Edinburgh Festival 2012: A Disinterested Preview
Simian Substitute Site For August 2012: Monkey Olympics

MOSTLY FILM: #KeepAsianCinemaInUKCinemas

Sammo Hung, Andy Lau and Tsui Hark, in a gloriously untypical still from A Simple LifeThere's no denying that it's a mouthful of a title (says the man who's previously persuaded Europe's Best Website to publish two separate articles called Terracottadammerung). But it's explained in the first paragraph of this week's Mostly Film piece, and it was the ideal phrase to tie together two film reviews, one writeup of a panel discussion and some thoughts on recent events in the world of film distribution. So, as of yesterday, you can read an article by me called #KeepAsianCinemaInUKCinemas at Mostly Film.

Having said that, at one point it was looking like I'd have to rename it Untitled Asian Cinema Rant. Last Friday lunchtime, literally as I was preparing the final draft for editing, Terracotta Distribution turned up on Twitter announcing a competition to find a shorter, more punchy version of their hashtag. At the time of writing, the competition is still open: searching through their public tweets, I'm amused to discover that two-thirds of the entries so far have come from Mostly Film contributors. (Hi, Clare.) They haven't officially announced a replacement hashtag, so for now let's stick with the current one.

For today's Red Button backup material, here's a question for you: how many Asian films have actually made it into UK cinemas so far in 2012? And how many of them have you seen? I'll give you a few seconds to think about that.

Well, the article #KeepAsianCinemaInUKCinemas was partly inspired by the simultaneous release of The Flowers Of War and A Simple Life this Friday, August 3rd: and if you count both of those, then that makes a grand total of twelve Asian theatrical releases in the UK so far this year. Some of those releases have been real blink-and-you'll-miss-it affairs, it's true. Here's a video playlist of their trailers, along with a few words of explanation for each one.

1. Tatsumi. Didn't see it myself, but Eric Khoo's animated biography of manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi looks intriguing, and you should still be able to watch it on Curzon On Demand (location permitting).

2. Red Light Revolution. Sam Voutas' Chinese sex shop comedy won the audience award at the Terracotta Festival 2011, which presumably led to Terracotta Distribution giving it a UK release. A tiny release prior to it coming out on DVD, sure, but as we'll see there's a lot of that sort of thing about.

3. All's Well Ends Well 2012. The latest in a series of featherlight all-star romcoms made specifically for Chinese New Year, this one baffled the arse off the British critics when it came out over here. I said a little about this at the time.

4. The Emperor And The White Snake. This was definitely a blink-and-you'll-miss-it release, which is a shame, as Ching Siu-Tung has always been one of the more visually interesting directors working out of Hong Kong. (Although Rick Baker, the Hong Kong fanboy I mentioned in the Mostly Film article, always called Ching 'the Chinese Gerry Anderson' because of his penchant for people flying around on wires.)

5. Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai. Two of my specialist subjects on Mostly Film have been the work of Takashi Miike and the peculiarities of UK theatrical distribution: nevertheless, even I couldn't tell you which London cinema Hara-Kiri played at in the three days before its home video release. Which is a shame, as my disappointment at its LFF screening could possibly have been turned around if I could have seen it again in 2D. I can do that at home now, of course, but it's not the same.

6. Mitsuko Delivers. One of my favourites from last year's LFF, given a UK release by Third Window films. At the Japan Foundation discussion I report on in the Mostly Film piece, Joey Leung affectionately talked about how his friend Adam - presumably Adam Torel of Third Window - could frequently be found roaring his head off at Japanese comedies while everyone else around him looked confused. That shouldn't have been the case here. I hope it wasn't, anyway.

7. The Raid. Is it an Indonesian film or a Welsh one? The presence of local director Gareth Evans, plus strong internet buzz, was probably what prompted The Raid's distributors to give it a wider release than any other film in this list. Sadly, their gamble didn't pay off to the degree they'd hoped: it came out just as I went on holiday, and by the time I got back just over two weeks later it had virtually vanished from cinemas, meaning I had to make do with Lee Hardcastle's feline remake.

8. Himizu. As now mentioned in two separate Mostly Film pieces: incredibly popular at the Terracotta Festival, less so in general cinemas.

9. Arirang. Another film from Terracotta 2012: I can't see Kim Ki-Duk's staged nervous breakdown having massive popular appeal, but hopefully people who liked his movies a decade ago would be keen to see what he's up to now.

10. Planet Of Snail. Dogwoof have been doing some wonderful work with small, socially aware documentaries over the last few years. This piece about a South Korean couple struggling with adversity - he's deaf-blind! She's shrinking! - looks rather extraordinary.

11. The Flowers Of War. Zhang Yimou's Nanjing-set drama didn't really do it for me, though that may just be because I was spoilt by an earlier film on the subject. You, however, may disagree: you've got this weekend if you want to catch it for yourself at the flicks, and then after that it'll be on DVD. Having said that, in London it appears to only be on at a 50 seat boxroom in the Empire Leicester Square, so best of luck finding it at a cinema near you.

12. A Simple Life. Ann Hui's delightful drama impressed me quite a bit at last year's LFF. I hope you were all impressed at how little I recycled from my 2011 review (I was itching to re-use that Zhu Lian and San Di gag, but I thought that would be pushing it). It looks like it's opening a bit wider than The Flowers Of War this weekend, and is at least being given some breathing space in theatres before coming out on home video. It's worth catching on the big screen if you can, if only to persuade distributors that there's a theatrical audience for Asian film. Which was the point of all, this, really. (I'm well aware of the irony of the big pile of DVD purchase links directly below this sentence, thank you.)


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