Thursday, March 22, 2007

Review: The Bugmaster (Mushishi)

Hear Me Roar

I was expecting Mushishi to be a wild fantastical ride full of snazzy special effects and martial arts. I was sorely disappointed with the latter, and more so when the movie had decided to jump right into the plot of things, with little explanation of what's going on.

Based on the Japanese manga written by Yuki Urushibara, Mushishi, or The "Bugmaster" follows the trials and tribulations of a young mystical shaman Ginko, who travels from location to location, healing people who are infected by the "mushi" creatures, spreading like the plague. However, the filmmakers decided to have made this for fan boys, and doesn't dwell too long with the backstories or relationship details between characters.

Started off quite impressively with a special effects shot of a huge landslide, the movie thereafter degenerated into a series of incomprehensible events that signals that the movie isn't really for non-fans. I was confused by the lack of explanation, either through dialogue or visuals, of what's happening. Imagine watching Star Wars with little or no explanation of "The Force" - things just happen, and you move on.

Come to think of it, it must resembles Star Wars in many ways. You have a manipulator of mystical energy, and have various practitioners belonging to various factions, and you have lineage issues with the lead. You even have a character with horns on the face, like Darth Maul.

For its length, I was hoping for something more epic., with the potential of being a classic. But sadly that was not to be.


Before the movie started, the producer was at hand to read out both director Katsuhiro Otomo's and lead actor Jo Odagiri's words of thanks and apologies for not being able to make it for the screening. Katsuhiro, known for his Akira, said that while Akira is set in the future, Mushishi is set 100 years ago, and has some important messages for us. He signed off hoping that the audience will feel those messages too.

Review: The Case (箱子) (World Premiere)

It's Heavy

And you wonder when the movie reviews are gonna appear. It's been a hectic first few days at the HKIFF, with plenty of press junkets to keep you busy, so much so that a few movies that my friends and I have earmarked, had to be sacrificed - movies like Red Road, Ad Lib Night, Free Jimmy and London to Brighton. You'll start to see some reviews appearing regularly now, as we're enjoying the reprieve from the first half of press activities, before embarking on a second and (our) final rounds next week, with Red Carpet events for Ming Ming, Spider Lilies and the World Premieres of Herman Yau's Whispers and Moans, and Undercover.

The Case, a first feature directed by Wang Fen, made its World Premiere yesterday evening at the Hong Kong Space Museum Lecture Hall. Wang Fen was in attendance, and had a short Q&A session with the audience after the movie. More of that in a while.

The relationship between a middle aged couple anchors the story about love and desire, and explores the hidden inclination of those who feel like rocking the boat, but find no courage to do so. Innkeeper Da Shang and wife look like your mundane couple, but as we slowly learn, there exists some kind of resentment amongst them, in part due to the wife's suspicious nature, stemming from fears that Da Shang will stray for more attractive women, and from Da Shang's behaviour to warrant such thoughts. The case here is an important plot device, both physically in its concealment of secrets, and metaphorically in how Da Shang is leading his life - encased within the influence of his wife, and his failure to break out for much needed space.

The story picks up midway when another strange couple enter the scene - a geeky man and his sexy wife, and through a series of incredible coincidences, which will be explained and the revelation important to the entire story, but one which I thought was somewhat an anti-climax, despite it being possibly the best way to ring home the message. Having two couples also allowed for some comparisons and contrast, especially toward the finale where you'll definitely start to think about how drastic actions and measures are taken by desperate people, and how sometimes it might be better if you keep your emotions in check.

Well acted movie with dialogue that be familiar amongst squabbling spouses, and at certain expenses on woman's state of mind, with ample wit infused moments to liven things up at appropriate points. However, the editing does require getting used to, as there are little flashbacks used repetitively to move the narrative forward.


Director Wang Fen was in attendance for the World Premiere of her movie The Case, and shared with the audience that the film was an exploration into the weaknesses of both man and woman, contrary to the obvious finger pointing during the movie that men are cads.

Shot in Yun-nan, China, as part of a project with 10 young female directors, she was scouting for a suitable location when she stumbled upon the small inn with a river in front, and from then on thought how it could fit into the story. She had the choice of using the vast landscapes of Yun-nan for her movie, but decided to focus to shoot primarily in the guesthouse, analogous to the life of Da Shang, living a controlled and constricted lifestyle, who yearns for his own space as shown in his frequent trips to his own greenhouse, and which is objected to by his domineering wife.

The theme of fear is also explored, and she's using a seemingly simple story to address the complexities of life, and the decisions we have to make to change our lives if we're unhappy with it. As demonstrated by the characters, one of the biggest crises in life is that of trust, or the lack thereof, and most times this lack of trust forms the origins of problems.

Wang Fen revealed that she's a pessimistic-optimist, and that it's better to experience little happiness along the hardships felt through the journey of life.

Red Carpet: Asian Film Awards

The inaugural Asian Film Awards two nights ago saw many Asian stars grace the occasion, most of whom are nominees of the awards, as well as stars who will be the hosts and award presenters.

Fans of Rain and Andy Lau were lining up the entrance along the Red Carpet to welcome their idols, with LED lighted placards, and full of boistrous energy to greet the arriving stars. brings you a selection of stars making their way onto the Red Carpet, including Park Chan-wook, Lim Su-jeong, Rain, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, Miki Nakatani, Nick Cheung, Isabella Leong, Daniel Wu, Fiona Sit, Twins, Maggie Q, Vicky Zhao Wei, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Karen Mok, Francis Ng, and Andy Lau, just to name but a handful. Feast your eyes!

And join us now for the video coverage of the Red Carpet event. Let's see how many stars you can identify! (Runtime: approx.15 minutes)

Text: Stefan
Photos: Lokman / Stefan
Videos: CK Yip

And You Thought It Was Easy? III

If you're wondering why it takes so long to see pictures and videos, well, we DO have a lot of events to cover, which is good. That also explains why you have yet to read a movie review on this site, because we had to sacrifice some movies to bring you the excitement from the ground.

We've watched our first movies yesterday, so do expect some reviews over the next few days until the end of the event.

And yes, it takes a long while to render those videos that you see, and to upload them. Do be patient!