Here’s a beginner’s guide to the films of the Far East. What should be your entry point into the weird and wonderful cinema of the Orient?
Japanese Cinema: Akira Kurosawa is by far the most recognised Japanese director with his masterpieces Seven Samurai (1954), Rashomon (1950), Yojimbo (1961) and Ran (1985). Kurosawa is still one of the most innovative directors to have ever lived. Parallel to this, you also have the enchanting genre of Anime, including Cyberpunk masterpieces Akira (1988) and Ghost In The Shell (1996) as well as the Studio Ghibli classics Spirited Away (2001) and Grave of the Fireflies (1988), both of which explore themes of modernisation, nostalgia and paranoia with a profoundly Japanese take.
Hong Kong Cinema: John Woo is in many ways the epitome of Hong-Kong film; his work is energetic and although perhaps less artistic in nature, pictures such as Hard Boiled (1992) and The Killer (1989) still offer superb action sequences, succeeding where so many Hollywood blockbusters fall short. In addition, we have the work of actors like Kung-Fu legend Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon (1972), Andy Lau of Infernal Affairs (2002) fame and Jackie Chan whose early career offered martial art gems such as Drunken Master (1978).
Korean Cinema: Korean cinema perhaps has less to boast about than its neighbours, but in terms of introduction there is no place better to start than with Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy (2003), a surreal revenge tail that will leave you breathless, disorientated and captivated. Furthermore, we have The Host (2006) a horror film with a sense of humour, a political conscience and above all, a powerful conviction that makes for magnetic viewing.