Grand Prize at Cannes in 1975. Less an action movie than a hauntingly beautiful meditation on politics, loss, love and nature (with some truly dazzling fight scenes thrown in), it remains perhaps King Hu’s greatest and most influential film. Needless to say, the touch fom Zen Buddhism is also very much at the core.
A mild-mannered scholar, Ku, is drawn into palace intrigue when he falls for Yang, a fugitive femme fatale being pursued by the malevolent eunuch Wei, for daring to expose his corruption. A battle is brewing – and Ku has placed himself at the eye of the coming storm.
This new 4K restoration premiered at this year’s Cannes Classics.
The undisputed master of modern Taiwanese cinema, Hou Hsiao-hsien has been nominated six times for the Cannes Palme d’Or and was declared Director of the Decade by Village Voice.
His films are delicately paced tableaus, lattices of character and exquisite detail that cut to the human core of epochal events. Using sublime long takes and a poet’s feel for mood and atmospherics, Hou crafts cinema that is ambitious, enthralling and impossible to forget.
A City of Sadness
158 mins | Unclassified 15+
“A great film, one that will be watched as long as there are people who care about the movies as an art” – Chicago Tribune
As Taiwan rebuilds in the aftermath of World War II and returns to Chinese rule after 50 years of Japanese occupation, a family scratches out a living in a burgeoning township. But there is a storm gathering on the horizon, fuelled by a ruthless administration and a brewing battle between Communist and Nationalist forces.
Family, history, memory and politics become intensely, unbearably entwined in A City of Sadness, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s magisterial saga on the birth of modern Taiwan. A testament to human resilience in the face of forces we cannot control, this is the ultimate distillation of Hou’s style – an enthrallingly complex epic of vast, irrepressible ambition.
Screens on a new 35mm print produced in 2009 commemorating the film’s 20th anniversary.
Don’t miss the Queensland Premiere of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s APSA-nominated The Assassin [HYPERLINK] screening during BAPFF 2015.