A Conversation With An Angry Video Game Nerd

by Matthew Hawkins

It’s that time again, in which I return to my old stomping grounds, aka Washington State. To recharge those batteries, since mine are pine scented, to get away from the Big Apple when it’s stinkiest, even though summer in NYC’s been mild this year, and… to put the finishing touches on the 2014 Edition of Game Art/Chiptune/Indie Arcade/Drinkathon Seattle Special, which this time is named Fangamer [HEART] Attract Mode!

We’re a little over 48 hours way till showtime, though we’re also a little over 24 hours removed from… the final world premiere screening of Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie? It makes sense to have its final public showing before becoming available via VOD on September 2nd. But why am I even mentioning this? Because I honestly can’t think of a better way to introduce pictures taken at the NYC premier, earlier this month.

I wasn’t there myself, but FORT90.com’s ace photo Earl Madness, aka Joseph Micheal Baldovin was. And here’s what he witnessed, which not surprisingly, saw James Rolfe receiving a hero’s welcome…

Here’s the trailer for those who haven’t seen it. Anyhow, you’ll have to ask Earl Madness what he thought (and kicking myself for getting to do so myself; hey man, the weeks leading up to PAX Prime is always rough going, so please excuse me). Though I may as well share my thoughts on “the Nerd”; in the beginning, I wasn’t a fan.

Because the whole concept of an angry nerd makes my eyes roll and even my stomach roll, mostly due to the fact I’ve encountered way too many folks who are like that in real life. Hence why I never gave Rolfe’s videos a shot for the longest time. But I finally decided why the hell not, around the time I began taking my YouTube viewing seriously (i.e. subscribing to channels, as a replacement to regular cable). And next thing you know, I was hooked?

Rolfe made me realize that watching videos centered around a person playing and critiquing a game could be entertaining (I had mostly been exposed to piss poor copy cats beforehand), and it’s because of the Angry Video Game Nerd that I now spend a large portion of my viewing time on similar efforts, or at least the few good ones out there (most are still hot garbage, alas). Though, just to be clear, I only watch folks play old/obscure games, plus post production is an absolute must. Most livestreams either bore or annoy me to death, unless its fish playing Street Fighter.

Granted, I’m still not a fan of the toilet humor of the AVGN, but it is what it is. Now, does that mean I want to see the movie? Eh… I’m curious. At the very least, it is admittedly somewhat of a milestone; Rolfe did essentially revolutionize how video games are viewed on the internet, via hort films, so it is a big deal that it made the transition to the big screen. I ultimately fear something along the lines of the Mr. Show movie, or the Tim & Eric movie (i.e. something that work best in a short bursts, being painfully stretched out to a feature length).

I also feel bad that he was beaten to the punch, i.e. the plot point centering around those E.T. cartridges buried in a New Mexico landfill, by Microsoft of all folks (and I’d be so much more interested in the aforementioned documentary if it wasn’t just a vehicle to sell Xbox TV). Anyway, I’ll be missing tomorrow night’s final big screen appearance (which has been long sold out anyway) and instead may view it on my computer, where the Angry Video Game Nerd normally dwells.

Until then, here’s a brief interview that Earl Madness conducted before the NYC screening. Among the points touched upon: the long road leading up, the South Park-esque alternate version that the public will never see, what it’s like for a guy who has traditionally made YouTube vids all by himself to all of a sudden work with the large cast and crew that comes with “real movies”, and how many shirts the Nerd when through…

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So what does the NYAFF 2014 have up its sleeves this time? Let’s see; a salaryman’s troubles with dominatrixes, the absolute worst mother in the world, and double feature that shows us how far hopping vampires from Hong Kong have come over the years…


The latest from one of the funniest men in all of Japan, Hitoshi Matsumoto, might be his best effort to date. R100 purposely kicks off on a rather low key fashion, though the underlining premise is pretty wacky as-is: Takafumi Katayama is your everyday, totally boring and bland salaryman who signs up for a service in which women in bondage attire humiliate and torture the guy. The key detail here is how he has zero idea when and where these dominatrixes will appear, whether it be at work, on his way home from the store, or even in his wife’s hospital room Oh, so more about Katayama: his wife has been in a coma for over four years and misses her dearly, but there seems to be no signs of recovery. Katayama is also a devoted father who does his best to raise his son single-handedly to the best of his degree, with some help from his father in law, as the lovable grandpa. So Katayama’s life is a difficult one, so perhaps it can be excused that needs some kind of release to ease the burden, and when the bondage women lay it into him, the dude is in heaven. As illustrated by the waves of euphoria that emanates from his head; the CGI effect, in which Katayama’s face becomes distorted via perverted pleasure, is genuinely creepy.

Inevitably, the service begins to cross the line, like the aforementioned visit in the room that Katayama’s wife is at rest, but because the contract he signs states that there is no cancellation, the doms begin to intensify their efforts, to the point in which his son is sucked in. Thing become progressively wackier and nonsensical, as evidenced by the types of bondage women who show up. There’s one who is “The Queen of Voices”, so she’s good at impersonating people that Katayama knows, “The Queen of Saliva”, who’s good at spitting on Katayama, and “The Queen of Gobbling”, as in gobbling things up. Like eating people. It is eventually revealed that R100 is directed by a hundred year old man and we often cut away to studio execs discussing what they just saw, which is what we just saw, and going over what a mess the movie is. Some of the questions they ask are pretty sound, though some shows a definite lack of imagination, as you’d expect from higher ups at a movie studio that only think about the bottom line. Though the director figured that his work would be misunderstood, and notes that you have to be a 100 to really understand. And the studio folk ask: how many hundred years olds actually go to the theater these days?

Back to the movie within the movie: when one of the dominatrixes accidentally dies, the service vows revenge, so Katayama must go on the lamb. We are then given pool side interviews by the dearly departed bondage woman’s pals, who recall the good times had with ”The Queen of Gobbling”. And this is when I began falling in love with R100; it just started to feel like a combination of a Kids in a Hall sketch and GLOW. Eventually the head bondage woman, the CEO, shows up, who is this 7 foot tall blond woman who is wearing effectively a championship belt and cuts expletive laden promos. Comedies from the East sometimes fail to hit their marks in the West, largely due to cultural differences, including Matsumoto’s past body of work. Not so for R100, which is supremely accessible. Unfortunately, most of his other movies have never made it Stateside, with the exception of Big Man Japan (even though I had problems with Symbol is still pretty great, and Scabbard Samurai is simply awesome, top to bottom), but I did see a Drafthouse Films logo in the beginning, so I’m assuming that a wide release is only a matter of time.


What may end up being the most talked about movie of this year’s NYAFF, as it difficult as it might be to believe, is NOT the very first movie in which a person eat another’s penis. That honor goes to Never Belong To Me. And in that case, it wasn’t just any person but a half man/half tiger, though both it and Moebius are from Korea, take that as you will. Anyhow, the latest and greatest from director Kim Ki-duk (his screening of The Isle back in 2001, when the New York Asian Film Festival was still the New York Korean Film Festival, was highlighted by a person requiring medical attention, though people passing out and vomiting on themselves is basically a staple of each and every screening I am told) is en entirely wordless affair, hence why we never hear any names. So let’s just call everyone by who they are: when Mom catches her husband cheating on her with the Convenience Store Girl (both played by the same actress, btw, Lee Eun-woo. who was also a guest of last night’s screening), she goes nuts and tries to cut Dad’s penis off. But that doesn’t work, so she goes after the next best thing: the Son’s. And then she swallows it, before running off into the night, like the demented person that she is.

Naturally, Son is pretty upset about this, especially since his condition is the cause of torment by school bullies. So instead he ditches class to flirt with his father’s girlfriend (whom at this point, Dad’s so not interested in anymore). Son is also soon adopted by a bunch of street punks, who seem like nice guys at first, until they gang rape the aforementioned woman. I guess to be part of the boys, and also maybe to enact revenge for his family falling apart (which led to him genitalia being mutilated), the Son takes part. Not long after he gets tossed in jail, though it would seem his sentence was less than the other thugs since he lacks fully functional sexual organ, or so Dad tries pointing out. Oh, so during all this, Dad is obsessively searching online about how to get off without the normal tools and comes across a website that states that self-inflicted wounds can lead to orgasm, which he relays to his child. It should be pointed out that no one saying a single thing, instead relying upon on non-verbal acting, is beyond effective to conveying all the complex emotions the movie puts on the table. Though all credit goes towards the stellar cast, so kudos to Cho Jae-hyun and Seo Young-ju, plus Eun-woo working double duty; 90% of their performances is completely serious and sincere, though the remaining 10% has a hint of them going ”Man, isn’t this kinda crazy?” to the audience.

Anyhow, the Son eventually returns to the scene of the crime, to grope Convenience Store Girl’s breasts, and she reciprocates by stabbing in him in the shoulder, and that leads both of them to orgasm. When the main thug gets out of jail, the Convenience Store Girl and her new bf set a trap for him, in which he too is stabbed. A three way results. Eventually father and Son discover the miracle of modern medicine that is genitalia transplants, and I believe father offers his willy (the non-verbal presentation did leave me confused in some spots). Unfortunately, he ain’t able to get it up, that is until Mom returns out of the blue. Then wouldn’t you know, the Son gets an erection! And… a bunch more things happen. Let’s just say, it’s all kinda nutty. Now, I have a fairly strong constitution, and even I found myself getting lightheaded for long stretches; it was like the last part of Takashi Miike’s Audition, just for an hour and a half. Surprisingly, I only saw about two folks leave last night; I believe everyone did their best to deal, out of respect for Eun-woo, who again was in attendance. Moebius was initially banned in its home country, before edits were made. Last night’s screening was its only one for the NYAFF, but it set to return to New York on August 15, at Cinema Village, along with screening in Los Angeles and Chicago around that same time frame. It then hits VOD on August 29.

Mr Vampire/Rigor Mortis

Mr. Vampire is widely acknowledged as being a turning point for Hong Kong’s kung fu horror comedy genre. A few movies precede it, most notably Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind in 1980, but 1985 was the year in which Jiangshi (aka Chinese vampires or zombies that hop) was popularized. So purely for the sake of historical context, Mr. Vampire should be viewed, and it being screened back-to-back with Rigor Mortis is an extremely wise move on the part of the NYAFF. Because by itself, one quickly discovers that some classics don’t age as well as others.

Mr. Vampire is actually Mr. Kau (I think; am not 100% sure to be honest), a Taoist priest that everyone turns to when they need any business taken care that’s related to the dead. Like Yam, a businessman who asks Kau to dig up his father’s corpse for a reburial, with the hope that doing so will dispel the bad luck he’s having, money-wise. But upon digging up Yam’s dad, we discover that the body is in excellent condition… to a suspicious degree. So Kau takes him back to his office to investigate, and that’s when the viewer also learns that every corpse has the potential to be ”a walking corpse” (which happens to share qualities of both a vampire and a zombie). Apparently, if someone dies in a less than peaceful manner, he or she will require a fresh breath of air, from a living person, or so I gather. Please note that the version I watched was an old VCD (anyone out there remember Video CDs?) and the subtitles for those were pretty rough; perhaps the translation that the NYAFF has up their sleeves will make more sense.

Anyhow, Kau orders his two assistants to keep Yam Sr. at bay in order to conduct additional research, but because they’re morons they fail to follow instructions properly, causing the corpse to become animated. Who then goes off to kill his son, Yam Jr. Oops. So now Kau must also protect Ting, Yam’s daughter and potentially the next target, as well as deal with Wai, the incompetent police inspector in charge of Yam’s death and who initially accused Kau of the murder. Making things even more complicated are the two aforementioned assistants; first you’ve got Choi who is the bumbling idiot that acts the part of comedic relief who gets bit by the walking corpse and is slowly turning into one. Next you’ve got Sang, who is proficient at dispensing kung fu, almost as good as his boss. But he too is a total idiot, when it comes to women specifically, hence why he falls for a ghost. So in addition to figuring out how to deal with the original walking corpse, Kau must reverse Choi’s condition and also break the spell that Sang is under.

The action is serviceable, just not as refined or as plentiful as one might have hoped or come to expect, even when compared to other Hong Kong classics. And the laughs are pretty cornball, yet not without its charms. The NYAFF’s website describes it as ”probably the movie people are talking about when they say how awesome and insane Hong Kong movies are”, and there’s truth to that statement, though hardcore Hong Kong cinephiles will also be quick to respond by rattling off half a dozen better movies. Though once again, Mr. Vampire is best viewed immediately before Rigor Mortis, which is considered its spiritual successor, and a movie that I enjoyed considerably more. It shrewdly updates many stapes of the horror comedy genre, sans any laughs, though it does admittedly get dangerously close to resembling a typical, generic scary flick that Hollywood produces.

A large portion of Mr. Vampire’s cast is actually part of Rigor Mortis; Chin Siu-Ho, who was Sang from before, plays himself. Well, a movie star at least; am pretty sure the part about him falling onto hard times, enough to move into a rather rundown and downright depressing apartment building is just for show. Also, him being distraught enough over the death of his family to attempt suicide. Anyhow, Siu-Ho’s life is saved by Yau, portrayed by Anthony Chan, who was Mr. Vampire’s friend Priest Four Eyes (sorry, didn’t feel the need to mention him earlier), and they strike a friendship of sorts. We find out that Yau used to be a vampire hunter, until they just began disappearing across the land, so he now runs the eatery on the first floor that all the resident dine at, hence why he knows everyone’s business. And the second most important neighbor of Siu-Ho’s is Uncle Tung, portrayed by legendary comedic actor Richard Ng (seriously, Rigor Mortis is loaded with some of Hong Kong cinema’s finest), who comes to an untimely end. Tung’s death prompts his wife to turn towards the resident black magic practitioner to help bring him back, and I think you know where this is going.

The best part of Rigor Mortis is seeing elements from Mr. Vampire updated for today, especially when it’s something so goofy in the source material. Like I love how the comical hopping of an undead corpse is now somehow legit menacing. Yet, as much as you need to see the first movie to enjoy the second, it’s just as applicable in reverse, because by itself, Rigor Mortis at times feels like just another modern scary movie from Asia, in the vein of Ringu. And even together, one can’t ignore some flimsiness as it pertains to both character and plot (which, to be fair, Mr. Vampire also suffers from, it’s just that people give older movies a free pass in that regard). Ultimately, both movies are a product of their time and should be viewed as such, plus it’s always fun seeing someone take something old and make it new again (at least as it pertains to HK cinema, whereas that behavior is far too prevalent in Hollywood). The double feature takes places tomorrow, July 4, at the Walter Reader Theater. Given that the weather is supposed to be awful tomorrow, I can’t think of a better alternative to soggy hot dogs than a double dose of hopping blood suckers? Actually, in Hong Kong, they suck your soul.

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Time for yet another survey of this year’s New York Asian Film Festival! This time we’ve got bare naked boobies that are literally in your face, a girl who redefines the term “crazy”, and a movie that may change your view on the blind forever, along with masseurs and masseuses…

3D Naked Ambition

As the very first film to be screened in 3D, naturally the NYAFF chose a sex comedy. 3D Naked Ambition (technically Naked Ambition 2) stars Chapman To (who aside from being the lead in the sex comedy that headlined the fest two years ago has, imho, the coolest name ever) as Wyman Chan, a guy that wrote stories for the erotic section of the local newspaper until changes in the marketplace forced him out of a job. Not surprisingly, Chan is incensed by the notion that no one pays for porn anymore (thanks to the internet), so he decides upon another way to make money off of horny dudes: by producing an AV (which stands for Adult Video, aka what porno movies are called in Asia). Chan and his buddies venture to Japan where they meet Shodaiko Hatoyama (played by Josie Ho, whom I have kind of a major crush for, after this movie), a rather kooky woman that’s a fellow Hongkonger who’s embedded in the seedier parts of Tokyo. Hatoyama sets them up with a porn production company and everything’s just awesome until they all manage to piss off their leading man. Chan ends up having to act in the movie unwillingly, which definitely shows in his performance”. Which, as it turns out, is a hit among women in Japan; they love how the tables are turned for once, with the woman dominating the man.

While my familiarity with the world of porno is quite limited (not just saying that btw), there I get the impression that are plenty of movies in which women forcibly advantage of men, but Chan’s genuine freak out propels him to superstardom and a brand new career, in which he has sex with all the great female talents from the world of Japanese AV (and for each movie, he has to pretend that it’s pure torture). It’s worth noting that 3D Naked Ambition enlists the aide of legit porn actresses, hence why you see a LOT of naked flesh. And not to sound like a typical guy, but seeing a pair of particularly large boobies, front and center, was excellent use of the film’s 3D presentation. I was also genuinely surprised by some of the porno actress’ acting chops, especially the one especially fresh faced girl who is being forced into the AV world thanks to her shady management and is unwilling to perform (the behind the scenes of the adult film world, both the humorous and not so much, are touched upon, albeit lightly). But she ends up opens up to Chan because he’s such a genuinely nice guy and is able to have sex with him on camera after all. Which is supposed to be this sweet, poignant moment but ends up being unintentionally depressing. Or was it intentionally? I was also shocked by the amount of context and commentary that the movie is chock full of.

Anyhow, life is good until Chan’s girlfriend from Hong Kong shows up. The inevitable break up culminates in her kicking her former bf in the nuts (and on national television), which naturally leads to performance problems on the set. Then along comes some a brand new adult star heartthrob, one who wishes to challenge Chan’s crown as the King of AV, so our leading man has to go on a training regimen to build back his strength. That’s where all the HK film industry in-jokes, a staple for any Category III movie, and 3D gags really come out of the woodwork. Regarding the former, one of the reasons why the aforementioned Vulgaria from 2012 didn’t quite work is that the jokes went over my head, due to obvious cultural differences, but thanks to the increase in possibilities that 3D affords, we get more sight gags. Which are not only more universal in general, but are exceptionally executed as well, especially when compared to most 3D movies I’ve seen in the past. The fact that 3D Naked Ambition was shot in 3D to begin definitely helps, though it was also intriguing to see an entirely different visual approach period, which is somewhat a given that it’s a product from an entirely different part of the world; 2D HK movies inherently look and feel different than 2D US movies, but so much more in 3D. It was also just plain weird to see a subtitled 3D flick, with the text ever so slightly floating on top of everything.

Things culminate with Mario Ozawa (that’s Chan’s porn star name) going head to head against challenger Nagasaki Naok (portrayed by guest star Louis Koo; should maybe also mention Sandra Ng has a brief appearance, repressing her role from Golden Chicken, which was also shown at this year’s NYAFF) by starring in flicks that not only contain gratuitous amounts of sex, but also challenges the human heart and soul. Oh, and the person acting as judge is both Mario and Nagasaki’s mentor, a legit star from the AV world (think Ron Jeremy but about a billion times less disgusting, but still very much gross) who demonstrated finger techniques to melons in an earlier training montage that I forgot to mention (and which was another excellent use of 3D). 3D Naked Ambition has been, by far, the biggest surprise of the NYAFF 14 thus far; unfortunately it’s one sole screening has just passed, but if you can catch it later down the road, even if it’s just in 2D, don’t hesitate to do so.

Beautiful New Bay Area Project/Seventh Code

I admire anyone who knows exactly what they’re doing, especially filmmakers. Take Kiyoshi Kurosawa for example; you’d be hard pressed to find another director who controls every minute aspect of information that’s conveyed to such a calculated degree. Kurosawa’s also the king of only showing what he believes is important, not a sliver more, hence why his work is often a challenge to absorb and fully comprehend. Though even I’ll admit that he’s not entirely successful 100% of the time, and nothing illustrates this better than the back-to-back screening of Beautiful New Bay Area Project and Seventh Code.

Okay, maybe passing any sort of judgment on Beautiful New Bay Area Project is unfair. It’s 29 minute long run time made a lot more sense once I discovered that it was part of an anthology of short stories called Beautiful 2013, commissioned by the Hong Kong International Film Festival and for the Chinese version of YouTube, Youku. I believe all the directors involved (four in total) were asked to do something related to beauty, and Kurosawa chose to craft a tale about some young punk that’s the head of a construction company (a role he basically inherited and which he is so not suitable for) who falls in love with a female dockworker. A few seemingly key details are casually divulged, like how the girl is working in an area that has been exposed to some kind of brand new norovirus, and how the guy claims to have known her in another life or from the future. Both end up being red herrings, which is unlike Kurosawa plus flat out annoying. The kid makes multiple attempts at wooing the girl but to no avail and I found myself wondering when the hell the movie would end, despite knowing in advance that it was only half an hour. Eventually the guy steals the girl’s nametag and she heads to his office, where she proceeds to beat everyone up. Alright, that part was cool; it was interesting seeing a director, best known for slow paced, psychological horror movies, handle an action scene. But then it just ends, so moving on…

Meanwhile, Seventh Code is a winning example of Kurosawa’s less is more approach. The run time here is just 60 minutes, because that’s all he needs to tell a crime thriller. It’s all about Akiko, a girl who is absolutely smitten with Matsunaga, whom she had a brief encounter with back home, in Japan. So much so that she tracks him down to Vladivostok (that’s in Russia, btw), where he’s engaged in some kind of business, and tries to finally score a date. But he’s got more important things to do, plus the chick is plain crazy yo, so he ditches her and goes his merry way. Yet Akiko finds him once more, but this time she’s beaten up by a pair of thugs, stuffed into a bag, and deposited in the middle of no where. Akiko manages to find her way back to the city, yet is still a stranger in a strange land. With all her personal assets long gone, including every cent she had (taken from her by the aforementioned bad guys), she orders a ton of food at a Japanese restaurant that she conveniently stumbles across and the owner allows her to work her debt off. Plus he eventually becomes invested in Akiko’s search for her dream boat; together they discover that Matsunaga’s colleagues are indeed up to no good, mobsters to be exact, ones dabbling in nuclear contraband. Which actually gets the gears turning in the head of Akiko’s boss, since his restaurant ain’t doing so hot (as pointed out several times by his Chinese girlfriend and Akiko’s brand new gal pal).

I won’t divulge any further details, since there’s not much else to say (especially since the movie is only an hour long), other than the big twist at the end. Which would have been so incredibly stupid in any other director’s hands, yet here it’s a genuinely satisfying pay off thanks to Kurosawa’s aforementioned meticulously crafted set-up. Though what really sells Seventh Code is the actress who portrays Akiko, Atsuko Maeda, whose background is that of a pop idol. Maeda is beyond convincing as pa totally cute, yet totally off her rocker obsessed chick, which is maybe no big surprise given that she was a member of AKB48. Also, it was great seeing Ryohei Suzuki as Matsunaga, since he was so awesome in last year’s Hentai Kamen. Sorry folks, but Seventh Code was shown only once, though due to Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s growing popularity in the west, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see it for yourself eventually.

Blind Massage

The NYAFF is often guilty of going a bit overboard with the hyperbole, but in the end, Blind Massage may indeed be ”the most powerful and innovative Asian film of this year” after all. It attempts to show you what it’s like not to see, and the execution is absolute, bonafide brilliance. From the very beginning, the dreamy, lost in the shadows visuals grab hold of you plus hearing the opening credits recited by the narrator also reinforces that you’re venturing into very foreign territory. The film revolves around those at the Sha Zonqi Massage Centre, in central China, which is run and operated by both the partially and fully blind. We first meet Xiao Ma, a good-looking boy who lost both his parents and his vision in a car crash. An attempt at his own life prompts his caregivers to enroll him into an all-blind school, where everyone becomes masseurs and masseuses. it’s run by two men; Sha Fuming is a happy go lucky fellow who loves to dance & write poetry, and Zhang Zongqi also sports an easygoing disposition & is simply a lovable goofball. Dr. Wang, an old school chum of Sha Fuming also joins the Centre, who brings his fiancée Kong in tow. Thing immediately become complicated when Xiao Ma becomes obsessed with Kong and tries hard to come onto her, but to no avail.

The characters, either stating outright, or via simple observation, truly live life by their own set of rules. Certain behaviors that would seem odd or unacceptable to people with sight are not frowned upon. One intriguing notion that is constantly reinforced is that the blind are in many ways happier than whose who are not, who are constantly fooled by their eyes, which force restrictions, unrealistic expectations, and other difficulties. But that’s not to say those who cannot see are truly happy; while no one feels sorry for themselves, one character simply states that it’s hard to see the truth when you can’t even see, which means everything is basically a lie, so it’s best to just go with the flow. Another character worth noting is Du Hong, an attractive women that gets annoyed whenever she hears from her sighted clients ”wow, she’s really pretty for a blind woman”, for obvious reasons. They say the other senses of the blind are enhanced, which means condescending attitudes are especially hurtful.

It’s Sha Fuming who ends up obsessing over Du Hong, which she finds absolutely ridiculous, since its based upon a quality that is incomprehensible to the man, which at least the woman is able to acknowledge. Nice to know horny blind men are just as silly as their sighted counterparts. And granted, it’s no surprise to hear insight regarding the frivolities of physical beauty from someone who is not burdened by it, though it is odd seeing someone who is, though even more intriguing is hearing blind people constantly say ”see you later” or ”are you blind” when once accidentally bumps into another. The ways in which everyone’s lives overlaps, both on soap opera-ish and even more mundane levels, is beyond engrossing. Though the perfect harmony that can be achieved is naturally disturbed via interactions with those who can see. And back to how the blind are aware of other things; Zhang Zongqi, sensing how sexually frustrated Xiao Ma is, takes him to another kind of massage parlor, where he becomes involves with a sighted prostitute. Meanwhile, Dr. Wang’s wedding plans with Kong are sidetracked when he has to fork over all the money to some mobsters that are threatening his family cuz his good for nothing brother borrowed money that he can’t pay back.

Yet, no matter how much headache and heartache the sighted pile up, the resolve of the blind never waver. And (here’s the most important part) the portrayal of their existences is beautifully matter of fact, never pandering or preachy. Again, I also cannot overstate how mesmerizing the visual approach is, especially when he “see” the world through the “eyes” of Xiao Ma; anyone who is a student of cinematography cannot afford to miss this movie. Though the superb cast deserves the most accolades, which is a deft (and often times indistinguishable) mixture of veteran actors and legit blink folk. As incredibly cheesy as the following statement might be, I’ll say it anyway: after seeing Blind Massage, you will never view blind people in the same way ever again. Thankfully (and unlike most NYAFF movies this year), there is a second screening, tomorrow, July 2, at the Walter Reader Theater. Do whatever you can to catch it.

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