It’s that time of year again: the summer heat — or rain, depending on your location — sets in and the multi-million-dollar summer blockbusters terrorize a local multiplex in search of your hard-earned money. Fortunately for us New York City dwellers, there exists a multitude of alternative programming (check out our recurring Weekend Watch for proof of that). Running from June 28th to July 15th is the illustrious New York Asian Film Festival, now in its 12th edition. Scouring hard to discover films and project restored rare prints from all different facets of Asian cinema, the festival has, summer after summer, proved the top destination for New York cinephiles hoping to escape mainstream drudgery with a unique variety of film.
Each year is organized by the folks at Subway Cinema and presented two fold: the first half occurring at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the second focusing on Japanese selections presented at The Japan Society (in cooperation with their film program Japan Cuts). This year features another fantastic selection of diverse genres, with a special focus on the New Filipino Cinema movement and honoring Tsai Yang-Ming, godfather of ’80s exploitation flicks from Taiwan. Another highlight will appeal to fans of the kung-fu master himself, Bruce Lee, for Enter the Dragon will have a special 40th Anniversary screening accompanied with a conversation with hip-hop star Fab Freddy. All in all, it looks to be another great lineup for one of the best cinematic gems New York City has to offer.
To celebrate the festival, we’ve rounded up 36 trailers for films at the event, as well as a rundown of ten most delightfully absurd premises. Check them out across the next few pages, culminating in the ones the adventurous cinema-goer won’t want to miss.
The Animals (Gino M. Santos)
An indictment of the Filipino 1% via a decadent high-school party that degenerates into an orgy of sex, violence and class warfare.
Beijing Blues (Gao Qunshu)
A day in the life of a Beijing cop who busts conmen and scam artists, shot run-and-gun documentary style.
Bloody Tie (Choi Ho)
In this hard-knuckled crime thriller, a corrupt detective who doesn’t play by the rules teams up with a small time meth dealer who fancies himself as more businessman than criminal in order to bring down the local drug kingpin responsible for the death of the cop’s former partner.
The Bullet Vanishes (Law Chi-leung)
This stylish period thriller starring Hong Kong superstars Nick Tse and Lau Ching-wan pays homage to Holmes and Watson as a 1930s-era detective duo investigate a series of strange murders.
Catnip (Kevin Dayrit)
A hyperactive, uber-digital flick about two BFF’s and the abusive daddy who comes between them.
Cold War (Sunny Luk)
Hong Kong’s biggest hit of 2012 and winner of nine Hong Kong Film Awards is a twisty cop thriller in the spirit of Infernal Affairs.
The Complex (Hideo Nakata)
The director of The Ring returns for this gothic ghost flick about loneliness, aging and trying to claw through walls with your fingernails.
Confession of Murder (Jeong Byeong-Gil)
A serial killer waits until the statute of limitations expires, then writes a book confessing his crimes in this slam-bang summer blockbuster.
Double XPosure (Li Yu)
Megastar Fan Bingbing plays a woman who kills her husband’s mistress then slowly goes insane while running from the cops.
Drug War (Johnnie To)
Hong Kong’s master filmmaker Johnnie To has crafted a hardcore, boundary-pushing police thriller that’s the most savagely subversive film ever made in mainland China.
Forever Love (Aozaru Shiao & Kitamura Toyoharu)
This light and frothy romantic comedy is set in the fabulous world of the 60s Taiwanese movie industry. Special appearance: Godzilla!
Gangster (Kongkiat Khomsiri)
Hailed as the Thai Goodfellas, this period crime epic is stylish, slick, and powerfully acted.
Hardcore Comedy (Henri Wong, Chong Siu Wing, and Andy Lo)
Hong Kong’s local comedic tradition continues in this quirky post-Vulgaria, three-part omnibus.
How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (Lee Won-suk)
Half romcom, half satire of the Korean film industry, this wacky and charming tale follows an overworked woman’s attempt to improve her relationship with men using a self-help video. Preceded by One Perfect Day (Kim Jee-woon, 34m).
An Inaccurate Memoir (Leon Yang)
Part Chinese Western, part black comedy, part war movie, An Inaccurate Memoir is an action-packed, Peckinpah-esque black comedy about Chinese bandits taking on the Japanese occupation.
Ip Man: The Final Fight (Herman Yau)
A slyly subversive send-up of current craze for Ip Man movies, Herman Yau’s action flick is also a myth-busting celebration of Hong Kong’s working class riots and strikes of the 1960s.
Juvenile Offender (Kang Yi-Kwan)
This film festival fave follows a kid lost in the correctional system and the mom who ditched him, both looking for a new life. Preceded by Day Trip (Park Chan-Wook, Park Chan-Kyung 18m).
The Last Supper (Yang Chia-yun)
From the director of City of Life and Death comes this hallucinatory history of the first Chinese Dynasty as told by the dying emperor.
The Last Tycoon (Wong Jing)
Chow Yun-fat is back, playing real-life 1920s Shanghai gangster Du Yuesheng (whose history has been officially banned by the Chinese government) and looking sharp with a pistol in each hand.
The Legend is Born: Ip Man (Herman Yau)
This stripped down Ip Man movie features Hong Kong’s best martial artists—Bruce Leung, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Ip Man’s son, Ip Chun—and will leave you bruised, battered, and begging for more.
A Life of Ninja (Lee Tso-nam)
The wildest ninja flick you’ll ever see, A Life of Ninja features mud fights, professional wrestling, icicle knives, naked ladies, and plenty of freaky kung fu.
Mystery (Lou Ye)
The acclaimed arthouse director’s first film after being blacklisted in China is a murder mystery wrapped in love triangle wrapped in an existential crisis.
Rigodon (Erik Matti)
A ragingly sexy, grittily realistic love triangle film about a reality TV star trying to make bank and get some nookie. Preceded by Vesuvius (Erik Matti, 10m).
The Unjust (Ryoo Seung-Wan)
This sprawling corruption epic is the kind of movie Sidney Lumet would have made if he had been Korean.
Very Ordinary Couple (Roh Deok)
Korea’s other big hit this year is a hyper-realistic romantic comedy about a warring couple who work for the same company.
When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep (Hou Chi-jan)
A high-octane, super-stylized, live-action cartoon of a romantic comedy about a guy looking for his lost love in Taipei’s cram school district.
The Top 10 Most Delightfully Absurd
Aberya (Christian Linaban)
A hedonistic boxer, a prostitute on a mission, a social climber, and a time-traveling drug dealer cross paths in this deliriously imagined occult superhero movie.
Countdown (Nattawat Poonpiriya)
This take-no-prisoners, semi-experimental exploitation flick is about three Thai hipsters in NYC and the drug dealer who tortures them on New Year’s Eve.
Arahan (Ryoo Seung-Wan)
A wall-busting, skyscraper demolishing, high-flying martial-arts-action date movie set in Seoul.
Behind the Camera: Why Mr. E Went to Hollywood (E J-Yong)
Meta to the max. Korea’s best actors play themselves (and other actors) in this send-up of carnivorous celebrity culture. Preceded by Jury (Kim Dong-Ho, 24m).
Comrade Kim Goes Flying (Kim Gwang-Hun)
Girl power North Korean style! This fun Technicolor tale follows a young miner who pursues her dream of becoming an acrobat.
Helter Skelter (Mika Ninagawa)
A vicious, candy-colored fashionista horror drama about a Lady Gaga-esque singer and actress whose plastic surgery enhancements are are slowly turning as black and rotten as bruised fruit.
Warped Forest (Shunichiro Miki)
The freaky sequel to festival hit Funky Forest: The First Contact, Variety calls it the “weirdest movie of the year.” Like Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, only much funnier.
The Kirishima Thing (Daihachi Yoshida)
A funny, ferocious dissection of Japanese high school mores is kicked off by the disappearance of the golden boy volleyball captain.
A Muse (Chung Ji-Woo)
A scandalicious hit about the romance between a 17-year old girl and a 70-year-old man, A Muse earned its lead actress six awards for her performance.
The Berlin File (Ryoo Seung-Wan)
Spies from North and South Korea square off in a gritty, high speed, post-Bourne thriller.
Which trailers are your favorite? What films are you most anticipating?
— Raffi Asdourian & Nick Newman