Toronto is the warehouse of film festivals — huge, serve-yourself; the New York Film Festival is a highly edited boutique with limited seating capacity and showcase cachet. Of the 25 films shown there this year, then, the fact that a third are by Asian directors marks an important fashion trend, recognition that Asian cinema continues to flower as one of the world’s most vibrant, least internationally homogenized art forms.
Equally noteworthy: At press time, all but two of the films have American distributors. In the captivating contemporary drama Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Oct.), Taiwanese director Edward Yang rides the rhythms of modern family life among three generations of middle-class Taipei urbanites. Contrast Yang’s low-keyed realism with the color-saturated elegance of Chunhyang (Dec.), an 18th-century fairy-tale retelling of a famous national epic love story by the prolific Korean master Im Kwon Taek. The gorgeousness of Chunhyang, in turn, is nothing like that of Gohatto (Taboo) (Oct.), a dreamy story of 19th-century samurai from Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses). And Oshima, in turn, speaks an entirely different dialect from that wildly deadpan talent Takeshi Kitano (Fireworks), who directs and stars in Brother (April), one of his freakily stylish yakuza morality tales.
Among Asian auteurs, there’s no one as avant-garde-romantic as Wong Kar-wai, whose In the Mood For Love (Feb.), lush with 1962 Hong Kong style, is likely to inspire a craze for cheongsams, those slim, high-collared dresses. Then again, so exciting are the fight scenes in Ang Lee’s thrilling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Dec.) that all of Asia ought to be on guard against an invasion of Hollywood moviemakers, seeking more Eastern flavor for Western consumption.