The Assassin’s Blade, directed by Jingle Ma
(In Cantonese, with English subtitles)
Zhu Yanzhi is the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant; even so, with both rank and wealth, as a woman, she may not study various esoteric martial arts. So disguised as a young man and sent to a mountain fastness to be trained in martial arts of the highest sort, she meets Liang, her trainer. Both feel a pull, a connection, and it becomes clearer to them as time passes that destiny is at work here. When Zhu Yanzhi’s true identity is revealed, Liang knows she is the one for him. This romantic opening of the film is light and even comedic. Then the story takes a darker, more serious turn, as a traitorous plot unfolds involving court intrigue and the forced marriage of Zhu Yanzhi to the treacherous Lord Ma. You may recognize elements of Shakepeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the unfolding of a scheme Zhu Yanzhi plans to use to trick Lord Ma out of the marriage, with the taking of poisons, messages sent and thwarted, and so on, but beyond that intrigue, there are also the fight scenes, both action-packed and nicely choreographed.
ID: A, directed by Christian E. Christiansen
(In Danish, with English subtitles)
A young woman wakes up in a creek, her memory gone, no identification on her, and a duffle bag with two million euros lying nearby. Who is she? What’s with the money? And who are those men in the mysterious white van that seems to follow her at every turn in the road as she makes her way back into the world? A chance encounter with an iPod gives her a clue that leads to her identity: she is in fact Ida Just, the wife of a world-famous singer. More than a renowned singer, Just is also the leader of some sort of radical terrorist group that needs money for weapons, thus the €2 million in the duffle bag. Except the money is from a bank robbery gone awry. And while Ida has no connection to the holdup or her husband’s radical terrorist group for that matter, her beloved brother Martin is deeply involved. So the plot thickens. It may all seem overly complicated, but this is actually what I would call a good Friday night movie – not too intellectually taxing, with fast- paced scenes of pursuit and near misses, and nearly mindless dialogue that probably doesn’t matter too much as long as you pay attention to the action.
Loose Cannons, directed by Ferzan Ozpetek
(In Italian, with English subtitles)
Tommaso has two secrets he has finally gotten up the courage to share with his family: he wants to be a writer and he’s gay. But before he can make his announcement at a family dinner, his brother lobs a molotov cocktail of his own onto the table. He is gay as well. Their father promptly disowns him and then has a heart attack, lands in the hospital, and in his recovery begs Tommaso to take over the family pasta-making business. What’s Tommaso to do? Tommaso will have much more to learn than how to run a pasta machine. He also needs to negotiate labor issues, land a sale, purchase ingredients, and deal with managers’ complaints, not to mention that he’d still like to tell everyone who he really is and what he’d rather be doing with his life. Maybe his grandmother, the founder of company, can show him a way out of this mess. She has a secret of her own, after all, with regrets for not having done what she should have done many years before, and the wisdom to help him not repeat her grave errors on life’s journey.
Penny Pinchers, directed by Jung-hwan Kim
(In Korean, with English subtitles)
Ji-woong is a layabout, with no job and no desire for one, no longer an allowance from his family, and now that he’s been evicted, no place to live. He remains only mildly concerned about all this. Hong-sil is the opposite. She works hard, saves what money she earns, and does what she can to pinch every last penny that comes her way. She has a goal in mind: to buy her own place and find some peace and security after a troubled adolescence with a ne’er-do-well gambler of a father and a dying mother. She is by necessity a schemer. So when she partners up with Ji-woong to save money, it could be a good lesson for the careless gadabout, or it could be that Hong-sil is going to use Ji-woong in a convoluted money-making scheme, or it could even be that both will have to change a little to get what they want in this big, mean world of ours.
Tristana, directed by Luis Buñuel
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)
In 1920′s, pre-Civil War Spain, Don Lope steps into his role as guardian to the young and innocent Tristana, whose mother has recently died. But after the old rouè seduces her, he wonders why she hates him so very much. Hmm…Tristana for her part understands that revenge is a dish best served cold. While she falls in love with the young artist Horacio and eventually runs off with him, she returns only when she falls gravely ill. Although she recovers, she loses a leg due to the illness. Then Tristana marries Don Lope after all, not for love, of course, but for that long-awaited revenge. If you like Buñuel, try some of his other films on DVD at HCPL, including Viridiana, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Simon of the Desert, and The Exterminating Angel.
White Elephant, directed by Pablo Trapero
(In Spanish, with English subtitles)
The priest Julián and social worker Luciana have lived and worked for many years in the slums of Buenos Aires. When Nicolás, a young priest, joins Julián, they work together to lift up the residents of the shanty town and pull them away from the proverty, crime, and dangers that surround them. But they too may find themselves facing the same dangers from petty criminals, drug lords, and the goverment security forces. Through all this stands the White Elephant, an abandoned structure that was to be the grandest hospital in all of South America. Instead, after the Perón years, the hulk has been left to deteriorate, half-built, useless, and now the home of countless squatters, including the priests, a kind of relic of an ideal long abandoned and a symbol of the cast-off population that lives within and around it now. Trapero also directed Carancho, owned by HCPL.