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A nice woodblock print, don't you agree?

Some links may not be safe for work, though all are tasteful, and reading the post itself will, of course, be fine for your health.

Recently, I’ve had some experience with Asian cinema that have led me to believe that the whole establishment has something to it. Influenced by postmodern views on the meaning of story and plot, the films have turned an eye inward and seriously examined themselves as singular works before considering what the audience wants as American films are wont to do.

Further than anime, which has intrinsic value as entertainment even when I’m just watching something more fanservicey than deep, and some Chinese action flicks, before recently I’ve found most Asian films to be, well, rather trite. However, my experience with Oldboy, as mentioned a couple of posts ago, started a sort of butterfly effect that ended with my downloading about seven Korean films and one Taiwanese film to round it off a bit and make it a nice, even number.

You’d think that, living in Japan at the moment, I’d have downloaded a couple of Japanese films.

That’s not the case. In fact, I’d venture to say that Japanese films, single-handedly, had turned me against the vast majority of Asian cinema by virtue of being the pithy works I referred to earlier. As a matter of preference, these campy films, interestingly so influenced by anime as a genre, have failed to capture my imagination in an inexplicable manner.

There can never be enough Eva in this blog

There can never be enough Eva in this blog

J-drama? Cute, but not my cup of tea. Live-action anime adaptations? I’ve seen enough of them to keep my cup full for a century.

However, Korean postmodern works? Chinese ones of the same persuasion? Absolutely wonderful.

I’m totally aware that Japanese cinema isn’t limited to what I’ve come to think of it as, but as a rule, I’ve come to force Japanese films into two categories. First, the psychological/classic (I’d sort most of them as falling somehow into the psychological category in one way or another) genre, covering such classics and singularly disturbing flicks as Noriko’s Dinner Table, Battle Royale, and a smattering of Kurosawa films. Secondly, the wannabe cartoons, which, in addition to any popular movies in Japan, include any tv programs as well and have effectively turned my attention far away from Japanese film, at least when they’re not personally recommended to me.

That manifesto so greedily eating up this post, let me move on to the reasons why Asian cinema, specifically Korean, has captured my imagination so fully in the last couple of weeks: just drawing from a small pool of movies that have come out in the last few years, I’ve managed to find myself enthralled more than once, saddened to the point of tears a couple of times, and, finally, thoughtful when I reluctantly reach the end of nearly all of them.

One thing I’ve found that I love about these movies is the lack of a cohesive ending. American movies, as a friend pointed out once to me, have some sort of obsession with ending. It’s as if wonderful characters and plots have suddenly fallen from His (the almighty and powerful American Viewer’s) grace. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve met who have literally staked all of their thoughts about a movie on its ending and if they didn’t like the ending, they’ve somehow managed to forget all the labors of love that have been put into the filming, the little moments, and the characters themselves who, more often than not, are their own works of art in a good movie.

This is what you expect from your endings, you perv.

This is what you expect from your endings, you pervs.

Sometimes, in the movie theater at home in America, I find myself watching a movie over and over again in the theater not because it’s such a wonderful movie, no, but because I find the treatment of the characters entrancing, or the journey that they go on intriguing, and usually I tune out the ending so much that I could only maybe give Cliff’s notes on it if pressed.

It’s surprising that someone such as myself who’d like to pride himself on his memory of trivial details finds himself rewatching a movie and struggling to remember how it ends, but that’s where my appreciation for anime and, yes, postmodern influenced cinema comes into play: the end is rarely what matters.

“What does this add up to, though?” you ask patiently as you’ve read this. “More than that, though, where are the names of these movies that you’ve so rabidly recommended so I can see if I agree with you at all?”

Okay – I’ll admit it. I seriously considered just ending this right there as a practical joke. Can you blame me after my rant? However, every one of the movies I’ve talked about in abstract here has an ending, thus I’ll give you a rundown of a couple:

This is what you get, and Im pretty sure some of you are still seeing something similar, you pervs.

First, Oldboy

Psychological, surreal, and supremely disturbing at times, this movie is the gold-standard for a true revenge film. It ends with a silent question: what is revenge and what constitutes the right to judge and subject another person to revenge, when few are guiltless, and many are more guilty than we even knew?

Second, Green Chair

Subtly psychological, slightly surreal, and always emotionally interesting, Green Chair, another Korean film, has an odd question it poses: what are the limits of age and experience on love? What exactly constitutes the choice to be in love as opposed to being controlled in a relationship by factors such as being misled by an older partner? The premise tells the viewer a little of what to expect: a 30-something woman and a 17-year-old man start a relationship which lands the woman in jail for seducing a minor, but to her surprise she finds him waiting for her as she exits the prison. The rest is a thoughtful treatment of a hard subject, and despite some jarring and dreamlike sequences, proves to be a movie worth watching, provided you can take the multitude of sex scenes (don’t worry, it’s tasteful).

Finally, 2046

Let me start this off by saying that Wong Kar-wai is a masterful director, even if you haven’t heard of many of his films. 2046, in my opinion, is one of his crowning works and can easily be compared to many great classics of the western world on equal footing. 2046, like the others, is very surreal. In fact, if you want coherence, this may not be the movie for you at all. Dark, scifi-esque, and tortured, the movie twists and turns and drops you off at the end slightly dizzy but begging for another ride, like any good roller coaster. However, if you’re one for easy-to-follow films, cross this right off your list. On second though, though, maybe you just need a hard kick to get you moving in the right direction…

Your choice, your opinion, and, hopefully, your comments will add a nice dénouement to this, so.


  1. You got lazy with the linkage on those last few paragraphs.

    That being said, I probably would have cut it off where you suggested, so…

  2. Heya just wanted to point out that Melencolia 1 is not a woodblock print, it’s an etching (intaglio print) 🙂

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