There’s still fun to be had at BAM Cinemafest, but really, Brooklyn is so last week. The action has moved back to Manhattan with the quindecennial edition of the New York Asian Film Festival. Hurry to Lincoln Center and SVA to see the latest batch of Asia’s finest movies, as curated by the nice folks of Subway Cinema.
Saving Mr. Wu (2015) China
There are no grand fight scenes in this police procedural about a kidnapped actor. There are no big twists either – it’s just a well-executed example of the genre. Cop Liu Ye leads the investigation, but the real pleasure comes from two great performances by Wang Qianyuan as the kidnapper, and Hong Kong legend Andy Lau as the kidnappee. The movie gets bonus points for not starring Matt Damon as the dude who needs to be saved.
The Mermaid (2016) China
If you’ve seen “Splash” (1984), you have a pretty good idea how a mermaid love story is going to play out. But this version is directed by Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer), so you know there is going to be some laffs and general zaniness. Jelly Lin is adorbs as the mermaid and there are enough good comic bits to distract from how bad the CGI is.
Brutal/Jagat (2015) Malaysia
This coming-of-age story about a kid growing up in the minority Indian community of Malaysia lives up to its title. Little Appoy can’t seem to do anything right. His abusive father is no help, so he turns to his uncles, who are either addicts or running with the local gang. The whole thing feels like an Asian version of “The 400 Blows” (1959), right down to the memorable final shot.
Not at the New York Asian Film Festival, but worth seeing:
My Love, Don’t Cross that River (2014) South Korea
There’s a scene in “Brutal” (2015), where the little kid wants to know why he got a C on his art project. The teacher clinks a spoon against a glass and tells him: “I told you to draw this spoon and this glass. You drew the clink instead.” Which is a pretty neat summary of director Mo-Young Jin’s approach in “My Love, Don’t Cross that River.” There is virtually no biographical information given about the old couple in the movie. We don’t even know where in Korea they are. No spoon, no glass, all that we see is the clink: a couple who have been married for 76 years and are still on their honeymoon. And that’s enough.
“My Love, Don’t Cross that River” currently playing at the Angelika in NY and Laemmle’s Theaters in Los Angeles.
New York Asian Film Festival: tickets and showtimes here.