“An object in motion stays in motion unless and equal or opposite force is acted upon it. An object at rest remains at rest unless and equal or opposite force is acted upon it.” While taking a headlong plunge into the 14th Annual NY Asian Film Fest by Subway Cinema, which is coming to a close on July 8th at the Lincoln Film Center, what occurred to me strangely were the laws of physics. Inertia, momentum, acceleration, friction and gravity somehow seemed to be a substrate of the selections (and even characters) which all hold fast to their inner natures and trajectories. Amidst highlights of Aaron Kwok, Ringo Lam, Shota Sometani, Korean Women Behind the Camera, Ken Takakura, Bunta Sugawara, and a host of other subheadings float just as many ideas.
Within the contained systems of each film this year (with some exception) is inertia rather than a series of overt accelerations and decelerations. The momentum is gathered early and remains constant throughout. Whether they stride, sprint, saunter or grind ahead, they do so with constancy. It is the festival itself that bears responsibility for variation in specific gravities, and thus the festival has mechanics more akin to an art curatorial than a compilation.
Samuel Jamier is Co-Director of the Festival this year, formerly Curator of Film for the Japan Society of NY and his influence on the lineup is distinct. Jamier’s penchant for micro themes within given frameworks, relational director/actor-in-focus "sidebars", thematic fusion of contemporary and repertory entries and an elevated level of conversation between the films themselves is what sets his programming apart. Through the efforts of Executive Director Goran Topalovic, Samuel Jamier and all of Subway Cinema’s staff, this year is by and large the best slate I’ve seen. NYAFF is known for taking an extreme tack with a genre lean, but 2015’s selection encompasses a fuller spectrum and a stronger balance, such that a toughguy showcase of the "Japanese Man" is countered by a selection from Female-run Myung Pictures as well as a slew of dynamic female performances. Refinement in the case of NYAFF means that there is a smoother gradation from uncommon tenderness to unbridled insanity.
That quality of inter-film conversation makes you want to watch every single film so you can cram the dialectic in your scull and see what bubbles to the surface. Motifs of student/youth rebellions are reflected with various tonalities in Solomon’s Perjury (Japan), Socialphobia (South Korea) and Meeting Dr. Sun (Taiwan). The uncommon altruism of the teacher in Little Big Master is a foil to the disaffected atom-bomb building highschool professor of The Man Who Stole The Sun (1979) (which you may recall from Unknown Japan!), which dovetails the nihilisms of Director-in-Focus Daihachi Yoshida’s three works (Pale Moon, Funuke Show Some Love You Losers!, and Permanent Nobara). The undiluted hysterics of Shion Sono’s gangland hip-hop “musical” Tokyo Tribe are an equal-or-opposite force to My Love Don’t Cross That River’s (South Korea) charming stillness. My Love’s expression of devoted aged love and the betrayal of the body is augmented in Revivre where a likewise bond is tested. The adversarial relationships in Pale Moon and The Man Who Stole the Sun touch upon the contest of peers in Cold War, and preface a substratum of this years festival that spirals into the criminal underbelly with a Kinji Fukusaku “tough guy” retrospective, and nods to Ringo Lam, where different bonds of loyalty are demonstrated and tested. The saturated feverdream of Ruined Heart: Another Romance Between A Criminal And A Whore (A kinetic slum-poem starring Tadanobu Asano, and one of two films shot by Christopher Doyle!) is the flipside of the kinesthetic coin featuring Emily Ting’s It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, a crisp seemingly-breezy tale of spontaneous but inconvenient romantic connection abroad. It is perhaps between these two films that a fold is made and a butterflied map of the festival’s view’s on social/emotional/economic connection and dislocation can be drawn. But in a festival of so many opposites and the latitudes between, its hard to say where the center is, but the postulation is the fun of it.
Look forward to more in depth reviews of my favorite films from NYAFF including Solomon's Perjury, Tokyo Tribe, My Love Don't Cross That River, and anything by Daihachi Yoshida!