▲Compiled by Martin Williams
A Russian rethinking of 12 Angry Men, this was nominated for best foreign film at this year’s Academy Awards and is directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, whose Burnt by the Sun won the same award in 1995. In this version, a young Chechen is on trial for the murder of his adoptive father, a Russian. The film thus grafts the classic story of a volatile jury that sways in every direction onto the incendiary, savage reality of modern-day Russia. Variety magazine could not praise this film highly enough.
|The Haunted Samurai
This warrior just can’t get a break. An unusual blackish comedy from Japan sees a low-status samurai failing to make much of an impact despite reasonable talent, before losing his family and resorting to a drunken appeal to the gods after suffering the ultimate indignity: moving in with his brother’s family. Unfortunately for him, he prays at the wrong shrine and the three inauspicious gods that answer his prayers are about to make things even worse — or are they? Based on the novel by bestselling author Jiro Asada. Japanese title: Tsukigami.
|The Night Before Final Exam,Today
Next up is an obscure sequel to a reasonably well received Italian teen comedy that never saw the light of a projector in Taiwan. Part 2 ups the T&A and sex quotient, which is probably the only reason it’s getting a release here. The title betrays most of the plot. One of those “teen” sex comedies that follows the dubious, global tradition (possibly started by Porky’s in 1982) of casting actors who are around 10 years too old for their roles.
|One Way Ticket to Mombasa
This Finnish flick from 2002 opened last week with no advertising but deserves a quick mention. Two ill young men skip hospital to go on a last road trip before cancer claims them. A simple story, with a healthy message and peerless Finnish scenery. Similar to the recent American film The Bucket List in some respects, and by most reports it’s much better. But be quick: It finishes on Sunday at the Scholar theater complex in Taipei.
A young Thai woman who has mermaid-like abilities and aquatic communication skills when she is in contact with sea creatures falls in love with a photographer, who has his own surprise in store. This broad comic-fantasy combines interesting and sometimes sinister special effects with moments of utter stupidity and goofiness. Originally pegged as a grindhouse release in the backblocks of Ximending, Ocean Butterfly will now enjoy screenings in more reputable theaters in Taipei and Taichung. Starts tomorrow.
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
I didn’t expect to spend more than three minutes out of my car, yet the sun was so brutal I put on my hat before approaching the seawall. Beimen (北門) is the flattest and most sun-baked part of Tainan. It lacks trees and people. In wintertime, the weather is often delightful. It wasn’t yet mid-morning in the hot season, however, and I felt like a leaf shriveling in the desert. Atop the seawall but facing inland, I could see dozens of the rectangular ponds which account for a significant percentage of Beimen’s “land” area. Some, no doubt, were dug to produce
Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 They called him the “No Problem Doctor” (沒關係醫生) because that’s what he always told his patients when they couldn’t pay up. Operating the only clinic in Changhua County’s Pusin Township (埔心) during the 1950s, Hsu Tsai-chih (許再枝) knew that life was difficult in his remote hometown. “They barely had enough to survive, so it was pointless to chase after them for the money,” an 81-year-old Hsu told the United Daily News in 2002. “I just went with the flow, some offered to pay me back years later but I had already forgotten