Asia on Film in 2013

AGI is looking ahead to what’s coming up in cinemas this year with a list that is sure to satisfy the appetite of the most avid international cinema fan. Culture vultures, here are our top picks for 2013.

Emperor
A USA-New Zealand co-production (filmed in Japan and New Zealand) about the early days of the US Occupation of Japan following World War II. The film is based on a book called His Majesty’s Salvation, by Japanese author Shiro Okamoto, which has not yet been translated into English. Starring Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur, Emperor is due to be released in America in March, having already  screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year to mostly positive reviews. A release date for the UK has yet to be confirmed.

Three first-time English-language films by Korean directors
-The Last Stand has just been released in theatres in the UK and the US, and is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first leading role in a movie since he finished his term as Governor of California. Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird; A Tale of Two Sisters) directs this gun-loving action pic.
-Stoker, from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook, is the next in line for release and stars Nicole Kidman as an unstable mother of a teenage girl named India. Expect gothic horror tropes in line with the director’s well-known vengeance trilogy.
-Last but not least is the much-anticipated SF drama Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Host; Mother) and adapted from a French graphic novel. Set twenty years in the future, the film’s star-studded cast includes John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Tilda Swinton, plus Korean actor Song Gang-ho.
-Also: Be on the lookout for director Spike Lee’s American remake of Park’s Oldboy, based on a Japanese manga series.

The Berlin File
A genuine Korean-language film, but one that has some international connections as well, as evidenced by its title. This thriller revolves around a North Korean spy and his beautiful wife at an embassy in Germany. Gianna Jun (Jeon Ji-hyun) and Ha Jung-woo headline an all-star cast of South Korean and European actors. Director Ryoo Seung-wan is best known for Crying Fist (2005), a boxing drama. Due to receive a limited release in the USA next month, it is unclear if and when any theatres in the UK will screen it.

Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films
Miyazaki’s animation company Studio Ghibli is expected to release at least two new films this year, one of them directed by the master himself. First up, The Wind is Rising tells the real story of a man named Jiro Horikoshi who designed fighter planes for the Japanese in World War II. The second film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, is directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) and is based on a famous Japanese folktale about a baby princess found in a bamboo stalk. There is also a rumour that Miyazaki will direct a second production to be released in 2013 – a sequel to his earlier film, Porco Rosso.

47 Ronin
Filmed primarily in Hungary and the UK, this is a story that has been told and retold in Japan many times already, but it is only now receiving the big-screen 3D Hollywood treatment, albeit with elements of fantasy this time around. Leading a cast of actors mostly from Japan, the half Chinese-Hawaiian Keanu Reeves stars as a samurai warrior looking for revenge during the 18th century.

Superheroes go to Asia
Iron Man 3 sees Tony Stark face off against a villain called “the Mandarin”, played by Sir Ben Kingsley. Apparently, the potential for this character to be seen as a racist stereotype did not stop China from teaming up with Marvel Studios to co-produce and partly finance the film. Some scenes were supposedly shot in China and a few Chinese actors are expected to appear in the film, most notably Fan Bingbing.
In The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman’s most famous comic book character takes a trip to Japan where he becomes reacquainted with a past enemy and a forgotten love. Filmed in Australia and several Japanese locations, it also features a large supporting cast of Asian actors including Hiroyuki Sanada as a Yakuza crime boss, and Will Yun Lee (a Korean-American), who plays the Silver Samurai.

By Tim Holm

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