What’s New In The World Cinema Club

It’s been a while since we updated you all with our latest inductees to the World Cinema Club, so here’s what you might have missed. And, we really recommend you hunt down these foreign language gems if you can.

We’ve reviewed two foreign language films recently which were released in the UK in 2016 (although they have been around in other countries for a while now). First up, is ‘Victoria’, a German film which is a one-take masterpiece, and so much more. This crime-drama is beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, and a genuine must-see. We also highly recommend Turkish flick ‘Mustang’, a drama about the oppression of young girls in a patriarchal society. Both harrowing and inspiring in equal measure, this is a strong, feminist film that you simply can’t ignore.

So, please take a look at these films if you can track them down, and let us know what you think. Hopefully our World Cinema Club recommendations can cure widespread subtitle phobias one day.

Hong Kong Cinema: Top 5

Hong Kong cinema, I believe, is completely different to mainland Chinese cinema. There are a number of fairly obvious reasons why and probably the biggest is Hong Kong’s long colonial history under British rule. Hong Kong cinema had almost no government funding and filmmakers were therefore free to produce the products that they wanted, which were commercial in the main, as all funding had to be raised in the private sector.

For many years Hong Kong cinema proliferated, coming third in world output after Indian cinema and Hollywood. With Hong Kong’s return to China in the mid-90s, film production has continued to dominate and produce a distinctly different form of cinema. These films are made in Cantonese and Mandarin for East Asia audiences. Below are five films – in no particular order – that everyone should see as they typify the long and rich history of Hong Kong filmmaking.


 1. ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973); Action with lots of martial arts (English, Cantonese); Directed by Robert Clouse

This was Bruce Lee’s final film before he died at the age of 32. This film has often been described as the greatest martial arts film of all time and it’s also the first Hong Kong martial arts film to be produced by a major Hollywood studio – Warner Bros. Bruce Lee plays a Shaolin martial arts expert who is invited by the evil Mr Han (Shih Kien) to a martial arts competition on a remote Island. ‘Enter The Dragon’ involves plenty of action, treachery and revenge and with Lee at the fore – an incredibly charismatic actor – the action scenes are outstanding. You’ll need to be forgiving because some of the dialogue is weak and the dubbing is at times terrible, but ‘Enter The Dragon’ is well worth a watch.

Available: Netflix, Amazon to rent and DVD


2. ‘Infernal Affairs’ (2002); Thriller (Cantonese with English subtitles); Directed by Andrew Lau, Alan Mak

Martin Scorsese loved this film so much that he had it translated and made into Oscar gold in the form of ‘The Departed’. The original though, is a taut thriller involving a new police officer who goes undercover in the triad, and a gangster who joins the police force as a mole reporting back to the triad boss. Although Scorsese’s effort is identical in story and content, it omits the incredible gun fight scenes that are carefully choreographed and particular to the Hong Kong original.

Available: Amazon Video, Netflix

3. ‘Days of Being Wild’
(1990); Drama (Cantonese, English subtitles); Directed by Wong Kar-wei

This film features some of the most successful actors ever to grace Hong Kong cinema. Set in Hong Kong and the Philippines in 1960, Yuddy (Leslie Cheung) is a playboy, renowned for breaking hearts and avoiding any commitment. He finds out from the alcoholic ex-prostitute who raised him that she is not his mother and she refuses to tell him who is. This sets Yuddy on a search of discovery. A different kind of discovery to the one we’re imploring you to take, but a riveting one all the same.

Available: Amazon Video, Netflix


4. ‘The Love Eterne’ (1963); Drama/Huangmei Opera/Musical (English subtitles in places); Directed by Li Han Hsiang

In this instance, the history and the power of the Shaw Brothers studio in Hong Kong cannot be underestimated. Produced by Run Run Shaw during the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema, this film was a big deal on its release. Coming from a background of opera and theatre production, the three Shaw brothers dominated everything cinematic in Hong Kong for several decades. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a little gem of a film even if you hate musicals (which I do vehemently).

Available: I’m not sure where – on US Netflix and a few download channels – fairly rare but worth seeking out.


5. ‘Chungking Express’ (1994); Drama/Romance (Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Japanese with English subtitles); Directed by Wong Kar-wai

This film made Quentin Tarantino cry, simply because he was “happy to love a movie this much”. That aside, this is very much a film lover’s film. Arty, cerebral and highly stylised – the film incorporates two discrete love stories featuring Faye (Faye Wong) and two lovesick policemen that have been jilted. A great soundtrack and defining foreign language film of the 90s with a bunch of awards; ‘Chungking Express’ is slightly strange and totally captivating.

Available: Netflix, Amazon DVD

So, if you thought the films of China and Hong Kong were one and the same, think again. Check out these films and then say a big thank you to Wan Tyszkiewicz for introducing you to the magic of Hong Kong cinema.

South Korean Cinema: Top 5

As part of our ongoing World Cinema Club, I was asked to compile a brief list of my South Korean favourites, as if it were being pitched to someone who didn’t know where to begin. More widely known for their violent and stubby thrillers – owed largely to the spike in distribution from Tartan Asia Extreme, allowing them to piggy-back off the success of Japanese horrors – South Korean cinema has much more depth to it than first meets the eye.

South Korean cinema experienced a turbulent history, marred by political conflict and censorship, but it was in the late 1990s, along with the cap on foreign cinema, that South Korea saw a rise in homegrown talent. As a result, the festival plaudits began to fall into place for a wide variety of films, ticket sales were through the roof, budgets got bigger and, despite much opposition from overseas, home audiences were finally able to experience the untapped potential of South Korean cinema.

The films below are not supposed to be a definitive list, but these represent a variety of films (divided by genre) that I have personally enjoyed the most while continuing to dig deep into the back-catalogue of South Korean cinema. All of the titles below are available on Amazon DVD and Amazon Instant Video.

the host

1.’The Host’ (2006); Sci-Fi; Director Joon Ho Bong

At the time of its release, this film was the highest grossing South Korean film of all time and swept up at the prestigious Blue Dragon and Asian film awards. The movie centres around a regular sized Godzilla-like sea monster that kidnaps a man’s daughter, and the father’s multiple attempts to find where she is and bring her home. It is the perfect blend of horror, thriller and sci-fi, while at the same time maintaining the expected South Korean satirical edge that makes their films so enjoyable, taking on anyone from the government, to protesters and even a subtle dig at the USA.

If you’ve seen this, and want more sci-fi, check out these titles; Flu, Save The Green Planet,I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK, Tidal Wave, A Werewolf Boy.


2. ‘A Bittersweet Life’ (2005); Crime; Director Kim Jee-woon

Lee Byung-hun is one of the most critically acclaimed actors from South Korea, and I rank ‘A Bittersweet Life’ as his best work (you might recognise him from GI Joe and Red 2, but don’t let that be a reflection of his talent). This film perfectly encapsulates everything I love about South Korean cinema and their representation of gangsters. Stylish, violent, backed with a compelling script and rooted just enough within the realms of plausibility for it to keep you on edge. The story is a simple one; what will a gangster do when the boss he has worked so hard to gain the trust of asks him to do something that finally poses a moral challenge? Disobey and risk everything, or carry out the act and live with the guilt.

If you’ve seen this, and want more gangster films, check out these titles; Friend, The Nameless Gangster, A Dirty Carnival, New World, Public Enemy


3. ‘Poetry’ (2010); Drama; Director Chang-dong Lee

Not all South Korean films have to be about stabbing, monsters and gangsters, and if you want to start with a genuine, heartfelt drama, you would be hard-pressed to find a better one than ‘Poetry’. Winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2010, this tells the story of a grandmother struggling to come to terms with early Alzheimer’s Disease, while also managing the repercussions of her reckless grandson’s actions. Despite the subject matter, it never feels overly sad or intentionally seeking cheap sympathy – it is natural, with fantastic performances, but by no means easy viewing.

If you’ve seen this, and want more dramas, check out these titles; Revivre, Oasis, Miracle in Cell No. 7, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, Masquerade, King and the Clown


4. ‘Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War’ (2004); War; Director Je-gyu Kang

‘Brotherhood: Taegukgi’ shows the horrendous events that took place on the front line during the Korean War. Within this, we are told the story of two brothers from South Korea, Jin-Tae (Jang Dong-Gun) and Jin-Seok (Won Bin), both nabbed in the aggressive conscription imposed on them from their government, and sent off to fight a war they wanted nothing to do with. Two incredible performances from the leads and a captivating storyline with action sequences that leave you speechless, this big-budget epic by Kang Je-gyu requires no comparisons to others in the war genre. It is ridiculously good, and could stand up against any other war film out there.

If you’ve seen this, and want more War based films, check out these;  Haemoo, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, Joint Security Area, Silmido, Welcome to Dongmakgol, Ode to My Father


5. The ‘Vengeance’ Trilogy (2002-2005); Thriller; Director Chan Wook-Park

Now I’m probably cheating with this entry, since I was asked to select 5 titles, but if it had to be a singular entry it would be ‘Old Boy’ (2003) – and I don’t mean the terrible remake released a couple of years ago by Spike Lee, but the original one. This is the one film that turned me onto South Korean cinema, about a man played by Min Sik-Choi, trapped in a room for 15 years only to be released and told he must find his captor. This film has so much going for it, it does not give you a moment to rest, culminating with an ending that completely redefined what I thought a film could be; it pulls the rug from under you in such a way that you never really fully recover. The performances, the music, the cinematography, the story…there is not one bad feature about this film for me.

What some may not know (and I say some, because fans of it will) is that it is part of a trilogy by Chan Wook-Park. The stories do not link together, but the theme of revenge runs rampant throughout each tale. Before ‘Old Boy’, you had ‘Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance’, a tale of desperation and revenge as a man struggles to find the money to fund a kidney transplant for his sister. Our main character is a deaf-mute, who has lost his job, who with no options left, looks to the black market and other darker channels to get the kidney. It is an intense, unpredictable thriller that much like ‘Old Boy’, will leave you reeling.

Finally, ‘Sympathy For Lady Vengeance’. The stylish, violent third film in the trilogy, as a woman who believes she was wrongly imprisoned takes revenge on those that put her there, with the help of those she met. Much like the other films in the trilogy, this just oozes class. It is this definitive style that has infected cinephiles and turned the South Korean cinema industry into an attractive, international powerhouse. The ability to push the boundaries in such a way that it does not cheapen the overall film itself is a hard thing to execute, and yet more often than not, it is achieved in South Korean cinema. As I’ve hopefully alluded to here, there is much more to it than these types of films, but when they are this good, there is no shame in spending your time simply working your way through the Thriller genre – as it’s arguably their best export, and I’d say they’re the best at it in the world.

If you’ve seen this, and want more Thrillers, check out these; The Man From Nowhere,The Yellow Sea, I Saw The Devil, Hide & Seek, Mother, Memories of Murder, The Chaser, The Berlin File, Tale of Two Sisters

So there you have it; no excuses not to get into the wonderful films South Korea has to offer now. This list was compiled by one of our World Cinema experts Mark Blakeway.

Chinese Cinema: Top 5

Over the last twenty years, mainland China’s cinematic work has become more readily available. China has a long and well-established history of filmmaking; like many other nations that have oppressed free speech and personal expression, Chinese filmmakers with a message had to bury it under layers of content and symbolism.

You might have already seen a couple of these films, but if you haven’t, then these five films are an easy entry into a rich and cultural collection. 



1. ‘Farewell My Concubine’ (1993); Drama (Mandarin with English subtitles); Director Chen Kaige (surname first in Chinese)

Available on DVD and also available on Netflix with subscription.

I’m kicking this little list off with my favourite – a sumptuous drama spanning half a century of the cultural revolution and its impact on the Chinese population. The film focuses on the lives of two men who meet when they are young boys and are enrolled in the Peking opera. Director Chen joined the Red Guards as a teenager before studying film at the Beijing Film Academy. Like many others, Chen denounced his father to the authorities – a terrible mistake which many believe has greatly influenced his artistic visual storytelling and his desire to make amends. The film was banned in China for many years as it was interpreted as a criticism of the ruling Chinese authorities. ‘Farewell my Concubine’ is a stunning, beautiful film and a 1993 Palme d’Or winner.

Raise the Red Lantern

2. ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ (1991); Drama (Mandarin with English subtitles); Director Zhang Yimou

Available to rent from LoveFilm by post, DVD to buy at Amazon UK, Netflix with subscription and somewhere on YouTube there is a full version with English subtitles.

Set in 1920s China – sometimes referred to as the Warlord era before the Chinese Civil War – ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ is a story about tradition, enslavement and subservience. Songlian, the protagonist, is a nineteen year old girl who is taken as the fourth wife (concubine in reality) of a wealthy local warlord. The wives compete against each other for the attention of their husband; each wife has a red lantern outside her room and if her lantern is lit and raised then she has been selected to spend the night with her master. The film focuses on the duplicity of the females in the household, fighting to be the first lady and the fact that none of them can ever escape. ‘Raise The Red Lantern’ has gorgeous costumes and is another sumptuously colourful film; however, it’s the presence of the very talented Gong Li that steers this film to award winning success (BAFTA winner, Oscar nomination 1992). Gong Li also stars in ‘Farewell My Concubine’.


3. ‘House of Flying Daggers’ (2004); Drama (Mandarin with English subtitles); Director Zhang Yimou

Available on Amazon Video, DVD from pretty much anywhere and iTunes

This is an elegant and surreal all-action martial arts film with a strong love story. What you need to know is that the martial arts element in this film is in the Wuxia (pronounced woo-sha) style. This is a Chinese-specific genre that features martial arts, sorcery and features a hero with humble beginnings. The visuals in this film are the key to its success and the martial arts scenes that play out like dance moves. At a time when ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Blade’ were getting everyone talking, this was the film mopping up the international awards.


4. ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ (2000); Action/Drama (Mandarin); Director Ang Lee

Available on Sky, Netflix and Amazon to buy/watch.

This film really kicked it all off and found a huge new audience for Chinese cinema in the West. Martial arts had always been associated with the cinema of Hong Kong. This was an international production from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and US starring big recognisable names and directed by a much respected Taiwanese director, Ang Lee. Another film in the Wuxia style ‘Crouching Tiger’ delivers brilliant martial arts action scenes, magic, treachery and compelling performances from Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-fat. Neither of these actors spoke Mandarin as a native tongue and this was heavily criticised by audiences when it was released in China. ‘Crouching Tiger’ picked up over 40 awards and became the highest-earning foreign language film in the history of American cinema.

Blind Shaft

5. ‘Blind Shaft’ (2003); Crime/Drama (Mandarin); Director Li Yang

Available on Netflix Hidden Gems.

This is a diversion from the previous, colourful and action-packed recommendations, but ‘Blind Shaft’ is a really good film with comedic moments. Gritty enough to be banned in China, the film is about a couple of con-artists working in terrible conditions in an illegal coal mine. They hatch a plot to murder a fellow worker and make it look like a work related accident in order to gain compensation. ‘Blind Shaft’ was the winner of the Silver Bear award at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival.

So there you have it; no excuses not to get into the wonderful films China has to offer now. This list was compiled by one of our World Cinema experts Wan Tyszkiewicz.

World Cinema Club: Seal Of Approval

The JumpCut UK World Cinema Club is now up and running, with ‘Son Of Saul’ the first film to get the seal of approval from our World Cinema experts Wan Tyszkiewicz and Mark Blakeway.

Each month, you’ll get at least two reviews of foreign language films from these guys, as well as information regarding how you can watch the films. Looking back on previous reviews, we have given the World Cinema Club seal of approval to the following films:

Look out for more recommendations from the JumpCut UK World Cinema Club on Friday as Wan reveals her top 5 films from China.

The JumpCut UK World Cinema Club

In an attempt to make us all a little more culturally enriched, JumpCut UK launches our World Cinema Club, where each month we will review one classic foreign language film, one new release foreign language film and bring you a couple of Top 5 lists for different countries and filmmakers. 

The first selection for the World Cinema Club comes from Hungary, in the form of Oscars 2016 frontrunner ‘Son Of Saul’. Click here to read our review of ‘Son Of Saul’ and look out for the film in UK cinemas from 29th April 2016.