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Kick to the FACE!

Last week, the Prince Charles Cinema played host to the first Terracotta Film Festival, a festival focusing on far eastern cinema. I had plans, oh such plans, but in the end only managed to attend one film – Hai kikku gâru! This is, of course, translated from the ‘japanese’ as High Kick Girl! (the ! is important).

Anyways, long story short – it’s rubbish.

I wanted to like it, but similar to Ong Bak, and not only in that it’s a vehicle composed around a specific martial artist (in this case 17 year old karate champion Rina Takeda), they have the horrible habit of repeating almost every single punch and kick in slow motion. As you’d expect from such a film there are a lot of punches and kicks and there are a lot of repeated slow motion pieces. Mixing it up and showing the slow motion first does not count as ‘being innovative’ and the film soon drags, as well as showing some of the more obviously composed pieces of action, much more obvious when shown in slow-mo. Unlike the rather impressive looking fighting that we’ve seen in a lot of the recent ‘real hitting’ martial arts movies (hello obvious comparison ‘Chocolate‘), karate is not as flashy and as such most of the fight scenes fall a bit flat – it may be impressive from a technical point of view, but not from a martial arts movie point of view. Combine that with the film not really knowing what it wants to do, switching from humour to fairly brutal slow motion scenes of the titular heroine being beaten up (with little flair, just nasty looking punches and kicks), and it feels muddled. The title is also rather misleading, with Kei, the high kicking girl, being very much a secondary character for most of the second half of the film, and Matsumura, her sensei, running the show. Of the three others I went to see it with two liked it and one fell asleep – take from that what you will.

I annoyingly missed the film that I really wanted to see, Dream by Kim Ki-Duk (director of the excellent 3 Iron), which I got the time right for but the day wrong, but the rest of the line-up looked rather good and varied. I’ll be keeping an eye out for next year’s festival and hopefully not only will there be a next year, but I’ll also make it along for a few more movies.

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