I get this question a lot: what’s a nice girl like you doing watching a film like this? Meaning, how in the world did you get into Asian film?
This is what I can piece together. I have two brothers, and as a result it was obligatory for our family to go see Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. Yes, I was barely born (don’t do that math!), but I distinctly remember being in a theater watching that scene where Chen Zhen finds out about those guys who poisoned his teacher! In addition, there was a steady stream of samurai movies and Saturday kung fu theater in my house.
Fast forward to me, child prodigy slightly older with a job and disposable income. Probably as a result of those brothers, I continue to like those “boy” movies, so of course Jet Li and Jackie Chan came across my radar, and some guy named Chow Yun Fat. However, I kept hearing rumors that their Hong Kong stuff was infinitely better. And to my surprise, I found such treasures in my local video rental place, and later, on Netflix. So I started my contemporary interest in Asian film by watching every Hong Kong Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat film I could get my hands on. See, when you watch Bullet In The Head, you wonder why The Corruptor was ever committed to celluloid. Watching these films then hipped me to other actors, like Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Leon Lai, Ekin Cheng, Aaron Kwok, Louis Koo, Nicholas Tse, Donnie Yen (DONNIE!) Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigette Lin, Maggie Cheung, Lau Chin Wan, Takeshi Kaneshiro, etc, and directors like Johnnie To, Andrew Lau, Peter Chan, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark, etc.
Needless to say, traid and wuxia films are in heavy rotation, but I watch other stuff too. Not crazy about mo lau tai comedies. Love a good drama, thriller (not scary), like Memories of Murder (that was the bomb!). Contemporary Japanese stuff like Nana (I LOVE this movie), Densha Otoko, Honey and Clover, Hana and Alice, Kamikaze Girls, Linda Linda Linda, Samurai Fiction, Old School Japanese stuff like Street Fighter, Zatoichi, etc. And then a friend of mine asked, “Have you seen Oldboy?” And then the world changed….
That began the Korean part of my journey: Chan Wook-Park’s vengeance trilogy taught me a recurrent lesson: the Koreans are hardcore! But I also like the quirky stuff like Attack the Gas Station, The Quiet Family, Marrying the Mafia, etc.
Now, except for horror and crazy, supercalafragilistic violence (I parted ways with Takeshi Miike a while ago), I’ll watch pretty much anything. I watch stuff that people consider mediocre, and while I may not always watch stuff considered important (yes, Wong Kar Wai, this is only you), I do know why it’s important and eventually make my way to it.
What would I tell people who want to get into watching Asian film? That’s hard, I know my tastes are all over the place. I would say start with Hong Kong film, it’s more accessible than say, the Korean movie Save the Green Planet or the Japanese movie The Taste of Tea. Something like Infernal Affairs (since Scorcese jacked it for The Departed, it may seem familiar. Yes, I can’t let it go), or a romantic comedy like Needing You. If you like a particular genre, there are lots to choose from.
That’s where I’ve been. Who knows where I’m going?