Don't have a title for this one... How did I miss this?! Two days ago I just heard of the Indonesian film Merantau released in 2009 and got to watching it. The verdict? Well... remember when you first saw Tony Jaa (Panom Yeerum) on screen for the first time, in Ong Bak? Remember how you lost your shit when you realized that Jackie Chan now had a viable young successor? Well yes, it was kind of like that. Merantau is a high-octane martial arts film in which a young man from the Indonesian countryside heads to Jakarta (capital city of Indonesia) to go on some sort of life-experience pilgrimage or something like that. Not really sure why he has to do this, but apparently its a tradition in his village, or something like that. The young man is a high-level practitioner of the Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat.
So naturally on his trip to the big city, he gets wrapped up in all sorts of troublesome situations which revolve around a young go-go dancer, her kid brother, and a bunch of evil gangsters headed by two evil FRENCH MEN!!! (At least, I think their french - a reference to Indonesia's colonial past perhaps?) These situations put the hero, Yuda, played by Iko Uwais, Indonesia's new man of action, in all sorts of danger in which he must use his silat skills to dispatch any number of bad guys. So yes, pretty similar to Ong Bak, only without the Buddha head and in Indonesia instead of Thailand. Rural guy goes to the big city to fight gangsters with crazy martial skill (Trailer below).
The action scenes are top notch, featuring all manner of stunts and creative choreography with enough jolts per second to make you say things like "holy shit!" or "did that just happen?!" ...yeah, it's good stuff. Iko's latest movie is coming out this month, called "Serbuan Maut" or if you prefer the English name "The Raid: Redemption". It's about a swat team that raids an apartment building which is a crime lord's base of operations. It looks INSANE, must watch!
And in other news, I recently watched Wang Xiaoshi's 2001 film, Beijing Bicycle. Its the story of a young man from China's countryside, who get's a job in Beijing as a bicycle courier. Eventually his bike gets stolen and sold to a poor and frustrated high school student who's trying to fit in with his friends, all of whom have bikes. Eventually the courier finds the bike and there is this whole dilemma of who the bike actually belongs to. Its a well directed, well acted film, featuring some interesting commentary about the differences between China's poor rural communities vs. its rich urban cities. I found the film to be very affecting as you find yourself both sympathizing and empathizing with both characters. Check it out if you can!
and finally, having no money suuuuuuuuuucks. This weekend, in Toronto is the annual conference for the Association for Asian Studies. The conference has several panels featuring big names in East Asian scholarship. Only problem, its like 50 bucks to get in for students (Damn son!) and I just don't have money right now (ㅜ_ㅜ - Korean sad face). If you have money and want to check it out go to:
Oh yes... and Hanbando just KEEPS GETTING BETTER!