15 Best Asian Films of the Decade

3 Dec

 December 2nd, 2009–

With  2010 looming before us, it feels a little surprising to realize a decade has come and gone. And in that time we have had quite a run at the movies. For every week until New Year’s Day, I’ll be putting up a 15 best of the Decade, culminating with an overall ‘Best of’ list. Before that, I’ve picked a few categories that are specialized enough that I felt they were short-changed by one overarching list. Today, we begin with a venue near and dear to my heart: Asian cinema.

 If American film didn’t experience anything drastic in terms of renaissance or epiphany on the film scene, the same could not be said for Asia. Asian cinema had a near golden decade, both in terms of the quality, artistry and consistency of the work as well as the reception of it by western audiences.

Korea, a country with a dodgy reputation for quality film production, soared to the forefront of the independent and arthouse with filmmakers who were as edgy, risky, accomplished and daring as early Coppola, Scorsese, and Malick.

Thailand seemed to be discovering the motion picture for the first time and they churned out off-the-wall works of simple and direct entertainment; martial arts dramas, horror films, and in the midst of all this, a few lyrical and poetic works of pure sensation.

China and Japan, the two heavies and mainstays of the Asian film scene found revigoration not just in new styles and genres, but also in their cinematic past.In China, Wuxia was reborn and repackaged and eaten up by audiences both local and abroad, while Japan revealed new samurai films as structured, evocative and powerful as the work of the legendary masters; Kurosawa and Kobayashi.

Yes, indeed, it was a great decade for Asian film. So, let’s begin, and keep in mind that there are dozens and dozens of films that could have made honorable mention here and if my mood was different might even have cracked this list. In addition, I’ve limited this list to live action films. An animation list is coming next week.

Enjoy and feel free to share your own lists and faves in the comments!

15. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, Japan, 2001)

 

 The very best of Japan’s horror output in the last decade and a withering satire worthy of Jonathan Swift, Battle Royale felt similar to several other ‘shock’ films back in 2001. I mistook it for a one-note midnight movie the first time I laid eyes on it. But 10 years later, while many of its counterparts have lost their edge and relevance, Royale is as precient and unnerving as ever. Veteran filmmaker Fukasuku, adapting a sci-fi novel, used his considerable skill for violent, dramatic action to tell the story of a group of Japanese school students competing in a government funded life-or-death competiton. Part Orwell and part Lord of the Flies, Royale is an expertly crafted thriller that features characters we care about, and deaths that have a significant impact. The dark humor it cloaks itself in is hiding satirical riches and what it has to say about cultural stereotypes and the long gap between generations is compelling stuff. Easy to dismiss as exploitative, but that would be missing the point.

 

 

14. Survive Style 5+  (Gen Sekiguchi, Japan, 2003)

 

 Survive Style 5+ is a movie that defies easy classification or explanation. None is really needed–as odd as it is, Survive speaks for itself.  Wrapping together multiple characters and plotlines in a  slice-of-life style shell, Survive is an off-the-wall masterpiece that might well be one of the craziest movies I have ever seen. In one thread, Tadanobu Asano plays a man who keeps killing his wife night after night, only to return home to find her waiting to kick his ass. Vinnie Jones is a hulking assassin who asks his marks “What is your function?” In one of the movie’s greatest sequences, a Japanese salaryman is hypnotized to think he is a bird and his family must deal with the aftermath. Sekiguchi, like his fellow countryman Katsuhito Ishii (A Taste of Tea, Funky Forest), is one of the few remaining cinematic surrealists, and with this film he also proved to have a strong grasp of human comedy. There is more honest emotion and evocation of the modern societal struggle in any 5 minutes of Survive than in the combined total of Crash and Babel.

 

13. Hero (Zhang Yimou, China, 2002)

 After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon woke-up the West with the promise of the wuxia martial arts fantasy, every director worth their salt in the East tried to get a piece of it. Zhang Yimou entered the ring and has yet to leave it. He has made three films in this vein, and although I also adore House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower, this is the one I return to most often. Not only is it the most stylistic and operatic of the trio, but Hero is the one least ashamed of its chop-sockey origins. Yimou stages hand-to-hand combat sequences that are a kung-fu lover’s wet dream. Thes skirmishes are framed with an artistry and color pallette that is breathtaking. As a piece of visual art, Hero is triumph. Jet Li, Donny Yen, Zhang Zi-Yi, and Maggie Cheung all get in on the action, and beyond the artifice Yimou is telling a striking and thought-provoking story. Delivered in Rashomon style flashbacks, the narrative reveals ideas and thoughts curious to Western sensibilities and subtly questions the idea of “all united under heaven”. For a film created in a country with as much artistic censorship as China, Hero manages to possess some refreshing subversion underneath its patriotic exterior.

 

12. Kamikaze Girls (Tetsuya Nakashima, Japan, 2005)

Although it’s easy to be initially wary of the candy-coated chick flick exterior, one warms almost immediately to the world created by Nakashima in Kamikaze Girls. He’s a visionary who builds his films out of kitsch and pop-art ephemera, and Girls is his most light-hearted concotion; a story of a parasol toting city girl smashing into the orbit of a biker-punk, country chick. The characters, however, are well rounded and emotionally realistic and the film is ultimately a kind of buddy comedy that acknowledges aching truths about adolescence and finding your way. It may sound too precious, but Nakashima wraps it all up in layers of flaky, delicious frosting that threaten at times to crumble and blow way. The female performers at the center are what give the film its weight and pleasing impact. It has a warm heart and a goofy visual wit. All of the young women out there fawning over Twilight would be better off with Kamikaze Girls. There are few boys in sight and precious little romance (certainly not among the central characters) but what it has to say about individual value and purpose is something sorely lacking in that aforementioned series.  

 

 

11. Kung-Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, China, 2004)

Making a great comedy isn’t an easy thing. I can count on one hand the number I saw over the past decade. What makes Kung-Fu Hustle as special as it is lies in the hands of Stephen Chow. Chow is one of the few guys out there making spoof material that still holds my interest. Hustle is the best of his work because of the affection and energy with which it attacks its targets. This isn’t a string of doltish jokes or empty set pieces. There is a rich and detailed comic world here and I remember being charmed by the number of elements Chow crammed into the frame. Most importantly, it made me laugh…alot. Visually, it’s as smart as they come ; The Axe Gang’s dance number, Chow’s feet spinning like the road runner and the final riff on the Matrix are all classic moments. Chow has an extensive film knowledge and its clear that he has no problem evoking the spirit of Astaire and Rodgers in one scene and then showering a kid with urine in the next. But he does it with charm and a trickster’s smirk. Kung-Fu Hustle has all of the qualities that made early Mel Brooks films like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles so good. And it has kung-fu. Beat that.

10. Last Life in the Universe (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Thailand, 2003)

 Last Life in the Universe would be an amazing film regardless of its pedigree. But in this case, that pedigree is worth mentioning. With a Japanese star (Asano again) and a Thai director, and entire sequences spoken in English, LLITU crosses several cultural and linguistic barriers and becomes something a bit more than a film; its a meditation on human connection and emotional renewal. Forget all of that, though, because this isn’t a thought exercise but a dreamlike and sensual event that unfolds without urgency. The two central characters, a suicidal librarian and a young woman mourning the death of her sister, spend a few weeks together in a place that is strange to both. There are similarities to Lost in Translation, but that film remained mostly above or outside of its character’s head and heartspace. Last Life redesigns its entire landscape to reflect the interior drama inside these two. Watching Asano rise out of his funk is rewarding but it wouldn’t work without the rest of the movie’s uncommon and off-center beauty. There is a scene where the young man cleans his friend’s pigsty of a house, but we don’t see that moment. Instead she comes home, and without warning items begin to rearrange themselves into a proper order, floating back and forth, moved on an invisible current. The characters themselves are like that, and it is to the film’s great credit that you will want to follow, even past the final frames of the film.

 

 

 9. The Host (Joon-Ho Bong, Korea, 2006)

A roadtrip with a dysfunctional family, a giant monster terrorizing Seoul, and a government cover-up aiming to hide the misshapen fruit of its negligence. Most directors couldn’t make all of that work, and the few that could and did–i.e. Spielberg–don’t seem to have much interest in doing so these days. All of that is why The Host is as powerful as it is; it’s an honest to goodness popcorn flick that doesn’t feel like one. There is a rich human story at the heart of the film and the ending is emotionally devestating. But instead of a dry, or dreary slog, Host is an often funny and thrilling entertainment. The monster is magnificently designed and the decision to show it in broad daylight at the start of the film is a good one. After that, Bong allows us to relax and focus on the screwball interactions of the Park family, who are just now finding the road back to togetherness when the youngest member is snatched by the beast. Honestly, this is as fearless and effective in its way as Jaws and the original Gojira. The Host is a horror film with a wild and restless grandeur that packs a far greater punch than you are expecting.

 

8. Red Cliff ( John Woo, China, 2008)

At the beginning of the decade, John Woo was losing his stride; 2000 saw Mission Impossible 2 and by 2003 he was cashing his last Paycheck. How wonderful, then, to see the action maestro roar to his greatest success with a pic filmed in his homeland and centered around the grandest histories/mythologies of his culture. Evading the pomposity that has come to be associated with period-setting martial arts pictures, Woo uses his comic-book sensibilities to illustrate the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the battle of Red Cliff. Some asian film enthusiasts might complain that film is too western in its aim, too long (the original version is two films long), and uses too many visual effects. in truth, it is this populist approach that makes the movie as great as it is; Woo is in expert command of each and every component and he’s working at the top of his game. There is an Old Hollywood splendor here that I haven’t seen in an epic in a long time. The acting is terrific and layered throughout, the actors turning in performances that can stand in the face of all the digital wizardry. The scenes of warfare are some of the best I’ve recently witnessed on the screen and Woo gives his movie a heart that none of his others posess. The result is a war picture that stands as a worthy Eastern counterpart to Jackson’s Rings saga.

 

7. Devils on the Doorstep (Wen Jiang, China, 2000)

Wen Jiang’s Devils is a movie that will blindside you. Filmed in black and white and set during the Japanese occupation of China during WWII, it is a film culled completely from a different era. It has all the earmarks of a picture that could have actually been made in Japan in the 60s, and two of its central figures–two captured soldiers–are Japanese. The town who gets these two deserters–and is instructed to kill them or else–is located in China and the inhabitants have a curious choice to make. At first this is an easy decision, but as the film progresses and the two soldiers are integrating into the relational DNA of the village, things stop being so clear. The cinematography, score and direction are nothing short of superb. This could be a Kurosawa film for all of the thought placed on shot composition and the way the camera hovers near and around these earthy villagers. The plot may seem a bit standard or melodramatic at the start, but be warned; Devils is more mature and wise regarding its cinematic instincts and when the ending comes, as hard as it is to take, it is exactly the one needed to make all that came before haunt our memory.

 

6. Cafe Lumiere (Hsiao-hsien Hou, Japan, 2003)

One of the things I appreciate most about Japan’s cinematic output over the last decade is that in the midst of all the manga adaptations and gruesome horror films, there were directors paying homage to the greats who went before, and in some cases re-inventing those styles with a new flourish. Hou’s Cafe Lumiere, however, isn’t a redo of Ozu’s tranquil and elegant tone poems, but an honest to goodness tribute to the latter director’s influence. This is a lovely, lovely movie and one of the few I find I’m almost always game for watching. This is in no small part to the imagery–every scene has a handsome and aesthetically pleasing value. Most of the time, it feels like a still life, with characters walking in and out of the frame and the world moving around them. The opposite of Last Life, these people are caught in the ebb and flow of time, and we are observing their passage. Asano is back, as a bookstore owner instead of a librarian this go round, and Yo Hitoto, a Japanese popstar, is the young pregnant woman Hou follows. Dramatically and narratively, the film is slight, but taking a page from Ozu and then following rythyms of his own, Hou has achieved a sense of sublime enchantment, unencumbered by anything other than the events of the moment.

 

5. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, China, 2001)

I am not really a Wong Kar Wai fan. Most of his work seems to get lost in the space of his imagination, tinkered and fiddled with until it is almost abstract in its formalism. Ashes of Time and 2042 felt that way to me. Not this one. The finest film to come out of China in the last decade, In the Mood for Love is a tale of longing between two disparate people who have already made-up their minds that they can never consumate that love. They are a man (Tony Leung) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) whose spouses have had an affair together. They meet, talk, and slowly draw close in trying to understand how this is has happened. They will not, however, be unfaithful. The setting is 1920s Hong Kong and Wai is remarkably faithful to the construction of the time period and the social structure in which these two people are caught. Visually, it has the feel of a film noir, and the movie is a  feast for the eyes, using shadows and light and color in suprising and poignant ways. The performances are heart-breaking and intuitive.Typically, films about chaste love affairs are hollow and empty (American audiences can’t put their heart into them), but in this case Wai isn’t taking the obvious route. Leung and Cheung are true to their vows and the movie doesn’t question them, doesn’t push them towards their own affair, or suggest that they are violating any deeper conviction by their choice. Instead, it provides the viewer with an opulent, tender and sublime experience that rivals the all-time great love stories.

4. Old Boy (Chan Wook Park, Korea, 2005)

One of the  unifiying elements of Asian cinema during the aughts was the desire to be edgy and transgressive. Mostly, this landed us with alot of hyperviolent, masochistic trash that wasn’t worth a second of our time. When it comes to the work of Chan-Wook Park however, his violence and madness have a method. His strength as a filmmaker is we don’t see the method until after the fact; we are caught up in the moment, pulled along by brute force and powerful storytelling. Old Boy is a violent and brutal story, but it also has sequences of gentleness, dread, and can strike deep, deep chords of remorse. It feels like noir and plays like a Greek tragedy as filtered through the mind of Travis Bickle. I was caught up in the ride, not prepared for the film’s ending, or the overall impact it would have on me . The film is a wonder-work as a thriller–it moves quickly and confidently through its sinister coils and has no doubts about what it wants to do to us in the final third. This is not a happy film and the solutions to its narrative are not the kind of resolutions I really wanted, but there they are anyway. I do not appreciate films that try to shock us for the sake of shock, but Oldboy wants under your skin and it wants to show you what lies behind a door you’d rather not open. At the same time, it isn’t an torturous experience and the impact is in the concepts and taboos explored, not excessive visual mayhem. It’s a powerhouse and one of the finest accomplishments of the decade.

 

 

3. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…Spring (Kim Ki Duk, Korea, 2004)

Kim Ki-Duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…Spring is unlike any movie I have ever seen before. Made in Korea, it feels like the cinematic summation of the surging growth that country’s film artists have experienced. There is an old monk and a young boy, living on a floating temple in the center of a lake. The boy is there to learn the ways of the monk and become the master one day after the old man is gone. Years go by, and the callous youth grows up and a young woman comes from across the lake to the temple. This changes everything for the young man, and the remaining years examine what transpires between these three characters, who are in fact the only people the film follows. The rest is given over to unique and transcendent film compositions that attempt to capture the glimpses of a spiritual dimension existing at the edge of our natural and fleshly one. The story feels like a parable, but it avoids that by immersing the viewer so deeply in the imagery; these may be dreamlike places we are being shown but they are concrete and tangible thanks to the medium of film. The monk, the boy and the woman are also flesh-and-blood people and their struggles as seen over the space of an entire lifetime gain a kind of omniscient trajectory. We have the advantage of seeing how these events impact other events  and how one choice will lead to the revoking of another. Watching the characters learn these lessons and move to the next stage is an integral part of the film’s triumphant effect.

 

2. The Clone Returns Home ( Kanji Nakajima, Japan, 2009)

It is difficult to imagine that The Clone Returns Home is Nakajima’s first film. It is the kind of bold gamble that most filmmakers strive an entire lifetime to make, never knowing when to humbly draw back or confidently surge forward with their odd ideas and visually peculiar instincts. I realize the film may feel ‘too fresh’ for this list, and I doubt may have seen it, but the simple fact that it springs to mind after a single viewing more intensely than many other films I have seen dozens of times says something about it. It is a science fiction story that achieves more in terms of defining our human connection to the spiritual and familial than any other I have ever seen. Many have compared it to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and that is surprisingly accurate, although I would aruge that this film isn’t as obtuse or as distant from its human subjects as Solaris. Both are masterpieces, but Clone, which tells the story of an astronaut who has his body replicated and then dies in an accident, only to have the cloned version return to his childhood home and reenact the life he once lived, transcends stuffy philosophy or tedious repition by breaking the narrative up into stages related to the man’s life cycle. Every element of the film is given over to creating an atmosphere that feels other worldly and yet recognizable and relatable. This is an amazing movie and I look forward to seeing how the sci-fi community will respond to it.

 

1. The Twilight Samurai (Yoji Yamada, Japan, 2002)

In my mind, Twilight Samurai is an almost perfect film. Every line of dialogue, every performance, and every lovingly designed detail is in service of the film’s story. Yamada and his lead actor Sanada, as the shabby Sebei, have made the finest samurai film since Kurosawa’s Ran. This one is much different than that one, and indeed, much different than any of Kurosawa’s other films. It has more in common with pictures like Samurai Rebellion, but even then there is a gentleness at its core that none of those other films ever had. I am in awe at the way Yamada can evoke beauty and decay in the same scene. One of Sebei’s children is gathering flowers in a lovely field and as she comes to the riverside, there are bloodied bodies washing down the current. The stately structure of Japanese art and literature are present in the way Twilight Samurai is arranged. But instead of feeling lifeless or calculating, this is a film bursting with life. Sebei’s courtship of his love is endearing and touching and the scenes that take place in front of the lords have an authenticity that a movie like Last Samurai lacks. Finally, and this  is a preequisite for any samurai film, the movie has a brilliant and engrossing sword fight in the final half hour. Watching these two men comes to blows, you are watching two parts of the same world, fractured by time, clashing into one another. In the aftermath, Twilight Samurai even provides necessary catharsis. The old masters would be proud.

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85 Responses to “15 Best Asian Films of the Decade”

  1. koutchboom December 3, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    Hero blows. And no The Good The Bad and The Weird??? I need to see most of these too.

    You ever seen The Taste of Tea?

  2. Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    I really dug Hero, and while GBW was a great one, I liked the ones here just a bit more. Same for Taste of Tea. But Koutch, if you loved TOT, then you will really dig Survive Style 5+. I mention Taste in there.

  3. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    You’ve missed some pearlers- I’m a cyborg, Daisy, Ip Man are all better than that flabby shit Hero.

    Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, Infernal Affairs (I think it was this century),

    I could go on, but this is a huge topic.

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:37 am #

      Cyborg, Daisy and Ip Man I all considered. All great movies, but for me personally, I liked Hero. I wasn’t aware it was so hated. Why?

  4. ThereWolf December 3, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    I’ve only seen 3 of these! I can definitely concur with ‘The Host’ and ‘Red Cliff’ but ‘Survival Style’ didn’t do a lot for me. I’d like to see ‘The Clone Returns Home’, plus one or two of the others.

    Surprised not to see ‘Daisy’ on there. That is a great little film.

    Intriguing list though.

  5. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Not to mention Assembly, Mongol, The Warlords, The Eye (the original and best of the Oriental Horrors), Spirited Away,

    C’mon Bartleby- all of these are better than Hero.

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:40 am #

      The Eye? seriously? that was sort of terrible.

      All the others were good that you mentioned, but again, it’s personal taste here. I liked the look and style of Hero personally, and thought it was well done–unique but a decent throwback at the same time. Again, the difference here is that on this day, that’s the one I threw on there.

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:48 am #

      oh…amidst your whimpering, you did remind me of an important point….this is a live action list. Otherwise Spirited Away would be near the top. I forgot to convey that. Thanks.

      • Jarv December 3, 2009 at 11:58 am #

        Whimpering?

        It is exasperation.

  6. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Can you delete the first one for me?

    Also, Audition was this century, Happiness of the Katchakuri’s, Dumplings (yuck) etc.

    Pah. Hero, indeed.

    I don’t think it would make my top 50

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm #

      Audition was 99. You and math.

  7. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    I didn’t think the look and style of hero was anything special. At all.

    Swirling coloured silk sheets certainly didn’t make up for the mind-numbing story.

  8. Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    Well, then add your own list here… 😛

  9. koutchboom December 3, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    Yeah Survive Style 5+, I’ve been dying to see that. I want to see all the ones on your list I haven’t.

  10. ThereWolf December 3, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Your list is fine, Bartleby. I wouldn’t suggest ‘Daisy’ SHOULD be on there at all, just admitting surprise. It’s your list – respect.

    I mean, when I post my Top 10 of the decade I’m 100% certain it’s gonna make some eyeballs bleed…

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

      I know There…I was suggesting the add lists not as a throwdown, because Im curious to see what everyone else thinks. Already we have had some top-notch suggestions here that I didn’t even cover. I think it’s time to resurrect my Bartleby Abroad feature and review diff foreign films each week.

  11. koutchboom December 3, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    For me Hero killed that floaty martial arts style. I only saw the American version thats like 90 minutes, is that the final cut of it? Or some American chopping?

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:47 am #

      never saw the american version so I dont know. I saw the asian version a year or so prior to the american release

  12. Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    Others I considered, in addition to the ones already mentioned: The Chaser, Save the Green Planet, Tale of Two Sisters, Ong Bak, Love and Honour, Mother, Memories of Murder, Syndromes and A Century, The Banquet…

  13. ThereWolf December 3, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    The Chaser was good. I also thought Invisible Target was an absolute blast.

  14. koutchboom December 3, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    I think Save the Green Planet may be my favorite, its just SO fucked up.

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:53 am #

      yea, I agree. ultimately, thats why it didn’t quite make it. Then again, BR is sort of messed up too.

  15. Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    Ok, Im adding an honorable mentions list…

  16. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    Yes, but can you take that pompous shit Hero off the main list?

    Tale of 2 sisters is superb.

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

      explain the Hero hate…seriously. I haven’t watched the film in a few years, but I certainly don’t remember it as being pompous. Crouching Tiger, sure it could be accused of that, but I didn’t think Hero was anything more than a martial arts flick.

  17. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    I loathe Crouching Tiger.

    It’s entirely subjective , but I think Hero is smug and self-important and just too pleased with it’s “style”.

  18. Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    but I thought the style worked–it was more of an operatic, fable-esque story and for me personally it was effective. Again, I can understand the sentiment.

    So, what on the list did you like Jarv?

  19. Hawaiian Organ Donor December 3, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

    This is a fine list. I would add Fearless, Tom Yum Goong and Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance as contenders. And ThereWolf is right, Invisible Target was a most excellent time even if it was nothing more than a ridiculous action movie. Hmmmm, I might have to give Chocolate and honorable mention.

    • ThereWolf December 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

      And it’s all thanks to you I saw Invisible Target, plus a host of others. Cheers, Hawaiian!

      • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

        None of the current crop here would be discussing Daisy at all of HOD hadn’t first introduced us to it. A gem for sure.

      • Hawaiian Organ Donor December 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

        You’re welcome ThereWolf. It was my pleasure to introduce everyone to some otherwise unobtainable gems. If I was a rich man I’d be sending out kits once a month.

  20. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Battle Royale, Oldboy, Red Cliff (hero wishes it was like this) The Host, KFH,

    Most of them that I’ve seen.

    Honestly, if Hero wasn’t on it, I wouldn’t have any problem.

  21. Jarv December 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    Cheers Donor- top man.

    How’s life? On the up yet?

  22. Hawaiian Organ Donor December 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    Life still blows Jarv. Water heater died last night but flooded the place first. So no breaks for me. But I’m still breathing so I guess that can be considered a positive.

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

      thats crappy….we had that happen last year…not a good time… especially when the surrounding area is filled with stuff.

    • Jarv December 4, 2009 at 4:41 am #

      Never mind mine, 2010 is coming.

  23. koutchboom December 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    See Crouching Tiger I actually liked (i think its the only Ang Ree film I like). But Hero, just the story was so lame to me. Sure I know its about honor and history and what not. But I was just like?? A symbol? I even liked Curse of the Golden Dragon? Or whatever its called, and that movie totally over uses the wire fu thing.

  24. hagiblog December 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    Funny how most of those films are from the early part of the decade. Lots of great movies in there that I’ve seen and I few that I had only heard of but would like to check out now. Great list!

  25. The Great Fatsby December 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm #

    Anyone who thinks the horrible asian version (or any version for that matter) of The Eye was a great film has NO room to talk about Hero, clear lack of taste in film.

    • Jarv December 4, 2009 at 4:40 am #

      Oh really Fatsby?

      Aside from the fact that that “horrid Asian version” was the original that the Americans remade, or that it was ahead of the curve, genuinely eerie and had a great central performance that Alba dreams of producing.

      Wait, I’m arguing with a 14 year old.

  26. goregirl December 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    Excellent list! Twilight Samurai, Battle Royale, The Host, Kung Fu Hustle, Old Boy and Devils on the Doorstep would make my own list. There are a ton on here I haven’t seen! I will definitely be adding some of these titles to my “to see” list. I have been looking for Survive Style 5 + for a few years and haven’t been able to find a copy anywhere! This inspires me to do my own list! I may have to swipe your idea and do my own 10 favorite Asian Films….all Horror of course!

    • Bartleby December 3, 2009 at 11:01 pm #

      if you do, I’ll link up to you if you like…

      and goregirl, if you want to see Survive Style (as well as a slew of other asian horror films) and don’t mind streaming, check this out:

      http://www.asian-horror-movies.com/surs.php

      Due to some copyright issues with some of the songs, off the top of my head I can think of Johnny Mathis and Cake’s version of ‘I Will Survive’ (which plays over that scene that sits at the top of this article), there isn’t much hope of an U.S. release here. I saw the movie at Otakon in 2006, and I imagine it can be purchased online from overseas. Otherwise, the link above is your best bet.

      I’d also turn your attention to almost everything else mentioned here in the comments. All terrific films, especially Daisy, The Assembly and I’m A Cyborg, but that’s Ok.

    • Bartleby December 4, 2009 at 7:01 am #

      a 14 year old because he disagrees with you? The original Eye wasn’t very original when it did show up. There wasn’t anything in it that we hadn’t seen before, and the ghosts were, a few of them, creepy, but everything else–like alot of what the Pang brothers do–was muddled and not all that well thought out. You cite Hero as being pompous, but to me the Eye was worse than that. It was dull.

      The key thing here, though, is it’s just opinions. I liked Hero, you liked The Eye. All good.

      • Jarv December 4, 2009 at 7:30 am #

        No- I assume 14 because of “Rubbish Asian Version”.

        Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for it because it was one of the first of the Asian Horror’s I saw.

      • Jarv December 4, 2009 at 7:30 am #

        C’mon man- you know me better than that, I’ve got no problem with people disagreeing with me.

      • Bartleby December 4, 2009 at 7:46 am #

        I know that Jarv. I just couldn’t tell from Fatsby’s response what would have made you say that. As I happen to know Fatsby, I know he saw the asian version far, far before he would have seen the remake.

        Like yourself, he has an extreme taste for schlock–also a big fan of the Lep series and stuff few other humans would watch–so I just take it as a given that he’s seen The Eye remake.

        He wasn’t saying ‘horrid asian version’ with any kind of disdain because it was asian. I think that Twilight TB has our radar for unreasonable thought going haywire.

      • Jarv December 4, 2009 at 7:49 am #

        Very possibly. Fucking Twilight.

        I may have to take it back.

  27. Droid December 4, 2009 at 6:22 am #

    I’ve only seen In The Mood For Love on this list! Lots to watch. Lots to watch.

    • Bartleby December 4, 2009 at 7:47 am #

      Droid, did you like it?

  28. Jarv December 4, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Also- this is a great list and covers a lot of different stuff- especially like the shout out to Clone.

    • Bartleby December 4, 2009 at 7:57 am #

      did you see Clone Jarv? Really blew me away.

  29. Jarv December 4, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    It’s a superb film- saw it round a mate’s house the other day. Knocked me back, but I want to let it stew for a while before I consider it for a best of anything.

    It’s too fresh for me to be objective about.

    • Bartleby December 4, 2009 at 8:11 am #

      Its been several months for me, and I haven’t been able to see it a second time, but honestly the impact of it was such that I didn’t feel right leaving it off. I did, twice, and then went back and added it. To my credit, it doesn’t feel like the kindof film that shrinks upon second viewings, but rather, expands.

    • Bartleby December 4, 2009 at 8:12 am #

      I actually mentioned that ‘too fresh’ conundrum.

  30. Jarv December 4, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Yeah, I’m totally with you. I just don’t think I can be objective about it yet

  31. lord bronco December 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    Mongol was flippin’ brilliant-I had to hear about that one from gals in the street-very cool list.

    Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance has the second best kill of the decade.

    You know which one I’m talking about.

  32. lord bronco December 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    Gahh-refired up the netflix instant view can watch the entire Vengeance trilogy right now.

    Ok but here’s the point:

    What about Tokyo Gore Police?

    Don’t tell me it doesn’t hold a special place in your hearts.

    • Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 9:42 am #

      Tokyo Gore Police, Machine Girl, Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl, Robo-Geish, etc. are goofy schlock to be sure, but I have a hard time thinking of them as movies. Just sooooo ridiculous. I was never as big a fan as others here, but I can see the appeal.

  33. lord bronco December 4, 2009 at 9:58 pm #

    Battle Rotaye added to queque-number one-they suggest I add 6 flicks, but that’s the one I want.

    • Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 9:43 am #

      just make you sure you skip battle royale 2. Devestatingly bad.

      • Jarv December 5, 2009 at 10:50 am #

        That’s an understatement.

        To be fair to BR2, the opening is great. It’s the rest of it that’s shit.

  34. lord bronco December 4, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    Battle Royale added to queque-number one-they suggest I add 6 flicks, but that’s the one I want.

    red cliff is next if I can swing it-parts one and two

  35. Continentalop December 5, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    I like the list, but I guess I fall into that list that doesn’t like Hero. I love Zhang Yimou’s earlier films, like Raise the Red Lantern, Jou Dou and Red Sorghum, but Hero just feels like a sell out to me. I’m one of those guys who thinks Chinese cinema was better im the late 80s/early 90s.

    And have you seen last years Oscar winner for best foreign film, Departures? Pretty damn good.

  36. Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    As for Iranian films, you know, I actually had one on the list–Color of Paradise. Ever seen it? Fantastic film. Also had a Turkish film called Turtles Can Fly going on the list. Ultimately decided to add them to my Top Foreign Language Films list–it’s coming next week along with top horror, top animation, and top documentary.

    Baran and The Lemon Tree are also some terrific films. Do you have any others you can recommend? I, unfortunately haven’t seen that many Iranian films. I did one devoted only to Asia because there’s just so much output there, and I’ve seen alot.

  37. Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    Also, Yimou’s Happy Times from 2000 was a great movie. I don’t see Hero as a sellout, but a tribute to that particular form, the wuxia film. I think if it is judged upon those criteria, then it’s a success. But, again, my opinion.

  38. Continentalop December 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    I dated a Persian girl for awhile, so I saw a bunch in the beginning of the decade (which is when all the good ones came out anyways it seems). Have not seen the Lemon Tree, but did see Baran and Color of Paradise and liked both. Other ones I liked were Khandahar, Osama (actually an Afghan film), The Blackboard, Time of Drunken Horses, and two I loved were Day I Became A Woman and The Circle (Didnt really care for a Abbas Kiarostami’s work this decade).

    Looking at your list, I realize there is a lot of Asian movies I missed this decade. Have to play catchup. Did see a lot of older Japanese movies though ( you ever see Vengeance is Mine? Fucking awesome).

  39. Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Khandahar and Time of Drunken Horses were great movies. Osama is also going to be on the other list. Fabulous movie.
    Vengeance is Mine from the director of The Eel? Yea, I have. Like a punch to the gut, that one.

  40. Continentalop December 5, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    Yeah, went to a Sohie Imamura retro and they played that with some of his other earlier film (like Insect Woman, Unholy Desire and Pigs & Battleships). I was really only familiar with the Eel and Black Rain, so Vengeance is Mine blwe me away.

    You’ve obviously seen more Asian movies than me, especially in the last decade. Any suggestions for good crime movies? Detective, Policier, Hiest, Gangster or Thrillers.

  41. Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    Yea. Some really stellar stuff out there. For starters, check this one out:

    https://cinematropolis.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/fantasia-fest-09-moral-darkness-pursues-the-chaser/

  42. Continentalop December 5, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    The Chaser. I was going to ask you about this movie. I remember you mentioning it to Eddie Muller at AIBN and I remember it sounded awesome. I just couldn’t remember the title.

    Definitely goes in the must-see pile, along with Pontypool, Clones, Daisy and Series 7.

  43. Bartleby December 5, 2009 at 7:39 pm #

    Others from this decade Conti:

    A Bittersweet Life: Another Korean crime picture. Very, very good. Following a family this time. South Korea does this stuff really, really well.

    Invisible Target: An off the cuff, totally entertaining Chinese cop film with some insane stunts. Jackie Chan’s son is in the movie. Great stuff.

    Rough Cut: An actor and a criminal team-up for a crazy action fiasco.

    Private Eye-relatively new, but a period drama murder mystery centerting around a forensic investigation. Reminded me a little bit of:

    Memories of Murder-the movie, not the talkbacker. If you haven’t seen it, see it.

    Mother-Joon Ho-Bong’s new one. Great, great movie. Hasn’t settled enough in my mind (see Jarv’s Clone comments above) to make the list, but it’s quite good.

    Running Wild-more Korean cop drama. Not as great as the other stuff mentioned, but still well worth seeing.

    Election-Johnnie To’s collection of films documenting the inner workings of criminal organizations. First film almost made the list.

    Attack the Gas Station: A bunch of thugs take over a convenience store gas station and start pitting the hostages against one another in strange social configurations.

  44. Cello December 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Hey man this is MY area, why am I late to the party? Regardless I have reviewed about 10 out of the 15 movies you have listed and they are all great picks. Hero is hated because it smainstream, if it remained indie…like Ip Man then it would have been better received. You and I know its awesome but you slap tarantinos name on it and America turns fickle.

    Great list man, and again, super jealous of all the traffic & comments you are getting 😛 But very much deserved. BTW I got my first piece of snow in Rockville this past weekend!

  45. Bartleby December 8, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    we got some here too, Cello! I suppose it was even more surprising for you. When was the last time you saw snow?

    Thanks for the kudos by the way. Are you gonna do a list? I’ll link an article over to ya, when you do…

    • Cello December 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

      I’ve never had snow I lived in Texas my whole life 😛

      Unfortunately, I am just going to stick to niche reviewing, writing articles is best handled by you and the rest of my affiliates. Besides my top 10 or 15 would probably look like everyone elses with the exception of taegukgi and The Chaser.

      I remember you recommended I watch The Divine Weapon and i gave that a look see 🙂

  46. Cello December 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    oh and in case you were wondering what this asian movie lovers #1 was…Oldboy is the PERFECT film, best movie of all time for me.

  47. lord bronco December 8, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Twilight Samurai-Wow-just watched it for the first time-made me tear up just a little-what a great flick! Perfect and brutal and emotional-great suggestion.

    makes me grumble about Tom cruise in “The Last Samurai”…*this* was the story of the last samurai-epic.

    • Bartleby December 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm #

      Kudos Bronco! I think it’s awesome you are seeing the films and dropping your critiques here. If you enjoyed Twilight Samurai(the actor playing Sebei is actually in Last Samurai, which I also liked, but not nearly as much) then you should definitely check out Hidden Blade and Love and Honor. Fantastic films.

  48. lord bronco December 8, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    The Host-just got to weird for me towards the end-which is a really unsubstantial critique, but I dunno-I just didn’t care or get it…

    • Bartleby December 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

      How much of the ending are we talking? The last 15 minutes, or the last minute or so?

      I’ve had complaints from others about the ending. I once showed it at a family get together and someone was actually angry at me based on that last bit.

  49. Continentalop December 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    I forget to say thanks for the list B. I’m gonna make sure I check out many of these after the Holidays (right now is the time for free screenings).

  50. Paragraph Film Reviews December 17, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Good list, no Bittersweet Life though!!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jarv goes to the takeaway and comes back with the 10 best Asian films of the decade « Werewolves On The Moon - December 4, 2009

    […] of that overblown shitfest Hero on his list of Asian films of the decade.  Which can be found here, and is up to his usual high standards. Go and read […]

  2. Manga Girl Pregnant « Naruto - December 4, 2009

    […] 15 Best Asian Films of the Decade « Cinematropolis […]

  3. Top 15 Foreign Films of the Decade « Cinematropolis - January 13, 2010

    […] I’ve already covered the Asian films (China, Japan, Korea, Thailand) over in this article HERE, so you won’t find any of those […]

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