Happy Lunar New Year, Everyone! If you don’t celebrate this holiday, take this opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture. We already have a list of don’ts for Chinese New Year. Today, we wanted to show a side of their culture a lot of people don’t take the time to appreciate: cinema. Hollywood isn’t the only place that churns out hits, Chinese movies are definitely ones to watch. I have seen some and a few are also part of my favorite movies list as well. If you’re clueless with this topic, I listed five films from different genres that you can start with and make your way from there.
In the Mood for Love
Romance movies have a tendency to cross the cheesy line, but this one is far from that. It’s unconventional and the emotion will hit your right in the gut. It is set in Hong Kong 1962 focusing on two characters, Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen. Both move into the same apartment building with their spouses. However, their spouses are never home. One is always away on business while the other is busy with work. The two end up becoming close friends. Aside from the story, the cinematography of this film is great. Notice the use of color and mirrors. Also, Su Li-zhen’s outfits are always on point.
Big Fish and Begonia
Trust me when I say this animated movie isn’t just for little ones. A lot goes on in the storyline so make sure you pay attention or you’ll get lost. It starts with a 16-year-old girl named Chun who lives in a mystical land located beneath the human world. As part of a coming-of-age ritual she, along with other 16-year-old, experiences the human world as a dolphin. There, she feels a connection with a boy who sacrificed his life to save her from a fishing net. Overcome with sadness, she tries to bring him back using magic. What follows is a bunch of fantasy-filled scenes you’ll just have to watch and see for yourself.
There are so many martial arts movies out there but this has to be one of my favorites. For a film that was released in 1982, it feels ahead of its time. This one is set in ancient China and shifts between present time in the movie and many flashbacks. In the beginning, a fighter approaches the king to be honored for killing three of his enemies. The fighter recounts each battle with Broken Sword, Flying Snow, and Moon. The fight scenes are so beautifully choreographed, you won’t be able to look away. The use of color is also very special throughout the film.
Raise the Red Lantern
This drama film set in 1920 China gets really intense. The main character is Songlian, a teenage girl who is forced to become the third concubine of Master Chin after her father dies. She and the two other women Zhuoyan and Meishan are then pitted against each other to get the attention of Master Chen. In doing so, dark secrets are revealed involving witchcraft, deception, and even murder.
Detective Chinatown 2
Let’s finish off this list with something more lighthearted. Detective Chinatown 2 has equal parts comedy and mystery-solving. The main characters find themselves in New York and end up joining a global detective contest with a cash prize. The detective work can get serious but the movie is peppered with funny one-liners and overall comedic relief.
Art by Marian Hukom
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