All posts by liebera

A Review of The Bird People in China: My Youth Restored

By Austin Lieber                                                                                      June 9th, 2014

Takashi Miike directed the unpredicted movie of 1998, Bird People in China, to near perfection. This film is well suited for the East Asian Cinema enthusiast as well as any other individual looking for a fantasy-based adventure. This film, however, stray’s from his typical style of directing, as Takashi is known for violent and intense action. Miike’s intent with this film, meanwhile, was to make it into a semi-fantasy adventure, a new direction for the 38-year-old Chinese director. He succeeded in turning the plot of this movie into an almost fairytale of an adventure, one that places the audience member right in the backseat of their broken van. The focus of the movie was indirectly on the villagers of Yunan province, but the main plot centers around two individuals from Japan: Mr. Ujiie and Mr. Wada. They are two businessmen on a trip to find a vein of jade in China.

His overall use of medium long and long shots, as well as what he decided to keep in the frame throughout the movie, were effective in creating a convincing story. The setting throughout the story was accentuated by his use of longer shots. While keeping the main characters in focus at a distance, Takashi reveals more of the setting for the audience. This only further underscores the exotic and seemingly magical trip the characters are on. Furthermore, Miike only kept rural settings within the frame, making sure to disappear any modernization that might be present.

Miike focuses the first half of the film on the adventure these two men go through before they reach the village in China. At each step of the way, Miike uses the setting to create this surrealistic adventure; he displays exotic shots of China, both rural and developed. The further they travel into China, the more exoticism the audience is exposed to.  When the two men and their guides reach the village, tall mountains sticking out of the ground surround them. It is at this point the true adventure begins.

Miike builds the rest of the movie around character growth and development. The original plot is lost and a new one takes its place. This new plot actually becomes the backbone to the lifelong friendship that Mr. Wada and Mr. Ujiie form. Their friendship and life adventure are what make this movie such an effective fantasy. By the end of this movie, I was so far away from the room I was sitting in, that I felt like a kid watching E.T. for the first time.

Miike’s film transported me to a land of fantastical wonderment and possibility. Although this movie was not a gangster-like, violent, intense action movie, Takashi had success with this movie because of how real he makes it feel to the audience. This film is a truly great adventure that I recommend for anyone, especially if you appreciate a film with an exotic and surrealistic plot line.

The Aimless Bullet: Target Acquired

 

Target Acquired

 

Hyun Mok Yoo’s The Aimless Bullet beckons to be called nothing less than a South Korean realism cinematic masterpiece. It is at times uncomfortable to watch, but anybody looking for a truly reflectionist film will find total satisfaction with The Aimless Bullet. This classic film capitalizes on the impoverished lifestyle of the average South Korean post Second Republic rising. Despite the limitations and financial hardships the time period presented, Yoo wanted to pursue a movie with a more creative and experimental style.  He had quite the background in Korean film, having produced many others in earlier and later years (in total 40).

 

Yoo is known as one of the more poignant directors in South Korean cinema for his realist style. He is very effective at translating the zeitgeist of the nation to the audience because of this. He makes it clear that The Aimless Bullet is set after the Korean War when society was still recovering. Yoo has Kim Jin-kyu star as Chul Ho, the eldest brother and provider for his impoverished family. His brother, Young-Ho, is played by Choi Moo-ryong. Yoo portrays the two different lifestyles of the brothers and how they struggle to provide both money and happiness for their shared family.

 

This postwar mellow-drama starts off by showing one of Young-Ho’s war buddies drunkenly stammering out of a bar with his crutches. This scene shows us that Young-Ho is a war veteran, and instantly adds depth to his character. As we follow Young-Ho back to his ramshackle house, Yoo introduces us to his family, a truly sorry sight. His niece asks him for gifts he cannot provide; which is a reoccurring theme of the movie. Chul-Ho is the only member of the family with a job; the financial burdens of the house, as well as the majority of the household responsibility, fall on him.  In this way, Yoo spares the audience no details as to what life was like during this postwar time period. However, despite the number of postwar East Asian films that center around the family life, this film articulates more clearly the complexities and hardships that surround it.

 

As the viewer gets further into the movie, he or she will continue to see the reoccurring main theme of the film: poverty and the misery of a family, if not treated with sacrifice, will lead to the dissociation of the family.  Young-Ho made the largest dent in his family because he sacrificed everything, leaving everyone worse off. Yoo attempts to demonstrate to the viewer, repeatedly, that there is a balance between how much utility a family member serves, and how much they take from their family. Yoo made this film in such a way that the audience can wholeheartedly empathize with each characters’ situation. By doing this, Yoo helps the audience develop a deeper connection to the movie.

 

As stated previously, Hyun Mok Yoo is a prominent director in South Korean realism, which is supported by his use of the camera in this film. If one were to pay attention to framing in this film and how the subject distance and position on screen relays certain messages, they would find that the camera brings the theme of poverty and redevelopment to light. The camera makes the story as realistic as it can be. Yoo relies on many low angle shots to make the audience feel distanced and inferior to the subject and conversely high angle shots to make the audience feel superior to the subject. Combining this with the shot distance, the audience will empathize more with the characters on screen.

 

Overall, I would recommend this film for a lover of East Asian cinema, especially if they’re interested in reflectionism or realism. Sparing no details, Yoo opens the door to the life of a disheveled post-war family. Even though there are many movies whose plots focus on post-war East Asian families, this movie so crisply illustrates the life of each family member and the role they play in each other’s lives. Yoo’s artistic use of the camera only further helps to make the movie seem more realistic and reflective of its time period.  I would rate this film a 8.5/10 because of its artistic cinematography, but it is limited to that because at times certain scenes can be hard to watch. I enjoyed this film, but it’s very depressing and hard to watch at times. It is still a cinematic masterpiece, just not one that I particularly cared for.

 

 

 

Sources:

 

“Obaltan.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053577/?ref_=ttexrv_exrv_tt>.

 

 

 

 

 

The film can be found at the following URL:

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CFQQtwIwBA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D1S3srD7qx9c&ei=bnU_U8uLHY7KsQTlnoGACg&usg=AFQjCNFC4YJ8P1PMexDvHLCreeNlFhkO2Q&sig2=qMRT8TWaZRArlXXCyreyag