5 Movies You Must Watch To Understand Modern Asian Cinema

5 Movies You Must Watch To Understand Modern Asian Cinema

Avatar of Paola Medina Lechuga

By: Paola Medina Lechuga

March 3, 2017

Movies 5 Movies You Must Watch To Understand Modern Asian Cinema
Avatar of Paola Medina Lechuga

By: Paola Medina Lechuga

March 3, 2017

When we talk about Asian cinema, we immediately think of Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Hayao Miyazaki, Japanese filmmakers who are pillars of Asian modern cinema. Unfortunately, we are simply limiting ourselves to one single culture and when think about this vast continent there are countless nations with rich and varied cultures waiting to be discovered. 

Take as an example Malayan filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, who has created some of the most beautiful movies of all times. You just have to watch Vive l'amour (1994), Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), or the hilariously disturbing erotic film, The Wayward Cloud (2005) to confirm it.

If you consider yourself a film buff, you've probably watched those acclaimed movies of film history, like the ones by Federico Fellini or Andrei Tarkovsky, but if you feel there's a blank space in your film catalogue, below are 5 fundamental movies you must watch.

Like Father, Like Son

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Japanese director Hirozaku Koreeda, best known for exploring family dynamics, memory, and loss in his films, was internationally acclaimed for this work in 2013 . Ryota Nonomiya is a successful architect, obsessed with work  and his family life is calm and happy. He has a great and loving relationship with his wife and his son. But this tranquility will soon be broken by an unexpected phone call from the hospital where his son was born.

Departures – Okuribito (2008)

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Okuribito means departure in Japanese. This beautiful movie by Yojiro Takita awarded him the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. The film deals with the importance of saying goodbye to someone we love and who has passed away. 

It tells the story of a young man called Daigo who, after losing his job, goes back with his wife to the house he's recently inherited from his mother in his home town. He gets a job as a mortician in the local funeral parlor. While his job alienates him from the community, with time the villagers come to understand the important role he plays. 

In the Mood for Love (2000)

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In the Mood for Love is a Wong Kar-wai movie set in 1962 Hong Kong. The way the director captures every detail of the protagonists' bodies expresses far more than the dialogues themselves. Chow, chief editor at a local newspaper, moves to a lodge apartment the same day as Su, a secretary at a marine company. Both are married, but due to job issues their partners have to travel a lot leaving them alone for a while. Both, shy and introverted, they manage to start a relationship.

It's a modern drama about love, secrecy, and love, narrated in an elegant, tender, and original way. We suggest having a box of tissues by your side, just in case.

Last Life in the Universe (2003)

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Directed by Thai filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, this is the story of a Japanese librarian named Kenji. He's an obsessive-compulsive solitary man who tries to kill himself just for the hell of it. In the same way, one day he kills his brother's murderer, which unleashes a chain of circumstances that endanger his life.

In the middle of this turmoil Kenji meets Noi, an eager pot smoker dealing with the recent death of her sister. It's a highly recommended comedy colored with absurd and acidic tints.

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

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Directed by the acclaimed director, Zhang Yimou, this film is set during Imperial China. It's the eve of the Chong Yang festival, and the palace is fully decorated with golden flowers. The Emperor, who had been on a trip, suddenly arrives with his second son to celebrate the festivity. As the day of the festival approaches, many secrets from the royal family come to light, as well as conspiracies, deceits, and resentments.

This director has marveled many spectators with amazing films like Not One Less (1999) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). Curse of the Golden Flower is an incredibly enjoyable film with excellent interpretations, especially Zhang Ziyi's job, who plays the main female lead.

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards