Tartan Asia Extreme
by Holly Kirkwood
Well now that even Jonathan Ross (husband of our beloved Mooky Icon Jane Goldman)has discovered there is something to be said for filmmakers working over in Asia, some may feel that Asian cinema is all a bit old hat, and be moving on to, say, the dark tales of the Sioux Indians or some such.
But no! If you’re a fan of quality films, ignore Messrs Ross and that annoying man from the BBC who is about eighty, and sit up and pay attention: extreme asian cinema is the best thing in town!
The Asian cinema talent which is being increasingly exported our way has had years and years out of our eyesight to develop, and informed by various stylistic tricks from the west, has largely emerged with a cinematic language of its own which feels immensely rewarding to our bored, America-dominated eyeballs.
This is part of the appeal of Asian movies, and indeed long has been. Precursor of all the hot new Asian directors John Woo long ago sold out to Hollywood, and now makes increasingly larger explosions for the likes of Mr Cruise, but his work in the 1980sin Hong Kong still packs a punch now. The Killer was a revolution in cinema when it came out in 1989. The extraordinary, balletic violence made audiences look at conflict in an entirely different way.
Woo set the tone for the rest. Wong Kar Wai deals also in gangland violence and hitmen, although in a more melancholy fashion, stunningly shot. And the whole Crouching Tiger phenomenon is also centered on the shaolin films of the 20th century, and fighting, although not visceral display, is firmly centre stage.
In other words, Asian cinema, at least much of what we are fed over here, seems to be a bloodthirsty beast. From Ring to Oldboy, rarely does a character make it to the end unscathed.