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Hong Kong Film Festival: "The Midnight After"

Watch the trailer. Named both Best Film and Best Director by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, Fruit Chan’s science-fiction comedy follows a group of Hong Kong denizens on a late-night trip. When they emerge from their minibus, the travelers discover they are the only people left in the city—the first of many disturbing realizations. Featuring a great cast that includes Simon Yam, Kara Hui, and rocker Jan Curious (who at one point launches into an appropriately goofy version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”), “Midnight is an intensely local but exhilarating comedy-horror that shows Chan firing on all pistons with his indie energy of old” (Derek Elley, Film Business Asia). (Dir.: Fruit Chan, Hong Kong, 2014, 124 min. DCP, Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, July 31, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Hong Kong Film Festival: "Full Throttle"

Watch the trailer. Included in the Freer|Sackler’s first Made in Hong Kong Film Festival in 1996, this fast-paced action movie stars Andy Lau as Joe, who rides his motorcycle in illegal street races. Joe befriends a professional racer sponsored by his estranged father, which spurs a familial rivalry with high-speed stakes. LoveHKfilm.com praises this classic as an “entertaining action drama … that's well produced and involving, with great visuals and superior atmosphere.” Film print supplied by the Hong Kong Film Archive, Leisure and Cultural Services Department. (Dir.: Derek Yee, Hong Kong, 108 min. 35mm, Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, August 2, 2015, 2:00 PM.

Hong Kong Film Festival: "Gangster Payday"

Watch the trailer. “In every department, from casting to cinematography,” raves Richard Kuipers in Variety, “Gangster Payday taps into the spirit of the 1980s and ’90s golden age of Hong Kong crime movies”—making it a perfect addition to this year’s festival. Anthony Wong gives a terrific performance as an aging mob boss who helps a feisty young restaurateur stand up to greedy property developers. This “unapologetically Hong Kong film … basks in its own cinematic legacy” (Elizabeth Kerr, Hollywood Reporter). (Dir.: Lee Po-cheung, Hong Kong, 2014, 97 min. DCP, Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, August 7, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Hong Kong Film Festival: "The Long Arm of the Law"

Watch the trailer. Presented in a rare 35mm print, Johnny Mak’s directorial debut is a seminal film that established the Hong Kong gangster movie genre and is now one of the Hong Kong Film Archive’s 100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies. Lam Wai plays Tung, the leader of a gang of former soldiers living on the edge of poverty in mainland China. Desperate to change their situation, they hatch a plot to rob a Hong Kong jewelry store and return to China with their spoils. This dream of easy riches falters upon the gang’s arrival in Hong Kong, where they are pursued by enemies on both sides of the law. Film print supplied by the Hong Kong Film Archive, Leisure and Cultural Services Department. (Dir.: Johnny Mak, Hong Kong, 1984, 100 min. 35mm, Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, August 9, 2015, 2:00 PM.

Hong Kong Film Festival: "The Legend of Drunken Master"

The public has spoken, and the runaway winner of our Choose Your Jackie poll is The Legend of Drunken Master! This display of Jackie Chan’s astonishing acrobatic skills is set in turn-of-the-century China, a turbulent time between the collapse of the Manchu dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China. Chan plays Wong Fei-hung, who is trained in the obscure martial art of drunken boxing. When he drinks alcohol, he untaps amazing strength and agility that allow him to fight dozens of men simultaneously. When the legendary martial artist finds himself embroiled in a plot by British imperialists and insidious locals to rob the country of its valuable cultural artifacts, he must use his unique style of martial arts to fight the conspirators and salvage the Chinese treasures before it is too late. Legend “showcases Chan in his impish glory, dazzling in his ability to make serious, complicated fighting look like devil-may-care fun” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly). (Dir.: Lau Kar-leung, Hong Kong,… Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, August 14, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Hong Kong Film Festival: "Diva"

In person: Heiward Mak Watch the trailer. For the final screening of our twentieth-anniversary festival, we look to the future by inviting young filmmaker Heiward Mak to present her behind-the-scenes showbiz drama Diva. Set in the Hong Kong pop music world, it stars real-life pop star Joey Yung as a singer who loses her voice in the midst of a concert. While she lays low on the mainland, striking up a relationship with a blind masseur, her fast-talking manager (Chapman To) casts his eye on a talented young singer to take her place. (Dir.: Heiward Mak, Hong Kong/China, 2012, 101 min. DCP, Cantonese and Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, August 16, 2015, 3:00 PM.

"The Treasure Cave" and "Statues of Tehran"

Bahman Kiarostami has produced numerous documentaries on the arts and post-revolutionary life in Iran. The Treasure Cave centers on the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, considered the region’s most important repository of modern Western art. After the revolution, its collection was locked away and the building became a memorial to martyrs of the revolution and Iran-Iraq War. Statues of Tehran focuses on monuments and memory, tracing the history of two famous public sculptures and their inevitable neglect in the course of revolution, war, and urban development. The Treasure Cave (Dir.: Bahman Kiarostami, Iran, 2009, 42 min. Persian with English subtitles) Statues of Tehran (Dir.: Bahman Kiarostami, Iran, 2008, 60 min. Persian with English subtitles,). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Related Exhibition: Abbas Kiarostami: Five Inspired by Ozu and Shirin Neshat: Facing History. Sunday, September 13, 2015, 2:00 PM.

Film: "Are We OK?"

In person: Ҫağan Irmak, director Temmuz, a sculptor suffering from both creative block and heartbreak, has been seeing the face of a physically disabled young man in his dreams. One day in the park, he catches a glimpse of the man, Ihsan. After Temmuz befriends Ihsan and his family, Ihsan confides that he wants Temmuz to help him end his life. Mixing joy, sorrow, and a touch of magic realism, this inspiring story of two men finding strength in each other is a fine example of director Ҫağan Irmak’s signature style. (Dir.: Ҫağan Irmak, Turkey, 2013, 92 min. DCP, Turkish with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, September 18, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Film: "Whisper if I Forget"

In person: Ҫağan Irmak, director Hatice, an aspiring singer in a conservative small town, runs away to Istanbul in the 1970s, stealing from her sister Hanife both the dashing musician son of a local politician and Hanife’s poems, which Hatice transforms into hit songs. After forty years without contact, Hatice, now an aging diva showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, visits Hanife, who has become an embittered spinster, to make amends and ask for her help. While scenes set in the past revel in nostalgia for 1970s kitsch, the sisters’ late-in-life reunion is a touching story of sacrifice, forgiveness, and the endurance of family bonds. (Dir.: Ҫağan Irmak, Turkey, 2014, 123 min. DCP, Turkish with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, September 20, 2015, 2:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Branded to Kill"

After the film, Tom Vick signs his book Time and Place are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki in the Meyer Auditorium lobby. Watch the trailer. This fractured film noir is the final provocation that got Suzuki fired from Nikkatsu Studios, simultaneously making him a counterculture hero and putting him out of work for a decade. An anarchic send-up of B movie clichés, it stars Jo Shishido as an assassin who gets turned on by the smell of cooking rice, and whose failed attempt to kill a victim (a butterfly lands on his gun) turns him into a target himself. Perhaps Suzuki’s most famous film, it has been cited as an influence by filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Park Chan-wook, and John Woo, as well as the composer John Zorn, who called it “a cinematic masterpiece that transcends its genre.” Intended for mature audiences. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1967, 91 min. B&W, DCP, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, October 9, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Tokyo Drifter"

Watch the trailer.   Tasked with making a vehicle for actor/singer Tetsuya Watari to croon the title song, Suzuki concocted this crazy yarn about a reformed yakuza on the run from his former comrades. The film is mainly an excuse to stage an escalating series of goofy musical numbers and over-the-top fight scenes. Popping with garish colors, self-parodic style, and avant-garde visual design, Tokyo Drifter embodies a late-1960s zeitgeist in which trash and art joyfully comingle. “With influences that range from Pop Art to 1950s Hollywood musicals, and from farce and absurdist comedy to surrealism, Suzuki shows off his formal acrobatics in a film that is clearly meant to mock rather than celebrate the yakuza film genre” (Nikolaos Vryzidis, Director of World Cinema: Japan). (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1966, 83 min. DCP, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, October 11, 2015, 1:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Youth of the Beast"

Watch the trailer. Suzuki himself claims that 1963 was the year when he truly came into his own, and Youth of the Beast is one of his breakthroughs. In his second collaboration with the director, Jo Shishido rampages through the movie, playing a disgraced ex-cop pitting two yakuza gangs against each other to avenge the death of a fellow officer. As the double and triple crosses mount, Suzuki fills the frame with lurid colors, striking compositions, and boldly theatrical effects that signal a director breaking away from genre material to forge a pulp art form all his own. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1963, 91 min. 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, October 11, 2015, 3:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Gate of Flesh"

Watch the trailer. Part social realist drama, part sadomasochistic trash opera, Gate of Flesh paints a dog-eat-dog portrait of postwar Tokyo. The film takes the point of view of a gang of tough prostitutes working out of a bombed-out building. When a lusty ex-soldier lurches into their midst, the group’s most sensitive member is tempted to break one of its most important rules: no falling in love. From the women’s bold, color-coded dresses to the unorthodox use of superimposition effects and theatrical lighting, this is Suzuki at his most astonishingly inventive. Intended for mature audiences. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1964, 90 min. 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, October 16, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Tattooed Life"

Watch the trailer. Set in the 1930s, Tattooed Life is the story of two brothers: Kenji, an art student, and Tetsu, who is working as a yakuza to help pay for Kenji’s tuition. When a hit job goes horribly wrong, the brothers flee. They end up finding work in a mine—and falling in love with the owner’s wife and daughter. But will Tetsu’s gang tattoos reveal the brothers’ secret past? The first film to earn Suzuki a warning about “going too far” from his Nikkatsu bosses, Tattooed Life contains one of his most iconic and audacious violations of film form: a final fight scene in which the floor suddenly and illogically disappears, and the action is filmed from below the actors’ feet. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1965, 87 min. 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, October 18, 2015, 2:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Kanto Wanderer"

Watch the trailer. Based on a book by Taiko Hirabayashi, one of Japan’s most famous female novelists, Kanto Wanderer puts a Suzukian spin on the classic yakuza movie conflict between giri (duty) and ninjo (humanity). Nikkatsu superstar Akira Kobayashi plays Katsuta, a fearsome yakuza bodyguard torn between defending his boss against a rival gang leader and his obsession with Tatsuko, a femme fatale who reappears from his past. Suzuki uses this traditional story to experiment with color and to indulge his interest in Kabuki theater techniques and effects, most notably in the stunning final battle, in which the scenery falls away to reveal a field of pure blood red. “As an example of Suzuki’s mid-period output at Nikkatsu, Kanto Wanderer offers us an inspiring sample of experimentation on assignment” (Margaret Barton-Fumo, Senses of Cinema). Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1963, 92 min. 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Related Events: Preview of Sōtatsu: Making Waves. Friday, October 23, 2015, 7:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Story of a Prostitute"

Watch the trailer. Yumiko Nogawa, one of Suzuki’s favorite actresses, gives perhaps her most ferocious performance in this scathing portrayal of Japanese militarism during the lead-up to World War II. Sent with six other comfort women to service a garrison of some 1,000 men in Manchuria during the Sino-Japanese War, Nogawa’s Harumi is brutalized by a vicious lieutenant who wants her as his personal property. Meanwhile, she is falling in love with his gentle young assistant. The Taijiro Tamura novel on which the film is based was previously made into a much-sanitized film by Akira Kurosawa called Escape at Dawn (1950). Working in the B movie arena allowed Suzuki to use the sex and violence expected from the genre to advance the view he shared with Tamura: “that the sex-drive is a crucial part of the human will to live” (Tony Rayns). “This is the movie that proves Suzuki should be lifted out of the limiting category of the Asia Extreme cult directors, the ‘Japanese Outlaw Masters,’ and placed at the… Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, October 25, 2015, 1:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "Fighting Elegy"

Watch the trailer. Set in the 1930s, this darkly comic film is the story of Kiroku, a high school kid who lusts after the pure, Catholic daughter of the family with whom he boards. The only relief he can find for his immense sexual frustration is through fighting, which at first gets him into trouble, but later makes him perfect cannon fodder for the Sino-Japanese War. As with Story of a Prostitute, the subject of militarism inspired Suzuki to make one of his most personal and impassioned works. “One of Suzuki’s indisputable masterpieces, this subversively funny account of the making of a model fascist goes where no film had gone before in search of comic insights into the adolescent male mind” (Tony Rayns). Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1966, 86 min. B&W, 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Sunday, October 25, 2015, 3:00 PM.

Seijun Suzuki Retrospective: "The Call of Blood"

Though Suzuki created it in the midst of his stylistic breakthrough, The Call of Blood has never received the same amount of attention as other films he made around the same time. Nikkatsu icons Hideki Takahashi and Akira Kobayashi star as brothers—one a gangster, the other an ad man—who unite to avenge their yakuza father’s death eighteen years before. The film features a bold use of color; an absurdist concluding gunfight; and, in one memorable scene, an impressively illogical use of rear projection as the brothers argue in a car while ocean waves rage around them. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation. (Dir.: Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1964, 97 min. 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Free. Friday, October 30, 2015, 7:00 PM.