Another Year of Great Asian Cinema at the 2012 NYAFF/Japan Cuts

New York’s premiere showcase of Asian films comes back again this week with the annual tandem of Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Society’s Japan Cuts. As with last year, the month-long festivities begin with NYAFF screenings at Lincoln Center this Friday, then goes into crossover days from July 12-15 with films co-presented by both festivals, before finishing up with Japan Cuts screenings at Japan Society in Manhattan that will close on July 28.

Last year’s was one of the best fests I’ve ever attended, and this year promises to be just as amazing, with incredible guests like Donnie Yen and Choi Min-sik in attendance.

Retrospective Screenings

It was a very special experience last year to be able to watch on the big screen a cult juggernaut like Battle Royale (which didn’t have an American release at the time) and a martial arts masterpiece like Tsui Hark’s The Blade (which is still unavailable, and in fact the screening I attended was the last public screening to be permitted by the rights holders). This year's counterparts to those two are arguably just as striking, if not even more highly regarded.

NYAFF will show the international revenge hit Oldboy (with stars Yoon Jin-seo and Choi Min-sik in attendance for a Q&A) on June 30 and the kung fu classic Five Fingers of Death the same day. The former is a cult and critical darling that's one of the best examples of neo-noir around, while the other is the famous movie often cited as the one that started America’s “chop socky” craze in the 1970s, released the same year as Enter the Dragon. It stars late martial arts star Lo Lieh, who among other roles played the legendary monk Pai Mei (later played by Gordon Liu in Kill Bill).

Additionally, fans of The Departed would not want to miss a double feature showing of the original Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, followed by its prequel.

Special Guests

Though this year will have many special appearances, Donnie Yen and Choi Min-sik are the obvious guests of honor. Choi has had a phenomenal career, only a sample of which are being screened at NYAFF (though they’re all great picks). In addition to Oldboy, Choi will also attend screenings of the tearjerker Failan, the redemption boxing drama Crying Fist (directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, who made one of my favorite movies of 2011, The Unjust, which I saw at last year's NYAFF), as well as premiere his new Scorsese-esque film Nameless Gangster.

NYAFF won't be showing the best of the best in terms of Donnie Yen's work, but they are showing two new ones in Dragon and The Last Bladesman. Additionally, there'll be a showing of the 2005 action movie Kill Zone aka Sha Po Lang, one of Yen's best in recent years. Yen will be receiving a Star Asia Award before the screening of Dragon on Monday, July 9.

Japan Cuts will also feature an appearance by actor Koji Yakusho, and will screen some of his most renowned films, including Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s masterpiece thriller Cure, the romantic comedy Shall We Dance? that inspired a Richard Gere remake, and the Takashi Miike epic 13 Assassins.

Midnight Movies

Sure, Asian films are not all wild and crazy fucked up movies, but they do tend to make some of the best of those. There is The Atrocity Exhibition, comprised of three mad shorts, including one called Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. And if you like nutso titles, be sure to check out Zombie Ass, also known as Toilet of the Dead. Let’s not talk about what that’s about.

For fans of manga, horror icon Junji Ito’s insane fish-with-legs story Gyo has been adapted into a live-action film (if it’s anything like the comic, it should be wonderfully disgusting), while controversial mangaka George Akiyama’s shocking (and banned) cannibal story Ashura has been made into a feature anime.

Not to be missed is the trippy fantasy-horror film Tormented, which teams up Ju-On/The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu with legendary cinematographer and frequent Wong Kar-wai collaborator Christopher Doyle for a J-horror take on Alice in Wonderland, and Zero Man vs The Half Virgin, the bizarre and perverted film from Ichi the Killer writer Sakichi Sato about a virgin cop who can see the number of people a person has slept with on their foreheads whenever he gets an erection.

Premieres

Quite a few films are making their US premiere here (21 at NYAFF and 33 at Japan Cuts, though some of those cross over). NYAFF’s opening and closing films, the ribald Hong Kong comedy with the appropriate title Vulgaria and the Japanese dramedy Potechi that pits a pro baseball player and a petty thief together. Japan Cuts will close with a premiere of the live-action blockbuster adaptation of the Space Battleship Yamato anime.

Also worth checking out are: the Malaysian comedy Nasi Lemak 2.0, which has been causing quite a controversy in its home country; Scabbard Samurai, the latest film from Big Man Japan director Hitoshi Matsumoto; the Japanese arthouse tribute to the Unabomber, Monster Club; and erotic thriller Secret Love, which is making its first showing outside of Korea in a free special screening at the Tribeca Cinemas (first come first serve).

And don’t forget—although it made its US debut just last week at the AM2 anime convention, Takashi Miike’s highly-anticipated adaptation of the Phoenix Wright video game series Ace Attorney will have its New York premiere in a co-presentation by both festivals.

Schedule

Navigating two festivals at once can be daunting, especially trying to keep straight which is when. Below is a combined schedule for the films from both fests, with links to purchase tickets. NYAFF films will be at the Walter Reade theater at the Lincoln Center, while japan Cuts films will be at the Japan Society building.

For more info, hit up the Subway Cinema blog and the Japan Society website.

FRIDAY, JUNE 29
6:00 War of the Arrows
8:30 Vulgaria
MIDNIGHT Boxer’s Omen

SATURDAY, JUNE 30
1:00 Oldboy
4:00 Pang Ho-Cheung’s First Attempt
5:30 The King Boxer (Five Fingers of Death)
9:00 Nameless Gangster
MIDNIGHT Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell

SUNDAY, JULY 1
1:00 The Sword Identity
3:20 The Swift Knight
6:00 You Are The Apple of My Eye
8:45 Love in The Buff

MONDAY, JULY 2
1:00 Make Up
3:30 Failan
6:30 You Are The Apple of My Eye
9:00 Crying Fist

TUESDAY, JULY 3
1:00 Nameless Gangster
3:30 Starry Starry Night
6:00 Couples
8:30 Sacrifice

WEDNESDAY, JULY 4
1:00 Couples
3:30 East Meets West 2011
6:00 Seediq Bale I + Seediq Bale II

THURSDAY, JULY 5
1:30 Honey Pupu
4:00 Din Tao: Leader of The Parade
6:30 10 + 10
9:00 All About My Wife

FRIDAY, JULY 6
1:30 Zero Man Vs The Half Virgin
3:30 Scabbard Samurai
6:00 Infernal Affairs
8:40 Infernal Affairs 2
11:10 Dead Bite

SATURDAY, JULY 7
1:30 Zero Man Vs The Half Virgin
3:45 The King of Pigs
6:30 The Lost Bladesman
9:00 Guns and Roses
11:15 Miami Connection

SUNDAY, JULY 8
12:30 Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley
2:30 Ace Attorney
5:15 Kill Zone (aka SPL: Sha Po Lang)
8:00 The King of Pigs
10:30 Honey Pupu

MONDAY, JULY 9
12:30 You Are the Apple of My Eye
2:50 Nasi Lemak 2.0
5:00 A Simple Life
7:45 Dragon (Aka Wu Xia)
10:30 Red Vacance, Black Wedding

TUESDAY, JULY 10
1:30 Guns And Roses
4:00 Korean Short Film Madness
6:00 Golden Slumbers
7:00 Secret Love
9:00 Din Tao: Leader Of The Parade

WEDNESDAY, JULY 11
1:15 All About My Wife
3:50 Dead Bite
6:00 The Sword Identity
8:15 Doomsday Book
10:30 Make Up

THURSDAY, JULY 12
1:00 Doomsday Book
3:30 Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley
6:15 Nasi Lemak 2.0
6:30 Ashura
8:15 Smuggler
9:00 Blood Letter

FRIDAY, JULY 13
6:30 Hard Romanticker
9:00 The Atrocity Exhibition (3 Films Back-To-Back: Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club + Big Gun + Henge)

SATURDAY, JULY 14
1:00 Scabbard Samurai
3:15 Tokyo Playboy Club
5:30 Gyo
7:15 Love Strikes!

SUNDAY, JULY 15
1:30 Ace Attorney
4:15 Tormented
6:00 Monsters Club
8:00 Potechi (Chips)

TUESDAY, JULY 17
7:30 Zombie Ass

WEDNESDAY, JULY 18
7:30 Girls For Keeps

THURSDAY, JULY 19
6:30 Someday
8:30 9 Souls

FRIDAY, JULY 20
7:00 The Woodsman and the Rain

SATURDAY, JULY 21
1:00 Shall We Dance?
3:30 Toad's Oil
6:00 Chronicle of My Mother
8:20 13 Assassins
11:00 Cure

SUNDAY, JULY 22
1:00 Love Strikes!
3:15 No Man's Zone
5:20 About the Pink Sky
7:20 Isn't Anyone Alive?
9:30 Roadside Fugitive

TUESDAY, JULY 24
7:00 Rebirth

WEDNESDAY, JULY 25
7:00 Rent-A-Cat
9:15 Ushijima the Loan Shark

TUESDAY, JULY 26
7:00 Don't Stop!

FRIDAY, JULY 27
7:00 Leonie

SATURDAY, JULY 28
1:00 A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima
3:00 Women on the Edge
5:00 Lonely Swallows
7:00 The Brat!
9:00 Space Battleship Yamato

Jun
26
2012
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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