Blossoms in the Desert

“From the desert to the sea to all of Southern California, good evening.”–Jerry Dunphy, broadcaster

Film Festival News: The new year begins tomorrow with the attractively-programmed Palm Springs Film Festival. Palm Springs is a desert resort community about two hours east of Los Angeles; the festival works hard to draw crowds from Los Angeles, but it’s a long drive.

The festival is justifiably proud of screening most of the entries submitted in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards, and last year was the first in the US to screen the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy.

Wish I could make the trip for at least a couple of days, but my car won’t make it that far. A few highlights for Asian film fans, including recommendations of films from far Western Asia:

Fri Jan 7
NOBODY KNOWS (Japan). Buzz from Cannes was mixed; due for US release from IFC Films.
THE OVERTURE (Thailand). Coming of age mixes with music and politics in the royal court.
PRINCESS OF MOUNT LEDANG (Malaysia). The most expensive local production in history is, in my opinion, mostly a bore.
STRAY DOGS (Iran). Drama set in Afghanistan; two of my friends both thought it was excellent.
STEAMBOY (Japan). Mixed reactions so far; due for US release from Sony.
TURN LEFT AT THE END OF THE WORLD (Israel). Solid and entertaining family/girl’s coming-of-age tale.
THE WORLD (China). Highly touted latest from Jia Zhang-ke, director of PLATFORM and UNKNOWN PLEASURES.

Sat Jan 8
ELECTRIC SHADOWS (China). Debut; young woman loves movies.
TROPICAL MALADY (Thailand). Evidently more of the same from the director of BLISSFULLY YOURS. Not my cup of tea.
YESTERDAY ONCE MORE (Hong Kong). Less than stellar notices for this re-teaming of Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng.
repeating: NOBODY KNOWS; PRINCESS OF MOUNT LEDANG; STRAY DOGS

Sun Jan 9
OSEAM (South Korea). Animated; based on a fairy tale.
repeating: THE WORLD

Mon Jan 10
DAY AND NIGHT (China). Coal miners and sexual desire. Sounds like a winning formula, but it plays at 10 in the morning!
TWO GREAT SHEEP (China). Old people and sheep. Why is this playing at 8 in the evening?
repeating: STEAMBOY; TROPICAL MALADY; TURN LEFT AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Tue Jan 11
BREAKING NEWS (Hong Kong). Mixed reaction to Johnny To’s action drama.
HANA AND ALICE (Japan). Latest from Shunji Iwai (ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU) is challenging but very worthwhile.
repeating: THE OVERTURE; YESTERDAY ONCE MORE

Wed Jan 12
20:30:40 (Taiwan). Sylvia Chang’s romantic film has earned positive reviews.
BEAUTIFUL BOXER (Thailand). Cross-dressing kickboxer biopic; it’s OK but not especially compelling.
SEOUL TRAIN (US/South Korea). Activist documentary; not a knock-out film, but about important issues.
repeating: DAY AND NIGHT

Thu Jan 13
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE (UK). Quite enjoyable; with Aishwarya Rai. Due for US release from Miramax.
TURTLES CAN FLY (Iran). Life in a refugee camp from the director of A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES. Due for US release from Sony Classics.
repeating: 20:30:40; BEAUTIFUL BOXER; BREAKING NEWS; SEOUL TRAIN

Fri Jan 14
FORMULA 17 (Taiwan). Breakout gay romantic comedy.

Sat Jan 15
MAREBITO (Japan). “The latest horror creation from the director of THE GRUDGE.”
repeating: HANA AND ALICE; TURTLES CAN FLY

Sun Jan 16
repeating: BRIDE AND PREJUDICE; FORMULA 17; MAREBITO

For complete information, visit Palm Springs Film Festival.

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