Disappointing Rotterdam Lineup

stephen cremin asianfilmlibrary
Thu Dec 17 23:13:12 EST 1998

Another disappointing year of Asian programming at the Rotterdam Film 
Festival.  Although a solid lineup, imagination has gone out the 
window.  From China, Wang Guangli's "Maiden Work" and Jia Zhangke's 
"Xiao Wu"; from Hong Kong, Raymond Yip's "Portland Street Blues" and 
Stanley Kwan's "Hold You Tight"; from Korea, Jang Sun-Woo's "Timeless 
Bottomless Bad Movie" and Hong Sang-Soo's "The Power of Kangwon 
Province"; from Taiwan, Tsai Ming-liang's "The Hole" and Chen Yiwen's 
"Jam"; from Indonesia, Garin Nugroho's "Leaf on a Pillow".  Japan gets 
the largest slice of the cake with Shimizu Hiroshi's "Ikinai", 
Kore'eda Hirokazu's "After Life", Ishii Katsuhito's "Shark Skin Man & 
Peach Hip Girl", Tsukamoto Shinya's "Bullet Ballet" and Takahashi 
Yoichiro's "Fishes in August".

There'll be a programme of Thai crime films in a special focus, 
disappointing because what's exciting about South-East Asian film now 
is the move away from that kind of filmmaking with Oxide Pang's "Who 
is Running", Marilou Diaz-Abaya's "In the Navel of the Sea" and Garin 
Nugroho's "Leaf on a Pillow".  What been interesting in recent months 
is the emerging awareness among South-East Asian directors that 
there's a pressure to make a certain kind of film by the festival 
circuit, while Tarantino isn't really a part of their culture.

Things get a little more exciting in the shorts section with, for 
example, Kitano Takeshi's "Begin".  But the only real reason to head 
for Rotterdam this year is that pending filming and musical 
commitments, Asano Tadanobu is planning to take the trip with his wife 
Chara to introduce the very funky "Snake Skin Man & Peach Hip Girl".  
And if you haven't had time to travel the festival circuit, its a 
great place to catch up with this year's critic-friendly films in a 
beautiful multiplex, not an oxymoron in Rotterdam.  And with four 
weeks to go before the final lineup is finalised, there's must be more 
interesting fare entering the frame.

Stephen Cremin
The Asian Film Library

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