Asian Cinema

OldboyWelcome to the very first write-up on the brand-new Severest Inks blog space. This launching post is by me… Khalid Patel… your very fave Brit-Indian writer of subversive, challenging literature. In upcoming months, expect more Sev Inks-affliated folks, as well as guest writers, to slam down their own words. Articles will not be restricted to literary discussion, rather they will be upon anything cultural, thought-provoking or original. There shall be no set schedule for posts, to reflect the Severest Inks ethos of quality over quantity, so be sure to subscribe to this site for notifications of fresh content via the Follow box on the below right.

For this hymen-breaking post, I wasn’t quite sure what to discuss. However, since this is a website dedicated to fine cuts of literature, I decided to dedicate this very first post to… ASIAN MOVIES! (Yeah, I’m a dick like that.) I’m going to briefly delve into some of my most admired works of Asian cinema. You can click on any of the film titles in red to be hurtled straight to its Amazon page. I won’t be touching on plot too deeply so as to fully preserve the purity of the experience. But trust, if you’ve never seen any Asian flicks before, heed the following wordage…

For those jaded with Hollywood, an ever-bloating cadaver of senseless reboots, uninsipred sequels and lazy cash-ins, cast your eyes Eastwards. South Korea for instance produces immensely bold cinematic works. The aesthetic is often dark, unflinchingly violent, yet the films always bear a beautiful poetry of sorts, all the more unexpected when juxtaposed with the arterial sprays. South Korean film-makers really do regard cinema as an artform. Despite the (always well-executed) scenes of action and violence prevailing their works, there are often deep psychological and philosophical layers to be dissected and interrogated. These deeper levels usually complement the fisticuffs and chases, rather than sit as a jarring contrast.

All this is perhaps best exemplified by Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, of which Oldboy is easily the strongest. Oldboy is a revenge story like no other. The blistering, innovative action scenes punctuating the movie merely mirror the swelling desperation of our protagonist. Oldboy‘s siblings Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are also great works. And Vengeance is only a thematic trilogy (the theme being, er… knitwear), so they work perfectly as standalone movies too.

I Saw The DevilKim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil is another work that is as absorbing and thought-provoking as it is violent. The narrative follows a cannibal psychopath who finds himself being tracked by a secret agent, one who is unexpectedly willing to fray the threads of morality in his efforts to hunt him down. I Saw the Devil is not for the easily offended, but if you can stomach the bloodiness you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly bold, original narrative. Meanwhile, Memories of Murder is lighter on the graphic claret, but just as heavy on the character study. A Zodiac-esque thriller (made before Zodiac), the film delivers its audience no comfortable, neat resolution and is definitely worth your time. The Host, a sweet trip-up of the classic monster movie, is another likewise quality slice of South Korean celluloid.

Kung Fu HustleTrekking over the East China sea, Hong Kong’s favourite man of mirth Stephen Chow has truly unshackled the filmic potential of comedy. His Kung Fu Hustle is deft cinematic liberation. The film exudes physical comedy, verbal wit, surrealism (an impromptu Bollywood-esque dance in the opening minutes) and sharp pop-culture homages, all liberally laced with eyeball-pulsing fisticuffs. His prior film Shaolin Soccer, whilst narratively weaker, is perhaps even funnier. Certainly sillier. I actually adore Hustle and Shaolin so much, I devoted a whole multiple-page conversation to them in my debut novel Hollow Shotguns, where the gang of violence-addicted schoolboys, The Set, mention almost every offbeat moment in the films.

Hollow ShotgunsSpeaking of Hollow Shotguns, I’ve received comment about the violence and action in that book, and how exactly I achieved its frenetic pace… “As I was reading the fight scenes in Hollow Shotguns I was thinking, How the hell did you write this?”, being a recent remark I got, followed by light gasping. Well, the flavour of much of the violence in Hollow Shotguns is inspired by Asian cinema. So if you dig depictions of violence that is strangely thought-provoking and with artful aspirations, be sure to check Hollow Shotguns out. …What, you thought this write-up would go without at least one subtle-as-shit plug?

Sticking with the movie landscape of Hong Kong, I was also impressed by Donnie Yen’s Wu Xia, the smartest, sharpest martial arts flick I’ve eyed for some time. The film takes a dissective, forensic pathologist approach to Kung Fu action scenes, at once refreshing and contemporising the genre. Original.

Indonesian The Raid, which uniquely has an almost completely Muslim cast, leaves Hollywood actioners blushing with its pulse-blazing action setpieces. The aesthetic is similar to South Korean cinema. Dark, stylish, brooding. What it lacks in the narrative depth of some of its South Korean brethren however, it more than makes up for via brain-melting action.

As for Japan, cult classic Battle Royale about high school kids forced to fight each other to a death is still extremely awesome, and makes The Hunger Games look like an after school special. The sequel was a bit of a misfire, but this original remains thirty flavours of badass.

The above is by no means exhaustive, and many are pretty recognized, but they’re perfect introductions for those never venturing out the comfort of Hollywood studio celluloid. All should be viewed in their original tongue with English subs for that purity. Contrasting much of Hollywood, they’re not fixated with the ‘mainstream’, challenging us and our conventions, be it cinematic or societal, rather than idly appeasing.

– KhalidWeeping Demon

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