Today I will look back at the 10 best Asian movies I’ve watched in 2012. No Chinese movies will be included since I just composed a list yesterday.
10. Secret Sunshine dir. Lee Chang-dong
According to Lee in the interview, the movie is not about religion but about the struggle of an ordinary person who fails in her attempt to be extraordinary. Ironically, the greatness she is seeking is right beside her but she chooses to ignore it. Do-yeon Jeon’s performance is the very reason you should watch this film.
9. Departures dir. Yôjirô Takita
Japan’s last Oscar-winning films takes an elegant look at death and its ritual. Director Yôjirô Takita dealt with a taboo subject in modern Japan with kindness and subtlety, which are enhanced by legendary Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi’s effective score. I and my wife shed tears several times during watching.
8. A Separation dir. Asghar Farhadi
Another Best Oscar Foreign Language Film in the list. Asghar Farhadi’s rich, complex and suspenseful family drama presents a realistic moral case for the viewers to be the judge.
7. Oldboy dir. Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook’s beautiful yet cruel cult vengeance film tells a story about a man’s adventure to seek for his past after being detained and tortured in a room for months. The director blows audiences’ mind with gorgeous action sequences and a big twist at the end.
6. The Hidden Fortress dir. Akira Kurosawa
The most entertaining Kurosawa film also sees the best Tashiro Mifune character. A thrilling adventure movie that inspired Geroge Lucas’ landmark sci-fi classic Star Wars Trilogy.
5. Late Autumn dir. Yasujiro Ozu
Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Autumn is my favorite among his color films. Almost a resemblance of Ozu’s early masterpiece Late Spring, Late Autumn also tells a story about a windowed father who tries to marry off his daughter, while the daughter keeps resisting it considering her father’s loneliness.
4. Violence at Noon dir. Nagisa Oshima
My appreciation for Japanese New Wave auteur Ogisa Oshima’s cinema grows as I explore deeper into the Criterion Oshima Outlaw Sixties Eclipse Set. I was fully unprepared for his rich cinematic language and deep analysis of the root of violence. I’m expecting more from the next few films from him.
3. The Ballad of Narayama dir. Shohei Imamura
Narayama is the perfect location for Imamura to unfold his version of the story of human being’s primal living status and desire. You will not believe what you see, how human beings live in a remote and primitive place like this, how they worship God and unswervingly stick to the survival rules. The last half an hour is so devastating that you can hardly find a match in any other film. If you have never seen his films before, start with this.
2. The Wind Will Carry Us dir. Abbas Kiarostami
The Wind Will Carry Us is a film full of symbols and gorgeous landscapes. It asks the question “what’s the meaning of life?”, but never answers it. The technique of using simple images to convey deep meanings is film-making at its best.
1. The Story of Last Chrysanthemums dir. Kenji Mizoguchi
Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Story of Last Chrysanthemums is the Japanese version of Red Shoes, it’s about a man’s struggle between his career and love. Mizoguchi creates one of the most perfectly executed mise-en-scene with his constantly moving camera in this film.
It’s Your Turn
What Asian movies have you seen this year? Are you interested in the recommended films above?