WHAT TO WATCH ON STREAMING PLATFORMS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?
It’s not necessary to go out to enjoy great cinema – it’s right there on your screen! With these films you can discover the magic of Asian cinema comfortably and whenever you feel like it.
Since this particular time of the year is filled with love and closeness, let us start off with two heartwarming romantic films that break the kitschy vibe of Christmas productions and introduce their own nuanced cinematography.
The New Employee (Movie) (2023)
Dir. Kim Jho Kwang-soo, South Korea
When Seung-hyun (Moon Ji-yong) starts his first ever internship, he is faced with two very surprising challenges: being in love and being in love with his boss. Kim Jong-chan (Kwon Hyuk) is a strict, cold-hearted manager of Seung-hyun’s team in whom he falls in love at first sight. Their feelings develop, but it is not easy being lovers as a subordinate and a boss. Will their love for each other be strong enough to endure the challenges of an office life? In case you missed the screening of this lovely feel-good rom-com in LAB111 this December, you can catch it now and find out on Rakuten Viki (along with the mini series with the same title).
Us and Them (2018)
Dir. Rene Liu (Taiwanese), China
Somewhere between Yaojiang and Beijing, just before the New Year, two strangers meet by chance on a train. Their sincere love encourages them to fight the various obstacles they face, but will it be enough? Jing Boran and Zhou Dongyu bring us the rawest and realest representation of blossoming feeling, beautifully set in the winter landscapes of the fast-paced Beijing. Rene Liu successfully reminds us that if we wait just long enough, it might be too late to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” to those we cherish.
Sick of couples sticking their love in your face? Been there… If you’re not “in the mood for love” (see what we did there?), maybe some action will revive the Holiday spirit.
Marry My Dead Body (2022)
Dir. Cheng Wei-hao, Taiwan
A straight policeman with a questionable phobia of the gays and ghosts finds a red, mysterious envelope while collecting evidence. Wu Ming-han (Greg Hsu) soon encounters many difficulties in his life that have no logical explanation except one… He has to marry the ghost of Mao Pang-yu (Austin Lin) to get rid of the curse, but the spirit of Mao Mao has to find his killer in order to move on from the “in-between” world. The two join their forces in a thrilling adventure accompanied by fantastic music from Kay Liu.
The film received many nominations at the 60th Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan and won Best Adapted Screenplay Award.
Dir. Satoshi Kon, Japan
If you couldn’t catch one of the most grasping and astonishing films from Satoshi Kon, it is there for you on Netflix, (im)patiently waiting to unravel all its precious little secrets and mesmerising details. A group of scientists led by Atsuko brings to life a rather curious object – a machine which controls dreams. But as a mysterious individual steals the device, chaos ensues in the city, resulting in all kinds of strange creatures infecting the streets and terrorising people’s dreams. Adapted from a science fiction novel by Yatsutaka Tsutsui, Paprika will have goosebumps appear on your skin, but it will also make you excited to explore Kon’s fantastic works such as Perfect Blue (1997) or Tokyo Godfathers (2003).
With the rainy weather and shortest days of the year, it is easy to feel a bit down or discouraged (or maybe not). However, let us not forget the power of cinema. With these three uplifting and inspiring productions let us regain strength for the New Year (if necessary of course)!
Drive My Car (2021)
Dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan
Winner of the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards
Based on Haruki Murakami’s short story, the film takes you along on a journey through grief, passing and finding meaning in life. After a theatre director (Hidetoshi Nishijima) loses his wife, it is not easy for him to handle his emotions. Everything changes when he meets his assigned driver (Tōko Miura), who also lost someone in her life. The two of them embark, in a fabulous red Saab 900, on a journey to finally find peace and happiness. Enchanting cinematography brought by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe adds onto the deeply moving message the film conveys and makes you feel as if you’re the third passenger on board.
Plan 75 (2023)
Dir. Chie Hayakawa, Japan
As the Japanese government introduces a new bill called “Plan 75”, a 78-year-old Michi Kakutani (Chieko Baishô) ponders whether she should take part in the programme which aims to rejuvenate the ageing society by euthanasia. She crosses paths with Himoru (Hayato Isomura), a young salesman working for the programme and Maria (Stephanie Arianne), a Filipino care worker who struggles to provide for her family overseas. Chie Hayakawa scares us, at first, with the miserable vision of an emotionally drained society, however, her vision soon reveals itself to be hopeful rather than hopeless. This delicate film is a perfect choice for the Holiday season, as it reminds us to appreciate each other’s presence and to cherish life as it is.
In whichever mood you are this Holiday season, we hope at least one of these films inspired you to spend time with cinema. Films are like contacts you put in your eyes – with every single one you decide to watch, you put in a different lens and it takes you to places you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
And just like contacts, you pick films to watch when you can’t see clearly. This is the role of cinema – to aid you when you’re feeling down, overwhelmed or so happy you need to share it with someone, even if it’s just a bunch of fictional characters on screen. It makes every cell in your body move and buzz with emotion, making you excited to set on this new journey of experiencing film.
With this we wish you all the happiest, warmest and most beautiful Holidays and a wonderful start in the New Year!