Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch

Whether it’s Wang Cong’er taking up her righteous sword against the Qing Dynasty or Ching Shih living the freest possible life yet expressed, rebellion lies at these restless hearts. Where there is war, there are warriors, and where there are warriors, there are warrior women. It’s really that simple, and so I think it’s only right how we’ve gone to great lengths, by way of mythology and science both, to complicate it. Selective history is exactly that — it is conscious. Before I raise hell about all the Chinese warrior women omitted from my American public school education, what about all the important American women of history I only learned about later and at random? Why were they excluded? Did the people who made the choice to exclude even know about them? Were they excluded for them too, and then, who was the original excluder? By George, this goes all the way to the top, or at least, to some rather unpleasant gentleman. … More Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch

Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China

What about Mulan? I always thought she was a real historical figure, maybe because she was also pretty. The movie has only a dash of the supernatural — seasoned just right — and we certainly never learned about Chinese history in school, so how, before I looked it up, could I have known, how? Well, it turns out that the Mulan story dates back to a poem, not an actual, factual woman who rode off to war in her father’s place. But that’s such a good story, I want it to be real. And because our perception today of Mulan is so tied in with female empowerment, that she’s the Disney princess who kicks butt and challenges a woman’s place in society, shouldn’t that have some basis in reality? Obviously you can enjoy the Mulan story or the movies any way you’d like, and feel empowered by them, so the answer is no. But if the answer is yes, the question “Was Mulan real?” becomes “Is Mulan believable?” And to answer that question, I’d like to take a look today at the historical figures with similar stories, and their depictions in movies. Because it’s not enough that Mulan has spiritual sisters, we have to understand that she does. And so, our story begins where a lot of great stories begin. … More Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China

Zeiram 2

With genre storytelling especially, there’s a useful distinction between episodes of a film series and those of a television show. The production gap is certainly greater in film, even over television seasons, but with it comes a broader sense of returning. When tuned right, this feeling can be profound, even melancholy or nostalgic: a reflection of life itself, ever churning forward in episodes of our own. So it is, too — profound — with Zeiram 2, a movie where sometimes characters teleport, and sometimes they don’t. This 1994 follow-up to our first Terminator-style alien mash captures the joy of sequels, being as excited in its presentation as I am watching it. It’s been three years since Iria, Teppei, Kamiya, and Bob escaped the Zone, and our reacclimation to their lives brings gentle revelations. Ever the aliens themselves, Teppei and Kamiya have not been ranting and raving about outer dimensions, discredited as quacks like Dr. Ian Malcolm between Jurassic Park and The Lost World. However, their friendship is feeling the slight strain of age, and this is first among the subtle departures Zeiram 2 takes from the original. I suppose what they have is indeed a friendship, and that also extends to Iria. With so much of their character left undefined as a result of their habitual strangeness, I never thought to apply a term like that. As soon as it materializes, it’s at stake. … More Zeiram 2

Zeiram

Zeiram is a film of details. Necessarily so; the big picture is murky, with its strange plot and stranger circumstances. The mystery of Iria: Zeiram the Animation, or at least, the mystery of its awkward title, terminates here, in a live-action Japanese science-fiction film from 1991. It’s directed by Keita Amemiya, and I’ve long wondered the how and why of this man. What market granted passage to the wellspring of his imagination? It remains a mystery to me even after watching the film, which offers no clear rationale for its existence and yet exists so loudly. All of its details, whether protagonist Iria’s braids which have cultural meaning or every gun and piece of armor that’s associated with a proper noun, seem to be shouting a franchise into being. On closer inspection however, these details are also shouting in a strange, wonderful language, and this might be its downfall. In total, there are two Zeiram features, a six-episode OVA (the Animation), and a PlayStation video game. As soon as it arrived, it was gone, and all follow-up questions went with the solar wind. … More Zeiram

Julie Estelle | The Future of Action Cinema

If you are a movie producer anywhere in the world and you’re looking to make an action movie, there’s someone I need to make sure you know about: Julie Estelle, an Indonesian actress. Now, like many other American filmgoers, I first saw Julie Estelle in The Raid 2: Berandal, in which she played Hammer Girl. The Raid 2 is great movie, and Hammer Girl was a wonderful addition to the cast. But while she was an important supporting role, there is more to roles than even being extremely interesting. … More Julie Estelle | The Future of Action Cinema

Furie

Furie was a mega-hit in Vietnam and became a crossover success; I watched it on Netflix. It’s tempting to ascribe a Thailand/Indonesia breakout narrative here, as the film’s aesthetics recall Ong-Bak Muay: Thai Warrior and Merantau, and the passion behind its making suggests national pride. It broke box office records across the country and provided Vietnam its Oscar submission for 2019. However, this is not an actual debut. The cinema of Vietnam is older and more storied than I realized, and that lack of awareness is partly why I hope Furie indicates the path forward. Gorgeous and confident, graced by moody color and a free-flowing camera, there’s no mistaking it for the unrefined opening statement of a burgeoning industry, as in Ong-Bak and Merantau, but without those rough edges, it comes up short on character. … More Furie