Every year, elated but harried attendants of the New York Asian Film Festival look over the typically packed slate of features and just don't know where to start. Most press coverage of the festival seeks to help in that process. As a result, when the dust has settled and the festival has ended, many times viewers such as myself can't help but compare what they'd read about featured titles with what they actually saw. Naturally the biggest source of hype for the little grassroots festival that could is the programmers' description of the films. And I have to say, as usual, the festival really has outdone themselves in being both insanely effusive and weirdly accurate in their descriptions.
Perfect example: at the festival's website, Doman Seman, the new film by Go Shibata, whose Late Bloomer was showcased at the 2005 NYAFF, is heralded thusly: "Imagine A Hard Day's Night if it was about Aleister Crowley instead of The Beatles." Wonky as that may sound, it's kind of true. Shibata's film rides high with the anarchic zeal of Richard Lester's iconic sketch comedy and does center on the power of the occult to save the world from capitalism. Doman Seman is the requisite "So Crazy it's Amazing" title at this year's NYAFF and if it's your thing, it'll probably be one of your favorite movies of the year. It's essentially a buddy comedy about a pair of bums and a reformed spree killer that work together to free the world from the clutches of the Human Enslavement Project. Because they're bums, they're apparently in tune with the spirit of creative chaos that is the only way to fight the moneylenders that the Human Enslavement Project uses to keep people in line. It's like Southland Tales's long-lost twin sister and I mean that as a compliment.
Another great and very apt description is the one they wrote for L.A. Streetfighters (no relation to the video game), the 1985 Korean-American action flick that's described as "the cinematic equivalent of fool's gold." The film is so overstuffed with cheesy action scenes, bad acting and hilariously awkward post-dubbed dialogue, which itself is truly some of the worst you're likely to see after The Twilight Saga: Eclipse this year, that no matter how excellent a cult find the film is, you'll feel duped for having enjoyed it.
Finally, Chaw, the South Korean horror-comedy about a rampaging killer boar, is once again more than given its due: "the result is more like a movie directed by Joe Dante...than Steven Speilberg." The Speilberg film in question is obviously Jaws, a film that Chaw is constantly alluding to. It too is a story of a small town trying to attract yuppie scum, this time with promises of fake organic produce, and the new cop in town is also trying teaming up with a disilussioned local hunter to help kill the beast in question. At the same time, Chaw's got the sprawling, good-nature sense of humor of a Dante film. Which means it's much more fast-and-loose in the way it makes funs of all of its characters, especially our good guys (on his application for a transfer, the good cop is so desperate that he writes "Anywhere," a fact). It's nice to know that no matter how hyperbolic or off-base the festival's descriptions look at first glance, more often than not they're 100% on target.