Alexander Sokurov’s “The Sun” opens in an awkward fashion. On the surface, life seems ordinary enough at the Imperial Palace of Japan. A servant brings in breakfast for the emperor on a tray. A second servant reads off the itinerary for the day. The emperor must attend a meeting with his war ministers. Then he will study marine biology, his favorite subject.
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2009 brought a wealth of Asian and Asian-related films to American theaters. Here’s a quick look back at 10 films you should have seen — and if you haven’t, you should hunt these down at your local video store:
“Ninja Assassin,” the new film from director James McTeigue, begins with a Japanese tattoo artist working on a yakuza’s back. Blood flows down from the tattoo needle. With only short respites, blood also flows throughout the rest of the film. Blood isn’t enough, however, to compensate for the film’s anemia in other areas.
“Red Cliff” is John Woo’s first Chinese movie since 1991’s “Once a Thief.” His new film triumphs over the cutting of the footage which is almost as cruel as the cuttings of so many characters over the film’s running time. Conceived as a four-hour epic in two parts, it reaches the United States as a single film that runs two and a half hours.
Before leaving his home in Texas for Mongolia with his wife and autistic son, author and horse trainer Rupert Isaacson seems eager for the trip as he calls it a “gateway to adventure, a gateway to healing.”
Norbert Caoili admits, with a smile, that his last name is pronounced “cow-wheelie.” In fact, he does almost everything with a smile. Sitting in a Seattle coffee shop, dressed smartly with a sweater and crisp jeans, he radiates confidence and warmth. He hardly seems like one of the masterminds behind a grim horror picture which opens with a woman who is slowly and savagely beaten to death.
At age 33, Thailand’s Tony Jaa seems poised to replace Jackie Chan in the world of Asian martial arts film. Like Jackie Chan, Jaa’s movies emphasize all-natural fights and stunts. They avoid the use of computer graphics and stuntman substitutions for the leading man.
“Ponyo,” the new film from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, opens with a shot of the sky on a sunny day. It’s only a short shot. Unlike Miyazaki’s earlier film “Porco Rosso,” “Ponyo” concerns itself with the sea, not the sky.
“Thirst” is a new film directed by controversial South Korean director Chan-wook Park. The film begins with a fat man wheezing in his hospital bed. Between wheezes, he explains how he once held the world’s greatest sponge cake. He longed for nothing more than a private place to devour this cake. However, he came across two hungry sisters and gave the cake to them instead.
“Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone” (a film adapted from the Japanese science fiction anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion”) is set in the not-too-distant future, in a city called Tokyo-3. The buildings shimmer in a heat wave. The streets are suspiciously empty. A huge spray suddely sprouts out over the water.