Monday, January 9


Looking ahead to 2006, part IV: Wishful thinking

We're now far enough into 2006 that this series of post titles has become a bit embarrassingly outdated, but there's no way I wasn't going to take my turn openly whining to to the world (well, that teensy fraction of it that might come across this blog, anyway) my wishes regarding the films I'd like to see brought to Frisco in 2006 by local film purveyors, whether film festivals, independent-minded theatres, or other venues. This Asian-film-heavy top 20 list is not really in a precise order but consists of titles, both new and retrospective, I know have some degree of availability; many are making the rounds on the film festival circuit right now.

1. There's a Hong Sang-Soo retrospective traveling around North America this year, and I sure hope it makes a stop in the Bay Area. I was knocked out by Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors at the SFIFF in 2001, and have subsequently caught up with 3 of his other films on DVD, but would love to rewatch them, as well as his more recent Woman is the Future of Man and A Tale of Cinema, both of which have yet to premiere locally. Hong has made only six films but he's already established himself as perhaps the most essential auteur in current Korean cinema.
2. Rialto Pictures is touring a print of Bresson's Mouchette. I'm so there, wherever "there" ends up being.
3. I just can't get enough of Werner Herzog these days, and though Frisco was graced with three of his newest films in 2005, we still haven't seen the Wild Blue Yonder, which sounds at least as intriguing as any other.
4. I don't know whether to feel lucky that I caught Wisit Sasanatiang's Tears of the Black Tiger back in 2000 during its commercial run in Thailand, which coincided with the time I was living in that country, or cursed because knowing how beautiful it is on the big screen only makes me all the more furious that the film has remained unavailable to Frisco theatrical audiences. Well now his follow-up Citizen Dog is officially on the festival circuit and I'm crossing my fingers that one of the local fests decides to program it. If they're real smart maybe they'll figure out a way to get Miramax to let them pull Tears of the Black Tiger out of the vault too now that the Weinsteins and their kooky bonus scheme have left that company.
5. While I'm at it, I might as well ask for something more far-fetched but at least as mouth-watering: Wisit like many Thai directors was greatly inspired by the films of Rattana Pestonji, the first filmmaker to shoot sync sound films in 35mm after the post-war dominance of silent 16mm film distribution in Thailand. Some of Rattana's films, including Country Hotel and the reputed "first Thai film noir" Black Silk, have been making the rounds at Asian film festivals like Singapore and Pusan but wouldn't it be a coup for a local cinematheque or festival to snag the US premiere of one or more of them? I can dream, anyway...
6. Seijun Suzuki's Princess Raccoon. 'Nuff Said.
7. Police Beat, in my opinion the most interesting-sounding film from last year's Sundance Film Festival.
8. Pretty much all the critics I read hated Johanna when it screened at Cannes last May, but this Hungarian Opera film set in a hospital sounds absolutely fascinating to me.
9. I heard that when the Pacific Film Archive ran the Heroic Grace series of classic martial arts films from esteemed Hong Kong directors like King Hu and Chang Cheh in 2003, it was pretty poorly attended. I wanted to go but was too tempted by events on this side of the Bay to actually do it. But: if somebody decides to program the currently-touring sequel, including films like Dirty Ho and King Boxer, I promise I will come, and bring friends along.
10. I understand Grain in Ear is quite good, though I have no clue what that title means.
The next several films are all honorees in the Cinemarati Awards category of Best Undistributed Film; I've seen a couple of the honorable mentions but none of the top six picks and hope to rectify that this year:
11. The Sun by Alexander Sokurov.
12. the Regular Lovers by Philippe Garrel.
13. the Wayward Cloud by Tsai Ming-Liang.
14. Forgiveness by Ian Gabriel.
15. Three Times by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.
16. La Blessure by Nicolas Klotz.
17. For all the wonderful Japanese classic films that screened at the PFA and the Balboa during the last couple months of 2005, there was a particular one that didn't show up, that I'm hoping might find an excuse to play in 2006. I know a print has been recently shown elsewhere in the country: Humanity and Paper Balloons, named by many Japanese film specialists as one of that country's very finest cinematic achievements.
18. Three Friends, directed by two Thai women directors I admire (Aditya Assarat and Mingmongkul Sonakul) and one I'm not familiar with (Pumin Chinaradee), sounds fascinating.
19. I have little faith that it will be much better than mediocre, but I'm endlessly curious to see the first horror film made by a farang (Westerner) director in Thailand, in the Thai language. It's called P.
20. The New World is a uniquely beautiful creation myth put to film, and one of the best things I've seen in months, even if it was not as absolutely absorbing as the Thin Red Line was for me. I definitely want to see the New World again and I know it's being released here January 20th, so why include it in this post? Well, I'm wishing (probably vainly) that somehow I'll have the opportunity to watch the 3-hour version that was originally released in New York and Los Angeles, and not just the 2 hour and 40 minute version again. Picky? Maybe. Unrealistic? Almost certainly. But it can't hurt to throw the idea out there, can it?

GRAIN IN EAR refers to the season before the harvest when the grains appear within ears of corn. I should have put that in my review. It's a clunky kind of phrase in English that you have to say slowly, which is perfect for the film since it's very slow-paced.
Adam, thanks for the info!
Heroic Grace II willp lay the bay area. PFA will show 4 titles in late March and the Balboa is planning 10 films in May.
Woo-hoo! That's really great news, Gary! Sounds like we'll be "graced" with all the films in the tour.
Nearly two years later, a good portion of these wishes have come true. Still no-shows: #5, 8, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. I'm not surprised by most of these, but I do have an embarrassed comment on #18, Three Friends. I just realized that one of the segment directors, Aditya Assarat, whose film Waiting was the highlight of a shorts program I saw at the SFIAAFF a few years ago, is a man. I have no idea where I got the impression otherwise.
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