A Better Tomorrow
If you have even a passing interest in TIFF Cinematheque's expansive Chinese cinema retrospective, which started yesterday and which I discussed in this week's print edition, you've likely investigated it further and made notes on the titles you most want to see. I'm going to use this column to go beyond the opening week's programming, and maybe point you to a few more movies worth catching.
Actually, before we do that, there's one more movie to recommend this weekend: John Woo's A Better Tomorrow is screening Saturday at 8 pm, with an introduction by Nansun Shi, co-founder of the estimable Hong Kong production company Film Workshop.
One could argue that John Woo wouldn't be John Woo without her support, and while that would mean Windtalkers never happened, it would also mean we'd lose dozens of other, better movies - including A Better Tomorrow, which is one of the best things Woo or Chow Yun-fat has ever done. You're going to want to catch that.
Nansun Shi is also introducing Ching Siu-tung's A Chinese Ghost Story at 10 pm tonight (Friday), which is good silly fun on its own terms. But if you're pressed for time, A Better Tomorrow is the one to see. (They're both part of the Swordsmen, Gangsters And Ghosts subprogram specializing in Chinese genre cinema.)
Now, to the future. I'm especially looking forward to seeing Edward Yang's The Terrorizers when it screens July 1 at 8 pm; Yang's films are very difficult to find - as I mentioned when TIFF held its excellent 2008 retrospective- and his 1986 multicharacter study of a socially stratified Taipei is one I've never been able to see. TIFF's announcement that they'll be screening a new digital restoration of the movie in the New Waves subsection of the China series is fantastic news, and it's the single title to which I'm most looking forward. Mark that on your calendar. TIFF is also screening Yang's four-hour masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day August 5 at 2:30 pm; you won't want to miss that, either.
Yang's films are playing in the New Waves section of the series, which focuses on the cinema that emerged in the 80s. And his engagement with present-day realities makes a sharp contrast to the films that were coming out of mainland China, which had to traffic primarily in allegory in order to avoid the ire of government censors.
Even under those constraints, some great work came out of China - and much of it is here. Chen Kaige's Farewell, My Concubine, which played last night, is one of the finest of these films (along with Zhang Yimou's Raise The Red Lantern, which inexplicably absent from the China series). There's also Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Blue Kite (June 22, 7 pm) and The Horse Thief (June 29, 4 pm) and Zhang Yimou's Red Sorghum (July 14, 3:30 pm) and The Story Of Qiu Ju (July 14, 6 pm).
There's great stuff in the New Directions sub-program, which showcases works that bent the stylistic traditions established in the resurgence of Chinese cinema, or broke with them entirely. These are more confrontational works, engaging with political or social themes that would have gone unspoken just a few years earlier.
I can heartily recommend Wong kar-wai's Chungking Express (Saturday, 5 pm, in the presence of cinematographer Christopher Doyle) and In The Mood For Love (June 16, 6 pm); Fruit Chan's rarely-screened 1997 thriller Made In Hong Kong (June 18, 9 pm), a new restoration of Tsai Ming-Liang's Vive L'Amour (June 20, 8:45 pm), Jia Zhang-ke's Platform (in its original cut, July 23, 6:30 pm) and Still Life (July 25, 6:30 pm) and Wen Jiang's Devils On The Doorstep (July 24, 6:30 pm).
There, that should get you started. I'll do my best to draw your attention to worthy screenings as the series runs on, but you might want to bookmark this page for quick reference.