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This is Not Greatest Hits...

I had another week off from work quite by chance. More time to bum around the house and angst over stuff. Same old. Went back to basics and watched a few Cantonese action movies, mother's milk, eh? I cannot believe the quality of stuff that gets exported off Hong Kong these days. When I was little, HK action flicks were nearly extended TVB dramas of sorts. Most of the time, you had tons of wire fu and pyro stacked on top of these paper-thin plots, and acting was almost the last thing on everyone's mind. TVB dramas don't use nearly as much wire fu or FX, actually, they're usually kinda cheap, but my point is that HK action films used to be really low-cal stuff you could watch for two hours and forget the next minute.

Fast forward a bit. I think it began around the time Time & Tide showed up, really, that Canto action films started getting a little extra bit darker, even grimier, taking on the wrappings of action movies but the heart of some far more complex study of these very human characters. Heroes didn't have to save Hong Kong anymore. Heck, some movies didn't even have heroes anymore. And I absolutely love it. So I must tell you about Jiang Hu.

Jiang Hu is one of those Shanghai-ban-esque stories. Traditionally, all good romantic HK gangster films star Andy Lau, so that's exactly what happens. A thing to note about Andy Lau, when he does gangster movies, he usually gets the role of the uber cool tai ko, and no one does gangster bosses like this man, really no one. Jiang Hu harks back to every stylistic impulse I ever loved about those romantic golden years Shanghai gangster films, except it's not set in Shanghai and it's not the early 19th. There's the obligatory questioning of brotherhoods, loyalty and moral disrepair, and it's bloody, violent and desperately dark, yet with only the bare minimum of physical violence ever getting shown. Yes, I suppose that doesn't make it much of an action film, but man, the characterization is tight, and the acting is first class. You will not believe the ending. Snake eats its own tail, you will not believe the ending.

And if you're going to watch Jiang Hu, you should also watch Breaking News. It's a thought-provoking prod at the power of the media, how easy it is to paint a villian at the click of the mouse, and how easy it is for even a child to do so. Very lovely drama, specially on the always-a-pleasure-to-watch Richie Ren, whose anti-hero shows off his growing maturity as a character actor. BN doesn't mess around about being an action film, though it tends to focus more on the grit and dying than say, hand-to-hand combat. Look out for the elevator shaft scene though, because the cinematography in that makes up for the lack of firepower elsewhere. I'm so far away from my bedtime I really daren't say too much about the plot of either film; I have a feeling that if I did I'd mess up. I apologize for this, honest, they're both excellent movies, though I lack the energy to really rave about them at this time.

What else? Plowing through the discography of Buck-Tick and being amazed and impressed by just how much these guys have influenced later acts I heard first, plowing through the Pillows and finding odds and ends I like, lots I'm not sure about. Completely blown away by the PV for Atsushi Sakurai's "Taiji". There should be awards given out for it. Atsushi himself is some kind of dervish-dark angel-scruffy god throughout. And I love the song. Think Lenny Kravitz meets...I can't stand Lenny Kravitz, but...think Lenny Kravitz meets demonic presences in the machine, I guess. It's a bizarrely riveting combo. Atsushi's presence is never short of commanding.