Favorite films

  • Sacrificed Youth
  • Letter Never Sent
  • Beau Travail
  • Cameraperson

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  • The Battle at Lake Changjin

    ★★

  • House of Hummingbird

    ★★★★

  • The Recorder Exam

    ★★★★

  • The Spy Gone North

    ★★★

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  • The Battle at Lake Changjin

    The Battle at Lake Changjin

    ★★

    Back when I lived in China, state-backed all-star propaganda efforts such as The Founding of a Party and The Founding of a Republic were objects of popular scorn. So the fact that this raked in boatloads of money at the box office suggests that either China’s movie-going tastes or the national mood has changed. Maybe it’s both. The Battle at Lake Changjin was directed by a trio: Dante Lam, famous for this kind of jingoistic fare; Chen Kaige, who has…

  • House of Hummingbird

    House of Hummingbird

    ★★★★

    In the first scene of House of Hummingbird, Eunhee – whose perspective we will share for the next two hours – returns home late on a summer afternoon with a bag of groceries. She rings the doorbell and shakes the doorknob, becoming increasingly irate. Eventually, she realises she has the wrong apartment number, and trudges up another flight of stairs. At the end of the scene, the camera pulls back slowly to reveal rows of seemingly identical apartment doors.

    The…

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  • Beau Travail

    Beau Travail

    ★★★★★

    March Around the World 2021 - #18: France

    Prefacing this review with a confession: that famous ending was the first part of Beau Travail that I saw. That is not the way I prefer to discover movies – in fact, I would usually consider it ‘cheating’ – but I came across it in passing, via Marc Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey (I know opinions divide on that series; for me, it was a fount of cinephilic inspiration). It…

  • Boat People

    Boat People

    ★★★

    The story behind Boat People is fascinating: it was shot in Hainan, becoming the first Hong Kong production to film in mainland China, with the permission of a PRC government that had recently fought a war with Vietnam, and was therefore eager to capitalise on anti-Vietnamese propaganda. It's a reconstructed vision of the country in 1978, based on refugee accounts and comprehended through the eyes of an outsider, both literally and figuratively - the protagonist, a Japanese photographer, is an…